Tag Archives: parenting

Happy Birthday Don and Alexandra!

23 Mar

So what’s the best birthday gift *you* ever gave someone?

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 23, 2012

Today is a very special day.

Today is Alexandra’s birthday.

Today is also Don’s birthday.

That makes me the best wife ever because seven years ago for Don’s birthday at 1:22 am I gave him our third daughter.

I know, I know, best gift ever, right?! It’s hard to top that one though, so I don’t really try. I’m back to t-shirts, pajama pants and stuff like that for his birthday gifts.

Alexandra’s First Birthday 2006

Since sharing his birthday with his daughter, Don has been blessed with getting to have a Snoopy party, a My Little Pony party, a Dora party, a Purple party and this year…Hello Kitty. Technically they’re not his parties obviously, but you see what I mean.

Birthday crowns all around on Alex’s second birthday.

Thankfully, my parents have this neat tradition that they started with us where we celebrate the adult birthday parties at their house each year and we “kids” get to choose our meal and our cake. I choose….well I won’t tell you what I choose until it’s my birthday this summer. But Don chooses a totally opposite type of meal and cake than I would choose, so I guess it’s good that we each get a chance to choose our own, to choose what we like. Don chooses meatball sandwiches (made with my mom’s homemade meatballs and gravy) with lemon cake for dessert. It’s probably the only time all year we have it and he really enjoys it.

Therefore, today I thought I’d share with you the recipe for Don’s birthday cake of choice each year, the lemon cake. It’s really yummy, I particularly love the corners.

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LEMON CAKE

A cake *just* for Daddy!

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup water

2 beaten eggs

Duncan Hines Lemon Cake Mix

1 can lemon pie filling (divided)

DIRECTIONS

In bowl by hand, mix together oil, water, eggs, cake mix.

Add 1/4 can of lemon pie filling into the mix.

Put into greased 9×13 dish.

On top, distribute the rest of the pie filling.

Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

When cool, glaze with:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar mixed with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. Add a little hot water if necessary.

THE BIRTHDAY TWINS CELEBRATING THEIR SPECIAL DAY IN 2016

 

 

Your Tray or Mine Recipe of the Day: Brown Eyed Susans, a Family Favorite

21 Dec

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 7, 2011

When I posted my first recipe last week for Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies, I mentioned that it was one of my top two favorite cookies on our trays each year (I’ll let you know what my other favorite is when I post it.) However, the thing about cookie trays is that everyone has their own favorites. Mine tend to be all the ones that are heavily chocolate chip based, but not everyone’s are.

Brown Eyed Susans for Christmas Cookie Trays

I had a near meltdown when I realized we were totally out of any sprinkles for the tops of the cookies. I recovered when I found red and green stars instead.

Today’s recipe is for Brown Eyed Susans, which are my brother’s favorites. I might have one each year, but he *loves* them. They’re good and easy to make. I hope you’ll try them!

BROWN EYED SUSANS

INGREDIENTS

Cream together the following:

1 cup butter

3 TBL. sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

CHILL FOR TWO HOURS.

Rolled and flattened cookie dough

Here’s what the cookies look like as they are rolled and then as they are flattened.

DIRECTIONS

Roll into about 1 level tablespoon ball and place on greased cookie sheet.

Flatten slightly using your fingers. (This is a good place to have your kids help out.)

Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Frost while warm. (You can make these ahead, freeze cookies and then frost them when thawed.)

I find that if you fill all your baking sheets with the rolled and flattened cookies first, you can use the baking time to make up the frosting so that it’s ready for you to frost them while they’re warm.

Brown Eyed Susans

These look pretty with any sort of decorations on top, but we normally use sprinkes as shown here.

FROSTING INGEDIENTS

1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar

2 TBL Baking Cocoa

2 TBL hot water

1/2 tsp vanilla

Use about 1/2 tsp on top of each cookie (yes the frosting does drip off the cookies, so put wax paper underneath.)
**I found that the 1/2 tsp measure on top of each cookie is important. If you use just any spoon to frost them you run out of frosting because too much goes onto the cookies and then drips off the cookies onto the wax paper and then you have to make another batch of frosting.

