Curiosity at the Creek

As a homeschooler growing up in central Oklahoma, I spent the majority of my time outdoors. My neighborhood backed up to a creek that ran for several miles in either direction. My brothers and I would spend hours exploring the slick clay banks collecting golf balls and jumping into murky pools as we went. It was here that I first experienced the pleasure of having over a dozen ticks on me at once and where I first fell through a sheet of thin ice on a cold afternoon. It was also where I learned about water currents, trees, animal habitats, geology, and as neighborhoods began springing up around it suburban sprawl. Through these experiences I gained a curious mind, an appreciation for the outdoors, and a passion for sharing it with others. I am especially passionate about sharing these experiences with the homeschool community, the community that helped form my passions.

In the past year YMCA Camp Lincoln has offered monthly programs to the homeschool community covering topics from migration and forest ecology to winter survival. My goal with these programs is to create a community of curious individuals that have a desire to go home and learn more. Learning through doing (experiential education) is the basis for each program, with students touching, seeing, smelling, tasting, and listening. We explore and discover our natural world.

I remember being a shy kid who was able to open up in the outdoors and feel at ease with others around me. I have seen this very thing happen in YMCA programs. I am excited to continue working with our homeschool community and hopefully our programs and interactions with families will make the same kind of positive impact that I experienced. My life’s direction started by spending a little time outdoors and my hope is to inspire a few others.

-Geof Harris
YMCA Camp Lincoln Program Director

Make A Splash For Youth!

Nearly 6,000 school-age children throughout southern New Hampshire are engaged in Southern District YMCA programs each year. More than 100 kids from 95 families receive financial assistance so they can attend before and after school programs, as well as summer camp at YMCA Camp Lincoln. No one is ever turned away from the YMCA for inability to pay.

Financial assistance is supported through generous community donations and fundraisers such as the 5th Annual Paddle Plunge on April 11 from 10AM – 1PM. Paddle Plunge participants will don their best costumes and take a freezing dip in Kingston Lake to raise money to send local youth to camp and safe after school programs.

Community members are invited to join a team, donate online at www.crowdrise.com/ymcaplunge and attend FREE Family Fun Day, which will be held during the Paddle Plunge. Guests can participate in FREE activities like face painting, playing carpet ball and camp games, s’mores and a free lunch!

Some local organizations are hosting their own fundraisers. Parishioners at Stratham Community Church recently raised $400 to help a camper in need attend summer camp at YMCA Camp Lincoln. Donations like this make it possible for the Y to offset the costs of child care and summer camp for families in need.

WHAT: 5th Annual Paddle Plunge and Family Fun Day

WHEN: Saturday, April 11 from 10AM-1PM

WHERE: YMCA Camp Lincoln, 67 Ball Rd, Kingston, NH 03848

WHY: No one is ever turned away from the Y for inability to pay. More than 100 kids from 95 families receive financial assistance so they can attend before and after school programs, as well as summer camp at YMCA Camp Lincoln. The Paddle Plunge is a fun way to celebrate the end of winter and raise money to support financial assistance.

DONATE: Join a team or support an existing one at www.crowdrise.com/ymcaplunge

Sweet Potato Fries

In honor of National Nutrition Month, we are sharing simple, healthy, delicious, and fun recipes for you to try all week!

Sweet Potato Fries [full recipe here]
Serves 8

Ingredients
6 whole Sweet Potatoes, Peeled And Cut Into Thin Sticks
1 stick Salted Butter
2 cloves Garlic, Pressed (optional)
1 teaspoon Seasoned Salt (optional)
1 teaspoon Chili Powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper (optional)
Salt For Sprinkling

Preparation Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Melt the butter. If you want to season the butter, add garlic, seasoned salt, chili powder, and black pepper. Stir with a fork.
3. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes in the butter/seasoning mixture. Arrange on two baking sheets and bake in the oven for 15 to 17 minutes, shaking the pans halfway through, until the fries are sizzling (watch so that the edges don’t burn). Remove from the oven and allow to sit on the pan for 5 minutes. Sprinkle generously with salt.

Note: Sweet potatoes will not be overly crisp, but they should be firm…and, of course, scrumptious!

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Alice Waters’ Greek Salad

In honor of National Nutrition Month, we are sharing simple, healthy, delicious, and fun recipes for you to try all week!

