When I was 6,7,8 years old I was making mud pies, sifting through my mom’s scarf drawer and building forts out of the sofa.
Now, I know these activities are still going on today (‘cuz I have two fort-building-mud-pie-makers myself) but a whole new world of adventure has opened up since I was a kid.
After-school activities have taken on a life of their own and with the introduction of “year round school”, camp is no longer an annual event, it’s a daily one.
I’ve jumped on the bandwagon. I am now teaching “Junior Meteorology” to curious, inventive, bright-eyed elementary kids- and I love it!
In this highly-interactive camp kids are learning how to be observant; How to really notice things, like the sky’s current color, the shapes of changing clouds and the direction of the wind. These are the foundational steps to predicting weather. Doesn’t everyone really want this power for themselves?
It’s two days, six hours worth of hands-on answers to things like: Why do we not call them “Cold Air Balloons”?
Who calls what a “Willy Willy”? Which one could fit inside Apex- a hurricane or a tornado? And, What does the “Freezing Line” mean for our sledding chances?
Don’t you know someone who would fit right in with us? Tell them about our upcoming session:
December 14th & 16th
All classes are held at Kidocio on Highway 64 in Apex.
Click here to view a gallery of previous “Junior Meteorology” classes.
Since our now 7 year old son was just a few months old we’ve taken him on the road. From 4 hour trips to picnic on the Blue Ridge Parkway to 9 hour adventures between the Tarheel and Sunshine states. Many of these trips I have done alone with my kids. Over the years many friends have patted me on the back for my “gutsy toddler travel”, saying they haven’t gone anywhere in years because they’re just too scared of the combination of kids, backseats & long hours. Now that I’ve added an infant to our highway herd, I get even more raised eyebrows. So many of you have asked “How do you do it?” that I decided I’d stop answering “Ah, it’s nothing” with a wave of my hand and actually give some practical advice.
Here are all the things (that I can think of) that go into one of my Kids Crew Road Trips:
1. I always travel in the very early morning hours. There is less traffic and the kids always seem to stay quiet and calm at least until the sun comes up. I load the kids into the car in the dark, still in their pajamas. Or if your child prefers, let them sleep in their “travel clothes” the night before. (I consider road trips a time to be very flexible about rules- see #8) Most kids will return to sleep, mine don’t..but again they are usually subdued while you get the first few hours under your belt. We always do a last minute check to make sure the favorite blanket and stuffed animal have made it.
2. Organize and pack -completely- the night before.
I pack a “car bag” (separate from the suitcase) for each child which includes toys and food- entertainment and sustenance. I put these bags in the car, within reach of the older children, the night before.
These bags can make or break your trip, so give them extra attention. Let your child help by choosing what “toys” they want to bring (try to be as flexible on this as possible) and consider adding a surprise toy/game/coloring/book* as well. *I always put books in the kids bags (even for my 11 month old) to encourage them to pick up books to entertain themselves. A brand new book, one they would choose not you (ie; a comic book), is a great surprise to put in the bag.
3. I pack a “lunch” so we don’t have to do “junk drive through” stops, but I always let my son pack some snack he really considers a treat, like fruit roll ups. Again, this is where road trips make rules flexible: let your child eat Cheetos, lollipops, Oreos, whatever floats their boat. And let them get crumbs everywhere, let them turn their fingers orange and wipe sticky prints on the window. If you really want to be able to road trip with your kids accept that this will happen and resign yourself to giving the car a good cleaning when you return. If you can’t handle this, stop reading now and cancel your trip.
This is an example of what I would pack in a “snack bag” for a 9 hour trip:
Cereal, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, apple slices, yogurt drinks, carrots,
pretzels, lollipops, bubble gum and mini muffins. While I know my son will eat the muffins first, then the bubble gum- I let him. By the end of the trip he’s eaten everything and I’ve heard few complaints. He chooses what he wants to eat and when.
4. As for the baby? I bring lots of options:
I have always carried a thermos of hot water for warming breast milk or mixing with formula. I make it hot, since I can always cool the water off with bottled water, which we always carry alot of. Each of my boys has his own water bottle and I make sure they’re filled ahead of time.
