From Ice Storms to Palm Trees to Snow

Harry wished he had about eight more eyes. He turned his head in every direction as they walked up the street, trying to look at everything at once: the shops, the things outside them, the people doing their shopping

“Harry wished he had about eight more eyes. He turned his head in every direction as they walked up the street, trying to look at everything at once: the shops, the things outside them, the people doing their shopping.”  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Book 1) 

We took a trip to Universal Studios in Orlando this week and that quote from Harry Potter sums up exactly how I felt walking around. Oh, the joy on my son’s face as the Hogwarts Express came down the tracks, the shock and awe as we walked through the secret jagged wall that unveiled Diagon Alley, the hilarity that ensued when we met Doc Brown from Back to the Future…it was all worth a million dollars. What a magical fun place! There is nothing like viewing the world through your child’s eyes!


Things that made me happy this week
  • Our choice of vacation time. Visiting Orlando in February was a brilliant idea, if I must say. The crowds were practically non-existent and the weather was just right. Sort of like an Ohio November.
  • Seeing elderly couples dressed in full Hogwarts gear – robes, wands, and scarves. They were just adorable!
  • The customer service and convenience of flying on Southwest Airlines. We will never choose anyone else.
  • The perks of purchasing a vacation package and staying at an on-site hotel. Complimentary water taxi, express pass that lets you skip the ride lines, free delivery back to your hotel of items you purchase in the parks, free breakfasts at the Harry Potter restaurants, and more…it is highly recommended!
  • Flying back and seeing the Ohio snow from the airplane.


From around the web
  • The Kindle version of one of my son’s favorite science books is on sale right now for only $1.99! We have the hardback version and LOVE it. It is a gorgeous book!
  • How to Host a Book Club – Alicia describes, step-by-step, how she organizes a book club for her children and their friends. What fun!
  • Did you know that you can stream classic poetry readings from Harvard’s Rich Audio Archive? Over 6,000 recordings of poetry from the 20th and 21st centuries, all free!
Other books that I know you’ll love
  • Your God-Given Purpose: Finding & Fulfilling God’s Plan for Your Life  – a free ebook from my “nerd BFF” Alisha. Long before you were ever born the Lord knew you. He wrote out all of your days in His book. He created you for a specific purpose and it is a purpose that only you can fulfill. He has given you dreams and desires that will propel you toward it.

In our homeschool

There was no school this week, since we were hanging out with the Minions, Doc Brown, Captain America, Scooby Doo and Wolverine, and screaming our heads off on roller coasters. (OK, I was screaming my head off, with my eyes tightly shut and my hands death-gripping whatever I could hold onto to most of the time. They were throwing their hands up in the air and laughing at me.)

I did learn a valuable lesson this week. Be careful with your stuff. I lost my brand new $50 Harry Potter scarf somewhere in the park and I have no idea when or where. It got a little too warm to wear it and I folded it up nicely around my tiny little satchel/purse. We just finished getting pictures taken with Optimus Prime when I noticed it was gone.


Linking up with my friends Kris and Mary.

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

Meeting Matt Smith

My son is a Doctor Who fanatic. Actually, fanatic may be an understatement. For crying out loud, we have a 6-foot tall TARDIS, 6-foot tall Cyberman, and a 5-foot tall inflatable Dalek in our living room. He has also successfully converted a dozen friends and family members into fans. It takes a die-hard fan to go that far.


When I found out that Matt Smith, the eleventh Doctor and my son’s favorite incarnation, was going to be in Chicago for the annual comic con, my husband and I immediately started making plans. The photo opportunity ticket was purchased just in the nick of time, because they were actually sold out the very next day. We decided to make it a 4 day trip so that we could spend time with my sister-in-law and her husband.

I hunted around the web for more fun things for kids, planned a day at the Chicago Science Museum, booked a pirate ship ride on Lake Michigan, mapped out a route to the famous American Science and Surplus Store, and then my husband said…

Hey, let’s fly.

