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‘Inspirations’ Category

  1. Carrie Fisher, RIP

    December 27, 2016 by admin

    carrie-9e12a25d-e80d-4bc0-81ee-ee0129e2fa8fFor a family that loves Star Wars as much as we do, we couldn’t let the passing of this talented actor and writer go unmentioned.  We love Carrie for the warmth and joy she has brought us in numerous movies, but especially in 5 Star Wars movies as the smart, resourceful, pretty-capable-of-saving-herself-thank-you Princess Leia.

    Leia teaches us, and especially young women to be adventurous, to be leaders, to be respected.  She is smart, resourceful, kind.  Everything we want all of us to be.

    We will miss you Carrie, Princess Leia.  We know you had more to offer us.

    May the Force be with you.





  2. Lego Designer Videos

    December 5, 2014 by admin

    Lego Design TeamFor a quick and fun way to inspire your builders, let your young inventor learn from some of the best with help from a short on-line video.

    Just point your browser towards YouTube, and type “Lego Designer” in the search field. Up pops a long list of videos narrated by actual Lego Designers, proudly showing off their works. Most of the videos are only 3 or 4 minutes long- just the perfect length for inspiration!

    Get an inside look at the new Jawa Sandcrawler, or the Sydney Opera House. Learn the thought processes behind buildings, vehicles and movies sets.

    Fun Sidenote: Lego Designers hail from all over the world. It is fun to hear their accents and think about what language they spoke as children.Lego Town Hall

    You and your kiddoes will no doubt move straight from the computer to the Legos to try out new ideas!

    For another twist, search under “Lego Designer Tips.” Here you’ll find not insights into existing Lego sets, but pro tips from the builders on everything from making cool furniture to jazzing up a motorcycle. These are all tips from people whose job is to play with Legos- the things they come up with are pretty cool and sure to get your builder juices flowing!

    So when you or your kiddoes need a jumpstart, check out a few Lego Designer videos and get your creativity on!

  3. Pollyanna, The Submariner Reindeer

    December 1, 2014 by admin

    As the holiday season gets underway, we wanted share with you the interesting life of reindeer Pollyanna.

    Picture a reindeer.

    How does it move around?  Perhaps you are seeing it walk from place to place through the tundra.  Or maybe you know that reindeer are good swimmers, so you visualize it swimming across an arctic lake or fjord.

    And reindeer fly!  Everyone knows that.

    But did you know they also ride in submarines?

    Well, at least one did, back during World War II.

    Photo credit: Royal Naval Museum

    Photo credit: Royal Naval Museum

    Hard to believe?  Check out this true story:

    A British submarine named the HMS Trident was stationed as part of the British-Russian alliance at Pollyarnoe, a naval base near Murmansk on the Arctic Ocean.  The commander of the Trident, Lieutenant Commander G M Sladen, chatted up the local Russian Admirals about life back in England.  He mentioned his children and his wife’s difficulties in pushing the pram up the steep hills in the snow.  The Russian leaders, in a gesture of goodwill between the Allies, decided to try to help.

    When the Trident shipped out of Polyarnoe in August 1941, the Russians added a live baby reindeer to the provisions laded aboard.  If reindeer could pull Santa’s sleigh, surely one could help out moving a pram!  How could Lt. Commander Sladen refuse such a thoughtful gift?  The crew dubbed the reindeer “Pollyarnoe” in honor of their Russian home-port, but soon Anglicized the name to “Pollyanna.”

    Thinking the Trident would be returning to her base in Scotland in two or three weeks, the Russians provided a few bales of tundra moss for Pollyanna to eat.   But plans changed and the Trident was at sea for six weeks straight!  The whole time with a (growing!) baby reindeer on board.  When the moss ran out, the crew fed Pollyanna table and kitchen scraps.

    The crew took care of her and cleaned up after Pollyanna, but supposedly the deer would only allow Lt. Comander Sladen to be near her when the surface hatch was opened to allow fresh air into the sub.

    reindeer_2After six weeks at sea, the now rather large reindeer was extracted from the sub with some difficulty and returned to dry land.  After a few weeks with the Sladen family, Pollyanna took up residence at a Royal zoo, and lived out her life in peace and comfort.

    There are many stories old and new, some true and many fictional, that capture the true meaning of holiday cheer and spirit.  This is one of our favorites and we hope that you enjoyed it as well.

  4. The Gateway Poet

    March 5, 2014 by admin

    Who is your ‘Gateway’ poet?  You know, the one who got you started.  Maybe at first you believed that you just weren’t into poetry; it wasn’t your scene.  But then you started exploring, maybe just a little at first…just to try it.

    And you found the one that started you down that lovely path of reading poets.  Perhaps you even started dabbling in some rhymes of your own? We bet you now search out stacks in used bookstores for slim volumes of text from your new faves.nash-ogden

    You could quit anytime.   But you don’t.  You won’t.  You’re hooked.  And you can blame it all on your Gateway Poet.

