Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Are You Unwittingly Devouring Dangerous Toxins?

Well, I know I just published a post on this earlier this month, but it's time for the new and updated Dirty Dozen!  Just released this week is EWG's 2011 list of most contaminated fruits & veggies. There have been some noteworthy changes, so be sure to check out the updated lists.  Here is a helpful article on this, as well as links to the lists on the EWG site.

The Dirty Dozen - 2011 (Originally Published by Healthier


Fruits and vegetables from a farmers market. c...Image via WikipediaThat, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), is the average number of pesticides you are likely to be unknowingly gulping down in an attempt to be healthy by eating your five fruits and vegetables per day.

Of course, that’s if the produce you’re choosing happens to be on the EWG’s "Dirty Dozen" list of fruits and vegetables with the worst overall pesticide scores.

Last week, the EWG released the seventh edition of its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. And, as always, they’ve included handy "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean 15" lists based on the total pesticide loads for 53 conventional fruits and vegetables.

The pesticide data, gleaned from figures collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, revealed some changes to last year’s lists, the ones that I wrote about in June of last year.

The bad news? The fruit I spoke so highly of just last week for its ability to help ward off cancer and diabetes...apples...has risen up the ranks three spots on the list to take over first place as the most-contaminated produce. And cilantro made its debut on the dirty list...just shy of the dozen at number 13...with 33 unapproved pesticides on 44% of the samples tested. (You can see the full list here.)

The good news? Delicious cancer-fighting cherries dropped off the dirty list. (Yay!)

The BEST news? According to the EWG’s careful calculations, we can slash our exposure to toxic pesticides by a staggering 92% simply by choosing fruits and vegetables from the clean list!

Mercat de la Boqueria, fruits & vegetablesImage via WikipediaBut keep in mind that the EWG is not encouraging us to shun the fruits and veggies on the "Dirty Dozen" list. There are way too many delicious and good-for-you items on it. Instead, they remind us to just be sure to choose organic produce whenever possible. While you will not be bringing your pesticide exposure down to zero, you’ll certainly be making a big dent in it.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering if washing your produce will remove the pesticides, the answer is "maybe a little." But the fact is the fruits and vegetables used in the testing were already peeled (when appropriate) and carefully washed.

The fruits and vegetables that made the EWG’s "Dirty Dozen" this year are the following:

1. apples, 2. celery, 3. strawberries, 4. peaches, 5. spinach, 6. nectarines (imported), 7. grapes (imported), 8. sweet bell peppers, 9. potatoes, 10. blueberries (domestic), 11. lettuce, and 12. kale/collard greens.

And its "Clean 15" are the following:

1. onions, 2. sweet corn, 3. pineapples, 4. avocado, 5. asparagus, 6. sweet peas, 7. mangos, 8. eggplant, 9. cantaloupe (domestic), 10. kiwi, 11. cabbage, 12. watermelon, 13. sweet potatoes, 14. grapefruit, and 15. mushrooms.

And remember that to easily spot organic produce—in North America at least—you need to check the sticker on the fruit or vegetable.

Generally, if the five-digit number starts with a 9 it’s organic and if it starts with a 3 or 4 it’s conventional. (Although 8 was reserved for genetically modified foods, it’s rare to see it used since that unholy union of Big Agriculture and the biotech industry has fought labeling of any kind on GM foods.)

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Organic Foods Great for Toddlers

Sorry for the lack of posts last week! I had been out of town, and thought I would have time to post some articles while I was gone, but unfortunately that didn't happen..... But I'm back, and have some great stuff lined up for you this week, so be sure to check back, and also check out our other blogs for some cool summer recipes and more!  For today, read on to learn about some options for introducing your toddler to organic foods, and give them a healthy start.

Are you the parent of a toddler who is looking to make sure that your child is eating right?  If so, healthy foods are likely what you are searching for.  With that in mind, it is important to know that healthy foods come in a number of different formats.  To provide your toddler with the best healthy foods possible, organic foods should be examined.

