Even MORE Amazing Traditions — More EI Fans From Around the Country Share Their Holiday Traditions

Our first family traditions post highlighted a red carpet couple and their shining star son, a Korean-American family with totally typical traditions, and a rowdy-dice rolling game that’s the highlight of one Chicago family’s holiday get-togethers. We had so much fun learning about the way EI fans and family across the country celebrate their holidays that we just had to share a few more!

Big Family, Big Fun!
Maria, Guillermo, Ricky, and Eric Gonzalez

Maria Family

For as long as she can remember, Maria Gonzalez has hosted upwards of 40 friends, neighbors, and all of the members of both sides of her blended family for Thanksgiving. Thankfully, everyone contributes to her pot luck party–the feast includes two turkeys, two hams (Maria looks forward to her sister Eva’s ham all year long!), and all the trimmings. Maria’s cooking has come a long way since she made her first turkey (hey, who hasn’t accidentally left the bag inside the bird?) and her family comes a long way for her celebrations. Relatives look forward to this whole-family gathering all year, taking time off of work and traveling from as far as Las Vegas, Yuma, and Calexico to be together, and often saving important announcements for the gathering, like new jobs, engagements, and additions to the family!

Maria’s sons enjoy the Thanksgiving gathering, too—it’s a time to see their favorite cousins who live hundreds of miles away—but they also look forward to another one of Maria’s holiday traditions. All year long, Maria’s family gathers gently used clothing and toys to hand out to children in need on the family’s annual Christmas trip to Maria’s native Mexico. At first the boys were nervous, giving their gifts to strangers, but now they really get into the spirit of giving. In fact, the boys remind Maria to gather goodies for their holiday giveaway all year long.


  • Pumpkin pie or apple pie? Pumpkin pie – you can get the other pies anytime, but pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving tradition
  • What do you love most about your family? I love that everyone makes the time to come together, traveling from out of state to be with the family. Making memories with the little ones, not just the adults.
  • What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Being together with the family, being thankful for what we have, and letting my brother in law say the prayer before the meal!

 Yes to Presence – No to Presents!
Jenn Ryan and Erin Alsop and their children, Jake, Kennedy, and Alex Ryan

Jenn and her kids  20 years

When it comes to get-togethers at the Alsop Ryan home, the more, the merrier! From the very beginning, moms Jenn and Erin instituted a no-gifts policy for all of their parties—including their children’s birthdays and the holidays. That way, the kids could invite their entire class or sports team without worrying that some kids wouldn’t come because their families might not be able to afford a gift. The Ryan kids, Jake, Kennedy, and Alex, get plenty of wonderful toys and games from their parents, so their friends’ presence was far more important than their presents! Their “invite everyone or no one” and “no gifts” policies teach the kids the importance of inclusion and kindness and that spending time together is the best gift of all, particularly during the holidays.

To Jenn, Thanksgiving is a time to show gratitude to the people she loves, to teach her kids to be grateful, and to be thankful for the many wonderful things she has in her life. But Jenn tries to embrace the spirit of Thanksgiving each and every day, sharing her many blessings with everyone around her and sharing her attitude of gratitude with her children. In fact, if there are any leftovers from her big family’s Thanksgiving dinner, Jenn, Erin and their “little roommates” (the three kids) will box them up and deliver the delicious goodies to folks who might not have had a celebration of their own, spreading a little holiday joy along with a delicious home-cooked meal.


  •  Pumpkin or apple pie? EVERYTHING! We are a family of “ANDS.”  We like pumpkin AND apple AND strawberry, and everything else that ends in “pie.”  We’re lucky enough to usually offer a selection of delicious desserts on Turkey Day.  That being said, Alex usually dares to be different: he prefers stuffing for dessert.
  • What do you love most about your family? We decided a long time ago that, as a family, we were committed to being truthful to one another.  We place a high value on honestly and openness… we call it our “no poo policy.” We tell our kids—you know that icky feeling you get when you don’t tell the whole truth?  We don’t want you to feel that way!  It’s better to be open and honest, and by doing so, you can always avoid that feeling of poo!
  • What’s your funniest Thanksgiving story? Our youngest son, Alex, is part Native American, and last November, we told him, “Alex… with Thanksgiving right around the corner, this might be a good opportunity to share with your teacher, and maybe your class, a little bit about your background. What do you think?” Alex says, “Mommy Jenn, there are already a bunch of Indians in my classroom.”  I replied, “Really? I didn’t know that! Who?” Alex retorts, “Well there’s Deepak, and Krishna, and Priya….”

