Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Puzzle for 2013

Our annual Christmas puzzle is available now. Follow the simple directions, eliminate those words and see what's left...

As in prior years, the reward for solving is a video Christmas card, but you'll need to figure out the password by solving the puzzle.

Note: If you need some help, the full answer is posted here, but try solving it without help first... it's more fun that way.

Feel free to add a comment below to let us know that you successfully figured it out (without giving away the answer to others). We are always looking for new ideas for next year's Christmas puzzle, so submit those too.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Jason's 12th Birthday - Indoor Skydiving

For Jason's 12th Birthday, we went to iFly Indoor Skydiving. It was a blast and we all had fun! Can't wait to try it again.

Check out the video of Jason's 12th Birthday - Indoor Skydiving

Friday, July 19, 2013

Amara's 10th Birthday Party - Olympics Theme


For Amara's 10th Birthday, she chose an Olympics-themed birthday party with various sporting events and party games.  The party began with guests entering the "Olympic Village" and decorating their water bottles with markers and stickers.

The first events were Synchronized Ping Pong (like "Simon Says") and Basketball-bomb (like "Hot Potato").  That was followed by a Parade of Nations Quiz where the teams tried to match pictures of flags to their respective countries.

The rotating events included Candy Matching (like "Memory"), Javelin Throwing and Sailboat Racing.  After each guest had a chance to compete in each event, we had the Gold Medal Piñata ceremony.

Back inside, as we were grilling hamburgers, we kept the kids busy with our version of Scattergories followed by several rounds of Olympic Events Bingo.  Finally, Felicia brought out the homemade Gymnastics cake, with a fondant-wrapped cookie dough mat.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mum & Dad's 50th Wedding Anniversary

This is a copy of the slideshow that I put together for our parents' 50th wedding anniversary party. Click on the picture to see the video.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Amara's visit to Mission San Juan Bautista

Amara at Mission San Juan BautistaIt is that time of year when the 4th graders study the California missions and create a Mission Project of one of the 21 missions.

Amara chose Mission San Juan Bautista since it was within driving distance for a visit and because she wanted to create a video of our visit to Mission San Juan Bautista.

Interesting facts about the Mission:
  • Largest of the 21 California Missions.
  • Its church is the largest in the mission chain and is the only with a main aisle and two naves.
  • Was used as the setting for Alfred Hitchcock's movie "Vertigo" starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak.

  • Monday, December 24, 2012

    Christmas Baking (Gingerbread House, Yule Log, Cookies)


    With Michael back from college, we had all the kids together for some Christmas Eve baking of a gingerbread house, a Yule log and some Christmas sugar cookies.

    The gingerbread house was covered in chocolate bricks, cocoa and cinnamon cereal. The doors were red fondant and there was a fondant wreath and bow over the door. Around the house were topiary bushes with inverted Rolo candies as the planters and homemade chocolate frosting for the plants.

    The trees were upside-down sugar cones covered in green frosting and the reindeer were made with almonds and pretzels. They were the only items that were non-edible since they needed a few dabs of hot glue to stick together. The rest of the decorations (snowman, presents and polar bear) were made with Rice Krispy cereal treats covered in fondant.

    Kudos to anyone that noticed the poinsettia on one of the bushes, or what the polar was holding in his paw...

    Friday, December 21, 2012

    Christmas Puzzle for 2012 - Snowflake Maze

    Our annual Christmas puzzle is available now. It's a fun maze in the shape of a snowflake. As in prior years, the reward for solving is a video Christmas card, but you'll need to figure out the password by solving the puzzle.

    Note: If you need some help, the full answer is posted here, but try solving it without help first... it's more fun that way.

    Feel free to add a comment below to let us know that you successfully figured it out (without giving away the answer to others). We are always looking for new ideas for next year's Christmas puzzle, so submit those too.

    Wednesday, October 31, 2012

    Halloween Costume Theme: The Four Seasons


    For our 14th year of dressing up for Halloween, we chose a theme that is ideal for a group of 4: The Four Seasons.

