Tag Archives: free things to do

Family Movie Night and Two Books: The Snowman, Some Snowflakes and a Craft

12 Dec
The Snowman movie based on the book

This movie is quick, 23 minutes long and is based on the book by Raymond Briggs


Today is Friday, our wind-down night and often-times we have a Family Movie Night, as I said in last Friday’s post. Yesterday’s recipe was for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, which I said make me think of snowflakes, even though they are chocolate based cookies. That thought of snowflakes leads me to today’s movie, book and craft for kids.

When I was an elementary teacher, the book, “The Snowman” by Raymond Briggs was one of my favorites to use as a wintertime activity with the kids. A wordless book, it had gorgeous illustrations, depicting a boy’s journey with a snowman. I used to love having the kids make their own version of the words to go along with the pictures.

That book is now a movie, and although I have not seen it, I wish I had it! According to the description on Amazon, it is based on live action flying footage. It sounds fantastic!

This is the same book that our family had for years until just last week.

The book that I used to have is now gone, donated just a couple of weeks ago, by my generous kids who each year have to make a big pile of books and toys for children who don’t have much, just before Christmas.

Clearly they couldn’t read my mind and know that I was going to use that very book in my blog post this week. When I heard it was gone, I almost went after it but my husband assured me they were putting the boxes on a truck as he was dropping them off, it was gone. So, instead, I am including the picture from Amazon. Sigh…I loved that book.

Speaking of books and snowflakes, when my daughter Caroline was in first grade, she checked out this very cool book about William Bently, a man who studied snowflakes. It includes really amazing photos of snowflakes and my kids were thoroughly intrigued by it. It truly shows that every snowflake is unique.

To me, nothing says winter crafts like paper snowflakes. One year I had my kids make snowflakes for all of the windows in the house (this was not an overwhelming task, we don’t have a ton of windows!) Each of their snowflakes was different and unique, just like real snowflakes. I loved the ones they put up on my bedroom windows so much that I never take them down. My side of the bed is the window side and I happen to sleep on my left side so I look out the window all the time when I’m laying there in the mornings just waking up. I love seeing those snowflakes.

Therefore, my craft for the day is just that: simple.paper.snowflakes.


Paper snowflakes made by the kids

Every snowflake is different and unique, just like the children who make them!

Paper snowflakes made by our girls

I keep my paper snowflakes on my window all year long!

Hanukkah is coming! Here’s a complete meal and craft for you!

10 Dec
Menorah clip art

Happy Hanukkah!


We are not Jewish, but over the years we have been blessed to know many Jewish friends. When we were first married, we moved to New Jersey. Some of the first people we met there were our friends Max and Jamie, an Italian-Jewish-African American couple whose passion for good food and good times matched our own. They gave us the following brisket recipe in 1996 and we’ve been making it ever since and I think of them fondly every time we do. Accompanying the brisket recipe is a recipe for Latkes, a potato pancake, which we actually make frequently throughout the year because we love them so much. And of course, this post contains a coordinating craft to go along with it. It’s truly the whole package for you!

Max and Jamie sent this recipe to us in 1998 after we had moved back to New England. It’s not perfectly measured out, a lot of winging it, but it’s worth it! I do not have a photograph of this meal because I have not made it since I started this blog in September but I promise that the next time we make it, I will take and post photos.



One brisket

one medium to large onion

several carrots

a few cans of tomato sauce


1) First chop the onion and cook it a bit in a big pot with a bit of oil (vegetable, corn, canola, whatever)

2) Put the brisket in the pot with the onion and brown it on both sides.

3) Add one can of water for each can of tomato sauce until the brisket is covered. The number of cans varies depending on the size of the can. Let the brisket cook in the liquid for one hour.

4) After about 45 minutes add the carrots (cut into medium sized pieces) to the pot. (Jamie wrote: I usually add about 3-4 carrots. You don’t want to add too many or the sauce will take on too much of a carrot flavor.)

5) After the hour is up, take the brisket out of the pot and slice it. Either with or against the grain works fine, whatever you prefer.

6) Put the brisket back into the pot and cook for another half hour.




Elizabeth actually brought this recipe home from second grade in 2010 and I enjoy using it, it’s an easy one, although we’ve used several others in the past.


3 large potatoes, grated

1 small onion, grated

2 beaten eggs

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

pinch of pepper


Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

Heat half a cup of oil in a frying pan.

Drop a tablespoonful of the potato mixture in the pan.

Fry until the pancake is brown and crispy on the edges.

Turn and fry on the other side.

Drain the latkes on a paper towel.

