3 Fun Ways to Have an Eco-Friendly Halloween

Halloween has a ‘spooktacular’ history of its own. As legend has it, when a drunken farmer called Stingy Jack was turned away from both heaven and hell, he carved out a turnip to make a lantern out of it and find his way in the darkness; hence jack-o’-lanterns came into being. Then there was a myth among the Celtics that if one dressed up as a ghost, all evil spirits would be fooled into thinking the person was one of their own and would not take away their souls. Sinister yet fascinating tales, eh?

The excitement levels of the kids here at home know no bounds when Halloween is around the corner. They will eagerly give up their favorite virtual games to plan their costumes down to the last intricate detail (including the last streak of face paint!) and sometimes even forget to have their meals on time (if not reminded) in the entire planning melee with their neighborhood pals!

This year, I decided we should try and be more environment-friendly while planning the Halloween stuff, from the costumes to the decorations and everything else. Just a bit of extra effort on our part, that’s what it takes. Also, it’s all the more fun when you do things together as a family instead of buying stuff off the shelf.

Here are a couple of fun ways to have an eco-friendly Halloween this time.

Halloween Costumes


Trick Or Treat” by Clker-Free-Vector-Images is licensed under CC by 2.0

 Scary, scary Halloween night…

Dress up in a costume and make sure it can fright!

Getting Halloween costumes ready every year wins hands down as the most entertaining and fun part of the occasion. It all boils down to how creative you can get – the possibilities are endless, especially when it comes to designing your own Halloween outfits instead of picking up a readymade one to be worn just once and discarded. Ghosts are an all-time favorite of kids and there are so many homemade costumes that can turn you into a terrifying one! Short on time? Go for an old bedsheet or a sack too big for you with holes cut out for hands and a cardboard headgear or mask with snake-like slits for eyes. Wish to be a groaning mummy? A dozen rolls of toilet paper to wrap you up will give you that eerie look. Thinking out-of-the-box and want to be a wicked angel with wings? Old wire hangers bent into the shape of wings can be attached to your back for added effect. And don’t forget the broomstick if you’re planning to dress up as a witch!

Halloween Food


Sweet” by PublicDomainPictures is licensed under CC by 2.0

 Trick or Treat…

Give me something good to eat!

Say the word Halloween aloud and the first image to pop up in most of our minds would be – a spooky old jack-o’-lantern grinning away to glory. When we scoop out the fillings of a pumpkin in preparation for carving it, why unnecessarily throw away the seeds to end up in the dustbin? Roasted pumpkin seeds are nothing short of a delicacy; what’s more, they involve practically no cooking whatsoever. Simply preheat your oven to about 150-170 degrees C, mix the pumpkin seeds in a bowl with salt and a tablespoon of butter and bake till it turns deliciously golden brown. Carved a pumpkin or two too deep to make a perfect jack-o’-lantern? Turn it into a simple pumpkin pie – you just need milk, eggs and sugar to bake it like any other pie. Halloween flavors at their finest!

Halloween Decorations


Pumpkin” by typopets is licensed under CC by 2.0

 Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen…

Voices whisper in the trees, “Tonight is Halloween!”

Using natural, biodegradable items to do up your house will in no way make your home appear any lesser scary-looking than if you had used readymade plastic decorations from the neighborhood store.  Old cardboard egg cartons can come in handy – cut out 3 egg cups from the discarded carton, put them upside down, make zig-zag cuts in the bottoms of the two side cups and once you’ve painted them black, you just need to stick on the eyes to have a scary bat staring up at you! Watch this simple tutorial to have a better idea of how to go about it.

Old see-through containers, glass jars lying around as junk or unused mason jars can be a big hit too. Almost all kids have small animal specimens to play around with. All you’ve got to do is pop, say, a grasshopper or a lizard specimen into a jar and fill it up with colored water (use food coloring for the purpose). Broken eyeballs off an old teddy bear or a limb from a worn-out doll or two should be spooky enough too.

Also, scarecrows aren’t just meant to scare birds away from a field where crops are growing, are they? Go dig out clothes from the basement which everyone in the family has outgrown or will never wear (even dirty old ones with gaping holes and blotches on them would do) and get to work tying together bundles of hay to make the arms and legs of a scarecrow. Prop it up on a chair in your front porch, with a glowing jack-o’-lantern as a head and a straw cap on it and voila! No points for guessing whose porch would be the most ghostly of all once night sets in!