I pack foods that he can hold and feed himself (again I don’t worry about crumbs, drips and spills) as well as foods I can easily feed to him while parked in the car or at rest area picnic table.
And of course, lots and lots of wipes.
5. Proper Attire. I like to leave the baby in his “footie” pajamas since I find that he always pulls his socks off and no matter the weather, bare feet get cool in the car.
My 5 yr old always gets to wear his “crocks” when traveling since I find it’s important to have easy-on shoes when we want to hop out quickly at a rest stop.
6. Consider seating arrangements. My boys work well sitting next to each other. The now-and-again poking and pinching is totally worth the help with lost pacifiers and they never fail to make each other laugh. If you’re traveling with a rear-facing, only-child, I’d recommend making sure he/she can see you (remove the hood on a car seat; add a mirror) so that they can interact. Sing alot, talk alot- Children’s audio books, checked out from the library, are fabulous for babies! Dangle stuffed animals from the headrests and change them at each stop- It’s all about entertainment.
Let me be honest- sometimes everyone’s boredom coincides and there’s pandemonium in the car. This is a good time to stop- get out and stretch, change a diaper, play pat-a-cake, run around, buy a new fun drink or candy and get back on your way..
7. Yes- I do let the kids watch movies. I let my 5 yr old son have control of his own DVD player and movies. He eventually gets bored of movies and wants to color, read or play “road games”and the baby gets to watch a little “Baby Einstein” after he’s eaten, been sung to and played with his toes or toys for a while.
Schedule? I don’t expect the baby to keep his normal nap schedule, and yes, the first (sometimes 3) night at our final destination is often tough. I believe by offering these new experiences now and then, your children learn to adjust more easily.
8. Rigid rules are not for road trips. While my husband and I both demand good behavior from our boys and try not to let them eat too much junk or watch too much TV, I definitely like to vacation, So, I can be flexible.
9. When you get to your destination plan to be able to give the children some “free time”. In other words, don’t plan to meet the grandparents at a restaurant, or stop over at your Aunt’s house, or even go to Chuck E Cheese.. you’re just asking for a melt down. Get to your accommodations and jump on the bed, go to the playground, color on the hotel stationary, play with the shampoo bottles, play hide and seek in all the closets- whatever. Your little traveler also needs to decompress.
In hindsight, this all seems very simple (aside from good planning) and truthfully I think it works because as Nike says, we “Just Do It”.
10. And finally, no road trip would be safe without Mom’s advice. Be sure your car is in excellent condition before setting off on a long trip with children!
Fun things that work for us:
Knock Knock Books
Pipe cleaners (for making aliens)
Bubble Gum (with a side of napkins to spit used pieces into)
Crayons, Markers, Pencils, Spiral Notebook & a Clipboard
The “I Can’t Hear It” Game (I can’t hear a bubble floating, I can’t hear a grasshopper swallow- We like this much better than “I Spy”)
Did you know that good old George returned a dog he found after a battle? The hound belonged to British General William Howe. General Washington sent the dog, along with a nice note, back to his owner across enemy lines.
Here’s how the letter read:
“Octr 6. 1777
General Washington’s compliments to General Howe. He does himself the pleasure to return him a dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and by the inscription on the Collar appears to belong to General Howe.”
I know this tidbit of information because I took my 1 and 5 year old sons to Mount Vernon on President’s Day.
Read more about our brave field trip to D.C. at Triangle T.R.A.C.K.S.
So I looked at the calendar on our fridge, the one covered with so many notations it looks like a chicken stepped on an ink pad then skipped across our monthly planner, and realized the weekend- Gasp! – was empty. And my husband would be out of town on business…
“Hmm..” I thought to myself, “I wonder what my sister’s family is up to?”
The following conversation goes like this? “You, me, the boys- snow tubing this weekend?”..no pause…”Yeah! Sure!”
So just a few days later, packed tight as sardines with lots and lots of mittens, we road-tripped it to Ski Hawksnest, which is now considered the snow tubing capital of the North Carolina High Country.