Some people enjoy sour cream with their potato pancakes, others enjoy applesauce with theirs. I am an applesauce girl all the way, and I’m including my super-simple homemade applesauce recipe below, but see which you prefer!


Homemade Applesauce

Homemade applesauce makes a perfect topping for latkes!


There are so many homemade applesauce recipes out there, and I’ve used a few of them, including a great crockpot recipe which makes a huge amount. But, for a meal like this, I’d use my usual go-to recipe that I of course, learned from my mom when we were growing up.


1 three pound bag of apples (like Cortland or Macintosh) peeled and sliced

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup water



Peel them, slice them, throw them in the pan, dump in the water and cinnamon stick.

Wait til it boils, which happens quickly, and then simmer for 20 minutes. Mash them and eat!


Menorah Craft for Hanukkah

Here are the handprint Menorahs my girls made with Caroline last weekend


Caroline recently decided to do this craft with her sisters after she saw it in a Highlights magazine. I thought it was so cute and perfect to post with today’s recipes. It’s super easy and her sisters really enjoyed it. They also went online and looked up what real menorahs looked like, while doing their own version of them.

For this craft you need:

one sheet of white paper

two hands for hand prints

one ink pad (I recommend water based ink)

one sheet of yellow construction paper for flames

scissors and glue sticks

What We’re Doing for Fun This Summer: Letterboxing

30 Jun

Look, we found a letterbox!


Have you ever heard of letterboxing?

It’s so much fun, it’s free, and it’s great for a family activity during any season that’s not freezing cold. For us, that’s 3/4 of the year, but we really only get to do it in the summer for the most part because that’s when we have time to do things.

Things that aren’t school and work things.

Fun things.

Like letterboxing.

I first heard of letterboxing so long ago, I don’t even know if we had all three kids yet. I read about it in Family Fun Magazine. I don’t get that magazine any longer and I can only imagine all the amazing ideas I’ve missed, but I used to love it. I credit all our letterboxing fun to the article I read in Family Fun.

I remember reading the article and saying to Don, “When our kids are bigger, I want to do this,” and I never forgot it. In 2008 we began our letterboxing adventures. Alexandra, our youngest, was three.

You’re probably saying, “Get to the point! What IS letterboxing???” I take the long way around sometimes, when I tell a story.

Okay. Here’s what it is and here’s how you do it:

All around the world people are hiding, and finding letterboxes!

All around the world, literally, people are hiding these little boxes in secret places and uploading the clues to help you find them, online.

I kid you not.

It’s like a giant treasure hunt, really.

Here’s what you need to get started:

*A notebook of some kind (Mine is super fancy because I’m crafty and I actually have notebooks like this just hanging around in my office. However, it can be a simple composition book.)

*A pen

*A rubber stamp (some people make their own. I used a Stampin’ Up! stamp of a globe. I thought it appropriate.)

*An ink pad

*Something in which to store all those things. I used to use a gallon ziploc bag. Then I used a big manilla folder. Now they’re in an expandable file I found in my office. That’s the most durable thing I’ve used so far.

Now here’s what you have to do:

1) Visit this website for Letterboxing North America (assuming that’s where you live).

2) Click on the state you want to explore. Click on the area of the state. Ours is set up by counties.

3) Check out the list of letterboxes in that area and pick some to print out. I read the clues first to see if it says the last time the box was found or if it’s missing, or if the terrain is notable in any way, such as rough or rocky or easy.

4) Print out the clues for the boxes you want to look for. We started with boxes right in our own city to get the hang of it, and then expanded to nearby cities and now we do them even if we’re traveling on vacation and think we’ll have a chance to look for a letterbox.

Now you take your clues and go.

1) You park your car where they tell you to, and start following the clues until you reach the hiding spot where they say the box is. We told our kids right off the bat that sometimes the boxes are missing or we won’t find them, just so they wouldn’t be so disappointed if that happened, but it’s not been the norm for us.. Usually we find them.

2) When you get to the hiding place you find the box. It’s usually a tupperware type of plastic box. Open the box. Find their stamp, ink and notebook.

3) You stamp your stamp into their notebook and we like to leave a little note with the date and our last name, so they know at least when the most recent one was found. We sometimes will look back to see how long the boxes have been hidden in that spot.

4) Then you take their stamp and their ink (or use your ink if needbe) and stamp their stamp into your notebook. Put the date and where you are so that you too, can look back in the future and see all the places you’ve explored and found letterboxes, and how long you’ve been doing it.