    You can see a movie and read more details on our costumes by clicking here.

    Sunday, August 12, 2012

    Camping 2012 - Grand Canyon, North Rim (August 2012) - Part II

    As the second part of our annual family camping, we continued on to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon where we camped, hiked and rode mules. An adventurous contingent of our family braved the famous "Rim to Rim" hike starting at the North Rim, descending 6000 feet into the canyon, then another 7+ miles across the canyon to Phantom Ranch. The next morning they hiked the grueling Bright Angel Trail with 9 miles of nothing but up, to reach the South Rim.

    Camping 2012 - Grand Canyon, North Rim (August 2012) - Part II from Blaine & Felicia

    Camping 2012 - Mojave National Preserve & Grand Canyon, North Rim (August 2012) - Part I

    For our family camping trip this year, we drove to the Mojave Desert. We started our trip with 3 days in Mojave National Preserve where we camped, hiked a trail of rock wall hand-holds, went up (and down) the dunes and saw lots of Joshua trees.

    After that we continued on to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon where we again camped, hiked and rode mules. An adventurous contingent of our family braved the famous "Rim to Rim" hike starting at the North Rim, descending 6000 feet into the canyon, then another 7+ miles across the canyon to Phantom Ranch. The next morning they hiked the grueling Bright Angel Trail with 9 miles of nothing but up, to reach the South Rim.

    Camping 2012 - Mojave National Preserve & Grand Canyon, North Rim (August 2012) - Part I from Blaine & Felicia.

    For those that are interested in the actual Rim to Rim Hike, be sure to watch Part II of our video.

    Sunday, June 24, 2012

    Family Trip - Lake Tahoe - June 2012

    In honor of Dad's 80th birthday, as well as other birthdays in June (Tanya, Sydney, Sara, Amara) the family celebrated at a cabin up at South Lake Tahoe. We had fun cruising the lake, swimming, having a barbecue cookout, riding horses and renting pedal boats. Enjoy!


    Family Trip - Lake Tahoe - June 2012 from Blaine & Felicia.

    Thursday, June 14, 2012

    Jason's 5th Grade Graduation Slideshow

    5th Grade Graduation SlideshowEvery year, Highlands Elementary celebrates the 5th grade graduation by showing a slideshow with baby/toddler photos interspersed with current photos of each of the children.

    Since Jason was graduating this year, I volunteered to create the slideshow. After scanning, cropping and retouching hundreds of submitted photos, I spent several long weekends getting the video to look "just right". To watch the video, click on the video image above.

    The movie starts with a fanfare introduction and then quickly transitions into the slideshow portion of the video. I made a similar video when Rosemary graduated from 5th grade, but this time I decided to show the baby/toddler photo in a smaller window so that everyone could compare the two photos. The movie ends with a short synchonized fireworks show and some credits.

    I hope you enjoy this and feel free to share the link with family and friends that weren't able to make it to the ceremony.

    Congratulations 5th grade class of 2012 and good luck in middle school next year! And thank you to the parents and teachers for all their hard work and support.

    Tuesday, June 05, 2012

    Photos of the Transit of Venus, extremely rare event!

    To safely view the Transit of Venus, we set up a pair of binoculars and projected the image of the sun onto a flat surface. It was really exciting to see the image of the sun with a tiny black dot which was the planet Venus.

    A transit of Venus across the Sun takes place when the planet Venus passes directly between the Sun and Earth, becoming visible against (and hence obscuring a small portion of) the solar disk. The event is visible for several hours.

    Transits of Venus are among the rarest of predictable astronomical phenomena. They occur in a pattern that repeats every 243 years, with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by long gaps of 121.5 years and 105.5 years.

    This transit of Venus occurred on June 5 in our location and is the last Venus transit of the 21st century. The prior transit took place on June 8, 2004. The previous pair of transits were in December 1874 and December 1882. The next transits of Venus will be in December 2117 and December 2125.

    Venus transits are historically of great scientific importance as they were used to gain the first realistic estimates of the size of the Solar System. In particular, observations of the 1639 transit, combined with the principle of parallax, provided an estimate of the distance between the Sun and the Earth that was more accurate than any other up to that time.