Hawksnest is just a 15 minute drive from our home away from home, “Our Commercial Break” atop Sugar Mountain, and we arrived in a 35 degree downpour. Ugh! Just a few more degrees and this would all be snow. But we had three boy “tubers” chomping at the bit, so nothing was going to get in the way of a good slide.
Not even the 30 minutes we spent putting on enough layers to make an onion jealous.
Not even when the young woman at the counter (already the ‘churn churn’ of the credit card machine in the background) says, “Now you know… conditions aren’t the best today. The tubes are running very slow. Some people aren’t making it all the way down.”
(Here I picture us looking like a bunch of turtles scooting ourselves in the sand trying to make it into the ocean’s wake)
“Uuhhh…” I look at my brother-in-law, water trickling off his rain hood, the boys are already headed for the tubes “..kay, guess we’re in.”
And we’re off. It’s a race to the lanes…
Our goal..to rank lanes #1 through #4 for best tubing experience..
We nicknamed lane #1 the Spinature… a nice little tap of the foot on either side’s snow bank makes for great spins an twirls.
Lane #4 was the “Straight Shot”… like a bullet right down to the end. With a little luck you could almost make it right to the conveyor belt line where you ride back to the top. That is, unless you ran in to a few human bowling pins.
We worked on techniques like “belly flopping”, the “sit and spin” and “double trouble”…which was the fastest way to go- with someone on your lap.
Through, what was at times, a pretty steady rainfall we adjusted our soaked bottoms, shook off wet gloves to take foggy pictures and basically, had a blast.
“Weren’t you cold?” my sister (who was inside babysitting my 1 year old and ogling the muffins, hot chocolate and pretzels) questioned.
In fact, not only was I NOT cold- I was sweating! With wet hair who knew the difference?
Not to mention, it’s just plain funny watching my 5 year old guy, bundled up like the Michelin man, trying to climb a hill of deep snow.
I think his best climb was 2 falls. The worst, a combination of six slips, slides and face plants…most of which ended in me telling him to stop eating the snow- and I wasn’t being sarcastically figurative.
Why I had to tell my 5 year old not to eat handfuls of the dirty, slushy wet stuff I have no idea. But I did feel better when, after hearing me yelling at my son, another little boy scooped up a handful and shoved it in… prompting his mom to nearly gag.
Thanks Hawksnest- We’ll be back!!! (maybe even next weekend!!)
My husband and I used to live in Savannah. In fact, our first son is named after one of the city’s historical squares. Each time we drop in to visit we hop out at “Troup Square” to take pictures…then off to our friend’s house we go.
Savannah seemed to belong to me and Donald. It reminds us so much of our romantic, dating days that we didn’t consider it a “kid destination”. Well, on this most recent track out from school I took my boys, sans daddy, Savannah-ing. To my surprise and delight, my Troupe was instantly caught up in this city’s charm.
“Wow! I want to drive my hot wheels here!” he shouted the moment I pulled the car down onto River Street’s famous cobblestones.
“Wow! Look a ferry! Can we ride the ferry?” “Wait! A trolley car! Can we ride the trolley?” he excitedly sang.
Troupe dragged his fingers along the cobblestones, played hopscotch across the trolley tracks and swung from every wrought iron post we passed.
“What texture this place has for a 5 year old!” I thought. What could seem seedy, touristy, or dirty took on new charm.
We ate at a touristy shrimp spot- One I had never eaten at in the years I lived there- and the smile never left my kid’s face.
He ate seafood bisque and boiled shrimp, and drank shirley temples like a champ. We know how to party.
Since I’ve been told my talent is in giving kid-travel advice, here’s a *note to self* addition to our otherwise rich afternoon.
*DO NOT order ‘peel and eat’ shrimp while traveling as a single-parent with a 1 year old. The peeling of shrimp leaves no hand free to steady unruly climbers, crayon-chunkers, high-pitched squawkers, or muffin-tossers (all of which I have in my one year old, Mac). That’s just a little more multi-tasking than I can handle.
Troupe miraculously fell in love with shopping. Yes, I said “shopping”. He was like a magnet to the old-world style markets on River Street.