5) Put all their stuff back in their box and REHIDE the box. Don’t just leave it out there in the open. Put it back where you found it and cover it back up as it was so that the next person can find it.

That’s it! Done! Fun times!!

We never even knew this spot existed until we followed the letterboxing clues. The box ended up not being there, but the stunning location we found instead made up for it.

We have not only found some neat letterboxes, but we’ve found some incredible spots, gorgeous places that we never knew existed in our own state. We’ve also explored some neat historic places both in our state and in other states, where we’ve found letterboxes.

Letterboxing makes a day trip double the fun.

Some state parks have a series of letterboxes in them, sometimes three or four of them. You can spend the day hiking through the park and finding them.

A few things to keep in mind:

Dress appropriately. Sneakers work better than flip flops, for example.

Sunscreen, snacks, water, tissues and band-aids are all good things to bring with you. You never know what you’ll need but those basics have served us well.

Next time you’re looking for a fun, active way to spend the day together with your family, give letterboxing a try!

Monday Musings: The value of a staycation

5 Aug
I felt like I was away on vacation yesterday, even though we were less than an hour from home.

I felt like I was away on vacation yesterday, even though we were less than an hour from home.  Photo credit: Caroline Cowart

Yesterday was Sunday, and on that one day, three very random and totally unrelated things happened to me that really got me thinking.

The first thing happened on the way out of church in the morning. Our priest was sitting on the bench near the walkway as we walked to our car. He said to me, “Are you guys around this week or do you travel?”

My somewhat cynical answer was, “Yes we’re here, we never travel.”

Because in general, we don’t often get to take trips. We stay close to home other than the occasional visits to out-of-state family, which we do enjoy whenever we get the chance to do it.

Once home, we were sorting out our plans for the day, and what we’d originally planned on doing got nixed because one of the girls has Swimmer’s Ear, something we’d totally forgotten about when we were making our water-based plans.

We thought about what we could do instead, last minute, and I remembered that we had five free passes to The Breakers, a mansion in Newport, RI, about 45 minutes or so from here, courtesy of the reading program the kids participate in at the library. Of the five of us, only Caroline had been there on a field trip with the teen library program a couple of years back, and other than Caroline, the kids had never been to Newport even though we live so close to it.

So we grabbed some coupons for dinner, our cameras and sweatshirts, and jumped in the car.

On the way there, I was texting continuous photos of the ride, over the bridges, crossing the bay, and into Newport, to my out-of-state friend, Paula. She’d mentioned that visiting Newport was on her bucket list, and so I was helping her to “see” it along with us.

“Imagine that?” Don said to me on the way. “People hope to see Newport one day before they die, and here we are jumping in the car at the last minute, on our way there right now. We’re so lucky.”

He had a point. We *are* so lucky.

We arrived in Newport, taking the long way through town to show the kids the sights. In the car, they were bursting with excitement as they took in the sights around them.

They were giddy.

We may not live in a mansion but we can visit one whenever we'd like to!

We may not live in a mansion but we can visit one whenever we’d like to! Photo credit: Don Cowart II

We toured The Breakers inside and out, for free, along with tourists from all over the country and even all over the world, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We had an inexpensive dinner at a local restaurant with our coupons, without breaking our budget. Then we hopped back in the car and went to enjoy the streets of Newport.

It was a gorgeous night. We had a blast. So much fun.

And we felt like we were on vacation.

We had.The.Most.Fabulous.Day.

We watched the sun setting over the bay. We saw yachts, went window shopping, heard a live concert from some of our favorite bands, went to an arcade, bumped into friends, had ice cream, and I even splurged and bought the kids Newport t-shirts ($10 for all three, I couldn’t resist!)

And later on, when I posted a photo on Facebook, a friend of mine from high school commented on it, noting how wonderful a staycation in Rhode Island can be.

She too, was right. We are incredibly lucky, living in the Ocean State. We can be to the beach in less than an hour, all summer long. We have many, many free summer events taking place throughout the season. The scenery is incredible, no matter where we are. The food is amazing; we get to eat many delicacies that people travel hundreds of miles to get a taste of.

Without leaving our home state, we are blessed with a vacation, or as my friend Sarah said, a staycation, that can’t be beat. Many people would give anything for what we have.

And so last night when we arrived home, happily exhausted from our amazing day, I rethought my cynicism from that morning’s answer to our priest. I’m not normally a cynical person, and I do try to count my blessings on a daily basis, being thankful for what I have rather than wanting for more. But this time, I think I needed a reminder.

Several reminders.

