Archive for the ‘Seasonal Activities’ Category

Our Disney Adventure

Tuesday, December 28th, 2021

Our-Disney-Adventure

This year we had the opportunity to take our family to Disneyworld for the first time, for a family reunion. My husband got a bonus at work, and we got a military discount through my son Stephen, who is in the Air National Guard. It is something my husband had always wanted to do with the kids, because when he grew up in California, he used to go to Disneyland, and he had many happy memories he wanted our children to also experience.

While at Disney for four days, we entered four different theme parks: Magic Mountain, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. If you ever go in the summer, be aware that is is hot and humid, because that might affect your energy level. Oh, and there were downpours of rain almost every day. Regardless of the long lines, the Lord answered my prayer that my feet would hold out, and that I would not be limping through the park. That was truly a miracle because I’ve had problems with the arches of my feet, and I’ve often limped home from a short neighborhood walk.

Walking-at-Disneyworld

Magic Kingdom

One of the first rides we went on was the Pirates of the Carribean. It was nearly exactly as I remembered it as a kid. Yes, even though my parents were missionsries in Guatemala, when we came up for furlough, we sometimes went (at least twice as a child) because my grandma lived near Disneyland.

The only difference that my husband noticed was the pirates were not chasing women. Instead the women were chasing the pirates, or one pirate was chasing another pirate. For those of you who remember the ride (or for those of you who have never been), we filmed the ride:

The next ride we took was the Jungle Cruise. You get into a boat, and your tour guide gives you a description of the jungle and its cartoon-like animals. She used a lot of humor, as you can see:

We rode on a lot of other rides at the Magic Kingdom on the first day: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Tiki Room, Haunted Mansion, and Space Mountain. Since we had entered the park at 9am, by the time it poured rain at 4pm, we were ready to go back to the hotel.

On day four, we returned to the Magic Kingdom and did the Mad Tea Party, It’s a Small World, Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, Astro Orbiter, and Seven Dwarves Mine Train.

Epcot Center

The second day, we went to Epcot Center, which is like traveling around the world. It was an overcast day and somewhat drizzly, but we got some clear plastic rain ponchos so that we could keep going. We went to all the countries, including the ride Grand Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros in the Mexico section:

One of my favorite areas of Epcot was the Morocco section. You could walk around the cobbled streets and feel like you were at the Moroccan market. I loved all the architecture, textiles, and lamps.

Morocco-Epcot-Center.

Later we went to Soaring Around the World—which I LOVED! It felt like you were hang gliding around the world on a virtual ride. We also did the Mission Space, Test Track, and Spaceship Earth rides from Epcot.

Hollywood Studios

At Hollywood Studios, we went on the Tower of Terror, Star Wars Millenium Falcon, Muppet Vision 3D, and Star Tours. The Tower of Terror is basically a Twighlight Zone episode that you are involved in, and the elevator drops. It was definitely high intensity.

Star Tours and Star Wars Millenium Falcon were both Star Wars themed rides where we were in spaceships, trying to outrun enemy ships.

The Mupper Vision 3D was super fun, where we sat in the theater of the Muppet Show, seeing everything in 3D, including the hecklers on the balcony to the right of the theater. Years ago our family created our own episode of the Muppet Show, so my whole family enjoyed this experience.

Animal Kingdom

At Animal Kingdom, we went on Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Avatar Flight of Passage. By far, my favorite ride in the entire Disneyworld parks was Avatar Flight of Passage, which was virtual reality where you ride on top of a dragon through the air, over clifftops, and through ocean waves. It was breathtaking—so much so that I rode on it twice. I never knew that one of my bucket list wishes was to fly through the air, and now I got to do it!

Animal-Kingdom

The Kilimanjaro Safari was a lot of fun. Come with us on our safari:

All in all, our Disney Adventure was truly magical. We got to see the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom on the final night, which we enjoyed greatly. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to visit Disney with my whole family, along with Alan’s sister and her kids. My kids got to know their cousins in a much more in-depth way, and I had many good conversations with my sister-in-law. It was an unforgettable trip!

Snow-Themed Hands-on Activities

Friday, December 11th, 2020

snow-themed-hands-on-activities

I recently gave a workshop on snow-themed hands-on activities, explaining how to cook snowflake funnel cakes, how to make snowflakes that cling to glass, how to build a successful snow cave, and how to create snow scenes for a centerpiece for your dining room table.

Snow-Themed Hands-on Activities

Here is the workshop with snow-related fun this winter season:

The workshop began with a demonstration of how to make paper snowflakes. This is important in making snowflake funnel cakes because in the same way that you cut out snowflakes on paper, you can cut out snowflakes using flour tortillas.

