P.L.A.Y. Project: Snowflakes + Cool Crystals #12

Welcome to my P.L.A.Y. Project:


Geometric lines forming down at the river’s edge in January
Cool crystals creating “lanes” of different ice types along the river’s edge.

January and February have provided some interesting opportunities to continue my crystal and snowflake observations this year. You just never know what you’ll find on your daily walk!

I am fascinated with how Mother Nature magically “overnight” creates new artwork in the ice both down at the brook, the river, and in random locations found on my walks through the fields and forest here at our hilltown home in New England.

Geometric angles and curves formed in cool crystal fashion!

I’ve also found it takes great patience to capture photos of snowflakes and wait for just the right storms to arrive so being able to go out any day of the week in the winter and visit the ice is a bonus treat to see me through.

Curious Capkins love getting outdoors to P.L.A.Y. with you in all seasons and all kinds of weather!
So step into the sunshine, snow shower, wind or rain and enjoy the adventure.

You and your kiddos will be so very glad you did!

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.

P.L.A.Y. Project: Snowflakes + Cool Crystals #11

Welcome to my P.L.A.Y. project:
Snowflakes & Cool Crystals

Six-sided snowflake softly landing on ice – cool

More of this snowflake/ice on video HERE

Broken icicle becomes a cool up close snapshot (below)
Icicle with Break in the Bubbles

Mother Nature’s Icicle Edging Completes this Whimsical Goat Barn – So Sweet!

More cool crystal winter snow scenes HERE!

Note: I purchased a new inexpensive macro lens that simply clips onto my inexpensive generic android phone per the recommendation in Kenneth Libbrecht’s book (below) for getting shots of snowflakes and other close-up wonders. Yay – it works!

Expensive equipment really isn’t required to P.L.A.Y. outdoors and collect cool photos to then share your adventures and nature’s wonders with the world!

Just pack a little patience, a ton of curiosity, and oodles of P.L.A.Y.-fulness and off you go!

First post in this cool series found HERE.

P.L.A.Y. Project: Snowflakes + Cool Crystals #10

Welcome to my P.L.A.Y. project:

Snowflakes & Cool Crystals

First post in series found HERE.

Cool Crystals are back for 2021!
Hurray for Sweet Snowflake Season!
Love the 6-sided shape structure and sparkle!

Have you heard of Snowflake Bentley?

Have you seen Kenneth Libbrecht’s current day work The Secret Life of a Snowflake?

Time to make tracks to your local library or purchase your own copies online as these books are not to be missed snow season treasures for the whole family and great ways to kick-off new outdoor P.L.A.Y. Project Adventures!

And while you’re out there you might want to take a moment for some extra P.L.A.Y. by making a few seasonal snow angels too!

This Snow Angel was made in 16 inches of Puffy Powdery Winter White Wonder by a fellow P.L.A.Y. er! (Thanks for the fun walk R + E+ W!)

Curious Capkins love getting outdoors to P.L.A.Y. with you in all seasons and all kinds of weather!
So step into the sunshine, snow shower, wind or rain and enjoy the adventure.

You and your kiddos will be so very glad you did!

Tips on how to make your own set of curious Capkins found HERE.

Family Gardening #15: Bonus – Purple Sauerkraut!

Growing Purple Cabbages = Make Great Homemade Sauerkraut!

My husband grew purple cabbages this year and treated himself to the purchase of a new crock so that he could make his own sauerkraut for years to come.

After cutting, shredding, salting, and stuffing the crock full he had to wait for over 8 weeks before the product was ready to compliment our family meals.

During the waiting period he stored the crock full of cabbage in our cellar on a tray and whenever I passed by it to do the laundry I could hear the funny “burbling” sounds and see a purplish liquid gathering around the bottom. It truly seemed like a mysterious science experiment in progress!

He often had to feed it more water (he’s still not sure why) and is working on fine tuning the process for next year including a focus on what cabbages to grow.

All-in-all it was a great P.L.A.Y. garden project and the family is happily consuming the results.



Thanks for stocking our shelves with “Oh my, homemade goodness”!

More P.L.A.Y. garden series past posts and early Spring 2021 beginnings HERE!

Beautiful purple cabbages in progress – July 2020

Stretching Shadow – A Simple Gift

The shadows grow long as the sun sets ever earlier and we near the end of November allowing for P.L.A.Y.-full moments like this one here in my neck-of-the-woods.

And even though I’ve passed through this patch of the forest a thousand times this moment was like catching an unexpected glimpse of myself in the mirror as I caught sight of my extended shadow.

My how tall I’ve grown I thought. I look a bit long in the legs with four of them no less! I could be called “stretch”! What if a critter walked up behind me, how tall would they be? What if it was the black bear I saw a few weeks ago only this time it was walking on two legs? Oh my – what silly fun!

This whimsical moment reminded me yet again of how everything changes, always. Mother Nature has made sure that no matter what there will always be change even if we do not readily see it.

