Archive for family fun

Milk + Bookies

Milk and Bookies cup and book logo Milk and Bookies Milk and Cookie Birthday Artwork

Between Rosa’s birthday (right before Christmas), Christmas itself, and Elena’s birthday (in January), we have a very concentrated four weeks in which we are inundated with gifts every year. I always feel overwhelmed by it.

I already suggested to the girls that we take a year off from the parties. Predictably, that didn’t go over so well. So I’m happy to have run across Milk + Bookies (via Small Magazine’s blog) as a possible birthday party idea.

Milk + Bookies is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that helps children give to their community and foster literacy skills through book donations. They promote several different kinds of Milk + Bookies events. At a Milk + Bookies birthday party, guests bring a hardcover book instead of a gift, and all of the books get donated to the birthday child’s organization of choice.

Milk + Bookies makes it easy for parents to throw a birthday party, with a free invitation template on their website as well as several party activity ideas. Also, parents order a “Bookies Box” for $30, which includes bookmarks, bookplates if the children want to inscribe their donated books, and “I Donated” stickers to give to all the party guests. I could add my own creative touches to the party through decorations, storytelling activities and food.

Seems like a winner to me!

And, how great is their branding? I love the artwork.

For more information about birthday parties, how to host your own event as well as events going on in your area, and donating to a good cause:

Milk + Bookies website
Milk + Bookies blog

All next week I’m sharing my Holiday Gift Guides, featuring my favorite unique, beautiful handmade finds for everyone on your list this year.

Wishing you all a happy and fun Halloween this weekend!

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Ghosts in the House!

I started the week with a Halloween book, and I’m going to end it with a Halloween book too.

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara is about a little witch who moves into a haunted house and makes friends with the ghosts. The illustrations are so sweet.

children's halloween book by kazuno kohara

children's halloween book by kazuno kohara

children's halloween book by kazuno kohara

children's halloween book by kazuno kohara

children's halloween book by kazuno kohara

Now I’m going to have to check out Here Comes Jack Frost too.

Images from Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara, published by Square Fish for Macmillan

I’ll be back on Monday with another Halloween craft — and remember that Monday is the last day to enter the Witch Craft book giveaway. Happy weekend!

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Modern Family Tree Print by Cozy Blue

family tree illustration by cozy blue

I love this family tree print more than you know.

Available in a handful of different color combinations (mine is teal and black, but I almost went for the cobalt blue – khaki green combo) from Cozy Blue‘s shop. The prints are 11″ x 14″ and frame-ready.

It makes me smile every time I look at it.

Today’s the last day to enter to win the paper goods grab bag giveaway over at Pushing Papers. I’ll announce the winner on Monday!

Also, I’m going to have a giveaway on Charlotte’s Fancy next week – stay tuned.

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The Great American Roadtrip

Last week, we flew to Nebraska, rented a car, and drove west to see many of this country’s iconic monuments and parks: Mt. Rushmore, the Black Hills, the Badlands, Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.

I am pretty sure that only my mom is interested in seeing these pictures (and she was with us for half of the trip!), but I hope you will indulge me anyway.

After a pretty drive through Nebraska over to Rapid City, South Dakota, our first stop was Mt. Rushmore:

We were pleasantly surprised with Mt. Rushmore. They’ve thoughtfully designed various ways to view the monument, including a short trail that allows you to get right underneath it and look up at those huge faces.

After a side trip to the Crazy Horse Memorial, enjoying the scenery of the Black Hills along the way, we backtracked to the Badlands, which are east of Rapid City.

It was hot. I mean really hot. But the view! We spotted our first bison and prairie dogs here.

We made the obligatory (and mercifully short) stop at Wall Drug before heading back west to the nation’s first monument. Do you know what it is? It’s in Wyoming.

Devil’s Tower. Theodoore Roosevelt made it the nation’s first monument in 1906.

We arrived at Devil’s Tower a couple of hours before sunset and were blown away by its size and surroundings and the beautiful late afternoon sun shining it. If you can believe it, there were several people climbing it, and they were more than halfway up.

There’s a really nice path around the base, which is a little more than a mile long. We hiked it, saw some deer in the forest, listened to the wind rustle through the aspen trees, and soaked it all up.

