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Balance bike/glide bike

Something new has come down t he pike folks…..the Skuut! My just turned three grandaughter got one for her birthday and is having a ball learning how to balance, glide, turn, etc. I had never heard of a balance bike or glide bike but in looking at the history of bicycles, this is the they were first built! They had no pedals, but functioned more like a sophisticated scooter.

So now teaching young kids to ride a bike with training wheels is a thing of the past. thanks to the Introduction of the glide bike — a perfect push bike for kids. Glide bikes are small balance bikes without the usual “bike” features. They have no pedals, no gears, no chains, and best of all, no training wheels. And they don’t need them! Eliminating these features makes them an excellent training bike for young children or special needs children. Managing pedals is one of the most confusing elements of bike riding for the young child. It often interferes with the more important skills of balance, posture, and steering control. Bike chains and gears are among the leading sources of injury to a young rider and leading cause of crashes. You don’t have to worry about that pesky lose shoelace getting caught in the chain ever again! The lack of these features creates a true glide bike, which is the proper tool for bike training young children.

A balance bike works by giving the child a gentle transition from walking to riding. A glider bike is low to the ground, allowing the child to easily touch the ground with both feet at any time. This gives the child maximum control and will keep them from panicking when they feel like they can’t touch the ground. This will lead to greater feelings of confidence and a much accelerated learning curve. The child propels the bike very much like walking and can simply lift their feet to practice balance and steering skills. It is also much easier for a balance bike to be “adult propelled”. This push bike for kids allows them to place their feet on the low foot bar so the adult can give them a gentle head-start push.

Glide Bikes, Balance bikes have low speed downhill geometry of just 2 mph(patented). They are also very light at just 8 or 10 pounds, so they are easy for a young child to manipulate. Riders as young as eighteen months can begin their bike riding adventures easily and safely with glide bikes.

Glide bikes! I am a big fan! Christmas is coming. If the precious little one in your life does not have a glide bike I highly recommend it as THE perfect holiday gift from Mom & Dad, Grandma & Grandpa, that special auntie or uncle, big brother or sister. Time to shop!

Here is my grandaughter, Gabriela, on her first ride on her new Skuut! Such fun!


Here’s to beautiful fall days, holiday shopping fun, and great balance bike riding to all the little ones in your lives.

Chatty Grandma




Simple, inexpensive jewelry you too can make!

I made these four pendants a couple days ago. They took me about a half hour total and cost just a few cents over $10 including the bail and 22 inch antiqued brass rolo chain. You too can make these…..for your friends, enemies, dogs, cats, kid’s teachers, the postman, moms, sisters, aunties, grandmas, neices, etc. I plan to make a bunch to sell at the two upcoming holiday arts and craft shows that I will be participating in.

Everything you need for this project can be found and bought very cheaply at


Glass piece, pendant bail, decorative paper (for back of pendant) Image (printed on text weight computer paper), Fantastic Glaze & Glue, E6000 Multi-purpose Adhesive, scrap paper to work on


Small flat paint brush (1/4 – 1/2 inch), scissors

Choose two papers/images – one for the front and one for the back. Trim  each sheet just a tad larger than your glass piece. My pendants are all one inch squares. On the back of ont of the sheets, use a bruch to cover the entire surface with Fantastic Glaze & Glue. Glue it onto the back of the second sheet.

Place the glued sheets front side up on the scrap paper.

Squeeze  drops/puddles of Fantastic Glaze and Glue onto the back side of the glass piece. Make sure to squeeze in each corner and the middle of the glass. Lightly press the glass piece, Fantastic Glaze and Glue side down, onto the front side of the glued sheets. Do not allow the glass piece to slide around. Fantastic Glaze and Glue may ooze out the sides.

Use a dry brush to clean up the glue that may have oozed out.

Allow the Fantastic Glaze and Glue to dry. Touching the scissors to the edge of the glass piece, trim the excess paper off the glass piece.

