Free nature and wild-life magazines from the state of Missouri!

We had a few good reasons to be at the IRS in late March, and in spite of getting there early there was still a decent sized line. While waiting, I decided to peruse their reading materials. They had a large selection of nature and wild-life magazines, and I happened upon the Missouri “Conservationist,” a nature and wild-life magazine sponsored by the state of Missouri, that is free to residents (in case you are interested, they also have one for children, called “Xplor“).

This magazine is amazing! I had completely forgotten about it until I did a search for free fishing lessons, and found their website, the “Missouri Department of Conservation.” The website gives you access to all the fishing lakes, hunting reserves, nature trails, parks, etc across the entire state of missouri, as well as a search engine for classes and activities in your area.

I finally signed up for both magazines, one for myself and one for the kids. They were an instant hit with both of my sons, ages 3 and recently turned 6.

If you are are a resident of missouri, in search of a free kids magazine, or merely want to educate yourself on local plant and wild-life, these magazines are a valuable resource. The best part is, they are totally free!


Review: Burr Oak Woods Conservation Center

After attending their “Slithering Snakes” presentation, my family decided to tour the rest of the Burr Oak Woods Facility.


I have to admit, even though it is a small building, it is packed with child-oriented activities from which my babies did not want to be taken!

They have the usual indoor play areas, like a nature themed slide and clubhouse (check out that acorn-shaped balcony), and an activity area with nature themed books and coloring pages.


This facility also features an all-season room next to the outdoor wild-bird habitat. This room contains a small flip-chart field guide to local birds, as well as a few actual field guides (not to be removed from the facility).

Im guessing some of the outdoor-events are sponsored in this room, because there is a sink right next to the door that I spotted right as I was exiting.

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Their hummingbird feeders were much frequented, but I wasn’t able to focus my iPhone camera on the fast moving hummingbirds. However, they were certainly there! I found myself quite jealous-we just put ours up and have yet to attract anything other than disappointment.


They also have quite a few Vivariums (Terrariums designed to mimic the occupants natural environment) that house local snakes (both venomous and non-venomous) as well as other reptiles.


Overall, if you were to rate this facility based on fun activities centered on nature education, I give it a 5 out of 5, easily. My kids never once told me they were bored, and they did not want to leave. Even though we last went a month ago, they are still asking me to take them (baby girl is almost here, thats the only reason we haven’t gone again).

As you walk through the door, the “closer look” display has a close-up picture of an animal or plant (you have to guess what is described), which you then turn to reveal the identity of the object in question.


To the right of the entrance is a wall of literature for those interested, hosting a variety of topics including “best camping, best fishing, best foraging sites,” etc, “how to attract hummingbirds (apparently I don’t have any because my feeder wasn’t out during mating season), as well as a comprehensive guide for “fishing prospects” that is updated yearly based on ongoing research and data, among other things (by comprehensive, I mean it felt like a book).


You can also hike the nature trails nearby, where you will certainly not be disappointed by the variety of wild-life that live in this 2,000 acre conservation site.

So if you are looking for something to do this summer, check out the Burr Oaks conservation center, there is something there for everyone!


Burr Oak Woods presents “Slithering Snakes”

This was actually about a month ago, but still worth knowing about since they have ongoing educational classes for both children and adults, most of which are completely free.


I had been told that Missouri offered free fishing classes for residents, and during my “event and activity” search on their website, the Missouri Dept of Conservation, I happened upon this educational class, “Slithering snakes” held in the auditorium of the Burr Oaks Conservation Center in Blue Springs.


Dragon boy loves snakes, and while my six year old can sit through one of the libraries free summer events (most of which are science related), the three year old is just not interested.

Not so with “Slithering Snakes!” My little boy was riveted! The presentation was casual and child friendly-no venomous snakes were presented (for obvious reasons), and at the end they were able to watch the snakes getting fed so they could observe the incredibly elastic snake jaws ingest much larger prey.

Fifty minutes in, and he’s still excited!

The educational material was light, but informative, so that both the three and six year old came home with “new” information about local snakes and basic snake facts. For example, did you know that snakes never stop growing? Approximate length is based on approximate age at time of death, but snakes that live longer will continue to grow longer. I had no idea!


