New: Mini Olympic Sports for Your Rainy (or Exhausted) Fourth of July Party…Old: Answers to the State Scramble

Happy Last Day of June! Summer 2015 proceeds apace, and the Fourth of July makes haste to snap, crackle, and pop itself over the land. BUT WHAT IF IT RAINS? Never fear, fun indoor Olympic Sports await you below. First, here are the answers to last week’s State Scramble:

1. OHIO, 2. MAINE, 3. NEVADA, 4. FLORIDA, 5. MARYLAND, 6. LOUISIANA, 7. CALIFORNIA, 8. CONNECTICUT, 9. PENNSYLVANIA, 10. MASSACHUSETTS Not too hard for you Geography Geniuses, I hope! But if the pencil and paper games posts of the last few weeks are too easy, dull and boring for your restless crowd? — On to the Mini Olympic events: Today we have BASKETBALL and BALANCE BEAM:

In tears over your sopping wet court?

In tears over your sopping wet court?


Don’t cry over your wet basketball court! Hustle inside and find a coin and one of your pretty patriotic red, white, and blue paper cups and you’ll be all set for fun. I’ve tried this myself and found it very hard, so use any of the suggested rules to make it fun for all ages: ADULTS should play on a table. Place your fist on the table and set the cup at what looks like a fair distance. Put a coin on your thumbnail and flip it into the cup. YOUR FIST CANNOT LEAVE THE TABLE WHILE YOU’RE SHOOTING. This takes some practice, at least for an all-thumbs athlete like me. It’s easiest if you jam your thumbnail into the side of your forefinger to provide leverage. Then snap your thumb up and watch your coin go sailing every which way but toward the basket! You may have to do some warmups before your competition arrives, but feel free to modify your grip by tipping your fist forward, or move the basket to an easy position and distance–just don’t lift your fist up off the table.

Mini Olympic Basketball is sure to cheer you up

Mini Olympic Basketball is sure to cheer you up

KIDS can also try it this way. After all, the future of the NBA or WNBA is out there somewhere, and it may just be at your Fourth of July Party! If it’s too hard, just let the kids put the cup on the floor and try lobbing the coin in from wherever they decide to stand–FUN IS THE OBJECT, REMEMBER. Once they’re really good at it, suggest they take a giant step backwards and start a new game.

POINTS: Each player gets 10 shots at the basket, with one point for each basket in 10 tries.

Here’s the next event:


Too many s'mores to turn that tummy upside down? Too wet and slippery on that backyard balance beam?

Too many s’mores to turn that tummy upside down? Too wet and slippery on that backyard swing set balance beam?

For this game, you need a regular hexagonal pencil–that’s the kind that some smart inventor (probably a teacher beyond the fringe) put six sides on, so 35 pencils wouldn’t keep rolling off the desks and driving her/him crazy. You also need a pile of coins of different sizes.

Now, rest the pencil on one of its sides on a flat surface. Players take turns balancing the coins on top of each other in any order until the stack falls over.

POINTS: One point for each coin in the stack before it topples. Fun, right? I hope so, after all it’s a party! But if these aren’t exciting enough:

POSTING LATER THIS WEEK: Mini Olympic Javelin, Weightlifting, and High Diving!

Posted in #Fourth of July Party Activity, #holiday family activity, indoor games | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

New: A State Scramble — Old: Answers to Last Week’s Hidden Cities Activity

Me, Cross-eyed After Typing This

Me, Cross-eyed After Typing This

Good Morning! Or Good Afternoon if the sun’s already on its downward swing where you are. I hope last week’s Hidden Cities puzzle didn’t put you on a downward swing. I tried it first without knowing the states, but quit when it gave me the beginnings of creeping brain melt. I decided to give you the states, so as to prevent similar mishaps. However, I think many of you could have solved these easily, even in a stateless state. Here are the answers:

1. Baltimore, Maryland

2. El Paso, Texas

3. Scranton, Pennsylvania

4. Reading, Pennsylvania

5. Canton, Ohio

6. Bangor, Maine

7. Wichita, Kansas

8. Buffalo, New York

9. Chicago, Illinois

10. Newark, New Jersey

11. Norfolk, Virginia

12. Utica, New York

13. Lowell, Massachusetts

14. Wheeling, West Virginia

15. Richmond, Virginia

Here’s the new one for you:


It is what it is, just unscramble the letters to spell 10 states. HINT: They are all just one word, none of that easy “New” business:











Please don’t go cross-eyed trying to solve these, as I did, trying to type and check them at the same time. Answers next Monday! Then I’ll suggest a few indoor games to keep you busy in case it rains on your Fourth of July parade, picnic, or fireworks show. I sure hope you won’t need them.