We may not travel often, per se, but we do get around and we are incredibly blessed to live where we live, to have what we have and to be able to do what we do, without a whole lot of effort or expense. We don’t need to rent a beach house, board a plane, or take a vacation week off from work.

We are incredibly lucky.

We are blessed.

What are the chances we'd get to hear the Gin Blossoms, Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth while we were walking through Newport?

Listening to the bands: What are the chances we’d get to hear the Gin Blossoms, Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth while we were walking through Newport? Pretty good!

Monday Musings: The Making of a 50 States Bedroom

20 May
Alex's project had gone viral.

Alex’s project had gone viral.

Last April we began renovations on our house that would allow each daughter to have their own bedroom for the first time ever. Choosing colors and themes and decor became the topic of many a conversation.

So the day Alexandra came out of her room and announced that when it was her turn for a new room, she wanted a 50 States Bedroom you might think we wouldn’t be shocked, but we were. For months she’d been saying she wanted purple walls and a horse-themed room. Now, she wanted ocean-blue walls and a cross-country theme. According to my mother-in-law, the two had concocted the new theme for her room over the phone one day and Alex was sold on the idea.

Once we knew this new room theme was a keeper, I told Alex I would put a request for postcards from all of the states out to my friends and family on Facebook and see what we could collect that way first. Whatever we couldn’t get, we’d find another way of getting them. The postcards would later be used as a border around her room after the blue paint went on the walls.

I put the request out in mid-March, right around her birthday, explaining the 50 States Bedroom idea. Once I did, the postcards started rolling in. The first week or so she was receiving handfuls a day. My father-in-law, on his end, put out a request to all of his friends and family around the country as well, and stated that her birthday was coming up, too. It was so much fun receiving postcards that said, “Your grandpa wanted us to wish you a Happy Birthday from North Carolina,” or whatever state the cards were coming from. In years to come, when Alex looks at the messages on the cards, she’ll read things like, “I went to high school with your daddy,” “I went to the White House with your sister,” or “Vermont has great maple syrup,” and many other fun and exciting messages from all over the country. One cousin sent us 27 postcards from a cross-country trip she’d taken years ago. Her personal collection was now Alex’s. That gesture from a cousin we had never met, meant so much to us.

We received over 14 feet of postcards from all over the world to be used in Alex's new room.

We received over 14 feet of postcards from all over the world to be used in Alex’s new room.

Before we knew it, we had received over 150 postcards literally from all over the world. Postcards came in from the east coast, west coast, London, Canada, St. Maarten and Alaska. It was amazing. We all looked forward to the arrival of the mail each and every day. I did my best to go on Facebook often and thank those who sent or requested postcards, and I’d give an update of what we had gotten so far and what we were still missing. By April vacation week we were down to just nine states left and we were ready to empty out, clean out and paint the room over the week. Alex and her daddy went to the store and she picked out the color of paint that she wanted, and the process began.

I had forgotten that underneath the "little kid" border was the baby border we'd hand stamped on the walls before Caroline was born.

I had forgotten that underneath the “little kid” border was the baby border we’d hand stamped on the walls before Caroline was born.

It was a little sad, I must say, when Don began scraping away at the border we put up in 2005, only to discover the border of Snoopy and Woodstock that we had hand-stamped in 1999 as we prepared for the birth of our first baby. When all of the wallpaper border was down, and the stamped art remained, there was a small lump in my throat, and a part of me wanted to say, “No! Let’s just keep this! Let’s go back.”

But I know, you can’t ever go back.

So the new paint color went on the walls over the nursery yellow and the pink and blue border, over years of picture holes and sticky tape marks, making the room look fresh and new with the great color that Alex had picked out. In two days’ time Don had transformed the room to a big girl room, and we moved the furniture back in, setting it up in a new layout.

As the postcard mail began to trickle down and we had just a few states left, I took the whole lot of them to our local learning store, Lakeshore Learning Store, to be laminated. We also laminated some maps that she wanted in her room as well. We had a Rhode Island map which has hung in our basement for years, that she wanted on her wall. She particularly likes the fact that it has the dates 2006-2007 on it and she points it out to whoever comes into the room. We had a world map in one of the kids’ rooms that was not being used, and I ordered a special US map from the Highlights Magazine “Which Way USA” club, that we had now enrolled her in. The laminated postcards stretched from our sliding glass door in our dining room to the coffee table in our living room, about 14 feet in length and about two feet across.

I found this cool project in Family Fun magazine, that I just had to replicate for Alex's walls.

I found this cool project in FamilyFun magazine, that I just had to replicate for Alex’s walls.

