Category Archives: Mom Camp 2013

These are posts related to the exciting happening from mom camp!

One for the Die Hard Philip K. Dick Readers

The Man in the High CastleThe Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Allow to begin by saying I love Philip K. Dick as an author. He is responsible for some really thought-provoking works of literary art. He is the author of some true sci-fi classics such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and even some of his lesser known short stories are wonderful. Now before you attack me for only pointing out his famous works, I have read a number of his lesser known stories…

Dick, however, is also a very prolific writer. He seems to have a pretty good number of both AMAZINGLY OUT OF THIS WORLD creations and so-so stories. For me, The Man in the High Castle is one of his more mediocre works.

I first took up The Man in the High Castle because of the upcoming Amazon series based on the work. I loved the pilot, as did many other people across the internet world.

The book does offer the typical otherworldlyness of Dick’s novels. And, he plays on his themes about the nature of reality. In some ways, his themes are more accessible because he grapples with the idea using the backdrop of post-WWII America. Although the Axis Powers have won the war, Dick is not transporting readers to another planet or even to thousands of years in the future. Perhaps that is what falls short for me. I never felt truly captive to the alternate universes Dick creates in many of his stories.

I still love Philip K. Dick and his a Grand-Daddy in Sci-Fi literature. But for me, the book was not on par with some of his other great works.

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Happy Haunted Halloween Countdown…


One of my favorite creepy countdown boxes.

Nevada! You have to LOVE a state that joined the Union in the middle of the Civil War on Halloween!!!!  As you can see, we Nevadans take Halloween very seriously.  In fact, it’s a state HOLIDAY!!!!

Years ago at Pottery Barn Kids, I saw this really neat Halloween Countdown Calendar.  Really, I should have bought it.  It was a wooden haunted house with little doors and windows that opened so you could stuff treasures and/or candy inside to countdown the days until Halloween.  I was being cheap at the time and decided to pass it by.  BIG mistake, because all these years later, I am still dreaming of it.

I started searching the Net for something similar and really did not hit on anything that I really liked.  Or sure, they had a few items on Etsy and I did look at this year’s Pottery Barn Calendar (but it was fabric and you just move a little a pumpkin or ghost or some such thing to a new pocket each day).

IMG_2560Now to make our own!  Cinco and the Princess were immediately up for the challenge.  They LOVE to find old junk and try to make it into a craft.  Our first stop was Michael’s to see what we could get in the way of decorative items and or boxes to put our Halloween treats in.  I looked up DIY Christmas advent calendars to get some ideas. Several were very elaborate and well beyond our skill levels.  But, one suggested getting little wedding party favor boxes and stuffing those.  I liked this idea and was going to act on it.  But, then Queen Gram intervened.

Thank goodness we brought Queen Gram with us to the store because she found my new favorite toy a box maker!   IMG_2527Okay, super crafters may already know about this. But, I just found out about it and I LOVE IT.  We were able to make boxes in several sizes using some fun, decorative Halloween paper!

A few of my favorite boxes included:

Love the Creepy Google Eye and the Mummy coming out of the zeros!!!


Haunted House designed by Cinco!

Then we took the cardbox pallet from a case of water and decorated it to look like a haunted house.

With some cool embelishments, black paper and a white colored pencil we made our own nifty haunted house countdown calendar.

I , of course, filled the treat boxes.IMG_2531

Some with candy, some with toys, some with spooky junk.  Now, we are just waiting for October to hurry up and get here!!!!!

And, of course, I am already thinking all about making another one for Christmas and maybe even a New Year’s Eve countdown!  Oh what fun.

The Princess decorated the horizontal portion ans was obessed with the bone letters!

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An Okay Read If You Are Trapped in a Snow Storm….

The ExpatsThe Expats by Chris Pavone
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received this at my book club’s annual holiday book exchange party. Everyone brings a book and we do a White Elephant exchange or as some people call it a Yankee Swap. Chris Pavone’s novel is one of two books I got my hands on.

The basic plot pretty simple… a woman working in the CIA quits her job and moves to Europe when her husband lands a job overseas. She has been lying to him about her job with the CIA for their entire marriage. Pretty soon she’s a little bored simply taking care of the kids and traveling all over Europe (how this can be I have no idea… haha) and she starts to believe some other American expats seem to be hiding something. That’s as far as I will go with the story line encase you actually plan to read the book.

For me, there was really nothing special about the book. The writing was okay, the story was okay. If you are bored on the plane or at the beach or trapped with nothing to do in snow storm I suppose the book will help you pass the time. But, there are so many other things to read out there…. I say just skip it.

