Travel – Kids’ Fun Bags

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​For those of us in the US, the next two weeks have us frantically preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday. For a holiday that is supposed to be a time to settle in with our loved ones and reflect on our lucky we are, how grateful we are to have our needs and wants met as well as to think about how to help those less fortunate in meaningful ways, it sure is a stressful, anxiety-filled, busy time. For the US, with so many diverse cultures, ethnicities, and religions, Thanksgiving is one of the few things that we share. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, but we can all be a part of the Thanksgiving mindset. We are all thankful for something, and one of those things is where we are privileged to live. Many countries around the world set aside a day for thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving in the US is also the busiest travel day of the year. We are waiting in lines at the airport, on the highways, at the convenience stores for that last cup of coffee to get us there. Those of us that travel with kids know how difficult it can be to map out the route, pack the snacks, and keep the kiddos entertained over hill and dale on the way to Grandma’s (or whomever’s) house.

While we were on vacation this past August, I set up a small paper gift bag for each of my children, a travel bag that they received once they were in the car and we were at least one hundred miles from home. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how this was going to go over. Their ages at the time were 22, 14, and 13, and they each have their own phones that alternate entertaining them and boring them to tears. I did think that maybe they were too old for this sort of thing, but still, I thought it would be something different.

They surprised me. Even my oldest seemed to like his travel bag. He’s not one to complain anyway. I sneaked a look into the back seat, and saw him perusing each item curiously, and I knew that no matter what else, this was a success!

What did I include, you ask?

1. A small, plain, paper gift bag, about the size to fit a paperback book. I didn’t put their names on the bag so I could re-use them, but I did attach a colored paperclip to each one so I’d know who’s belonged to who since some items were child specific. The bag could also be used for their garbage that tends to accumulate on the floor at their feet.

2. Bottle of water

3. Small unlined notepad and a pen

4. Candy – M&Ms, Swedish fish, Skittles, something that came in a package with many small candies.

5. Package of Mini-Muffins.

6. Granola bar

7. A half sheet of paper with a list of apps they should download that were related to our destination. If Grandma lives in another state, it might be interesting for them to check out a few new apps, maybe a game too.

8. A folded paper with list for a Scavenger Hunt. They really (all of them) had great fun with this.

9. Netflix password.

10. Some things that I included for our vacation that I would not include for the Thanksgiving holiday were: a card with the hotel information on it, the phone number for weather information for my daughter who is interested in such things, Tim Horton’s gift card for $5 but any fast food gift card would do, and a packet of their vacation money.

What would you include? Share below!

June: School’s Out: Recipe

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​For the past several summers, my kids have enjoyed taste testing. They’ve already asked about it this year, and school isn’t quite finished yet. I would go to the supermarket and pick out three to five new foods to try, usually exotic fruits that they didn’t typically get on a regular basis. I’d only get one of each and cut them into pieces for each of us to have a taste. If we really liked something, we’d go back to the store for more.

This is truly a great summer activity. Try new foods, offer healthy choices, add to our vocabulary, increase kitchen skills, and tick another day off the countdown back to school. At this age, the kids join me about halfway through wanting to return to their friends and schedules.

Not everything will go over well. My son desperately wanted anchovies. We ordered a pizza with two slices only with anchovies. The picture of his face is priceless and still makes me laugh. Just mentioning the word anchovy makes his whole face scrunch up. He did not like them at all.

Here is a list (below the cut) of some of the things we’ve tried, some we’re still thinking about fot this year, and suggestions for your own taste test day.

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Apple Things

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I don’t know about other parts of the country, but fall is filled with fall foliage, back to school, sweater weather, and of course, applepicking.

A few scenes from the apple orchard. (c)2017


Clockwise: Sampling different varieties of apples, from under my umbrella (it was raining off and on the whole time, but our time in Ireland made it tolerable), flowers in the bench planter, bright flowers on a dreary day, Bear with apple statue that greeted us when we arrived at the orchard’s store, hanging planter. (c)2017


L-R: 1. Apple Blossom, 2. Apple Crisp Cookie, 3. Cider Donut, R: 1. Snapdragon apple*, 2. Apple Cider.(c)2017

*I first discovered snapdragons when one of my writing group members brought one to try. It was perfect. Bright red, creamy white inside, crisp. It snapped when you bit into it. I’m not sure if that’s where its name came from, but it fit.