I knew it was a good idea, but my sinking stomach screamed no. I have a deathly fear of heights and have never been on a plane. He reminded me that when we go to the United Kingdom in a few years (for our 20th anniversary) we need to fly and I need to take a few short trips before then to get used to a plane. Plus, the flight is only 45 minutes, compared to a 6 hour drive.

So I bought some plane tickets. I might have cried too.

By the way, Matt Smith was very, very nice to my son. According to his attendants, he has a no hand-shaking/no hugging rule, but he gave my son two “man hugs” and called him Doctor several times. I cannot get over the fact that my son looks so tall in that photo, because of his fez and the fact that Matt Smith bent down a bit for the photo.


Turns out that I was afraid for nothing. The flight was a breeze and I absolutely loved it. My son sat next to the window, but I looked out the window almost the entire time. This is a photo that he took on our flight home.


The costumes at this comic con were amazing. Here is my son with 2 Weeping Angels and a Silence, characters from Doctor Who. He felt like a celebrity for a few minutes because when he stopped to pose with these people, about 10 photographers jumped out of nowhere and took advantage of the photo opportunity.


Here he is again with an Ood.


From the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. This is the giant periodic table of elements, showing real life examples of all the known elements.


The Tall Ship Windy. My son even got to help hoist the sails once we were on board. This was an amazing experience for him.

Chicago is a crazy, bustling, noisy city with non-stop traffic that made me want to hide in the hotel the entire trip. We had a lot of fun though and I am very thankful that we were able to spend so much time with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law.  I miss her dearly since she moved away. I am happy that we experienced all the new adventures on the trip – first plane ride (for my son and I), first ship ride, meeting Matt Smith, a new science museum – but I am thrilled to be home.

It wasn’t until we got home that we discovered there were 22 shootings in Chicago just that weekend alone and that there are also about 2000 wild coyotes roaming the city at all hours of the day. Eeek! I love how completely fearless my sister-in-law is!

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DIY Minifigure Display Case

Doctor Who Character Display Case

This was a very easy father-son Saturday project. So easy that it only took a couple of hours.

What you need:

  • six craft boards – the dimensions of one piece = 1/2″ x 2″ x 36″
    • seven 14″ long pieces for the shelves.
    • two 18″ long pieces for the sides.
    • two 16″ long pieces (glued on top of each other) for the top section with Police Public Call Box on it.
    • two 10″ long pieces (glued on top of each other) for the section above that.
    • one 2″ x 3″ block of wood for the tippy top of the TARDIS.
  • nails and wood glue
  • paint – TARDIS blue
  • vinyl letters or stickers – I used my Silhouette Cameo to cut the words Police Public Call Box, but you could also use stickers or paint the letters on by hand.

The characters need at least 2″ in between shelves and the TARDIS needs at least 4″.

Doctor Who Character Display Case

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The Ultimate and Inexpensive Minecraft Birthday Party Gift Bag

Easy and Inexpensive Minecraft Party Gift Bags - $5.15 per bag!

My son turned 12 a couple of months ago. My baby is one step closer to being a teenager. Since Minecraft is the thing among boys his age, selecting a theme for this year’s party was easy. We always host birthday parties at a local entertainment center/restaurant. It is basically a giant arcade that serves awesome food. Think a classy Chuck E. Cheese for big kids and adults. They supply everything, so I never need to decorate, bake, cook, or clean up.

Easy and Inexpensive Minecraft Party Gift Bags - $5.15 per bag!

So the only thing I ever need to do for parties is the gift bag. I try to do my best to make sure my son’s friends go home happy, without breaking the bank over goodies for 12 kids.

Total cost: $5.15 per gift bag

Easy and Inexpensive Minecraft Party Gift Bags - $5.15 per bag!

Step one: the invitations

Cost: practically nothing since all that is needed is card stock and a printer.

