Travel Birthdays – without leaving home!

travel party horizontal
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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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 »

Inviting the world to stay – Part 2

Jacobo at Pikes Place market, Seattle


Eva wasn’t our first in-home travel experience.  A few years ago, we hosted a 21-year-old boy from Columbia.  He arrived in the middle of the night, looking very foreign, and clutching a bag of fast food take-out.  “Oh boy” I thought.  “What have we gotten ourselves into?”  We had to communicate by writing everything down for the first few days but we were able to communicate better by the second week.  His mother ran a restaurant so he made us a few absolutely delicious Columbian meals.  Read more »

Inviting the world to stay – Part 1

Eva carving her first pumpkin

What’s the mirror image of a trip around the world?  Hosting international guests.  You experience the trip from the other side.  International guests teach you about their culture (and also about yours).  They can expand your way of thinking, help you learn a language, introduce you to new foods, and become lifelong friends.  Sure, hosting takes time (and some money).  Why do you think there haven’t been any posts for five weeks?  But, as a host, your kids stay in school, you don’t have to buy plane tickets, deal with jetlag (much anyway), book hotel rooms, and you can keep your job.  Why not consider it?

Eva, our recent guest from Hungary flew home yesterday morning.  She was only here for five weeks and was busy training in karate much of the time.  Yet, her spark made the time fly by and she was quickly incorporated into the fabric of our family.  The first week, she started calling me “Mom” and referring to our girls as “sisters”.  At first I was taken aback … I am so not old enough to have a 23-year-old daughter.  But, I grew to love it.  Last night, she called Bill “Dad”!  She was better than a sister for our girls.  She had insight into their psyche that only everyday familiarity can extend; yet, no sibling rivalry. Read more »