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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Falling Waters State Park, Florida

When we went camping a few weeks ago, we stayed at Falling Waters State Park. It is home to Florida's highest waterfall. Standing at 73 feet, the waterfall flows into a sinkhole. The waterfall had more water than we expected due to the crazy rain we have been having in the Florida Panhandle. The waterfall ranges from completely dry to a moderate flow but is usually a trickle.

The waterfall

The sinkhole that the water flows into

A view from above the waterfall

Thanks to Debbie at Delicious Baby for hosting Photo Friday!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Five Things You Might Want to Take Camping with Your Toddlers

We recently went camping for the first time in a loooong time. It had been awhile and there were a few things we forgot. We also had a few things with us that made us thankful we remembered them!

1. Bug spray-The bugs are out in full force. If you remember to spray yourself down, it will make your camping trip will be more enjoyable!

2. Pillows and a "lovey"- We forgot pillows...what a disaster! This made for a restless night amongst all of us. As for the lovey, luckily neither of my children have an attachment to a blanket or stuffed animal but if they did, I would be glad that we had it!

3. Outside toys - Baseball and bat, water guns, soccer ball, etc. - all of these toys will keep your kids occupied in between feeding sessions and nature walks.

4. S'mores Ingredients - Marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate bars are a must for a fireside dessert. The kids will love toasting their own marshmallows and putting together this tasty treat!

5. Portable DVD or other electronic - I say this last suggestion with much trepidation. This is not a must and we left ours at home. We love camping and getting outside to play so even if I had brought a DVD player, my kids would not have been interested. That being said, there was a time late in the night when the adults were trying to hang out around the campfire and the kids refused to settle down and go to sleep. Who could blame them? Owls were hooting, crickets were chirping and the wind was whistling through the tent. To my 4yo, it didn't matter that we were right outside the tent...he was jealous that he wasn't with us and a little bit scared to be in the tent alone with his sister. One 25m episode of Go Diego Go! would have settled him down right away, allowed him a piece of home, and allowed all of the adults time to hang out. That being said, I don't know if I will bring the DVD or the Nintendo DS on the next trip.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Alabama Shakespeare Festival

For one glorious night, Daddy J and I left Big S and Little S with their aunt and we drove 3 hours to Montgomery for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. As an English teacher, I have always enjoyed watching plays come alive. We saw Three Musketeers and enjoyed it thoroughly. The actors were all great and the costumes were amazing. The grounds are beautiful. There is a huge park where you can enjoy a nice picnic lunch. I love this fountain in front of the theater. The water seems to disappear! The featured plays right now are Comedy of Errors, Othello, Three Musketeers, Misalliance, and Beehive.

The entrance to the theater

The Fountain

On our way to the Shakespeare Festival, one of our favorite places to stop is Priester's Pecans. It is at just the right place for a restroom break. The restrooms are clean, the shop has lots of great trinkets and Bama/Auburn goods, and the pecans are fantastic! I love the Pecan Divinity and the Praline Pecans.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Travel Blogger Tuesday - Have Baby Will Travel

Have Baby Will Travel is an awesome resource for those of you traveling with little babies and toddlers. I love that everything on this great website is geared toward traveling with babies. Many of the websites I have found talk about how great traveling with kids is but most of the kids are at least elementary age. This website focuses on travel with the younger set. There is a great Trip Report section where parents just like you and me write about their trips. Some my favorite articles include:

3 Ways to Save on Your Next Family Holiday - Great tips to save money while you travel

The Five T's to Traveling with Toddlers - It is all about the Timing, Toiletries, Toys, Treats, and Temperament!

Carry-on Packing List - You might not need all this, or you might need more. Either way, this is a great way to get your carry-on packing list started!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Stuck in bed! Photo Friday

This is the seventh part of a series of posts in which I am sharing pictures and thoughts from my first major trip with children. You can read the first six posts here: Trier, Germany; Kelty Convertible Backpack; American Cemetery and Memorial; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Zermatt, Switzerland and the Matterhorn; and Grand Place Brussels, Belgium.

One of the funniest things that happened on our Europe trip of 2005 was that Big S kept getting stuck in the bed! Most of the hotels we stayed in had two twin beds pushed up next to each other. Each bed was made as a separate bed...not as one. As our little man crawled all over the place, he inevitably got stuck in between the beds!

Stuck in Amsterdam!

Stuck in Brussels!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Travel Blogger Tuesday

Have Kids Will Travel is such an amazing resource! It is full of family friendly travel advice. There is a section on kid friendly destinations and another section on travel gear. I especially love the checklist section. There are several different checklists that you can use alone or add to what you have already written. Packing for Preschoolers is pretty darn accurate! Some of my favorite posts include:

Top 20 Family Travel Blogs and Websites -- A great list of some fantastic travel blogs out there (and we actually made the list...number 18...that was such a cool surprise!!)

Five Family Travel Books to Get You Going -- We only own one of these books, but I want to pick up at least one or two of these on my next trip to the bookstore. I love the 500 Places book. I have already bookmarked several spots to take the kids this summer!

Creating a Kid Friendly Itinerary in Europe -- There are some great tips on this post. I have traveled twice with my kids to Europe and these tips would have helped immensely on our first trip!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The tablecloth makes the roadside picnic!

