Picnic Day

Steve and I are both graduates of the University of California at Davis. I was an undergrad from 1990-1994, then got my teaching credential there in 1995. Steve (who is four years younger than me) started his undergrad in 1994. Each April, UCD hosts an open house called Picnic Day. It is an amazing event. Every department on campus shows off its stuff with exhibits, games, activities, foods, demonstrations, or something else. There is a parade, a Battle of the Bands competition, a Doxie Derby, and about a thousand other cool events. Almost everything is free, including admission and parking.

Both Steve and I attended Picnic Day each year as students and most years since. We started taking Trevor when he was two. Picnic Day is very child-friendly, even for toddlers. Trevor absolutely loves it.  He starts making his Picnic Day game plan weeks in advance, pouring over the schedule to decide what old favorites he wants to see and do (like the Materials Science Magic Show, this horrifyingly awesome art project, corn shelling, the multi-cultural children's craft and activity area, the exotic fruit taste test, the liquid nitrogen ice cream, tie-dye shirts, planting tomatoes, etc), and what new activities he wants to try.

2014 was the Centennial Picnic Day. UCD celebrated the centennial in many ways, but the one that caught our eye was a huge scavenger hunt all over campus. Trevor LOVES scavenger hunts. (So do I. If you type "scavenger hunt" into the search bar to the right, there are 8 pages of posts that come up. We do a LOT of fun and creative scavenger hunts in the deRosier household.) We decided to make the scavenger hunt our main activity for the day, figuring that it would take us to most of our regular favorites and introduce us to other things as well. Sure enough! It was a blast.

Scrapping it was just as fun. I struggled to narrow down the photos, but ended up with five that did a pretty good job of representing our day. I used the GORGEOUS teal polka dot patterned paper by Traci Reed that I've been drooling over since CreativeLive and paired it with a neutral stripe. I wanted to play up the red balloon and red phone booth in the photos, so I hand-stitched around the title with red embroidery floss, added a red arrow, and set off my journaling with a strip of red (that is actually Christmas paper). I love how it turned out.

Picnic Day 2015 is already on our calendar! If you're within driving distance, I'd highly recommend marking your calendars for Saturday, April 18. It really is an incredible event.


An Amazing Photo

Every once in a while, I take an amazing photo. By amazing, I don't mean an award-winning, technically-perfect photo. I mean a photo that perfectly captures a moment, a mood, or an emotion. I took a picture like that last October. Trevor had a day off school, so he and I headed to the pumpkin patch a few towns over right when they opened, hoping to beat the crowds and play in their huge corn bath without a ton of other people. We definitely beat the crowds; it turned out none of the surrounding school districts had the day off and we literally had the entire place to ourselves. We ran and chased, buried each other, and leaped off the hay bales and into the corn, with no worries of kids in our way or people to avoid. We had a blast. 

My amazing photo caught Trevor mid-air. It showed how empty the place was and how much fun we had. But when I went to scrap that picture, I decided not to tell the story of having the place to ourselves. Instead, I just started writing about a side of Trevor that I don't see very often, a side that takes risks and jumps right in, a side that isn't always cautious and holding back. I wasn't thinking that when we were at the pumpkin patch. It was the photo that made me see that Trevor is starting to take some risks and isn't quite as cautious as he used to be. 

Like I said, an amazing photo.


Brazilian Lemonade

I'm a big Olympics fan, but that's the full extent of my interest in sports. I don't watch the Super Bowl, World Series, or any of the other ones (which I don't mention primarily because I can't think of what they are called). I didn't watch any of the World Cup this last summer either. I was aware of it though, primarily because all the food blogs I follow started sending interesting Brazilian recipes. 

In particular, I was fascinated by recipes for Brazilian Lemonade. There are a few things that make it interesting: first, there are no lemons in Brazilian Lemonade; and second, it is made from whole limes (as in, unpeeled limes). I've had excellent success with recipes using whole oranges, so I was totally game to make something with whole limes. 

I started with this basic recipe: 

Brazilian Lemonade 

2 limes (whole, with ends cut off and sliced into wedges)
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
3 cups water
2 cups ice

Put all ingredients in the blender and pulse 5 times. Pass the liquid through a fine mesh strainer to remove the rinds. Serve over ice. 

When I added the rest of the ingredients and blended, it was frothy, which I didn't expect.

I strained out the lime pulp as directed.

Then I filled three glasses with ice and poured us each some 'lemonade.' I am not exaggerating when I say it was AMAZING. We loved it. So yummy! We finished the pitcher within a day.

As I've mentioned many times, I almost never follow a recipe. The fact that I followed this recipe exactly left me wondering... could I adapt it to make something even more delicious?! When my friend Sheena came over the next day, I mixed up a new pitcher and began experimenting.

My first thought was that this yummy drink would be even better with a touch of vanilla to enhance the creaminess and to give a deeper flavor. My cousin's wife, Ginger, sells homemade Madagascar vanilla extract under the Kennedy Farms label. It has a really complex flavor that screams vanilla and it is so, so good. My favorite way to use it is in vanilla ice cream. (To try some, check out the Kennedy Farms Facebook page and tell Ginger I sent you!)

Anyway, I took 1 cup of the Brazilian Lemonade and aded 1/2 tsp. of Ginger's amazing vanilla, mixed, then poured small samples for Sheena and me. I probably should have taken the photo before pouring, since this clearly shows 3/4 c. Oh well.

The new vanilla-enhanced lemonade was really creamy and delicious. It was amazing how significantly the drink changed with such a small amount of vanilla! Both Sheena and I agreed that it was fantastic with the vanilla, but that it had completely dulled the tart citrus taste that we both loved. It tasted like a Lime Julius would taste, if there were such a thing. Delicious, but no longer lemonade. Time to try a different mix-in.

What goes with limes? Tequila! I measured out 4 ounces of lemonade and added 1 ounce of tequila. We each had a tiny taste. Good, but significantly less good than the original plain Brazilian Lemonade. 

How about adding grenadine? I mixed 1/2 c. lemonade with 1 tsp. of grenadine. The color alone was reason not to. It turned a ghastly medicinal pink. It tasted ok, but definitely not an improvement over the original. 

We tried two other mix-ins. First, I added 1T. lemon juice to a 1/2 c. of lemonade. For some reason, I didn't take a picture of that, nor of our next mix-in, which was Sprite, added in equal parts to the lemonade. Along the way, I took a lot of notes as we tasted each item and graded it. Here are the results:

So, when all was said and done, the original recipe was the best, with the lemon juice and vanilla extract mix-ins close behind! I'm going to be making all three versions of Brazilian Lemonade again and again. Thanks to Sheena for not only tolerating, but enthusiastically encouraging, my constant efforts to turn everything in life into a taste test. 


Allison's Baptism

Four photos from my niece Allison's baptism had been sitting on my desk for nearly a year, so I thought it was time to do something with them. I made this layout:

I like it, but I am absolutely kicking myself for not including the group picture of our whole extended family. I don't know what I was thinking. I may have to violate my strict policy and do a second layout from this event. In a sense, I already did. Can I possibly do a third layout from the same 2 hour baptism, when a year-long monthly project, a week's vacation, and an entire year of Cub Scouts each only get one page? I'll have to think about that. Maybe I'll save the group picture and do some sort of then-and-now layout in the future....


Mythbusters - Plane Boarding

2 years 3 months 17 days is a long time to keep a secret. That's how long Steve and I have been waiting to share our first experience as volunteers for Mythbusters. Now that the episode has FINALLY aired, we are free to share all the behind-the-scenes details from our filming. This post talks about the application and selection process, so I'll pick up from there.

Two days before filming, we received a detailed list of what we needed to know. We were told to report to a specific parking lot on Mare Island by 8:00 am on filming day wearing plain clothes (no graphics, no logos, no artwork), closed-toe shoes, and no perfumes or colognes. Each of us was to bring a piece of carry-on luggage, as well as anything else we would normally carry onto a plane (purse, laptop, etc). Those items should contain whatever we would normally use to amuse ourselves during air travel (books, magazines, crossword puzzles, work, etc). We were told that Mythbusters would be providing snacks and drinks, but due to the size of the experiment, they were unable to provide lunch and that we needed to bring our own. We needed to bring government-issued ID as well.

On the morning of filming, Steve and I arrived at the location, got out of our car, and promptly returned to the car to grab heavy jackets. Once bundled up, we joined the huge line of volunteers (all with carry-on luggage) snaking around the building. After about 30 minutes of moving forward an inch at a time, we made it into the building and to the check-in station. There, the staff checked our ID, found us on a list, and then sent us to the next station where staff checked us from head to toe (including our luggage) for any logos, labels, graphics, icons, or anything else. They used color-coordinated gaff tape to cover any offending areas. Then, we were sent to one of about 20 huge tables to wait.