A child runningImage via WikipediaAfter a close look, you will see that there are a number of benefits to feeding your toddler organic foods - which are natural foods, as opposed to processed foods that are filled with sugars and other additives.  Eating organically can also help to improve one’s health, as well as the environment.  It has been said that the longer you eat organic foods, the better your health is likely to be.  That is why you should encourage your toddler to eat organically.

One of the biggest concerns of parents is that their children will not like organic foods.  Chances are, your toddler will not be able to tell the difference.  Of course, you do not want to lie or withhold the truth from your child, but you may not want to let him or her know that they are eating organic foods right away.  For toddlers and preschoolers, they likely won't even know what this means anyway.

Another concern that many parents have is what they can feed their children.  Many toddlers and preschoolers are able to eat table food with adults.  This is easy if the rest of your family eats organic foods as well.  Your child can simply just enjoy a meal with you.  With that said, there are many parents who also want to provide their children with kid-friendly foods.  This may include foods that have fun shapes or cartoon characters on the boxes.  Parents also want foods that are convenient and easy to prepare for certain occasions.  The good news is that you can often still get these foods organically.

When looking to buy organic toddler food, you will find that you have a number of different options (as well as, of course - the best option - making it yourself!).  There are a number of organic food companies that specialize in selling food designed for toddlers.  Of course, Earth’s Best Organic is not the only company that you have to choose from, but they are one of the most popular.  Earth’s Best Organic comes highly rated and recommend by many parents, teachers, and even some healthcare professionals.  For that reason, we will be examining their line of organic food for toddlers so that you can get a good idea as to what types of food your toddler can eat when on an organic diet.

Earth’s Best Organic, as well as number of other organic food companies, have a line of foods that are ideal for breakfast.  Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it is important that your child is able to eat a food that they love.  The good news is that you do have a number of different options.  Three popular options for toddlers are organic waffles, organic O-shaped cereal, which tends to resemble cheerios, and organic instant oatmeal.

025Image by kellypolizzi via FlickrAs previously stated, many parents want to have organic foods on hand for their toddlers that are healthy, but also fun to eat and easy to prepare.  Earth’s Best Organic, as well a number of other natural food companies, have a number of products for you to choose from.  Just a sample of what you may find can include frozen whole grain pizzas or organic soups.  As for snacks, which many toddlers consume before lunch and after dinner, there are a number of different options as well; however, organic crackers, organic cookies, and organic fruit bars are recommended and kid approved.

As you can see, you have a number of different options when looking to feed your toddler organic foods. But as a reminder, you do not necessarily have to purchase foods that are designed for toddlers, as many toddlers can eat the same organic foods that adults, like you, do!

A Few Examples of Organic Toddler Food:
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Friday, June 17, 2011

Video - The Future of Alternative Energy

Here is a quick and interesting video on some of the different options out there for producing alternative energy sources. There are some interesting ideas here that I had not heard of - such as using the old cornstalks, etc.

Check it out, and learn more about some promising options for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Alternative Energy
A new wave of technologies is on the verge of producing energy that's clean, renewable, and most importantly, affordable.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Alternative Energy from the Ocean

We often share articles on alternative sources of energy - developing alternatives to fossil fuels is an important factor in reducing toxins in our environment - and thus our bodies. Today we are doing to discuss a less common method than solar or wind, but one which could potentially be a good option, as long as some of the kinks can be worked out.

Water mass bodies of the Southern OceanImage via WikipediaOcean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) was conceived of by the French engineer Jacques D'Arsonval in 1881. However, at the time of this writing the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii is home to the only operating experimental OTEC plant on the face of the earth. OTEC is a potential alternative energy source that needs to be funded and explored much more than it presently is. The great hurdle to get over with OTEC implementation on a wide and practically useful level is cost. It is difficult to get the costs down to a reasonable level because of the processes presently utilized to drive OTEC. Ocean thermal energy would be very clean burning and not add pollutants into the air. However, as it presently would need to be set up with our current technologies, OTEC plants could have the capacity for disrupting and perhaps damaging the local environment.