His allowance burned in his pocket for samurai swords, dangly frog chimes and wooden safari animals. Thankfully, we made it- wallet intact- to one of Savannah’s famous sweet spots.
There’s nothing like a syrupy sweet bite of praline while strolling in the warm Georgia sun. Troupe agreed.
Savannah is a straight shot down I-95. It is a 5 hour drive from the Triangle. There are plenty of kid-friendly attractions in the “Hostess City Of The South”.
You can find a list of Savannah events here.
Disney’s Family Travel Website also has great suggestions for traveling to Savannah with kids.
Tweeters can follow @VisitSavannah or me @JanAboutTown on Twitter.
It was 9:30 on a Saturday night… and we were at gate 16A in the Atlanta airport.
We were just finishing up a ‘dream come true’ Caribbean vacation. Utterly and completely
relaxed, tan, and still a little sandy, we awaited our late flight home to reality. Our oldest son was asleep, curled up like a cat in the fake leather airport chair-bench. Our 1 and a half year old son was groggy, but not yet quite punch-drunk. Donald and I were lounging (ie; Donald was on Twitter, I was people-watching), contently sipping our Starbucks (it had been a week!) when over the loud-speaker comes the often-dreaded announcement. “Flight 1234 is overbooked…”. Our ears perked, Donald lifted his eyes…
“We’re looking for volunteers to give up their seats…”. Donald and I sneak looks at each other, poised to react… The voice continues…”We’re offering $600 a seat, a hotel-stay for the night, and meal vouchers for each ticket.”
“Yes.” I say as Donald’s body is in motion toward the counter…his face still looking back at mine, questioningly.
“Yes.” I say aloud, thinking ‘Does he really have to ask me again?’ “Yes, yes, yes. Why not?”
An hour and a half later- we’re settling in to soft sheets, each of us dressed in a fresh, white-cotton Delta t-shirt (3 of us anyway) and with sparkly-clean teeth (the boys loved their personal toothbrushes!)
Our vacation lives on!
next morning, we filled our bellies in true voucher-style: pastries, egg sandwiches, juices and coffee, bagels and muffins…and hopped Atlanta’s simple subway system (MARTA) for the “Georgia Aquarium”.
“Why not live it up?” We’d thought the night before. We booked a late-day flight home and decided to introduce our boys to “The World’s Largest Collection Of Aquatic Animals”.
From coral reefs to beluga whales, we soaked up what 8 million gallons of water can hold. The kids touched anemones, crawled through river bed
tunnels and gasped at giant squid. We spent only 2 hours at this awesome attraction, but saw hundreds of swimming creatures, did arts and crafts, and learned things we never knew! We did not see the 3D show, take a behind the scene tour, or scuba in one of the tanks…but oh, what to do next visit!
As we cashed in our last meal-voucher, and carried our 3 pizzas, 2 milkshakes, 2 sodas, breadsticks and an apple to our FIRST CLASS seats, the other passengers stared at us. You know what? It wasn’t because we were a gypsy-like caravan of kids, food, bags and stroller..it was because we were GLOWING. Spontaneity pays off.
What better time to have an “American History” lesson sink in than on President’s Day, which happens to be Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday, and is just weeks after a new President has been inaugurated!
Yes, you can take a 5, 6 & 7 year old (and a stroller-bound 11 month old) on a road trip to D.C. …and live to tell about it.
We shot right out of the gate and kicked off our President’s Weekend road trip with a tour of the United States Capitol…enlisting a few tricks.
First of all, as you await your scheduled tour be sure to keep the kids busy in the Exhibition Hall. The four adults in my group found it so interesting we were pawning the kids off on each other. Good news is, the kids will like it too..since you can actually “touch” a kid-sized model of the famously domed building.
The tour groups are not over-sized, so it was easy to stay together. The adults felt a little short-changed on the hour-long tou , which included an introductory movie we rated a “B” for interest (but an “A+” for allowing my 5 year old a brief nap). The highlight for young and old seemed to be the fact that you could stand in the exact spot Abraham Lincoln sat in as a member of the House of Representatives.