Old World Meets New
Sicilliano Family


When Michealangelo Sicilliano left southern Italy for America in 1957, there were just some customs he couldn’t leave behind—and most of them had to do with food! Nonno and Nanna, as he and his wife were known to their grandkids, hosted the family’s annual Thanksgiving dinner (and Christmas and Sunday dinners, too!) for as long as anyone can remember. EI’s Creative Director, AnnaMaria, was fortunate enough to be born into this foodie family–her father was Michealangelo’s son and he and his brothers and sisters lived within a 10 mile radius of their parents. This meant that the entire family came together to celebrate every Thanksgiving in their grandparents’ basement.

Eleven aunts and uncles and 21 grandkids shared the meal, which included the traditional fixings along with plates of lasagna, manicotti, potato fritters, and hand-cured Calabrese salami. The meal was served Italian style—soup first, then the main course and sides, followed by a salad. Nonno’s homemade wine flowed throughout the meal and stories of the old world flowed around the table, in Italian, of course. Although her grandparents are no longer with her, AnnaMaria still treasures the memory of those old world Thanksgiving dinners and her family’s passion for their native foods and looks forward to sharing her family’s traditions with her partner, Alicia.


  • Favorite side dish – My Nonna’s Italian green beans—she puts tomato sauce with them and they’re so good!
  • What she loves most about her family – I love that they’ve worked hard and endured. They’ve been through a lot, including extreme poverty. I have a lot of respect for them!

How Do YOU Celebrate? EI Fans From Around the Country Share Their Holiday Traditions

From exotic travels to traditional meals with friends and family, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving in a variety of unique ways. Read on to learn about some special holiday traditions held by EI fans and family around the country and be sure to share your unique family tradition in the comments below!

Embracing New Traditions
Jessie, Nick, and Hunter Min

Family Min

Jessie moved from Korea to the United States as a young child and her family immediately embraced the Thanksgiving tradition, celebrating with classic turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, plus the traditional Korean side dish of kimchi. When Jessie married her husband, Nick, also a native Korean, the two families blended their traditional American Thanksgiving celebrations. Now the extended Min family trades off hosting the holiday meal, which includes both sets of parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and, most recently, the addition of Jessie and Nick’s daughter, Hunter.

Two-year-old Hunter loves being surrounded by family and Jessie hopes someday Hunter will come to see Thanksgiving as a day to be thankful for all of the love she has in her life. As for Jessie, she’ll spend this holiday appreciating the people she loves, toasting her family’s good health, and decorating the family Christmas tree!

Fun Facts:

  • Favorite holiday side dish? Cheesy corn—her sister-in-law makes the best!
  • Pumpkin or apple? Jessie is pumpkin all the way—nothing says fall like pumpkin pie!
  • What do you love most about your family?That we’re always here for each other, no matter what.

Twice the Holiday Fun

Alec Mapa, Jamison Hebert, Zion Hebert-Mapa

Hebert Family

A showbiz family, actor and father Alec can be seen on TV shows like Switched at BirthDevious MaidsJane the Virgin, and his own Showtime Special, Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy. His husband, Jamison, prefers to work behind the scenes, as an independent film producer, creating such documentaries as The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Bullied and MSNBC’s Erasing Hate. This red carpet couple completed their family five years ago with the adoption of their adorable son, Zion.

Entertainers by nature, the Hebert-Mapas go big for the holidays with two seasonal get togethers—one Christmas, the other Chanukah—so that they can celebrate with friends of all faiths. Now in 5th grade, Zion is just as social as his dazzling dads, so he greets and gabs with the guests while his dads get the goodies on the table. Although the hands-down hit of these parties is the authentic, home-made latkes (served with sour cream and applesauce), Zion’s favorite dish is always a sweet dessert.

