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Anne of Green Gables Birthday

When I was young, I loved to read. So much so that I spent most waking moments reading. But I have a confession to make.

 I never read Anne of Green Gables.

I didn’t need to.

I had the movies. That was enough for me. Few movies brought me the sense of peace and longing that Anne of Green Gables did.

Then, about a year ago, we ran out of bedtime stories. I opened our storage room, rummaged around in a few boxes, and found some old books my parents brought me from my childhood. Among those books was a battered old copy of Anne of Green Gables.

We quickly read all the way through once. Twice. Then a third time. A brilliant spark of love and imagination leapt into Agatha. Every moment of our day revolved around Anne. Agatha wanted to know more about eastern Canada, specifically Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. She wanted to know more about the time period. She had to have an Anne doll.

The doll arrived several months ago providing hours and hours of imaginative play. You see, Agatha is my Anne girl. If ever there was a child with a flair for the dramatic, it’s her! Watching Agatha play with her Anne doll, exploring a world of make-believe and adventure brought back so many happy memories and made so many more.

When it came time to plan her birthday party, she had to have an Anne of Green Gables party.

A quick search brought up so many party ideas – the only problem? They were all for weddings. Not quite what I wanted for my newly 9 ear old!

Since google didn’t provide any inspiration, I decided to take mine right from the book. Shortly after Anne arrives at Green Gables, she’s invited to a picnic. I decided to make this picnic the backdrop for our party (with a bit of creative licence to keep a pile of children happy).

 

I love this theme so much partly because decorations are so easy! Anne loves flowers and all things feminine. I picked up a big bouquet from the store, divided the blooms and greens between several different vases and glass jars, then I snipped some blooms and more greens from my garden to fill everything in. Ribbons and bows around the home added that little something extra.Since the majority of the party was outside, I didn’t bother with any other decorations.

 

 

We stuck to simple dishes that’d be easy to bring to a picnic and also likely to find at Green Gables. Potato salad, sausage and veggie fry-up, cole slaw, veggies, and fresh picked gooseberries were on the menu. Of course we had to have raspberry cordial (we were sure not to confuse it with currant wine!) and apple cider for those that don’t like raspberries. Oh, and a favourite from childhood: matrimonial cake (date squares), just as good as I remember them!

I wanted to do something a little different for the birthday cake. I knew it needed to be very simple, but I still wanted that WOW factor. Pavlova was the perfect ending for the birthday celebration! The airy dessert showcased the fresh berries beautifully. I had one on the counter on display during the party, complete with berries and cream, but I kept the others waiting in the cool oven until it was time to serve. The one on display wasn’t expected to hold up (and it didn’t) but it still tasted great!

Party games included a 3-legged race – we allowed smaller children to run without tying them together – a chance to walk the ridgepole of the house (we had deck boards spread between two rocks that everyone had a chance to balance on – no risk of breaking necks or legs). The last activity took the longest, but may have been the most fun.

Everyone had the chance to make their own ice cream using ice and salt to freeze the cream. Before the party, we measured all the ingredients into individual serving sizes for each child, placed those into larger bags, and put them all in the fridge. We had a large stash of ice in the freezer and salt in the pantry. When it was time for the activity, it was easy to add the salt and ice to the large bags. Bigger children helped smaller children, once smaller children were sitting enjoying their ice cream, the older children were ready for their turn. We quickly learned that it was vitally important to rinse the outside of the ice cream bag in cold water before serving! Those first few bites were mighty salty! hahaha

Agatha chose the items for the favour bags. She wanted everyone to have a copy of the Lady of Shallot or The Wreck of the Hesperus (her two favourite poems), we also added a few fake flowers and a small jar of homemade apple butter. Simple, but perfectly themed.

Here’s to Agatha, the sweetest 9 year old I know!

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Canada 150

I grew up in the States, but I am Canadian.

I recall the first summer I lived in Florida. We went to a place called Manatee Springs for a family picnic. A bunch of other preteens were there and of course they asked where I was from, then proceeded to bash Canada. I had no choice but to defend the honour of my country.

As I grew older, I connected less and less to my country of birth. In high school I began interviews with the Army, Navy, and Air Force (though really that was mostly so I could get out of class – I’d rather take tests then sit through lessons I wasn’t interested in hahaha)! I contemplated becoming an American. But I came back to Canada for University.

Since being back in Canada I’ve grown more and more fond of my home and my country.  Yes, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done here to make it a place I want to leave for my children, but over all it’s a good place to live. It’s a place I’m happy to raise my children.

Today my children and I celebrated our country. We talked about the good things, and touched on the bad. But mostly they just ran around, ate sugar, and had fun. They’re little and have more than enough time to learn about the world. Today was a day held in time where they were children in love with life.

 

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Moana Birthday Party

Miss Cordelia turned 6. I’m still not sure how that happened. I swear she was just a little, sweet smelling, squiggle, but here she’s 6 already! And what a 6 she is! It’s utterly amazing to see her vibrant personality shine through in everything she does. It’s no wonder she wanted a Moana themed party this year! This girl LOVES adventure!

I had so much fun creating this party! I listened to the soundtrack a dozen times a day while we planned and created prior to party day. Of course we also listened to it during the party. Because ‘it’s so SHINY!’ Yes, I’m singing while I type :p

I kept the party very low key because between renos, Ryan’s work schedule, and my finishing a few sculptures I didn’t have a ton of time to make a pile of decorations.  Instead I hung a cluster of blue balloons (ocean wave) with one green balloon in the centre (Heart of Te Fiti). I also used coconuts and pineapples for decorations on the counters. Otherwise the only decorations were the grass skirts and leis we handed out to our guests. I was sure I snapped a picture, but now I can’t find it. Inside the favour bags we had a green balloon (heart of Te Fiti), Surf Sweets candies, and a Moana Activity page. All the children also received leis and ‘grass’ skirts as well as their crafts to take home with them.

We had a ton of coconut snacks, fruit, Polynesian style Tofu, and Polynesian Style Pork.

Games were pretty simple. Prior to the party, we made paper mâché coconuts. At the party each guest was able to paint one to look like a kakamora. I kept it simple with only 2 paint colours (red and White). I also had a table with popsicle sticks and glue so the guests could all make their own boat. And last, but not least, I turned on a Disney Sing Along that has a basic Hula Dance for children. It briefly explained what the hula is and why it’s danced, then they do a slow walk through of the motions, followed by a faster version. The video was from the 80s, it was pretty hokey, but I can’t help myself, I love it! 😀

We can’t forget the cake! I’m really happy with how this turned out. It’s taken me forever, but I’ve finally created a white cake recipe I like that isn’t super dense the way other white gluten-free cakes are. I also managed a pretty decent job decorating it too! I know it’s not perfect, but I try really hard to give my children the birthday cakes they want when it’s impossible to order a safe cake around here.

For the cupcakes, we peeled a pineapple, then thinly sliced the fruit (core intact). I dehydrated the fruit until it was no longer juicy. I then placed the fruit slices into mini cupcake pan holes so they’d get a nice flower shape. I sliced from the edge toward the centre anyplace that needed it so the ‘flower’ would lay open nicely. Then I continued to dehydrate until they were firm and held their shape. I placed them on the cupcakes the day of the party, but if they’re sufficiently dried you can put hem on the cupcakes the day before. But they will soak up some moisture from the frosting, so if they aren’t sufficiently dehydrated they’d lose their shape.

The cake decorations were made with white and milk chocolate modelling clay. I used the white to make the boat’s sail around a wooden skewer. I used the milk chocolate to make the base of the boat, and the smaller side of the boat as well as the weave between the two. I combined the white and milk chocolate to create a wood like effect, and pressed the blend clay into a silicone mold I have that looks like a wood floor. Once everything hardened I  added the flag to the boat.

Both the cake and the cupcakes were topped with boiled frosting (AKA 7 minute frosting).

I made a few shells and a couple coconut trees with the left over chocolate clay. The shells were lovely, the trees looked funny, but Cordelia liked them. So really, that’s all that matters.

I was so happy with how everything turned out, and Cordelia is still talking about ‘the best birthday EVER!’ So I’m happy.

 

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Is Santa Real?

Do you believe in Santa? Does Santa visit your home?

I know many people who don’t wish to lie to their children, so either don’t have Santa visit, or are very sure to express that it’s only a story or a game people play.

I believe in Santa. I believe in many things. But mostly I believe in Magic. A very special kind of magic, the kind that allows my children to believe in Santa, even though they know how Santa’s magic works.

We’ve talked of magic before.

Knowing how magic works, doesn’t stop it from being magic. Instead we talk about how knowing how the magic works gives us a greater responsibility toward others. Knowing how the magic works makes us a part of the magic.

That idea is integral to our Santa conversation.

Ella and Agatha both told us their friends had told them Santa was just their parents, both girls looked at us in a questioning way when they said there had to be more to Santa than just parents.

We talked about NORAD, Google, the malls, movies, and random people on the street. We talked about how all of these people and organizations fully participated in the Magic of Santa. We then asked, even if your parents are the ones leaving presents under the tree, is it ‘just’ your parents who’re the magic of Santa?

Their response was very firm: “NO!”

 

It was neat to listen to them as they worked through their questions. They told us what their friends said. They never once asked us whether we were Santa. They never asked us to explain the magic. Instead we explored the idea of Santa, and we talked about how some people believe that understanding the magic means it’s no longer magic.

As we sat around our table, with our two advent candles lit, our conversation went deeper. Creating this magic for people brings magic, kindness, love, and especially, hope  into the lives and homes of people who might not have it otherwise. In sharing this tradition with others, we help ourselves feel more full and fulfilled.

Does Santa come into your home? Have you talked to your children about Santa? What did you say, what did they say? I’d love to hear how others navigate the season!

 

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Ten years of Ella

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Yesterday Ella turned 10. Tens years since our beautiful baby girl was born. Every day has been an adventure ever since!

inviteTo celebrate her birthday she wanted a World of Warcraft themed party, complete with sleepover, movie and gaming

Sarah went all out crafting all sorts of things for the party: A quest themed invitation, Banners for the Alliance, the Horde and the Darkmoon Faire! and we made a signpost post pointing to all the capital cities belonging to the Horde.

For the party itself we set a crafting station for making homemade hearthstones and Elekk Plushies.

We named all our foods after recipes available in game and we had two large dispensers of Mana and Health potion! As usual it’s now two day later and we are finally finishing all the food for the party. No guest leaves hungry!

As with all the best made plans nothing survives first contact with the enemy party guests and once a pile of pre-teen girls down a couple glasses of pop and eat a pile of sugary snacks they ran wild through the house giggling and laughing. None of the party games really got played, but they still had blast.

img_1557Ella loved all her presents, ranging from clothes for her dolls to good quality make up and jewelry. Ten is such an in-between age. Still young enough to be little and old enough to be grown up. Watching her through the day it was apparent that we now have more a little lady and less a little girl. It’s been amazing watching her grow.

Slowly the guests whittled down to the few kids spending the night and laptops in hand they crowded upstairs and all logged in creating new characters to play as a group, poor Dalaran server never knew what hit them 5 newly spawned Blood Elves rampaging through the starting zone fighting baddies and grabbing loot! Honestly, I was more than a little jealous.

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One by one they started to log off and it was time to start the Warcraft movie, air mattresses and futons set up in the living room, pillows ready for bopping. Orcs, wizards, heroes, and traitors it’s a fantastic movie.

From there it was a bit of a blur kids here, kids there, more gaming, more crafting, some climbing into bed, some needed pried from their computers and urged to go to bed. It was well after 1 am when they all finally laid down for the night.

What a way to celebrate a tenth birthday!

Ding!

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A Great Advent Calendar Idea

Advent is a special time of year for our family. We mark the coming of Christ each evening with the lighting of a candle and a blessing. But as important as those family traditions are, there’s a less religious tradition our children look forward to all year long: The advent calendar!!

Each day they open a small gift and count down the days to Christmas. It makes the wait to open the gifts under the tree a bit more bearable for the younger children, and increases the excitement of the whole family. There’s something truly magical about Advent!