There are three kinds of OTEC:

“Closed Cycle OTEC” uses a low-boiling point liquid such as, for example, propane to act as an intermediate fluid. The OTEC plant pumps the warm sea water into the reaction chamber and boils the intermediate fluid. This results in the intermediate fluid's vapor pushing the turbine of the engine, which thus generates electricity. The vapor is then cooled down by putting in cold sea water.

“Open Cycle OTEC” is not that different from closed cycling, except in the Open Cycle there is no intermediate fluid. The sea water itself is the driver of the turbine engine in this OTEC format. Warm sea water found on the surface of the ocean is turned into a low-pressure vapor under the constraint of a vacuum. The low-pressure vapor is released in a focused area and it has the power to drive the turbine. To cool down the vapor and create desalinated water for human consumption, the deeper ocean's cold waters are added to the vapor after it has generated sufficient electricity.

“Hybrid Cycle OTEC” is really just a theory for the time being. It seeks to describe the way that we could make maximum usage of the thermal energy of the ocean's waters. There are actually two sub-theories to the theory of Hybrid Cycling. The first involves using a closed cycling to generate electricity. This electricity is in turn used to create the vacuum environment needed for open cycling. The second component is the integration of two open cyclings such that twice the amount of desalinated, potable water is created that with just one open cycle.

In addition to being used for producing electricity, a closed cycle OTEC plant can be utilized for treating chemicals. OTEC plants, both open cycling and close cycling kinds, are also able to be utilized for pumping up cold deep sea water which can then be used for refrigeration and air conditioning. Furthermore, during the moderation period when the sea water is surrounding the plant, the enclosed are can be used for mariculture and aquaculture projects such as fish farming. There is clearly quite an array of products and services that we could derive from this alternative energy source.
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Monday, June 13, 2011

Resources for Alternative Energy

There are many different forms in which alternative energy is available.

On 140 acres of unused land on Nellis Air Forc...Image via WikipediaOne of these is solar power. Solar power is driven by photovoltaic cells, and these are progressively getting less expensive and more advanced. Solar energy power can be used for electricity, heating, and making hot water. Solar energy produces no pollution, as its input comes completely from the sun's rays. However, much more work still needs to be done in order for us to economically harness the sun's energy. For the time being, the resource is a little too conditional—storage batteries are needed to be used as backups in the evenings and on inclement days.

Wind energy has become the most-invested-in (by private investors and governments together) alternative energy source for the time being. The great arrays of triple-bladed windmills are being placed all over as “wind farms”, to capture the motion of the wind and use its kinetic energy for conversion to mechanical or electrical energy. Of course, there is nothing new about the concept of a windmill for harnessing energy. Modern wind turbines are simply are more advanced variations on the old theme. Of course, the drawback to wind energy is...what do you do when there is a calm, still day? Needless to say, during these times the electric company kicks in for powering your home or office. Wind energy is not altogether independent.

Icon of Wind TurbinesImage via WikipediaHydroelectric energy is available as a source of alternative energy, and it can generate a substantial amount of power. Simply put, hydroelectric energy uses the motion of water—its flow in response to gravity, which means downhill—to turn turbines which then generate electrical energy. Needless to say, water is ubiquitous; finding sources for driving hydroelectric turbines is, therefore, not much of a problem. However, hydroelectricity as a source of alternative energy can be complicated and expensive to produce. Dams are often built in order to be able to control the flow of the water sufficiently to generate the needed power. Building a dam to store and control water's potential and kinetic energy takes quite a lot of work, and operating one is complex as well,and conservationists grow concerned that it. Of course, a dam is not always needed if one is not trying to supply the electrical needs of a city or other very densely populated area. There are small run-of-river hydroelectric converters which are good for supplying neighborhoods or an individual office or home. 