Cut a piece of paper into a circle, and fold the circle at least twice. With scissors, cut out designs as illustrated in the video. Then unfold the paper to see your unique snowflake. You can glue glitter to your snowflakes or hang them from the ceiling.

Snowflake Funnel Cake

In the same way, grab a fajita tortilla and fold it twice. Using the kitchen shears, cut designs into the tortilla’s folds. Then open the tortilla.

snowflake-funnel-cake

Heat about an inch of oil in a pan, and deep fry the snowflake tortilla on both sides until golden brown. Remove the tortilla with tongs and place it on a plate with a paper towel on it. The paper towel will absorb some of the oil. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the tortilla snowflake. Enjoy eating your snowflake funnel cake!

How to Make Snowflakes that Cling to Glass

To make snowflakes that cling to glass, you will need dimensional fabric paint (or regular white school glue), wax paper, and a paper and pencil.

tracing-snowflake-glue

First, draw a snowflake on a piece of paper. If you prefer, you can find a design online, and print it out. Place wax paper on top of it, and tape it down. Have your child trace the design with the dimensional fabric paint (or white school glue). Make sure that there are no thin lines. All lines should be thick so that when you peel the cling snowflake off the wax paper the next day, it will stay together.

snowflakes-that-cling-to-glass

It works much better with the dimensional fabric paint, since it is thicker and more solid, but it can also work with the white school glue. Make sure to dry the snowflake overnight before trying to peel it off the wax paper. You can stick it to a window or a mirror.

How to Build a Snow Cave

snow-cave

To make a strong snow cave that will not collapse, start by building a mountain of snow. Have the kids climb on top of the hill of snow to compact it down. Then start digging an entrance to the cave. You can make several rooms depending on how big your mountain of snow is. It’s particularly fun to play in the snow cave at night with a flashlight. For more information on building a cave out of snow (and a video of the finished snow cave my kids built), go to: How to Build a Snow Cave.

Snow Scene Centerpiece

In the video I describe how to make a snow scene centerpiece. You get a glass container and dump rock salt in it. Grab some greenery and some winter decorations (or a nativity scene), and arrange it on the “snow” in your scene. Take a look at one of my creations: Snow Scene Centerpiece.

Bonus: How to Make a Snowflake Card with Yarn

I’ve added a bonus snowflake hands-on activity for you: snowflake cards. I did not discuss this craft in my workshop above, but I give a step-by-step tutorial here: Snowflake Card.

snowflake-card

You will need black card stock paper, white string or yarn, and a thumb tack. Draw a snowflake with pencil on the black paper, and use the thumb tack to punch holes along the lines. Then sew the snowflake onto the card. You can use a thick needle, or just push the string through by hand. It looks gorgeous as a Christmas card!

Hands-on Thanksgiving Ideas

Monday, November 9th, 2020

Hands-on Thanksgiving Ideas

This year of all years, we have had unprecedented world problems, from the pandemic to the rioting to politics. If we focus only on the negative, then we are likely to become stressed out and even depressed. Instead, why not focus on the positive?

  • The relationships with family members that you have been able to build during this time.
  • The interior design projects you’ve done around your house because you have finally had time to get to things on your to-do list.
  • Gardening has also been really popular during this time, along with getting exercise, going for walks around the neighborhood.
  • I have had opportunities to pray with people and encourage them and see them draw closer to God.

Thanksgiving is about being thankful for what we do have. Look around you and list all the people in your life that you are thankful for, and all the basic things like shelter, a bed, food, and water that we often take for granted. I grew up in the third world country of Guatemala, and I saw true poverty, houses with dirt floors where all they ate every day was beans and rice. And a lot of times, they seemed happier than Americans.

Hands-on Thanksgiving Ideas

In this workshop, I speak about how to be thankful during difficult times, and I describe many hands-on activities you can do with your kids to make this Thanksgiving meaningful:

Here are some activities that can help us focus on thankfulness:

1. Thankfulness tree: Get autumn colors of card stock paper and cut out leaf shapes. Place the card stock paper into your printer and print out maple leaf shapes that your kids can cut out. (There is a free template here.) On the back of each leaf, the kids (and the adults) can write what they are thankful for. You can hang them up on an indoor tree with Christmas ornament hooks, or you can attach them directly to a blank wall with sticky tack.

2. Thankful cards: Why not write thankful cards to each member of your family this year, and hand them out at the Thanksgiving table? You can tell each person what you enjoy about them and why you are thankful for having them in your life. These can be really meaningful.

