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We are in Vergennes, Vermont. We are a small facility with 14 residents. Many of our residents were raised and lived on dairy farms. We have done quite a variety of activities: In the spring, I provided gardening gloves (from the dollar store) and 6 residents planted flowers in planters and pots and green bean seeds and Swiss Chard seeds in deep window boxes filled with a lightweight Miracle Grow soil w/fertilizer. It is important to put the pots and planters at a level they can work at. We placed these on the western porch and picked the fruits of our labor in a few weeks. Some had never planted seeds before. This fall, one of our gentleman planted a short variety of sugar snap peas and they are growing nicely, staked against the railing of our ramp. We made "Christmas pickles" from ripe cucumbers. Let me know if you want the recipe. Residents (6), including our gentleman, peeled the cucumbers, deseeded them, cut them into slightly larger than bite sized. They measured the vinegar, sugar, oil of clove and oil of cinnamon. I stewed them up. They set overnight, the syrup is boiled and poured over the cukes for the next 2 days. (which I did). On the third day, I set the table up with two kettles of cuke pieces, bowls of marachino cherries and a variety size spoons. Each resident was instructed to place 2-3 cherries in an 8 ounce canning jar, followed by several cukes, more cherries and topping off with more cukes. I poured in the hot syrup and they put the lid on the jar. Each resident made four jars. I was able to find green cherries, too. So each resident had 2 jars of red pickles and 2 jars of green pickles. I canned the pickles in a water bath. You can continue this project by making a decorative cover for the jar. Make a cardboard circle pattern several sizes larger than the ring on the canning jar. The resident traces around the pattern onto festive fabric--such as Christmas print or harvest print. They cut out the circle. Remove the ring from the canning jar and center the fabric over the jar. Replace the ring and screw it on. Don't forget to make labels for the jars. One of our residents was in charge of putting the date on the labels that came with the jars. They are so proud of their accomplishment and now have gifts for family and visitors. You can do a balloon toss. Have the residents at a table and toss a balloon for them to keep up in the air. Have a couple of balloons ready or you will spend your time up and down from your chair. When I was a child, we could buy Mr. Schmoo-- a shaped balloon with cardboard feet. You toss it into the air and it always lands on its feet. You can make a Mr. Schmoo by cutting cardboard feet something in a heart shape. In the middle of the heart where it dips in, cut a slit. Slip the knot of the balloon into that slit. Draw a face on the balloon. You can toss Mr. Schmoo around. I drew an outline of a butterfly (looking at it from the side, but looking down from the top would be nice, too) on a sheet of paper made for painting on. I provided nature magazines (Birds & Bloom is great) that had pictures of butterflies for the residents to use as a reference. Provided paint brushes, colored pencils, acrylic paints and let them make their own butterfly with which ever medium they preferred. Have people save their picturesque calendars. Don't throw away any calendars with great pictures. You can make envelopes from the pictures. The residents are asked to find pictures they would like to use. So this generates a lot of conversation about the topic of the pictures--nature scenes, flowers, wildlife, etc. If you want to do this, send me your address ( and I will mail you a sample. It is all a matter of folding the picture, taping it in place and trimming the flap. Very easy for the resident and VERY low cost. You can use computer labels on the outside where the address and return address would be placed. We have made "crystal gardens". The recipe comes with Mrs. Stewart's Bluing--found in the laundry section or search online for Mrs. Stewart's Bluing to find the store nearest to you. Combine salt, bluing and put on a porous object like a sponge, brick, coal. A few drops of food coloring and watch the crystals form. I hope I wasn't too long winded. I love doing these activities and it is a delight to see the resident's face when they have a finished product. 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Karlene, 11/19/2005

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