Probably the most underrated and under-appreciated form of alternative energy is geothermal energy, which is simply the naturally-occurring energy produced by the heating of artesian waters that are just below the earth's crust. This heat is transferred into the water from the earth's inner molten core. The water is drawn up by various different methods—there are “dry steam” power plants, “flash” power plants, and “binary” power plants for harnessing geothermal energy. The purpose of drawing up the hot water is for the gathering of the steam.  The Geysers, approximately 100 miles north of San Francisco, is probably the best-known of all geothermal power fields; it's an example of a dry stream plant.
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Friday, June 10, 2011

Video - Build Your Own Alkaline Water System

There's been a lot of talk about alkaline water lately. We have covered a bit on this in earlier posts, so we won't get into the debate right now, but there have been many benefits shown to drinking slightly alkalinized water - as per Wednesday's post, decreasing the acidity of your body, and flushing toxins out.

Often these alkaline water systems cost thousands of dollars, but it very possible to alkalize your water much more affordably. If you are interested in trying alkaline water for yourself, you may want to check out this quick video, on how to make your own alkalizing system. (I wish it had more verbal instruction, but it does give you an idea of how to do this fairly simply, and for very very cheaply.)

DIY cheap water ionizer to make alkaline water ph+
How to make a cheap water ionizer that splits regular tap water into acidic and alkaline. Ionized alkaline water has many health benefits to restore your natural healing balance. See this guide for more info:

If this project looks too complicated, you can easily spend just a bit more and create alkaline water using special drops designed for this purpose - just add them to your water, and you're good to go - just about as easy as it gets.

Here is an example of some good alkaline drops:
Basic animated banner for pHion Booster
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Balancing Your pH and Detoxing the Body

We talk a lot about detox here, but not that much about balancing the pH of the body, which is also quite important for health - AND related to our unhealthy diet and other toxin-inducing habits.

A acid-base nomograph of human serum, commonly...Image via WikipediaAll of your cells are affected by the pH level in your body. The pH level is the measurement of acid to alkaline in the body. The body has its own way of managing the pH level; but when it is unable to do this properly, the imbalance affects the whole body.

If you experience stress, tiredness, excess weight, fatigue, aches, pains, poor digestion, and other serious disorders, it is very possible that the pH level inside your body may be too acidic.

The three things that might contribute more to the body to become overly acidic are ingesting acids, creation of acids, and improper acid elimination.

Ingesting foods which are considered acidifying foods as dairy, processed sugar, meat, alcohol, coffee, etc. (sound familiar?) overloads the ability of your body to neutralize all the acids.

Acidifying toxins are created by microforms and pathogens inside the body. If the body is too acidic, yeasts, microforms, and bad bacteria proliferate. These live organisms create even more toxins, and add to the already acidic environment.

Acid build up occurs when the body systems which eliminate the acids are not functioning properly, either due to sheer overwhelm, or compromised in another way. Many systems in the body buffer acids - including your mineral reserves, breathing (yes, simply breathing deeply can help the body become less acid), and body fat.

Basic animated banner for Minerals

Excess acids are considered toxins by the body, and these toxins need to be removed through detoxification. You may have to aid your body in the detoxification process especially when it is not functioning well.

If you want to obtain a well-balanced pH, you must have a proper diet and nutrition. It may also be wise to undertake a detox plan which can greatly help you the detox process. A diet consisting of foods high in alkaline, proper supplementation, and hydrating the body properly can aid the body in detox.

There are also alkalizing products available in stores which augment the ph balance.  A well-maintained and balanced pH level will prevent acid build up in the body. If you think that you’re one the many people who has already formed an acid build up or are very acidic, try a pH self-test to be sure, and then consult a naturopathic physician and see if a detox program is right for you.

A good detox program will not only help your body in the detox process, but will also help in balancing the pH level inside the body.

Basic animated banner for Test Strips
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Monday, June 6, 2011

When to Buy Organic

Here is another great guide from the EWG (those guys are fabulous! If you haven't checked out their website, you can do so at - they have tons of really cool resources on reducing your toxic load, among other things.)

The contents of a fruit and vegetable box from...Image via WikipediaThis one is a handy-dandy list that I now carry in my wallet, which lists which are the most toxicly loaded vegetables, and which ones are okay to buy conventionally grown.

Here is more about this nifty guide:

When Should You Buy Organic?(Originally published by the Environmental Working Group)
Free Guide Ranks Pesticide Contamination of Fruits and Vegetables

If you're concerned about food safety, you probably already look for organic produce at the supermarket. But if you can't always buy organic, you can still dramatically lower your family's exposure to chemical pesticides by choosing the least pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables with the Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The Shopper's Guide is a handy, wallet-size card that lists the "Dirty Dozen" most contaminated fruits and vegetables, as well as the 12 most "Consistently Clean" items. It's available for free download at, in both English and Spanish versions.

The Shopper's Guide was developed by Environmental Working Group (EWG), based on the results of nearly 43,000 tests for pesticides on produce by the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration between 2000 and 2004. EWG's computer analysis found that consumers could cut their pesticide exposure by almost 90 percent by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead.

Eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to about 15 pesticides a day, on average. Eating the 12 least contaminated will expose a person to fewer than two pesticides a day.

Click here for rest of article....

Or, go straight to for your own free copy of the guide, and be sure to print it and carry it with you whenever you shop!
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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Find Safer Sunscreens

'Tis the season...for sunburns! Lately you may have heard some of the controversy surrounding sunscreens. Apparently in our rush to avoid the sun, we have been using chemicals on our skin that actually can CAUSE cancer! So what is a sun-lover to do this summer?

UVA protection logo on sunscreens (European Union)Image via WikipediaHere is a great article from the Environmental Working Group, which has compiled an extensive database of sunscreens, and rated them based on both safety and effectiveness. (We've also listed a few of the top ranked sunscreens below.)

Check out the article, and then check out your sunscreen - and maybe find a better one.

EWG's 2011 Sunscreen Guide (originally published by the Environmental Working Group):

Is your sunscreen actually protecting your family as advertised? Or are some of the claims just marketing hype?

Of the more than 600 beach and sports sunscreens analyzed by Environmental Working Group for our 2011 Sunscreen Guide, we can only recommend one in five. The sunscreen industry continues to load store shelves with bottles listing misleading, sky-high SPF ratings that may protect against UVB rays that cause sunburn but leave skin at risk for UVA damage. And nearly one in three products in the guide are still laced with vitamin A ingredients that accelerate the growth of skin tumors and lesions according to recent government studies.

Sort through the sunscreen noise -- click here for EWG's 2011 Sunscreen Guide

You'll find:
:: Our top rated sunscreens
:: EWG's Sun Safety Tips
:: Our updated "Hall of Shame," which highlights what's wrong with the sunscreen industry
:: How your sunscreen ranks when you search our database (Hint: Leading brands like Hawaiian Tropic and Banana Boat didn't make the cut.)

EWG's researchers rated more than 1,700 sunscreens, lip balms, and SPF moisturizers and makeup for the 2011 Sunscreen Guide because we want you to have the information you need to make smart choices. But work like this is costly and we need your help to keep it up. Donate just $5 -- less than a bottle of sunscreen -- to EWG today and we'll send you a free Quick Tips for Safer Cosmetics shopping guide to say thank you. Click here to donate

We hope our research helps your family enjoy the sun safely this summer.

The Environmental Working Group

Just to make it easy, here are a few examples of sunscreens that rated well:
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Friday, June 3, 2011

Climate Changes Due To Global Warming

There is no doubt that the earth's climate is constantly changing.  Some people feel that it is part of the normal cycle of events on this planet.  Yet, most scientists agree that there are drastic changes occurring that are due to unnatural global warming. 

Mean surface temperature change for the period...Image via WikipediaThe weather is getting decidedly warmer.  For the most part, the United States has already warmed up some.  In some places, the average rise in temperature is around four degrees Fahrenheit.  However, all the states show some degree of warming. 

The first and second warmest years on record were 1998 and 2006, respectively.  In fact, every year from the first to the second warmest years, ranked within the warmest 25 years in the US.  In 2006, the annual average temperature was 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  Recent warm years point to a climate change being brought on by global warming. 