I always try to get a few snapdragons. They are good for pies or just to grab one for a snack.

By the time we went picking this year, combined with the summer weather not cooperating, there were very few of them in the field. We walked about halfway down the aisle, and I was about to give up when a young boy, about twelve on the other side of the fencing heard me, and offered that there were snapdragons further down, and pointed out where we should go.We thanked him.

And then, he turned back and offered me the apple that was in his hand.

Really? I asked.

He nodded, and I took the apple.

I thanked him profusely, and added that snapdragons were my favorite. All the rest of the day, I thought about his generosity, and I enjoyed that apple more than any other that I’ve had in the past few years.

That is the apple in the bottom picture.

It’s perfect.

Sweet Potatoes are My Comfort Food

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​Whenever comfort food is brought up, whether it’s a writing assignment or discussion or online meme, my head goes straight to chicken noodle soup and/or Kraft Macaroni & cheese in the blue box, although not eaten together of course. I will eat the mac & cheese as a leftover, but there is nothing like the taste of the macaroni from the blue box, hot and creamy, right when it’s first made.

Out of the pot even.

However, for real comfort, my heart goes to an evening that I was probably about eleven, maybe as old as twelve, where I am sitting in my mother’s bed, my legs sticking out from a nightgown that I hated wearing, with my back against the headboard.

The only light coming brightly from the hallway and that dim blue from the television just beyond the end of the bed. I was watching whatever happened to be on. There were not many options for change before remote controls, and with everyone else in the family downstairs, I was stuck with whatever it was.

On my lap was a plate, and on the plate, I am using my fork to smoosh around a thick piece of butter melting on a warm, soft, sweet potato. The orange flesh absorbing each bit of butter dripping off the pat. Long after this day, I’ve seen people put cinnamon and brown sugar, even caramel and marshmallows on sweet potatoes, but for me all it needs is the hot insides and the sweet, melting butter. 

Even today, the perfect, succulent, sweet potato brings me back to that sick day in bed, the smell, the taste, the warmth from the plate on my legs still warming me decades later.

Busy, Busy Weekend

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Beginning at the top, L-R: Our Common Home book cover, Wonder Woman Pop keychain, Wonder Woman cape hanging at the comic store, March for Truth art, Carnival, Pentecost, Gishwhes Tea Party art, green flower for my hair, Pride flag. (c)2017

Some weeks go by with nothing to do or that rare week that has one or two things every day just to keep the week moving along and easy to handle. Then there was this past week.
On Wednesday, I was invited to a Ramadan dinner, a community dinner to break the daily fast that Muslims globally follow. This dinner is one that the Islamic Center holds every year. It was wonderful, and I was glad to have gone. I’m already looking forward to next year.

On Thursday, I had a church  meeting but that was cancelled, so at the last minute, we decided to pick up my daughter’s friend and go to the evening showing of Wonder Woman. I’m not sure if Thursday counts as opening night or pre-openng night. The movie was amazing, and for a moment I considered going to see it again this weekend. Yes, it was that good. It was also a school night, but it’s Wonder Woman! We’ve been waiting a long time for this one.

On Friday, I started to read (for the second time) Our Common Home: Visual meditations of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’ by Michael O’Neill McGrath, the catalyst being the Trump Administration’s short-sightedness on the welfare of our shared planet Earth. I am reading it slowly, and I am planning on using some of Brother Mickey‘s artwork as inspiration for my own tonight. Friday night was also the school’s rec night for my daughter. It was an introduction to the middle school rec nights that they have throughout the year. Then her friend slept over in anticipation of Saturday.

Saturday began with Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast – a day late and a donut short for National Donut Day, and then we were off to our local comic store to celebrate Wonder Woman Day. Free comics, tiaras, and bracelets, pins, and key chains! Fun, fun, fun. After that my son had a birthday party that turned into a sleepover. We brought him home for a shower and a change of clothes. He and my husband went to buy him a bicycle that he’s been promised before the sale ended.

In the meantime, we took the girls out to lunch, then to a local carnival. They dropped me off at church where I was reminded it was Pentecost, something I will reflect further on later in the week. The Holy Spirit is something that I have felt my whole life without knowing exactly what it was that was guiding me. While I was at church, the girls decided on another sleepover at the friend’s house. I went home and drew some art for the March for Truth that I attended virtually continuing with the Wonder Woman theme by using her lasso of truth.

