Tag: family fun

12 Fun Facts About Autumn

The cool, crisp days of autumn have arrived. As fall foliage creates a colorful display and kids frolic in leaf piles on the lawn, you may want to pay some mind to a few lesser known facts about this beloved time of year. Autumn may call to mind Halloween and the return of school, but there are other factors that make this season unique.

1. The first day of autumn is known as the autumnal equinox. On this day, the number of hours of daylight and darkness are equal. This is because the sun is aligned with the center of the Earth between the north and south of the planet. The other equinox occurs in the spring, which arrives in the third week of March in the Northern hemisphere.

2. In Greek mythology, autumn was a time when Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld. During this time, Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, was distraught and the ground grew sparse and cold. When Persephone returned in the springtime, plants and life bloomed anew because of Demeter’s happiness.

3. Those who live closest to the equator, which is the center of the planet, never experience the season of autumn. Around the equator, the temperature remains consistently warm.

4. Yellow, orange and variations thereof always reside in the pigmentation of tree leaves, but they are just overpowered by the abundance of green from the chlorophyll in the leaves. Come autumn, however, when the sun weakens and days grow shorter, the amount of chlorophyll in leaves diminishes, allowing the other pigments in the leaves to show through.

5. Red and purple leaves are actually caused by the presence of sugars from sap that is trapped inside of the leaves.

6. Fall is a peak migration time for many species of birds. During autumn, birds will fly to other areas as they seek more hospitable climates. The Arctic tern journeys about 11,000 miles each way for its annual migration. That is like going all the way across the United States about three and a half times

7. Contrary to popular belief, squirrels who have spent the entire autumn collecting acorns and other foods do not hibernate for the winter. Rather, they spend the majority of their time in nests they built to shelter them from harsh weather. When squirrels do come out in winter, they are usually tunneling under the snow to find the food they buried during the fall.

8. Several cultures have ancient traditions that coincide with autumn. For example, the Chinese celebrate the Moon Festival to give thanks for a successful summer harvest.

9. Halloween is a large part of autumn. The concept of wearing masks and costumes hails from ancient Celtic tradition. The Celts believed ghosts roamed on Halloween, and people wore disguises to hide from the spirits.

10. You’re bound to see pumpkins as part of autumn decor. The pumpkin was first named by the Greeks. They called this edible orange item “pepon,” which means “large melon.”

11. Evergreen trees will not lose their leaves like deciduous trees. Their leaves, also called needles, are covered with a thick wax. This wax protects the inner components of the needles, preventing them from freezing.

12. Autumn also signals another colorful spectacle apart from the tree leaves.

The aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, tends to be visible this time of year. This is because geomagnetic storms are about twice as likely to occur during the fall thanks to cool evening weather.

Preserve Carved Pumpkins in Various Ways

Jack-o’-lanterns and other carved pumpkin designs are frequently the centerpieces of Halloween festivities. The twinkling lights and orange glow of jack-o’-lanterns can add ambiance to any autumn event. The trouble with carving pumpkins is that most people want to do it right away, only to discover their pumpkins wilt and decay long before Halloween.

Nothing ruins Halloween more than visiting a home to trick-or-treat and not getting candy. Equally disappointing is a sad pumpkin display withering away on a front porch. Even though all pumpkins will eventually rot, certain tips can keep carvings from collapsing too soon.

· Choose a sturdy pumpkin. Inspect the pumpkin of your choosing carefully, looking for gouges, spots and holes. Even a small blemish can quickly expand into a mushy mess. Select pumpkins with even color and firm flesh, and make sure that the pumpkin doesn’t feel tender when you push on the skin.

· Visit local pumpkin stands. Pumpkins that have been shipped miles and miles in hot cargo trucks may be overly ripened or battered. Pumpkins that were grown nearby may be fresher. Plus, buying pumpkins locally supports local farmers.

· Scrape the insides of the pumpkin thoroughly. Any moist bits inside the pumpkin will mold quickly. The pumpkin carving experts at Pumpkin Masters recommend scraping as much of the “guts” out as possible, leaving about a one-inch thickness of the wall of the pumpkin.

· Coat the pumpkin. Preservation methods may aim to keep the pumpkin hydrated and inhibit mold and other microbial growth. Commercially sold pumpkin preservation products, such as Pumpkin Fresh®, hold up well. Soaking and spraying carved pumpkins with a bleach-and-water solution also seems to preserve designs.

· Keep it out of the elements. Store carved pumpkins in a cool, dry place. This will help slow down the rotting process for pumpkins exposed to outdoor fungi, other microbes and warm sunlight.

· Use an artificial light source. Reduce the heat inside of the pumpkin and encourage hydration by selecting a battery-powered light instead of a lit candle to illuminate the carving.

· Skip the carving. Once pumpkin skin is compromised, microbes can enter. In lieu of carving, paint or decorate pumpkins in other ways if you want them to stay fresh for a long time. Glow in the dark paint can help pumpkins stand out at night.

Carved pumpkins may last a week or two, while uncut pumpkins can last for a month or more. Keeping pumpkins hydrated and mold-free will prolong your designs.

Want healthier kids? Get a pet

If youngsters have been eyeing fuzzy kittens or boisterous puppies at nearby shelters or pet stores, parents may want to give in to those cries for a family pet. Pets are added responsibilities, but the health benefits associated with pet ownership may be well worth the investment of time and effort.

Caring for a pet is sometimes viewed as a childhood rite of passage, but there’s much more to the experience than just learning responsibility. Experts say a child’s emotional, cognitive, physical, and social development can be enhanced through interaction with a family pet. Studies continue, but the effects of family pets on children was heavily researched by developmental psychologist Gail F. Melson in 2003. Melson looked at literature on child-animal relationships and found that children who had pets were better able to understand biology and children who could turn to pets for unconditional emotional support were less anxious and withdrawn than their peers without family pets to turn to.

Data from a small study conducted by researchers at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University reported that adolescents who had animal experience were more likely to see themselves as important contributors to communities and more likely to take on leadership roles.

Pets also can help children develop into well-rounded individuals. Playing with a pet requires children to engage in physical activity and can help stimulate motor skills. An English study conducted in 2010 and published in the American Journal of Public Health found that children from dog-owning families spent more time in light or moderate to vigorous physical activity and recorded higher levels of activity counts per minute than kids whose families did not own a dog.

Pets may help with allergies and respiratory ailments as well. A 2012 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics discovered that children who have early contact with cats and dogs have fewer respiratory infections and ear infections and need shorter courses of antibiotics than children who have not had contact with pets.

A study from Dennis Ownby, MD, a pediatrician and head of the allergy and immunology department of the Medical College of Georgia, found that having multiple pets decreases a child’s risk of developing certain allergies. He found that the children who were exposed to two or more dogs or cats as babies were less than half as likely to develop common allergies as kids who had no pets in the home.

Pets also may foster social interactions, which can benefit children who are shy. Inviting others over to meet pets can help children make friends and find others with similar interests. Children may also confide in pets and develop their self-esteem.

Studies have indicated that the type of pet a family has, whether it’s horses, dogs, snakes, etc., does not matter, as all companion animals have the potential to benefit children.