A bonus: The headsets each visitor wears in order to hear their live tour guide more clearly. I find that when my son has headphones on he’s doesn’t talk quite as much (although it’s extra loud when he does) and miraculously doesn’t run, play or fidget with his friends as much either. Headphones are like forced listening devices… (I think I’ll try them at my dinner table)
A few tricks? I gave each child his/her own camera to take pictures of whatever they wanted. The only rule was that they had to ask permission of the guide, guard, security, people-who-will-tackle-you, first. Which I consider a good lesson in respect, anyway.
Next, whenever twinges of boredom seemed to set in, I’d offer up things like: “Look really closely at that painting on the dome. I’ll tell you something neat about it when we get to the next room.” In the next room, I proposed we tape paper to the underside of our dining table when we got home and paint our own “fresco”. It kept them quiet for a few minutes, presumably, thinking about what their “fresco” would look like. Then there’s the “How many gold flowers do you see on the ceiling?” trick, and so on.
We try not to shove “lessons” down our kids’ throats. They seem to remember better if you treat “facts” like “sprinkles” added to an ice cream cone. With a little research before we went, I was able to pocket-away a few fun factoids for the kids to remember, without having to shove another tourist aside to read all the plaques. “See that figure on top of the dome? What would you name her? What is she holding?” yadda, yadda.
Of course, no trip to D.C with kids would be complete without hitting the National Museum of Natural History.
My advice here is to NOT expect to see everything. Assume you’ll be back and just let your kids take whatever amount of time they want in whatever section. The “Discovery Room” was a big favorite- and a GREAT place to let the baby stretch his legs. Do clarify your family safety rules! I thought the place was mobbed and my DC friend told me it was the least crowded she’d ever seen.
To avoid crowds and save cash, we brought our lunch and picnicked on the Capitol lawn. Then we headed to the impressive National Zoo, where the kids had a blast monkeying around with the animals.
The next day, President’s Day, we visited George Washington’s home.
Mount Vernon is extremely kid-friendly, from the awesome interactive movie on the Revolutionary War (our seats rumbled, fog rose from the stage and snow fell on our heads!) to the children’s Hands-On History.
There are ‘Adventure Maps’ for the kids to follow and fun facts posted all about. There’s no way you’ll leave without knowing something new about good old George!
I’m topping this family adventure off with the “School House Rock- Election Collection” DVD, which is being shipped to our house today.
8 o’clock on Halloween night, my son pours his ghoulishly delicious loot onto my living room floor.
“149 pieces!” he proclaims, evidence of his hard work as a trick-or-treater.
Normally, a wave of nauseousness, then fear, would have washed over me…but instead I smile and say, “Enjoy!”, because I know not all that candy will stay in my house.
C’mon, admit it. How many of you have loaded Easter baskets with leftover Halloween candy? It’s just too much candy for one household to house. For my son, the mixture of costumes and candy represents a legal “wild things romp”. While the night of dashing to doors and darting across driveways collecting candy is ridiculously satisfying, the outcome, 150 pieces of candy, is overindulgent.
So three years ago, I finally figured out how to enjoy all that candy by sharing it with others who don’t often get the feeling of “splurge”. I dreamed up PINATA BOUNTY.
We stuff as many turkey pinatas (yes, they make turkey pinatas!!) as the donated candy will fill. In 2010, this was 20 pinatas!
Then, I deliver them to area shelters, missions, children’s homes, etc..for their Thanksgiving celebrations.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It feels so good to ‘give gratitude’.
So in the spirit of “Freely ye have received, Freely give” I hope to make Thanksgiving a “splurge” for some local children, by sharing a bounty of candy.
Here’s a list of the agencies that received festive pinatas in 2011: Helping Hands Mission, Raleigh Rescue Mission, W.E. Mangum Child Development Center, Salvation Army, The Wrenn House, Interact, Women’s Center of Wake County, Second Round Youth House, Boys & Girls Club (seven individual groups!), and The Shepherd’s Table Soup Kitchen.