Have a good Halloween, folks!

Make Your Own Cloud in a Bottle

The other day it was damp and overcast early in the morning, with a hint of rain in the air. With my steaming cup of coffee, I sat myself down in front of the computer, hoping to get some work done while the kids were still peacefully in bed. And in my quest for simple science experiments which could be easily carried out at home, I chanced upon this interesting experiment in which you could make a cloud in a bottle.


Image courtesy: wikiHow

Here’s how it works.

What You Need

  • A large mason jar
  • A rubber glove
  • A torch
  • Boiling water
  • Matches

The Procedure

  • Pour a little bit of boiling water into the mason jar – just enough to cover the bottom – and swirl it around a bit gently.
  • Seal the air into the jar by fitting the rubber glove wrist around the mouth of the glass jar such that the fingers point downwards towards the boiling water.
  • After about 10 seconds, insert your fingers into the glove and move it upward so that the fingers are pulled out.
  • Now light a match and drop it into the jar, covering its mouth again with the rubber glove. You will observe smoke forming in the jar and the water at the bottom will put out the lighted matchstick.
  • Again, pull out the glove by inserting your fingers into it. You will observe a cloud forming inside the jar. If you re-insert the glove, the cloud will disappear.
  • Shining a torch into the jar through the glass sides will enable you to observe the clouds better.
  • In about 5 minutes, the cloud formed will gradually disappear with the particles settling down at the bottom.

The Science Behind it:

Inside the mason jar, the warm air is full of water vapor molecules from the boiling water. When the glove is inserted into the jar, it occupies some space; pulling it out frees that space and cools the air inside the jar to a certain extent. The water molecules present attach themselves to the smoke particles emanating from the lighted matchstick, eventually condensing into droplets which form the cloud.  Every time the glove gets re-inserted into the jar, the air present within gets warmed up again and the cloud disappears.

After all, if there can be a storm in a teacup, there can also be a cloud in a bottle! :)

‘A Little Magic Can Take You A Long Way…’

The year 2016 marks the centenary of the birth of British novelist Roald Dahl, touted by many as the world’s number one storyteller and rightly so. To mark the occasion, the Oxford English Dictionary decided to add a range of new words connected to his writings to its ever-increasing repertoire of words – such as ‘splendiferous’, ‘Oompa Loompa’, ‘human bean’ and ‘Dahlesque’ amongst others (read more here). These reminded me of my favorites when it comes to Dahl.


Image courtesy: Pinterest

Here are three of his classics, which I love to read even today.

‘It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.’

 (The Witches)

This fantasy novel for children elicited the following response from the judges who presented the author with the prestigious 1983 Whitbread Award for his work: “Funny, wise, deliciously disgusting, a real book for children. From the first paragraph to the last, we felt we were in the hands of a master.”

From the very beginning, this story had me chuckling at every other line. ‘Deliciously disgusting’ hit the nail right on the head – how else could you describe a tale that involved witches with claws in the place of finger nails, enormous-sized nostrils, blue spit and heads with no hair? Endearingly deliciously disgusting, I would say. Add to it the wonderfully done up illustrations by Quentin Blake and you have the perfect package of a story; a brave young boy battling England’s witches along with his Norwegian grandmother.

‘We must hurry! We have so much time and so little to do! No! Wait! Strike that! Reverse it!’

(Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

Here is a kids’ story which is silly and fun, as well as dark and serious. Instances of silly and fun – pillows that are made of marshmallow and are edible, chocolate bars that are invisible and hence can be eaten right in front of the teacher in class, a swimming pool filled with fizzy lemonade and many similar objects that will invariably catch any child’s fancy. My younger one remarked the goodies in the story were quite similar to those of the virtual games he plays and was pretty excited to add a couple of new ones to the list.

Talking about dark and serious, one of the chapter’s names itself is ominous in a way; it is called ‘The Family Begins to Starve’ and goes on to talk about how Charlie’s family members are hungry, poor, destitute and cold. But then there are the chanting ‘Oompa Loompas’ – orange complexioned and green haired dwarves working in the chocolate factory who eat cacao beans; punishments perfectly befitting the bad behavior of the kids and pretty comical caricatures alongside the story to keep the kids laughing all through the read.

‘Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.’


In 2012, Matilda found pride of place in the top 30 all-time popular children’s novels in a survey carried out and published by the School Library Journal. The story revolves around the protagonist – Matilda Wormwood – who is a child prodigy; awe-inspiring, brilliant and unconventional all rolled into one.

