One of the things we've been doing at home a lot more than normal during the stay-at-home order is cooking and baking. Lancaster Cupcake and many other local businesses are offering carry-out and delivery. They even have take-home decorating kits that would be perfect to battle the boredom with kids.
I have a confession to make. I didn't read this book. GASP!! However, both of my daughters did, and they give it glowing reviews. So instead of my input, I'm going to sum up their review of the first book in this middle grade Wendy Mass series. It's a perfect combination for a blog entry about sweets. I debated using Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as it's an absolute old favorite of mine, but ultimately decided to give my kiddos the opportunity to be the book reviewers.
Kid Review Summed Up:
Four kids enter a competition to make their own candy. The winner gets to have their candy creation made for the public. Each of the kids narrates his or her own view of the competition. One kid, Phillip, is really snobby. Daisy is a spy. Logan is the real candymaker's son. Miles is shy and appreciates the way words sound. It's really cool the way it's written because you learn secrets about the characters in each new part. This book is exciting and makes you want to turn the pages quickly.
Writing a travel blog during a massive quarantine is a tad bit challenging. Yes, I can pull out old material, and I will have to, but I also like to write about current things. So this has very little to do with traveling, but it's relevant for everyone now and technically, we did have to travel to deliver them. Salt dough ornaments are simple and a great way to keep kids busy on these long, endless days. You can dye the dough or paint them after they bake. I've done both, and they always turn out really cute for ornaments or decorations.
Today was a bad day for everyone. There were lots of frustrated tears from both me and the kids about doing online schoolwork. Sites were crashing, sisters were fighting, the dog was pooping in his crate, the routine is different, and everyone is trying to accept this new normal. So after a really disastrous morning, we decided to deliver some cheer. A few days ago, I found a simple salt dough recipe circulating on Facebook:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water
*We doubled it because one batch doesn't make enough for three people to paint.
We mixed up our dough and used cookie cutters to punch out Easter shapes. Weirdly enough, I didn't have an egg shape. We grabbed a plastic cup squeezing it into an oval, and that worked just fine. We put our salt dough shapes on parchment paper-covered baking sheets and baked them at 250 degrees for two hours. Don't forget to punch holes in the tops if you intend to hang some. We just used the end of a paint brush to make the holes.
Once they cooled completely, we decorated them with acrylic craft paint and put pipe cleaners through the holes as hangers. They turned out pretty cute and kept the girls busy over a few hours for two days.
My grandma is 87 years old and lives alone. We drove to her house and surprised her with our decorations and also made a stop at my parents' house. We hung some from the trees and put some on the sidewalk. We also decorated their driveways with chalk while we were there. We made sure to stick to strict social distancing guidelines so as not to put them at risk. They all teared up, and I know it meant a lot for them to see us from a distance.
Spreading cheer today helped us heal our own lonely hearts for a brief moment in time. This book is a great complement to this theme. The main character Victoria is unable to connect with people due to her darkly troubled past, but she discovers a way to communicate through flowers. We can't communicate in person during this quarantine, but the human spirit is resilient, and we discover ways to meet our social needs through small things like phone calls, video chats, letters, gifts on porches, chalk pictures, and ornaments in trees.
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There's a shadow of gray and darkness that lurks along every chapter in this novel and while it stalks the pages, I loved the story even more because of it. As the title may falsely lead you to believe, this is not a light, flowery book with happy endings and tidy resolutions but instead the stark, reality of someone who experiences trauma. Trauma latches it's cold, spindly fingers onto every part of Victoria's life and won't let go just because she has entered adulthood. Victoria spends the majority of her life in the foster-care system, and she is unable to develop connections with people or the world around her except through the Victorian language of flowers. Victoria learns this language of love through one foster mom that she attaches to until tragedy strikes, and she is forced back into isolation. Victoria eventually emancipates and strikes out on her own but meets up with people and secrets from her past that force her to question her place in the world and even the precious language of flowers she so staunchly clings to. Victoria is not a likeable character but she's real. Her push-back against people who are kind to her is also authentic. She's angry, downright mean, and mostly lost. I love reading about the meaning of the various flowers and how they played a role in people's destines. Victoria develops a gift for choosing just what people need in the flower shop she comes to work for, and eventually comes to terms with what she needs in her own life in order to be happy.
View all my reviews
We're on day five of the COVID-19 quarantine. Knowing that this may be a long, long time being stuck in the house, I was thrilled when my friend mentioned Uncharted Lancaster to me in a text. Uncharted Lancaster is a website that lays out clues to various adventure hikes all around Lancaster County. The hikes teach you some local history, introduce you to new places, and keep you on your toes trying to find treasure boxes. This sounded like the perfect way to adhere to the recommendations regarding social distancing but also allowing us to get some exercise and get out of our house. So far we've done three hikes, and they've captured the girls' attention in ways I'm truly thankful for. We've all been really tense, and the adventure of this special family time helped us take our minds off feeling scared and unsure about the current pandemic for at least a few hours during the day. We made sure to use gloves when opening or touching the boxes, and we wiped down the treasures with Clorox wipes before handling.
The girls read over the list of adventures on the Uncharted Adventures website.
Haunted Indian Gold Adventure
They were immediately drawn to the Haunted Indian Gold Adventure. After reading the background history about the buried gold and other treasures in the Safe Harbor area, the girls decided this would be the best adventure to start with. This has also been our favorite hike so far.
The website rates this hike a 4/5 on the difficulty scale, and I would agree that it's a challenge. It's a little over three miles and includes some steep climbs and declines. The website includes lots of helpful pictures to orient yourself as you continue on the trail.
Romancing the Stone Adventure
The start of this hike is only two minutes from the Pequea Trolley Trail which is why we did it the same day. It's also only a 2/5 on the difficulty scale and is similar in simplicity to the Pequea adventure. While only a mile long, the start of this adventure is a challenge. It's a steep uphill climb followed by a steep downhill trail on a skinny path. It evens out and crosses a rickety bridge following water and little waterfalls for another beautiful scene. This adventure ends up with a single box filled with glittering diamonds. The girls began bickering with each other at this point, and we had to hustle out to avoid the tired afternoon meltdowns. They stopped long enough to admire the waterfalls and climbing rocks, and we thoroughly enjoyed this adventure as well.
Of all the great books out there I've read about unlocking clues to find some kind of fortune or treasure, this one seems to best fit the current vibe with it's sci-fi, dystopian theme. We're all stuck inside our homes waiting out the pandemic while Wade Watts is stuck inside the virtual OASIS trying to unlock the gates that will lead him to Halliday's fortune. Luckily these Uncharted Lancaster experiences gave us the opportunity to treasure hunt outdoors. Check out this book to go down the 80s memory lane and immerse yourself in a virtual adventure.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
How did I not read this when it first came out?! Oh that’s right- there are too many good books and not enough time. It’s beyond good and a truly unique dystopian experience. So this guy (Halliday) creates a virtual gaming world (the OASIS) and when he dies, it’s revealed that there are Easter eggs hidden throughout the virtual reality. Whoever finds these keys and unlocks the gates will inherit his vast fortune. This sets off years of people clambering to unlock the secrets of the OASIS. Halliday loved the 80s so the clues all revolve around 80s games, movies and music. A huge corporation wants to take over the OASIS and monetize it, so there is also the conflict of single players who are true lovers of the game vs this greed-filled entity trying to take over. I loved the subtle commentary on human immersion in the technology world, and the nostalgia of 80s references was incredibly entertaining. If you haven’t read this yet, I’d highly recommend it.
View all my reviews
Travel All the Pages is inspired by my two loves - travel and reading, a combo I can't resist. Enjoy these little pairings.