Tuesday, September 23, 2014

“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our family loves adventure. And we love to travel. We have kind of unofficially adopted Emerson’s quote as our family motto. We are blessed to have had opportunities to travel. And when we travel, we love to get outdoors as much as possible. We are a camping, hiking, exploring kind of family.
When we camp, hike, and explore, we find ourselves in national parks. Just this past summer, we visited three national parks, two national monuments, and one national military park. So, it was really no surprise when our son announced that he wanted the theme of his upcoming birthday party to be about national parks.
Theme parties are fun, but my philosophy is that they shouldn’t be stressful. I want to have as much fun as my son at his party (as opposed to being stressed out about getting the party together).  My style of party planning is fairly laid back. I gather items we already own, make easy and thematic snacks, and plan a couple of fun activities. This party was no different.
For the National Park Service cake, I made a chocolate chip cookie cake. After it was baked, I cut it into the shape of the NPS emblem, then iced and decorated it to mimic that emblem. This was fairly easy and became the focal point of the table.
Other snacks included Buffalo Chips (no-bake chocolate cookies) and popcorn.

Since water is a must when hiking in national parks, cold bottles of water were the beverage of the day (it doesn’t get much easier than that).

The table was decorated with items we already owned, most of which were souvenirs from recent trips to national parks. We used stuffed animals, Junior Ranger badges, maps, wildlife signs, postcards and books.

The activities at the party centered around what you might do if you were at a national park. Since most of what you do at national parks is done outside, we set up the party on our back porch. We also set up a tent. Before the party, we asked each participant to bring a backpack and a pair of binoculars.

My husband talked to the boys about reading maps and using a compass while hiking. 

Then, he led them on a short hike in a nearby group of trees. They watched for wildlife (saw a snake), observed plant life, and looked for interesting items along the trail. Many of the boys picked up items and brought them back in their backpacks.

After eating goodies and opening gifts, the boys (as all boys in Alabama do any time they gather) played some two-hand-touch football.

Need more activities for your NPS party?
Try making a geyser (like Old Faithful) using Mentos and Diet Coke.
Play Rattlesnake Tag.
Printables and coloring pages for NPS can be found here.

One blogger posts about a similar themed party: Junior Ranger Party.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Bad Weather, Good Times

What a doozey of a trip across the pond we have had. From an 8-hour flight with no a/c to accidentally falling asleep in the Muslim airline terminal during our 4-hour layover, I can honestly say I have more than once wished I had stayed home. It has been a number of years since I have been the passenger on a flight long enough to include a meal (one could safely question if it really was a meal) and, true-to-form, I found myself wondering just how many hands had touched my salad, how far in advanced was it prepared, and where exactly was it kept anyway? Is it really possibly to keep things sanitary 37,000 feet above the ground? I mean, sanitation (or lack thereof) was the motivating factor behind my successful determination to avoid the in-flight lavatory. Disgusting. Traveling as a party-of-90 is not without struggle - patience topping the list of mountains to overcome. Largely the reason I'm laying low this morning and enjoying my room at the Haydn Hotel. 

We arrived Sunday evening, a little worse for wear, to pouring rain (curse you, weatherchannel.com, for telling us we would be the lucky participants of a 75-degree, sunny climate) and no umbrella. Only one closed-toe pair of shoes in my bag - even these were thrown in last minute - and thankfully a sweatshirt and jacket made it's way into my carry on as the 57 degrees I spent all of yesterday with became the most ill-loved companion thus far. Fashion be gone - a girl has got to stay warm. It's noon on Tuesday as I type, though it feels like I should be sleeping as most of you probably are. The ballet rehearsal yesterday was beautiful and after snapping quite a few shots in the the a.m, I snuck away in the afternoon for an amazing wine tasting at a local vineyard. The enchanting history behind the family-owned vineyard left me wanting to spend an entire summer here learning the process and working among the vines with the fifth generation owner, Eva Wagner, who appears to be about the same age as myself. All things handmade and artisan by nature have appealed to me for as long as I can remember so it shouldn't be surprising that I would want to learn wine-making. 

I don't have have the ability at this time to pull any photos from my camera so I am forced to share only iPad/iPhone pics for now. Thanks for following along!