3. Point out positive qualities about each person: Go around the room after Thanksgiving dinner, highlighting each person. Other people say good things that they appreciate about the highlighted person.

turkey-cake

There are lots of other activities that you can do for Thanksgiving that are whimsical, but they are meaningful because you are doing something fun with your kids, and that creates family bonding:

1. Turkey cake: Bake two cakes from a box, one rectangular one and one with two circles. One circle is the body of the turkey, and you can cut out the head of the turkey from the other circle cake, with a bowl. Make the feathers with the rectangle cake. Or if you prefer, you can use twinkies. Then tint frosting with autumn colors, and frost the cake. I kept a small amount of white frosting for the eyes, and put chocolate chips for the pupils of the eyes.

2. Live turkeys: Go look at some live turkeys, either at a farm or around your neighborhood. (You can even watch an educational video about this bird.) For several years now, we’ve had a whole family of turkeys parading down our street. I captured it on video:

3. Culinary arts: Teach your kids how to cook and bake while you prepare for your Thanksgiving dinner. After Thanksgiving, have the kids brainstorm new recipes for leftover turkey. One year we made little pies by using a muffin tin to place circles of pie dough filled with cherry pie filling, and criss-crossed strips across the top of each one to give them a lattice look.

This is also the perfect time to study the Pilgrims. For several years, we put up a Mayflower ship on our back deck using inexpensive PVC pipe and an old white sheet. The kids dressed up as Pilgrims, and we made candles and butter from scratch. We did a lot of other hands-on activities, which I show you in my Pilgrims Unit Study (that happens to be on sale right now for only $5).

I hope you have gleaned some ideas on how to make your Thanksgiving more meaningful. It really does make a difference when we focus on the good. May you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Gardening: Your Backyard Oasis

Friday, May 29th, 2020

gardening-your-backyard-oasis

How would you like to create a backyard oasis? Everyone needs more of nature, and gardening is calming for your body and mind. When you sit on your porch, what do you see? With a little effort and a few tips, I will show you how to improve your outdoor space.

Gardening: Your Backyard Oasis (video demonstration)

Make a beautiful haven where you can sit and pray or think about life, and get away from it all. I started filming this video near the end of April, and now it’s the end of May. So I show the progression of the backyard, awakening from the winter, and blooming into the spring and summer.

We also hung lights around the backyard deck for the first time, changing the atmosphere in the evenings to a festive experience, which I will show you by the end of the video.

Vegetable Garden Tips

The first tip for vegetable gardens is to have raised beds so that you can dump really good soil into them. When I first moved into this property 20 years ago, I didn’t know that the soil was not good for growing anything. Not only was it too sandy with rocks (look at the dirt that I’m sitting on in the video), but the 23 pine trees on our property make the soil acidic. Furthermore, most of my backyard is in shade because of the trees.

I love the fact that my backyard looks like the woods. But eventually I realized that the only way to improve my yard was to grow mostly shaded plants. Tip #2 for a vegetable garden, then, is to try to find a place where there is sun. We finally found a place (that used to be a dirt pile) to the right of our deck.

vegetable-garden

Last year we only had one raised bed, as you can see in the picture below. I didn’t know how large the plants would grow, so I overcrowded it. For this reason, even though there were lots of leaves, the plants didn’t produce much fruit.

So tip #3 for a vegetable garden is not to overcrowd the plants. Leave space between the plants. Then the roots won’t be competing for the nutrients in the soil with any other plants, and the sun can shine on all the leaves of each plant.

Tip #4 would be to give the vegetable garden a good watering every day, especially when the plants are young.

Tip #5 is to have tomato cages for the tomatoes, and if you are growing beans or other vines, place the raised bed next to a fence so they have something to crawl up. Next year I might add a third bed next to the chain link fence just for this purpose. This year all I needed was the tomato cages to re-enforce the stems of the tomato plants, so they don’t topple over or break with the wind.

Tip #6 is to pick off any dead leaves that you see. This keeps the plants healthy.

overcrowded-garden

Perennial Garden Tips

At the beginning, the perennial garden didn’t look like much. When removing the pine needles and dead leaves, we saw a few green perennials coming up. (Perennials are flowers that come up year after year.) We trimmed the bushes, pulled some weeds, and amended with good soil. After a month of watering the garden, it looked beautiful!

This perennial garden is right outside the bay window of my dining room, so it can be enjoyed every time we sit down to eat a meal.

perennial-garden

Rose Garden Tips

My rose garden is in the front yard, but I thought I would include it in the gardening that we do. I show you in the video how to prune the rose bushes after uncovering them from the winter. We also put rose fertilizer on each bush. Roses are my favorite flower, so I really love this garden!

rose-garden

The back porch looks lovelier this year than ever, since my husband hung lights on poles bolted down to blocks of cement. (I show you a close-up of the base of these poles in the video.) My husband placed a hook on the top of each pole, and strung white lights. It feels like I am in Europe, where I traveled and lived before I was married. It makes me feel so much joy!

garden-evening

Here are some other gardening posts you might like: