Category Archives: Grandparents

SHOP LOCAL: Non-traditional Christmas Gifts for little ones

Last year my sister kick-started this idea for me as she gave both of my kids a super cute certificate for a date night with Aunt Ra-ra.  It included dinner at a restaurant of their choice, arts and crafts, special dessert, and a sleepover.  BEST GIFT EVER.  The kids LOVED it and it was so memorable for both of them.  It adheres to the old adage that kids spell love T.I.M.E.  So, thought it might be great to make a helpful list of LOCAL ideas to pass along to family members that are beginning to request a “list”.

*Downtown Boone Footsloggers Climbing Tower Passes.  (The tower is operated by Rock Dimensions).  You can find more info here


*Ski Passes/Lessons: I would suggest App Ski Mtn for the closest slopes and most family-friendly atmosphere.



*Children’s Playhouse Membership:  This is an idea that I recycle year after year. The membership is so incredibly reasonable considering the mileage you can get out of it with your little ones.


*Mystery Hill Pass: a great place to take them in the winter months to engage their curiosity.


*Blowing Rock Art and History Museum Membership: The calendar of events changes each month but always includes great children and family programs!

*Fun factory passes: The kids always leave exhausted!

*Caving Trip: This is a great activity in the winter.  River and Earth Adventures provides a phenomenal service exploring Worley’s Cave!

*Emerald Village Gem Mining: Such a cool place to visit and a unique experience.

Outside of this shopping local theme, a list of memorable “home” themes could include: baking date, arts and crafts, movie date, spa day, “build” day….the list is endless!

My family has also hosted a “theme” each year which you can have a lot of fun with.  I’ve heard of many that do an “alphabet” theme where the letter gives direction to that year’s gift ideas.  Feel like you are in one of those families where everyone already has too much?  Think about a “food and game” theme!  You typically exchange names for this and spend the day eating yummy food and playing all the new games!

I hope these lists give you a few ideas to get the ball rolling with your family.  Do you know of a local experience I missed as a non-traditional gift?  Or another fun theme you have done before others should try?  I would love to hear them!




The Mystery Behind Tweetsie and Moses Cone Manor

Our family loves Tweetsie and Moses Cone Manor.  Our first year at Tweetsie Railroad, we were in the Gift Shop and noticed they were selling the movies: Mandie and the Secret Tunnel,and Mandie and the Cherokee Treasure.  We decided to check them out on Amazon. Neat fact for kids of all ages, Mandie and the Secret Tunnel was filmed in part at Tweetsie Railroad and Moses Cone Manor.  What kid does not love looking for “secret tunnels?”  During June, July and August, you and your explorers can take a “behind the scenes” tour of the Manor!!! After you all watch the movies, let me know if a hike at Moses Cone or Trout Lake looks a little different.  It is excited to think you are walking in the same footsteps as Mandie did many years ago. Both movies are also Dove Approved.

Yummy, Late Night Cookie Delivery….

Moms, did you know there is a cookie company in Boone that will deliver warm cookies and milk right to your front door?  Yes they will deliver in Boone!  They offer yummy gluten free options and fair trade coffee!  Maybe you want some yummy cookies for your next birthday party, they cater(-:
Just thought everyone needed to know(-:  Visit to place a delicious order.


Strawberry Pickin’ Time

strawberries It is Strawberry Pickin’ Time in the High Country.  There are numerous yummy places to start pickin.  We have taken our kids since they were 6 months old.  There is not anything any better than picking your own strawberries and taste testing along the way.

A friend shared one yummy place to try out this May, Howard’s Strawberries, 250 Crater Road, Harmony, NC!  Looks like they open their Strawberry Season next week!  Be sure to give them a call and I will post some pictures of our family trip soon!  Their number is 704.539.4099!

I am hopeful in the end, my strawberries will look like this(-:  strawberries2

Let us know if you have a “local” favorite.

Becoming Conference Highlights

I just returned from the Becoming Conference, where I learned so many tips about saving money, preparing food and party planning, not to mention hospitality and organization.  It was such a fun girls’ weekend with my mom and my sweet babe in tow.  The decorations were lovely (using the thrifty skills that we were taught), as well as the cake, cheesecake and cake.  Did I mention there was cake?

I thought I’d take a few minutes and share the highlights from the weekend, along with a few of my favorite tips that I learned.

  • I thought this year’s sponsors were particularly AWESOME!  Although I’m not a coffee drinker, International Delight provided gallons and gallons of free iced coffee, with plenty of their new creamers for tasting.  We received some awesome coupons and goodies from sponsors, as well as a handbag and set of greeting cards from DaySpringCents of Style provided a beautiful “Becoming” necklace and a ten percent off coupon.  This is a great company for purchasing inexpensive accessories and they host really great sales on Fridays.  De Wafelbakkers provided some fun water bottles and a coupon to try out their pancakes.
  • I decided to go to Jenny Martin’s (Southern Savers) session on cutting your grocery budget in half.  I have already been to her longer workshop but I thought I could use a refresher since I recently decided to get back into couponing since I had taken a break after giving birth.
  • Best tips:
    • It’s important to learn what a “good/rock bottom price” is for a product.
    • Grocery stores cycle most products on sale every six weeks.  Buy enough to last six weeks, until it is on sale again.
    • Wal-Mart will price match grocery store ads for stores within a fifty mile radius (you must take the ads with you to Wal-Mart).  This helps save on produce.
    • You’ll save more money by not having brand loyalties.
    • To save on meat, buy local and buy in bulk.
    • To save on produce, buy from the farmer’s market or local farms for the best price.  You can check out this website for some help with pricing questions.
  • Barbara Hemphill presented a very helpful session about organization and clutter.  One major statement that I took away was “You can keep everything you want if you’re willing to pay the price in time, energy, etc.”  That gave me a new way to think about the things I keep and the reasons why.  Perhaps another blog post for another day!
  • My favorite session was by Edie of Life in Grace and Ruth of Living Well Spending LessHospitality and Party Planning on a Budget.  These two gals were such a dynamic duo in a very subtle way.  It’s really hard to explain but they contributed equal amounts of “heart” and practical ideas.  I was reminded why it is important to make people feel welcome and to extend a heart of love toward others.  I learned some great tips about planning a lovely party on a small budget, such as using scrapbook paper for pennants and party hats (which can be reused).  I’m going to use all of this information to plan my little nugget’s first birthday party in a few months.

  • Miss Mustard Seed presented a session on DIY around the home, which is her specialty.  I admit I went to this session as a dreamer because I feel that I lack a lot of skills to “do it MYself”.  I was encouraged because she said it’s okay if you don’t take a fancy to every type of DIY.  I think I’m going to focus on crafts/decorations for parties and my sewing lessons; I’ll leave the upholstering to expert gals like Miss Mustard Seed!
  • Although I had attended Jen Schmidt’s (of Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) 80% Off Lifestyle and Loving It session the past two years, my mom wanted to attend so I tagged along with her.  I was reminded how much I have been wanting to learn to make my own cake stands and decorate with them for parties/events and I was reinspired to shop my favorite thrift stores for some fall clothing.
  • The last session included Jen’s Ten Minute Dinners and a special presentation by Jackie Brown of Mom on a Mission and the Freezer Fairy.  I loved this one because I am learning more and more about freezer cooking and she had so many great tips on how to freezer cook with more wholesome and less processed ingredients.  I have yet to really dig into her blogs but here are a few things I learned from her last weekend:
    • Fresh eggs can be frozen, without the shells.
    • Place a cooling rack (can be found in your local dollar store) in between freezer casseroles so that they don’t fold in on each other with the aluminum foil covers.  You can remove the cooling rack once the casserole is frozen.
    • I learned the proper way to freeze (cool food to room temperature, avoid air in the freezer baggies, use quality baggies, etc.)
    • She uses a plastic shoe box to freeze food in baggies, as well as another to defrost in the fridge (to avoid messes).
    • Keep a freezer inventory sheet.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference and I hope you’ll join me on August 8-9, 2014 at Ridgecrest so we can enjoy some girl time and learn lots of new things together!

DisclaimerThe above sponsors did not pay me to mention them in this post.  I have expressed solely my opinions regarding this conference and sponsors.

Summer Learning Series – Part 3 – Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco

Chicken Sunday is a meaningful, multicultural story that I used to read to my third grade students during the first part of the year.  The story involves forgiveness, love and honesty as three children find themselves in a bit of unmerited trouble while trying to purchase a gift for Gramma Eula.  On their way to purchase a hat from Mr. Kodinski, they are blamed for throwing eggs at his back door.  They cannot tell Eula why they were near his hat shop but she encourages them to find a way to earn his trust and show that they are not guilty of throwing the eggs.  Pick up the book at your local library to find out exactly what they did to earn Mr. Kodinski’s trust.

Ideas for sharing this story with your children:

  • Read the story together with your children.
  • Discuss the questions found here or add your own.
  • You can also take this opportunity to learn about other cultures.
  • Create Pysanky eggs with a tutorial like this one.
  • Take this opportunity to learn about or review measurements by creating your own “Honesty Soup”.  For example, one cup of truth, two tablespoons of integrity, etc.

No matter the day of the week, I hope you enjoy reading Chicken Sunday!

Adapted from the Heartwood Ethics Curriculum.

Summer Learning Series – Part 2 – Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco

Today we’re continuing our Summer Learning Series, lessons I previously taught, based on The Heartwood Ethics Curriculum.

One of our trademark Boone weather patterns is a good ole summer rain storm.  When these usually arrive after a “hot” day (hot being a relative term for our area), I am reminded of a book that I loved to read to my first grade students when I was teaching classroom guidance as a school counselor. I will never forget a particular first grade class where I brought the book, Thunder Cake.  In this story a little girl is afraid of the approaching storm and the accompanying thunder.  Her babushka (Russian for grandmother) helps her overcome her fear by taking a fun journey to collect ingredients for making “thunder cake.” 

Materials Needed:

Character Trait:  Courage


  • Read the story together and discuss the following questions (or any other questions you may think of):
  • What is the meaning of courage?
    • How did the little girl show courage in the story?
    • How did the girl’s babushka help her face her fear of storms?
    • What are some of your fears and how can we work together to help you work through those?
    • Have you or your child ever helped someone find courage in a fearful situation?
    • Share with your child how someone helped you overcome a fear.
    • Collect all ingredients for the thunder cake and make the cake together.  Enjoy!

I recall one particular class where a little girl asked for a copy of the recipe and went home and made the cake with her mother.  She brought a piece to me the next day!  I’ll never forget that sweet gift and how great it must have been for her to do something fun with her mom, based on a story from school.

My husband recently rode his bike in the Blood, Sweat and Gears event in Valle Crucis, NC and we hosted a “carb load” dinner at our home for some of his pals that were riding, as well.  I took the opportunity to make Thunder Cake and it was particularly a huge hit with my husband.  Who knows, maybe it was because of the special ingredient?  What’s that, you ask?  Well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out!


$5 Or Less Rainy Day Summer Fun with Kids

What is a mom to do about all those days that it rains (maybe everyday these days but I would rather deal with a little storm each afternoon than extreme heat)?  There are several things you CAN do when it’s raining so get your galoshes out and let’s get moving!

  • Watauga County Public Library – Always a local favorite for story time!  Story time each day at 11am and Baby Lap Time each Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30am.
  • Boone Bowling Center – Kids fifteen and under bowl free until August 7th!  Note:  does not include shoe rental.
  • Michaels Craft Store of Boone is participating the Passport to Imagination crafting program for kids.  It meets on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10am-12pm and $2 reserves a thirty minute time slot for your child.
  • Ashe County Cheese Factory – I thought this place was pretty fascinating as a kid.  Worth a little trip over to Jefferson to watch some cheese production and have a bite of the good ole squeaky cheese!
  • Children’s Playhouse of Boone offers a ton of children’s activities for $5 per person per visit.  If you have a membership, there is no additional charge.  Infants twelve months and younger are FREE.  The hours are Tuesday-Friday 10:00-5:00 pm Saturday 10-5:00 pm in June and July (10-3:00 pm August-May).

Have fun splashing to these fun activities!

Summer Learning Series – Part 1 – Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

As a former school counselor, one of my favorite things about my job was going into the classrooms and teaching a guidance curriculum.  This included character education and I would love to share some fun little lessons that I have adapted from The Heartwood Ethics Curriculum, which is what I used at my first school.  Today I would like to share the story of Ish and an easy lesson you can do at home.

Materials Needed:

  • Book – Ish by Peter H. Reynolds (available through Watauga County Library)
  • Paper
  • Crayons, paint, pens/pencils, colored pencils, or markers, etc.
  • Any art materials you may have in your home

The Story:  Ish is the story of Ramon and how he learns about having the courage to draw by being encouraged.  Ramon loves to draw and is proud of his drawings until his brother makes fun of them.  Ramon is discouraged until he learns how much his sister, Marisol, admires his artwork.  Marisol encourages Ramon to continue drawing “ish-ly”, instead of worrying about making his drawings “perfect.”  I won’t spoil the entire story for you.  I still enjoy reading it, myself!

Character Trait:  I used this book to teach COURAGE/ENCOURAGEMENT to my first grade classes.

Activity:  Using your art materials, work with your children to create “ish” drawings or write “ish” poems.  For example, in the story, Ramon draws a vase and when he says it’s not very good, Marisol tells him it’s “vase-ish”.  It doesn’t have to be perfect – it can be whatever you like!  Use this story to teach your children about doing their best with their work and play and having courage to express themselves with art.  You can admire each other’s drawings and poems and have fun doing it.  After you have collected a few “ish” drawings/poems, make a book for your family.  Have each person present their “ish” creations to the family and share encouraging words with what you like about their drawing/poem.  Have fun!

My Reflection:  I loved this story because it allowed for creative expression in the classroom and practice with how to say encouraging words to one another.  The story shows how a young child appreciates another child’s work and how each person can do their best with creative expression and it doesn’t have to be “just right”, according to someone else’s standards.  Reading this story recently brought back a lot of great memories in the classroom!  I hope you enjoy this little lesson, maybe on a rainy day or a sunny day in the backyard.


Serving Others with Your Children – Part 2

Last week we took a look at a few places where you might be able to serve our community with your children.  Here’s a peek into a few more:

Green Street Catering – This catering ministry is housed at our church, Alliance Bible Fellowship.  I absolutely loved delivering meals to a specific neighborhood in our community on Thursday afternoons.  We really got to know the folks in the neighborhood by name and a little bit about them, as well.  Unfortunately, our life group was not able to continue due to changes in our own lives and schedules but this is a great way to connect with others in the community.  You can volunteer by either delivering meals or helping prepare meals in the kitchen to serve at the church or for those that deliver them.  It is always good to have two adults help deliver the meals, especially if you take children with you.  Of course, remember to always use good discernment and judgment when venturing into new neighborhoods with which you are unfamiliar, especially if children are involved.

Watauga County Library – When I was in middle school, I volunteered at the Western Branch of the Watauga County Library.  I have some great memories of working with books and my Great Aunt Madge as she was also a volunteer.  This might be something wonderful if you have an avid reader on your hands!

Watauga County Humane Society has several volunteer opportunities and clear policies about the ages of children that can volunteer.  If your child loves animals, this might be a great service project for him or her this summer.

Helping Hands – Know someone in your neighborhood who is sick or could use a helping hand around the house or outdoors?  Perhaps you and your children could prepare a meal, offer to clean or do yard work, or make a craft to cheer up your neighbor.

Hunger Coalition Fun Run – Join in fighting hunger in our community by participating in the Fun Run on September 21.

Do you and your family have a special way that you serve in the community?  I would love to hear from you!