May the 4th be with You – Star Wars Crafts and Activities

My boys love Star Wars, they have been Star Wars characters for Halloween, and the younger one has had a Star War themed Birthday party.

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With today being the annual May the Fourth Be With You day, I thought of sharing some of my favorite May the Fourth activities for kids. There are loads of fun stuff for every age including Origami, Bookmarks, Masks, Obleek, Coloring pages, and more!

But, before that a bit of history.

How did it all start?

The date was chosen for the pun on the catchphrase “May the force be with you” as “May the Fourth be with you”.

As described by author Alan Arnold while he was chronicling the making of  The Empire Strikes Back  for Lucasfilm:

Margaret Thatcher has won the election and become Britain’s first woman prime minister. To celebrate their victory her party took a half page of advertising space in the London Evening News. This message, referring to the day of victory, was ‘May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations,’ further proof of the extent to which Star Wars has influenced us all.”

What started as pun has now become a full-fledged Star Wars semi-holiday, Star Wars Day, a special once-a-year celebration of the galaxy far, far away.

The best thing about May the Fourth is, wherever you are in the world, there’s an opportunity to get involved. And incase, you do not want to step out or need ideas for a Star War themed party, here are a few: Continue reading

Lei Day in Hawaii – What is it about?

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Lei Day – picture source hawaii home

Did you know today, May 1st, is celebrated as Lei Day in Hawaii? No one in this household did!

I read about it being Lei day today on the internet, and got my boys to search about what it meant. And within minutes, they came back with some facts.

So just in case, you are like me, and want to know more about it, here are a few facts.

History of Lei

Leis are one of the most recognizable symbols of Hawaii.

The lei custom was introduced to the islands by the early Polynesian travelers. Wearing these was way of distinguishing oneself from the others. They made these lei not just with Orchids, Plumeria and other blooms but also with the available shells, bones, seeds, leaves and feathers. Use of nuts in the lei was restricted to the royalty.

Today, lei embodies the spirit of aloha — a welcoming embrace that comes with a colorful garland of fresh flowers. Lei are also worn important occasions like births, deaths, victories, religious ceremonies and graduations.

The Origin of ‘Lei Day’

Lei captures the spirit of the Hawaii islands: its colors, flowers, fragrance and aloha.

Probably that was in his mind when in 1928 writer and poet Don Blading wrote an article about marking a day that centered around the Hawaiian custom of making and wearing lei.

Another writer Grace Tower Warren came up with the idea of celebrating it on May Day, May 1. She also coined the phrase “May Day is Lei Day.” Thus, the first Lei day was celebrated on May 1, 1928, and people in Honolulu were encouraged to wear lei. In 1929, Lei Day became an official holiday, and the tradition continues, interrupted only during World War II.

Celebration of Lei Day

Many festivities are held across the island to mark this special day. Festivities include Hawaiin music, Hula as well as lei-making demonstrations. These festivals are free to public, local as well as visitors and the transcend generations. Continue reading

National Poetry Month – Ode To My Socks by Pablo Neruda

A visit to our local library today, led me to do something which I hadn’t done before. Read a poem with the kids!

Don’t get me wrong here, poems I have read with them, but those have been the ones you read to toddlers.

So, it started like this. In the kids section, both my boys got to pick poems from a basket. Turns out, without knowing, both picked poems related to animals, dog and a cat. The coincidence doesn’t end there, they picked poems by the same author, Marilyn Singer.

Both the poems were in free verse , just apt for my boys. One talks about a dog in April, the other about a cat in December. Turns out today was one such day here. Though it was an April day, it snowed and was cold enough to be passed on as an early December day! Sigh… life in Midwest.

When we got home, I decided to read to my boys to one Pablo Neruda’s works. Continue reading

Stories For Boys Who Dare To Be Different – Book Review

Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different: True Tales of Amazing Boys Who Changed the World without Killing Dragons

Author: Ben Brooks                            Illustrator: Quinton Winter

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” – Oscar Wilde

This book is about 77 inspiration boys/men who looked out for the stars!

As the book states, it is “an inspirational collection of famous and not so famous men from the past to the present day, who went on to make the world a better place through compassion, generosity and self-belief.”

These are men, who have changed the world for the better, in their own quiet way. And they have done so by not following the stereotypical path, but carving out their own.

These are men, who have defied the toxic masculinity, have not shied away from hiding their emotions.

These are men, who through their stories also tell the kids its ok to go against the grain, to not succumb to peer pressure.

And that is a lesson boys (as well as girls) need to learn.

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Ben Brooks’ biographies are very inclusive, it has men from across the globe, culture and social class. It has stories about several famous men we have heard of like Gandhi, Bill Gates, Obama, Nelson Mandela and Lionel Messi. But then, it also has stories about lesser known figures who have done amazing work. Continue reading

Does it Fart: Definitive Field Guide to Animal Flatulence – Book Review

Does It Fart?: The Definitive Field Guide to Animal Flatulence

Authors: Nick Caruso and Dani Rabaiotti

Illustrated by Ethan Kocak

In 2017 Zoologist Dani Rabaiotti’s teenage brother asked her a most pressing question: Do snakes fart?

Stumped, Rabaiotti turned to Twitter. Consequently, it grew to a Twitter hashtag #doesitfart and it spread like a noxious gas. Dozens of noted experts began weighing in on which animals do and don’t fart, and if they do, how much, how often, what it’s made of, what it smells like, and why.

These notes eventually took physical form, this book.

Turns out we are not the only ones in the Animal Kingdom that “break wind’. Phew!

Each page of the book is devoted to, one animal and one question: Does it fart? However,  its not just a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’ list. It’s a super fun,silly book which also gives information about their eating habits, gastrointestinal working, and their fauna.

Continue reading

Let’s talk about Farts

Overheard this morning, my younger son asking my older one.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?

The chicken next to her farted.”

And the giggling and laughing lasted for more than a couple of minutes.

I don’t know about the other kids, but mine love to talk about ‘Farts’ and have been heard comparing too (!!!). I will not go into details here.

We don’t have to play the guessing game at our house, because they announce who did it, every time. My older one let all our fellow passengers, train ride from Sintra to Lisbon, know by announcing “I farted”.

Since they talk about it so much, I thought, why not read more about them!

I know there are few who think farts are funny and there a few who find them gross. To these latter ones, I urge you to stop reading now, cause coming up are some facts about farts.

Continue reading

Zenobia: Book Review

Zenobia

Author: Morten Durr

Illustrator: Lars Horneman

 Zenobia is a beautiful, but heart-breaking story about a Syrian girl Amina. The book talks about the plight of refugees and people whose lives are torn apart by the war.

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Zenobia

Amina is a young Syrian girl who lives with her parents in the midst of Syrian crisis. One day, Amina’s parents leave her home alone, while they travel to the market. But after much waiting, when they fail to return, she with her Uncle’s help sets on a journey to a safer place.

Amina sets out in a crammed boat. The boat capsizes, and Amina is thrown into the vast sea. While in the water, she seems to be calm and remembers the happy times with her parents.  Her playing hide and seek with her mom, the dolmas they ate as a family. She remembers her mother talking about Zenobia, an ancient Syrian warrior Queen.

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Holi: Festival of Colors

With its rich traditional and cultural heritage, Indians are bound to be celebrating some festival every month or so. One such festival is Holi, a fun, colorful and inclusive festival.

If someone was to ask me, to name my favorite festival, it would be Holi without any doubt. I have lovely childhood memories of playing Holi and my parents and grandparents telling me about the various Holi stories and traditions. And now as a parent myself, I love passing on these stories and traditions to my boys.

Mythological Significance

  • Legend of Prahlad

Legend of Holika, Prahlad and Hrinakashyap

Pic courtesy: Google Images

There are myriad legends associated with Holi, the most popular one is the legend of Prahlad and Hiranyakashyap.

