We Love Beta-Carotene

Beta-Carotene, it’s what makes pumpkins orange. And being orange is one of the greatest things about pumpkins. And, in my expert opinion, pumpkins are one of the greatest things about fall. I spend all year looking forward to the night we get to gussy up the most curvaceous member of the squash family all in the name of spookiness. So it was with this deep rooted reverence for pumpkins that we drove an hour out of town to find the seemingly only pumpkin patch in all Louisiana, Ms. Heather’s Pumpkin Patch.

There were a ton of things to do but this toddler’s top picks were the old fashioned rides…. 

And, not to be forgotten, was the pit of corn….

And face painting…

More rides…

But my favorite part came at the very end of our adventure, where one very tired little lady picked out a pumpkin of her very own.

Giddy Up, Let’s Ride!

Anyone else read that story about a thousand times? ( It’s one of Kennedy’s favorites. We’ve read it so many times that she’s committed it to memory.) The book came to life last weekend when we celebrated Kennedy’s BFF’s 3rd birthday by riding horses. This was no pony ride at the fair either.

This is Ed. I’m pretty sure he was taller than me.

She, being the toddler, was a champ though. A total natural. She loved every second of it. She was totally calm and nonchalant, as if riding a 500 pound animal was a regular occurrence. I can’t wait to take lessons together when she gets older. I had a cousin and aunt who used to do that, and I was always insanely jealous. I’m totally stealing the idea with my offspring.:)

And this is Rosie. She was a gentle giant as well.

Although I would have preferred my munchkin stick a little closer to the ground, it was a great experience. I felt like time slowed down and we were able to enjoy being a family. And, of course, it was a blast when we got to hop on the horses ourselves too! It was pretty much the perfect way to spend a beautiful Sunday morning.

A Return to Blogging and Photography- Beach Style

My last post was May 22nd. That’s a whopping 5 month break. Does it even count as a break when it’s that long? I’ve thought about blogging almost every day, but I was sorely lacking in inspiration. That sounds awful- 5 months uninspired, and life has been anything but miserable, maybe inspiration is the wrong word. What I’ve sorely been lacking has been energy. Or maybe motivation? Time? Dedication? Take your pick. Whatever the reason, I’ve missed blogging, and all the things that come with it.

Along with blogging, I haven’t picked up my camera in months. For awhile I felt like I saw the world like I was looking through my viewfinder…. It was like life was just one frame after another, all waiting to be captured with my Canon. That feeling suddenly dried up, just holding my camera made me feel creatively, physically and mentally exhausted. Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s ever experienced this!

Any hoo- let’s cut to the chase, before I drone on for hours and hours- I am back! I’ve been waiting for the perfect post topic- and here it is…. Our first ever family vacation! Fun in the sun, along with a few sunset lit walks on the beach was just what I needed! I was a little rusty, but I took over 300 photos during our week at the beach (I won’t show them all… I promise.) I’m also happy to report that my camera has stayed close since our return to reality!

Enough talk, allow me to share a bit of our week in the paradise (better known as Pensacola)!

Our first day out- My little one wasn’t so sure of the waves. So we played in the sand.

The ten zillion ducks around our condo complex… however… huge hit.

Also a huge hit was the ferris wheel. Kennedy was nothing short of obsessed. Every time we saw it she would squeal in delight and shout “Hi ferris wheel!” If you ask her what she liked most about her vacation, she’d tell you the ferris wheel.

Her reaction when we got up close.

The 14-dollar-a-person ride was worth it though, cause we got a actual family photo!

Day 2 at the beach- she made friends.

We also made it to the National Aviation Museum.

We also went to Quiet Water Beach, on the bay side. These waves were toddler approved. So was the view of the ferris wheel.

We mostly ate meals at our condo, but we did splurge on large amounts of fried deliciousness at Peg Leg Pete’s and Flounder’s.

My favorite part… Sunset walks on the beach. The cool air, the ocean smell, the ever changing sky… Happiness couldn’t help but bubble up inside.

A jelly washed ashore. And matching toenails covered in sand.

Devin took the next three. Color me impressed… I think they are the three best of the whole trip.

We also made it to the Gulfarium.

And to Downtown Pensacola, where there was a brand new children’s museum.

And now we are home again. And I’m back to this blog and already looking forward to the next post!

A is for Alligator

Ever since I moved here, I’ve wanted to check out Avery Island. It’s a State Park along the Gulf Coast. It’s also home of the Tabasco factory. We finally made it last week. The park featured a three mile driving path and you could pull over anywhere to get out and explore. There were alligators everywhere- and nothing to separate them from us. It was kind of insane. There were times when we’d walk, with four children in tow, across a narrow patch of land, water on each side of us. Suddenly one of the girls would spot a pair of frozen eyes staring out of the water… just a few feet from us. Like I said… Insane.

The girls really enjoyed looking for alligators. Kennedy loves animals, and despite the fact that we never spotted a gator in motion, she was fascinated. On more then one occasion I had to restrain her from going over to pet one.

Perhaps more fun than alligator spotting were the wide open fields. (Just make sure you bring bug spray.)

Babies and sunshine…. I don’t think there is a better combination.

There’s also a nine-hundred-year-old Buddha on the Island. His shrine is guarded by a pair of elephants.

And an Aviary Nest. (Sadly, the girls weren’t impressed after being so close to the gators.)

