Healthy Active Living with St. Joseph Healthcare

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Is Your Family Ready for a Pet?

Thinking about adding to the family with a furry (or scaly) friend? Pets do a good job of bringing families closer together and can enrich the lives of their owners in so many ways. People who have a pet (or two, or menageries!) are often happier and healthier than those without. (Check out our post about the health benefits of pets by clicking here.) But they’re always a huge responsibility.Goldfish Kissing

It’s important to get the whole family on the same page when thinking about getting a pet. Consider the following before you decide:

  • Can you afford a pet? The initial expense of buying or adopting a pet can run the gamut from free to thousands of dollars, but all pets have ongoing costs. Food, veterinary and medical bills, insurance, litter, licensing and grooming can add up quickly. And then add in food dishes, cages, leashes, collars, toys and all those other accessories. The ASPCA estimates the average annual cost of a medium-sized dog, cat or rabbit is in the $700 range – and that doesn’t include the initial purchase of the pet or any one-time items. Visit their site for more info.
  • What kind of pet best suits your family? The size of your home, yard and family all play a factor in whether you’ll be bringing home a puppy, goldfish or a horse. Consider the demeanor and age of your children (younger or more active children may have a hard time being gentle with a new pet and need a more sturdy companion who can handle some light rough-housing) and your lifestyle (would the pet be left for long periods of time? do you travel often?) before deciding.
  • Where would you get your pet? Breeders, adopting from the shelter or purchasing from a pet store are all options – and may depend on the type of pet your family chooses. Adopting can be a great experience – and give you the opportunity to provide a good, happy home to an animal in need. Many shelters are home to more than cats and dogs as well – check out your local shelter for more info. Shelter workers are familiar with the animals’ personalities and can help match the right pet to the right family. Visit the Bangor Humane Society website.

Pets can help teach responsibility to children and provide the world’s best friend and companion. But it should be a family decision as you may be living with your new buddy for the 15 years or more!

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Rainy Day Activities for Kids

Keeping kids busy on a cold, rainy day can be tough – here are a few healthy, fun ideas for some indoor play!

  • Build an indoor club house. What’s more fun than a fort made of blankets? Get cozy in there and have a healthy picnic lunch in your fort!
  • Be an indoor Olympian – test your child’s long jump, high jump (with washable paint on their fingertips you can officially measure their high jump height on a wall) and short sprint abilities. You can compete for homemade medals in bean bag toss accuracy, most jumping jacks inside of a minute and more!
  • Build something out of popsicle sticks! Mini-marshmallows and toothpicks make great building materials for older kids!





  • Play a card game to keep little minds busy. Try Slapjack. Deal out all the cards face-down – don’t worry if the numbers are uneven. The player to the left of the dealer starts by turning the card on the top of his pack face-up in the center of the table. Play continues with each player adding a card to the face-up pile, until somebody turns up a Jack, at which point all players try to be the first to “slap” their hand over the stack. Whoever gets their hand there first takes the pack and adds it to the bottom of their pile.
  • Take a trip to the Library. Pick an activity or hobby you’d like to try as a family and find a “how-to” book to learn more. For example, learn to draw, cook or play an instrument as a family!
  • Create brown paper bag puppets and put on a show!
  • Cardboard boxes make excellence robot costumes, castles and more – and keep kids active and busy for hours!
  • Dance it up! Crank up some tunes, get your groove on and burn some extra energy!
  • Make homemade play-dough! The simple act of squishing and stamping dough helps develop fine motor skills and promote creativity! Try the recipe below!

play dough



The Great Play Dough Recipe:

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1.5 cups of salt
  • 6 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 3 cups of water

Blend all ingredients in a large pot. Stir constantly over medium heat until a dough begins to form. Knead the dough to the desired play-dough texture (about 1-2 minutes). Let it cool a little.

This recipe makes the rough equivalent of 9 regular play-dough containers.

Let the kids add food coloring and squish and knead to color the dough. Kool-Aid is another option for coloring you can try that makes really vivid colors! Coloring the dough is a great opportunity for kids to explore the science of color – start with your primary colors (red, yellow and blue) and start mixing to make purple, green, orange and more! Store your dough in plastic bags. Have fun!

Have some suggestions of your own? Share with us in the comments section!

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Simple Steps to Start a Compost Pile

Happy Earth Day! Looking to get green at home? Here’s a fun idea…

Composting is a natural process, similar to the way nature breaks down leaves and other dead material on the forest floor.  A combination of green and brown vegetable matter kept barely moist and turned regularly will “rot” into a dark aromatic material filled with beneficial bacteria, microbes and fungi that your plants need to grow like champs.

Let’s get started!  Here’s what you need:

  1. Carbon-rich “brown” material, such as fall leaves, straw, dead flowers from your garden and shredded newspaper.
  2. Nitrogen-rich “green” materials, such as grass clippings, plant-based kitchen waste (vegetable peelings and fruit rinds, but no meat scraps) and barnyard animal manure.
  3. A shovel or two of garden soil.
  4. A site that’s a least 3 feet long by 3 feet wide.

Here’s what to do:

  • Start by spreading a layer that is several inches thick of coarse, dry brown cornstalks or leaves, where you want to build the pile
  • Top with several inches of “green” stuff
  • Add a thin layer of soil
  • Add a layer of “brown” stuff
  • Moisten the three layers
  • Continue layering green stuff and brown stuff with a little soil mixed until it gets to at least 3 feet high.
  • Every couple of weeks, use a garden fork or shovel to turn the pile, mixing the material. Keep moist, but not soggy.

Your pile will decrease in size as it decomposes.  When you have enough finished compost in the pile to use in your garden, shovel out and start over. Happy composting!

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Watch It Grow! Planting in Eggshells

Planting seeds is fun for all ages – and now’s the perfect time to get sowing. Check out this fun idea to get your kids excited about planting their own veggies! The more involved kids are, the more likely they’ll be to try a new fruit or veggie.

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Planting in Eggshells

  • Plan ahead: Rinse your discarded eggshells – half an egg shell is perfect – in water and let them dry in a sunny window. You may want to boil your shells to ensure they are completely clean.
  • Hang on to your cartons to set your potted shells in while they sprout.
  • Make it extra fun by letting kids (carefully!) decorate the shells with markers or paint before planting! (Full disclosure – in our test run, it was easier for the really little kiddos to paint whole eggs before cracking.)
  • Carefully poke a small drainage hole in each shell with a toothpick.
  • Fill each egg shell with potting soil.
  • Add 2 or 3 seeds and bury to the depth stated on the packet. Peas, beans, tomatoes and greens are all great candidates for eggshell planting!
  • Spritz your eggs with water and place on a sunny windowsill in the carton and wait for the seeds to sprout. Remember to keep them well watered.
  • Once the seed has sprouted, wait until the seedling is about 4 to 5 inches tall before hardening off and setting outside.
  • Carefully crush the eggshell so the roots of the seedlings have room to grow.
  • Plant and water as you normally would any other plant in the garden.

Eggshells are all natural, biodegradable, can be planted directly into the soil and they’re free – what’s not to love? They also supply extra calcium to your soil to help moderate soil acidity and provide nutrients for your plants.