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The Ludwig ConspiracyThe Ludwig Conspiracy by Oliver Pötzsch
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Potzsch’s The Ludwig Conspiracy seems to be a rather poor Northern European version of the Da Vinci Code. In his novel, a book seller and a young art detective roam through the castles of Bavarian King Ludwig II looking for clues to solve a hidden puzzle. The primary sleuthing revolves around the mysterious death of Ludwig II.

I was unaware of the strange and inconsistent circumstances surrounding his death. While the odd ‘facts’ of the case do lend themselves to a mystery novel something in Potzsch’s execution of the story is lacking. The book so closely mirrors Da Vinci Code in so many ways that it is a distraction to paying to attention to Potzsch’s plot. To be fair— I enjoyed the Da Vinci code for what it was worth— but I was not among its major fans! So for me, a weaker version of the story was a little painful.

Additionally, and I do not fault the author for this, the dialog came across as rather stilted. Something about the cadence of the speech was off putting. I am going to give the author the benefit of the doubt and attribute this to the translation. Perhaps, it was better in the original.

Finally, I really did enjoy Potzsch’s Hangman’s Daughter series and plan to read his upcoming release in October .

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Last Train to IstanbulLast Train to Istanbul by Ayşe Kulin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ayse Kulin’s book is an intriguing book about the troubles facing a Turkish family during the early days of WWII. Unlike many daughters of an aging Turkish pasha, Selva and Sebiha, choose different life paths to create the setting for this story.

Selva falls in love with a Turkish Jew. Her father is shamed and embarrassed by her choice. His unwillingness to accept her Jewish husband causes Selva and her husband to move to France.

Sebiha does exactly was is expected of her and marries a promising Turkish government official. She has one child and finds her self depressed and lonely. Sebiha soon makes friends with one her husband’s co-workers, Tarik.

All the while, Turkey is trying to avoid entering the war either for or against Germany. Tarik is posted in France and makes contact with Selva.

Through Sebiha’s friendship with Tarik, Selva encourages the Turkish consulate to issue “papers” to other Jews. Soon the Turkish consulate creates a plan to transport hundreds of Turkish and non-Turkish Jews out of Nazi occupied France.

Will the Turkish Jews make out of France? Will Selva finally be accepted by her father?

The emotions run high in this well written and compelling story of one family’s challenge during the war.

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One Summer: America, 1927One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Hmmmm…. I know I am going to get into a lot of trouble for this review from Bill Bryson fans…BUT, I simply did not love the book. I am not sure if it’s because I expected more out of him or if the book simply did not click with me. Whatever it was, I sort of wish I had not wasted my time or money. So what were the issues I had with book?

1. I get the feeling Bryson really wanted to do a book on Charles Lindbergh, rather than the Summer of 1927. A LARGE portion of the book is devoted to aviation and Lindbergh’s flight and subsequent celebrity. Too much of the book in my opinion. That might have been the biggest thing to happen that summer… but it simply got to be too much. I feel as if the book was something of a bait and switch– if was going to be a long tale of Lindbergh Bryson should have just said at the outset.

2. I did not care for Bryson’s treatment of President Calvin Coolidge. His tone and disrespect for MY FAVORITE president was truly unfair. He presents Coolidge as something of a simpleton, when that is far from the case. Further more, he does not defend his depiction of Coolidge with hard facts. Rather he treats him as a fool without backing it up.

3. I am not sure that Bryson made his case as to WHY this was a critical summer in American history. He did a nice job explaining the summer and Lindbergh’s success spurred the American airline industry. But, this conclusion does not come until the afterword. Other than that, I am not sure that Byrson really closed the loop on WHY this summer mattered more than say 1926 or 1928. And, again he should have simply written a book on aviation.

All and all, the book was a unsatisfying for the genre. I wish I had picked something else.

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Merry Minion Day: Mom Camp Day 20

In celebration of the opening of the Minion Movie we dedicated a full day to all things Minion.  You may know we had a Despicable Me Two Day a few years ago at Mom Camp.   We changed things up this year and did new crafts and activities.

In the days leading up to the movie, we read the novel:   

Plus, Target had a TON of Minion items in the dollar section that we purchased (sketch pad, giant pencils, erasers and more…)  We even found Minion Duct Tape at the art supply store!

Our creations included mini paper Minions,you can find a template for them here.

Minion finger puppets, Minion eye goggles, and Minion maze were also part of our day of fun.  Click Here for the Link.

We ended the day with the 3-D version of the Minion movie.