Sprinkle colored sprinkles or chocolate sprinkles (or place an almond, or whatever you’d like,) on top. This is also a good “job” for kids to do, decorating the tops of the frosted cookies, that and running their fingers all over the waxed paper where the chocolate has dripped once the cookies are safely removed!

**In Rhode Island, the sprinkles are called Jimmies. My dad is Jimmy and my mom is Pat so we call our colored ones Patsies. Just a random fact for you…

A single recipe makes about 36 cookies.

Your Tray or Mine? Cookie Tray Recipe of the Day: Chocolate Chip Butterballs

20 Dec

These cookies could be made with nuts instead of chocolate chips if you prefer!

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 5, 2011

Today’s recipe is another one of my favorite cookie recipes, one we’ve made for years and years. Way back when I was a Girl Scout, I used to participate in the Girl Scout Bake Off each year and one of the years I earned second place with these cookies! That’s how long my family has been making them.

We call them Chocolate Chip Butterballs, but they have many other names: Snowballs, Mexican Wedding Balls, Hazelnut Balls and probably other names I don’t even know about.

Traditionally they are made with nuts. I don’t like nuts, my family never baked with nuts growing up and I don’t either We all really love Chocolate Chips though, so my mom has always subbed in the chocolate chips for nuts. You can choose either mini chips or the regular sized chips. Personally, I prefer the big ones, but if you don’t, switch them for the minis instead. If you’re into tasting batter, this one is safe to eat, there are no eggs in this recipe. I’m always pretty sure I’d come out with about six more cookies in each batch if I ate less batter!

This recipe can be made fast and easy if you have extra set(s) of hands to help you roll the batter into balls! This is one I often let my kids help with. I don’t usually have them roll the hot ones in the sugar though, even though I use a spoon for that. Their “part” is the cold batter getting rolled into the balls for baking.

Be sure to check back tomorrow to see what the coordinating kids’ activities are for this recipe!

Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Butterball Cookies

INGREDIENTS

2 cups flour **for a healthier version, I have used one cup of wheat flour mixed with one cup of white flour**
1 cup butter or margarine  **for a healthier version I have substituted “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” for regular**
4 TBL granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla

one 12 oz. package chocolate chips

Bowl of confectioner’s sugar

DIRECTIONS

Combine flour, butter, granulated sugar, salt, vanilla in bowl of electric mixer. Mix well.

Add in chocolate chips, mix them into the batter.

Refrigerate dough 30 minutes (or longer.)

Form into 1″ balls, place on cookie sheet. These don’t spread, so you can put a lot on a sheet, no need to spread them out a ton.

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.

Cool only slightly, maybe a minute or so, and then roll each one in a bowl of confectioner’s sugar.

Roll a second time in confectioner’s sugar before serving.

Happy St. Joseph’s Day!

19 Mar

Are you ready for some Zeppole?

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON MARCH 19, 2012

Are you wearing your red today? I am!

It’s March 19 and that means it’s one of my most favorite dessert holidays ever!

Happy St. Joseph’s Day to you!!

I’d personally skip right over St. Patrick’s Day and go right to St. Joseph’s Day because if it’s St. Joseph’s Day then it means……zeppole!!!

You might ask: What on earth is a zeppole??

My answer is: It’s the most wonderful cream filled, fried dough dessert in the world; kind of a cross between a donut and a cream puff I guess, although from what I understand, they have changed in nature over the years. However, the way you see them here is the way I’ve always known them to be and the way that I love, love, love them.

More than a decade ago, when we were first married, we lived in another state for a few years. That first year we were there,  St. Joseph’s Day rolled around. We went out that day, searching for a zeppole, and had the hardest time finding them. When we did, they weren’t even all that great. I was so disappointed. We’d only been there three months and I already knew we were going to have to come back. There was no way I was going to live in a place where there weren’t any good zeppole to be had.

Near us you can get a zeppole almost any time of the year, but we never, ever do, except on St. Joseph’s Day. It just wouldn’t be the same. It probably wouldn’t even TASTE the same!

I’m sure it’s no coincidence either, that my daughter Alex was due to be born on St. Joseph’s Day. She wasn’t, but still, there’s something significant in that, I just know it.

