Kids

A Game Plan to Make Chores Fun for Kids

Posted by Frederick Parker on

Oh, those dreaded chores. We don’t like them, and we sure don’t expect our children to like them, but since they
have to be done, why not try and make a game out of it? First, start referring to the chores or housework as projects. Also, I have noticed if I tell my kids at least a few hours in advance about upcoming projects they handle it better because they are mentally prepared. Also, tell them its going to be a lot more fun this time, and explain how it will work (as you will see in the scenario below).

Children love to pretend they are grown up, so this is the perfect opportunity to tell them you will be playing a “grown up” game. For this game, you will be assigning executive titles such as a Creative Director and a Project Manager. If you have more than two children, you can either have multiple directors and managers, or you can split it up per chore. Be sure to tell them the CEO (a.k.a. Parent) has the right to override any unfair decisions.

The Creative Director will make a plan for the project and can decide the order things are done as well as evenly
delegating responsibilities. The Project Manager can handle problems, review the results upon completion and give recommendations. Either way, each child still contributes to the chores, but this way they are given an extra
grown up responsibility for the project. It helps children get into their respective roles if you give each of them a clipboard to record their plans, sketches, notes, etc.

The Scenario:

It’s time to clean the bathrooms so my daughter will be the Creative Director. Therefore, she will decide which bathroom is cleaned first and who cleans what. She will be able to pick out which towels and cleaning products we’ll use and gives recommendations for the order of how things should be done. She sometimes draws a sketch or makes an outline detailing her plan for the success of this project.

At the same time, my son will be the Project Manager. While he doesn’t have a lot of work to do up front, he knows he has some big, executive responsibilities on his shoulders. He will be the one who makes sure we have everything we need and prepares for and handles any problems that might occur. He also does the final walk through reporting on what was done successfully and what needs a little more work.

While all this is going on, I am assisting in helping the project become a success. I’m there for questions and to help them as needed.

This has worked for years at hour house, and my kids love it. I have found if we respect our kids by giving them
such prestigious titles and jobs, they will surpass our expectations and best of all the chores will be done without any struggles. Plus, it’s just plain fun!

 

News

Idaho City, Idaho Can Be a Fun and Cheap Family Vacation Destination

Posted by Frederick Parker on

For many families around the country, vacation plans are being seriously affected by the soaring costs of gas. For a family planning any type of road trip, the portion of the budget set aside for fuel costs must be nearly double what they would have been just a year ago. This means there is significantly less money left over for visits to amusement parks or family resorts. Finding an inexpensive alternative to the more traditional vacation destinations, could mean the difference between whether or not a family is able to take a vacation at all. Add some educational benefit to that vacation, and your next family trip could be even better!

The state of Idaho is home to many locations which offer both an inexpensive and an educational destination to a family on vacation. One of these locations is the historical town of Idaho City. Idaho City is one of Idaho's oldest towns, and although it is commonly thought of as a "ghost town" today, this tiny town is home to approximately 500 residents. Many of the original structures still stand including homes, businesses, and even a courthouse that is still used. Many of these businesses and historical buildings are open to the public, making Idaho City a very educational place for a family to explore. Idaho City is also an incredibly inexpensive family vacation destination, as there is no admission price charged to enter the town or any of its historical buildings.

Take a leisurely self-guided tour up and down the streets of Idaho City, exploring the structures -many of which were built during the mid to late 1800's. Idaho City was a gold rush town that got its start while the Civil War raged in the Eastern Portion of the country. Choosing a visit to this inexpensive and educational destination is like taking a step back in time. Walking up and down the tiny streets makes it possible for visitors to really imagine what this boom town was like more than 100 years ago. Don't forget to make your way up to Pioneer Cemetery, a truly historical site, with many graves dating back to the time of the Civil War. Walking through Pioneer Cemetery offers an educational experience not easily found in many parts of the country, and is as inexpensive as it gets, as there is no admission fee.

There are restaurants and a hotel in Idaho City. Although if your vacation budget is really tight, there are campgrounds very close by. These are primitive campgrounds, charging only a very small fee (well under $20 per night).

Getting to Idaho City is easy. From Boise, take Highway 21 East for approximately 35 miles. This is a beautiful mountain drive, complete with a gently flowing river and occasional glimpses of local wildlife. This is a very well maintained highway.

For more details and contact information about this inexpensive and educational family vacation destination, check out Idaho City's Chamber of Commerce website.

 

Travel

Big Fun on a Small Budget – Hartford, CT

Posted by Frederick Parker on
Big Fun on a Small Budget – Hartford, CT

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I travel in the U.S. quite a lot and when I travel, it’s on the cheap. There aren’t a lot of free things to do, but you might be surprised to find that a lot of fun things are not real pricey. I did find Hartford to be a very easy city to get around in (and I’ve been lost in a lot of cities in the world). We ran a map quest of the places we wanted to visit before leaving home. The streets were well marked and the highway on and off ramps were easy to find. Here are my suggestions of things to do on the cheap.

Bushnell Park is the biggest park in the city, in fact among the oldest in the country. Brownstone Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch was dedicated in 1886. There is a fancy, old (1914) carousel located here ($1 per ride). This is a good picnic stop if you need to slow things down a bit.

Elizabeth Park is the 3rd largest rose garden in the country (15,000 flowers). Try to see this in the spring or early summer.

Riverfront Park has shopping and boats and a nice walkway.

Hartford Star – free downtown shuttle

Connecticut Fire Museum and Connecticut Trolley Museum are in East Windsor just a few miles from the airport. $7 covers both places including a 3 mile ride on a trolley car.

**New England Air Museum – 10:00 – 5:00 – $9.00 (AAA discount) (open every day) is an absolute for airplane buffs. It is located on the north end of Bradley Airport about 7 miles down the perimeter road. The museum occupies 3 buildings of about 75,000 sq ft plus outside displays. There are sections on Military history and aircraft, women in aviation, the Tuskegee Airmen, the history of civilian aircraft and a lot of interactive displays. Allow between 1 ½ and 3 hours for this one.

***Mark Twain House – 9:30 – 5:30 – $16.00 is (as far as I’m concerned) a must see for anyone at all interested in history, architecture, or literature. There is a large museum with an introductory film and a room full of displays. I learned a lot of interesting facts about Mark Twain (Samuel Clemmons). He was born in Hannibal, MO, and that is where the Huck Finn and Mark Twain stories took place, but this house in Hartford is where he wrote those and several other stories. The mansion itself is pretty amazing from an architectural view point (especially considering the time period).

**Harriett Beecher Stowe Center- 9:30 – 4:30 – $8.00 is right next door to Mark Twain’s house. (These are downtown, just off I84). Interestingly, they were neighbors and knew each other. If you’re doing the one and have extra time, you should do Harriett’s place, but of the two, this one rates slightly lower on my list of must dos. Harriett’s whole family was very influential in their time. She wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and according to President Lincoln, was the “little lady who started this Great War”.

If you have more than one day you really should drive to:

***Mystic Seaport – 9 – 5, every day – $16.00. This was about an hour and 15 minute drive south east from Hartford. The town of Mystic actually has a ton of stuff to do: Nature Center, Aquarium, Arboretum, Essex Steam Train and River Boat, and lots of lighthouses. We, however, did only the Seaport Whaling Village and that took us several hours. There is a preservation shipyard where you can watch ships being rebuilt and a village where you can watch craftsmen at work. You can go onboard several ships, and just imagine the conditions endured while sailing the oceans in these craft. They have some excellent museums with rotating special exhibits including “Black Hands, Blue Seas” about black sailors. The wind off the water was wicked cold and there was a lot of walking (or in my case a lot of wheelchair riding – they rent wheelchairs and are very accessible). The guides were very informative and the village was very interesting. There is an excellent seafood restaurant also or you can buy snacks at the souvenir shop. Of course, while we were near the coast, we had to take a little drive t check out a local beach which was very nice (and free I might add).