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Mom Camp Day 19: Lobster Time

Day 19 was all about the lobsters.

We hitched a ride on a lobster boat and learned about the lovely crustasian and caught a few while we were at it.  The morning was incredibly gray and foggy, just what you would expect for lobster boating!

On the journey, we baited the traps, held the lobsters, learned to put the rubber bands on them to keep them from pinching and, lowered the traps back into the water.

We even brought up a few ocean friends who weren’t lobsters, including a star fish and a crab.

The best was watching the sea gulls swarm the boat when we emptied the old bait out of the traps.  Nothing tastier than 3 day old, soggy fish!  One of the gulls even pecked at The Captain’s hand when he was resting it on the top of the boat.

For lunch it was more seafood, I had fried clams which I haven’t had in years!

In the afternoon, it was time to learn about lobsters… The kids both did lobster worksheets and draw their own pictures of lobster boats.

 Dinner was back near the ocean in a lovely stop where we had a good old New England Clam Bake!

 The kids and I explored the sandy beach searching for shells — The Princess’ favorite beach pastime.

The food was great especially the chowder!  I was stuffed by the end of the night.

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Hong Kong Handover Day: Mom Camp Day 15

For Hong Kong Handover Day (not to be confused with Hong Kong HANG OVER Day — celebrated by some during Chinese New Year) the kids and I did all things Chinese.

The idea for the day started when Cinco created a construction paper person and decided that they were half- British and half-Chinese. He asked if that was really possible and I explained it was very possible since the UK once controlled Hong Kong.  This led to a discussion of why the Brits had the colony and why they gave it back as well as when they gave it back. Thanks to the miracle of Google we discovered that Hong Kong was returned to China on July 1st, 1997. Thus, Mom Camp’s Hong Kong Handover day was born!

Our activities included making a paper Great Wall of China, as well as one made of clay.  We also crafted terracotta warriors.

We crafted replica ancient board books. We made two version one with Chinese characters that we looked up online and another with our symbols and words.

We also created a number of paper dragons.  Some were based on patterns we found on the Internet and others were made from the pure imaginative creation of the kiddos!   

Since it was so close to the Fourth of July, we added a little patriotic flare by making Chinese paper lanterns in red, white and blue!  We also studied the inner working of firecrackers (originally invented by the Chinese!) 
For dinner on the second day of our Hong Kong Handover celebrations we had dinner at PF Changs and saved our fortunes.

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Time to Meet the Duggans: MCD 5

Waking up in Kilkenny we took a final look at the hotel grounds and made for the famous Rock of Cashel.  The Rock was an important religious site in Ireland for many centuries.   

frescos from the chapel at the Rock Cashel


Carvings from Cashel


kids @ Cashel

 We toured the area and looked at many of the remaining frescos.  We also enjoyed the views from The Rock.  We toured the restored choir hall and took a quick walk through the town.    

Cashel Abbey through a slit in the wall


Next stop was Blarney Castle to kiss the stone!  I was surprised there wasn’t a major line to kiss the stone.  Cinco and The Princess weren’t really interested in getting up close and personal with the stone– both because they thought it was scary and a little gross. While walking the grounds on the way to the castle, The Princess declared it was, ‘neither sanitary nor entertaining.’  Haha.  I had to agree. 

The Captain, however had childhood memories of kissing the stone.  It seems his parents took him to Blarney back in the day and he even had a certificate to prove he had indeed kissed the stone. 

I was forced to kiss the stone to provide a good example for the kiddos!  But this didn’t  help.  Both kids made an attempt to kiss it, but neither could follow through.  Personally, I don’t blame them.  It wasn’t as gross as I thought it would be.  We were traveling in the shoulder season, so maybe the crowds were fewer.  But, the drop down is pretty unnerving.  The Princess is only 6 and I do not think it WOULD HAPPEN, but I could see a senerio where she could have fallen through!!!  

While castle is something of a tourist must do, it does have lovely and extensive grounds, including a tiki garden and fairy forest.  We wondered for a little while but had to get a move on and meet the Cork Duggans.

You see part of my father’s family still lives in outside Blarney near Cork!  He’s 100% Irish and even has an Irish passport!  We Americans still keep contact and so of course we had to pay a visit. 

The night was delightful and the Duggans all lived on the same road so MANY of the cousins came by.  Even better there were some younger ones in hand for Cinco and The Princess to play with!!!  We got to see their farm and share dinner.  

We got to hear some family history and I even saws photo of another cousin (absent) who shared some facial features.

The kids started to get pooped so we had to depart around 10pm.  But it was highlight of the trip meeting them! 

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