But we’ve run into a coupe problems with advent countdowns in the past. The biggest problem is that few remade calendars exist. There are lego and playmobil, but this is the first year we’ve been able to find either suited to children 3 and under. Most of the time we can only find the big kid sets. The other problem is the cost. At $40 a set, it gets pretty pricey the more children you have. And then we’d be faced with duplicate sets. If your children are anything like mine, that would not go over well.

Last year we wrapped books instead. One book a day for 4 kiddos to share. 24 books total. This idea sounded great in theory, but when I began putting it together I quickly discovered one small problem. The cost!

Books are so expensive! Especially since we needed a few board books as well.  So we couldn’t choose good books, but rather whatever cheap things we could find on sale or at second hand stores. We did manage one or two nice books, but most of them are already passed onto someone else because we didn’t like them enough to re-read them.

 

This year I wanted to try something a little different. We bought a large lego set, and divided it into 4 builds, then divided those builds into 24 days worth of smaller builds. 😀

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It was really brilliant actually – and the set we got worked perfectly! (Yay for VIP points that nocked this price way down!)

We also added on a smaller build to make sure all 4 kiddos received a minifig.  (excuse the poor pic quality, we were hiding in the worst room possible for pictures lol).

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Ryan and I went through both sets and wrapped a few steps worth of each build for each kiddo per day. The castle is built in stages, where the top floor and the bottom floor could mostly be built simultaneously with only one small issue – a small cliff over hang connects the upper and lower floors – and that could easily be built last.

It also has a separate area that worked perfectly as another separate build, combined with the mini set we were able to give each kiddo something for each day. We rearranged the build order a few times to work with advent. We wanted to give something like a minifig or animal every week. When we did that, we labeled the bag a little differently to remind us what part of the build the pieces belong in.

Because of how we divided the builds up, we were easily able to cut the build steps out of the instruction booklet. The instructions are double sided, one set works for a couple days in many cases. If you’re someone who can’t cut the instruction booklets apart, never fear, all instructions are available online, you could easily print the specific instructions you need for the day. I didn’t want to take the time to do that though lol.

All total it took us about 2 hours to divide all the lego up and make sure each day and each child received a decent build or minifig.

It was so much fun to plan and I can hardly wait to see them start building! This will be their first ‘blind’ build – the first time they’ll build without knowing what they’re building. We did save the box, just in case lol.

 

 

Do you do anything different as an Advent calendar/countdown? Have you tried anything you loved, or something that really didn’t work for your family? I’d love to hear more ideas!

 

 

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Fighting Fear with Love

I feel a depth of emotion about today that I haven’t experienced since that day 15 years ago. That morning I had a Stats class. Our prof didn’t think any reason was good enough to not pay attention. I cried. We all cried. I don’t think she knew. After class, I spent time in Sub (one of the university buildings), standing with an ocean of people, all numb from the news, staring at TVs, hugging each other, worrying about our families in the states.
 
So much happened immediately following the attack. Initially people came together, strangers embraced, lifted others up, and opened their hearts and doors. Then the war on terror started. Fear trickled into the lives of so many people. Doors closed, children no longer went out to play without a parent.
 
The effects of that fear are still rippling through the North American people. (Possibly in other parts of the world too?)
 
Our days and our lives are limited more and more with every passing year, it seems. Fear grips us, whispers to us, we’re only safe if we block others out. Keep your face down, keep your thoughts hidden, and don’t let your children out of your sight.
 
Anyone who looks different is singled out, targeted, shunned. Fear breeds hate. Our world cries.
 
So much changed that day. It’s time we stopped letting this fear shape our lives. It’s time to step out and embrace our neighbours. It’s time we invited them over for a cup of coffee and got to know them. It’s time we chatted with the random people we see while we walk. Instead of turning our backs and pretending we don’t see.
 
Fear has shaped our world. Fear has shaped us and is shaping our children. I’m afraid of enough things without being afraid of nameless and faceless people that likely are no where near here.
 
In memory of 9/11 I am spending this week introducing myself to people I meet, buying people coffee, giving people flowers, and spreading love and happiness instead of fear. I invite you to join me, in memory of 9/11 and those who lost their lives so that we might live. I invite you to live with love and intention. 
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We've been busy

What a month August has been. It’s almost over and I feel like I barely noticed. The nights are darker and the days have been getting colder, though I hope the latter is just a string of bad weather and that September is nice and sunny.

I had the good fortune to take most of the month off from work and with that nice break we’ve been very busy! Not as busy as we planned but busy nontheless.

First off we sold our second vehicle. We are now a one vehicle family, which is a big change. We’ve been biking more and more, Sarah’s been scouring bus routes to figure out how to get to the kids classes when I’m working. Our municipality has  very limited busing and that can be hugely inconvenient. With the biking we are all feeling healthier, Ella and Agatha can ride more than half way across town now and I definitely feel the workout hauling Cordelia, Brom and all our packed gear behind me in our Chariot.

The vehicle we’ve kept has issues with the A/C so I had to take it into the dealership twice to get that fixed, now I have to get a full set of new tires as well. Unfortunately, that means we have to postpone our trip to Drumheller to visit the Tyrell museum until after they’re replaced, which will hopefully be next week.

I wrote my 2nd of 4 Power Engineering 3rd class exams. I was pretty stressed going in as I did not feel prepared. But I passed! All is good. Time to book the next one and get studying, again.

13937775_10154220233496013_948117389128556722_oWe’ve celebrated so many birthdays and ate so much cake, Agatha turned 8 at the beginning of the month and had a super cool mystery / spy themed birthday party. I had a blast recording special messages as the computerized spy master. I finally got a chance to use a program called Audacity that I’ve had for ages as part of my video editting programs. Playing with all the fun effects made for a good time.
We also celebrated my mom and nephew’s birthdays with a hot dog roast out at my parents acreage, my Aunties and Uncle were in town and it was fantastic catching up with them.

Lastly, Brom turned 3! He got a party on his actual birthday with some family friends and again today with my family. He was just blown away by the fact that the presents on the counter were for him and not someone else!


I didn’t get started on renovating Ella’s bedroom, but I did rearrange our family bedroom so that I could bring down a bed and trundle so that Agatha and Cordelia could have their own beds now. Agatha has been using a matress on the floor forever and I didn’t think anything of it until she asked when she could have a real bed. So the real bed upstairs that was already hers moved down. So now there is only Sarah, Brom and myself in our bed (most nights), only one more to go! Though I did spend last night in Cordelia’s bed cudding my little girl. I tend to travel from bed to bed as the girls still want cuddles.

We got a puppy! That means I don’t get to sleep as much and I’m busy during the day IMG_0406training and ensuring she doesn’t eliminate in the house. Moana (Mo-Anna, after the new Disney princess) is a 3 month old black lab cross. Crossed with what? We don’t know. She had white toes and a white spot on her chest. We’re thinking some sort of small shepherd. She’s high energy and likes to chew and play, our older dog Chester loves to tug-of-war with her. She also like to wake up way before everyone else and won’t go back in the crate even after a potty break, which means I’m pretty tired right now. She’s doing much better with the crate since we got her and I’m sure that means she’ll be better at going back in in the mornings so we can sleep again.

So that’s what we’ve been up to, how about you? How’s your summer been?

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We’ve been busy

What a month August has been. It’s almost over and I feel like I barely noticed. The nights are darker and the days have been getting colder, though I hope the latter is just a string of bad weather and that September is nice and sunny.

I had the good fortune to take most of the month off from work and with that nice break we’ve been very busy! Not as busy as we planned but busy nontheless.

First off we sold our second vehicle. We are now a one vehicle family, which is a big change. We’ve been biking more and more, Sarah’s been scouring bus routes to figure out how to get to the kids classes when I’m working. Our municipality has  very limited busing and that can be hugely inconvenient. With the biking we are all feeling healthier, Ella and Agatha can ride more than half way across town now and I definitely feel the workout hauling Cordelia, Brom and all our packed gear behind me in our Chariot.

The vehicle we’ve kept has issues with the A/C so I had to take it into the dealership twice to get that fixed, now I have to get a full set of new tires as well. Unfortunately, that means we have to postpone our trip to Drumheller to visit the Tyrell museum until after they’re replaced, which will hopefully be next week.

