Monday, August 31

For Whom the Bell Tolls (Metallica)

When we visited Pennsylvania last year, we didn't make it out to Philadelphia, so it was high on our to-do list for this trip!  With one afternoon to spend, we hit Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the US Mint before heading back to home base.  But what a fun-filled day!

Resources used for this trip :
It’s free to see the Liberty Bell, and you don’t need tickets – just show up and get in line!  Tickets to tour Independence Hall are required but are also free, and for $1.50you can reserve them in advance online.  It was worth it to us to not drive all the way there and get turned away.  As a side note, parking is available in an underground garage that opens directly into the Independence Visitor Center in the historic area, and I highly recommend it. It’s worth the cost to be central to all the historic sites!

If you have the time, the Franklin's Footsteps Walking Tour looked like a good one! But you'll want to budget the better part of a day for that.  In two and a half hours, we toured the US Mint, grabbed a city slice (even my pre-teen couldn't finish the big thing!), and headed for Independence Hall.

The tour of Independence Hall is short, but informative.  And how inspiring to be standing where the founding fathers set our country into motion!!







We even got to see Benjamin Franklin's specs (from National Treasure)!
As they usually do at National Parks, the kids completed the Junior Ranger Program : Independence Hall booklet, and they earned their badge and Junior Ranger Trading Cards.
With a little more time, we would have visited the Betsy Ross house and museum to learn about the history of the American flag.  Maybe after going on your own trip, you can tell us about it!

Wednesday, August 12

Join Together (Who)

Homeschool conventions can be a great way to rejuvenate...get some fresh ideas, meet like-minded people, and further your commitment to homeschooling.  We went to one in Dallas last year, and really enjoyed it, but didn't sign up for one this year.  As convention season rolled around, I began to be a little bummed about that.  Then, at the eleventh hour, we were asked to drive down and fill in for someone at the very same convention in Dallas!
Being an unexpected trip, we quickly finished up the canning, stacking jars two and three deep until we could organize the pantry later.  Just before leaving, we discovered a leak in the bathroom (happy day!) and quickly made a TP pyramid and left a note for dad.  After all, he'd be coming home to a quiet house....he surely needed a 'honey-do' list to keep him occupied!
We made tracks to Dallas and found ourselves in a swanky hotel....up on the 28th floor, no less!  The view was stunning; though the sight of the ocean out that window would have been preferred, we found ourselves mesmerized by the sheer number of people and cars.  That's country kids for ya!
Next up was getting the Lego Mindstorms EV3 system set up.    After taking a week-long summer camp on how to program the robot, he was excited to give it a shot!  He must have played EV3 with every little boy at the convention.  The moms would stop to talk, the kids would play with the robot, and everyone had a good time!  Also, it gave the kids something to do while their moms were perusing our booth...
After several hours of EV3, the boys went off in search of new adventures!  They discovered a plasma ball, purchased dissection kits, and built a double helix DNA structure at the CurrClick booth.
They found some history treasures, too!  A quill & ink set, gladiator swords, and viking shields.  Hal & Melanie (of Raising Real Men) had these super-fly semi-automatic guns and targets, but the boys had already spent all of their money by the time they discovered them.  So...maybe next time!  We all have to learn to budget wisely.
The best moment of the whole convention, for me, came in the evening.  Our booth neighbors were from Landmark Tours, and they were having a drawing for a sword.  A real sword!!  The boys won.  They had been enamored with this sword all weekend and just drooling over it.  After making sure it was fine with me for them to receive the sword, the representative called the boys over.  They had been chatting all weekend, and become friends, so the boys didn't think anything about it.  I so WISH that I'd been able to capture the moment when they understood that they had won the sword, and were taking it home.  Priceless....just priceless!
After dinner, they finally wound down.  The little one took a nap under the table, and the big one was forced to quit roaming and making friends when he blew out both of his flip flops (....but stepped on no pop tops).  A little duct tape got him back on his feet, literally, the next day.  He rocked the 'trashy' style!  After two and a half days of talking to people and making new friends, we were ready to head back home.  We hit the club lounge for a quick afternoon snack before breaking down the booth.  Ta-ta, Dallas, we'll see you next year!
View from the 27th Floor Club Lounge.

Wednesday, August 5

Born on the Bayou (John Fogerty)

The more I educate myself about DEET and other chemicals, the more I’m convinced I have to be proactive about finding better alternatives.  I try to treat my skin with the respect it deserves as it performs the difficult job of protecting my insides.  By the same token, mosquitoes by night, ticks by day...the insects seem to work 24/7 in the summer!!
Before you get desperate and spray on commercial bug sprays (that may contain some nasty chemicals), take some time to consider the better alternative; a natural bug repellent that smells wonderful, is effective, and takes only minutes to whip up!

Eau de Bayou
Ingredients:
  • 1 32 ounce bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 TBSP each of dried Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, Thyme and Mint
  • At least quart size glass jar with airtight lid
Directions:
  1. Put the vinegar and dried herbs into large glass jar.
  2. Seal tightly and store on counter or place you will see it daily. Shake well each day for 2-3 weeks.
  3. After 2-3 weeks, strain the herbs out and store in spray bottles or tincture bottles, preferably in fridge.
  4. To use on skin, dilute to half with water in a spray bottle and use as needed.
  5. Use whenever you need serious bug control!
  6. Fair warning: this stuff stinks when it is wet, though the smell disappears as it dries!