With a dry brush apply a thin coat of Fantastic Glaze and Glue to the back of the pendant. Set aside to dry.

Apply a blob of E6000 Multi Purpose Adhesive to the back of the bail. Apply a second, very small dab onto the area whre the bail will touch the top of the pendant. Center and glue the bail onto the back of the pendant.

Let the bail dry at least 24-48 hours before wearing.

That’s it folks. Simple to make. Inexpensive materials. SO pretty holiday gifts for every female character on your list! So much nicer than a lump of coal!

Here’s to cool  fall afternoons, happy creating, and wonderful holiday bazaars.

Chatty Grandma


Time Just Flies……Fall Has Arrived!

Hello Dear Readers! I know it’s been awhile…..almost a month… and several of you have been asking whether or not I have given up my blog or when my next blog post will be, etc. I am flattered. But hey! I have excuses! I’ve been out of town for two weeks working. Working? What do I do you say? Well let me tell you about the greatest part time job in the world. For the past 8 years I have worked as a training and technical assistance consultant to Native American Head Start programs. For five of those years I worked full time with a nation wide team but when that contract was up in 2009 we were laid off and I have been working as a private consultant since then.

As some of you may know Head Start is a federally funded school readiness program for 3 and 4 year old low income children across our nation. It was started in 1965 under President Lyndon Johnson and has included Native Americans from day one. Today over a million kids are in Head Start in some 50,000 classrooms. Native American programs are in 22 states and serve approximately 30,000 children. The largest Native program is Navajo with 4,000 children in more than 200 classrooms spread over the 3 states of the Navajo Nation….. Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. The smallest programs have just 20 children and we have several of those right here in California.

Besides providing the expected pre-school activities of learning to get along with others….we call that socialization….. and kindergarten readiness via learning colors, shapes, letters, sounds,  number recognition and counting, etc. Head Start provides extensive health and nutrition services to every enrolled child. At the beginning of every school year children are given a complete physical exam including blood work to test for lead exposure, as many low income kids live in old housing where paint with lead in it still covers the walls and window sashes. Dental, hearing, and vision screenings are provided. Height and weight is assessed and individual nutrition plans are developed as needed to accomodate food allergies and over or under weight issues, etc. Scholastic, developmental, and mental health screenings are also administered and every program works with social workers, speech therapists, and child psychologists to provide individualized follow up and treatment for children with high risk and diagnosed special needs.

Parents are included in everything that happens at Head Start. The program has, from day one, been administered using a method called “Shared Governance” that includes the tribal leadership. the Head Start staff, and the Policy Council… advisory board of parents elected by all the parents of enrolled children. All three groups come together at least monthly to discuss planning, progress, and strategy. Parents are even included in the hiring and firing of employees and must approve or disapprove all new policies and procedures.

A typical day in Head Start begins with the arrival of children and a 30 minute breakfast. All meals are served family style, which means that every child has his own place setting complete with plate or bowl, silverware, glass/cup and napkins. Food is put on the table in large serving bowls and passed around from child to child. Drinks are served in child sized pitchers and children learn to pour from them and serve each other as well. There is nothing cuter than seeing a table full of three year olds passing a fruit platter to each other and filling their glasse from the tiny pitchers. I have sat at many a meal and joined in the conversation and answered the endless questions that typical three and four year olds come up with…..”What is your name?” “Why are you here?” “Are you _____’s Grandma?” “Can you read me a story?”

After breakfast children sit in a circle on a colorful rug and spend 15-20 minutes engaged in pre-school activities. that might include learning about the calendar, telling time, learning about weather, reading a story and discussing what it is all about, number exercises, etc.  After that comes a full 45-60 minutes playing outside. Once back in the classroom another hour is spent in “free play” at learning centers positioned all around the classroom. During that hour teachers pull children into groups of 2 or 3 to work on specific skills that those children need extra help with. Every child has an individualized learning plan and gets daily individualized help with it. Once that hour is up, it is usually lunch time and then children go home. Some programs provide all day, year round services, but most are half day programs.