I went to Hobby Lobby one afternoon and found huge letters that were on sale for half off: N, S, E, W in pink and blue sparkly colors and Don put them up on her walls, using a compass so that they were really placed accurately pointing North, South, East and West. I found a cool project in FamilyFun Magazine while sitting in the doctor’s waiting room one day, and I had to replicate it on her wall. I knew the perfect spot. Alex noticed a blanket in the trunk my car that I’d made for the kids years ago, a 50 States blanket with a map of the country on it. We washed it and brought it up to her room and placed it at the bottom of her bed, which was still awaiting a back-ordered, horse-themed “bed in a bag” set. She found a globe at the book store, and used some gift money to purchase it. The room was coming together in our minds, and on the walls, piece by piece.

Finally, it was time. I took the huge roll of postcards and began cutting them apart. I filled an entire wicker basket with them. I found some double sided foam tape at Walmart, specifically designed to keep the paint on the walls in tact, and Caroline and I placed little pieces in the center of each laminated card, being careful not to cover the messages on the cards if at all possible. And then, on Mother’s Day afternoon, I began placing each one on the wall.

As I did this, I was struck by the awesomeness of this whole project, from the idea itself to the connections it has given Alex to our family, our friends, our past and our present. The postcards have special stamps on them, special postmarks, and special messages. They are priceless and yet the cost of them was so minimal.

My version of the Family Fun project, with postcards to match.

Adjacent to the North Wall is my version of the FamilyFun project, with postcards to match.

Alex has decided that the South Wall over her bed will show maps of two "featured states" as she receives them from the "Which Way USA" program through Highlights Magazine.

Alex has decided that the South Wall over her bed will show maps of two “featured states” as she receives them from the “Which Way USA” program through Highlights Magazine.

And so, as I finish up this blog post and I show you the photos of the finished walls, I want to say thank you to everyone. Thanks for sending Alex her postcards, for spreading the word to your families and friends all over the country and the world, and thank you for taking the time to make a little girl’s day, every day. On the night that the walls were finished, she walked into her room, looked up at the walls, and she slowly turned around and around. The look of amazement on her face was one I will never forget.

And I more than appreciate it.

Thank You.

The East wall houses her Rhode Island map and its coordinating RI postcards.

The East Wall houses her Rhode Island map and its coordinating RI postcards.

The West Wall is over the back of her door and over her closet. The wall over the door houses her Texas postcards and her Cowgirl sign.

The West Wall is over the back of her door and over her closet. The wall over the door houses her Texas postcards and her Cowgirl sign.

A Great Friday Snack: Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips

22 Feb
The simplest things, like these Mardi Gras masks can provide hours of fun on a week like this one!

The simplest things, like these Mardi Gras masks can provide hours of fun on a week like this one!

Happy Friday everyone!

I hope you all had a great week! We’re finishing off February Vacation week here and it’s flown by, despite the fact that we had no set plans really.

We got to see real, live raptors VERY close up on Wednesday afternoon at the library. Very. Close.Up.

We got to see real, live raptors VERY close up on Wednesday afternoon at the library. Very. Close.Up.

We had a great week it turns out, thanks to the Cranston Public Library. We went there on Wednesday to return our books and realized that there were lots of great programs lined up for this week: a great Raptor program from a local wildlife preserve (Born to be Wild Nature Center in Bradford, RI) and the showing of a movie we had not yet seen, were the two things we took advantage of.

Little things like that give the kids something to look forward to and make the week go by.  And, it gives them the chance to take out new library books. We came home Wednesday with a new slew of books for them to read. Gotta love that too.

Best of all, those activities are all free, from the reading to the raptors to the movie.

Gotta love that even more.

They sounded like rock stars on Tuesday afternoon!

They sounded like rock stars on Tuesday afternoon!

We also had the opportunity to participate in a fun recording session at Reel to Real Recording Studio right here in Cranston. The girls were singing like rock stars for the whole afternoon on Tuesday. If you’ve never been there, it’s great fun so check it out!

We had a great time talking all about our trip and showing lots of photos and memorabilia.

We had a great time talking all about our trip and showing lots of photos and memorabilia.

And finally, we made a visit to Grandma Grello’s assisted living facility, where we got the Mardi Gras masks and matching bead necklaces too, and where Caroline presented her power point presentation about the Kids State Dinner trip.  It was her second such presentation in one week’s time and she did a great job with it, as usual. Reliving that trip is always amazing for us and the audience really enjoyed the presentation. Even better, it sparked some great conversation from the residents about their memories of Washington DC., some dating back to WWII. Living history: a privilege for us to be a part of.