    Click on the picture above to see more pictures from our observation of the Transit of Venus.

    Friday, March 30, 2012

    Rosemary Goes to the Junior Prom in Style

    Rosemary recently went to her junior prom with her boyfriend, Justin. They, along with several other friends were invited to a dinner hosted by Chris V. and his mom beforehand.

    There were lots of parents taking pictures and we were taking some video of the pre-prom activities.  It was fun to see Rosemary & Justin, Lydia & Zack, Jessica & Conor, Trevor, Chris V. & Chris B. all dressed up in their fancy tuxedos and dresses, then heading off in their snazzy white limo.

    Enjoy a glimpse of the pre-prom festivities in the following video: Rosemary's Junior Prom.

    Saturday, December 31, 2011

    Ice Skating Fun!



    Jason and Amara and a couple friends (Makayla and Samantha) all went to the local outdoor skating rink for some ice skating fun. While they were there, they met up with Amara's classmate, Lucie and her sister Isabelle and her friend Anastasia. Enjoy the video by clicking the play button, or click to view it on YouTube.

    Monday, December 26, 2011

    Christmas Day 2011 - Turducken for Dinner

    Christmas Day was started with everyone in their Christmas pajamas.  First came the stockings which were overflowing with gifts from "Santa."  Then we had a breakfast of homemade banana chocolate chip muffins, omelets, waffles, sausage and scrambled eggs.

    Next we got the turducken ready for roasting. For anyone that hasn't heard of a turducken it is a deboned turkey, stuffed with a duck and finally a chicken.  In between each bird there's a layer of stuffing.  This was the first time we ever tried a turducken and it was a fun culinary experience.

    After that we opened gifts, played some games and relaxed until dinner time.  For dinner we had turducken, haricot vert, peas, mashed potatoes with homemade gravy and cranberry sauce.  For dessert we had a pudding and berry pie topped with homemade candy cane vanilla ice cream.  (The ice cream maker was a Christmas gift from the cats.)

    Click on the picture above to view our Christmas photo album.  You can also click on the 'Slideshow' button to see the pictures with captions.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    Christmas Puzzle for 2011 is available now

    Our annual Christmas puzzle is available now. It is called "Write the Right Word" since it involves homophones. As in prior years, the reward for solving is a video Christmas card, but you'll need to figure out the password by solving the puzzle.

    Note: If you need some help, the full answer is posted there too, but try solving it without help first... it's more fun that way.

    Feel free to add a comment below to let us know that you successfully figured it out (without giving away the answer to others). We are always looking for new ideas for next year's Christmas puzzle, so submit those too.

    Friday, November 25, 2011

    Photos from Thanksgiving 2011

    Click the image to the left to see a smattering of photos we took on Thanksgiving Day. Dinner was at Mum and Dad's house and everyone brought something to enjoy; there was lots of scrumptious food! After dinner we had fun playing games (Blokus, Cribbage and Mille Bornes) and later on Hisae taught us how to fold our paper napkins into origami creations.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2011

    Halloween Costume Theme: Early Explorers of the New World

    For our 13th year of dressing in a family theme for Halloween, we chose to dress as Early Explorers of the New World. We entered two local Halloween costume contests and we won first place and second place respectively in the groups and family categories.

    We had Amara as an "Indian", Jason as a Viking, Blaine as Christopher Columbus and Felicia as an English colonist. Michael and Rosemary opted to "do their own thing" this year, so Michael dressed as "The Creep" from the Lonely Island music video of the same name, while Rosemary dressed as Princess Zelda from the Ocarina of Time. Click the photo above to see a slideshow and other details on our costumes.