Soooooooo…..when I go to a program I am most often working with the director to help organize administrative duties and get ready for tri-annual federal reviews. I might also work with teachers helping them understand curriculum and lesson plan development as well as classroom set up. I might do a training for the Policy Council and/or Tribal Council to teach them their roles and responsibilities in the “Shared Governance” aspect of Head Start. I have conducted workshops on time management, stress reduction and staff appreciation, family and community partnerships, etc. It is a job that varies greatly from day to day and tribe to tribe. I am never bored. I love working on the reservations in California, Arizona, and Nevada and have become a huge advocate for Native American issues in this country. I am a lucky woman to have this job and to be able to say “yes” or “no” to jobs and plan my own schedule. I would actually like to work much more than I do, but tribes have very limited funds for training and technical assistance so I count it a real privilege when I am asked to come and work with a program.

One of these times I will have to post some of my photos from Indian Country. Today I will share one of my poems with you……one that I wrote after having lunch on the Navajo Reservation.


rusty  “Café” sign, hanging crooked

peeling paint, torn screen door

did not look promising, but we

 figured the fry bread must be good

 since a crowd of derelict vehicles

packed the street in front


a once green 49 chevy pick up

rattled up in a cloud of dust

 windows open,  red wheels jazzy!

driver jumped out, slammed his door

oblivious to the kids piled up like

firewood in the front seat


three small boys, fast asleep

 propped up against each other

long black lashes, round brown cheeks

no fear for safety, no neglect here

 babysitter on duty, best nanny one can find

red  hound dog Toby, paced the truck bed behind

Happy Fall days to you all,

Chatty Grandma










Sea Glass

I’m dreaming of beach cottages, sand in my toes, and frothy waves tickling my feet and legs. Since the temps here in S. CA stubbornly remain in the high 90s or more, I have to do something to distract myself, thus my beachy fantasies. What I am really longing to do is get out there and search for beach glass. Yes, that illusive trophy sought after in the shifting sands of lake and ocean beaches world wide. Sea glass is becoming more scarce with every passing day. Quite fortunate are the collectors  who still find sea glass in a broad array of colors. Because we live in a culture that embraces disposability…and plastic!…there is little doubt that sea glass is becoming an obsolete resource around the globe. Collectors today are actually preserving fragile traces of our past. The hunt for pure sea glass will only get more challenging with each passing day.

Sea glass is physically and chemically weathered glass found on beaches along bodies of fresh and salt water. These weathering processes produce natural frosted glass. Hobbyists often fill decorative jars with their collections and take great pleasure in tracing a shard’s provenance while artisans craft beautiful pieces of jewelry, stained glass and other decorative pieces from sea glass. Some collectors even use their collections in creating beautiful works of art by putting them in cement or other adhesive to create a mosaic. A girlfriend of mine has collected for a long time and used her pieces to make back splashes in her kitchen and bathroom. Talk about one of a kind……and so very, very beautiful!

The color of sea glass is determined by its original source. Most sea glass comes from bottles, but it can also come from jars, plates, windows, windshields, ceramics or sea pottery. The most common colors are kelly green, brown, and white. Less common colors are jade, amber, and soft blue. Very rare colors are purple, teal, gray, pink, black, yellow, red, and orange. Orange is only found once in every 10,000 pieces of sea glass. Some shards of black glass are quite old, originating from thick eighteenth-century gin, beer and wine bottles

Sea glass can be found all over the world, but the beaches of the northeast United States, Bermuda, California, northwest England, Mexico, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Nova Scotia, Australia, Italy and southern Spain are famousfor their bounty of sea glass, bottles, bottle lips and stoppers, art glass, marbles, and pottery shards. The best times to look are during spring tides and during the first low tide after a storm.