Below is a great Friday recipe for you, taken from the blog, The Girl Who Ate Everything.  We made this on Valentine’s Day but it makes a great after school snack and actually we had leftovers and my kids put it on their homemade waffles this weekend too.

We had barely any of the awesome fruits they have in their recipe below, but we made it work anyway. I used a red apple, a green apple and a green pear and they ate it right up. It’s super colorful, and I always love colorful foods.  I think it’s a plus when you can adapt a recipe to suit what you have on hand and it still comes out great.

So whether you are looking for something for an after school snack or something for vacation week’s end, this is a great choice for you!

This was a great, healthy snack. We used fat free tortillas and sugar free jelly.

This was a great, healthy snack. We used fat free tortillas, fat free cooking spray and sugar free jelly.

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips


    • 2 kiwis, peeled and diced
    • 2 Golden Delicious apples – peeled, cored and diced
    • 8 ounces raspberries
    • 1 (16 oz) carton of strawberries, diced
    • 2 tablespoons white sugar (more or less to taste)
    • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (more or less to taste)
    • 3 tablespoons fruit preserves, any flavor (I used strawberry)
    • 10 (10 inch) flour tortillas
    • melted butter or butter flavored cooking spray
Cinnamon sugar:
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon


  1. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix kiwis, apples, raspberries, strawberries, white sugar, brown sugar and fruit preserves. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes.
  2. It didn't matter that we didn't have the exact fruits listed in the recipe. We used what was on hand and it was great!

    It didn’t matter that we didn’t have the exact fruits listed in the recipe. We used what was on hand and it was great!

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  3. Coat one side of each flour tortilla with melted butter or butter flavored cooking spray. Sprinkle tortillas with desired amount of cinnamon sugar. Cut into wedges and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Spray again with cooking spray (not necessary if using melted butter).
  4. Bake in the preheated oven 8 to 10 minutes. Repeat with any remaining tortilla wedges. Allow to cool approximately 15 minutes. Serve with chilled fruit mixture. This salsa can also be served with cinnamon graham crackers or cinnamon pita chips. Best when made and eaten the same day otherwise the fruit gives off too much juice and it gets runny.


Source: Allrecipes

Bye Bye Summer Memories Time Line!

5 Nov

Last week the east coast suffered a horrible, devastating hurricane, Hurricane Sandy.

Before reading this post, please remember all of those who are still reeling from this event. Although we were not personally affected, as you’ll read below, so many we know were.

If you would like to donate, I have linked to the American Red Cross and their Hurricane relief site.
You can click here to make your own donation.

Thank you, and enjoy today’s post.


Our Summer Time Line has been up for a long, long time.

You all remember our Summer Memories Time Line, right?

Started in June, finished in August.

It’s November.

I was thrilled with how the Time Line came out. I loved the pictures, I loved re-living my favorite season.

Til about October. Early October.

“I’m going to take the Time Line down soon,” I’d say.

“No, don’t! I still like looking at it,” someone 13 and under would say.

“I still like remembering all the fun things we did,” another would say.

So I’d leave it longer.

Caroline was 12 when the Time Line went up and 13 by the time it came down.

Caroline’s birthday came at the end of October. The cards went up on the wall, above the Time Line. Halloween decorations went up, around the Time Line.

Christmas was coming, cards would be coming in a matter of weeks. I knew I had to take the Time Line down. I wasn’t going to throw it out, I don’t throw anything out. Ever. I was going to save it.

Then came Hurricane Sandy.

I was wandering around Target the day before the storm, picking up canned goods and thinking about the possibility of being out of electricity for what they said could be weeks.

With an S.


I tried not to think about that possibility and tried instead, to think of what kinds of things one could do with three kids with no power, for weeks, or even a few days.

I wandered through their scrapbooking aisle, and that’s when it hit me, like a ton of canned goods.

The Time Line!! We could scrapbook the Time Line. Together. I’d let them do it, each creating their own pages, using the photos I’d printed for it and the little papers they’d written the events on.

Being a former Stampin’ Up! demonstrator, I had tons of empty scrapbooks and probably thousands of pieces of paper to use.


With an S.

It was perfect.

We never lost power.

Not even a day. Without an S.

They watched TV for two days straight, while we prepared on Sunday and while I typed like crazy on Monday for an extra-early deadline, with us thinking that any minute the lights would go off and I’d whip out my plan.

But, then Tuesday came, the day after the storm ended. Lights on but no school again. Thankfully we were unscathed by the storm.

So many papers to choose from!