Hartford is only one of many great destinations that can be explored and enjoyed on a beer budget. As always, research your hotels ahead of time and call the hotel direct for reservations. If it’s a slow time of year, I can often save $20 per night this way. Fill up on your free continental breakfast at the hotel and buy snacks at a local grocery store. Dinner for us is always a local specialty – in this case New England clam chowder and seafood. Enjoy Hartford’s attractions whether your interests are in history, aviation, literature, or just good travel with new things to experience.

 

News

Have Fun at the Sochi Olympics

Posted by Frederick Parker on

Sochi has been called the Russian Riviera. It is a bustling city adjacent to a sweeping rocky coastline. The Winter Olympics comes during the off-season, so visitors should find travel acceptable in and around the city. Although there is plenty to do in the Olympic Park, those looking to take a break from the Olympic festivities should find many enjoyable activities available with few crowds.

During your stay, you don't want to miss the cultural program that Russia has assembled.

The cultural program highlights the variety of Russian art, music and dance representing eighty-three regions in six separate locationa.

What to Do

The central event of the Games Cultural program is the Winter Arts Festival, which takes place February 6-20 in Sochi.

The Gala Concert will take place in the Zimny Theater and will highlight leading soloists of the Russian Ballet and performances by the State Ensemble of National Dance.

The Exhibition of the Russian Regions allow guests to view the ethnic and cultural diversity of Russia.

At the heart of the Olympic Park, you will find the Medals Plaza. Here, from 1pm – 5pm, spectators can watch live video feeds from Olympic events. Starting a 7pm, the evening show of Russian performers, followed by the Awards Ceremony and a headliners concert. Get there early, as crowds of 20000 are expected nightly.

During the day, spectators can take a break from the Olympic views and enjoy the Theme Park located within the Olympic Park complete with two roller coasters.

If traveling with young children, you may want to visit the Residence of Drd Moroz (the Russian Santa Clause). His house is expected to be a major attraction for the youngest spectators.

Customs

Sochi is a smoke-free city. All Olympic venues and public gathering places are also smoke-free except within the designated smoking areas.

Excessive noisemakers are prohibited, including vuvuzelas.

The U.S. State Department reminds Olympic spectators that Russian Federal law allows the monitoring, retention and analysis of all data that crosses Russian communication networks. This includes Internet browsing, email messaging and telephone class.

Even though it is cold outside, remove your gloves to shake hands in Russia. If not you will be considered rude.

The Russians believe that one should give only odd numbered flowers during happy times, so skip the dozen roses.

Whistling inside is considered a curse of poverty to everyone around you.

If you drink while in Russia, do as the locals do and give a toast, "za vas (to you)."

Enjoy partaking in all Sochi has to offer. Whether it is watching an event or riding a rollercoaster, here's za vas!

 

News

Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich; Another Fun Adventure with Stephanie and the Gang!

Posted by Frederick Parker on

Lean Mean Thirteen is the thirteenth book in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. I am a faithful fan of the series, even though it really is not what it used to be.

I remember the days when I would frantically search for the next book in the series days before it was set to be released in hopes that some over eager store clerk would make a mistake and put up the display early. I didn’t do that this year, mainly because I was going to a Janet Evanovich book signing and had to buy the book there in order to get it signed. But, also because I just wasn’t as excited this year as I have been in the past. I’d just really gotten worn out by the repetitiveness of the series. I mean, seriously, how many cars can one person destroy in a lifetime?

A brief history of the series for those who have not read it. Stephanie Plum is a Trenton, N.J. Bounty Hunter. She’s a bit bumbling and always gets herself in to a mess of trouble, but she’s also smart, sassy, funny, and doesn’t take much garbage from anyone.

Stephanie and her partner in crime, Lula, the bonds office’s file clerk, spend their days and sometimes nights chasing down skips and the rest of the time Stephanie bounces between the two men in her life, Carlos “Ranger” Manoso and Joe Morelli. Steph and Morelli have been on again off again since high school, and Steph met Ranger when he was a full time bounty hunter. Now Ranger owns his own a security company and only picks up high bond skips, like; murderers, rapists, drug lords, dirty politicians. Stephanie and Morelli are usually in couple status, but her feelings for Ranger seem to increase with each book. There are excellent supporting characters in addition to Lula, Ranger, and Joe. Stephanie’s grandmother most notably who often steals the show all on her own.