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The Hidden Capitals Activity Answers + A New One

State Capitol Building Sacramento, California, a capital city which does not appear in any of the answers.

State Capitol Building
Sacramento, California, a capital city which does not appear in any of the answers.

Good Morning! For me, last Monday’s Hidden Capitals activity was a little like digging through a Lost and Found box while not knowing exactly what I had lost. I kept moving from word to word, looking for something that sounded vaguely familiar. I trust you are a little more up on your state capitals than I am! (Incidentally, “capital” refers to the city, “capitol” refers to the building.) Here are your answers in the order in which they appear in the paragraph, and I took the liberty of putting their states next to them:

1. Denver (Colorado) 2. Augusta (Maine) 3. Trenton (New Jersey) 4. Juneau (Alaska) 5. Carson City (Nevada) 6. Jackson (Mississippi) 7. Madison (Wisconsin) 8. Albany (New York) 9. Concord (New Hampshire) 10. Dover (Delaware) 11. Hartford (Connecticut) 12. Annapolis (Maryland) 13. Helena (Montana) 14. Salem (Oregon) 15. Pierre (South Dakota) 16. Lansing (Michigan) and 17. Boston (Massachusetts)

A Few Facts That Came to Me While Typing Answers: Concord, NH is not the Concord of “Lexington and Concord”, nor is Salem, OR the Salem associated with witches – both of those historic towns are in Massachusetts. If Hartford, CT always makes you think of insurance, it’s because of advertising. It really is a big insurance center. And “Pierre” is pronounced “pier” by people who live in South Dakota and probably many others who are now “in the know” after having to “stand corrected” in the past. In the WAY past, it probably was pronounced the French way, as it was named for an American fur trader from France.

Well, now that Hidden Capitals are out of the way, on to the next brain neuron tangler:


Each has its own sentence. I’ve noted each state in order to narrow down your choices :

1. When I go mining for cobalt, I more often find nickel. (Maryland)

2. When I called for help, a soldier came to my aid. (Texas)

3. The long-playing disc ran to noon before it ended. (Pennsylvania)

4. I like to eat bread in good restaurants. (Pennsylvania)

5. A brisk morning walk is the best American tonic. (Ohio)

6. The visiting rajah wore a turban gorgeous with glittering rubies and emeralds. (Maine)

7. Whenever I eat a sandwich, it always seems enough for lunch. (Kansas)

8. After receiving a severe rebuff, a lonely person can become very unhappy. (New York)

9. Juanita looked quite chic, a golden comb sparkling from her raven hair. (Illinois)

10. From the day we sighted the first plane, war kept coming closer and closer. (New Jersey)

11. Neither legends nor folklore change over the years. (Virginia)

12. I find some puzzles hard, but I can solve this one very easily! (New York)

13. Does Michael owe Lloyd a dollar or doesn’t he? (Massachusetts)

14. Don’t step with a narrow heel in gratings or they will trip you. (West Virginia)

15. We feed the ostrich Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. (Virginia)

Actually, I think the braggart’s #12 is the hardest one. FUN, YES?!

ANSWERS NEXT MONDAY, and another Patriotic Puzzle, too.

Posted in #Fourth of July Party Activity, #holiday family activity | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Ready for More Patriotic Fun? Answers to Activity #1: HIDDEN STATES + Activity #2!

The Pretty U.S. of A., Lookin' Free of Fan-Crazed Nicknames, Stereotypes, Politics, Predjudice, and Blind Ambition (In case you can't imagine it)

The Pretty U.S. of A., Lookin’ Free of Fan-Crazed Nicknames, Stereotypes, Politics, Predjudice, and Blind Ambition (In case you can’t imagine it)

If you tried the HIDDEN STATES activity, posted here last Monday, I hope you didn’t strain your brain too much trying to solve it, because there are more to come! I breezed right by 3 of the states several times myself before looking at the answers–very embarrassing. The phrase “more than 20″ in the directions was crucial, as there turned out to be 23.