That is how this year has been too. There are so many obvious changes that have taken place in 2020 and yet there are so many subtle ones as well.

This holiday week may be a bit quieter for many of us as we stay home in our own pods and save visiting family and friends for another year when it is safer to do so.

And perhaps this provides an unexpected opportunity for all of us to reflect on the more subtle changes, perhaps even unexpected delights, that have unfolded while our attention was elsewhere this year.

What little things have you overlooked that could only have taken place due to the larger changes throughout 2020?

Someday when masks, and pods, and the pandemic are over what little things will you miss that could only have taken place this year and will eventually disappear?

Once you’ve sat with these thoughts awhile I hope you and your cozy pod are able to take the time to delight in the simple and subtle changes outdoors this week and in the months to come.

Whether it is catching a glimpse of your own shadows in the setting sunlight, collecting cool crystals on a winter’s day, or creating your own spontaneous P.L.A.Y. projects may you all discover simple pleasures in your own neck-of-the-woods.

Truly nature is there for you, ready to P.L.A.Y., always.

Be well, be safe, and simply bee!

From me and my shadow,

Karen ;0) ❤

Visit P.L.A.Y. on PINTEREST!


Join the P.L.A.Y. community on PINTEREST!

You will find nature videos, story read-alouds, seasonal snapshots, and oodles of  inspirational P.L.A.Y. pins for you and your family.

Try these P.L.A.Y. boards -Pass it on!

 P.L.A.Y. + Pass it on!

Forest Bathing with the Family – A Daily Simple Gift!

Have you ever stood amongst the trees in mid-autumn in awe of the wonderful canvas of color before you and wondered how the leaves change color or know when to fall?

Have you ever been in a pine forest with fog rolling in and felt the stillness of hushed sounds all around and only an echo of a bird calling in the distance?

Have you ever walked about after a winter ice storm to see the sparkling sun shine through the coated branches?

Have you ever stood under the canopy of a maple tree during a light spring rain shower and watched the water droplets roll off the tips of the leaves?

Then perhaps forest bathing may be something you’ve been doing for awhile now and the phrase is simply new to you. Or perhaps you’ve been spending a great deal of time indoors and the thought of time spent amongst the trees brings you back to childhood or a more peaceful time in your life.

Either way, now is a great time to reconnect to the idea of spending time in nature and to learn more about the benefits of soaking up your natural surroundings for a few moments each day, or as often as you can, for your health and well being and that of your family.

The bonus is you’ve come to the right place as P.L.A.Y. is very much here to help you connect and engage with this concept of forest bathing. The daily blog posts on P.L.A.Y.  are here to encourage the whole family to find the nearest nature path or patch, be present and allow for your sense of curiosity and wonder to kick in, and make the essence of P.L.A.Y.  a routine practice.

Forest Bathing For Families

Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness

by Dr. Qing Li

Dr. Qing Li, a scientist in Japan, explains in his book Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness and how the term shinrin-yoku (or forest bathing) came about in the 1980’s. He also shares the many ways spending time in the forest or in a nature setting can make a world of difference in your health and well being. As a scientist he has gathered the data over time to show skeptics why spending frequent time in the forest is beneficial for improved sleep, reducing stress and anxiety, increased energy boost, a natural way to connect with loved ones, and so much more. And as a human he has experienced these benefits first hand.

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I too have discovered, through simple curiosity and P.L.A.Y. , that heading outdoors daily in all seasons has had a beneficial impact on how I see and feel and experience this world. Being outdoors routinely has increased my creativity, provided a sense of calm even during challenging times, and given me the opportunity to learn so much more about my natural surroundings here in New England.

Forest bathing and nature walking have been so beneficial to my well being and that of my family that I just had to share these experiences and encourage others to join the journey. This has been the catalyst for creating P.L.A.Y. – Passionate Learning All Year and keeps me consistently returning to my neck-of-the-woods to see what new wonders have appeared right outside my door and eagerly passing forward these gifts through this blog to you and your family.

Hannah Fries, author of Forest Bathing Retreat: Find Wholeness in the Company of Trees, has also created a wonderful guide that is a great companion to Dr. Qing Li’s book and is just the right size for the whole family to engage with and be inspired by both the photos and prompts. An example of a prompt found mid-way through the book is “As you watch a tree sway in the wind, let your knees and shoulders relax. Sway a little on your own stem.” Or another example is ” Find harmony as you look closely at the natural world, you may begin to see patterns amid what seems like chaos -unexpected connections thrumming everywhere around us.” Hannah’s book is a balm in these times as we all need to find peace-filled spaces and moments to simply be present and in awe of nature which can help us feel grounded and safe on Mother Earth even in the midst of uncertainty.

Note: The foreword to Hannah’s book is written by Robin Wall Kimmerer the author of the well known and also much recommended Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.