When we left Devil’s Tower, the moon was rising right next to it, and as we drove toward our hotel for the evening, the sunset seemed to last forever.

From Wyoming, we headed in to Montana, where we picked up my mom and spent a few days visiting my uncle. We spent one afternoon in Bozeman at the excellent Museum of the Rockies – a must for dinosaur lovers. This picture above is an actual T Rex skeleton (not a cast).

While in Montana, we also went horseback riding at the Chico Hot Springs Resort. The scenery was spectacular and the horses (Rebecca, Jake, Ruben and Roper) were easy riding partners.

Here are the girls immediately following the ride:

This is what pure joy looks like.

We stayed in Livingston, Montana, which is about 50 miles from the north entrance of Yellowstone. We took two day trips there (these pictures are a combination of both days):

Exploring small hot springs in this little stream – it felt like bath water.

This is a view of Mammoth Hot Springs near the north entrance.

Can you guess what they’re waiting for? Here’s a hint:

Old Faithful! It erupts every 90 minutes, or so, give or take 10 minutes.

We also saw lots of stinky sulphur pits, like this one, as well as waterfalls, rivers, and Lake Yellowstone.

Animals we spotted along the way included a huge herd of bison, elk, antelope, deer, a coyote and a wolf.

Just south of Yellowstone is Grand Teton National Park. The mountains are very vertical and gorgeous:

Here’s another view. It was a beautiful day:

We drove through the park, but didn’t spend time here – it was our last full day and we were headed all the way across Wyoming and down to Colorado, to spend the night outside of Denver and catch a flight the next morning.

Here’s a fun thing we learned:

Remember how I said that I put little blue Moleskine journals in the girls’ travel bags and noted that they looked like passports? Turns out that at the National Parks, they have little stations where you can stamp your Park Passport (or notebook or journal) with a stamp that looks like a postage mark. We had no idea! We discovered it at Devil’s Tower (and therefore missed getting stamps at Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands). But we had a lot of fun finding as many stations as we could around Yellowstone (there were several). So, the next time you are at a National Park, look for the passport/stamp station. The one at Devil’s Tower is particularly fun, because they have a stamp that looks just like Devil’s Tower itself.

With 2500 miles of driving on this trip, mishaps were bound to happen. Like leaving our laptop power cord at a hotel, which took them four days just to put in the mail (perhaps they sent it by Pony Express – it took forever for it to arrive back home). Also, my iPhone took a two mile joyride on the roof of the car as we traveled the road up to Devil’s Tower and fell off only when we pulled into the parking lot. Unscathed. (A miracle, right?)  And the worst of the mishaps: a bird flew into our car as we were driving through the Badlands (we noticed a lot of birds skittish of the car would take flight right in front of us – we nearly hit a couple more). The worst part is that we didn’t notice until the next day that when the bird hit us, it had gotten lodged in the grill of our car. Oops. Sorry little birdie.

The bird incident notwithstanding, this was a great trip, and I feel lucky and grateful that we did it. Have you been to any of these places before? Our three favorites of the trip were Devil’s Tower, horseback riding and visiting Yellowstone.

Next Monday is Labor Day here in the US, so I’ll be taking that day off to enjoy the last full day of summer vacation before the girls go back to school. I hope to see you back here on Tuesday.

Thanks for letting me share these pictures, and have a great weekend!

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Travel Memories

Piling into the station wagon, always having to sit in the way back.

The rare stay at a hotel, the smell of chlorine from the pool

Free hotel postcards (and an unlimited supply of ice from the ice machine)

Coveted souvenirs

And visiting Grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Vacation starts today! I am taking a break from Charlotte’s Fancy next week, except that I hope to post a picture or two along the way. See you back here soon!

(Station wagon) demossscott
(Hotel/pool postcard) Erin Liz
(Howard Johnson postcard) sueism1
(Niagara Falls snowglobe) Olivander
(Family) own photo

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Road Trip!

On Friday, we’re hopping on an airplane and heading west to Omaha, the starting point of our big, all-American adventure: we’re driving through Nebraska and South Dakota to see the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, and the Black Hills (perhaps along with the Corn Palace, Wall Drug and any other wacky roadside attractions that catch our eye). We’re driving through Wyoming, with a stop to see Devil’s Tower before heading up to Montana where we’re going to visit my uncle for several days, which will include time at Yellowstone, horseback riding, swimming in hot springs, and seeing dinosaur bones. We’ve never visited any of these places, so needless to say, we can hardly wait for Friday.

