Origami Folding Tips

Origami, from the Japanese ori (to fold) and kami (paper), began in the 6th century when Buddhist monks introduced paper to Japan. The print-and-fold crafts and easy diagrams are designed to help children with fine motor skills, directions and hand eye coordination. Some basic origami folding tips:
  • Print and cut out patterns carefully.
  • Fold with clean, dry hands.
  • Follow the instructions. Study the diagrams and be patient.
  • Be precise: fold each crease well, flattening the creases by running your fingertip over the fold.
  • Folding the paper away from you is easier than folding towards you.
  • Be creative...use your origami on greeting cards, holiday decorations, table place cards and bookmarks.

HAWAII, the Aloha State

Fun Facts:

On August 21, 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state of the union. Admission Day or Statehood Day is a legal holiday in Hawaii and is celebrated on the third Friday in August to commemorate admission into the Union.

The Hawaiian flag was commissioned by Kamehameha the Great in 1816 while Hawaii was still a kingdom. The eight stripes represent the eight major Hawaiian islands (Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Oahu, Kauai and Niihau) and the Union Jack in the upper left corner symbolizes the kingdom's friendship with Britain.

  • Admission: 50th State (August 21, 1959)
  • Capital: Honolulu
  • Nickname: The Aloha State
  • Motto: Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka 'Aina I Ka Pono (The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness)
  • Song: Hawai'i Pono'i (written by King David Kalakaua)
  • Capital: Honolulu (on Oahu)
  • Geography: the Hawaiian Archipelago consists of 132 islands stretching over 1500 miles, and is one of the most remote places on Earth.
  • Population: 1.3 million
  • Demographics: Hawaii is known for its diversity. There are no ethnic majorities.

    Native Hawaiian3.6%
    African American1.6%
  • Flower: Ma'o hau hele (yellow Hawaiian hibiscus, or Hibiscus brackenridgei)
  • Bird: nene (Hawaiian goose)
  • Gemstone: black coral

"The USS Arizona is the final resting place for many of the ship's 1,177 crewmen who lost their lives on December 7, 1941..." read more
Color the USS Arizona Memorial:

  • Pacific Green Sea Turtle (Honu)
    Did you know that all the hatchlings in the nest of the Pacific green sea turtle are either male or female? The sex of the turtles is determined by the temperature of the nest. Cooler nests produce a clutch of males, while warmer nests produce females...read more

    Color a Baby Sea Turtle

Fun Stuff:

Count and Color Creatures of the Reef
Hawaii State Flag
Under the Sea with Baby Honu


Dollar Bill Folding: Aloha Shirt
Green Sea Turtle (Honu)
Hawaiian Butterfly (Pulelehua)

Hawaiian Limpet ('Opihi)

Hawaiian Owl (Pueo)
Humpback Whale

Hawaiian Owl and Turtle

Kamehameha the Great Crossword

Coloring and Activity Books for long trips

Hawaiian Books Your Child Might Like:

A is for Aloha
From the meaning of the word aloha to the plight of the state bird author U'ilani Goldsberry answers questions that most Malihinis have about this lush multi-island paradise.

Completes Sleeping Bear Press's acclaimed Discover America State by State series.

From Hawai'i with Aloha, Grandma and Grandpa
Did you know...

That Kilauea has spewed enough lava to fill more than a million Olympic-sized swimming pools? That a newborn humpack whale calf drinks one hundred gallons of milk a day? Or that twenty-seven Waimea Canyons stretched end to end can fit into the Grand Canyon? 

Children learn about the wonders of Hawai'i as they join Grandma and Grandpa on a trip through the Hawaiian Islands.

Baby Honu's Incredible Journey
Baby Honu has just hatched from his egg. Will he find the courage to face sand crabs and sea birds on his perilous journey to the sea? And what wondrous creatures will he encounter in the ocean?

A best-selling island classic, with a helpful glossary to educate children about Hawaiian marine life.
©2010 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved.