I wrote my 2nd of 4 Power Engineering 3rd class exams. I was pretty stressed going in as I did not feel prepared. But I passed! All is good. Time to book the next one and get studying, again.

13937775_10154220233496013_948117389128556722_oWe’ve celebrated so many birthdays and ate so much cake, Agatha turned 8 at the beginning of the month and had a super cool mystery / spy themed birthday party. I had a blast recording special messages as the computerized spy master. I finally got a chance to use a program called Audacity that I’ve had for ages as part of my video editting programs. Playing with all the fun effects made for a good time.
We also celebrated my mom and nephew’s birthdays with a hot dog roast out at my parents acreage, my Aunties and Uncle were in town and it was fantastic catching up with them.

Lastly, Brom turned 3! He got a party on his actual birthday with some family friends and again today with my family. He was just blown away by the fact that the presents on the counter were for him and not someone else!


I didn’t get started on renovating Ella’s bedroom, but I did rearrange our family bedroom so that I could bring down a bed and trundle so that Agatha and Cordelia could have their own beds now. Agatha has been using a matress on the floor forever and I didn’t think anything of it until she asked when she could have a real bed. So the real bed upstairs that was already hers moved down. So now there is only Sarah, Brom and myself in our bed (most nights), only one more to go! Though I did spend last night in Cordelia’s bed cudding my little girl. I tend to travel from bed to bed as the girls still want cuddles.

We got a puppy! That means I don’t get to sleep as much and I’m busy during the day IMG_0406training and ensuring she doesn’t eliminate in the house. Moana (Mo-Anna, after the new Disney princess) is a 3 month old black lab cross. Crossed with what? We don’t know. She had white toes and a white spot on her chest. We’re thinking some sort of small shepherd. She’s high energy and likes to chew and play, our older dog Chester loves to tug-of-war with her. She also like to wake up way before everyone else and won’t go back in the crate even after a potty break, which means I’m pretty tired right now. She’s doing much better with the crate since we got her and I’m sure that means she’ll be better at going back in in the mornings so we can sleep again.

So that’s what we’ve been up to, how about you? How’s your summer been?

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Mystery Birthday Party

 

We’ve been loving reading the Agatha Girl of Mystery books, so when we asked Agatha what kind of party she wanted, there was no question. She wanted a mystery party!

Agatha 8th Birthday

The invitation was the cover of one of the books, with a few additions of my own. Agatha LOVED it!

I have to admit, I had no idea how I was going to pull of a mystery party at first, but after spending a ton of time on pinterest, I had a plan!

The guests ranged in age from 1 up to 11, plus the adults. So I wanted to make sure everyone would be able to join in the games without them being to ‘young’ for the bigger kids.

We decided our party would be a secret detective academy. All the activities and games revolved around training them to be super secret detectives.

When the party guests arrived, they were greeted by this video:

I ushered them into the office where they made ID badges (they drew a picture of themselves, created an alias, and listed their detective strengths). When they were done creating their secret identity, then moved tot he next station where they obtained their weapons. They created marshmallow poppers with disposable party cups, balloons, and masking tape.

Then they took a break to have a snack, and shoot marshmallows all over the place. (This may have been the worst party to clean up after, just fair warning!)

Next it was time to hone the new recruits observational skills. They played ‘Disney’s Eye Found It’, a game that requires them to work together, and even Brom could join in without feeling left behind. We also had ‘Operation’ to hone their dexterity, which is vital to picking up the smallest clues forma crime scene. And, of course, we had the game of ‘Clue’ though no one bothered playing that game because there was too much going on at the party.

While the children were all running around shooting each other with marshmallows and hopping between games, the TV suddenly turned on and this message appeared:

 

The front door slammed, when Ryan went to look there was a message at the front door alerting us that Mr. X had stolen the goodie bags!

They hunted around and found a clue that led them to the basement, then to the garage, then into the living room where they found the goodie bags hidden in a cupboard. They had so much fun!

Unfortunately, Agatha expected to receive a second mission. We only had one mission available 🙁 so we served them cake and had her open presents lol She felt better.

Each goodie bag contained a magnifying glass, a fake moustache, a pair of sunglasses, a pad of paper, a pencil, and an eraser. Everything a detective needs to begin solving crime!