My husband and I began to catch up on Sense 8, only to find out that it wasn’t renewed for a third season. I’ve already joined the online movement to try and bring it back. It is just so much and so wonderfully well done. I can’t help but feel attached to the sensates.

We are currently at our local coffee shop – Starbucks. I’m wearing a green flower in my hair ane a matching Gishwhes shirt for the International Gishwhes Tea Party taking place around the world at this exact moment.

It is also Pride month, and I spent much of last night drawing and coloring a pride flag, mostly for my own amusement, but also to share.

So much done, and this weekend isn’t even over yet. We still need to get the kids back from their respective sleepovers, watch two more episodes of Sense8, decide on dinner, and then prepare for the return of Fear the Walking Dead.

Tomorrow seems just as busy as I renew my driver’s license and get my glasses adjusted. I’ve been getting headaches and they’re barely a week old. I’m definitely seeing better, but I’m not sure constant headaches are worth the benefit. I also plan to get my international driving permit for our trip to Ireland.

I’m not sure if I have time to catch my breath.

While I do, what are some of the ways you cope with the busyness of your lives? If you comment with yours, I’ll include them in tomorrow’s post of some of my hints and tips to get through our days.

Free Comic Book Day – A Preview Before the Big Day

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​Comic books – the bane and the blessing in our home. My middle son is a kindred spirit to my husband, taking on the mantle of collector, organizer, and archiver. My husband doesn’t even know which comics to buy anymore. Middle guy makes the list and if he had the cash, he’d be able to go himself. He points out gifts for everyone and looks forward to payday so we can go down to the capital and buy this week’s stash.

This translates into an entire industry of movies, action figures, and Lego. We could open our own store and never buy anything new to stock it. Unlike most collectors, they believe in playing with their toys; not keeping them boxed up in pristine condition. There is always something strewn about the living room in need of a pick up.

In just three days will be the biggest comic weekend of the year. Free Comic Book Day. This is the fifteenth year, and it is held annually on the first Saturday in May.

The basic premise is that there is a comic book for everybody. Although in our family I read the least amount of comic books, as a child and young person, I read comic books often. Star Trek, Green Arrow. My husband gave me a signed Sandman as a gift early in our relationship. For parents who are concerned about appropriateness, the FCBD website has an age rating system you can check out for yourself, and make the paternal decisions for your families.

It is also the opening weekend of (typically) a Marvel movie. This year’s selection is Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol.2. Vol. 1 was one of the best surprises I had. I had no intention of seeing that first one until it came out on DVD, but it happened to be the only one playing on our anniversary, so we went. It was really the best! The perfect blend of humor and humanity and an awesome soundtrack. It was full of surprises and unexpected moments. I can’t wait for this new one. The first Saturday in May has become our tradition to see the movie after our Free Comic Book Day adventures.

We pick up my son’s friend, wear an appropriate comic related tee shirt (I will be wearing my Supernatural this year), get up extra early and head down. Our comic store is located centrally in our state capital on a busy street and they get many rubberneckers looking at the superheroes holding the advertising signs in front of the store. They used to start the day at 11, but now they open at 9. We begin the line around 8 or 8:30, meeting other fans and early risers. It is usually still very cold on this May morning. Layers are they key because the inside of the comic shop gets pretty warm.

There is a selection of free comics for everyone who comes – there is something for everyone’s tastes – guaranteed. last year I picked up Representative John Lewis’ first of the trilogy called March about the March across the Pettis bridge where he was beaten to the point nearly to death. I always grab the book from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF). Scooby Doo shares space with The Walking Dead. There is a photo contest, sometimes free Hero Clix, amazing donuts for sale (similar to Portland’s Voodoo Donuts), stickers, pins, and costumed characters. Last year we met Harley Quinn; this year Wonder Woman will be there in advance of her June movie – one of the ones in a slew of good movies we’re anticipating and looking forward to. I even have  Wonder Woman earrings especially for the occasion. Artist John Hebert is there signing free drawings and selling more.

After that, we will sometimes make the rounds at other area comic shops. In the next county over, one always has pizza and cupcakes. Several have costumed characters and local writers and artists selling their things and signing autographs. One year, my kids sat in the actual Batmobile from the 1966 television series! It’s a great day to meet other like minded fans, collectors, and kids.

To find your local comic store, call the Comic Shop Locator at 1-888-266-4226 or visit their website.

To find a shop participating in Free Comic Book Day, check out their website