It was around this time that Kennedy lost her boot to the alligators. She dropped it in the water from aviary lookout post platform, which was about 30 feet in the air. So, no worries, she was in no danger, other than from the wrath of her mother. I was emotionally attached to those boots. Who wouldn’t be? Little green boots in size 6… worn for a just moment in time.

And then gone forever…

We didn’t make it to the Tabasco factory. A lack of shoes wouldn’t have stopped me, but tired babies are a different story. As the shoe dropped… so did the little one’s moods. It was time to head home. I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed I didn’t get to sample the Tabasco ice cream included on the tour, but, oh well, an excuse to go back, right?

Z is for Zoo

 We made like the old Cajun song and went on down to the Audobon Zoo last weekend. Kennedy came prepared- decked out in zebra attire.

A highlight for her- touching a monitor. Gave me the heebie jeebies.

And turtle. Enough said.

Shrek is currently on repeat at our house, so this donkey was a BIG hit. “That’s a nice boulder!” Maybe it’s the designer in me, but that line gets me every time!

Who needs to go see the primates with these two around?

We went with another family, who have a six month old. Having two babies to mamarazzi was so much fun that I didn’t take too many pictures of the animals.I didn’t realize it until I loaded the day’s photos on the computer. Those pictures above… are about the only ones I got. So be warned… the rest of this post contains extreme cuteness in the form of little arms and little fingers, and little noses… of the human variety.

Meet Conor.

And his family. They are visiting from California. Lucky them.

Now on the the good stuff: the babies!

I think Kennedy had a little crush. She’d randomly grab at him and try to plant one on him.

But he only had kisses for his mommy!

An Especially Extra Special Easter

After five weeks, we are a family reunited! And it couldn’t be much better. We spent the weekend in full on Easter partying mode. It was a perfect picture of great friends and family, great weather, great food, fluorescent eggs, and too much candy. The Munchkin loved it all. She loved to Easter bunny. She loved dying the the eggs. She love, love, loved Easter Egg Hunting. She caught right away. And she loved jelly beans (a little too much!) It was so much fun! I think I have a new favorite holiday!

What about you? Did you have a good Easter? Start any new traditions?

A Morning at Heritage Farm

Next up on our Chicagoland area adventure…. A morning at Heritage Farm at the Spring Valley Nature Center.

As one would expect to see on a farm, we saw all kinds of farm animals. First up, we visited the pigs.

The giant snorting pig was a little unnerving for Kennedy. And no wonder, it must have been easily 5 times her size. (Personally, I found her to be eerily similar to a certain little white dog… We miss you, Niki)

On the other hand, the baby piglets were right up her alley.  These little lovelies were too small to be confined by  the fence, and they had free run of the farm. Baby girl was ready to jump in the mud with them.

The piglet butts were just too darling!

They were a little skittish. At one point, some guy across the farm coughed, and they ran right for us. I went into overprotective Mama Bear mode and freaked out. For a split second I actually thought they were going to stampede us! Ridiculous, I know! Just in the nick of time they veered left and squeezed under the fence, and into Mommy pig’s protection.

The Munchkin was all smiles. These days I get more pictures of the back of her head than anything else, but she on this day she gleefully posed and smiled at the camera.

Then we headed over to the barn, where the cows and horses live.

We found more babies inside the barn. Two calves, each about a month old. Turns out that babies, no matter what the species, cause trouble. This one went after my coffee cup. And womp, womp… He succeeded.

I’m pretty sure the other calf was jealous. Look at him eyeing the cup. Guess that settles it, cows like coffee too.

So there’s the highlights for you. Despite almost being trampled by piglets and a cow tongue in my latte, it was a wonderful morning at the farm.

A Sea of Green, (the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade)

Growing up in Chicago, I never once participated in the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. I’m not sure I was even aware that the whole city went into party mode. The holiday barely registered on my radar, and when it did, it was usually in the form of concern about getting pinched for not wearing green to school. It was only after moving 1000 miles away that I resolved to take advantage of everything this city has to offer, particularly in the way of four leaf clovers. After seven years away, I finally found myself back in the city over Saint Patty’s Day. I was determined not to let the opportunity pass me by. I grabbed my Irish roots by the horns, along with a few family members, and rode that Irish rainbow all day long, Chicago style. Here’s a few shots from our adventures at Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade:

My favorite part? It had to be the kickoff, the dying of the Chicago River. It turned really green. Like an emerald.

The Jesse White Tumblers. Also amazing.

The spectators were a show of their own. Gotta love a license to dress without practicality.

Cheerio break.

There’s more pictures on my Flickr Account if your interest has been piqued. Hope you had a wonderfully, green-filled, pot o’ gold chasing holiday as well!

Outdoorsy

We’ve been in Chicago and it’s suburbs for almost two weeks and the cold has had me longing for the balmy 70 degrees at home. But today something amazing happened. The cold let up. The thermometer rose. The temperature broke records, specifically, record highs! That bad boy rose all the way up to 80! (The average temp this time of year is a cool 46 degrees. Brrr.) Kennedy and I spent most of the day soaking in the vitamin D, sans coats and mittens. It was blissful.

We spent the morning exploring a little park in Schaumburg, getting in touch with nature.

Even though everything was brown, I could feel spring was in the air.

Kennedy didn’t give a hoot about spring. She just wanted to see the ‘duckies’ (aka geese).

Made. Her. Day.

Especially when they swam right up to her.

“One, Two Duckies!”

“More Duckies!”

“Hi Duckies!”

It’s going to be a sad day when she learns how mean those bastards can be.