This would definitely be the day. We went out during the day and ran some errands and then after lunch but before dinner, we cleared off the dining room table (or at least one end of it) and brought up all the scrapbooking stuff.

I picked out an album. The kids started looking through all the designer papers.

Lots to choose from.

And I started. I began to dis-assemble the Time Line.

Piece by piece, and they were fine with it. I’d give each child a page to work on and give them all the pictures and the posted events to go with it.

Everyone knew the pages they wanted to work on before we started.

They went to town. It was totally their project. I let them put the pictures on the pages they wanted, in the order they wanted. No direction from me.

That’s really big for me you know. I’m a director. I like things to be a certain way usually, but I really liked that this was all them. They owned it.

In about an hour and a half we were done.

The Time Line was empty, ripped off the wall and thrown away and our Summer Memories Scrapbook was done, filled with the events and photos showing our summer of 2012, preserved forever, in their writing, their words. There’s even room in the book for next year’s Time Line photos.

Total independence. Very hard for me, great for them.

Because we already decided, we’re doing it again next summer.

And soon, we’ll have thousands of memories of our summers.


With an S.

All gone!

So proud of all the pages the girls created!

This is what I am the most proud of this week

1 Oct

I’m trying out something new for this school year. We’ll see how it goes!

Well, we’ve been in school exactly one month now. That means at our house, approximately 300 papers have come home from school between the two schools and the three kids.

I say this with slight exaggeration.


We get a ton of papers home daily, weekly and monthly and I’m sure we’re not the only family drowning in notices, tests, quizzes, homework, art work and the like, for 180 days a year.

I’ll also tell you…I’m a saver.

Not a hoarder, there’s a difference. I’m a saver, safekeeping, keepsakes.

I’m also, as most of you know, a former teacher, so I have those types of tendencies as well: bulletin boards, displays, things like that.

Put it all together: my dining room is my classroom. I’ve been known to have classroom-style calendars on the walls when my kids were little, sticker charts encouraging good behavior, paper chains counting good deeds or days until something starts or ends, and papers on display; tons and tons of papers.

I also use that space to hang all their crafts and birthday cards. Hallways too.

With so many kids, there’s so many crafts, cards, artwork and good papers to display. It can get overwhelming.

This year, our Summer Timeline is still on the wall. I wanted to take it down but the kids weren’t ready yet. I only just got the second half of the summer’s pictures up on there, so they wanted some additional time to look up on the wall and remember their summer before I take it down to save it. (For a keepsake.)

That meant though, that there wasn’t really a good space to start displaying school work as it started coming home these past few weeks.

In the meantime, we’ve been spending the last six months or so doing some work on our house and I came across some unused items from a Stampin’ Up! class I once taught, as I was cleaning out my office. Those items included some magnetized display boards which can stick to a refrigerator.


I had an idea. I had five or six of those display boards. I had a sharpie marker. I took the marker and on the bottom of the display boards I wrote “This week…I am the most proud of this!” on three of the boards.

I stuck them on my fridge, one above the other. (We only just recently removed all the alphabet magnets from the fridge door, so there was a perfectly empty space there for about five seconds before I re-purposed that space.)

Now, each child can go through the papers they bring home that week, or whenever they bring them home, and choose the item they are the most proud of and stick it in the display until another paper comes home that they are even more proud of. It can be a piece of artwork or a test or a homework page that was hard, or really whatever they want.

When I taught, student portfolios were huge. They were a chance for the students to show what piece of their work meant something to them, without someone choosing for them. Many times the piece you think is important, isn’t and to them another piece has more meaning for a reason you don’t even realize. At the end of the school year, the students got to take their work portfolios home and they’d have a year’s worth of work to show, all pieces that were memorable for them.

So that’s what we’re trying out at my house this year. We’ll see how it goes. I still have the urge to cover my “bulletin boards” aka dining room walls with stickered school work, but for now, I’m trying to refrain. We’ve got a birthday coming up anyway….I’ll be able to fulfill that urge by putting up birthday cards instead.

I’m still saving all the good papers though.

Keepsakes. For later.

Saving. Not hoarding.

What We’re Doing for Fun This Summer: Using our group buying deals

6 Aug

Do you use Groupon? How about Living Social?

There are lots of group buying websites; sites where special deals are offered if enough people purchase them. The two I use most are Groupon and Living Social.

Excited to be at our Mystery Ride destination!

Because our funds are particularly limited in the summer months, I look throughout the year for things that I can use for our summer fun. Earlier this spring I found a Living Social deal for a local historic spot nearby and I purchased it. The deal gave us a one-year membership to Coggeshall Farm in Bristol, RI which is a historic working farm complete with horses, chickens, turkeys, a vegetable garden and much, much more.

