Exploring Maryland through Little Passports

Our family had a great time exploring Annapolis and Baltimore last fall, so it was neat to work our way through the Maryland Little Passports journal and do activities inspired by things we'd done during our travels. 

The model train was inspired by the fact that some of America's first railroads were built in Maryland, including Mount Clare Station in Baltimore, where the first regular railroad passenger service started in 1830. We wanted to visit the B&O Railroad Museum while we were in Baltimore, but there wasn't enough time to do everything. Next time for sure!

After building the model, we jumped right in to the science experiment. It was inspired by Chesapeake Bay. To understand why ice forms near the shore but not further out in the Chesapeake Bay, Trevor prepared three containers with equal amounts of water. He added a teaspoon of salt to one, half a teaspoon of salt to the next, and no salt in the third. 

After two hours in the freezer, the 'no salt' container was frozen over, while the 'half salt' had a thin layer of ice. The 'salt' was still liquid. Salt water freezes at a lower temperature than fresh water, so the freshwater portions of the Chesapeake Bay freeze sooner than the estuaries. The salty ocean waters do not freeze over. This was an important lesson for my California native who has little experience with frozen water except for the cubes that come in his drinks!

Next, we did an activity about the Chincoteague horses of Assateague Island. We did a math activity about the Thomas Viaduct, the first multi-arched railroad bridge in the US, and learned that it was 16 arches that are about 6 stories high and total more than 600 feet in length! We learned that Edgar Allen Poe is from Maryland. His house is now a historic landmark - another place to visit the next time we're in Charm City. Trevor and I worked together to solve a puzzle about Antietam National Battlefield. We did a word search inspired by Clara Barton, the "Angel of the Battlefield" who founded the American Red Cross. 

We learned that Gaithersburg, Maryland is home to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIST researchers set the standards for weights and measurements used across the US. We learned that in 1927, NIST standardized traffic lights to the red, yellow, and green that are now used in every state. Imagine driving from state to state with different colors meaning different things. Yikes! We read about the devastating Baltimore fires in 1904. Firefighters from nearby states came to help, but because there was no standardization of fire hydrants, their hoses didn't fit and they were unable to assist. More than 1500 buildings burned. After the fire, the hundreds of different hose and hydrant sizes were standardized to ensure that all fire crews could help each others. 

Both the art activity and the cooking activity were inspired by crab. We followed the steps to draw blue crabs, the Maryland state crustacean. 

That's Trevor's drawing on the left and mine on the right. 

I don't eat crab (or any seafood, for that matter) so we made a slight modification to the crab cake recipe. We substituted chicken thigh meat for the crab, but kept everything else the same. Yum!! They were delicious!

Trevor and I had a great time exploring the Old Line State through Little Passports! We're looking forward to our next adventure.


Decorated Gift Bag from a Coloring Page

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As should be obvious from the projects I've been sharing recently, I've been challenging myself to use completed coloring pages in different ways. This time, I used a coloring page to decorate a plain gift bag. I used it for a birthday gift, but it works for pretty much any occasion. 


Decorated Gift Bag



Use the microtip scissors to cut out the colored image. Back it with one or more layers of coordinating cardstock. I chose to use three pieces (grey, light pink, and blue). Glue the matted image to the front of the gift bag. Add the gift, then embellish with coordinating tissue paper. 

You could use literally any coloring page to create your own gift bag. It's a great way to feature colored images that would otherwise stay hidden in the coloring book. 


Portland: Where to Eat During Your Travels

This is the third post about our family's travels to Portland, Oregon. You can see the first post here. Because I blog about educational travel, I received free admission tickets, discounts, media rates, and other benefits for some of the attractions we visited throughout the trip. Many attractions we toured are free to everyone. I paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I whole-heartedly recommend.


Steve, Trevor, and I are adventurous eaters. Not in the sense of liking to try gross-out foods, but in the sense that we love to taste local specialties and will go far out of our way to avoid chains when traveling. If an area is known for a particular food, we are going to find it and try it.

Portland is a food-lover's dream. Literally everything we ate was good, from food carts to fine dining. I'm not going to detail every morsel we ate morning, noon, and night for five days, but instead I'll share the best of the best and our picks for must-try food in Portland.

Let's start with fine dining. We happened to be in town during Portland Dining Month, which is a great way to taste the best that a restaurant has to offer. Swank had two different menu options for each of the three courses, so we ordered both and split the six courses amongst the three of us.

Go to Swank. Not only was it the best food we ate in Portland, it was the best food we've eaten anywhere in a long, long time. 

We had another outstanding meal at Picnic House. Again, we shared two different 3-course meals amongst the two of us. It was delicious and just the right amount of food. 

If you like eggs, you MUST try Fried Egg I'm in Love. There are two locations; we ate at Pioneer Square. 

I got the Free-Range Against the Machine (egg, avocado, and havarti on sourdough) and it was incredible. So yummy.

My other favorite food cart was this unassuming little place called Fooshion

Get their bubble waffle. As soon as possible. And then get another as soon as possible after that. 

Another of our favorite meals was at Bob's Red Mill Store. Located a mile from the factory, the store sells all Bob's products and serves breakfast and lunch featuring whole grain foods. 

I would happily eat this vegetarian sandwich on multigrain bread every day for the rest of my life. The chips were amazing too. 