These cubes are all over Etsy and Ebay. You can purchase them already personalized and ready to print. I found a free printable cube and made my own. My Silhouette Cameo has a print and cut feature so I didn’t even have to cut them out by hand.  I am going to probably irritate some sellers out there, but I am going to give you mine for free, to download, edit and print on your own.

Download blank Minecraft invitation cube (jpg)   |   Download blank Minecraft invitation cube (Photoshop file)

Easy and Inexpensive Minecraft Party Gift Bags - $5.15 per bag!

Step two: Minecraft Creeper t-shirts

Cost: $3.89 per shirt

I am a huge fan of DIY t-shirts and am pretty much obsessed with making them. I purchased the shirts from Blank Apparel for only $2.70 each.  These are not junk either, they are soft yet durable. The black Creeper face is iron on heat transfer material, purchased from Amazon. It averages out to $1.19 per shirt for the material.

Each boy wore his Creeper shirt around the arcade. The bright green made it VERY easy to keep track of them.

Easy and Inexpensive Minecraft Party Gift Bags - $5.15 per bag!

Step three: Minecraft Creeper cups

Cost: 43-cents per cup

These cups came from the dollar store. They are nice sturdy plastic in the perfect creeper green. A pack of 3 cups was only $1. I heart our local dollar store. The black Creeper face and the name on the opposite side is sticky vinyl. Each cup used only 10-cents in material.

Easy and Inexpensive Minecraft Party Gift Bags - $5.15 per bag!

Step four: Minecraft chocolate bars

Cost: 33-cents per candy bar

Hershey bars were only 3/$1.00 at Meijer. I tried my best to find Minecraft characters online that resembled my son’s friends. That brown-haired Jonathan is Renee’s son and Trevor belongs to Colleen. I printed the characters out on regular paper to fit around a Hershey bar.

Download printable Minecraft Candy Bar Wrappers. You can edit the images to include names, or write them on after printing.

Easy and Inexpensive Minecraft Party Gift Bags - $5.15 per bag!

Step five: Minecraft TNT bunches

Cost: 25-cents per bundle

The Twizzlers were $1 per bag at the dollar store. Each bag contained enough Twizzlers to make 4 TNT bundles.

Download printable TNT label

Easy and Inexpensive Minecraft Party Gift Bags - $5.15 per bag!

Step six: Minecraft Creeper bags – a place to store everything

Cost: 25-cents per bag

The bags were also purchased at the dollar store and I thought that it was a miracle that I found so many items in Creeper green. The faces were simply black paper, glued onto the bag. The Silhouette Cameo makes things so easy.

Easy and Inexpensive Minecraft Party Gift Bags - $5.15 per bag!

Total cost: $5.15 per gift bag


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Doctor Who Bookmarks – Free Printable

My son is a book collector. And a Doctor Who nerd. I wonder who he gets those two traits from? Because he often reads many books at once and has piles all over the house, we need a lot of bookmarks. I’ve been making my own, like the Marvel bookmarks that I shared the other day, and these Doctor Who ones.

Free printable Doctor Who bookmarks

Here is the front of the bookmarks, with all of our favorite characters.

Free printable Doctor Who bookmarks Free printable Doctor Who bookmarks

Here is the back of the bookmarks, with many fantastic Doctor Who quotes, like:

“Some people live more in 20 years than others do in 80. It’s not the time that matters, it’s the person.”


“You want weapons? We’re in a library! Books! The best weapons in the world!”


“In 900 years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important.”

You can download a printable of the Doctor Who Bookmarks to use for your own books. Be sure to laminate them to keep them in good shape.  In case you do not already have one, this laminator is the best one out there and is only $30 at Amazon. I purchase these laminating sheets to use with the machine.

•	Doctor Who: The Visual Dictionary

We have almost every Doctor Who book known to man and this one – Doctor Who: The Visual Dictionary – is the latest in our library. By the way, my son loves to place props in our photos and that gorgeous Doctor Who fob watch was his birthday gift from my friend Renee.