Many collectors are excited to discover the identity of the original glass. The majority of glass picked up from beaches is from bottles. So when a shard is found from tableware or an ornamental object such as Milk Glass, Slag glass, or even Vaseline glass, it is particularly exciting. When the type of glass is known, it can lead to an estimate of its age, especially if it was only produced during a specific time period. Calculating the length of time that the piece has been exposed to the elements is a much greater challenge. Visiting glass museums, local antique bottle shows, and web sites will also provide the sea-glass lover with a wealth of knowledge. In North America, the hobby has the North American Sea Glass Association, which organizes a yearly conference and issues a newsletter.

             Sea Glass

Floppy pink hat

Squishy bare feet

She wandered the beach

In quest of scarce gems

Scattered on the shore

Like splotches from

A child’s paint box

By wild sea, roving tide.


Archaic vestiges

Who knew where

They had been?

Teal and pink

Amber and jade

Alabaster and chocolate

Teardrops burnished

By afternoon sun.


She held them gently

Fragments from long ago

Stories of lives lived, lost

Secrets never told

All polished now

And locked away

Inside those mystic

Jewels from the sea.

             by Helen Carson

Here’s to beachy days and beautiful sea glass.

Chatty Grandma

Cow Chips and Wood Ticks

It’s very seldom someone talks about the quality and amount of cow dung, but in one southern Wisconsin city that’s all they’ve been talking about lately.

The drought has caused a shortage of flattened, dried cow manure — or cow chips — for the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw and Festival, which attracts about 300 throwers and 40,000 spectators to Prairie du Sac, Wis.

“This is my 24th throw, and it’s never been this difficult to find chips,” said Marietta Reuter, who helps organize the festival that runs Friday and Saturday.

They use the chips from a local beef cattle herd that mostly eats grass, because the diet helps keep the chips dense and strong.

The hot, dry summer — which has caused crop, water level and other problems across the nation — caused the grass to brown and cattle to stay near their barn for food and to keep cool. That means the manure in the pasture wasn’t able to dry and flatten in the sun.

The committee that runs the festival usually goes out once in July to shovel the manure and let it dry in wagons in the sun. But this year they had to skip it because of the poor quality.

Instead, a few organizers went out sporadically and collected about a third of the usual amount — 200 or 300. Every year they keep the good ones that don’t break — so they will dip into the 150 to 200 in reserve barrels for this year’s competition.

When searching for chips, they look for them be about the size of a ping pong paddle.

“If it looks like it has air bubbles on the top, it’s bad chip,” Reuter said. “It won’t be worth it because it will be light and airy. But if it’s thick and solid and grassy, it’s a good chip.”

Once they dry, they don’t really stink anymore.

“A lot of people are afraid to pick it up,” said Terry Slotty, who runs the throw every year. “They look at it, and it looks like what it is but once they touch it they notice that it’s very dry.”

The men’s record was set in 1991 at 248 feet. The woman’s record is from 2005 at 157.5 feet, Reuter said. The festival will give the top finishers $200 each toward a trip to the World Championship Cow Chip Throw in Beaver, Okla., should they decide to go, Slotty said.

Reuter’s brother, Russ Ballweg, who is the festival’s grounds chair, said they are already planning on a backup plan for next year.

“We are probably going to have to go out more often and pick so we can get our reserve back up a little bit,” he said.

If throwing cow dung doesn’t float your boat how bout the Kentucky Derby of Cooties? Dick Kuhnert probably didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a fateful spring day years ago when Kuhnert, seated at the Oxbo Resort’s tavern in Sawyer County, picked one of those pesky wood ticks off his arm.

Kuhnert placed the tick on the bar and watched it scurry around. A real thoroughbred, he thought. Oughta race this little devil.

The International Wood Tick Races was born.

Ahhh, the arrival of spring in Wisconsin. There is nothing like it after a winter season that lasts about 9 months, give or take two or three.

