Monthly Archives: July 2013

Berlin 1961: A Review

Wow. I really loved this book. Berlin: 1961 by Fredrick Kempe details the establishment of the Berlin Wall. The first section offers a look into the leaders who played key rolls in the Berlin crisis. Then readers are treated to a by-by-play account of creation of the wall and the western response (or lack there of). Finally, the epilogue takes readers through a critique of Kennedy’s actions and how the aftermath of Berlin was linked to Cuba. I will say the last 1/3 of the book provides the real action! So, if you’re pressed for time, skip to the end!

In addition to the barebones facts of history, Kempe offers small vignettes offering readers a look at the real occupants of Berlin. Many of the compelling stories of escape from East Berlin are featured– and I am very interested to follow up with a book of life behind the wall. Kempe uses these stories to illustrate the heart-braking elements of the wall.

As a reader, I was left feeling that JFK really abandoned the German people and betrayed the cause of freedom through his weakness. Furthermore, I am left wondering if there would ever even had been a wall if Nixon were elected the first time.

I highly recommend this book. It provides an interesting, thoughtful, well-researched point of view of a time and place critical to the American-Soviet Cold War.

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The Marshal Family Saga: A Place Beyond Courage– A Review

A Place Beyond Courage (William Marshal, #1)A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chadwick delivers another solid historical-fiction account of the period during the English Anarchy. This time she follows the life of John Marshal a strong-willed and clever supporter of the Emperess Matilda. John Marshal is best known for two rather striking historical incidents. First, in a heated battle, he retreats to a church. His enemies set it on fire and rather than be captured, John stays in the burning building and suffers the scaring loss of one eye. Second, he is known for offering up his son William Marshal to King Stephen as a hostage. John then breaks the truce and as a results, forfeits William’s life. The soft-hearted King Stephen does not allow his followers to kill the child (and William grows up to a power force at the court of King Henry).

These two episodes define John Marshal in the eyes of history. Modern followers of the Marshal family history can’t help but wonder at what John was thinking! But, Chadwick does an excellent job of painting a strong-willed, brave, and determined man. John Marshal deals in a world of realpolitik where difficult situations require him to make even harder choices for survival.

Chadwick attempts to flesh out the emotions behind the choices and offer one potential view of John Marshal. By adding emotion to the historical narrative of John’s life readers can TRY to imagine how and why he made his famous choices.

View all my reviews

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Return of the Jedi: Mom Camp Day 16

Let me start by saying, this is my FAVORITE of all the Star Wars movies.  Now, my very first movie at the movie theater was The Empire Strikes Back (I was about 3 years old and my dad took me and had to explain the whole movie to me….) But my favorite Star Wars movies without a doubt is Return of the Jedi.  In fact, I actually recall counting down the days until it opened!  I will admit I am very American in liking this one the best– after all we have to have a happy-ending.  But, I also loved the Ewoks!

IMG_2089For our third Star Wars day we started with Ewoks, seeing as how they are in Return of the Jedi.  Plus, I also really liked them as a kid and even had one of those stuffed Ewok dolls.  Our third mom camp star wars day featured a special guest, a young friend of Cinco’s.  So we had to run to the craft store before he came over to make sure we had enough materials to make the Ewoks.  What did we purchase you ask?


We made a number of Ewoks, including their weapons and even some Ewok babies!

Baby Ewok

Baby Ewok

The Princess loved the Ewok babies.  To be honest, we sorta made the Ewoks for The Princess who felt that there were just too many boy crafts.

Sadly, our invited guest was not really digging the Ewoks.  But Cinco had a great time designing them!

Next up I tried to make the Death Star Popcorn Balls. Umm… so I tried to follow the recipe, but it calls for water and after reading the recipe about a million times I couldn’t find out how much water to put in.  So I found another Popcorn Ball recipe and made them.  I also dyed the sugar mix black with food coloring to make the popcorn ball seem more like the Death Star. None of this really helped and everyone, Cinco, The Princess, the guest and even I thought they were gross.  (You know its bad when two seven-year olds and four-year old will not eat a ball popcorn covered in sugar).  But hey, you cannot win them all, right?

The VERY best part of the night was The Captain “pretending” to use the force.  He blew over the R2-D2 paper craft from yesterday–and claimed it was the Force. And, of course the kids saw him blow it and told him he was not a JEDI.