Fun Facts:

  • What do you do with leftovers? POT PIE!!!  Or sandwiches! But mostly pot pie. Comfort food is best in the winter.
  • What do you love most about your family? I love that we all look nothing alike, but none of that has ever mattered. Love is what brought us all together and love is what makes us a family. It’s corny, but at the end of the  day, love is what defines family

Friendly Family Competition

Chris, Jen, Hayden, and Sawyer Truby

Truby Family

That pile of gifts at Chris’ holiday get-togethers might not be what you think! First introduced by Chris’ grandmother to entertain the kids and moms while the dads watched football after Thanksgiving dinner, Chris’ family has been playing “The Dice Game” for more than 40 years. It’s a tradition he remembers and loved as a little boy and now he’s passing it on to his own children. The rules are simple, but the game play is intense!Everyone contributes a wrapped white elephant gift to the pile. Players take turns rolling the dice—roll doubles and you can take a gift from the pile, but don’t be fooled! That awesome-looking gift is as likely to be a can opener or piece of wood as it is something stellar! Don’t score a gift? Don’t worry! You’ll get a chance to steal gifts from other players by rolling doubles in a timed lightening round. Not everyone wins, but no one cares—the fun is in the frantic, fast-paced game play.

Over the years, the competition—and the gifts!—have gotten so epic that the entire family, including two sets of grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, as well as Chris, his wife Jen, and their two sons, Hayden and Sawyer, drops everything when the dice hit the table. Chris’ kids love the crazy gifts; Chris loves that he can share a treasured tradition from his own childhood with his family. He says “The dice game is a fun family tradition that always makes Thanksgiving special!”

Fun Facts:

  • Canned cranberry or fresh? Canned- preferred if it’s still in the shape of the can with the lines around it.
  • What do you love most about your family?Being accepting and comfortable in our own uniqueness.
  • What does Thanksgiving mean to you?  A day to relax and spend time with family

Collecting for a Cure October’s Change It Up! Contribution

Walk to Stop Diabetes and Tour de Cure

Every 19 seconds, someone is diagnosed with diabetes, and diabetes causes more deaths each year than breast cancer and AIDs combined. Olivia Cudahy, EI’s Sales Support Coordinator, is all too familiar with the effects of this deadly disease. Both of her grandmothers and her grandfather passed from diabetes complications; her parents have both been hospitalized with complications due to diabetes; and Olivia herself was diagnosed with diabetes earlier this year.

That’s why Olivia chose the American Diabetes Association as the recipient of Educational Insights’ charitable donation for the month of October. For 75 years, this organization has been dedicated to diabetes research and support, earning more than $30 million last year via events like Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes® and Tour de Cure®.

The American Diabetes Association has hosted Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes and Tour de Cure in communities across the country for more than 25 years. In addition to raising funds, the walks and rides promote physical activity and celebrate people who live with diabetes—Red Striders and Red Riders—who receive VIP treatment at the events.

For more information on the American Diabetes Association, to participate inStep Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes and Tour de Cure, or to make your own charitable contribution, please visit: http://www.diabetes.org/about-us/75th-anniverary/

Collecting for a Cure – September’s Change It Up! Contribution

Make a difference day!

Alzheimer’s robs seniors of their memories and independence and families and caregivers of their loved ones. And, sadly, it’s the only top 10 cause of death in the U.S. that cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed. Today, one-third of seniors will die from Alzheimer’s or similar types of dementia and nearly two-thirds of them will be women.

After witnessing the toll that dementia and Alzheimer’s took on some of the important women in her life and their caregivers, Courtney Wachs, EI’s Director of Marketing, selected the Alzheimer’s Association to receive the team’s charitable contributions in the month of September.

The team’s contributions will help the Alzheimer’s Association conduct research in hopes of developing better treatments for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and, ultimately, a cure. Georgia The group’s research includes exploring how the disease affects the brain as well as investigating tools designed to better diagnose and monitor the disease. Contributions also fund helplines, caregiver services, and community support programs for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association or to make a contribution, visit www.alz.org.

3 Spooky Experiments for Mini Mad Scientists – STEM Fun for Little Ones

Recipe for Mad Science

You’re never too young for mad science! This Halloween, set up your lab and share some spooky science with your little one with these easy and fun STEM activities. And for even more STEM learning and fun, check out our GeoSafari® Jungle Crew Lab Set™. Specifically designed for preschoolers, the set includes six animal-themed science tools and 10 awesome science activities.

Spooktacular Slime

What You’ll Need:goo_recipe

  • One 100mL test tube*, or a 1-cup measuring cup
  • Large plastic bowl
  • Large baking tray with lip or additional large bowl
  • ½ Box cornstarch
  • ¾ Cup water
  • Spoon
  • Fork
  • Food coloring in spooky colors like black, purple, green, and orange**

*100mL Lion Cub test tube included in the GeoSafari® Jr. Jungle Crew Lab Set

** Food coloring can be messy – and permanent! – so take precautions with your clothes and countertops!

What You’ll Do:

  1. Pour ½ box cornstarch into a bowl.
  2. Pour ¾ cup water into the bowl
    1. You can use your Lion Cub test tube to measure the water. Fill up the Lion Cub completely with water and dump into the bowl. Then fill him up again—this time only ¾ full—and dump the water in.
  3. Add a drop of food coloring to the bowl and stir the ingredients with a fork
  4. Try scooping the menacing mixture with a spoon—what happens? What about when you try to pour the concoction into a separate bowl or tray?  What happens when you slap the mixture with your hand?
  5. Squeeze the oozing slime in your hands and proclaim, “It’s alive! It’s alive!”


What Your Little One Will Learn:

Ask your mini mad scientists to describe how the mixture changed when you added each ingredient, and what they think will happen when they stop squeezing the mixture. Then share the explanation below:

This goo is a SUSPENSION, in other words, the grains of starch are not dissolved, they are just suspended and spread out in the water. If you let the goo sit for a while, the cornstarch will settle to the bottom of the bowl. The size, shape, and make-up of cornstarch causes it to “lock up” and hold its shape when pressure is applied to it, such as when it’s squeezed. When you let go, the cornstarch “releases” and the solution feels like a liquid again. People have filled small pools with this solution and are able to walk quickly across their surfaces. But as soon as they stop walking, they sink!

Helpful tip: when you’re done, please don’t pour your mixture down the drain!  Simply scoop your slime into a sandwich baggie, seal, and dump in the trash.


Mischievous Moonlight Lava Lamp

What You’ll Need:

  • 750 mL Flask* or pourable container with lid
  • Eye dropper*
  • Two test tubes* or 2 measuring cups
  • Funnel*
  • Clear, smooth plastic bottle with cap—1.5L is ideal
  • 5 Cups vegetable oil
  • 1/3 Cup Baking Soda
  • 5 Cups vinegar
  • Food coloring in a spooky color like black, purple, green, or orange

*750 mL Rhino flask, Monkey eye dropper, test tubes, and Elephant funnel included in the GeoSafari® Jr. Jungle Crew Lab Set

What You’ll Do:

  1. Fill ½ of the Lion Test Tube or cup with baking soda (or measure 1/3 cup of baking soda)
  2. Using your funnel, pour the baking soda into the bottle. Rinse your funnel.
  3. Pour your 5 cups of vegetable oil carefully through the funnel into the bottle.Stop pouring when your bottle is about 3/4 full with vegetable oil.
  4. Fill your flask or pourable container with vinegar (3.5 cups should do it) and add 3-4 drops of food coloring. Put on the top and shake the mixture thoroughly.
  5. Use your eye dropper to add about 5 drops of the colored vinegar to the bottle.
  6. Discover what happens as the BOO!bles—er, bubbles!—move around in the bottle.

What Your Little One Will Learn:

Oil and vinegar don’t mix! The oil floats to the top because it’s lighter than the vinegar. Ask your child how the bubbles are moving and what will happen when they pop.

Frightful Flowers

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 Tall cups or glasses
  • Stirring spoon
  • A few white flowers (such as Carnations or Gerber Daisies) with long stems
  • Food coloring in spooky colors like black, green, orange, and purple
  • Scissors

Dyeing flowers with food coloringImage courtesy of Allison Murray 

What You’ll Do:

  1. Fill each cup or glass half-full with water.
  2. Add a few drops of food coloring to each cup and stir with your spoon (one color per container).
  3. Trim the stems of each flower at a sharp angle and place one flower in each container so that the stem is immersed in the colored water.
  4. Observe the flowers over the next few hours. It may take up to 24 hours for the color to appear on the petals.

What Your Little One Will Learn:

Flowers absorb water through their stems. Ask your kiddos why they think the petals turned such creepy colors and what parts of the flower helped the petals change.

Which was your child’s favorite freaky experiment? Comment below to let us know! We’d love to see your mini mad-scientists in action, so please be sure to share photos on our Facebook page.