Wisconsin folks are genetically programmed to celebrate the sweet season. Our immigrant ancestors loved the populism of a good festival, and when the weather broke, seasonal rites of spring were found in towns and villages across the state: bare-chested men held wrestling matches in pens filled with smelt  (those are a kind of fish); money was raised for charity by guessing when the old junker would drop through ice on the local lake; clergy blessed the newly brewed batch of seasonal beer.

 Now, going stronger than ever at a time when many spring and summer traditions have fallen by the wayside, you can add this to the cultural roll call: Wood tick races.

Every May hundreds of contestants will gather at the Oxbo Resort along the beautiful Flambeau River. Some will bring Ziploc bags, others will have matchboxes, each will carry the hopes and dreams of owning the fastest tick in all of cootie sports.

Here’s how it works. Bring your fastest tick, or select one from the Oxbo Resort stables (not making this up), or take a walk in the woods before the race. Entry fee is a buck per tick.

Two ticks are paired up in each heat; they race from the center of a bulls eye to the outer edge.

Elimination rounds culminate in the championship race. Winner takes the pot and is inducted into the Wood Tick Hall of Fame (the bar).

One other thing. After each heat the losing tick is smashed by a gavel belonging to the mayor of Oxbo, “population 10 people and 6 dogs,” according to the Chamber of Commerce. Not that participants have any sentimental attachment to their, er, teams; most owners relish finishing off the pests. It’s like a contest and a public service.

Dick Kuhnert is no longer with us, but his son, Randy, officiates. “Randy has attended Wood Tick Judging School and studied his father’s notes from past races,” organizers assure us.

I realize that many of you prefer good ole American traditions though and cow dung and wood ticks just don’t get it. How bout this? For those of you who are sick of watching local town ball players easily maneuvering around the bases in practical cleats, your not-so-big-league dreams have come true! 2011 marked the 50th Anniversary of Snowshoe Baseball in Lake Tomahawk, where the teams must play wearing snowshoes on a field of wood chips. This is not just a one-time event. You can catch the Snowhawks defending their turf many times this summer. Where do they play? Snowshoe Park, of course!

And if cow dung, cooties, and baseball aren’t enough for you, try one of these crazy celebrations:

The Cheesecurd Festival…a weekend of worship devoted to the little squeaky globs of milk solids.

World Championship Snowmobile Watercross…..yes, they really do race snowmobiles across open water!

UFO Daze complete with a parade, food, drink, lectures by guest speakers and nightly watching for the alien carrying flying saucers!

Lumberjack World Championships; a proud tradition of logging in the Northwoods

Bratwurst Days

Burger Fest; Due to its invention here in 1885, Seymour is the “home of the hamburger”. Celebrate this designation with hot air balloons, a burger eating contest, a bun run, a ketchup slide, and the grilling of a 150 lb. Burger, which shall be served to attendees.

Wife Carrying Championships; (one of my personal favorites).  All you fellas need to do is find a woman who you can physically carry through a race course of sand, water and hurdles to win great prizes based on the woman’s weight. Sound good? There’s also a Wife Ferrying (woman pushed in cart) competition and a Pike (stuffed fish) Carrying Contest for the kids.

Rutabaga Fest

Watermelon Fest

Sputnik Fest; In 1963, a part of the Russian space probe Sputnik crash landed on a street in the city of Manitowoc. What a perfect reason to have a ‘cosmic cake’ contest…or an ‘alien animal costume’ contest…or a ‘Miss Space Debris’ competition.

Beef A Rama & the Parade of Roasts; Minocquans celebrate their love of beef in an interesting way. A roast-cooking competition that incorporates a grand level of presentation. Chefs march their finished product down the street in a parade that may involve costumes for both participant and roast. Not to be missed.

So here’s to great American traditions and a salute to the wild and wacky citizens of Wisconsin….a state that has it all. Of course it does. It’s where I grew up!