Legend has it that Hiranyakashyap was a powerful Asura (demon) king and had gained a boon of immortality. He wanted to be worshipped by all. But his own son Prahlad was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. This infuriated Hiranyakashyap. He tried to kill his own son by many cruel means but was unsuccessful. Finally, he sought the help of his evil sister ‘Holika’. Holika had a cloak which made her immune to injury from fire. She tricked Prahlad into entering a bonfire with her. As the fire roared, the cloak slipped from Holika’s shoulder to Prahlad’s. Holika got burnt to death, while Prahlad came out of it unscathed. Thus, started the ritual of Holika Dahan, Holika bonfire, signifying victory of good over evil.

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Makar Sankranti – The Harvest Festival

People of Indian origin celebrated Makar Sankranti today, 15th January 2019. Makar Sankranti marks the beginning of the harvest season in India.  

It is one of the few Indian festivals that follows the solar cycles, most of the festivals follow the lunar cycles of the Hindu calendar. Hence the date of this festival is the same every year, most often 14th January, barring a few when its on 15th January.

In Sanskrit language ‘Sankranti’ means the Sun’s movement from one constellation of the zodiac to the next one. As per Indian astronomy on Makar Sankranti, the Sun moves from Dhanu (Sagittarius) zodiac sign to Makar (Capricorn). Thus, begins Sun’s journey to the north, marking the end of Winter and start of Spring, also warmer days.

Childhood memories of the Makar Sankranti day are still vivid in my mind. On a cold morning on 14th/ 15th January, we were asked to take a shower and dress up and head to the kitchen. There in a ‘Thali’/ plate mom would have laid out small heaps of Rice, Black Lentils, one or two potatoes and spoonful to turmeric and salt. These were all the ingredients one needed to make ‘Khichdi’. We were asked to touch our respective thalis and say a small prayer. This would then be donated to the local temple priest or the poor.

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Our trip to Sintra, Portugal

Sintra – pic courtesy wikipedia

“Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes in variegated maze of mount and glen.” – Lord Byron

Sintra was once the summer residence of Portuguese royalty and aristocracy. It is an immensely picturesque town with its colorful palaces, tilled walls, lush gardens and small shops.

Before the Portuguese Royal family, the Roman were here and later came the Moors. The Moors were so enamored by its plush beauty that they built a palace and many fountains.

Sintra Railway Station 

This is the last stop for the train from Rossio station in Lisbon, a ride of about 45 minutes. It is quaint but a busy station with tourist filled train coming every 20mins or so. 

Sintra Railway Station ticket counter

Sintra Railway Station ticket counter – eduventure chronicles

Sintra Railway Station - eduventure chronicles

Azulejos at Sintra Railway Station – eduventure chronicles

The first stop we made after the train station was the historic Piriquita Bakery, founded in 1862!  

Piriquita , Sintra

Piriquita, Sintra – eduventure chronicle

Piriquita is a simple, unpretentious bakery with a great spread of local pastries. The much recommended Travesseiro lived up to its expectation. Also known as the pillow cake, it is a puff pastry with a filling made of almond, sugar and eggs. It was warm, flaky, sweet and buttery, just what you need to start a good day. Another favorite from the bakery are the Quejadas, crispy pie filled with cheese.

Travesseiro, Queijada, Coffee at Piriquita, Sintra- eduventure chronicles

Travesseiro, Queijada, Coffee at Piriquita, Sintra

With our tummies nicely stuffed, we decided to walk to Quinta da Regaleira. And what a beautiful (uphill) walk it was! Making many a stops to click pictures of statues, houses and fountains it took us about 20 minutes to reach our destination.

Tip: Wear comfortable shoes, like Lisbon this town is best explored on foot.