I spent Sunday with my mother, my sister, and the four fantastic children in this family! When it came time to exchange gifts, I was so excited when I opened up my Mother's Day gift and saw that she had bought me a vinyl tablecloth. There were several other great items that went with the gift (a very cool insulated tote, sandwich Tupperware, ice packs, etc) but the tablecloth made all three of us laugh out loud. You see, when we went camping recently my husband gently made fun of my sister-in-law for bringing a tablecloth for the picnic table. I chided him and told him that some of my fondest memories of roadtripping and camping included a brightly colored vinyl tablecloth. When we got home, I told my mom the story.

I can't remember a single roadside picnic without a beautiful swirly or flowered patterned table cloth. The roadside picnics often included a tuna kit and chips (in baggies of course!). Even though I have already taken several roadtrips with my kids, I can now continue the tradition of the multi-colored tablecloths.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Southern Magnolias are bloomin', y'all!!!

Not many flowers can claim that they are the size of dinner plates. Southern Magnolias are blooming all over the south right now. The trees are various sizes...some are gigantic and majestic. Others are little shrubs or saplings. No matter the size of the tree, they still grow these humongous flowers that have always reminded me of my grandmother's fine china dinner plate with a tea cup on it!

The blooms are just about to open up!

The Wisteria is blooming, too!

Be sure to stop by Delicious Baby to see all the other great Photo Friday pictures!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

PhotoRescue 3

Have you ever taken fantastic vacation pictures on your digital camera only to return home and realize that your memory card is corrupted or no longer works? Luckily, this has only happened to me once but it is because I accidentally launched my camera into a glacial river in Switzerland. I learned the hard way to save my photos to the computer every evening and upload them to a web service of my choice to back them up to ensure that I would never lose my photos again.

What happens if your memory card is suddenly wiped clean or corrupted? Tonight, I had a memory card with 350 pictures from a weekend photo shoot get corrupted mid-save. After a massive panic attack (one where I pitched a card reader across the room and mumbled several unmentionable words), I started doing some research on the Internet. I found several photographer message boards that discussed memory card corruption and the general consensus seemed to be that PhotoRescue 3 is the best thing for recovery. I was shocked...I didn't even realize that you could recover photos from a corrupted memory card. We tried the card in two card readers, two separate laptops and two different cameras.

I went to the PhotoRescue website, read through the terms of service and downloaded the trial version with the PhotoRescue promise that if the trial works (meaning it shows the thumbnails of the pictures that I wish to rescue) it will only cost me 29.95 to recover my pictures. After running the trial version, it appeared as if it was able to recover my photos. I purchased my software and in just a few minutes I had a registration code and was able to complete the process.

I could cry tears of joy right now...PhotoRescue rescued all 350 photos from my photo shoot. I immediately burned a cd of them and saved them to the computer, the hard drive and a flash drive!!! Not only did it save those 350 photos, but it also saved 900 other photos that I had taken on this memory card and have since deleted. And a bonus--it is a one time fee of $29.95 for a non-expiring license. If this happens again, I will have PhotoRescue ready to go!

On a side note, while I was researching memory card recovery I did note that many people said that Lexar 4GB cards seem to give them trouble. Now that I am charging for my pictures and my time, I definitely am going to upgrade my memory cards and will limit them to 1 or 2GB. This will insure that I will not lose too many photos if this ever happens again.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Travel Blogger Tuesday - The Q Family Adventures

I love the tagline on The Q Family Adventure blog. This mama invites you into her travel blog by saying "Come join our family adventure through vacation, weekend trip, grocery trips or anything in between." This is so great because any good traveler knows that you don't have to travel thousands of miles to enjoy a vacation. She has traveled to so many great spots! Some of my favorite posts:

The China's Terra Cotta Army in Atlanta
-- What a cool exhibit! I wish that we had made the drive up to Atlanta to see this.

DC with Kids Day 5: The National Zoo -- This is one of our favorite zoos so it was fun to read this family's view!

The Real Florida Passport from the Florida Park Service

This past weekend, we went camping at Falling Waters State Park (blog post on camping with toddlers to come...I have plenty to say!). My mom had told me that she had heard about the Real Florida Passport for the Florida State Parks. My husband laughed at me as I asked the park ranger about this passport. I was expecting a flimsy little booklet...however, for a small fee of $8.51 I got this fantastic 188 page resource!

As I flipped through the passport, I immediately wished I had gotten one of these a long time ago. The book is broken up into regions of the state (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest, and Southeast FL). Each state park has its own page. On the page, you will find a description of the park, special notes about the park, directions to the park and hours of operation. There is also a spot for you to write the date of your visit and any notes that you may want to make about the park.

The best part about this book? It is a passport!!! I don't know about you, but I love to collect passport stamps. If my passport isn't stamped, I seek out someone who can stamp it. I love running my hand over the freshly inked stamp and I love to look back through my stamps and remember those special trips. When you visit one of the Florida State Parks, you can stop by the ranger station and get your passport stamped!

Our first passport stamp!

As I was flipping through the book on the drive home, I was surprised at how many parks we have in this state. There are so many near me that I didn't know about. My husband and I can't wait to start collecting passport stamps!