If you didn’t try the activity, but would like to, just scroll down to my previous post and try it before peeking–or peek and then try it. This isn’t a test, after all–School’s Out! Anyway, here are the answers to HIDDEN STATES in order:

1. Illinois, 2. Maine, 3. Vermont, 4. Maryland, 5. Iowa, 6. Utah, 7. Georgia, 8. Colorado, 9. Delaware, 10. Oregon, 11. Washington, 12. Mississippi, 13. Idaho, 14. Missouri, 15. Montana, 16. Kansas, 17. Alaska, 18. Kentucky, 19. Texas, 20. Indiana, 21. Connecticut, 22. Ohio, 23. Hawaii

Here’s some new Patriotic Fun: HIDDEN CAPITALS. If you think you have a mental block where state capitals are concerned, because you never figured out why so many of them appear to be rather obscure small cities rather than the logical big ones, just tack a map of the United States up on the wall. Now, with dart in hand, aim for where the middle of the state was about 100 to 150 years ago or so and throw! Your state capital is probably nearby. Most capitals, especially in big western states, were established somewhere in the middle so that all state representatives and senators could reach them on horseback within a day or so, or horse and buggy if they were lucky. Answers next Monday!


Directions: Look for names of 17 state capitals in the following paragraph, beginning with the opening sentence:

Here you will find names of state capitals hidden very well. In August, a landlord should collect rent on the first and by June autos should be paid for, keeping all cars on city parking lots so that no one will play jacks on their fenders. Once when I met a nomad I so narrowly escaped, that despite a special ban, yachts took us to the Arctic on cordial terms with the Eskimos. We charmed and overwhelmed them with a chart for designing better igloos. We tossed them gifts, including bird manna, polished beads and trinkets by the bushel, enabling us to reach the boats at our disposal, embarking promptly while the pier resounded with cheers and we left the entire clan singing our praise, with a polar bear named Bobo stonily watching our departure.


Posted in American History, Games, Holidays | Tagged , | 2 Comments

It’s June Already! Time to Crank Up the Ole Cranium for the 239th Birthday of the United States!


Does the Fourth of July fill you with the enthusiasm of Patriotic Patty, subject of the jigsaw puzzle above? Does the Birthday of the United States put you in a coma like Chelsea, my friend Kay’s chihuahua? Well, here’s a GAME to wake up your patriotic brain cells–something to keep your guests from napping or going unconscious at your Fourth of July party! And don’t beg off stirring up the ole cranium by saying you’re Canadian–I’m aware of that. You know you’re brighter than us all and can leave us in your dust, so get busy!

I’ll post the answers next Monday, in case you’re as stumped as I was when I first tried this, or you can’t find a 5th grader to help you. If you think it’s too easy, never fear–a Hidden Capitals game will follow next week…! And more Patriotic Games in the weeks to come…! Here you go:


The names of 23 states of the United States are hidden in the sentences that follow. Each state has all its letter in their correct order, so see if you can find them! Good luck:

     After I pay my bill, I noisily go to the main entrance to say that whenever Monte and Rosemary land down Rio way, I will cut a huge cake of large or giant size in their honor, without protocol or adornment, as when you capture a citadel a war ends, unless more gongs sound or waves come swashing to narrow channels. A demure miss is sipping tea, giving the lid a hopeful lift, thinking that if the cream is sour I won’t care. As for a lemon, tanagers can have it, like Balkan sashes or something comical a skater might wear. So when eating chicken, tuck your napkin under your chin and don’t get exasperated, as I find I analyze things better that way, for whenever my thoughts begin to disconnect, I cutely twist them together again, and if anyone says, “Oh!” I open the door and, as they say in Scotch, awa’ I immediately go!

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A Joyful Story About a Caring Cat

Oscar, Caregiver for Terminal Dementia Patients

Oscar, Caregiver for Terminal Dementia Patients

Have you ever thought your cat had a sixth sense about your mood? Sometimes understood you better than you understood yourself? Or maybe, on occasion, you’ve noticed your cat staring at something (or someone!) you could not see? If so, you will love Oscar.

I had heard about this cat with the uncanny ability to sense when a terminal patient was very near to death, but did not know his name or story until I picked up Dr. David Dosa’s book. It was first published in 2012, and this trade paperback edition followed in 2014, so I assume Oscar is still at work in the Alzheimer’s unit of the nursing home in Rhode Island where he has lived since he was a kitten. Apparently, Oscar is not anybody’s little cuddle buddy. Normally, he prefers to dash around the unit, playing with his kitty sister, who lives there, too. The nurses were the first to notice Oscar going into the rooms of dying patients, snuggling up next to them, purring, and remaining until they passed away.