    Sunday, August 21, 2011

    Camping, Hiking, Tubing at Zion National Park

    0:00 Day 1 - Setting up the tent
    1:08 Day 1 - Emerald Pools Hike
    3:02 Day 2 - Interpretive Tour & Hiking the Narrows
    5:14 Day 3 - Our Campsite (South Campground)
    6:52 Day 3 - Hike to Angels Landing (Intro)
    7:53 Day 3 - Hike to Angels Landing (Going up)
    11:35 Day 3 - Hike to Angels Landing (At the top)
    13:18 Day 3 - Hike to Angels Landing (Going down)
    14:42 Day 4 - Tubing Down the Virgin River
    16:31 Day 4 - Becoming Junior Rangers

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Tubing Fun at Alpine Meadows (Tubeville)

    Play Snow Tubing VideoThis is the second year that Alpine Meadows Ski Resort has opened up a tubing area called "Tubeville" just beyond the lodge. The tubing course consists of two steep, long lanes, each with a couple humps and a big half-pipe at the end. There's a moving "magic carpet" escalator to get you to the top of the hill and then a quick, fast ride down to the bottom.

    We had fun racing each other, spinning, performing running starts, riding backwards, etc. And when you got up some good speed, you might find yourself getting some air at the bottom of the run then doing a 180°. It was a lot of fun! Don't forget to check out the patent-pending "Dad Cam" views in this video.

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    Jason's Mission Project - Santa Ines (model)


    It's that time of year when the 4th graders have to create a "Mission Project" (either a photo collage, video or model) of one of the 21 California Missions. Jason chose to build a model of the Santa Ines Mission which is near Santa Barbara, the 19th one built. He found a survey map and a view of the front and used that to layout the model.

    His tip to others working on their Mission Project? Do a little bit each weekend or night so you don't get overwhelmed on the last day. The model was made by first drawing a floorplan of the mission in the desired size. The size was chosen based on some cute horse figures that were found at the hobby store. That was also where we purchased the trees (train model supplies) and the lichen (for the bushes). The model is made with illustration board, cut with an X-acto knife. The crosses and fences were made with rectangular dowel rods (balsa wood) which were glued with hot glue and painted.

    Jason used a mixture of red and orange paint to get the tile roof color and an off-white for the walls. This is easier to do if you paint the models before they are all glued together. It also makes it less likely you'll get paint in the wrong places. To finish it up, he used a label maker to add the name of the mission and his name. And we also glued down a picture of the Santa Ines Mission just to show a comparison between the actual mission and the model.

    Tuesday, December 21, 2010

    Secret Video, if you can solve our Christmas Puzzle

    Christmas Puzzle 2010This year we've hidden a secret video message as the solution to our puzzle. Only those that can spot the 8 differences in our annual Christmas Puzzle will be able to figure out the password. Are you up to the challenge?

    Note: If you need some help there are hints on the puzzle page and even the complete solution, but try solving it without help first... it's more fun that way.

    When you solve it, please don't give away the answer but feel free to add a comment to let us know that you successfully figured it out. And we are always looking for new ideas for next year's Christmas puzzle, so submit those too.

    Sunday, October 31, 2010

    Our Halloween Costumes (Chess Pieces) won First Place!


    As part of our annual Halloween tradition, we come up with a family theme for our costumes. This year we went as Chess Pieces. We entered two local Halloween costume contests and we won first place in group/family for both.

    Felicia came up with our theme this year. It started when Michael suggested he wanted to be a knight. After tossing around ideas like "royalty" or "knights of the round table", Felicia noted that the knight is one of 6 different chess pieces. It was a perfect match!

    All clothing (apart from my pants/shirt/vest) was sewn by Felicia.
  • The King's costume had a lined robe made of panne and a faux-fur shoulder piece. I strung the livery chain and medalion and constructed the crown.


  • For Rosemary's Queen costume, both the dress and the robe were sewn by Felicia and I made and decorated the crown.


  • For Michael's Knight costume, Felicia made the faux-chainmail hood and sleeves. The tunic and the pants were made out of a soft-faux-leather material. The helmet, shield and sword were painted to match, and then I embellished the shield with the chessboard pattern and the chess piece emblem.


  • Felicia sewed all her Bishop's vestments which included the velvet robe, the white cotton alb, the rope cincture, the stole and the decorated black chausable. I made and decorated the bishop's mitre.