Won’t you contribute? You can still hit a 50% candy sale and donate a bag or ten. You can donate $5 to help buy the pinatas. Store managers…how about donating all Halloween candy that doesn’t sell by the end of this week? (what happens to it anyway?) Regular supporters are Whole Foods of Cary and Fresh Market of Cary and Walgreens of Apex has contributed in the past.
Drop me an email to contribute! JanAboutTown@gmail.com
You’ll love this clever & delicious treat and Earth Day, is a perfect excuse to make them!
Earth Balls – They are the one thing I make that gets loud cheers from Hubby, Two-ton Toddler, AND 7yr old Picky McPickster. They are my rabbit in the hat. A healthy (shhh!), cute, yummy, clever, perfectly bite-sized treat.
How about if I add that they are chocolate AND no-bake? Did I hook you yet?
Here is the simple and perfectly-flexible-for-the-most-creative-people* recipe:
(adapted from Whole Foods Market Cookbook recipe)
1 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, divided
1/2 cup semisweet MINI chocolate chips
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (or any finely chopped nuts)
Mix the peanut butter, honey and cocoa powder until well combined.
Stir in the raisins and 2 tablespoons of the coconut. Stir in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
Place the remaining coconut, sesame seeds and nuts/sunflower seeds into 3 separate bowls.
Scoop small heaps of the peanut mixture from the bowl; roll into 1 1/4-inch balls.
Then roll each ball in the different toppings: coconut, sesame seeds and chopped nuts.You can even mix some of them.
*I often choose to leave some chocolate chips out of the mixture and roll them in more chips at the end.
When I’m feeling like a really special mommy, I roll them in sprinkles.
On Earth Day- I roll them in green and blue sprinkles, or coconut dyed green!
Arrange the balls on a plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
One of my favorite springtime traditions growing up was when the Spring Arts & Crafts festival came to downtown St. Augustine.
The whole family would load up for a day in downtown perusing the handmade treasures for sale. Dad always loved the wood-carved stuff; In the early years, I remember Mom getting macrame plant holders and these amazing candles that were rainbow-colored, shaped like a cauldron and smelled delicious; My sis always sniffed out the jewelry and my brother was too eager to help guide me to the purchase I wanted to make: Confetti Eggs. Oh, those delicate little containers ready to burst with confetti fun! It may be my romantic memory, but I still picture them as colorful and pretty as a stained-glass window. Of course, they had a much more robust and hard-core purpose: to be thrown, cracked, shattered and splattered….specifically, over someone’s head!
Last Easter, I stopped reminiscing… and resurrected the Confetti Egg. Times have changed so my confetti eggs are “green”, made with bird seed instead of paper, and not nearly as pretty as I remember (apparently whoever made them was painfully artistic), but I’m working on that.
Watch this video to see my assistant demonstrating the first steps to making “Green Confetti Smashing Eggs” – to be used to make your guests squeal and giggle at your next springtime party:
After you’ve blown out all the eggs, die them as you traditionally would. We added a little extra sparkle…
Pass ‘em out at the next party…and enjoy!
Out here in the suburbs we have few worries. Sure there are money issues, job worries, challenging kids, balancing family time…but generally we gotta go looking for trouble- it doesn’t easily find us. Things can be so good in fact, that we could take them for granted.
One of the things I’m grateful for is good neighbors. We watch each others’ kids, we share food from our cupboards, we check on each others’ dogs and take long walks together. And every month or so we celebrate each others birthdays by going to lunch.
This week, for my birthday, I decided to push my friends outside our suburb lunch box. The restaurant I chose to take them to was a soup kitchen. Instead of getting treated to lunch, I planned on serving others- with my friends’ help.
In my never-ending quest to express compassion, I had been researching volunteer opportunities. One group I stumbled upon gave me an idea that made my eyes sparkle. A group of 6-8 was needed… to serve lunch to those in need.
The Church of The Good Shepherd in downtown Raleigh is home to a Soup Kitchen, called The Shepherd’s Table, which serves a free, warm lunch to anyone who walks in the door- no questions asked- Monday through Friday, year round. Lunch is completely volunteer run- from food preparation to serving. Anyone above the age of 13 can sign up to help.
