Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Costumes & Candy

You may have noticed that, this year, there haven't been any posts about me sewing the girls' Halloween costumes.  This is because (1) Julia came across the dress in a toy store that dictated her costume and (2) Evelyn couldn't decide, until the last minute, what she wanted to be. We combined the purple dress Julia had found with wings, a crown and sparkly silver shoes - all things we already had at home - to transform Julia into a fairy princess.  Evelyn first wanted to be a mail carrier (couldn't find a costume in her size), and then she wanted to be a fairy godmother (but she couldn't tell me what that kind of costume would look like).  Taking a page from Julia's book, I pulled out the flower girl dress Evelyn wore in May, 2011, which still fit, and asked what kind of accessories we could put with it to make it into a costume.  We found a tiara and cape at the store, and poof!  A snow princess costume was born.

Here's the little Sunshine, showing off both her pumpkin, "Smiley," and her cute little costume.
 The girls wanted to take a wacky here it is...
 Now back to a more traditional pose with their jack-o-lanterns:
 Evelyn had a lot of fun wearing her costume - she just beamed.
 The girls headed out for trick-or-treating around 6:45 this evening.  Remembering how much candy these girls can bring home in a night, I pulled the wagon with two extra (empty) candy buckets.  Good thing I did - by the time we hit the hour-and-a-half mark, Julia didn't want to walk any more, and by the time we got home at 8:45 all FOUR candy buckets were full!
 Here's the loot!  Just like last year, they brought home about ten pounds of candy, and we will be donating at least half of it.  I think Julia got more candy than Evelyn because she kept asking for and taking more candy than Evelyn did...that little sweet-talker!

Evelyn's School Halloween Party

Even though Evelyn hasn't had school the last two days (a hurricane was supposed to come through), we were still on for the Halloween party at school this afternoon.  Here's the Snow Princess, walking back into the school after the parade outside.
 Knowing that 4-year-old Julia would be a good girl at Evelyn's school, the fairy princess tagged along.  We had extra activity sticker sheets, so she got to make one, too.
 The students were so quiet while working on the sticker and coloring sheets...I was very tempted not to do any of the other games I had planned.
 But eventually we moved on to the next activity:  the skeleton puzzle race.  I'm not sure if Evelyn's table was first because Evelyn was on that team (and she has built the puzzle several times already), or if her group was just really good at puzzles.
 The last game we played was BINGO - the kids covered up their pictures with Skittles, which were devoured after the game.  The last thing we did was eat yummy treats, and then it was already time to pack up and go home.  Another school Halloween party is in the books!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pumpkin Carving 2012

This afternoon we carved pumpkins - what else was there to do on a day with no school?  Here's Julia with her 20-pound beauty...
...and Evelyn was all ready to go with her 14-pounder.
The girls each chose a pattern online.  Julia tried to punch out her pattern along the lines, but Troy needed to help quite a bit, since Julia's punches were a little crooked.
Evelyn?  After I helped her tape down the pattern, she knew what to do.  She's a punching pro.
Smile break!
Julia's pumpkin had very thick walls.  Even though she tried to cut out her "Smiley" pattern independently, she just didn't have the strength to do it.  However, her attention span was much longer this year, and she actually sat with me the whole time I carved the pumpkin.
Evelyn's "Good Bite, Moon" pattern proved to be a bit trickier than she thought it would be.  She couldn't tell which pieces needed to stay attached to the pumpkin and which pieces needed to come out.  Evelyn carved out all of the moon, and then Troy saved the day by carving the bat and re-attaching the bat with some toothpicks.
Voila!  Evelyn's (on the left) and Julia's (on the right) pumpkins!
Even though she needed help with the bat, it's pretty impressive that Evelyn carved the entire moon by herself.  She's got pumpkin-carving skills!
Julia loves how goofy her pumpkin looks.  It makes her giggle every time she looks at it.  :)

After the Storm

The girls wanted to go down to the creek by Evelyn's school to see if the area was flooded.  It was only raining lightly this morning, and it wasn't very windy, so we headed over there.
Yup, it was flooded alright!
Usually there's so little water in the creek that you can't even see it.  Now it looks like a big lake!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday, Monday

 Due to the impending hurricane, there was no school today and Troy didn't need to go into work.  The girls watched a movie while I gave them a manicure and pedicure (Halloween colors, of course).  The girls read books together upstairs, and then all got quiet.  Evelyn came downstairs, but there was no sign of Julia.  I went up to her room, and found Julia fast asleep in her bed.  The girl hasn't taken a nap for a year and a half!