We used our Living Social Deal a few weeks ago to take our kids on our latest Mystery Ride. I also knew that there was a letterbox on the Coggeshall Farm property and the kids were excited to find it.

I had never been to Coggeshall Farm but from the description online, I thought it would be right up my kids’ alley, and I was so right. They absolutely loved it and we had a blast.

Finding the eggs which had been laid by the chickens on the farm was a thrill for the kids. They were so proud to bring in the basket with eggs in it.

I must admit, it was very cool to be able to pet a chicken.

From petting a chicken to finding their eggs in the nests, the first time experiences that the kids got at this farm were invaluable. They couldn’t wait to help out with the farm “chores,” which we found completely surprising since they’re not usually so excited to help out with our house chores. After collecting the eggs and bringing in firewood for the kitchen fire, they checked out the farm’s garden and the rest of the farm property.

Learning about life on the farm was fascinating.

After we’d seen everything on the farm and done the chores, , we moved on to the letterbox hunt, which was a success, adding a new stamp to our book. We ended the day with a picnic lunch by the water nearby. It was a perfect day for a picnic, a perfect day for being near the ocean and we took advantage of being outdoors on such a gorgeous summer day.

If you live in the area, I’d recommend a visit to Coggeshall Farm, and if you haven’t tried out the group buying websites, I recommend them as well. They’re great for introducing you to places and ideas that you might not have thought of on your own and the deals are well worth the money, in my experience.

What We’re Doing For Fun This Summer: Summer Timeline Update

23 Jul

As promised, here’s a quick update on our Summer Vacation 2012 Timeline. If you’re a new reader, you can check out how our timeline began by clicking on the link here.

It’s been just over one month since school ended and our timeline began, and so far, so good. I wasn’t sure what to expect; how often we’d add to it, what we’d be doing to put on it, if the kids would lose interest or not.

No worries, the timeline is full.

Visitors, parades, birthdays, staycation time…it was a busy month!

The kids have really enjoyed adding their posts to the timeline, and they take turns adding things on. If it’s a particular event that happened to one of them, they let that person write it and put it on. Otherwise, they take turns. We make sure to add the dates, of course. We did blue paper for June, yellow for July and probably will do pink for August.

I print the photos out nine at a time, since my photo printing program prints nine 2×3 photos per page.  I don’t waste paper that way and I’m not running around printing photos every other day. The kids love seeing what pictures I’ve added overnight, when they wake up in the morning. I try to be equal, making sure to put up approximately the same amount of photos of each kid, each time, or the best bet: photos containing the three of them.

I also learned pretty quickly that one row of photos just wasn’t enough. I’m a photographer with three kids. Two rows was definitely a must. Luckily our Doodle Roll is wide enough to accommodate two rows. Luckily it doesn’t accommodate three, because I could totally go there.

The beginning of July tends to be busier for us and more eventful than the end of the month, because that’s when Don takes his vacation time (and some again in the beginning of August) so we do a lot. There’s the Fourth of July holiday in there as well as Elizabeth’s birthday, so there were tons of things to add to the timeline, every day. Once he went back to work and we were out of the holiday time and back to a more routine schedule there was less to add, so it balances out so far.

The kids had questioned me as to what would happen if we ran out of space, and we did. My answer had been not to worry, that we could always add to it, so we did. We went around the corner and onto the next wall in the dining room. (I have no qualms about hanging “kid stuff” up anywhere in the house, so this was not an issue for me. I have many years ahead to have grownup stuff or no stuff, on my walls.)

The second half of our timeline, ready and waiting for our upcoming events in July and August.

Personally, as a scrapbooker and a person who makes photo books often, I love this project. If I get no further than taking this off the wall in September and rolling it up to put it away, at least we have this much: a record of all our summer memories from 2012, photos to go with them, and even samples of the kids’ handwriting and spelling from this summer to go along too.  If I decide to make a photo album or scrapbook, I can use these pictures and their posts. If I want to make a photo book, I’ve already sorted the “best of” pictures into a separate folder on my computer for printing, so making a photo book will be that much easier. But, I won’t have ANY guilt because I know that we have this much, which is better than nothing!

Summer is my favorite, favorite, favorite time of year. I love having my family around me, my husband gets some time off, and we do lots of fun things together. I am so incredibly glad to have this fun reminder of these days together. I know that one day we’ll look back and say, “Where did the time go?”

And then, I’ll pull out our timeline and we’ll know.