Time to gather up your gaggle of giggling gifts, aka kiddos + family all – Fido too, and announce you’re going for a bath in the forest – together!

It’s P.L.A.Y. Time!

Please pass forward this Simple Gift to inspire and encourage loved ones, both near and far, on their

naturally curious and creative P.L.A.Y. journey. 🙂

Family Gardening #14: Summing it All Up!

P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects

Hoping you and your gardens thrived this year – weeds, bees, and all the oh my goodness that “grows” with it!

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On this last day of summer let’s wind down this series with a few more sunny snapshots.

Strawberries foraged in the meadows under the warm summer sun. Quality over quantity to tingle your tastebuds!


Apples in our old orchard with some for taking a bite and some just right for cider making.

Awesome cabbages grown to make homemade sauerkraut in a crock!

Yay for green thumbs!

Butterfly garden flowers that have been given as bouquets and to dress up our table. Beautiful – like bringing sunshine indoors!

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Time to put the gardens to bed and this series too. 🙂

Tidy up the plants and regain the overgrown walking paths while filling up the compost bin with all that great vegetation.

Time to enjoy the harvest and give your green thumb a well deserved rest.

See you back here in this family gardening thread when the seed catalogs start rolling in!

Look for fresh new posts by early Spring 2021!

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  • This series will continue to follow the seasons and growing patterns according to living here in a Zone 5 northern New England climate and you’ll need to adjust accordingly.
  • The specific gardening needs you have can simply be answered using your favorite search engine online seeking DIY instructions as well as library eBooks and audiobooks (especially as we are all asked to continue to P.L.A.Y. in Place at the time of this posting).
  • P.L.A.Y. is here to encourage you and your family on your gardening journey simply by posting some of our experiences as inspiration and basic prompts to growing food and flowers.

More P.L.A.Y. in Place with a Plan Family Gardening HERE

This P.L.A.Y. series is for everyone! Pass it on!

  • If you are new to gardening this series is designed to encourage you and your family to take small steps towards growing foods and flowers of any kind and any amount.
  • If you’ve tinkered with gardening in the past and things didn’t always work out this series is here to encourage you to try again AND do it as a family focusing on each individuals strengths to help it all come together.
  • This series will offer up suggestions for basic leaping off points where you and your family can begin and choose to deep dive or keep it simple in the world of gardening.
  • Most of all this series will be a source of encouragement and hopefully an inspiration to simply get in the dirt (aka garden) and P.L.A.Y. and the rest will “bee what it will bee”.

Simply BEE!

Nature BOOK LOOK – The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel


 ~ ~ ~ BOOK LOOK ~ ~ ~

The Mushroom Fan Club

by Elise Gravel

Karen’s P.L.A.Y. previews and companion activity adventures.

 P.L.A.Y.ful story preview:

Simple Mushroom Mastery and Mycologists in the Making

*Must have an enthusiastic favorite adult to advise kiddos on this adventure.

P.L.A.Y.-filled companion activity adventures:

  • Challenge: Are there mushrooms you’ve seen in a nearby forest that are also in this book? What are they? Can you draw or photograph them?
  • Super Challenge: How do you think they came up with such a variety of fun mushroom names and who do you think got to name them?
  • Super-Duper Challenge: Before looking up your next mushroom find be sure to create your own crazy name first and record it in your nature discovery notebook – eyes and all!
  • Super-Duper-Stellar Challenge: Solve this mystery . . .  are mushrooms fungi or are fungi mushrooms?
  • Curiosity REMINDER: As beginners it is best to look with your eyes not your hands so as not to disturb the mushrooms. And ALWAYS check with a person who has experience foraging for mushrooms before even considering eating them. 

Fungi Finding is FUN!

More of my latest forest fungi finds:

Purchase HERE P.L.A.Y. Nature Alliteration Adventure Guide Books

Toad BOOK LOOK #14: Life Cycle + The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated)

Toad Life Cycle

Beautiful Drawings in Black & White

Toad Life Cycle by S.H. Gage – Cornell Nature Study Leaflet 1904

Toad Life Cycle Circular by S.H. Gage – Cornell Nature Study Leaflet 1904

P.L.A.Y. Adventure Time 

These simplistic and beautiful drawings of “Old Mr. Toad” are from over 100 years ago and are still just as accurate today.

Time to take a moment and pull out your own nature journal and sketch your observations of toads and tadpoles.

Use a local habitat or the photos and videos provided on P.L.A.Y. and P.L.A.Y. on Pinterest as great ways to engage with this topic year round.

 ~ ~ ~ BOOK LOOK ~ ~ ~

The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated):

A P.L.A.Y. Nature Activity Story Book 

by Karen L. Willard

Join Peter Rabbit and friends on adventures discovering all about Old Mr. Toad and his days spent in and out of the water!

See sample story pages + purchase HERE

More Tadpoles + Toads in motion at PINTEREST HERE.