 I woke up Julia at 4:00, and then all four of us played a round of Sorry.  While playing the board game, the doorbell was the mailman with a package for Julia and Evelyn!  Grandma Linda sent a Halloween box with stickers, candy and glow-in-the-dark toys.  It was definitely a pleasant surprise on a rainy day.
Shortly after playing games, we made and ate supper while we still had power.  The wind really started to pick up around 6:30 pm, so we rushed the girls through their shower/bath while the lights were still on.  The lights did flicker once, when we saw a greenish glow in the sky (aka a transformer blowing up...).  Here's the wind forecast for tonight - doesn't look nearly as good as the weather in Omaha at the bottom of the screen.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Impending Hurricane

We have been watching this hurricane since last Wednesday.  At one time it was predicted to hit the Delmarva peninsula, but the projected path has since moved farther north.  Over the next two days, we are forecast to receive about six inches of rain and steady, strong winds of about 35 mph. We all have our fingers crossed that we don't lose power.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Kids' Halloween Party

We hosted our fifth kids' Halloween party this evening.  I recruited the girls to help set up the first activity - coloring pages in the living room.  Julia and Evelyn also helped decorate with balloons and streamers.
We took advantage of the park across the street for our next activity - the bone hunt.  We hid about 20 plastic bones in the park, and the kids ran around and found them.  Quite honestly, I think they could have played at the park until it got dark, but I didn't want to risk anyone's costume getting ruined, so we headed back to the house.
Once back inside, I read a picture book, and then everyone broke off into teams to do a puzzle race.  Each team had to put two puzzles together, and Evelyn's team (pictured below) was the first to finish.  Winner!
After eating supper, we did the ever-popular cupcake walk, which I also call the kids "working to earn their dessert."  This year I let the kids frost and decorate their own cupcakes.  Thank goodness the weather was conducive to being outside - it didn't matter if the kids made a mess on the deck!
The last activity of the evening was making crafts.  The kids made spooky door hangers and festive pumpkins.  All 14 kiddos had a blast this evening, and we thoroughly enjoyed hosting!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Shenandoah National Park - Day 2

After spending last night in Luray, we headed back into Shenandoah National Park for more exploring.  Our first pit-stop was at the tunnel.  The tunnel was made about 80 years ago, before this was a national park.  The morning sun really lights up the yellow trees in the background.
 The girls have been working on their Shenandoah National Park Junior Ranger Badges this weekend.  In addition to completing several activities in their Junior Ranger explorer notebooks, they also needed to attend two ranger programs.  We met up with a ranger at the Stony Man trail at 10:00 sharp, and we were led on a very informative trek to the top of the mountain.  Here's Julia, observing different kinds of evergreen tree needles.
 The peak of Stony Man is 4,010 feet, which is the second-highest peak in the park.  Not only is it stony at the top of this mountain, but when you look at a profile of the mountain, it looks like a man's head (the profile picture is coming up).  This 1.6-mile round-trip hike sapped all of Julia's energy...which also made us realize she isn't much of a morning hiker (see Exhibit A - yesterday morning's hike).
 This is one of Troy's favorite scenic pictures, taken from the top of Stony Man.  The red trees really pop in this area.
 Here's the profile of Stony Man.  Use your imagination, and it looks like a reclining man's face.  Look closely for the eyeball socket, nose and bearded chin. We were standing on his forehead when we took the previous two pictures.
 After lunch at Skyland, which we highly recommend, and stopping here and there, including a ranger program about black bears, we made it to the northern-most visitor center, Dickey Ridge.  By this point, the girls had completed twelve activities in their Junior Ranger books, and they had attended two ranger programs.  The girls showed their completed books to a ranger at the visitor center, made a promise to protect national parks, and got their hard-earned Junior Ranger badges.  Julia and Evelyn proudly wore their badges on our last hike through the park, the one-mile round-trip Fox Hollow trail.  Hopefully we can return to Shenandoah National Park someday to explore even more trails.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Shenandoah National Park - Day 1