Climate changes due to global warming can be seen in the prevalence of drought.  Years are becoming drier in recent decades due to global warming.  This is caused by the heat that is building up around the earth's surface.  Excessive evaporation intensifies drought even more during the spring and fall. 

Global warming has upped the level of drought.  A major drought in the US lasted from 1999-2002.  There were only two other droughts in the last forty years that were so widespread and devastating.  Crops were damaged or would not grow at all, thus shortening the food supply. 

Dry earth in the Sonora desert, Mexico.Image via WikipediaThere have been more and more frequent droughts in the West in recent years.  The last 30 years in particular have seen numerous droughts.  These droughts have spawned wildfires that set new records in 2006 for number of fires and of acres burned.  Further proof of global warming is seen in these destructive wildfires. 

While the overall effect of global warming is heat followed by drought, there are still storms.  Since global warming energizes the atmosphere, these storms will be different.  When all is going well, a gentle rain will soak into the earth gradually, causing no more than a minor inconvenience to people.

Lately however (as most in the South and mid-western states are experiencing first-hand), storms are becoming more destructive.  While there have certainly been droughts, rainfall totals have risen in the past century.  This surprising fact is due to the fact that when the rain comes, it comes in rapid downpours.  The sky opens up and dumps water on the earth very quickly in many cases.  This is followed by dry periods. 

The number of times it rains in a year has increased during the last 50 years.  What is more, global warming is causing storms to intensify.  Storms which would have been ordinary thunderstorms in the past are morphing into raging tempests.  Hurricanes have been rated higher in recent years as global warming affects their intensity. 

Global warming is responsible for many climate changes.  It is quite likely that some or our actions help to cause the increase in global warming that precipitates these changes.  If people could make it a common goal to cut down on activities that promote global warming, the earth would be a much more stable environment. 

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Nature – The Ultimate Playground for Kids

Every year parents spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on toys and activities for their kids. While many of these things are great for keeping young minds and bodies active, many of them are unnecessary. Sure kids need structured play, but they also need “free” play and this is easy to do when the world’s largest playground is right outside your back door. Why not let them play outside?

Devils Punchbowl Waterfall at Arthurs Pass in ...Image via WikipediaEvery toy, book, and TV show that comes out has been designed and redesigned several times in order to make it educational and entertaining for children.  The great thing about nature is that, while being entertaining and stimulating to the imagination, it’s also educational. Nature can teach children the basics of science, economics, and creativity.

Plus - if offers all of these benefits:

1. It’s cheap. Depending on where you live, exploring nature is usually pretty inexpensive, if not free. It may mean going out in your backyard, local park, or perhaps going to the local nature center or state park (which usually have low cost fees or memberships). This way, you don’t have to pay for expensive toys, jungle gyms, or memberships to expensive entertainment centers, but you still get the benefit of stimulating and educational play.

2. It makes them think. Lately there’s been a trend in education towards inquiry based learning. Researchers have found that if students explore and experiment to figure out answers on their own, they’re going to learn better, and retain more information. It also helps them develop skills to be able to learn things on their own later. What better environment to learn things than out in nature.  There are lessons for kids of all ages to discover about the world around them. 

3. It may help the world. Everyone these days is trying to be more green and more environmentally conscious. What better way to help do your part than to get your children interested in their own planet right now when they’re young and impressionable? And who knows - what might be a fun time for them now, could turn into a future hobby, career, or world saving invention! 

4. It’s fun. While it’s easy to forget in our fast-paced, homework-filled modern society, childhood isn’t just for learning about how to be an adult, it’s also about having fun. Nature gives kids a chance to use their imagination and be free to just be kids.

A common exhibit found at a nature centerImage via WikipediaWhile unstructured play outside is great for kids, you can also find a lot of places offering structured classes and learning sessions for kids that focus on the natural world. Check your local park, zoo, or museum. There’s a good chance they have classes you can sign up for, and since many of these places are not for profit, they’re usually affordable as well as informative. 

Why not embrace the opportunities during this lovely summer, and get outside to play? Spending time in the outside world is so important for developing minds, and it can also be a great escape for you as well.

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