Then there’s the much-loved Miss Honey who makes sure newcomers in her class feel at home; the nutty and supposedly wicked headmistress aptly named Miss Trunchbull; the girl with two plaited pigtails who goes by the name of Amanda Thripp and other amusing characters. The story of the little girl is heartwarming yet unpredictable; all in all, a compelling and creative tale which is both a bit funny and a bit sad, in ‘Dahlesque’s’ characteristic way.

Try as I might, I still find it hard to put down any of Roald Dahl’s masterpieces once I begin reading one of his novels. And this line continues to resonate with me even now, years after I read it first:


Image courtesy: Quotefancy

A Heartwarming Story of Animal Friendship

‘The barn was very large. It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell – as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world.’

As I read aloud these lines to my kids at bedtime, a vivid picture gets created in my mind – of farm smells and horses, friendly cows and dilapidated yet sturdy barns. Ring a bell, anyone? These lines are from E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, considered an all-time classic of children’s literature. I admit I still enjoy reading the book; perhaps even more so than when I was a kid. It gives me a feeling of satisfaction that the kids seem to enjoy these farm pets more than the virtual pets they usually spend time on. Time and again I have turned the book’s pages, and the pictures are crystal clear in my mind, almost like a world in itself.

Image 1

Image courtesy: Harper Collins

The Heart-Warming Story

The story is all about a rambunctious little pig called Wilbur who is born a runt. When Mr. Arable, the little girl Fern’s father decides to let the helpless little pig live (thanks to her), he becomes a lovable pet. As time passes, he again finds himself in danger. However, the hero of our story steps in and Charlotte’s twinkling spider web, which comes into notice first in the morning fog, saves the day for our dear Wilbur. This is a story about life and death, about how friends help each other in times of need, about how one is always sad to lose a good friend but needs to move on.

3 Fascinating Facts about Charlotte’s Web

  • ‘This is a story of the barn. I wrote it for children, and to amuse myself.’

Not many know that the author E.B. White himself owned a farm in Maine where he reared geese, sheep and pigs. Hence, the farm envisioned in the book was as real as it can get, based on his actual farm with a red barn and a swing which found a place in the story as well.

  • ‘At the present time, three of Charlotte’s granddaughters are trapping at the foot of the stairs in my barn cellar, where the morning light, coming through the east window, illuminates the embroidery and makes it seem even more wonderful than it is.’

The author was talking about the offspring of a spider in his barn which made an egg sac; Charlotte, the protagonist, actually took birth in the book from the idea of that real spider.

  • ‘Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern.

The story begins with these lines from the little girl, Fern. It later came to light that Fern almost didn’t find her place in the book till much after most of the story was written! White contemplated for a long while how the story should begin – with Wilbur, with Charlotte or with someone else but nothing seemed to be working out. Along came Fern and the opening lines which have taken pride of place in one of the most widely read children’s books ever.

Why I Still Love It

I have no clue but Charlotte’s Web seems to have woven a web of magic over me, back from when I heard the story first. I’m fond of the way the geese speak, I laugh at the mishmash of eats Wilbur enjoys, I love the idea of how friendship blossoms between an innocent little pig and a clever, kind-hearted spider. I guess my love for the story finds an echo in others too; that’s why three films (watch the trailer here), a musical and even a video game have come up based on the story’s characters.

And last but not the least, I love it when Charlotte says this.

Image 2

Image courtesy: QuotesGram

Kids will be Kids!


Image courtesy: Glasbergen

The other day I was reading about some of the funniest statements kids have made to their parents and teachers and a couple really cracked me up; I just had to share them here. Read on…

  • “My 2-and-a-half-year-old set up a wall of toys around her in the kitchen and was lying down amongst them. Her stuffed giraffe kept falling on her face-first, and I just heard her saying: ‘I’m not food, giraffe, I’m not food. I’m not food!”
  • “When my child came home from school on the bus, I paused the work conference call I was on to ask her how her day was. She responded: ‘Shhh go back to work. I have a list of things I want you to buy me with the money you’re making.’ She’s five.”
  • “My twin sons came running to me in a panic… and one says: ‘Ma! I CANNOT SEE MY EYES!’”
  • “My 3-year-old came inside and announced: ‘I peed outside.’ My husband asked if his underwear was wet and my son proudly replied: ‘Nope, I peed on Luna. It was like a shower for her.’ Luna is our Saint Bernard.”
  • “One day my daughter leaned in and said to me: ‘Don’t worry mommy, I love you and would never kill you.’”
  • “I used to teach preschoolers. One day I was sitting on the floor with a 3-year-old squatting next to me. She’s talking and talking and suddenly she just falls over. She gets up, looks at me, and says: ‘That wasn’t supposed to happen.’”
  • “I’m a preschool teacher and the other day a little girl was standing next to me and stroking my eyebrow with her finger. When I asked what she was doing she said: ‘I’m your eyebrow petter.’”