Greek Salad [from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food]
4 servings

Cut out the stem end and cut into wedges: 2 small ripe tomatoes
Season with: Salt
Peel, cut in half lengthwise, and thickly slice: 1 medium cucumber
(If the seeds are large, remove them by scraping a spoon down the center of the halved cucumber.)
Peel and thinly slice: 1/2 small red onion or 5 green onions
Cut in half, core and seed, and slice thin: 1 small sweet red pepper
Rinse (and if you prefer, pit): About 1/4 cup black olives (2-3 olives per person)
Break up or cut into small pieces: 4 ounces feta cheese
Make a vinaigrette. Mix:
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
Whisk in: 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Season the cucumbers and onions with salt. Taste the tomatoes and season again if they need it. Gently toss the vegetables with about three quarters of the vinaigrette. Taste and add more salt or vinegar as needed. The salad can sit for a few minutes to let the flavors blend together. Just before serving, gently toss the salad again and garnish with the cheese and olives. Spoon over the remaining vinaigrette.

Variations:
-Serve the salad over a few leaves of romaine or other lettuce.
-Dried oregano may be substituted for fresh, but use only 1 teaspoon
-A Greek salad is a hearty dish; wish some crusty bread, it could be the main event of a dinner

Enjoy! Let us know if you try this recipe!

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Choose to Eat Healthy

With so much information and so little time to plan and prepare meals, it can seem that eating healthy is nearly an impossible task in today’s world. There are small steps that even the busiest families can take in order to improve your family’s health each day. Here are some simple steps you can take to improve your daily approach to healthy eating:

Aim for Five Every Day

Be intentional about making the delicious crunch of fruits and veggies a significant part of every meal and snack your family enjoys throughout the day.

Choose Your Drinks with Care

A simple way to improve the overall health of your family is to adjust your approach to beverages. Try cutting out drinks with sugar added and focus on drinking more water, 100% fruit juice and milk.

Check the Label

Look at ingredient lists; if you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it. By learning to make sense of the information that all food packages are required to provide, you can begin to make choosing healthier foods a little easier.

Control Your Portions

Sure, we all over do it from time to time, but by being careful to consume food portions that are in line with energy output from physical activity, everyone can eat healthier. A good trick is to take 5 deep breaths between bites. This gives your stomach time to tell your brain that you are full, helping to avoid overeating.

For additional tips and strategies for building these and more healthy habits, visit the YMCA’s Healthy Family Home.

To help you celebrate National Nutrition Month, we will post simple, healthy, delicious and fun recipes here all week!

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Let’s Go To Summer Camp!

Camping, like many Y programs, is about learning skills, developing character and making friends. But few environments are as special as camp, where kids become a community as they learn both how to be more independent and how to contribute to a group as they engage in physical, social and educational activities. Camping teaches self-reliance, a love for nature and the outdoors, and the development of attitudes and practices that build character and leadership—all amidst the fun of camp fires, bugle calls, canoeing, archery, talent shows, and meaningful relationships. Y counselors are dedicated to making sure camp is an amazing experience for every camper.

At Camp Lincoln, programs for younger campers are more structured while older campers have more choices about the activities in their day. Traditional day camp activities include swimming lessons, arts and crafts, archery, sports, and more. Specialized camps for older campers offer the choice to participate in off-site activities such as golf or horseback riding. Campers, from ages 11-15, can also participate in 5-day overnight adventure camps throughout New England, from Cape Cod to the White Mountains, and beyond to Quebec City.

YMCA Camp Lincoln offers a variety of affordable summer camp programs with transportation and expanded camp times for working families. No camper has been turned away for inability to pay in 89 years. Scholarships are available for campers in need.

Online registration for summer camp at YMCA Camp Lincoln is open and filling quickly! Since 1926, campers have developed friendships, discovered new talents and built self-confidence at YMCA Camp Lincoln. Families with children ages 3 to 15 can learn more about a day at camp – and register – on our website.

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Art Impact

The Arts leave a lasting mark on youth, inspiring self-expression, self-esteem, and critical and creative thinking. According to research by the John F. Kennedy Center, youth who regularly participate in arts programs tend to display more intellectual curiosity, experience higher levels of excitement from their school work, and apply more effort during their attempts to complete school projects and assignments. Parents of these youth noticed their children taking more risks, solving problems with ease, and respecting other people’s ideas and opinions. Students in the Kennedy Center’s Arts in Education Research Study were more confident, intellectually curious, and positively challenged citizens who may be better equipped to generate original ideas to improve their communities and contribute to a creative global economy.

To help nurture the potential of our youth, the Y offers a Y-Arts programs to help improve creative and tactical skills, learn to socialize and build relationships. The Y-Arts program can make all the difference for some children, keeping young minds creating and discovering.