Being in city where there are just zillions of Italians, it means that there are also zillions of fantastic Italian bakeries in the area, so you can take your pick as to where you want to get your zeppole from. Everyone seems to have their favorite spot where they go each year.

Our family has gotten their St. Joseph’s Day zeppole at Solitro’s for decades and it thrills me to share this tradition with my kids.

To me it’s a really big deal to go and get them. I go to the same bakery where my family has gone forever and ever to get them. The first time I took my children there with me, I almost cried, I was so overwhelmed with the emotion I felt. I remember waiting with them in a line that stretched from the bakery counter to the door. I remember lifting them up so they could see into the back where the zeppole were being made; it looked like what I’d imagine Italy itself to look like. I remember pointing to the shelves that held trays upon trays upon trays of zeppole, all lined up in rows. It’s even magical to me how they put them into the white bakery box and tie it with string. There’s nothing like it. The zeppole taste wonderful, but the tradition and memories that go with it are such a big part of the day for me as well.

The case was full, both baked and fried zeppole, and this was only the day *before* St. Joseph’s Day.

And so, today I will again have my zeppole. My family doesn’t love them as much as I do, and I have to say, I’m glad. It means all the more for me.

I hope you’re able to get a zeppole today too! If not, I’ll be thinking of you all as I indulge.

Happy St. Joseph’s Day!

I hope you get your zeppole fix today too!

Christmas Dessert: Mocha Roll and Christmas Cookies

29 Dec
Christmas cookie tray

All together now: all of the cookies made by my mom, me and both grandmas, all on one tray.

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 29, 2011

This week I’ve been posting in retrospect about our Christmas Dinner. To me, the best part of any dinner is always the dessert. And like our Christmas Dinner, which is much the same every year, our dessert selection is as well.

First off, there’s the tray of Christmas Cookies. Together with my mom and two grandmothers, we put together a tray of cookies that has about 13 different varieties to choose from. We all have our favorites.

But…we’ve been eating cookies on and off now for two weeks. Well, at least I have. So we have to have another choice also. Enter…the Mocha Roll.

My mom makes the most fabulous frozen dessert called a Mocha Roll.

The Mocha Roll, before the first piece has been cut.

The Mocha Roll before the first piece has been cut.

This picture looks nice enough, but you truly can’t get a good enough idea of what this dessert really is unless you see it cut into a serving, which you will in a minute, when I post the recipe. However, I first must give tons of thanks to my mom here, because I decided to ask her for the recipe *just* as she was getting ready to leave for a cross-country, day-after-Christmas trip and I’m sure she had better things to be doing than emailing me recipes, but sure enough, there it was in my inbox this afternoon. So 1) She made it for yesterday’s dessert, 2) she typed up the recipe for me already so I don’t have to do it and 3) she took the time to send it to me. Thank you Mom!!

Single serving mocha roll

Here’s my dish, whipped cream on the side because I don’t actually like whipped cream. I did that just for you!

Here’s the recipe for her Mocha Roll for you!

FROZEN MOCHA ROLL

(Good Housekeeping Magazine – 1974 or earlier)

Note:  Can be made and frozen one month ahead.

INGREDIENTS

5 eggs, separated, at room temperature

1 cup confectioner’s sugar, divided

Cocoa

Dash salt

Mocha cream (recipe follows)

DIRECTIONS

Day before or early in day:

Preheat oven to 400º.  Grease 15½ X 10½ jelly roll pan with shortening.  Line plan with waxed paper, then grease again and flour.

Separate eggs while they are cold, taking care not to get any yolk mixed in with the whites because if any egg yolk is present in whites, the whites will not beat to their highest volume.  Also, for greatest volume, cover bowl and let egg whites warm to room temperature before beating.

In large bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  Beating at high sped, sprinkle in 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar.  Beat until sugar is completely dissolved.  Do not scrape sides of bowl.  (Egg whites should be stiff with glossy peaks.)  Set aside.

In small bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored.  At low speed, beat in 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, 3 Tablespoons cocoa, and dash of salt, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.  Gently fold yolk mixture into whites until blended.  (To do this, with a gentle downward motion and using a spatula, cut through the center of the whites, across the bottom and up the side of the bowl.  Then, give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the cutting motion until egg-white mixture is broken to the size of small peas.  Fold just until all ingredients are combined, using spatula or whisk.  Over-folding breaks air bubbles, causing a flat jelly roll.)

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake 12-13 minutes.  Cake is done when top springs back when lightly touched with finger.  Do not overbake.

Meanwhile, sprinkle a clean cloth towel with cocoa.  (A flat weave towel, rather than a terry towel, works best.)

When cake is done, use a small spatula to immediately loosen edges from sides of pan.  Invert cake onto prepared towel.  Gently peel waxed paper from cake.  Roll towel together with cake from one of the narrow edges (jelly-roll fashion).  Roll as tightly as possible, but do not press down on cake.   Cool completely, seam-side down, on a wire rack.  Meanwhile, prepare mocha cream.

When cake is cool, unroll from towel.  Evenly spread Mocha Cream on cake almost to edges.  Starting at same narrow end, roll up cake without towel.  Place cake seam-side down on top of plastic wrap.  Wrap cake and then place on heavy duty foil; wrap and freeze cake for several hours or overnight.

About 15 minutes before serving, remove cake from freezer; unwrap; let stand for easier slicing.

MOCHA CREAM:

In medium bowl, whip together, until soft peaks form:

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup light brown sugar

3 teaspoons instant coffee (prefer decaf, but not required)

(You can buy 16 oz. container and use remaining 1 cup to whip and serve with cake; add a little confectioner’s sugar to cream before whipping.)

Serves 8 to 10. This can be refrozen if there are leftovers!

Monday Musings: Where’s the page in the books for *that*??

13 Oct
Don't bother looking it up, it's not going to be in there. Skip the Google search.

Don’t bother looking it up, it’s not going to be in there. Skip the Google search.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 1:  How to decide whether or not to send your children to school during a targeted terror threat to their school……….. Page ????

Chapter 2: How to handle the fear and anxiety that has now consumed your household……Page ?????

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Did you ever just have one of those really bad days? The kind of day where nothing seems to go right, the kind of day that’s taking place in an already bad week?

I think we all have.

Last Tuesday was that day for me. I’ve been sick, we’ve all been fighting something as the season changes. I was tired, and it just seemed like it was one little thing after the next, all little inconveniences and annoyances all day long on my deadline day, exhausting me. I had a long night ahead too, as it was going to be a late night for my husband as well, due to a night time event at school.

It was our anniversary to boot, 19 years.

Earlier that week, I’d turned down an invitation to a home party at a friend’s for that night, stating at the time that I couldn’t attend because we have a rule here, given the fact that we both have night time obligations for our jobs: whenever one of us is out for work at night, the other of us is in, unless there’s an unusual exception, like a wake. One of us is always here to be “the one” running homework, dinner, showers, drop off and pick up at after school activities, sports and events. So since he’d be out on this night, I’d be in.

I’m incredibly glad we have that rule.

3:00 pm

That afternoon, I picked up my younger kids at school, and just before they exited the building, I received some very sad news. Another parent, the parent of one of my kids’ classmates, had passed away unexpectedly and tragically in an accident, just the day before. I was stunned, and I had a pit in my stomach knowing I’d have to tell my middle daughter, to tell all of them, when we got home before it got out on social media and she heard it from someone other than me.

I cried as I told her, but I was thankful that it was me telling her, thankful I was there after school to be “the one.”

“That was awful,” I thought to myself, as I drove her to her after school activity later on. My mind was overrun with thoughts of her friend’s mom, a mother of three boys, similar in ages to my three girls, and what she must be going through right then, reeling from the unexpected death of her husband. I was devastated for her.

I dropped my daughter off and ran to the store to pick up a couple of quick things: yogurt, some rice pudding cups (my guilty ‘processed food treat’ for those late nights of typing on a deadline) and juice. I’d only be gone from home about 30 minutes total and my oldest was there doing homework with my youngest at the dining room table, more than capable of holding down the fort while I ran out.

In line at the register, my phone rang. “Home” it said, as I was swiping my card. I picked up. “Let me call you right back, I’m paying,” I said quickly. “Um….okay,” I heard her say.

I wondered what was up. Homework issue, I figured.

I walked out of the store, my bag under my arm as I dialed again, calling her back.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Something’s going on,” she said. “We got a call. I didn’t pick up but it played out loud on the machine. The superintendent of schools was on the line. I tried to cover Alex’s ears once I realized what they were saying, but it was too late.”

I was confused. This wasn’t what I’d been expecting her to say and I wasn’t processing all of of it. I heard her say things like threat, and danger and elementary schools, and name our city and the other two cities nearby, which are coincidentally two out of three cities in which I cover all of the school news for the city newspapers. I was trying not to panic as I tried to figure out what was going on.

For a split second, I felt that same fear I’d felt on 9/11 when I was far away from my daughter while at work, as the towers were hit, and I couldn’t get to her. I had that moment of panic come right back to me, a feeling I’d never wanted to feel again, and yet here it was, bubbling up inside of me. Luckily I was minutes away. I could be there almost instantly to see what was going on.

I quickly used my phone to get on the internet to see if I could make heads or tails of what had happened. Everyone was posting on social media that they’d gotten the same robo call. Panic was setting in everywhere, everyone was reacting to the news.

Essentially the news was this:

Someone had sent a letter to the police department of one of our neighboring cities threatening danger and harm at the elementary schools in that city, our city, and our other neighboring city sometime over the next three days. (That’s more than 25 elementary schools. There’s 17 in our city alone.) The police department had shared the letter with the authorities in the other two cities and the authorities had let the schools know, the school department was letting us know. We weren’t told exactly what the threat of harm was specifically, but it was enough of a “physical threat” that they were reacting big time and taking the threat quite seriously. Police would be dispatched to all of our schools in all three cities for the next three days. School would remain in session. You can click here to see the news.

4:30 pm

This was turning into a really, incredibly, very bad day.

I got home, my rice pudding had now exploded in my bag. Seeing that, I truly wanted to cry. I listened to the message on our answering machine myself, hearing all the things my daughter had told me, all the things I’d read online. Threat, physical harm, danger, police, security. Three days. The words all jumped out at me.

Social media was on over-drive. My oldest daughter, brand new this year to her open campus, five building high school, was getting messages, as was I.
“What do we do? Do we go to school tomorrow?” she asked me, panicked. “If something happens there, I don’t know what to do, where to go. We’ve only had one lock down drill in one class. I’d be all alone, while they would be together,” she said. By “they,” she meant her two sisters, together on the same hallway at their school.

“I don’t know,” I said.

There are no rules for situations like this. You're making them up as you go along.

There are no rules for situations like this. You’re making them up as you go along.

I messaged my husband, an elementary principal at a nearby school district not one of the three on the target list. “Please call me,” I said.

I gave him the low-down when he called. He had no idea yet that this was going on, but soon it’d be affecting his job in his school district as well, as fear began to set in across the state.

We spoke briefly, agreeing to wait to see how things transpired through the evening before deciding what to do about school the next day. By the time he was due home later on, we might know more.

I ran to get my daughter where I’d dropped her two hours earlier, shortly after giving her the terrible news about her classmate’s dad at 3pm. I knew I’d now have to tell her this news as well. Her sisters knew, it was all over social media, she’d get a message or text, I was sure of it.

And then it hit me, “WHERE in the parenting books is THIS page? Where does it tell you how to deal with THIS situation?”

I called my mother on the way to get my daughter.

“I’m having a really bad day,” I said, near tears.

6:00 pm

My daughter and I exited the building and got into the car. I thought of the best way to give her this news. At school that same day, she’d been stressed over the recent changes to the lunch and recess schedules which were new, due to incorporating hand washing and the dispensing of Purell before and after because of the recent deaths in our state and a nearby state due to the Enterovirus D68. They’d been hearing all about the Ebola outbreaks in the news. I’d just delivered some other tough news at 3:00 about her friend’s dad, I knew this could potentially put her over the edge.

When I told her, she gasped.

“Why? Why would someone do that? What kind of harm? What did they say they’re going to do? Where?” she said, grappling with the news.

“I don’t know,” was really all I could say.

For the next three hours, my head hurt as I tried to go about the normalcy of our day, making and serving dinner, answering homework questions, and cleaning up after dinner. I fielded questions to which I had no answers and tried to keep their panic at bay, all the while trying to think in my head what the best thing was to do for the next day as I waited for my husband to walk through the door so we could finally talk things through together.

Our phone rang. Had I heard the news? What was our family going to do? What did I think others should do?
“I don’t know,” I just kept saying, over and over.

I watched the hundreds of responses posting on Facebook as moms and dads were at their own houses struggling with the same issues: to tell their kids or not. How much to tell? Send them to school or not? If not, for how many days? This threat was spread over three days’ time. Do we keep them home for three days? How do you transition a kid back to school after an event like this has transpired? We heard from a mom in Newtown, CT., from Sandy Hook Elementary School, who passed along her compassion and empathy as a parent who knew exactly what we were going through, and then some.

And again I wondered, where is the instruction manual for things like this? What page in the dozens of parenting books I’d had as a new mom does this topic appear on?

It doesn’t.

We have a sign in our house over the front door. It’s the last thing you see as you step out, and it says, “Home is where your story begins.”  It’s a sign I’ve always loved because in my head, I picture all of the wonderful things we do as a family, the story we write as a family and all of the memories we make together before stepping out the door each day to write our own stories as individuals.

But today…today I think it has even more meaning than that. I think it’s more than just the happy, wonderful family memories that we create. I think our family’s story includes the pages we write together in our own rule book, our own parenting guide. It’s the things we encounter, conquer and the previously unwritten rules that we write as a family unit.

Last week, every family had to make their own decisions as to what was best for their kids, how to have these tough conversations and make these tough decisions. There was no right or wrong answer and no rule book or parenting manual to help us. We had to rely on what we knew for information and what we knew about our own children, in order to make the best decisions for them. We were told by our elementary principal that every decision made was the right one, and he was right.

We just had to come up with our decision.

9:00 pm

Finally, finally, finally, my husband arrived home. My middle daughter almost jumped out of her skin when our front door opened. I reassured her that it was okay, it was just her dad coming home. We talked it out and made our decision together.

Ultimately, we opted to keep them home for the day. Although statistically and logically we knew the chances of anything happening were probably slim, we didn’t have a ton of information or really any reassurances that all was safe and well, and at the time, we didn’t know what specifically had been threatened, although we do now. But, more than that, we looked at our kids and into their eyes. We saw the fear, the panic and the stress. We saw how they looked at us, begging and pleading not to make them go. We weighed out whether throwing them out there into an uncertain situation was worth the risk of traumatizing them further. It wasn’t. To have them be one of three kids in class that next day, or the only kids on the empty bus that next day, to make them struggle through a day of fear and anxiety while they watched movies and played games all day at school, just to prove a point (what point?) was not worth any added trauma and anxiety for them or for us. Instead, we opted to give them a day to take the edge off, to relax, to breathe a little easier knowing they were safe and secure at home with me.

I felt my middle daughter’s body shake as she cried herself to sleep that night as I lay next to her at her request, something I rarely have to do anymore, and I knew we’d made the right decision. On Friday, when I picked up my younger two girls at school, I saw the complete and utter exhaustion on the faces of the teachers, as the emotional strain of the week showed through, and even then, as I saw the effect of the past four  days on the adults, I again knew we had made the right decision for our children. My heart swelled with gratitude for those teachers who came to school for our kids every day last week, putting aside their own safety and the well-being of their own families in order to be there for our children because that’s what was best for our kids.

With no rule book to guide any of us, our family has written a new page in our family story. It wasn’t a page I ever wanted to write or a page I ever want to write again, but there it is.

I’ll be glad to be able to close the book on this chapter. I know our book will be full of good pages and bad, happy chapters and sad. This isn’t over, I know that, and these awful things are part of the world we live in, whether it’s a school, movie theater, mall, airport or restaurant. I get that too. I guess ultimately, as long as we’re all here writing our story together, I think that’s all that matters.

Our story, every page and every chapter, is written by us together.

Our story, every page and every chapter, is written by us as a family, together. It’s our own rule book and parenting guide.

 

 

 

What We’re Doing for Fun This Summer: Letterboxing

30 Jun

Look, we found a letterbox!

ORIGINALLY POSTED JULY 30, 2012

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!