Blog Posts by Mother Nature Network (mnn.com)

  • Why You Should Teach Your Kids to Cook This Holiday Season

    These kids love to cookThese kids love to cookby Jenni Grover MS RN LDN, Mother Nature Network


    It's been documented that kids who cook choose healthier foods.


    With all those holiday parties coming up, and plenty of food prep to go with it, now may be the perfect time to get your children cooking. Not only will it teach them an important life skill, but it also gives them an opportunity to create something they can show off in front of family and friends. Given we tend to have crazy schedules over the holidays, cooking together is also a rare opportunity for some true quality time. But as anybody who has actually cooked with kids knows, more hands don't necessarily mean less work. (And they certainly don't ensure less mess!) Below are some strategies for holiday cooking with children, without losing your mind.


    Make time to do it right
    If you are rushing to get a dish prepared for a holiday potluck and you're leaving in an hour, now may not be the ideal time to get the kids involved. By planning ahead, and carving out some quality

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  • 7 Surprisingly Good Christmas Movies You've Never Heard Of

    'Cheers' co-stars Shelley Long and George Wendt play North Pole bigwigs Mrs. and Mr. Claus in the movie 'Merry In-Laws.''Cheers' co-stars Shelley Long and George Wendt play North Pole bigwigs Mrs. and Mr. Claus in the movie 'Merry In-Laws.'by Benyamin Cohen, Mother Nature Network


    The end of the year is near, which means my DVR is working overtime, choking on a veritable cornucopia of films like "A Very Merry Mix-Up," "Snow Bride" and "Fir Crazy." (Yes, those are all real movies.) It's the season when channels like Hallmark, Lifetime and ABC Family spruce up their joints and hang the tinsel for the annual deluge of made-for-TV Christmas movies. Sure, they're not big-budget features like "The Nightmare Before Christmas" or "The Santa Clause," but these films are instant classics in their own small way. Their titles may seem interchangeable ("Hitched for the Holidays" vs. "Holiday in Handcuffs") but they all have that special holiday secret sauce that will make you smile.


    As you'll see from the list below, there are certain ingredients to a successful made-for-TV Christmas movie: It usually involves a little romance. One half of the couple gets stuck (car troubles, snowstorm) in a comically charming small town.

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  • How to Baby-proof Your Home for the Holidays

    This baby seems happyThis baby seems happyTis the season for wrappings and trappings, trees and tinsel, candles and candy canes. All of it beautiful to look at, and even lovelier to grab onto - particularly if you're a toddler! If you have a little one in your home for the holidays this year, keep in mind that all of your holiday bling will be extra enticing to a kid that loves to crawl, climb, and explore. But that doesn't mean you need to pack up the tree and put away the menorah. You just need to take a few simple precautions to ensure that your seasonal goodies don't become a holiday hazard.


    Here's how to keep babies and toddlers safe this holiday season.


    Holiday trees. Got a kid that loves to climb? That Christmas tree will be a prime target. Secure it to a wall using a fish hook and twine or block it off with safety gates. Be sure to sweep regularly to pick up any needles or ornament hooks that may fall on the floor.


    Ornaments. If you have a little one prone to mischief, make sure to keep your breakable - and

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  • How Many Cats is Too Many?

    Most cities limit the number of cats people can have in their homeMost cities limit the number of cats people can have in their homeLos Angeles residents may soon be able to own up to five cats.


    Under current law, it's illegal to have more than three in a household and people who want to have more felines must obtain a kennel permit.


    Councilman Paul Koretz wants to change the city code because he says the cap on cats hurts efforts to get animals off streets and out of shelters.


    However, critics worry that increasing the number could lead to disputes among neighbors or even hoarding situation.


    Putting a limit on the number of dogs, cats or other pets a household is allowed to keep may seem strange, but such laws are relatively common.


    Residents of Omaha, Neb., are allowed up to three dogs and five cats. The people of Pittsburgh can have a maximum of five pets within city limits. In Dallas, the number of cats and dogs depends on the size of the home and surrounding property.


    The Rangitikei District of New Zealand recently made international headlines when it passed an ordinance

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  • President Bush's Dog Barney was a 'real Jerk'

    Barney the dog in front of the White HouseBarney the dog in front of the White HouseSunny, the Obamas' puppy, made headlines this week for jumping on a toddler at the White House and causing her to fall. The Portuguese water dog was just being playful with 2-year-old Ashtyn Gardner during a viewing of the Christmas decorations.


    But Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of former President George W. Bush, said on the "Today" show that the Bush family's Scottish terrier, Barney, caused much more trouble than Sunny. "Barney was a real jerk," she said, much to the surprise of Willie Geist and Al Roker, the show's anchors.


    Barney was a biter, according to Hager. He once bit a reporter at the White House, and he bit a family friend on two occasions. "He was a little temperamental," Hager said. "I feel bad saying that, but he didn't like strangers." The 12-year-old Scottish terrier died earlier this year from lymphoma.


