Recent Posts

Kids in the Kitchen: Celebrating Strawberry Season

Kids in the Kitchen: Celebrating Strawberry Season

My apologies in advance to those of you who still have cold weather, because here in Louisiana it’s fully spring. Glorious, amazing spring, one of the prettiest down here that I can remember. Best of all, spring brings strawberries. Louisiana prides itself on growing them […]

Sanders Chocolate Factory Tour

Sanders Chocolate Factory Tour

We’re always on the hunt for fun, inexpensive things to do with the kids in the Detroit area. A free tour of the Sanders Chocolate Factory filled that bill, and I can’t say it took a lot of arm-twisting to bring the kids on this […]

Mapping Skills for Elementary Students (K-3)

Mapping Skills for Elementary Students (K-3)

A couple of weeks ago my children and I set out with our co-op to do a mapping skills exercise. (This sounds super official, but translated that’s me and two friends and all our kids learning directions and beginning mapping!) We have a range of ages so we have different difficulty levels for the activities.) We met up to teach cardinal directions (north, south, east, west) to the younger students, and combine that with beginning mapping for our K-3 students. In this age of directions read aloud to us at the push of a button, I want to make sure my children understand how to read a map. Hopefully this will also encourage a good sense of direction at some point. (Please tell me it doesn’t make me old that I remember looking up streets for my mother on a map while we were driving around!) So here’s what we did, and what map skills worksheets we used.

We met up in our local little Old Town, because it’s pedestrian-friendly and is laid out in square blocks. First up, cardinal directions! One of my friends lined up all the kids facing north, and introduced the mnemonic Never Eat Sour Worms (there’s a whole list of mnemonics here!) going around clockwise. They practiced that a few times, and then I hauled out my atlas, showed them our city on the map, and had them point to where we would wind up if we went north, then east, etc. (South lands you in the water down here!) Time to put this new knowledge into action. The smallest children got papers with the cardinal directions listed; each time we changed direction they put a check mark next the new direction we were going. (You can see the worksheet she typed up in the first picture.) They also got a road sign scavenger hunt to keep them engaged while we talked. A stationary worksheet that would have worked well is to fill in what you see in each direction around you:

        Compass Rose Map

The website has numerous worksheets similar to this one, and you can find them all over here.

For the “older” children (the ones in kindergarten and 2nd grade), I handed them a city block grid to map where we walked. This City block grid is the one that I found at the last minute to print off to use (real-life confessions!), before I figured out how to make my own blank one for mapping. You can make your own grids, with wide “streets” for younger kids, and smaller ones for more detailed mapping for older kids. (Here is the tutorial on how to make the table grids wider and gray.) Then as we walked the kids traced where we were going, and occasionally we stopped to draw in our own landmarks (if you can read our map, we saw an ice cream shop and a motel with a prominent sign). In order to do this they had to keep their map oriented correctly, and put some spatial awareness to work to figure out where to place things on their new map.

city map worksheet

If you can also see on the map, we walked right past our fire station…and it so happened that several of our firemen were all geared up to meet a school field trip! So we got a personal tour of the fire engine, and got to ask questions (well, we mamas did… the kiddoes were too busy playing with the helmet!). Talk about day made!

stop at the fire station

After we left the fire station, we finished our mapping skills route and headed back to the our cars. Our little exercise took us an hour total, even with the fire station detour. If your group is exclusively in the K-3 range-ish, you could definitely take more time and map with more detail. Next time we may also give directions to wind up at a treat stop… ๐Ÿ˜‰ On the way home I had my kids guess in which direction we were driving each time we made a turn. My van displays the direction, so I had to cover it up while they guessed, but it also lead to a good discussion of “What does NW mean??”

blank city block grid mapping skill worksheet

If you’d like to do something like this mapping exercise, here is my printable for your own blank city block map skills worksheet if you want to do this exercise with your elementary aged students. Printable: BlockGrid.

Compass rose for mapping skills

Google image search “compass rose” and then print off one you like. Have the little ones point/circle/put a check mark next to the direction you’re heading.

What activities have you done to teach mapping skills to your kids? I plan to do more and would love to hear some ideas!

Guardian Building Tour

Guardian Building Tour

Any other architecture nerds out there? While neither David nor I have any background or training in architecture, we both love touring historic houses (Biltmore, Edsel & Eleanor Ford House) and buildings. One of our favorite getaways at our last duty station was a weekend […]

Resurrection Eggs/Easter Advent Eggs

Resurrection Eggs/Easter Advent Eggs

Today we’re continuing our ramp-up to Easter with what people usually call “Resurrection Eggs” (personally I like the term Advent Eggs)– another one of my goals for this year! “Advent” usually refers to the Christmas season, specifically the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, but […]

An afternoon at the Ark

An afternoon at the Ark

There’s not a lot that can entice me to stop when I’m road-tripping it solo-parenting style with the kids. Let me re-phrase that – *nothing* sways me from my myopic goal of covering the 16 driving hours of distance between Detroit and New Orleans. Except Chick-fil-a and occasional potty breaks. So when my mom volunteered to ride north with us after the wedding, I was enthusiastic for the help as well as the opportunity to throw in a scenic stop along the way. We picked Ark Encounter (a life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark) in Williamstown, Kentucky, because it was something that piqued our interest, and we also thought the kids might enjoy it.


What grabbed our toddler’s attention from the beginning was the sound effects. There were animal sounds coming from baskets and cages as well as the background noise of a deluge. The first and second floors of the Ark are full of containers for food and water storage along with cages containing representations of animals from different species.

Plaques along the walls give hypotheses to questions I’d never even considered like “where did Noah keep the polar bears?” and “what did Noah feed the anteaters and koalas?” There are also two different films (that kept the kids’ interest!) to see and a lot of exhibits and informational displays.


When reading through TripAdvisor reviews ahead of time, it seemed like a common thread was “save time for the last level – it’s the best!” Among other things, this third level contains living quarters for Noah and his family along with background stories crafted about Noah’s daughters-in-law. While the rooms were much more comfortable than I would have imagined, I suppose if you were building a boat over a period of approximately 75 years, you’d probably try to make the living space as nice as you could. ๐Ÿ˜›


Overall, it was worth the stop! We spent about four hours at the Ark and the adults along with our 8 year old felt like we could have spent more time there. The youngest three members of our group were DONE though, so it was a brief lunch stop and back on the road for us!


Know before you go:

  • Purchase tickets ahead of time! Even visiting off-season, we waited in line to buy tickets about twenty minutes. Spare yourself the wait if you can.
  • The grounds and Ark itself were all very stroller-friendly and handicap accessible. Those ramps meant for animals also worked splendidly for herding our crew in and out. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • There are dining options available on-site – a couple of restaurants (seasonal) as well as some prepared foods in the gift shops. We blitzed past these and ate on the road though. If you’re in the area for longer, there are other activities around the Ark. Ice skating is available in the winter and zip-lining can be done the summer (for an additional fee).


Classic Easter Books for Children

Classic Easter Books for Children

One of my goals for this year was to make my children’s Easter collection of books more robust, or, erm, exist… We have a pretty good collection of Christmas books going that I set out for them to read during the Christmas season. But I […]

Planning a Trip to Europe: Part 5, Packing Tips and Strategies

Planning a Trip to Europe: Part 5, Packing Tips and Strategies

I feel that there has been much (metaphorical) ink spilled on the interweb on the subject of packing. I have no desire to rehash ad naseum what everyone else has said, but here’s an outline of how we pack and what has worked for us. […]

Adventures with Food: Indian Butter Chicken

Adventures with Food: Indian Butter Chicken


Welcome to another family favorite recipe! This is one of those dishes that I would never have guessed ALL my children would love as much as they do, but my five-year-old has declared it his “1000% favorite food”! (For the record, roasted tomato soup with broiled cheddar rates as “1% favorite” in his book. Sigh.) This recipe is both also remarkably healthy and budget-conscious –give it up for rice and chicken! (Speaking of budget, World Market is hands down the cheapest place to buy the ground coriander and cardamom called for in this recipe.)

You’ll notice it contains plenty of garlic. I always use more garlic than is called for in a recipe — Vive l’ail! I try to avoid kitchen “gadgets” as much as possible (for the sake of my cabinet space if nothing else), but I love having this garlic rocker; it’s simple to clean, easy to use, makes quick work of numerous garlic cloves, and since it’s stainless steel it will get the garlic smell off your hands if you use your hands to rinse it.


This dish can be gently reheated the next day if you wish to make it ahead (but I would suggest leaving the cilantro to the last minute if possible).

We have eaten this with other kinds of rice, but the Basmati is especially good with it. Maybe it’s my Mexican-leaning tastebuds, but I think plenty of lime juice and cilantro is key to a flavorful dish here.

Indian Butter Chicken

Serves 8. Tweaked ever-so-slightly from Tasty Kitchen


4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces

    5-7 cloves garlic, minced

      1 teaspoon salt

        1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

          1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (This amount gives just a hint of heat -- little enough that all my kids are happy. Use 1/2 teaspoon if you want it with some kick.)

            1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

              1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

                1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

                  1 lime, juiced (I often use more to taste)

                    1 medium onion, diced

                      4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

                        1 canย (14.5 Oz. Can) Tomato Sauce

                          1 canย (14.5 Oz. Can) Petite Diced Tomatoes

                            2 cups half and half (in the name of all that is delicious and good for your body, please don't use the nasty "fat free" stuff.)

                              1 bunch chopped cilantro, or more to taste

                                Cooked Basmati rice (2 cups of uncooked rice is about right for us)


                                  Combine the chicken, garlic, salt, both peppers, coriander, cumin, cardamom, and lime juice, and marinate up to overnight. (I have made it with practically no marinade time and it still tasted delicious, but the chicken and spices must be combined before cooking.)

                                    Melt the butter in a 5-6 quart saute pan (you can also use a pot, though I think a saute pan works better), then add the onion and cook until softened.

                                      Add the marinated chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until all sides of the chicken are seared, about 10 minutes.

                                        Stir in the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes; cover the pan and simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

                                          Then stir in the half and half and cilantro and serve over the cooked Basmati rice.

                                            Reheats well for the rest of the week.

                                              Life Lately: Wedding Weekend!

                                              Life Lately: Wedding Weekend!

                                              So the clan (Cahoots Crew/Krewe included) gathered this past weekend to celebrate the marriage of one of our sisters. It was a DIY wedding, and it is an indication of how hectic it was that we failed to get a single Cahoots picture to mark […]