LMT has Stephanie, Ranger, and Joe frantically searching for the answer to Steph’s ex-husband, Dickie’s disappearance. It seems that Dickie and his law partners may have been involved in some shady dealings, and when Dickie comes up missing, Stephanie is suspect numero uno. Of course, everyone at Dickie’s office saw Stephanie lose her cool with him just hours before his disappearance, so the accusations are not terribly far fetched.

Eventually Stephanie and Ranger discover more dirty dealings than they ever expected to find, but unfortunately none of the discoveries lead to proof of Steph’s innocence. Joe insists she not worry, but Stephanie Plum accused of murder is not a formula that equals no worry. Joe is also being secretive and distant about his current case which doesn’t help Stephanie’s overall calmness factor. When Joe takes off in the middle of the night after a call from the station, Stephanie ends up not seeing or hearing from him for days, and the few times they talk on the phone, he’s grumpy, which has Steph a bit put off and more than curious. When she finally finds out what he’s up to, things start to come together.

Lean Mean Thirteen was not my favorite book of the series, but it was certainly not my least favorite. There were not nearly as many laugh out loud funny moments as other Plums books, but there were many times that I chuckled. There is one in particular scene with Lula losing her cool over a situation with her current honey, Tank that is quite hysterical. Stephanie and Lula also have a few scenes with one of Stephanie’s FTAs, a taxidermist which involves exploding rodents which made me laugh more than once.

Anyone who reads this series knows that one of the most important and often frustrating parts of the story is the triangle with Ranger, Stephanie, and Joe. Joe is her “boyfriend”, but there is a strong attraction between Steph and Ranger that often crosses the line of inappropriate. Fans of the series hold their breaths each year waiting to see which guy will play the bigger role in Stephanie’s heart in the latest book. In the last book, Twelve Sharp, Stephanie took a big step and told Joe she loved him. Of course, after twelve books that span at least five years, the declaration was ridiculously overdue, but let’s not go there. Stephanie finally said it and probably had Morelli fans all over the world fist punching the air saying “YES”!

In Lean Mean Thirteen, Stephanie seems to have settled in to a more committed relationship with Joe, but there is still that not so underlying thing between her and Ranger, which for me, a die hard Morelli fan, was extremely frustrating.

During the days of Joe’s MIA status, Stephanie spends a lot of time with Ranger. Granted, it’s all in the name of business, as they are searching for clues to Dickie’s disappearance and for ways to clear her name of his murder, but regardless, it was still a bit too close for comfort. Joe enlists Ranger’s help in protecting Stephanie from the bad guys, but he most assuredly did not mean Steph should move in to Ranger’s house, which is precisely what she does.

I am a big fan of Joe Morelli and want desperately for him and Stephanie to find happily ever after together. Because Janet Evanovich has said Stephanie will not choose between the men until the last book of the series, I know I have some waiting to do. It seems that all arrows point to my desired conclusion, but I wish at this point, Stephanie had more strength when it came to standing up to Ranger and telling him to take a hike. She’s much better at it, but it’s obvious her heart’s not always in it. Maybe not sleeping at his house and not wearing his clothing would be a step in the right direction?

One of the things I enjoyed about this book was that in all other areas of Stephanie’s life, she really seems to be maturing and growing up. She is not as bumbling as usual, and although she’ll never win Bounty Hunter of the year, she’s come in to her own as far as her job and could almost be considered good at it.

Lula and Grandma Mazur were around frequently, which is always a bonus, and we had two Plum dinners to enjoy, one with Ranger in attendance and one with Joe. It’s always fun when Stephanie’s family sits down to the dinner table. The possibilities for humor are endless.

Overall, Lean Mean Thirteen was a light, fun read. It did not have the comedy or the depth of previous books, and there were things about it that made me think it might be time for Stephanie to hang up her handcuffs, don that wedding dress and walk off with Morelli in to the sunset. But, I’m sure when next June rolls around, I’ll be happy Janet didn’t take my advice.