Municipal building, Sintra

Municipal building, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

Arabic/Moorish fountain, Sintra -  eduventure chronicles

Arabic/Moorish fountain, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Sintra – eduventure chronicles

Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Sintra – eduventure chronicles

Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Sintra – eduventure chronicles

 Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Sintra – eduventure chronicles

Water Fountain, Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Water Fountain, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Sintra – eduventure chronicles

Quinta da Regaleira

Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

Also known as The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire, this is one quirky and magical place.  We had not expected that we would spend much of our morning exploring this estate with Gothic, Moorish, Egyptian and Renaissance features.

This wonderland gave us Lewis Carroll vibes with caves, gardens, wells, statues, ponds, towers, grottos and underground caves. 

It was built between 1904 and  1910, in the last days of the Portuguese monarchy. It formerly belonged to the Viscondessa da Regaleira and was later bought and renovated by António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro. His vast fortune earned him the nickname of Monteiro dos Milhões, (Moneybags Monteiro). He commissioned this unique project of house and landscape from the Italian set-designer and architect Luigi Manini (1848-1936) whose genius, along with the mastery of sculptors, stonemasons, craftsmen  created this magical place.

Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra - eduventure chronicles

View of the main gate of Quinta da Regaleira, and Moorish castle on the hilltop

Chapel of the Holy Trinity, Quinta da Regaleira

Chapel of Holy Trinity, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Chapel of Holy Trinity, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

The Initiation Wells

The wells are the most popular and fascinating  features of this estate. With no brochures or signs, one could easily miss the entrance. But that’s the charm of this place, you are never lost cause you find something else that’s spectacular.

The main well is 27m deep. It resembles an inverted tower with spiral staircase. It has nine platforms, which are said to be “reminiscent of the Divine Comedy by Dante and the nine circles of Hell, the nine sections of Purgatory and the nine skies which constitute Paradise.”

At the bottom of the main well is a compass over a Knights Templar cross. Little is known about how the wells were used, but one thing that is clear is that a lot of planning went about in constructing it.

There is a second smaller well, called the unfinished Well,  which is believed to have been built  using Masonic principles.

Initiation Well, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Initiation Well, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

Initiation Well, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Initiation Well, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

Tunnels from the bottom of the well lead to other locations such as the Portal of the Guardians, the Cascade Lake, the Imperfect and the Pit Cave.

Tunnel, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Tunnel, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

Waterfall, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Waterfall, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

Stepping Stones, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Stepping Stones, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

Portal of the Guardians

The Portal of the Guardians is the central pavilion of the Quinta. The fountain at the Portal may be hiding one of the tunnels to the Initiation well.

Portal of the Guardians, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Portal of the Guardians, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

Fountain statues of the dragons at the Portal of the Guardians, Quinta da Regaleira - eduventure chronicles

Fountain statues of the dragons at the Portal of the Guardians, Quinta da Regaleira – eduventure chronicles

The boys had a great time climbing the various towers. (and their mom too!)

They also took the lead in exploring, I tried to catch up but was clearly out of breath! This place was like a giant playground for the boys, they climbed on every tower, explored every single path and  hid in the caves.

Fountain of Regaleira, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Fountain of Regaleira, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

Bench between the Chapel and the Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Bench between the Chapel and the Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

The Regaleira Palace 

The palace though beautiful  is no match to its outdoors.  The rooms are sparse with hardly any decorations. However some excellent outdoor views can be had from many of these rooms. Few of the rooms have wood paneled ceiling with intricate carving on them.

carved wooden Ceiling, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Ceiling, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

carved wooden Ceiling, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Ceiling, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

door knob, Palace Regaleira, sintra

knock knock

Fire place, at the Palace Regaleira, Sintra - eduventure chronicles

Fire place, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

View of Sintra Palace from Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra - eduventure chronicles

View of Sintra Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra – eduventure chronicles

We fell in love with Quinta da Regaleira, so much so that we spent way more time there than expected. The only drawback of taking this long here was that we had to amend our plans and cut down a few places from our itinerary. But this also meant that we will be going back to Sintra again, soon.

My next post will have details of our visit to Monserrate Palace and Pena Palace in Sintra.