Community member and parent to a former Y-Arts student, Rosanna Salcedo tells us “the Y-Arts program gave my child the freedom to express his creativity, and encouraged him to explore new forms of artistic expression, in a supportive environment. Thanks to Y-Arts, he has experience using a variety of materials and techniques.”

Learn more about Y-Arts! Registration is open for the next Y-Arts Session. Classes meet once a week from 4-5 pm for 6 weeks at the YMCA in Exeter, 30 Linden St. Each class costs $85 for 6 weeks. All classes are taught by local Exeter artist, Marissa Vitolo.

Y-Arts Session 2: Tuesday, March 10th – Thursday, April 16th

Tuesdays: Painting and Drawing

Thursdays: Hand building (clay)

Register today!

Fall in Love with Heart Health during American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month and as a leading voice on improving the nation’s health, the Southern District YMCA urges everyone in our community to take steps to make sure they are heart healthy so they can lead longer, healthier lives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the nation’s number one killer, responsible for 1 in 4 deaths each year in the United States. The Y offers community-based healthy living initiatives that support people in changing their lifestyles, and encourages organizations and communities to adopt behaviors that promote healthy living and promote the public’s health through advocacy.

To address the prevalence of heart disease, the Y has made a national commitment to the Million Hearts campaign, an initiative that aims to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes. As part of this commitment, the Y is developing a new national program that will help people with hypertension lower their blood pressure through coaching support and a proven self-monitoring practice. Research shows that the simple process of checking and recording your blood pressure at least twice a month over a four month period, along with regular physical activity, proper nutrition and reducing sodium intake, may lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.

Here are some tips on how to live heart healthy.

  1. Get Physical: Being physically active every day is fun and can improve the function of your heart. Plan and schedule opportunities for active play; for example, include a brisk 10-minute trip around the block after meals or a 10-minute walking break during the day. If your family enjoys active video games, select versions that require moving the body’s large muscle groups while playing.
  1. Take a Snooze: Lack of sleep has been associated with elevated cholesterol and blood pressure. Adults need at least seven, but no more than nine hours of sleep at night to aid with the prevention of heart disease. Children need 10-12 hours of sleep per night. Develop bedtime routines for the whole family to assist with falling asleep faster and staying asleep.
  1. Shape Up Those Recipes: Makeover your family’s favorite recipes by reducing the amount of salt and saturated fat and substituting a lower fat food without sacrificing tastes. For example, use low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream and skip the seasoning packet and use pepper and olive oil instead. Read food labels to learn more about what is in the package, select foods that have less than 1,000 mg of sodium per serving.
  1. Feeling the Pressure: According to the American Heart Association, lowering or maintaining normal blood pressure can greatly reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. Nearly 1 in 3 adults (about 78 million people) has high blood pressure and more than half of them don’t have it under control. Start self-monitoring your blood pressure and know the numbers. Discuss the results with you doctor.
  1. Play Together: Spending time together as a family is a great way to reduce stress, which is important to heart health. Make homemade valentines for your children’s classmates or build a snow fort together in the yard or the park.

Heart disease is critical issue for all New Hampshire residents and it’s never too late to get heart healthy!

Fun and Friends at Family Camp

Each fall, Camp Lincoln opens it’s doors, cabins, and activity areas to families for a long weekend. We call it Family Camp, and it is exactly as it sounds. Children, parents, grandparents and friends settle into lakeside cabins, unroll their sleeping bags onto wooden-framed bunk beds, pull on their wool socks and hats (or bathing suits!) and enjoy and challenge themselves at camp activities. From kayaking to hiking, pumpkin carving to campfires, families enjoy a relaxing and fun weekend at camp!

Thank you to the ten families who joined us for a beautiful weekend at camp! Family Camp 2014 was a great success. We look forward to seeing all of you again next fall.

Does this sound like your cup of tea? Learn more about Family Camp at Camp Lincoln, and join us in 2015!

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Friday Morning Walk

Today I treated myself to an early morning walk along Swasey Parkway during pre-work hours. It was high tide, the moon was still hanging tough in the sun-filled blue sky. The wind was a tad gusty bringing in an ocean scent.

How I love Exeter. The river, skyline of steeples and historic places just shouts of quaint New England.

A new YMCA Facility is soon to be added on Linden Street. It is not as if Exeter is missing anything, but this new Y will certainly enhance the Exeter area. Almost like that perfect piece of jewelry adds a bit of sparkle to your favorite outfit.

The Y will offer health, wellness, a stronger community and so much more.

What a wonderful morning walk imagining the possibilities!

~Bev Bowles