Then he attached a string to the paper R2-D2 and pulled it toward him.  Of course, the kids figured it out again.  And, The Captain was truly sad that he couldn’t trick the kiddos.  Thank heaven they have a little more common sense than that!  Sorry, Captain!

We also played with this cool book.  Cinco did a great job making the thumb print people and The Princess had fun too.  Although, her thumb prints were a bit more like blobs…

This was our reading for the day. Not academic… but fun. And, whatever, Cinco’s reading!
Then, it was time for movie night and the finally episode: RETURN OF THE JEDI!

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Star Wars: The Emperor Strikes Back– Day 15

Today was a real third act kinda day so it fit pretty well with The Empire Strikes Back. I don’t mean to imply anything tragic occurred. It was more like a long day of chores with a little too much TV thrown in…. Give me a break, it happens.

20130709-094832.jpgSo they started off with 6-grain organic pancakes and syrup in the shape of Star Wars figures. These pancake molds were generously given to us last summer by the Captain’s aunt and we have certainly put them to good use!

Post pancakes, the chores started. We needed to get the oil changed so I pack up a bunch of Star Wars worksheets and activities. The word scramble and Wookie Word Search really kept Cinco almost the entire time. And, of course, LEGO Star Wars Mad Libs!!!

Next we had to drive Jillian to the airport… Ah the glamorous life of a she could run off to a wine and kayak trip in the Northwest.  This meant the kiddos had to spend about and 1 hour and 1/2 in the car.  But due to the wonder of  We listened to a NPR serialized version of The Empire Strikes Back in the car!

Finally back home, we got a few crafts finished! Cinco designed his own At-At Walker.  I loved the creativity!




  1. Stick one of the wine corks in the water bottle whole (you can glue if needed).
  2. Wrap the water bottle in tin foil– Now you have the At-At body.
  3. Wrap the four left over wine corks in tin foil.IMG_2072
  4. Glue the water bottle cap to the tin foiled wine cork– now you have the At-At legs.IMG_2073
  5. Glue the four “legs” onto the “body”
  6. Wrap the toothpicks in tin foil.
  7. Glue the tin foil toothpicks to the At-At Walker in the position of guns.
  8. You now have an At-At Walker by Cinco!IMG_2074

Next we made a few paper crafts.  Some simple googling turns up all kinds of cray things on the net of which you can take advantage.

Then The Empire Strikes Back and some Yoda Soda… I doctored the recipe and used lemon sorbet and green food coloring — it’s what I had on hand, but the kids were happy!

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Star Wars Episode IV: Mom Camp!

Mom Camp Day 14.  It is difficult to believe that Mom Camp has only be going for 14 days.  It feels more like 14 years.  The next few days are all about Star Wars.  Cinco loved Clone Wars and I, being a child of the 70’s, have to stay true to the originals.  (No one in the family is sticking up for Phantom Menace et al.)

Cinco and The Princess in costume for Star Wars Day, Episode I.

Cinco and The Princess in costume for Star Wars Day, Episode I.

Out of the gate we decided to make a Princess Leia headband.  You can find instructions here. IMG_2057Ours was a little different.  We used a styrofoam ball.  Chopped it in two and glued it on the headband.  Next, it was time to glue on the brown yarn. The Princess (Leia) was very excited to get her headband.  And the best part was throughout the entire process she kept calling me Amidala (because you know she’s Leia’s mom and all).

Next, we made our own Death Stars and some space fighters and even drew a sidewalk chalk Jabba the Hut. I think the PINK Death Star is very original! IMG_2087

We watched the Star Wars: A New Hope!

Then it was time for worksheets.  There is a cute set at Home School Creations.They worked really well for The Princess.

We also took some time to play Mad Libs! I always LOVED Mad Libs as a kid and Cinco and The Princess were laughing like mad… Plus, it’s a great way to work on the parts of speech without the kids realizing that they are learning something!
This was Cinco’s reading for today as well.


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It’s Angry Bird Day, Straight Down to the Undies (Mom Camp Day 13)

IMG_2035Angry Bird Day started fast with a fun cardboard tube craft.  Inspired by Crafts by Amanda we created a few birds of our own.  They are easier to make then they look–and I was working with a four and seven-year old.  If I can do it, you can too!