    But Barney isn't the only presidential pooch known for his bite. Teddy Roosevelt's bull terrier, Pete, had a reputation for nipping at ankles and once

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  • 5 Ways to Cat-proof Your Christmas Tree

    Is this cat seeking out trouble?Is this cat seeking out trouble?by Jenn Savedge, Mother Nature Network


    For the first time in almost 20 years, there are cats living under my roof again. Actually, they are kittens. And they are eyeing up the Christmas tree we brought home over the weekend with equal parts wide-eyed wonder and mischievous delight. To keep the peace - and maintain my sanity - I looked up a few tips on helping kitties and Christmas trees co-exist. Here are a few that have worked for us:


    1. Choose your tree wisely. If you think your kitty is likely to climb and knock over the tree, pick a smaller tree this year that will cause less damage when toppled. Or you might want to settle for a small tabletop tree that can be closed off in another room when the cats are out and about.


    2. Put up road blocks. Depending upon the size of your tree - and your kitten - you may be able to place obstacles around your tree that will keep kitty away. Remove chairs and tables that might serve as a launching pad to help your cat jump higher into Read More »from 5 Ways to Cat-proof Your Christmas Tree
  • Scientists Discover that Yes, Your Cat is Ignoring You

    Your cat may be apathetic towards you, according to a new studyYour cat may be apathetic towards you, according to a new studyIf you've ever suspected that your feline friend isn't that interested in you, you were right. There's even a study to prove it.


    Researchers at the University of Tokyo found that although pet cats are capable of recognizing their owner's voice, the felines usually choose to ignore their calls.


    Scientists observed 20 domesticated cats in their homes for eight months to monitor how the animals recognized and responded to different voices - both strangers' voices and the cats' owners - calling out the cats' names.

    The study found that 50 percent to 70 percent of the cats turned their heads at the sound and 30 percent moved their ears - typical reactions to hearing any sound.


    Just 10 percent of the felines responded to being called by meowing or moving their tails.


    In other words, your cat hears you when you call - he just doesn't care enough to acknowledge it.


    Also see: Why do cats love boxes so much?

    Response rates were similar regardless of whether the cats were

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  • Insanely Cute Marsupial Trio Begins Return to the Wild

    Cupcake, Anzac and Peggy.Cupcake, Anzac and Peggy.

    One member of an adorable marsupial trio has been released into the Australian wild by the wildlife organization that rescued her.

    Earlier this month Peggy the wombat was reintroduced to her natural habitat, and BBC's Natural History Unit filmed the release. Peggy will be featured in a 2014 BBC documentary on orphaned wildlife.

    "Peggy will be monitored quietly and from a distance," said Alistair Brown, founder of Wild About Wildlife, the organization that rescued Peggy.

    Also see: Lion forms close, playful bond with conservationists who rescued her

    "She will be provided with supplementary feed while she learns all about her new environment."

    Peggy and her friends - Anzac, a baby kangaroo, and Cupcake, a baby wallaby - made headlines when Wild About Wildlife posted photos of the unlikely trio.

    Both Peggy and Anzac were 3 to 4 months old when their mothers were killed by vehicles. They were rescued by wildlife rehabilitators in the state of Victoria and even shared a

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  • New York Named America's Most Walkable City

    New York CityNew York CityNew York City's extensive sidewalks, bike lanes, bike share programs and public transportation help to make it the most walkable city in America, according to the recently released annual Walk Score ratings. The city has three especially walkable neighborhoods: Little Italy, Chinatown and NoHo, all of which were called "walker's paradises."


    The Walk Score rankings look at factors such as walking routes, the number of amenities citizens can walk to, the average block length and the density of traffic at intersections. Rankings were calculated by scoring more than two billion walking routes in 10,000 neighborhoods or 2,500 U.S. cities. The organization said its algorithms to calculate the "most walkable" neighborhoods are significantly improved over past years. More than 10 million individual locations were examined and ranked.


    Walkable neighborhoods offer numerous advantages for the people who live in them. "Being able to walk out your door and be at your destination - whether

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  • Man Quits Finance Job, Makes Heart-racing Documentary About Rescuing Animals

    Tim Phillips with a lion cub in a scene from the 'Lion Ark' documentary.Tim Phillips with a lion cub in a scene from the 'Lion Ark' documentary.In the spring of 2009, Bolivia banned animals in circuses, but not all circuses complied with the law. In 2011, animals were still being crammed into cages, mistreated, malnourished and neglected. Enter Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips, the married co-founders of Animal Defenders International (ADI), who spent two years investigating circuses undercover before mounting a rescue operation that succeeded in saving 25 lions from a miserable life in captivity.


    Their efforts are documented in the film they made about it, "Lion Ark," which has been winning awards and accolades on the film festival circuit and is now playing in California and New York. It has also benefited from some Hollywood support: actress Jorja Fox of "CSI," an associate producer, helped on the filmmaking side, and animal activist Bob Barker was the biggest single donor, funding the lion's share (literally) of the $1.8 million rescue mission - including food, building a temporary sanctuary in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and

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