TRAVEL: Yosemite National Park, California

El Capitan, Half Dome and Brideveil Fall. Photos by Tammy Yee.

Yosemite National Park ranks in my books as one of the ultimate family destinations. Ample restroom and dining facilities, an excellent bus system, and a multitude of activities sure to satisfy all levels of hikers, photographers and nature lovers alike, from the novice to the expert--all in a compact geographical area that features some of the most dramatic and beloved vistas in North America.

When we first planned our vacation in March of 2009, we were resigned to take a detour to the Wawona Entrance because of wintry road conditions. Fortunately, the National Park Service posts up-to-date information on road closures in Yosemite, and we learned that just days before our trip, Highway 140 through Mariposa County was re-opened, allowing us to enter through the iconic Arch Rock Entrance (left).

It's advisable that you always check travel conditions in and out of the park, either through their Road Status hotline (209/372-0200--press 1 then 1) or by tuning in to the National Park Service radio station, posted on multiple signs along the route.

A little story about spring road conditions. We learned beforehand that we needed tire chains to enter the park, so we bought a set at the Pep Boys in Merced. The nice folks at Pep Boys patiently educated our clueless Hawaiian travel party, and were even nice enough to give us a full refund when we returned the chains, unopened and unused, at the end of our vacation.

 A snowy Brideveil Fall greeted us upon our entrance into Yosemite National Park.

Three days later the snow had melted, and Brideveil Fall was shrouded in mist and rainbows.

However, Yosemite in the spring is well worth that minor inconvenience. We had three days of snow, followed by thawing that allowed us to view the park in both winter and spring conditions. AND, Badger Pass, the oldest downhill skiing area in California, was open for skiing and snowboarding! That was an unexpected treat. Though from the perspective of the ski lift operator who had to (groan) stop the lift twice for the dumb Hawaiian who couldn't dismount (me), perhaps it wasn't so much of a treat.

 Mirror Lake is a great hike for young families. The first section of the hike is paved, and ends with bathroom facilities and a small, shallow pond where both kids and parents can take a break. Further in you'll find the reflective lake.

Reservations inside the park are available 366 days in advance and are strongly recommended, especially for the busy summer months.

We stayed in the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls (right), which was not only conveniently located, but offered a spectacular view of Yosemite Falls as well as dining, internet access, gift shops, evening lectures and bus service throughout the park and up to Badger Pass...everything we needed to keep two 14-year-old boys occupied.

Yosemite Falls: the Upper, Middle and Lower Falls, before and after the thaw.

Aside from hiking, exploring and snowboarding, the park has several galleries and museums. The Yosemite Valley Visitor Center's exhibit hall features a free 23 minute film that documents the park's formation as well as an interactive display. Nearby is the Yosemite Museum, featuring the park's cultural history, with demonstrations of basket-weaving, beadwork and traditional games. And parents will enjoy the Ansel Adams Gallery.

 Half Dome, from Sentinel Bridge.

One of our favorite family activities while visiting any national park is to collect photos of whatever wildlife we see--birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians an even insects--then to identify and compile a list which my boys can later compare to park guides. At Yosemite, there's no shortage of animals. 

 Stellar's Jay.

Of course, in any encounter, children should be taught to not approach or feed the wildlife. The park offers information about what to do if you encounter a bear, and there are strict rules about food left in cars...a challenge with children, even without the bear factor. Food, and any item associated with food handling (used containers, food wrappers, utensils, cups, crumbs, used napkins), or with aromas that may be mistaken for food (soaps, cosmetics), may only be kept in cars during the day if they are stored out of sight, with the windows completely closed. After dark, food may not be kept in your car, and should be stored in a food locker, available at the Curry Village parking lot or at many of the trailhead parking areas.

Be sure to visit the Yosemite National Park (U.S. National Park Service) web site before planning your family vacation. There you'll find important safety tips and weather updates, as well as animal species lists and information about many of the park's attractions and programs.

Entrance Fees:
$20 per private car or $10 per person arriving on foot, horseback, bicycle, motorcycle, or on a non-commercial bus or passenger van (free for those 15 years old and younger).

Hours of Operation:
Open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, however the Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station operates only during daylight hours, and some roads may be closed due to snow from November to May. Check road conditions before visiting in the winter. No reservations are needed if you are visiting; however, reservations are essential if you are lodging or camping overnight.

El Capitan, breathtaking in the early morning light. Photos by Tammy Yee.

Fun Facts:

There are more than 400 animal species in Yosemite! This includes vertebrates (animals with backbones) such as mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, as well as invertebrates (animals without backbones) such as insects, worms and snails. We carry an inexpensive pocket guide when visiting national parks. The plastic identification cards are compact and sturdy, great for younger children; while the pocketbook guides are great for older children.

Remember that however cute and cuddly they may appear, the animals are wild and should not be approached, harassed or fed.

©2010 Tammy Yee.

TRAVEL: Buon Giorno Rome, Italy!

Arch of Constantine and the Roman Colosseum. Photo by Tammy Yee.

Where We Stayed in Rome

Hotel Teatro Di Pompeo
Largo del Pallaro, 8 
00186 Rome, Italy
Tel: 06 6830 170 

Cost: 160 € peak season, 140 € off season

The rooms here are small and very basic, yet comfortable, and since we spent most of the day exploring the city, they were more than adequate. Jumpstart your day at the free breakfast buffet with a cappuccino and an assortment of cold cuts, cheeses, cereals, yogurt, breads and pastries.
Central location in walking distance to Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Colosseum and more; great price; breakfast buffet so you don't have to think in the morning; air conditioning; VERY helpful staff who gave us wonderful suggestions and advice.

If you want something fancy, the spare rooms may not be what you were looking for. However, we also stayed at the ostentatious Rome Cavalieri (read below), and I enjoyed the Teatro di Pompeo so much more because of its convenience and simplicity. Also, the structure next door was being renovated, so it was a little noisy (not the fault of the hotel, of course).

Rome Cavalieri
Via Alberto Cadlolo 101
00136 Rome, Italy
Tel: 39 06 3509 1

Cost: $400 (average)

One word describes the Cavalieri: decadent. The hotel is what you would expect from a luxury Waldolf Astoria, whether it be in Rome or on Maui. The staff and services are great, the rooms are comfortable and spacious with views overlooking the city. The only reason we stayed here was because we had two free nights through our Hilton Honors Points program.
It's a Waldorf Astoria. It was free (for us).

When room service for a hamburger is $28, that's gotta be some hamburger (no, I didn't order, just looked). Inconvenient location. With all that luxury, it feels removed and sterile, like you're not really experiencing Rome.
When my husband first told me that we were going to Italy, I asked him to download an Italian-English translation application for his iPhone–not because of a secret desire to perpetuate stereotypes of obnoxious Americans mangling Italian, but because we were making our own travel arrangements which involved side trips into Florence and Cinque Terre, and I thought a little Italian would be handy.

So did he download the app? Of course not. After twenty-one years of marital bliss, I could hardly expect him to turn a new leaf and start asking directions. And in another language, to boot.

As it turned out, barring some minor mishaps, trying to get around without understanding a lick of Italian proved to be one of the many charms of our trip.

By the end of our stay I had come to love private moments stolen in crowded cafes infused with the expressive musicality of the language. The Americans seated at the next table became an intrusion, with their American coffee and pizza, abrasive requests for others to put out their cigarettes, and constant complaining. I didn't fly 8,000 miles from Honolulu to Rome (a 24-hour trip) to listen to a guy moaning about his girlfriend. For all I know, the Italians may have been having the same conversations, but in Italian it sounds so much nicer. Romantic, even.

Getting Around
Every taxi driver in Rome is Mario Andretti, racing on roads with no lines and few rules. Get used to it. I read a lot about taxi drivers supposedly ripping off tourists...however, I didn't get that perception. Maybe I was simply happy to arrive at my destination alive, without having flattened any motorcyclists or pedestrians along the way.

