Travel Birthdays – without leaving home!

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Why have a Disney party or a shark party when you can have a party that travels?  Get your kids excited about a trip you’re about to take, share a trip you’ve recently taken, or enjoy a virtual trip that’s not likely to be in your budget for awhile.  Our last party was simply an “International Party” – gelato, International children’s films, henna tattoos, and an Austrian breakfast complete with little individual jars of jam and home-made egg cups.

The children’s internal film festival cd was from  the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival.  The shorts were fun because they allowed so much more interaction between kids than one long movie.

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The Pan-Asian Experiment: With teens!  Without leaving home!

It was a rainy Saturday and we were stuck in Seattle. My teen says, let’s take one of those trips where we don’t go anywhere. Awesome!  And she’s going to bring friends.  I felt a bit of pressure to make this a fun adventure for her and for her friends so I decided against anything overtly educational, plus I was banned from saying “museum.” I dug into my research … hmmm, what country, what country??  But, as soon as I tried to focus on any one country, I got sucked into details that I was afraid wouldn’t appeal to teens. After all, I couldn’t exactly expect them to get excited about a coloring sheet or learning 10 words in another language. Finally I came on an idea – a pan-Asia tour!

Like most trips to Asia, we started with a layover in Taipei, home of bubble tea! Read more »

Experiencing Cuba!

cars editedWe’d love to visit Cuba.  Given the obstacles, it’s not in the cards for us at the moment but we’re working on experiencing Cuba anyway.  We’ve made Cuban found, explored Cuban artists, and hosted a Cuban dinner for close friends who recently took their kids to Cuba.  We followed it all up with a Cuban family movie.  Cuba, Cuba, Cuba!

2012-12-28_18-56-49_1202012-12-28_18-38-56_155 - CopyExperiencing Cuban food was a fabulous success.  We found recipes at and assembled three into a special dinner.  The most essential element of the meal was Cuban Black Beans or Moros y Cristianos.  Black beans sound boring but these are not; they are complex and delicious.  They also sound vegetarian.  They are not.  The recipe calls for a pound of smoked ham hocks and a lot of chicken stock.  The beans take a long time to cook and they smell delicious all along the way.  They were too steamy to photograph well but perhaps the steam captures something of the essence of these delicious beans.  While the beans were cooking, I prepared an avocado mousse.  This recipe brought Read more »

Making Memories Stick: Collectables and Books

Guest Post by Nicolle in Norway

We started taking the kids on international trips when our daughter was only two and a half, and it doesn’t surprise me that now, 8 years later, she doesn’t remember much about that trip.  What did surprise me was how fast the memories can slip away, even for older children.  Along with all the other fabulous tips and tricks in Ashley and Bill’s book, I really enjoyed the suggestions for how to keep the travel experience alive after you are home.  My favorite souvenirs are those that tie to a special experience from the trip, or those that are created.


Sometimes you can stumble upon a special souvenir.  In Switzerland we found a small store that had an English version of a children’s book by a local author.  They also had a handmade doll of one of the characters. We bought both. Eight years later the doll from this town remains my daughter’s special travel companion, and the doll has traveled to every single country with us.  The doll, Florina, also started a love of handmade dolls which has been shamelessly encouraged by her mother. My daughter now has handmade dolls from Russia, Armenia and Portugal – all purchased on trips.  We keep our eyes open for new opportunities. Read more »

Postcard from Ancient Egypt

Happy National Archaeology Day!  Last year, Congress designated October 22 as National Archaeology Day and we’re celebrating with a trip to Ancient Egypt.

We started preparing for the tip back in August at the King Tut exhibit (in Seattle until January 6th).  The audio guide was well worth the extra few dollars.  In addition to information about the artifacts, the audio guide offered information about Ancient Egypt and the archaeologists who uncovered the tombs. The kid’s favorite artifacts included a box etched with cat drawings and the golden mask. We demo’d the final versions of the museum scavenger hunts for our book and I was happy to discover that they worked well.  At the gift shop, the kids had their names written in hieroglyphics for $1 – always a crowd pleaser.

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Chainsaws and Pacific Northwest History

Logging plays a tremendous role in the cultural heritage of the Pacific Northwest.  Yet, how many kids know much about the skills loggers needed or about how logging shaped the Pacific Northwest?  At the High Country Log Show in Roslyn, WA, you and your family can witness an authentic display of logging skills and equipment – strapping down logs on a big logging truck, climbing a pole 80 feet up in the air, sawing logs with supped up chainsaws, sawing logs with two person saws, splitting/stacking logs, and more.

Our family’s favorite events:  Obstacle course – loggers raced over log piles, balanced on perched logs, and knelt down to attach cables. 

Giant male/female two-person saw – one set of contestants was a father / daughter pair and the young girl appeared to be about 12 years old.

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Go Rodeo!

The rodeo in Twisp, WA held on Memorial Day and Labor Day is a family-friendly, culturally-wonderful, local event that should not be missed!  The rodeo includes real cowboy action (bull-riding, barrel racing, calf-roping), cowboy-kid events like mutton-busting (small tykes falling off sheep), and all-kid events such as rock-collecting, stick-horse racing, and chicken catching.  There is always a horse drill team as well, riding in formation and carrying flags to piped in country music.  “Scotty-so-hotty” was the rodeo clown this past Memorial Day and he brought his son into the arena to swing his lasso for the crowd whenever possible.  Sometimes you can also catch a glimpse of a rodeo princess decked out in rhinestones and flashy cowgirl boots.  It’s dusty, it’s usually sunny, it’s a cultural adventure, and it’s real entertainment at its best.

The rodeo starts at 1pm both Saturday and Sunday of both holiday weekends and runs until 4 or 5pm.  You can arrive anytime and leave anytime that’s convenient for you.  Bring a blanket and sunscreen to enjoy a view from the grassy arena steps.  Hotdogs and cold pop are sold every year.  This year there was also a homemade sno Read more »

Africa IS in our backyard!

We did find Africa in our own backyard!

Our journey began at Blue Nile, an Ethiopian restaurant on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.  I expected that my kids had eaten Ethiopian food before but I was completely wrong.  Zoey had spent a lot of time in the Enat Deli as a baby.  We were regulars back when it had only 4 small tables and baby Zoey was often whisked into the kitchen by the fabulous Ethiopian owner so Bill and I could enjoy a peaceful meal.  But, when we moved away from the Enat Deli, we hadn’t found any place as good and, without realizing it, we had stopped eating Ethiopian food at all.  Our rainy day luncheon was turning out to be more of an adventure than I had expected. Read more »