Maple Syrup

It's not just for breakfast

These are the mornings that drag a third grader to the brink of despair. That soft, gray-tinged cold that hangs in the room five minutes before the alarm bleats, it bites sleepy toes through the thickest of blankets, and its hoary sting is nothing compared to the slow sadness that creeps along in anticipation of a bleak February bus ride waiting just a half-hour off.

And then the room is overtaken by the amber glory; warmer than the cinnamon-roll-like cat snuggled up against your hip, sweeter than an unexpected snow day, a tidal wave of maple syrup floods the house, flushing you out of bed and down the stairs (still in your jammies) to a kingdom of buttered waffles and the sticky, plate-scraping joy that comes from knowing your mother loves you so much she'd heat real, life-blood-of-the-trees maple syrup in a glass pitcher for you.

And if you've ever wondered how that gorgeous brown elixir gets from the trees to your heart (where all of your mother's meals reside), have your parents take you to Maple Sugar Saturday at the Rockwoods Reservation (2751 Glencoe Road in Wildwood). You can hike in the woods to see maple sap in its pre-breakfast state, watch the experts boil it down to syrup and then sample the delicious fruits of the labor in a free, two-hour session (from 10 a.m. to noon or from 1 to 3 p.m.) on Saturday, February 21, and February 28. Call 636-458-2236 to register. -- Paul Friswold

Strip Kids
Learn to cartoon

Laughter, to paraphrase Richard Pryor, is recognizing the truth on an intuitive level. Is it any wonder, then, that every day, countless confused and frustrated people take solace in the funnies, knowing that their pain is shared by Charlie Brown, Dilbert or other favorite protagonists in a cruel and chaotic world? Children with a knack for drawing or possessed of a particularly large funny bone may be well suited for the Cartooning for Fun class, offered at the Webster Groves Recreation Complex (33 East Glendale Avenue, call 314-963-5600 to register) on Monday nights, February 23 through March 15. Over four weeks, participants will create their own characters, plot stories and scripts and, during the final week, make a cartoon "just like in the papers." The course is $26 to $29 and is aimed at children ages eight to fourteen, but adults are always welcome. -- Jedidiah Ayres

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