It took almost two hours before we were given our safety briefing. We still didn't know what we'd be doing. We were all wondering whether we'd be working with Adam and Jamie, or if it would be Tory, Grant and Kari. We found out the answer when Jamie came into the building and went down the aisles shaking hands with volunteers. He made it through about half the room before he got called away and we were told to pack up our stuff and get ready. We joined another huge line and shuffled out of our holding room, across an empty lot, and into an adjacent warehouse. When we entered, we were each handed a ticket.

We entered a set that looked like an airport terminal, where Adam introduced us to the real-life flight attendants that would be helping with the experiment. He explained that we'd be testing the efficiency and ease of different methods of airplane boarding. First, we'd be doing the traditional back-to-front boarding method.

It took just under half an hour for all of us to board. As we deplaned, we passed by a voting station to indicate how we felt about that boarding procedure. We then received a second boarding card, did a second experiment with a different boarding method, and voted again. It was very interesting to watch everything going on; in a real boarding situation, I would have started reading the second I reached my seat, but instead I was enjoying watching Adam's antics, listening to the director, and watching the cameramen.

After a break for lunch, we headed back to the 'plane' for two more experiments. We weren't told the time for each, but it was pretty obvious which were faster and which were slower. It was also obvious which were more pleasant for the group as a whole, and which were really stressful.

I appreciated that producers made sure some of the volunteers played the roles of 'difficult' passengers, such as the Aisle Coat Folder, the Guy Who Needs the Bathroom Immediately Even Though He's Been Waiting in the Terminal for Over an Hour, the Mom Juggling a Baby and Four Carry-Ons, and the Person Who Wants to Order a Drink Before Sitting. Still, there were a few things that made this experiment different from what real-life boarding would be. First and most significantly, none of us were traveling with children. Even though a few people were designated to hold an infant, there was no representation of a mom traveling alone with three kids and two car seats, or anything like that. There were no seniors, no disabled people, and nobody who couldn't understand English. We were all paying attention, happy to be there, and fully cooperative (which is clearly nothing like an actual plane boarding).

At the end of the day, they gathered all of us who were doing one day of filming, thanked us, and passed out t-shirts.

I only did one day of filming; Steve did both. Here are all of our tickets. As you can see, the two of us did four experiments together on the first day and Steve did three on the second day. 

On the purple ticket at the bottom left, the seat assignment is scratched out. That was for the free-for-all, no assigned seating experiment. For every other experiment, we had assigned seats (for the record: 6C, 6F, 8B, 8F 9C, 9E, 9E again, 10B, 16A, and 23A). Neither of us ever randomly received the first class seats nor the difficult passenger cards. 
After filming wrapped, the volunteers posed for this photo with Adam and Jamie. 

Watching the episode was a lot of fun. The results were exactly what we'd expected. We were hoping to actually see ourselves, but we didn't until we switched to slow-motion for one section and caught a glimpse of Steve. I think we would have been easier to spot if we hadn't gone back to the car for the black jackets that we wore all day long! If I ever volunteer for Mythbusters again, I'm going to wear the loudest and most distinctive clothes that I'm allowed to wear!

Alas, I doubt we (or anyone else) will be volunteering for Mythbusters again. Just like everyone else, I was absolutely shocked by the announcement that Tory, Grant and Kari are not part of Mythbusters anymore. I have a feeling that Adam and Jamie have one last season (which is almost certainly already filmed) and then the show will end. I hope I'm wrong. 


The Cursive Project: Zebra

The final craft for The Cursive Project was a zebra. While we'd made a zebra pinata before, I had no problem making a different zebra craft. A pinata is such an involved task that having a simple zebra in my list of Crafts from A - Z would be good.

We based our zebra on the Footprint Giraffes we made years ago. We traced Trevor's left shoe on white cardstock, then cut out a neck and two rounded ears.

We used a Sharpie to add black stripes, eyes, and a nose. Then it was time to add his mane. We took black yarn and looped it back and forth, then cut through the loops to make a whole bunch of pieces that were all the same size.

We turned the neck piece over and added a strip of adhesive, then pressed the mane pieces in place.

We added adhesive between the ears and added the rest of the mane.