    For TRDad, the poet was Ogden Nash.  His silly little poems about animals, “Hark to the cry of the seagull, he cries because he’s not an eagle!” seem so simple.  But these poems are regarded as ‘real poetry’ by people who keep track of this sort of thing.  So after a few Nash verses, TRDad started looking for other similar rhymes.

    From Nash it was a short path leading to Frost, and Shapiro, then Plath.   Once you’re in that deep, the discovery of Collins, Williams, and others is easily done.  Then when a friend points you to e.e. cummings, you view that poet with new respect and appreciation.

    silversteinshel_custom-d9a683da694bd0e0372729064b7ab15881ed646b-s6-c85For TRMom, that poet was Shel Silverstein and his book, Where the Sidewalk Ends.  It is full of humor and honesty that is written with an accessible prose.  Silverstein helped lead to e.e. cummings which then veered to Diane Wakoski.

    Now, TRDad and TRMom are unapologetic champions of poetry.  And it was all due to finding Ogden Nash and Shel Silverstein at an early age.

    Who is your Gateway Poet?  What paths did s/he lead you on?

  5. Heroes

    February 23, 2014 by admin

    imagesWe wanted to take a moment to shine the light on the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, and their two members recently released from prison.  These are heroes of our times.

    Three members were imprisoned for playing a song which criticized Vladimir Putin in a Russian Orthodox church, they have endured and even flourished under difficult circumstances.

    Russian prisons in Siberia are renown for their harsh conditions and brutality.  Yet here we see these young women emerge from Siberia as strong as ever, voicing their concerns for the rights and safety of people all over the world.  Daring the Russian government to throw them back in jail!

    They are simply amazing.

    Watch them here on the Colbert Report:



    We could all stand to see more role models like this: standing up for what is right in the face of extreme adversity.  So we applaud these women and hope they are able to continue to fight the forces of oppression so effectively.


  6. Norad Tracks Santa?

    December 16, 2013 by admin

    norad-7Ever wonder why NORAD tracks Santa Claus?  The story involves a man who could have just told a bunch of kids that they called the wrong number back in 1955.  Instead, he decided to do a small thing to make them happy, and started a new tradition in the process.

    Colonel Harry Shoup was on duty December 24, 1955 when children started calling the CONAD Center in Colorado, asking to talk to Santa.  Why were kids calling a top secret command center on Christmas Eve?  Well, a local Sears store in Colorado Springs had placed an ad in the local newspaper telling kids they could call a particular number and talk to Santa himself.

    Instead, the children were connected to the pre-eminent command center for the United States military in the middle of the Cold War!  After a few confusing phone calls from little kids, Col. Shoup decided it wasn’t right to tell them that they had the wrong number.  With the most sophisticated tracking system of the day at his disposal, he ordered his soldiers to use the vast array of radar stations available to track Santa’s progress, and relay that info to the kids who called.

    The next year, CONAD offered the same type of information to kids calling in, and soon enough a tradition was established.  When CONAD was reconfigured into NORAD, the operation went on as before with regular reports of Santa’s activities across North America.

    The tradition grew from phone calls, to radio broadcasts, to an internet website.  So if you remember hearing of Santa’s progress on the radio or TV news, or if your kiddoes check the web on December 24th to see how he’s doing, you have Colonel Harry Shoup to thank for it.  So thank you Col. Shoup, a true Christmas hero.  Your decision that night in 1955 helps make the holidays all the more real and special for millions of kids around the world.shoup_image334-300x179


  7. Perspective

    November 3, 2013 by admin



    Yes, we’re a month out from Thanksgiving.  But you don’t need a traditional holiday to take a moment to sit back and reflect on why you are grateful for the life that you live.

    If we’re honest, we can probably all say that we have dreams we know won’t actualize, places we long to visit, time we wished we had more of, disappointments that still taste bitter.

    That is life.  Please don’t linger in the muck or judge yourself by your worst moments.  There is so much in the simple day-to-day that is worth celebrating.

    Here are some teensy and some huge things for which we are grateful:

    • Coffee – The smell!  And knowing that warm mug will soon be craddled in your hands.
    • Children’s laughter – It is contagious, true, and pure.
    • Frozen pizza – Seriously!  It is cheap and indulgent.
    • A paycheck – Sure, we live paycheck to paycheck.  But with a tight budget, we have just enough money to support our family.
    • A home – ‘Nough said.  Many don’t have a place to settle.
    • Playgrounds – Free access to fun, exercise, and the outdoors.
    • Libraries – Free access to education and fun.
    • Gardens – Cheap way to feed your family and support farm-to-table.
    • Love – Right?  It makes the world go ‘round.
    • Music – Inspiring, often free, and entirely enjoyable.
    • Critters – Unconditional love and mostly entertaining.
    • Health – Not to ever be taken for granted!


    Taking a moment to remember these things, no matter how minor they might be, helps us to focus on life worth living!  And to acknowledge that we are indeed, very lucky to be here.