Rattlesnake rattles were handed out and passed down, along with snake-skins-careful, they are very brittle! Little man was so gentle with these, but he had a hard time relinquishing them to the next kid!

The cornsnake was the only one allowed to slither along the floor. The presenter informed us that he was “a very shy, but gentle snake,” and before letting him loose we were advised to “sit still, don’t get up, and if he moves in your direction, don’t try to stomp him!”


He was actually quite afraid, and wouldn’t even climb on the walls, let alone come near the audience. That was probably for the best-one of the grandma’s in the back, who had brought her grandkids, was visibly freaked out the entire time we were there.


Overall, it was a great presentation, with a lot of tangible, snake related items for tactile exploration and fun. I think we will be going again.

I also learned that the King snake would be a great gift for a child . . . I think we will wait on that one. I don’t want a surprise in my bed because a three year old forgot to keep the lid on the terrarium!


Onion flowers

This is my second year gardening, my first year seeing onions bloom! They are so much prettier than I imagined! Both the red and white onions have the same kind of blooms, so I can’t even tell the difference! I wonder if they cross pollinate to produce some weird hybrid?


I have always been told not to allow your herbs and vegetables go to flower because that means they are at the end of their growing season. Onions are no exception. The only reason this has happened with me is that I have neglected growing my garden to grow my baby.

In other words, I am pregnant, miserable, and I forgot to water anything for over a week. So . . . my onions, cilantro, lettuce, tomatoes . . . everything is under stress whoops.

But that’s ok. Even though my onions are now, apparently, ready to perish, they have had quite the last hurrah! I am just loving these tiny, compact flowers, and I now think maybe I should incorporate them into parts of the flower garden! Once the heads are dry and brown, I will try to harvest the seeds for next year since they are already well under way.

What do you think? Pretty enough for a cottage garden? Or is that just another one of those crazy ideas that my pregnancy hormones are responsible for?

More thrift store finds! Red Racks 50 cent sunday

I really don’t need to buy any more clothes. Must be the nesting. I have 0-24 months completely finished (except for socks and underwear), and I have even finally found everything for 2T (which includes a lot of the 18-24 because the shirts are all the same size), except for a coat.


Nevertheless, these are for my “futures” bin for my baby girl. A lot of size 3T, some 4T, etc. Oh, and a few 5T.

In all I purchased 25 items for $12.31. The “Last chance” items were marked down from $1 to $0.50, and the yellow tags were all half off (and all of them were $0.98).


I checked them all-no holes, the zippers and snaps all worked, great condition. I’m pretty excited! Little lady is almost here, and I’m feeling much less worried about having what I need for her!

Milkweed and butterflies

We recently went to visit the Burr Oaks Conservation Center in Blue Springs, Missouri. As we passed the sign I observed that dozens of butterflies were attracted to this particular plant, which was previously unknown to me.


I took this picture and showed it to the receptionists, who informed me it was milkweed, and briefly discussed its importance. Not only does the milkweed attract dozens of butterflies, but it is also the only natural habitat for the Monarch butterfly-it will lay its eggs nowhere else.

Until this visit, I was both unaware of the relationship between the Monarch and the milkweed, and unaware of how beautiful the milkweed can actually be. IMG_3037

From a distance, I can see how it looks a little weedy, but it also has a sort of tropical look to it, since the leaves are glossy and broad, instead of dull and grassy. With the right low growing bush or plant, placed directly in front of the milkweed, this will make a stunning back plant for any butterfly garden.

I’ll be doing some research this fall on how to obtain and plant these stunning specimens. I hope you feel led to do the same, and not just because they host the monarch! They are also very beautiful on their own!

Cereal Carton shields

IMG_2997Stayed up late making these shields. Really, really tired! But they are done! Needed nothing more than the front and back of a large cereal box. The wings were used for handles, with paper brads forced through the handle and into the shield to hold it in place.

The construction paper then covered the brads and face of the box, so the back looks like plain cardboard. Voila! Late night shields! And a pair of very silly, but happy, brothers. They were soooo tired, and yet they still didn’t want to sleep!