Then we glued each piece to a blue background. Trevor added googly eyes. Here's his finished zebra:

This is my zebra. I didn't cut down the blue cardstock base yet, because I have some plans in mind. Stay tuned!

Now that Trevor has learned how to write all the letters from A to Z in cursive, he's putting it all together and writing a sentence for each of the crafts he made throughout the month. He's enjoyed learning cursive and we've both had fun doing all this crafting together. The Cursive Project has officially been a great success!


The Cursive Project: Yawn + Yak

For Letter Y of The Cursive Project, Trevor wanted to make a yak. Like I've mentioned before, I've had his completed list for the whole month, giving me lots of time (in theory) to dream up each craft. Yet, when we reached yak, I was still completely uninspired. I decided to think up a 'yawn' craft and suggest it to Trevor.

With Trevor watching, I cut out the following pieces from tan, yellow, black and red cardstock.

I glued them all together to make this yawning guy. I really like him (although I yawned the whole time I was making it, during the scanning and editing, and while writing this post). 

Trevor was not into making his own version, as he was determined to make a yak. He went through my cardstock scraps, pulled out a bunch of browns, and glued them to a white background. Then he turned it over and drew a yak on the back. He drew a separate head so that he could pop it up. He cut the pieces out and ended up with this cool yak.

Although we used different techniques from each other on other letters, this was the only time during The Cursive Project that we made totally different items for a particular letter. One final letter and we're done!


The Cursive Project: Xylophone

There aren't too many crafts that start with X. We've already done an x-ray craft in the past, so we were pretty much limited to a xylophone for Letter X of The Cursive Project. Just like with the ukulele, we have an actual xylophone. For some reason, we store the xylophone (and the rest of our kid musical instruments) in a snake basket.

We decided to make a different style of xylophone from the traditional wooden one we own. We pulled out the mallets, then gathered 6 of the empty Snapple Jelly Belly jars, and some food color.

Trevor filled each of the 6 jars with a different amount of water.

Then he added food color to make a rainbow.

We lined up the jars on several layers of felt. 

They worked ok upright, but they worked even better when we laid them on their side. They had a really cool wooden tone to them. Trevor had a lot of fun composing.

Two more crafts to go before we reach the end of The Cursive Project!


The Cursive Project: Watermelon

For Letter W of The Cursive Project, Trevor and I made handprint watermelons. We painted our hands red from fingertips to midway down our palms, added a thin white line, then finished with a band of green. 

We stamped them onto white cardstock and let them dry.

Then we used our pinkies to add black seeds. We matted our papers with red, then added them to white card bases. My hand was too big for the cardstock I'd prepared. I should have made a larger card. Oh well.

Trevor's cards turned out much cuter.

The end is near! On to Letter X!


The Cursive Project: Vampire

For Letter V of The Cursive Project, Trevor and I made vampires. The process was a lot of trial and error, with each of us cutting out shapes and making alterations until we had a cool-looking vampire. Here are the pieces we used:

We assembled the pieces and then used a black Sharpie to add hair, a nose, a mouth, and fangs.

We attached our vampires to white card bases and folded up the capes. At that point, I added feet because it looked weird without them. Trevor disagreed and his vampire remains footless.

I suggested that we add a 'Happy Halloween' message that is visible when you open the cape. Trevor was adamant that this was a terrible idea, as it was still months until October 31. He zoomed off to look through my collection of stamps. Here's how Trevor's card looks with the cape closed:

When you open the card, you can see the message.

Not the most traditional birthday image, but fun none-the-less. 

Here's my vampire birthday card:

One of my cousin's kids was born on Halloween; we could save these to send to him. Or, we could randomly send them to someone with an August or September birthday, leaving him/her wondering why on earth we're sending a vampire card. Hmmm... which to choose? If you know me at all, you should have no difficulty guessing which appeals to me more.  :D 


2014 Family Olympics

On Saturday, we got home from a fantastic week in beautiful Lake Tahoe with my extended family. 

The 20 of us rented a huge house with a gorgeous view. 

We had a wonderful time hanging out at the nearby beach...

... hiking...

... playing games....

.... eating delicious food...

... golfing at the most coolest mini golf place ever ...

... and just spending time with each other.