Chatty Grandma

When Life Gives You a Tornado, Make Ice Cream


As Hurricane Isaac is crashing and thrashing its way across the Gulf states and causing havoc too reminiscent of  Katrina, I thought about my own experience with a major natural disaster. It was April, 1956 in Berlin, Wisconsin and I was five years old. My sister was three and we were fast asleep in our bunk beds having our afternoon nap. The day had dawned sunny and bright with unusually high temps in the 70s. Spring was definitely in the air. But a strong cold front was approaching from the west and out ahead of it, a line of violent thunderstorms had formed over Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan. By nightfall that day multiple tornadoes had roared through countless communities in those three states leaving behind a trail of death, injury, and destruction the likes of which had never been seen in one twenty four hour period ever before.

In Berlin, a small rural village of 5000, 15 houses were crushed and scattered in the streets along with big trees and utility poles. Countless dozens of homes had moderate to severe damage. Berlin Memorial Hospital treated 50 people for injuries and kept 13 overnight, 3 being in critical condition. Seven people were dead. An appalling casuality list was avoided by mere chance. The twister crunched its way within a few yards of the high school where 400 students were in class. It demolished the Sands Knitting Mill, but 90 employees inside the shattered building escaped with many injuries but no casualties. At a rural school outside of town a teacher shepherded more than a dozen youngsters into the basement moments before wind collapsed the building.

Communication and power lines were down all over the area and rescuers summoned by radio dispatch were blocked at point after point by washed out roads and downed trees.

Of course I don’t remember all of those details, but what I do remember is that in the middle of my sister’s and my nap, our mom ran into our small bedroom and shook us awake, saying that we needed to go to the basement right away. As we rushed outside I realized it was raining and hailing, the wind was rocking our big tree back and forth, and the sky was an eerie green. Our basement could only be accessed by going outside, lifting open the huge wooden door, and descending a dozen concrete stairs into the cellar. I remember my mom struggling to get the door open, her dress soaked and clinging to her body, her hair whipped around her face and us being soaked to the bone. As we huddled in the corner of the dark cellar it became very, very quiet outside and what little light we had from the two small windows darkened into what seemed to be a night sky. All of a sudden we heard a roaring noise coming closer and closer. It really did sound like a huge train engine bearing down on us, but I don’t remember either my sister or me being frightened.  My mom held us tightly and began to sing to us. She always made up silly songs and although I couldn’t tell you what on earth she sang about during that moment of impending doom and terror, it held our attention and made us feel safe in spite of the chaos all around us. It was over in less time than it has taken me to type this paragraph and when we opened the basement door and went outside, the rain had stopped, the sky was blue again, and the air fresh and clean.

We had not gone totally unscathed however. Many of the windows in our house had broken or blown out completely…..casualties of both the wind and hail. The tiny creek that meandered along the south edge of our property and was no more than a few inches deep most of the year, had risen many feet and overflowed its banks right up into our garden. Huge, ugly brown catfish floated by along with branches, large logs and other debris. Our little happy creek had become a raging, scary place.

But for the moment none of that mattered. The storm had also left behind hail…..lots and lots of hail piled up against the sides of our house and garage……scattered across the yard and driveway. My sister and I ran to gather it up. We made piles of it, built little ice men, threw it in the air, and in general acted as if nothing had happened… kids are prone to do. In the meantime, our mom was busy too. She gathered up some of that hail and while we were busy playing in it, she was busy making ice cream with it!

Here’s to safety and comfort to all those who have lived through disaster no matter what it may be, but remember……….when life gives you a tornado……MAKE ICE CREAM!

Chatty Grandma

PS…..When I started first grade that fall I found out that one of my classmates, Linda, had been picked up out of her backyard and carried four miles by the tornado and set down in a swamp on the edge of town. She was found many hours later, terrified, hungry, and very cold, but alive and uninjured! Linda and I were good friends all through grade school!