Of course, we couldn't come to Portland and miss Voodoo Doughnut. Why yes, I would love a coffin full of doughnuts!

Alas, we only ordered four donuts, which we brought back to our hotel room and carefully split into thirds so we could each try them all. My favorite was the Tangfastic. Yum. 

(Image from Voodoo Doughnut website)

Trevor and I are huge fans of frozen yogurt, so we had to check out TartBerry. They had a good number of flavors available, as well as the largest number of topping options I've ever seen. Trevor loved the pink dividers they had. Stick it in the cup, then add multiple flavors and they won't intermingle. Brilliant! 

So there you have it, all of our favorite places to eat in Portland!

Before wrapping up the post, I want to tell you about one more fantastic meal that we ate. It was actually on our drive home, rather than in Portland. The Creswell Bakery in Creswell, Oregon is about 120 miles south of Portland, right off I-5 and the food was amazing. It's our new favorite restaurant along I-5.

If you've never spent time in Portland, I'd definitely recommend that you go. It's a wonderful town full of neat things to do and fantastic food to eat. It's very pedestrian- and tourist-friendly. There are a bunch more things we're going to do the next time we're in Portland... and I promise you there will be a next time!


Portland: Family-Friendly Things to Do in the City of Roses (Part 2)

This is the second post about our family's travels to Portland, Oregon. You can see the first post here. Because I blog about educational travel, I received free admission tickets, discounts, media rates, and other benefits for some of the attractions we visited throughout the trip. Many attractions we toured are free to everyone. I paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I whole-heartedly recommend.


On Tuesday, March 13 my friend Erin picked Trevor and me up and drove us out to the Bob's Red Mill factory. Have I mentioned how grateful I am to have reconnected with friends through Facebook? Erin and I met in the dorms at UC Davis freshman year (1990) and reconnected a few years ago on Facebook. I am so glad she's back in my life! I'd hoped to post a photo of the two of us from 1990, but I couldn't find one. I have almost no photos from my time in the dorm. But here's a photo of Trevor, me, and Erin from 2018!

All three of us loved the mill tour. It was very interesting and informative. We loved working together as a group to try to identify different types of beans.

And getting to touch all the exotic (and familiar) grains they mill was really neat.

We couldn't take photos of much of the tour, but I did get a photo of Trevor grinding wheat that he first threshed and winnowed.

After a delicious lunch (all about Portland's food tomorrow!), Erin dropped us off at OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. 

Trevor and I loved all the hands-on science activities and displays. We appreciated the number of exhibits that appealed to kids (and adults) of all ages. 

We've been to a lot of science museums over the years and OMSI was one of the better ones in terms of number and type of activities, as well as pure entertainment value. However, both Trevor and I noticed that they could have done a better job with signage explaining the science behind an experiment or activity, or giving the solutions to brain teasers. There were signs and OMSI is definitely educational, but we both would have preferred even more learning opportunities. Still, we both recommend OMSI for anyone visiting Portland with kids.

Our hotel was about a mile away from OMSI across the Willamette River. Fortunately, Portland is very pedestrian friendly. We enjoyed a leisurely walk back to downtown.

On Wednesday, March 14th, Trevor and I started our day at the Portland Art Museum. Wow. Just wow.

We loved the temporary exhibit about LAIKA, the makers of the Oscar-nominated films Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls and Kubo and the Two Strings (affiliate link). 

The pictures don't begin to do it justice. We absolutely loved getting up close to sets and figures used in these gorgeous movies. 

And it was so interesting to learn about the whole process of bringing these films to the screen. Every person who had a role in making these films is truly an artist and so gifted at what they do.  

The LAIKA exhibit runs through May 20, so hurry and go see it. It is totally worth it, even if you have to make a special trip to Portland from wherever you live! 

The other exhibits of the Portland Art Museum are fabulous as well. As usual, I was most drawn to the native art. I cannot get enough of beautiful handmade pottery, basketry, and beadwork. 

This Chilkat ceremonial robe was particularly interesting to Trevor and me. There was a documentary that accompanied it that taught us all about it, which you can actually view here. The CCNA Interwoven Radiance exhibit closes June 24, so hurry over and see it before it's gone. 

Trevor has been to enough art museums that he's getting pretty good at spotting the masters, and the Portland Art Museum had plenty to see. 

Trevor and I concluded our visit at the Common Ground exhibit. It was incredibly powerful and gave me a chance to have a very important discussion with Trevor. I am glad to have experienced it with him. I did not take any photographs in this exhibit, but many of the images remain burned in my mind. I strongly recommend this exhibit for middle schoolers and up, but would not recommend it for young children.

There's one more destination I would recommend if you're in the Portland area, which is the Capitol in Salem. It's about an hour south of Portland, so we actually stopped there on our drive home. 

This will probably sound weird, but my favorite part about Oregon's Capitol was the carpet!

We've toured a lot of Capitol buildings now (Salem was #16) and this was the first time I took photos specifically of the carpet in each room. 

The funniest part was that the gift shop sold socks in the same patterns as the carpets! I didn't buy any, but I can't say I wasn't tempted. 

I also loved this gorgeous piece of artwork. 

It's made of little colored pebbles and other natural materials. 

This mixed media piece was stunning too. 

Tomorrow I'll share all the amazing food we had to eat during our visit to Portland. It really is a foodie paradise!