  • For Jason's Rook piece, the structure was made using embroidery hoops, poster and illustration board, a "pleather" material for the brick, and glitter paint for the grout.


  • Finally, Felicia did all the sewing for Amara's Pawn dress and a Juliet cap. The bottom of the dress had a hoop made out of plastic tubing sewn into the hem to give the fullness.



  • Once again, Felicia deserves all the credit for her weeks of sewing and I'll take credit for the construction, painting and decorating. Oh, and did you notice the chessboard trick or treat bags? Felicia sewed those too. Each of us had a bag with our corresponding chess piece. I think that helped people figure out the theme.

    Take a look at our costumes for this year and years past

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    Jason's 9th Birthday - A Mario Party Theme

    Jason's 9th Birthday 'Mario Party' VideoTo celebrate turning 9, Jason chose a Mario Party theme for his birthday this year. Guests played real-life versions of several of the mini-games from the Mario Party game series including Shy Guy Says, Hot Bob-omb, Sugar Rush and Catch You Letter.

    In addition the children had to guess the number of gold coins hidden in four treasure chests, played Bowser Bingo, bashed a Chain Chomp piñata and ate a Grand Star birthday cake.

    We put together a fun video of all the festivities. Click on the thumbnail above to see a movie from Jason's 9th Birthday Party.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010

    Amara's 7th Birthday Party

    Amara's 7th Birthday Party VideoAmara chose "Art" as her birthday theme this year. Guests decorated keepsake boxes, made their own pizzas, were challenged with an art quiz, played ring toss (over paint brushes) and ball toss (into paint cans), broke open a colorful pinata, played "know your colors" bingo, ate dinner and homemade cake, gathered prizes and balloons and took home a packet of mazes, word finds and other puzzles.

    Thank you to everyone that came to celebrate with Amara. She really appreciated everyone being there, the fun she had and all the gifts she received.

    Take a look at the video from Amara's 7th Birthday Party.

    Sunday, June 27, 2010

    Swimming Fun with Sydney and Sara

    Swimming Fun VideoTanya came out to visit with the twins, Sydney and Sara. Obviously the kids had a great time playing with their cousins in the pool with lots of jumping, splashing, spinning and other water fun.

    I put together a short video entitled Swimming Fun with Sydney and Sara. Enjoy!

    Production Notes: I used our waterproof camera to get shots of people in the pool and jumping into the water. Most of the editing was done in the latest version of Windows Live Movie Maker, but I had to use Sony Vegas for a couple "special effects". I think you'll know which ones once you see the video.

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    Rosemary's French Commercial, Le Baton!

    Play Le Baton VideoRosemary, along with her classmates Will and J.P., came up with the following French commercial as part of a French class assignment. They had to create a commercial for a product and tout the positive uses (along with things to avoid). This was filmed over a weekend and then edited together with sound effects, titles, etc.

    So have you heard about this new useful product that everyone should have? If not, be sure to watch the commercial so you too can have one. Everyone should go out now and buy Le Baton!.

    Sunday, March 28, 2010

    Video Thank You Letter to Jason's 3rd Grade Teacher

    Play Thank you VideoAs part of Teacher Appreciation week at school, Jason's 3rd Grade class made a video thank you letter for their teacher, Mr. Fisher.

    Take a look at their Video Thank You Letter to Mr. Fisher.

    Monday, December 28, 2009

    Christmas Crafts, Cupcakes, Stockings and More...

    Blaine and Felicia's Christmas Slideshow 2009Each Christmas we pick a fun craft to do with the kids. This year we made little felt mice with candy cane tails and handed them out to family, friends and classmates.

    On Christmas Eve, Blaine sang with the church choir and Felicia played violin.

    Christmas Day was the usual fun of opening stockings, having breakfast, opening gifts, playing games, eating a scrumptious Christmas dinner, etc. Click the link for our Christmas 2009 slideshow. If the slideshow doesn't start automatically, click the 'Slideshow' button in the upper left.