Gardening: The Accidental Bean


This is what happens when you tell your child to throw stale beans out in the yard, but forget to specify “into the compost bin.”


It rained a ton since the fateful accidental planting, so these beans lost no time in germination and growth. We have dubbed them “bean forest.”


See the leaf? Definitely beans! And you can barely make out the beans on the ground that failed to germinate. So far there aren’t any beans, and it’s late enough there may not be.

But I have learned yet one more thing about gardening-an expiration date for consumption has little to do with germination!

Next time you find yourself with an expired bag of beans, maybe you should try planting them, so that you, too, can experience a forest of beans!

Hillcrest Thrift Store

A friend of mine recently told me about a “new” thrift store she has been frequenting, called “Hillcrest Thrift Store” in Lee’s Summit, where she was able to purchase several education books for $0.25 apiece. I thought I knew about all the thrift stores in Lee’s summit, so I was happily surprised to find another quality thrift store mere minutes away from my current favorite, “Red Racks.”


First of all, I have to say that they do feature very good prices for kids clothing, and in amazing condition. With the exception of one pair of pants, all the items I purchased were $1 (the pants were $2), and I purposely chose items that were “half off (the blue tags)”, so 10 of the 11 clothing items I purchased were just $0.50 apiece (the pants, of course costing me $1).

But their selection is limited to about 5 short aisles, and I couldn’t find coats, jackets, or pajamas anywhere (the main items I was looking for). I do realize that most thrift stores don’t bring out the coats or jackets until fall (with the exception of the Salvation Army Family Thrift Stores, which keep them on the racks year round), but I was hoping they would have at least a few pajamas. Sadly, they did not.

I also wasn’t thrilled that the store was on two levels, with a set of steps separating them. This means that, if you have a cart, you have to walk the length of the store, through the furniture section, to find the one ramp that leads to the lower level.

There was a nice sized section for household goods, and even a wall of board games, but I did not see any books there, something else I had gone in for. My best guess is that I missed them somewhere in between the irritated sounds of a three year old, and the incessance of a five year old pleading with me to “be done already.”

The most expensive items I purchased were the 5 pairs of shoes. They were green tag items, so their $2 price tag was final. But am I really going to complain about $2 for shoes that are in practically new condition? No Sir, not me! Unfortunately they did bump up my total cost from $6 to $16. But, again, I’m not complaining. I’d be struggling to find just one pair at Famous Footwear for less than that price, and these were good shoes (ASICS for kids, anyone?).


And there was one unexpected perk. Apparently, they have a “free toy” bin. Every child who wants one may have “just one” free toy. Dragon boy made his selection, but Tiger boy didn’t like what was available, so he went home empty handed.

But he was the only one. Dragon boy, “new” toy in hand, joined me and my 16 items in a happy dance of satisfaction. And I like knowing that the money I spent goes toward impoverished children and their families. Just another perk in buying thrift-you get to save money and donate toward a cause all in one transaction!



DIY: Repurposing Old Windows

I was never a believer in the “nesting” process that supposedly takes over pregnant women in their final months of pregnancy. Rather, my take on the rush to finish any unfinished projects in my “bucket list” is more logical-I simply won’t have time to do it after the baby comes!

Repurposing a few of our 20+ old windows was one such project that I finished this week. And I really like the result!


It was fairly simple: I took a large roll of burlap (compliments ye olde neighborhood wal-mart, purchased some time last year), an old box of french postcards, some twine, a craft stapler, hot glue gun, and a few binder clips.

I stapled the twine at the top and bottom of each column of window panes, making sure to center it, and trying to keep it “taut”. I then took the binder clips and hot glued (now I realize that step was unnecessary) them to the twine, and clipped the postcards onto that. The Burlap was then stapled over the whole lot, with picture hangars attached to the back on either side.


Since we have a hole in the wall behind the back door, I used the same process for a smaller window that just barely covers it. It isn’t quite proportional to the wall, but I don’t want to stare at a hole while I’m breastfeeding a newborn, wishing I had done something about it before my time had slipped away.

You know, there may be something to this whole “nesting” notion. I am experiencing a horrible urge to paint the bathroom walls . . .