•	Doctor Who: The Visual Dictionary

All it takes is one look inside and you can tell that this is a DK book. Does anyone make books that are more visually appealing, mentally stimulating, and heart-meltingly nostalgic? No, no one does.  The book goes beyond the story lines to examine the characters, aliens, weapons and curiosities of Doctor Who.

•	Doctor Who: The Visual Dictionary

Have you ever wanted to know exactly what was what inside the TARDIS control room? Doctor Who: The Visual Dictionary has a section that opens up to a 4 page spread that shows you the inner workings of the console. Until this book, I never realized that the console was divided into 6 distinct sections, each with specific functions such as the communications panel or the navigation panel.

•	Doctor Who: The Visual Dictionary

My non-Doctor Who friends are going to think I am such a nerd, but I really loved this page. If you’ve ever wanted to know how a fictional sonic screwdriver works, this is the book for you.

•	Doctor Who: The Visual Dictionary

Why, hello sweetie. You know how much I love River Song. After all, she is my patronus.

•	Doctor Who: The Visual Dictionary

One more page. Just indulge me. A cut away image of a Dalek ship.

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Father’s Day for a Superhero Dad

My husband is a superhero. He really is. I think he is fantastic. Like a lot of men, he doesn’t like being fussed over, but sometimes I cannot help it. I just adore him. If you think your guy is a superhero husband and dad, here are some easy ways you can show him that you think he is extraordinary.

DIY Marvel Superhero Shirt

Make him a Marvel superhero t-shirt

This stencil came from Doodle Craft, but I changed one of the logos to Wolverine.  Click her link to download a copy of the stencil. T-shirts like these are very easy to make with heat transfer material, which I buy in large rolls from Amazon.

Make him a glow in the dark Iron Man t-shirt

Glow in the dark Iron Man t-shirt

For this t-shirt, I used glow in the dark paint, a black shirt, and a sticky vinyl cut-out of Iron Man’s arc reactor.  For you non-nerds, the arc reactor is “the fictional power source in the Iron Man films powering not only an electromagnet keeping shrapnel out of Tony Stark’s heart, but also powers the Iron Man suit of armor.” (Quoting Wikipedia)

A shape like this would be pretty easy to cut out using a craft knife, if you do not have a Silhouette Cameo machine.

Glow in the dark Iron Man t-shirt

Matching father and son Iron Man shirts

I put 3 thin layers of the paint on, let it dry completely between coats, peeled off the vinyl, and then charged the paint under a light per the instructions. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get a photo of it glowing in the dark!  It does look really cool, even though I have no proof.

Buy him an epic Marvel superhero book 

Marvel Year by Year a Visual Chronicle

This is Marvel Year by Year: a Visual Chronicle from DK Publishing.  From Marvel’s beginning in 1939 to last year when the book was published, this takes you on a month by month, year by year, very detailed journey through the history of Marvel. Great care was taken when creating this book. It is a stunning, 384 page wonder.

Marvel Year by Year a Visual Chronicle

My husband and son continue to pour over this book for hours at a time.

Marvel Year by Year a Visual Chronicle

From Iron Man to Captain America, Hulk to Wolverine, it documents everyone, even the little unknown superheroes like Batwoman and Gus, the 9 year old half deer-half boy. Ever heard of them? Did you also know that Marvel even produced western comics and war comics? I didn’t know all that before we got this book.

Marvel Year by Year a Visual Chronicle

Two exclusive prints are included in the back pocket of the hardback book.

Marvel Year by Year a Visual Chronicle

Marvel Year by Year a Visual Chronicle

Make him some Marvel bookmarks to go in his new Marvel book 

Marvel bookmarks

These bookmarks were made using the stunning images created by Calvin Lin. I fell in love with them the minute I saw them and immediately asked for his permission to share them with you. I placed quotes on the back of each bookmark. You can download a free printable copy or visit Calvin’s store to order large printed pieces of the artwork. How cool would it be to have these framed on your wall!

Marvel bookmarks

Marvel bookmarks

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