Dr. David Dosa is the geriatrician who takes care of Oscar’s dementia patients, and he shares his own journey over time from skepticism to wonder as he observed Oscar’s behavior over and over again. He reports the opinions of the nurses and staff who see Oscar every day, and he’s also interviewed the family members who got to know Oscar well as their loved ones drew close to death. Dr. Dosa posits several interesting causes for Oscar’s behavior, some scientific and some not, but in the end, he’s still open to the mystery of this ordinary cat’s unusual ability to sense who needs his companionship.

I enjoyed Oscar’s story and learned more about Alzheimer’s disease as well. Dr. Dosa’s book is easy to read, and each chapter begins with a observation about cats, such as Ernest Hemingway’s: “One cat leads to another.” Included is an anonymous misquote of T. S. Eliot’s humorous remark about The Rum Tum Tugger: “He’s always on the wrong side of every door…” (from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats). Cat lover or not, I think you’ll be fascinated by Oscar.

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Stolen Bones And A Stolen Baby : Two Fascinating Books for St. Patrick’s Day


Glendalough, where King Cormac pleaded with Sister Deirdre to marry him

The man who has come down to us through Irish history and legend as St. Patrick, the holy Christian bishop and teacher, lived in Ireland during the later part of the 5th century. It was a place of warring tyrant kings and their slaves; solitary groups of monks and nuns; wandering druid bards; and fearsome, terrorist pirates beholden to neither God nor man. I have found two engaging mystery novels that do a marvelous job of pulling the reader back into those misty times: St. Brigid’s Bones by Philip Freeman, and The Leper’s Bell by Peter Tremayne. Both have strong female protagonists and vivid historical settings in Ancient Ireland.

St. Brigid’s Bones was just published last fall. It features Sister Deirdre, who was born into a family of famed druid bards, but left that life behind after the death of her little son, to become a nun in a monastery founded by a holy woman, Brigid, in Kildare in the late 5th century. St. Brigid was a real person, St. Patrick’s contemporary, and was revered during her lifetime for many wondrous miracles. In the story, her bones are kept in the monastery where the fictional Sister Deidre lives. Pilgrims come on St. Brigid’s feast day, February 1st, to seek the saint’s intercession with God for cures and favors. They bring offerings for the religious community, and these extra provisions enable the nuns and their brother monks to survive.

When Brigid’s bones are stolen, Sister Deirdre is assigned to find them–and quickly, for February 1st is fast approaching and food supplies are dwindling. Her adventures roaming about the island, visiting contentious kings, the selfish Bishop of Armagh, and best of all, the murderous pirate Lorcan, are by turns romantic, haranguing, and in the last case, hair-raising. In the end, the bones turn out to be in an expected place, and all is well, at least for the time being. Philip Freeman, a fine storyteller, is apparently working on a second book about the inimitable Sister Deirdre.


The Rock of Cashel, where Sister Fidelma’s brother is King

The Leper’s Bell, by Peter Tremayne, was published in 2006 and is 14th in a series of 24 mystery novels about Sister Fidelma of Cashel. This story takes place about 150 years after St. Brigid’s Bones. Sister Fidelma is the sister of the King of Cashel, and so, like Sister Deirdre the former druid, she is educated and held in high esteem. Fidelma is an advocate of the Breton courts–a lawyer of her day–and is married to one of the Brothers, who is a monk. I was surprised to read that monks and nuns married in 7th century Ireland, but an Irish friend has assured me that, indeed, this was not an uncommon practice at the time.

Sister Fidelma’s baby son is kidnapped after the gruesome murder of his nurse, and the anguished search that she and her husband undertake to find him is the heart of this story. The title comes from the occasional sighting in the area of a mysterious stranger in monk-like robes, ringing a leper’s bell. This was how lepers of the time signaled the community that they were diseased, so they knew to keep their distance. Is the baby eventually found? Well, I won’t spoil the ending for you.

Both of these Irish women are well-developed, interesting characters, and I loved reading what history and legend have to say about life during this harsh and unforgiving time in Irish history. The lawless cruelty and power of bandits and pirates was especially sad. These men were the outcasts and sociopaths of their day. Both of these books encourage readers to consider the human condition–how men and women, no matter their time, place, or station, strive to discover the path they feel compelled to follow, and then find others of like mind and heart to create working communities, no matter how dysfunctional they may appear to outside eyes. Happy Reading, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Posted in History, Ireland, Legends | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment