Archive for July, 2012

July 25th, 2012

Play Twister for Summer Fun

I just found a very fun old commercial (1992) for the original game of  Twister. This is classic family summer fun. If you have never played Twister, all you really need to know is that you spread the Twister mat on the floor or lawn and spin the spinner. Whichever color and body part it lands on is what you have to do. You know.. “right hand on red, left foot on blue”.  But we were able to find the Official Twister Rules so play away and have fun!

Official Twister Rules

Setting up the Game

  1. Spread the mat faceup on a flat surface, indoors or outdoors.
  2. Players take off their shoes and set them aside. If you’re playing outdoors, you may want to anchor the mat corners with your shoes.
  3. Designate an extra person as the referee. The referee is not considered a player; during the game, the referee will spin the spinner, call out the moves, and monitor the game play.
  4. Position yourselves on the mat according to the number of players, as explained below.

For a 2-player game: Players face each other from opposite ends of the mat, near the word Twister. Place one foot on the yellow circle and the other foot on the blue circle closest to your end of the mat. Your opponent does the same on his or her end.

For a 3-player game: Two players face each other on opposite ends of the mat, near the word Twister. Each player places one foot on the yellow circle and the other foot on the blue circle closest to his or her end of the mat. The third player faces the center from the red-circle side of the mat, placing one foot each on the two middle red circles.

How to Play

The referee spins the spinner, then calls out the body part and the color that the arrow points to. For example, the referee may call out: “Right hand, red.” All players, at the same time, must then try to follow the referee’s directions as explained below.

  • Each player must try to place the called-out body part on a vacant circle of the called-out color. For [example, if the referee calls out “Right hand, red,” each player must try to place a right hand on any vacant red circle.
  • If your called-out hand or foot is already on a circle of the called-out color, you must try to move it to another circle of the same color.
  • There can never be more than one hand or foot on any one circle. If two or more players reach for the same circle, the referee must decide which player got there first. The other player(s) must find another vacant circle of the same color.
  • Never remove your hand or foot from a circle unless you’re directed to by the referee after a spin. Exception: You may lift a hand or foot to allow another hand or foot to pass by, as long as you announce it to the referee beforehand, and replace it on its circle immediately afterward.
  • If all 6 circles of a color are already covered, the referee must spin again until a different color can be called out.

Strategy: Try moving toward an opponent’s portion of the mat, forcing the player to go over or under you to place a hand or foot!

Being Eliminated

Any player who falls, or touches the mat with an elbow or knee, is immediately out of the game. (If you feel that a new position is impossible, or will cause you to fall, you may elminiate yourself.)

In a 2-player game, the game ends and the remaining player wins. In a 3-player game, the remaining two players keep playing until one player is eliminated and the remaining player wins.

How to Win

The last player left in the game is the winner!

Team Play

For a 4-player game, form 2 teams of 2 players each. Teams face each other on opposite ends of the mat, standing side-by-side with each foot on a circle so that all 4 circles closest to the Twister name are covered.

Just as in a 2- or 3-player game, the referee spins the spinner and calls out a hand or foot and a color circle. Play as in the 2- or 3-player game, with this exception: members of the same team can cover the same circle with one hand or foot each.

As soon as a player falls or touches the mat with an elbow or knee, the player’s team is eliminated and the other team is the winner.

2-Player Game with No Referee

If there are only 2 players and no referee, you can play without using the spinner. One player calls out the body part; the other player calls out the circle color. Players alternate turns calling out the body part first. Otherwise, game play is the same, with the last remaining player the winner.

Party Games

Round Robin: Form several 2-player teams. Each team, in turn, plays every other team. Players keep track of wins and losses. The team with the most wins wins!

Elimination Game: Form several 2-player teams. Play against each other, with losing teams dropping out. Winning teams play each other until only one winning team is left!

 Visit Operation Letter To Santa

July 24th, 2012

Ways to Encourage Your Children to Read

How to get your kids to love reading - Operation SantaCourtesy of Read Aloud

  • Make a love of reading be your most important education goal for your children. Children who love to read will excel in everything they do.
  • Show your children that you value reading, don’t just tell them. Let them see you reading.
  • Make reading a daily activity.
  • Take outings to the bookstore.
  • Give books as gifts.
  • Always have time to read with them or help them with their reading.
  • Have a wide variety of books on hand, as well as newspapers, magazines and comics.
  • Find books that your children are interested in.
  • Surprise your children with books about their favorite animal, hobby or passion.
  • Join the Book of the Month Club and let them receive a new book every month.
  • Create their own little ‘library’ in their room on their own bookshelf. Give them a sense of ownership.