So this week is all about getting ready for that trip (both at home and here on Charlotte’s Fancy).

The trip involves a whole lot of driving, so I’m gathering activities for the girls to keep them creatively occupied. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

A book of mazes, Mad Libs, a pocket Doodle book, colored pencils and a pencil sharpener, disposable cameras for each, mini Moleskine journals (they look like passports!), laminated bingo cards with dry erase markers, and laminated maps so that the girls can follow along with our travels.

Along with several books (we’ve chosen several of the Moomin Family books, along with the Lightning Thief trilogy), we’re filling up our Robot Messenger Bags by Ellie Bellie Kids. All we have to do is buy some postcard stamps, a couple of small treats, and (I think) we’re all set.

We’re also downloading some audio books and podcasts to keep us company, and if I remember, we’ll bring along our Flip camera and let the girls make films of what they see.

The bingo cards come from Martha Stewart – free to download, print and laminate. You can find them as part of a bigger travel kit how-to on her website.

Here’s another travel bingo idea – a very clever idea – from Ohdeedoh using bubble wrap:

Thank goodness I have two bookworms on my hands – I’m expecting the books to keep them occupied for much of the trip, with coloring, mazes and bingo (and naps!) as occasional diversions.

How do you keep your kids occupied on long trips?

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Mini S’mores!

Elena and Rosa made mini s’mores using Golden Grahams cereal, mini marshmallows and chocolate chips, and then shared the fun on the Carson Wrapped Hersheys blog, a company that makes custom candy bar wrappers for your parties, weddings, etc. (I’ve used them for teacher gifts in the past, as well as party favors and birth announcements – they’re terrific).

This is a very easy little snack that kids can make. Come see how they did it, plus their ideas for new (good and bad) ingredients for s’mores.

(p.s. Total coincidence that yesterday was National S’mores Day. Who knew?)

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Dispatches from the County Fair

And afterward, giant ice cream cones for all.

Happy weekend!

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Make Giraffes, Not War

A couple of days ago, I handed the girls some paper, pens, crayons, and glitter, and I said, “Please draw a giraffe,” which they happily did. Then, I took pictures of their giraffes and sent the pics off to Norway, to Ola Helland of the 1 Million Giraffes project.

(Ok, all I did was upload them to a website, but in spirit, I sent them off to Norway).

Who says giraffes have to be brown and yellow?

Ola Helland of Stavanger, Norway bet his friend Jørgen that he could collect 1 million handmade (that is, not computer-generated) giraffes by January 1, 2011 – which is 573 days to collect 1 million giraffes. With just about 150 days left, he only needs a little more than 64,000. Which is pretty darn amazing when you realize it means he’s collected 935,000 giraffes from all over the world.

The 1 Million Giraffes website is a lot of fun. You can look at a map of where the projects contributors live (when I looked at the map, we were the only people from the US in the last 24 hours to have contributed a giraffe) and also see statistics of which countries have contributed the most and least as well as how many he’s collected each day of the project. Apparently, Germany loves this project – they have contributed almost a third of all the giraffes.

You can also see creative galleries of all the submitted giraffes and play a game which shows you a giraffe and you guess how old you think the artist is.

So what are you waiting for? Ola only has 154 days left – he needs your giraffes!

1 Million Giraffes website, blog, twitter, facebook

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Favorite Memory Games

I’m not going to lie to you. I’m pretty good at Memory. And just because you’re 6 years old doesn’t mean I’m going to let you win.

If you’re looking to add to your game collection, or want a birthday gift idea, here are some of my favorite versions, starting with this cool one by Binth:

(As an aside, Binth makes an incredibly beautiful baby book – I highly recommend it as a baby gift).

eeBoo, which makes some of the sweetest toys, games, and kids’ paper goods out there, has several versions to choose from – all of them adorable.

And this “Twins” matching game by a Dutch designer and a Dutch professor is not as easy as you might think – not all identical twins actually look identical. We own this – it’s fun to play and a very clever version of the traditional matching game.

Happy weekend! See you back here next week?

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