But the highlight for me was our 2014 Family Olympics. Last year, my sister Kari and brother-in-law Brian hosted our first Family Olympics. It was so much fun that we all knew it just had to be an annual event. My cousin Tim and his wife Ginger (winner of the first Olympics) offered to host the 2014 Games in Tahoe. 

We began with the Opening Ceremonies and the Parade of Nations. A few of us were representing the same countries as before (Go, St. Vincent and the Grenadines!) while others changed to a different country. Steve represented Lebanon (where his maternal grandmother was from) and Trevor represented the Bahamas (which he enjoyed during the Caribbean cruise we took last year). Here we are, displaying our Perler Bead flags.

Event #1 was called "Toddler Croquet." Tim and Ginger explained that we'd each pick a toddler and swing him or her to hit a beach ball into a target. Here's my brother-in-law Brian and my godson Teagan

It was harder than it looked! The toddlers were surprisingly cooperative, but the sloped deck and windy weather provided a challenge. My cousin Matthew thought he had a winning strategy by swinging his toddler partner (Ethan) upside down! 

When we finished three rounds and the points were totaled, I was shocked to receive the first gold medal of the 2014 Family Olympics! Matthew placed second with his unusual technique. 

Event #2 was called "Name that Food." It was a twist on the classic baby shower game. My sister Kari won gold; I tied for silver. 

Event #3 was Frisbee Golf. Uh oh. I am ridiculously bad with Frisbees. Really, really bad. This is my Aunt Vickie (representing Egypt, complete with awesome black wig). Neither she nor I scored any points... and neither did eight other family members! A 10-way tie for last. My mom won the event, which was probably the biggest upset in the entire history of sports.

Event #4 was called "Water Pong." The goal was to use a water gun to shoot ping pong balls off of golf tees. Uh oh... again. Definitely not my strength. I finished second-to-last. It was fun though!

Here's Trevor taking his turn:

Steve was the gold medalist!

Event #5 was "Useless Trivia." I tied for third; my mom won her second gold medal.

Event #6 was "Mad Minutes." My cousin Tim is a high school math teacher, so it was no surprise that he'd work a math event into our Olympics. We started with addition. We had one minute to get as many of the problems correct as we could. We then moved on to subtraction, multiplication, division, and a mixed fact sheet. Our score was the total correct on all five pages. Trevor was at a major disadvantage, having just completed second grade (multiplication and division are introduced in third grade). I, on the other hand, spent 11 years correcting 32 multiplication and division timed fact tests every single week. I am fast. I finished every problem correctly on all five pages. My sister did too. I finished the final sheet faster, but we both earned a gold medal. 

Event #7 was called "Five Nuts on a Stick." The goal was to stack five nuts using only a skewer. Tricky! Here you can see Matthew's wife Danelle, who finished first in her heat, supporting Trevor while he and my mom race to finish second. 

Matthew won with a blazingly fast score. 

Event #8 was "Puzzles." Each of us were given the same two puzzles to complete. Every minute, Ginger showed us the front of the box for 5 seconds. Here she is, showing my mom the front of the box:

I knew I did well, as I'm a puzzle fanatic. Turns out I did well enough for silver. Kari edged me out, bringing her gold medal count to 3 and guaranteeing that she'd be somewhere on the medal stand during Closing Ceremonies.

Event #9 was "Water Balloon Toss." We randomly drew numbers to determine partners; I was paired up with Steve. Unfortunately, we were out early. Our balloon was faulty, I swear! I caught it gently from a short distance but it exploded on contact. Other people's balloons fell on the pavement without breaking. Oh well!

Eventually, we were down to the teams of Brian (my brother-in-law) and Matthew (my cousin) vs. my dad and my Uncle Don. Brian and Matthew beat them (barely) to earn the gold medals.

Event #10 was "Spoons." We were randomly assigned to one of two tables, where we weeded the competition down from 7 contestants to just three. Those final six joined together at the table for the championship round. 

Uncle Don beat out Kari for the gold!

The final event was "Flag Quiz." All week long, the flags of our nations had been displayed in the kitchen. None of us had any idea that those very flags (which came down that morning) would be the basis of our final event! Tricky! Here we are, correcting our answers and inspecting the flags:

Kari won that final event, earning her 4th gold medal. It was no surprise that she was the overall winner of the Family Olympics - she did well in everything. Brian and I tied for bronze and Matthew got the silver.

Huge thanks to Tim and Ginger for a super fun Family Olympics! Can't wait until next time!