I love them! :D

This is the way we brush our teeth…


Bedtime” by ArtsyBee is licensed under CC by 2.0

It is an unwritten rule at home that the kids need to brush their teeth before turning in for the night. Now they have got used to it and don’t create a fuss of it. But back when they were younger, I remember resorting to various ways in order to get them in the habit.

Here are a couple of ideas which might come in useful if you’re facing the same predicament.

  • You could make it a bedtime routine by standing side-by-side in front of the bathroom mirror together and asking your child to mimic you as you yourself brush your teeth. Let this be an everyday ritual before bedtime.
  • Let brushing teeth signify something they look forward to; for instance, in my case it was story time. I made it clear that bedtime stories would only be read out on the pre-condition that they brush their teeth before coming into bed.
  • For younger kids, a good idea would be to allow them to choose their favorite color/design of toothbrush (and change it every 45 days or so). What toothbrush to buy can be their choice, and they can feel more grown-up this way.
  • Print out a fun quote in big letters and put it up alongside their toothbrush stand in the bathroom. We have one saying: ‘Even superheroes must brush their teeth’ up on our bathroom wall with Batman on it.

Happy brushing!

Gaming: The Real World vs The Virtual World

At this moment, chances are high that you’ll probably be scouting around lanes and by-lanes in your neighborhood, playground or shopping mall, with your nose glued to your smartphone. Your goal: To capture as many Pokemon (short for ‘pocket monster’) as you can. Welcome to the world of Pokemon Go – which has taken the whole gamut of the gaming world by storm.


Pokemongo” by AnaBanana413 is licensed under CC by 2.0

For the uninitiated, here is what the Pokemon Go fever is all about. This is a game which uses the GPS and mapping capabilities in your smartphone to find endearing little pocket monsters lurking on the streets and other places around you. Why catch them? Well, to train them for battles of course. You get to incubate eggs by walking a particular distance (walking as in physically walking in the real world, not virtually), you are given the option to visit special ‘gyms’ to train and condition your Pokemon to be combat ready and the more Pokemon you catch, the further you progress in the game as a Pokemon trainer.

Welcome to the brand new world of gaming as we know it, where virtual games and the real world come together. Here are a couple of reasons why even those who are usually detractors of the gaming world are vouching for the game:

  • It gets even the erstwhile couch potatoes moving. One needs to ‘travel across the land, searching far and wide’ — in short, it acts as a catalyst to get people to walk around instead of staying indoors playing their favorite game on the tablet.
  • It leads you to discover new places around you and meet new people with similar interests, providing opportunities for heightened social interaction, which otherwise would not have been the case.
  • It is a game which is played universally both by children as well as their parents (read: adults). The same technology tension that is usually thought to divide different generations plays a positive role here in bringing parents and children to spend quality time together, bonding over the same game.

However, there are certain downsides of it as well. For instance, there was news recently that a man crashed into a tree while driving since he was staring into his phone looking for Pokemon while at the wheel. Another road accident occurred where a person suddenly slammed on the brakes to his vehicle in the middle of the road because a rare Pokemon appeared on the screen of his phone, and as a result the car behind bashed into him. What’s more, since the game uses location services, it is a possibility that unknown folks may be tracking your whereabouts while you play; not a very pleasant prospect at all.

All in all, this location-based augmented reality mobile game is entertaining and fun, especially because it provides a fresh new interface between the real world and the virtual world. However, even as these lines of this popular Pokemon jingle hold true while you play the game: “Never know what’s ‘round the bend, We go up a hill, Then down again…”; the following lines of the same song need not always hold true in the real world: “And when there’s trouble we’ll get through, We always have and we always do!”  So, allow your child to play the game by all means, but just keeping a watchful eye through it all is advisable.