As for trains, here's where a little Italian and a lot common sense would have prevailed.

Our foray into Florence and Cinque Terre was a last minute decision, so we hadn't the time to make sense of the train schedules and to purchase our tickets online–we barely had time to juggle our hotel reservations.

When the Hotel Teatro di Pompeo concierge learned we had a tight schedule and no train tickets, she referred us to an English-speaking travel agent near the Area Sacra Argentina, Jazz Viaggi (Via del Sudario, 24 - 00186 - ROMA), where Marie made our train reservations.

At Roma Termini, a flustered family from Miami were just as lost as we were. However, by our first trip we were able to navigate our way and make changes to our tickets ourselves, despite the language barrier.

Lesson 1: Names and Destinations. You won't find Florence at the train station–Florence is called Firenze. Furthermore, trains are listed by final destination, so our train to Firenze was unlisted because it was really the train to Milan.

Lesson 2: Train Number. Because of Lesson 1, find your train by its number (Doh!). I know that sounds obvious, but hey, even the Miami sophisticates were clueless.

Lesson 3: Platform? Finding your train track at smaller stations that don't have departure information can be a pain. Just remember a few words: binario (platform), biglietto (ticket), treno (train), partenze (departures) and arrivi (arrivals).

Helpful Links:

The attractions in Rome speak for themselves. Everywhere you turn, you are humbled by the grandeur of ancient monuments. The city has done well in preserving their archaeological treasures–walls thousands of years old jut from the facades of more contemporary structures.

What makes the city even more inviting is its walkability—the heart of ancient Rome covered a compact 16 square miles, protected by 11 miles of walls. Small drinking fountains sprout from the sidewalk, and passersby refill plastic bottles or cool off in water that still flows from some of the ancient aqueducts.

Piazza Navona. Photo by Tammy Yee

Avoiding Lines at the Colosseum
The line at the Colosseum was atrocious. People were telling tourists they could avoid lines by joining the guided tours. After standing in the wrong line, we left at 2 pm, discouraged, and had a leisurely lunch just around the block at the Royal Art Cafe Restaurant, with panoramic views of the Colosseum. The pasta with tuna and eggplant was fantastic, and the food and wine refreshed me enough to sketch the Colosseum before once again tackling the queue.

View from the Royal Art Cafe Restaurant across from the Colosseum.

By 4 pm, the line had emptied considerably. We were glad we waited; those who took the guided tours looked rushed, whereas we had time to wander and photograph at our own pace. HOWEVER, after our Colosseum visit, we learned that we could have avoided the lines altogether by purchasing our tickets at the entrance to Palatine Hill, 200 meters away. Virtualtourist.com provides some useful information about purchasing tickets to the Colosseum, and making reservations online.

Vatican City
Here's another lesson in avoiding lines. Make your reservations online, as we did. It doesn't matter how early you arrive or on what day–the line into the Vatican Museum for those without reservations begins to the left of the entrance and winds around the block, and you can expect to wait at least an hour to get in.

The line to the right, however, moves quickly and is for tour groups and those with reservations. However, I did see (and read as well) that individuals with reservations simply walked right up between the two lines, hailed the attention of the security guards, and slipped right in between tour groups.

As you wander through this vast and spectacular complex, culminate your visit by working your way through the Rafael Rooms and on to the Sistine Chapel. After the Sistine, make your way to the exit on the right side–this will take you out near St. Peter's Basilica. We got disoriented in the Sistine and made the mistake of exiting on the left...this took us through long halls of what looked like endless lockers, and out the front entrance, farther from the Basilica than we intended.
St. Peter's Basilica. Photo by Tammy Yee.

Fun For Kids:
Print and Color the Flag of Italy:

Print and Color Constantine's Arch and the Colosseum:

Print and Build Constantine's Arch and the Colosseum:

©2010 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2009 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved. No portion of this web site may be reproduced without prior written consent.