Ghost Granuaile meets Mr. Malcolm

Granuaile’s Daisy Troop had an outing to the West Deptford Library this evening, where we went to story time with Mr. Malcolm!  We’ve never seen Mr. Malcolm before, but we’re totally in love!  He was awesome – he involved every kid in the audience in his show, he was animated and funny, he did voices (even British voices!), and then they served cookies and juice afterwards.

The highlight of Granuaile’s evening was when she got to be a ghost in one of the stories!  Watch!

Go see Mr. Malcolm this weekend at the Broadway Theater in Pitman in Frankenstein’s Birthday Party – he’s fabulous!

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Thanksgiving Blessing Mix – Fun Things for Kids

Each year, my girls and I make this Thanksgiving Blessing Mix for their friends at school.  Our school makes a big deal out of Thanksgiving, with the kindergarten having their own in-class feast, and the older kids having a full fledge turkey dinner for lunch the week before the holiday, celebrated with their classmates and teachers.  It’s a wonderful way to appreciate and be thankful for being surrounded by friends, family, love, and the blessings from God.

The mix is simple, so it’s great fun for the children to do.  You can put it in any type of container to deliver it to school.  They sell adorable fall and Thanksgiving print cellophane bags (the goody bag type of bag), and you can even find Chinese take away boxes in fall patterns.

This is what you’ll need:

Thanksgiving Blessing Mix Recipe:

2 cups Bugles brand corn snacks
2 cups small pretzels (not the stick kind)
1 cup candy corn
1 cup dried fruit bits or raisins
1 cup peanuts or sunflower seeds
1 cup M&Ms
1 cup Hershey’s Kissables candy

Gently mix all ingredients together. Place about 1 cup mix into small cellophane bags. Close bag with twist tie.

Attach the following printed explanation of what the mix symbolizes:

It is so simple, and so much fun for the kids.  Make some extra, because they’ll enjoy snacking on it as much as they will enjoy handing it out to their friends!

Anna’s Tips for Cruising 4 – Excursions

To Go or Not To Go, that is the question – Excursions.  Your cruise line will give you a bunch of options with regard to the excursions they offer, and I will tell you that I go back and forth on the excursion bandwagon.  Your mileage may vary when it comes to the value of an excursion for you and your family, but here is my best advice.

If you just want to hit the beach, hit some shops, or do a quick tour of the port, you are probably better off on your own.  There are usually reliable cab services and other drivers waiting to take you to your destination – and some spots are within walking distance of your ship.  Other locations have shuttle services run by the city, town, island, or port, and it’s usually reasonably priced to hop on the shuttle to head out to see some sights (some shuttles – like in Belfast, Northern Ireland – are free to go from the ship into the city and back).

On the other hand, if you are hoping to see some of the famous sites in the areas where you are traveling, you should consider two options – a cruise line organized excursion, or finding a private tour company.

If you are going to be visiting Rome, for example, you are likely to find on your own that lines for anything you truly want to see are long.  Many group tours bought their tickets in advance, and they will just send someone to pick them up to take the group inside.  You may find that you can only access certain things during specific times of the day, and on your own, you might not know what those times are unless you’ve thoroughly researched in advance.

This was our tour guide in Rome, where we did a privately arranged tour.  Our guide was AWESOME, fabulous with the kids, and I can’t recommend him highly enough.  His name is Manilo Tranquili, and you can find him at

http://www.limousineserviceinrome.com/

It can be tricky to find a tour guide on your own that will be reliable.  it can absolutely be done (and I did it myself on our second third trip to Rome), but you have to be willing to put in the time and effort to make sure the company you are dealing with is reputable and can take you where you want to go to see the things you want to see.

I often tell people, if it’s your first time, opt for a professional (get your mind out of the gutter, people).  Book an excursion in advance with your cruise line, and be assured that you are most likely going with people who have done this before, are well organized, and if nothing else, will get you back to the ship on time!

Anna’s Tips for Cruising 3 – Free Babysitting

Free Babysitting!! This is your vacation, too, Mom and Dad, and while I know for me the temptation has always been great to want to spend the whole time with my kids, my kids are finding it much more appealing to spend time without me, despite my reminding them of the hard pregnancies and difficult deliveries I had with each of them.  If your children are over the age of 3 and potty trained (check your cruise line to confirm that the age is correct on your voyage), they are eligible to participate in the kids’ club activities aboard your ship.

Now, kids’ club activities vary not only from cruise line to cruise line, but may also vary from ship to ship and destination to destination.  If a ship anticipates very few children onboard, they tend to limit the number of hours and the activities for children.  We have never been on a ship with NO children’s activities, but I have heard that there are sailings where the number of children passengers is so low, there are no planned activities for children.

However, hands down, the best cruise line for children’s activities is the Disney Cruise Line.  This has absolutely nothing to do with my love of all things Mickey Mouse, but is rooted in pure fact.  Kids Club activities onboard the Disney ships begin early in the morning (by 8 AM usually) and last well into the night – going as late as 1 AM in many cases.  The activities include arts and crafts, character interaction, and lots of physical activity to keep the kids moving, dancing, and grooving.  My kids would check in at the earliest possible opportunity and not check out until it was time to disembark if it was up to them.  While they have enjoyed activities on other ships, the children’s activities alone almost justify the price of a Disney Cruise.  Phenomenal is the best way to describe the kids’ clubs with Disney.

Next port o’call – cruise excursion tips

Anna’s Tips for Cruising 2 – How low should you go

Another consideration when booking a cruise is what deck on the ship you’d like to be on.  As someone who comes from poor Irish stock, I have to tell you, the lower decks on a cruise ship always scared me. Visions of My People on the Titanic, stuck in steerage, unable to get to the life boats – not a good picture in my head when I’m booking a cruise.  I felt it was much better to be closer to the top of the ship, nearer the lifeboats, so that if there was an emergency, I could get there before the ship went down.  I know – not the happiest way to book a cruise.

Well, we took a recent seven day cruise, and our trip was free.  Beggars can’t be choosers, as they say, so while I was pretty upset that were were on Deck 2, there was very little I could do to complain about the location.  We joked about being lower than most of the crew members on the ship, and we were just down the hallway from the shipboard hospital, so I figured we’d be exposed on a daily basis to people walking by with typhoid fever.  But now that we’ve sailed, I have to say, it was one of the best locations we’ve ever had!  We boarded the ship, went to lunch, and were able to go to our cabins at 1:30.  By 2 o’clock, all of our luggage had arrived, and we were able to start unpacking.  This NEVER happens for us!  Usually, we are lucky to get all of our luggage in time to change for dinner.  We experienced very little rocking, despite having some moderately high seas on a couple of the days of our trip.  The rest was peaceful, and except for the occasional squeaking sounds, it was really a great cabin.

We were only a floor below most of the dining rooms, convenient to the elevators to get where we needed to go higher on the ship, and on our last night, our luggage was picked up almost as soon as we put it outside the door.  Awesome location.  So if it means saving a few dollars, making the trip more affordable, don’t hesitate to choose a lower deck – or better yet, just ask for an outside guarantee.  This guarantees you an outside cabin, but they will fill you in where they have available room.  You may get a lower deck, but you might also find yourself upgraded to a verandah cabin!

Next stop on our cruise tips – Free babysitting – !!