  • Card Board Tubes
  • Construction Paper
  • Glue Stick
  • Google Eyes (Optional)
  • Sparkle Paper (Optional)
  • Feathers (Optional)



  1. Cut the card board tubes (cut in half if you are using TP and you in either thirds or quarters for a paper towel roll.)
  2. Cut out some colored construction paper (color depends on the bird you are making).
  3. IMG_2029Cut the paper construction paper on the roll.
  4. Cut out the eyes, beaks, eyebrows and glue them on.  (You can also glue on google eyes instead, if you like.) For pigs, cut out a snout. IMG_2032If you want to make a girl bird cut out a bow (two triangles glued to a rectangle in the middle).
  5. Glue on feathers or construction paper to simulate the feathers.  For pigs, cut out the ears.

We even went so far as to design our own versions of Angry Birds and Pigs.  The Princess named her Dazzle, which is perfect!  Plus, I think she’s part of the newest game: Angry Bird-Vegas.  (Just Kidding!) IMG_2041

After all that fun, it was time to clean up so mom had to keep the kiddos occupied with a few worksheets and not so messy games!

For worksheets we turned to:

Quickly, we turned back to the fun and games with a few items I actually broke down and bought!

  • This activity book worked out really well for us. It was more than just a coloring book, because heaven knows we DO NOT NEED ANOTHER COLORING BOOK. Instead, this offers mazes, puzzles, codes, and even a simple math problem or two. What I really loved about this little book is that worked for both the 4 and 7 year-old. It offers games and puzzles with three levels of difficulty, so both kids used the book!
  •  “Play-doh” style Angry Bird kit was hit with both kids.  It comes with three cans of “doh”, two molds, and some heavy cardboard panels.  The kids were able to construct their own angry bird sets and had a blast trying to knock them down.  Plus, I really liked the consistency of the Softee dough better than “play-doh”.
  •  Cinco loved this book. Like the Star Wars Lego books, this one has pages where you have to find the right sticker and fit onto a certain page. There are also pages with scenes that your fill out with stickers. It has tons of character stickers, Darth Maul, Darth Vader, Luke, Leia, Han… It is very much like the Lego sticker books–so if you like them, you will like this.

P.S.  Here are the undies: IMG_2033

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Move Over Devil Dog, Mama’s gonna join Cirque du Soleil*

English: Flying Pigeon pose in AntiGravity® Ae...

English: Flying Pigeon pose in AntiGravity® Aerial Yoga, developed by Christopher Harrison (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Okay, not really. But I did have the chance to go with Jillian to an anti-gravity Pilates class @ Shine. What’s that you ask? Nothing-less-than the latest fitness trend sweeping the nation! But seriously, it was totally cool.

You use what is called a “hammock” (but looks a heck of like the thick ribbons that acrobatic dancers and Cirque cast members use to twist and turn in while dangling from the celling– think Pink’s Grammy Performance circa 2010).

After getting introduced to the hammock and a grabbing a yoga mat, your lovely instructor walks you through some of the tried and true Pilates moves. I hear there are also yoga classes using the hammock, but I’ve to escape my kiddos long enough to try one!!!

I was a tad skeptical about it. I mean, there are so many fad classes and everyone’s got a gimmick. But for me the true worth of the workout comes the next day when see how your body feels. I want to feel a little ache, not a can’t move my limbs felling, but I want to know my time was worth something. I am also not an “entertainment” workout woman. I put in my time at the elliptical or Bikram and I’m done. I don’t need dance steps or pop music or anything else. I don’t want to run outside and look at the world. I don’t want to meet my friends and scoot a ball over a net. I want to workout and get on with my life!

Thus, I might not be the idea candidate for anti-gravity Pilates. But, I LOVED IT. You get to hang upside down–cool! You get pretend you are as awesome as a rock star or Cirque performer–cool! You get what qualifies for me as good workout–cool!

I felt it the next day in my abs, arms and legs!! I can’t say the same thing regular Pilates (one-on-one with a trainer on the reformer– not some half-baked group mat course…)

I cannot wait for kids to get back in school so I can go again!!!

*See my Devil Dog post to understand what I mean!

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Water Work Out @ Red Mountain Spa

Even mom needs a little off time and this is never more so than when summer and Mom Camp are in full swing.  I am pretty lucky that my mom lives just down the street and I can take advantage of her excellent free babysitting and dog watching!  This time, I left the kids with grandma  for a day and The Captain for a weekend and ran off with Jillian to Red Mountain Resort in Utah.

Here of course, I must thank The Captain and my mother for making this possible!!!