For Preschoolers

  • Take your children o the library often while they are young and eager to go.
  • On special occasions, take your children to the bookstore and let them pick their favorite book.
  • Buy lots of cheap books at garage sales and flea markets.
  • Spend more time (and money) on books than on Disney movies.
  • Make read aloud time fun for your child.
  • Read whatever books your child wants to read.
  • Narrate the story with voices and action, get into it and have fun!
  • Wrap up quickly when your child loses interest.
  • Let your child participate as much as possible- let her finish the sentence, read the pictures, take turns reading, etc.
  • Plan play activities that involve books- picnics, crafts, science projects, kits.
  • Act out favorite stories and characters from books.
  • Let them ‘read’ stories to their dolls or younger siblings.
  • Play bookstore or library.
  • Do projects, recipes, crafts and activities from books.
  • Play reading games- cross of shopping lists, put name tags around the house, play school.
  • Have a reading time after meals.
  • Be aware of how your child learns best- visual, auditory, or hands on.
  • Do a reading night with popcorn and blankets, instead of movie night.
  • Don’t do any activities that your child doesn’t enjoy. Learning should be fun!
  • Don’t buy books that your child isn’t interested in and make them read them.
  • After your child learns to read continue to read books to them above their reading level.

Elementary School to Teenagers

  • Encourage reading a book series.
  • Continue to encourage and participate in library use.
  • Don’t schedule so many activities that your children don’t have time to read.
  • Continue to spend money on books as well as all their other activities.
  • Try reading plays aloud (and acting them out).
  • Have a quiet, comfortable reading area in your home. Make it the most comfortable room in the house.
  • Fathers, spend time reading with your kids.
  • Keep books and magazines in the car.
  • Don’t make your kids turn the lights out at night, let them stay up and read!
  • Only own one television, and never put it in your children’s room.
  • Cancel your cable subscription and buy books instead.
  • Don’t force them to read something they don’t like.
  • Send teenagers to the bookstore with money to buy any book they like.
  • Allow them to choose their own books from the Book of the Month Club.
  • Read a book together at the same time and discuss it.
  • Encourage them to write and share what they read about. Do ‘book reports’.
  • Keep perspective. Reading should be the number one educational goal, but not the only goal.
  • “It is impossible to sit down to write if you have not stood up to live”- Emerson.

Visit Operation Letter To Santa

July 9th, 2012

A Great Beat the Heat Treat – Peach Gelato Ice Cream!

Everyone is trying to beat the heat this time of year. What better way to do that than to eat ice cream! Here is a great recipe for making ice cream without an ice cream maker.

A Great Beat the Heat Treat – Peach Gelato Ice Cream!

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 8

Serving Size: 1 cup

Calories per serving: 260 per 1/2 cup

Fat per serving: 15

A Great Beat the Heat Treat –  Peach Gelato Ice Cream!

This ice cream recipe doesn't need an ice cream maker. You can prepare it with the help of your freezer. It is a great summer time treat to keep everyone cool.


  • 3 cups sliced peeled peaches
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon peach schnapps liqueur, optional


  1. Place peaches and water in a large skillet; cook, uncovered, over medium heat until tender. Place in a food processor; cover and process until blended. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat milk to 175°; stir in sugar until dissolved. Whisk a small amount of the hot mixture into egg yolks. Return all to the pan, whisking constantly. Cook and stir over low heat until mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from the heat. Cool quickly by placing pan in a bowl of ice water; stir for 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the cream, peaches and liqueur if desired. Press waxed paper onto surface of custard. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  4. Here is how to make ice cream in your freezer, if you don't have the ice cream maker:
  5. Combine the ingredients for your ice cream mixture following the recipe. Chill the mixture over an ice bath. Meanwhile, freeze an empty freezer-safe shallow bowl or pan. Stainless steel works well for this.
  6. Place the cold mixture into the cold pan.
  7. Chill for about 20 minutes and check your ice cream. As the edges start to freeze, stir the mixture rapidly with a whisk or spatula to break up the partially frozen ice cream. This will help make it smooth and creamy. You cannot over-beat. Return to the freezer.
  8. Stir ice cream vigorously every 30 minutes until it is firmly frozen. This may be repeated 4 to 5 times until mixture is smooth and creamy. If ice cream becomes too hard, place it into the refrigerator until it becomes soft enough to beat and continue the process.
  9. Ripen the ice cream by storing it in a covered freezer container until ready to serve.
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Visit Operation Letter To Santa


July 6th, 2012

Creative Ways to Spend Your Summer

Courtesy of: The Dollar Stretcher  

The fun of summer has just about worn off with the thermometer rising and your family being bored with the same old grind.  Here are some suggestions to keep you and your family active without breaking the bank:

  • Encourage your family to whip up recipes that will keep you satisfied without heating up the whole house. If you have a favorite frozen treat, figure out how to make it at home. Dig out that old ice cream maker and enjoy a wonderful indulgence. Find a new chicken salad recipe or try your hands at gazpacho. Have your helpers track down the ingredients in your refrigerator while you supervise from the chaise lounge.
  • Too tired to cook? Then try a melon and cheese plate with some cold cuts, along with bread sticks. Use your cookie cutters and make funny looking peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with some carrot sticks and yogurt. Don’t forget to add lots of water to cool everyone off.
  • Grab a basket or even a takeout bag and go on a picnic. The park down the street might be a grand venue, or you can try a spot at the lake or beach. Cruise on over to the next town and try out a spot that’s new to you. Take along some flying disks, balls, and a blanket, but don’t invite the ants!
  • Be a tourist in your own town. Is there a famous attraction you’ve never seen? What about the museum or the zoo? Botanical gardens are a nice change of pace for those of us with hectic lives. Even a factory tour can provide you with a glimpse of your home turf that you’ve never seen before.Statute of touris
  • Just because school is out doesn’t mean you and your family stop learning. Pick a theme for the month and incorporate different aspects into your routines. Maybe you have always wanted to learn how to speak a foreign language, but never got around to it. It’s never to late to learn anything. For example, if you’ve always wanted to learn Japanese, find some language tapes, cook up some examples of Japanese cuisine, and look for references that will illustrate the daily lives of the people whose culture you are studying.
  • The library usually offers more than books. Your local library might offer story times and activities, reading circles for different ages, movies, CDs, puzzles, games, and Internet access for multiple users (very handy if Junior is tying up your home computer all day long with his games or monster-sized music downloads).
  • Work on a do-it-yourself project together. Don’t do anything too extreme, hazardous, or difficult. Instead, maybe you can work on rearranging a room. Maybe you all are getting tired of the way the family room looks. Jot down ideas for easy refits, including making new throw pillows, updating the lighting in the room, decluttering the place, and picking colors for new slipcovers. Or maybe you can make a simple piece of furniture together, like a shelving unit. Allow your family to pick out the colors and design while you put it together and paint it.
  • Go to the family spa. Even males like to be pampered sometimes. Pick out the fluffiest towels you have, heat up your robes in the dryer, and encourage everyone to do some massaging of the face and shoulders, followed by an easy spa lunch of salad and fruit and smoothies. After the light meal, it’s time for nail grooming for the males and manicures with yummy colors for the ladies.
  • Pick one day of each month to be “Give Back Day.” On that day, try to do an activity that appeals to you and enhances your community. Find things to recycle, like newspaper, glass, and plastic. Take donations of gently used clothing, household items, and toys to the thrift shop or family shelter. Help an elderly neighbor or relative run their errands. Pick up trash at the park. Volunteer somewhere.
  • Designate a movie night. Do a double feature and let your crew pick out two movies or be ambitious and run a whole marathon. Pop up a lot of popcorn, offer a variety of snacks and drinks, and let your family invite some friends over. As an alternative, try out some board or card games instead of movies.
  • Take turns introducing your hobbies or your music to each other. Even though you might not be into the latest girl diva or collectible card games, you might be surprised to find that your child has a deep interest in something you can both share. Bring out your disco records and baseball cards. Your kid just might understand you, too.
  • Start a family journal. The dog days of summer run away all too quickly, so take the time at least once a week to jot down what you did during each month. The family journal will help you plan next year’s activities, too. Along with the good times, you can document the downsides so you don’t repeat activities that were definite bombs. Let everyone take part in making entries and don’t be afraid to stick in a few pictures, even the scary ones! Use a paper journal or even a notebook left over from school or find an online journaling site.
  • Have “Do Nothing Time” each week. It’s hard to juggle multiple hats in a family and everyone needs time to recuperate from all that fun. Send the kids to their rooms with firm instructions to relax, then be sure to plop down on that chaise lounge with a big glass of iced tea and something delicious to read. You deserve to be on vacation, too.

Visit Operation Letter To Santa

July 2nd, 2012

Read the Declaration of Independence with family and friends this 4th of July

On July 4, Americans gather to celebrate our nation’s Independence at family gatherings, backyard barbecues, and firework displays. Often we do this without thinking of the meaning of this uniquely American holiday.

John Adams, one of the founders of our new nation, said, “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore.”

Independence Day was first celebrated in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776. In 1941, Congress declared July 4 a legal public holiday.

On July 4, Americans gather to celebrate our nation’s Independence at family gatherings, backyard barbecues, and firework displays. Often we do this without thinking of the meaning of this uniquely American holiday. For too long – from our classrooms to the halls of Congress – our Founders, the Declaration, and our Constitution have been forgotten or even willfully ignored.

This 4th of July, Hillsdale College wants you to join with your friends, family, and neighbors – and actually read the Declaration of Independence. This can be the largest-ever public reading of the Declaration in American history! They want hundreds of thousands, even millions, of Americans setting aside a few minutes to remember the legacy of liberty our Founders entrusted to us.

Click here to read the Declaration of Independence.
Read the Declaration of Independence with family and friends this 4th of July

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