It makes me feel alive to step outside my comfort-zone and I really wanted to do this- but it’s easier when you’re not alone. I announced my birthday wish and to my delight my girlfriends eagerly jumped on board.
A group must sign up, sometimes months in advance, to work. We coordinated our schedules, everyone blocking out the day before my birthday as our date ‘To Serve’.
The Shepherd’s Table is a well-oiled machine. Five of us marched in that February morning wide-eyed and willing. We were instructed to wash up and don aprons. Then a group of 20 or so of us joined hands and were lead in prayer. Next, kitchen assignments were handed out: One person would scoop salad, another was on hot dish duty; one person offers soup, while another hands out dessert, and so on.
We started our tasks quietly and humbly. Each of us noting how good it felt to look each person served that day in the eye- with respect. By the end of the hour we found ourselves happily chatting and comfortably helping where needed. It was incredibly fulfilling. We signed up to serve our next lunch at the Shepherd’s Table before we even left that afternoon.
Is serving in a soup kitchen a novel idea? No. Val, our team leader that day, has served every Tuesday for the past 15 years. Brian, my “soup boss” (I was in charge of serving soup) is a 5 year Shepherd’s Table veteran. But are the number of us who could be doing this self-less work actually doing it? No.
Our pint-sized Picasso asked if he could teach an art class to his friends, just like the one he’s been attending. “All my friends ask me to draw pictures for them,” he pronounced, “They’ll definitely want to take my class!” After about 2 seconds of thought (my brainstorms are always awaiting an entrance) I told him he could- If he’d consider using his class to raise money for a good cause. He was up for that idea immediately, so we had a thorough discussion on groups we’d like to help.
Troupe’s choice: Neuse River Golden Retriever Rescue. Our Ziggy came from NRGRR just 9 months ago. Ziggy was found wandering, a stray. He will now always have a home with us. While Ziggy’s story is a typical one, not all rescues wander straight into loving arms during puppyhood.
Our Bayou was rescued from a dog-fighting ring. He was being used as training bait. He wouldn’t make eye contact with us for the first year. Bayou went on to live 12 healthy and happy years with us- often renamed as “By-me” or “Velcro”.
This sweet boy, James (who is up for adoption), was found bumping into a barbed wire fence. He had not been cared for, and had lost his site because of illness. So you see why our son is determined to help the Golden Rescue and dogs like these.
So it is, that an art class was born!
15 students attended and $43 was collected for the Neuse River Golden Retriever Rescue!
We had no idea we knew so many fantastic artists! Introducing: An Ornament Still Life.
Over the past few years, when my parents each turned 70, our family blew it out with a big bash for each.
First, a rented house on the Outer Banks for Dad’s celebration, then a ‘Cruzan Reunion’ in St. Croix for mom’s blowout.
So when the calendar comes around to late summer, I crave family, sun, sand …and celebratory food!
Courtesy of my sun & fun loving sister-in-law, Here’s a Seafood Paella to knock your socks off- best served up to a large group of kin!
20 calms, scrubbed
20 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1/4 cup olive oil
10 chicken pieces (drumsticks or thighs)
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb chorizo sausage, cut into 1/2 inch slices
4 to 5 cups of Bomba, Calasparra, or Valencia rice
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 (32 oz) container chicken broth
1/4 to 1/2 tsp saffron threads
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 lb green beans* (or 1 1/2 cups frozen sweet peas, aded last 15 minutes of cooking)
6 to 8 cups water
20 prawns, peeled if desired
Discard opened, cracked or heavy clams and mussels. Set aside.
Heat oil in a 17 inch paella pan. Add chicken and cook over medium coals, until chicken is golden and juices run clear. Add garlic and onion and cook until crisp- tender. Add chorizo and cook until thoroughly heated. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, until grains are coated with oil. Add tomato, chicken broth, saffron threads, wine and green beans. Bring to a slow boil. Cook 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add additional water as needed. Add seafood and cook 15 more minutes, or until prawns turn pink and clams and mussels open. Yield: 10 servings.
*Rowdy crowd, optional, but preferred.