Jillian and I arrived with only minutes to spare.  You see Jillian decided she wanted to take the 3:30 pm ‘water workout’ titled Off the Deep End.IMG_2007

The last time took any sort of ‘water workout’ was when I was preggo with The Princess.  I had this odd-ball notion that working out in the water would help avoid stretch marker.  The water would make my ever burgeoning belly more buoyant and cause gravity to pull down on my skin less and this would reduce stretch makes.  Of course, stretch marks are related to the quick-growing belly and genetics not gravity.  But, you know it was my nutty theory.

I lugged my preggo self down to the pool in my whale covering bathing suit. I quickly discovered it was me and the over 60 crowd doing rather pathetic jumping jacks in the pool.  

I did end up getting the stretch marks in my 8th month and decided not to rely on my crazy theories.  I went on the net to rely on other people’s crazy theories.  Low and behold, if you rub pure vitamin E oil on the area it will reduce the marks.  I am happy to say, they quickly disappeared–no thanks to the water aerobics.

The next time I encountered a ‘water workout’ was on a boutique cruise I took.  The ‘Sports Director’  (if we can call him that because  he only led water aerobics and helped guests climb the mast) held a class in the rather tiny on deck pool.  Given my preggo flirtation with a ‘water workout’, I took a pass.

All this brings us to me, Jillian, and Off Deep End. It was certainly not a geriatric ‘water workout’.  There were Pilates moves in the water and both my abs and arms had their share of action.  I can’t say I was out of breath, but I certainly got a workout.

Jillian went the next day for another aqua class while my narcoleptic self took a nap.  According to Jillian it was not as good, so I think I made the right choice.

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American Independence Day: Mom Camp Day 12

IMG_2017It’s time to celebrate the 4th of July.  This year we have visitors coming for the days leading up to the 4th so our reading, arts and crafts will be limited.  Oh well.  We have managed to read and create a few fun things for the holiday!

Let’s start with our crafts.

Revolutionary War peg dolls–including our founding father Ben Franklin!

What you need:


  1. Gather your clothespins and give them to the kids to color.  We looked at pictures of British Redcoats for inspiration.
  2. Depending of what sort of person you are making, use the glue gun to add embellishments.


*We made tall bearskin hats for the Redcoats as well.  Cut out a rectangle with rounded edges on one side. IMG_2015 Again, ring the head of the clothespins with glue and glue the flat edge to the head.  You will now have an open cone on the clothespins.  Insert a cotton ball or two (depending on how tall you want your hat to be.).  The cotton ball will make sure the bearskin hat keeps its form and doesn’t collapse.  Fold the top in on itself and glue it closed.

IMG_2019*We made “tricornered hats” by cutting out circles in black construction paper. Then you fold up two sides and ring the “head” of the clothespins with glue and slap it on.

*We also made a colonial girl.  IMG_2004Using fabric scraps we cut out a small circle and glued it onto the head of the clothespins for a bonnet.  Then we added a skirt in the same pattern.  The Princess finished her off by coloring the shirt, face and hair.

IMG_2018*American Revolutionaries can be colored in basic clothes (because most were citizen soldiers and would not have had real uniforms.)  We did add a ‘coon skin cap by cutting a piece of brown pipe cleaner in half and coiling it up.  Make sure to leave a little of the brown at the back of the cap for the tail to dangle down. We also hid them behind the trees like real colonial militia.

*Finally, Ben Franklin!  Ben Franklin CraftRip off part of the cotton ball and glue it on his head for hair.  Next, cut out a construction paper diamond and color it how ever you like!  It’s going to be Ben’s famous kite! Glue the kite to a pipe cleaner and wrap the pipe cleaner around Ben’s waist.  If you want to be really ambitious, like us– just out a key and string it on the pipe cleaner before you tie it around his waist.  You will find that the kite causes Ben not to stand up.  We fixed this by gluing him to a jar lid covered in fabric.

IMG_2016We also recycled the fairy forest into a battle field for the war!

One of our other activities was a cool internet based decoding game provided by the US Park Service Rangers. You have to figure out a revolutionary war cypher as if you were George Washington!  Cinco enjoyed it and I convinced him he was a Revolutionary war spy–Fun and educational.

The Princess also worked a neat 4th of July worksheet set provided by Gift of Curiosity.  The pack says it for kids 2 to 7 and does offer various difficulty levels on the activities (matching, mazes, which one doesn’t belong).  But it was better suited for the 4-year-old than the 7-year-old. I think it’s a little to simple for any one over 6.   But it has great graphics!


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