This morning we headed to the southern entrance of Shenandoah National Park.  This park has been on Troy's bucket-list for quite awhile, and he particularly wanted to go in the fall to see the the autumn foliage.
 We went on three hikes today, the first being Turk Gap.  This hike is a little over two miles round-trip, and it takes you to the top of Turk Mountain.  Our littlest hiker was complaining quite a bit, so we turned around and headed back before reaching the end of the trail.  That's okay, though, because we were all getting hungry, too.
 We stopped at several overlooks as we drove north.  At this stop, Troy and Evelyn saw some birds flying around - I took out my camera and zoomed waaaaaaaay out to see what kind of birds they were.  Look closely in the picture below, and you'll see a bluebird perched on the big branch (we were told bluebirds are an unusual sighting in the park).
 Our second hike of the day was the Black Rock Summit trail.  This was a short (0.8-mile round-trip) hike to an outcropping of black lava rock.  Once at the summit, we carefully walked around the top, checking out the unique rocks.
 While the fall color was beautiful, it wasn't as vibrant as we thought it would be.  This is because of two reasons:  the peak of color came about two weeks early this year; and a major thunderstorm rolled through the area two days ago, stripping some of the trees of their leaves.  Still, each overlook provided amazing views of the golden peaks and valleys.
 Our last hike of the day was a 1.4-mile (round-trip) hike to 70-foot Dark Hollow Falls.  The hike to the falls was a piece of cake because it was all downhill.
You have to look very closely at the picture below to find Julia and me.  Troy and Evelyn were at the bottom of the waterfalls (where Troy took this picture), and Julia and I are at the very top.  There's a clearing at the top, in the middle of the picture, and that's where we are; if it helps, I'm wearing a hot-pink vest, and Julia is wearing a lavender jacket.  Anyway, the hike back to the top wasn't as painful as we thought it would be, mostly because Julia was a happy hiker.
 Here's one last picture from our first day in the park.  The setting sun made the mountains look like they were on fire.  Julia is standing in front of the sign of the mountain we plan to hike tomorrow morning.  See you at Stony Man!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Jefferson's Monticello

Troy and Evelyn have been waiting and waiting for this day to arrive...the day we visit Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.  When we got to the Monticello visitors' area, we watched a 15-minute film that gave us a little background on both Jefferson and his property (most of which Troy and Evelyn already knew from books they have read).  Then we grabbed a bite to eat at the cafeteria before taking the shuttle to the top of the little mountain.  We were a bit early for our house tour, so we had a chance to walk around outside.  In the picture below, Julia and Evelyn are on the back porch (the west side of the house).
 Evelyn especially liked walking around the grounds, the very place where Thomas Jefferson had once walked.  It was surreal for her to see, first-hand, the place she had been reading about.
 I love this reflection of the house in the fish pool.  The fish pool was for holding fish that had been caught from the river until it was time to clean, cook and eat them - you can't get any fresher than that!
 We went on the 1:30 house tour, which started at the front (east side) of the house.  The tour started outside, where Evelyn pointed out the clock in the wall - this clock has two faces, one on the inside and one on the outside.  Very innovative!
 Our tour meandered through the first floor of the house, where Evelyn saw even more things she had read and learned about, including Jefferson's copy machine.  The tour ended on the northwest side of the house, where Julia sat and pondered all the things she had learned.
 Next, we went on the outdoor Gardens and Grounds Tour.  There was SO much crammed into this 45-minute tour!  I don't remember the name of the flowers in the picture below, but Evelyn called the pink painted tips.
Even though we were at Monticello for almost six hours, we didn't have time to see and do everything.  We would have loved to come back for a second day and go on another house tour, the Behind the Scenes Tour, which takes you upstairs to the second and third floors.  Maybe someday we'll return.