  8. The Kindness Project #3: Every Little Bit Counts

    June 3, 2013 by admin

    The power of Kindness is immense and hard to stop.  And why would you want to stop it?  Being thoughtful of others should be the goal of all humans everywhere.  Once you start taking the time to reflect on how you can help your fellow human beings (and animals), the opportunities appear all over the place.

    For instance: the penny bowl.IMG_2060

    We admit that we didn’t give much thought to the penny bowl until we started focusing towards Kindness.   Now it has become a regular, instinctive act of kindness for the TR  family.

    Bluey and TR Dad regularly bicycle to a local small grocer, Jenifer Street Market.  Its distance from our house makes it a great destination for us.   When we arrive, Bluey usually gets a small candy treat.   It costs less than a dollar, so there’s always a little bit of change.

    This grocer is on the walk home for many students at the middle school a few blocks away, so many of them stop in to pick up an afterschool treat.  A casual comment from the cashier helped TR Dad put two-and-two together.  Some students from the school can’t always afford a 25¢ candy.  But if there’s enough spare change in the Market’s penny bowl, the cashier will let them use it for a purchase.  So now TR Dad puts our change into the bowl each time he shops there.

    It’s a simple way to make a kid happy.  You’ll probably never get to see them smile about it, but you will know that you have helped someone out in a small, simple way.  Next time you see the penny bowl- be a giver.  You just might make someone’s day a little brighter.

  9. Kindness Project #2

    May 10, 2013 by admin

    Our latest activity for the ThriftyRambler Kindness Project

    We are happy to report that Kindness is taking off in our home.  Our kiddoes are actively thinking about new ways to spread kindness in the neighborhood.  We find it truly contagious to be kind.  Our family is increasingly aware of all the little opportunities to help people out.  Whether it is carrying a bag for someone, or holding the door, the more you default to helping people, the more you see the many opportunities in your day-to-day.IMG_0144

    For our second experience participating in the Kindness Project, we wanted to focus on other members of our community– dogs.  We love animals and we are fortunate to live in a neighborhood filled with critters.  We wanted to thank our little four-legged neighbors for being so cute, and so helpful, and so doggish.

    IMG_0142We purchased an economy-sized box of medium dog biscuits.  We loaded them into our handy paper sacks, tagged them with our TR Kindness cards, and set out to distribute them to the neighbors.

    We enjoyed this chance to let our neighbors know that they live in a community that appreciates them and their pets.  We wanted to wish them a great day, in our own way.

    So once again, we encourage you to find an opportunity to spread kindness and happiness in your part of the world.

  10. Lost Things, Found Things

    April 24, 2013 by admin

    Although we do our best to keep track of our family’s stuff, every once in a while it happens—something goes missing.  If not for the kindness of strangers, some of these things would remain lost.

    If we can’t find the misplaced item after a thorough search, we fall back on one of our truisms, “It’ll turn up.”  Usually, it does. The item will be discovered under the couch.  Or it’s found in the laundry.  Or it’s hiding in the car.   It’ll turn up.  These reassuring words help us break out of the desire to drop everything, tear the house up, and find the missing stuff immediately.

    And our comfort words work well when an item has been lost at home, in a space we have control over.  But when we are out and about, in space beyond our control, we work extra hard to keep track of things.  Most importantly—we make an effort to minimize the amount of stuff that come with us on a trip.  Especially items with many small parts!

    Recently, when out shopping, we stopped at Famous Footwear and Old Navy.  These stores are located next door to one another.  Bluey insisted on bringing his brand new Polly car and the accessories: a pet hippo, blanket, and basket.  Ooh, that’s a bunch of small parts!  At the end of our trip, in Old Navy, Bluey discovered that he had lost the blanket and basket.  Oh no!  He fell apart.  He had been so happy to purchase this great little car, and now he’d already lost parts of it.

    The Manager at Old Navy reacted with empathy and professionalism!  She assured Bluey that she would keep an eye out for the blanket and basket.  She took our name and number and promised to call if anything turned up.  She gave both kids a balloon.  We were so grateful for her kind handling of our situation.  And Bluey was somewhat consoled that this Manager was on the case.


    The “Death Star”

    On the way back to the car, TR Dad popped into Famous Footwear to see if the pieces could have possibly been dropped there.  Lo and behold, the Manager of this store had spotted the basket and blanket, and had set them aside, thinking some small child might be back for them.   A happy ending!

    On another occasion, a frenzied appointment at Anaala Hair Salon/Hilldale resulted in TR Dad losing track of our precious “Death Star” snack container.  It took TR Dad two weeks to realize that Anaala was the last place the Death Star had been used.  But he called the salon anyway.  He left a description and phone number with the receptionist, not expecting much to come of it.  A month later, there’s an employee of Anaala on the phone, saying they’d found the container!

    Lost things can be found with good people on the case.  Our sincerest thanks to the staff of Old Navy, Famous Footwear, and Anaala for helping reunite us with our lost items, and helping us feel better about the world.