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 Weekend in Birmingham

My cousin got married this weekend. Here’s a few highlights from our wedding weekend in Birmingham:

The Botanical Gardens.

Where I’m happy to say that we got the rare family photo…

Add, of course, the wedding and reception:

Followed by a quick trip to the Zoo (Yes, we are zoo lovers as you can see from here and here)

Making the Best of It: A Day at the Airport

Whew! Tuesday was exhausting. And not the good exhausting. We were at the airport(, eventually, we made it on an airplane). ‘Delay’ was pretty much the word of the day. Not fun for anyone, especially if you are 19 months old. Ditto if you are the mother of said 19 month old. Don’t get me wrong- she did great. No nap, but no horror stories to report. On the bright side, I took advantage of the unplanned break in our schedule and loosely flexed my photography muscle.

Luckily the Baton Rouge Airport had an enclosed playroom. We explored it.

Fittingly, the playroom was decorated with airplanes. My aviation loving offspring took notice of it.

I’m not sure about her, but I thought this little toy was the greatest. Certainly makes for interesting compositions.

Other than the playroom, we passed the time by eating lunch (a ham and cheese sandwich) and waving the the airplanes.

Finally, we spotted our airplane.

And here we are, in the greatest city in the world.

An Afternoon at the Museum… with 3 Kids Under 3… is Exhausting

That’s right last week we drove to the Lafayette and visited the Children’s Museum of Acadiana. In total, there were 6 of us, Kennedy and I, of course, and our friends, Chloe (who is 2) and Dean (who is 9 months), and their parents. The kids had a blast, the parents did too. Here’s some of the details of the excursion.

One of the first rooms was the Grocery Store. Kennedy and Chloe pushed around little grocery carts like mad women grocery shopping before a Sunday dinner.

Don’t expect many smiles from my little redhead in this post. She refused to nap that morning.

They also ‘rang up’ all their items, which mostly consisted of slamming random buttons until the register opened.

Chloe, much to her Daddy’s dismay, focused on items like soymilk, tofu, and radishes.

Kennedy, not to be outdone, went straight to the meat aisle and filled her cart with t-bones and sausages.

Then there was the Toddler Play Area. It was a wide open area filled with a playhouse, a treehouse, a train set, a couple horses to climb, books to read and puzzles to figure out. Pretty much the stuff toddler dreams are made of.

The train set table has a hole in the center so you can be surrounded, the complete 360 degrees, by trains. Awesomeness.

This was pretty much the best smile I got all afternoon, atleast, on camera. This in a little treehouse. She loved it. Claimed it as her own. The only way to get her out was to climb up in there myself.

But right back in she’d go. I promised her we’d build her one. Seriously, can you imagine a tree house loft over her bed in a couple years? I think that would officially make her childhood magical!

I think Baby Dean was a fan of the tree house too. Especially with his Mama in the window.

Sharing the horsey… It lasted about 30 seconds…

And there was a Bubble Room. I was sure this would blow lil’ miss’s mind, but didn’t go over as well as I thought. Must be the lack of nap in the air.

The photo’s terrible, but isn’t that awesome? You can create a bubble around yourself. That’s right, you can be inside a bubble! We need one of these at the house too! (For me, but Kennedy can play too!)

 

There were also a bunch of troughs and wands to make huge bubbles.

There was a Cafe too.

Look at that, brother and sister making red beans and rice!

What a handsome boy!

I went a little photo crazy with him!

Last one!

There was also a newsroom.

“And now to Kennedy for the latest on the state of the economy.”

An ambulance.

Before I know it, she’ll be able to see over that wheel!

A veterinary office.

He likes monkeys.

About seven minutes after we got in the car to go home, I looked back and the Kennedy was sound asleep. At just the same time, I got a text saying Chloe and Dean had zonked out too. That has got to be some sort of record, three babies asleep in less than seven minutes.

What an afternoon!

On The Road Again

Yesterday’s post chronicled our brief Memphis adventure, a stop while enroute to Saint Louis, the Tuesday before Christmas. The next morning we got up and continued on. BTW- we spent the night at the Pear Tree Inn in Cape Girardreau, Missouri. It was a decent price, clean and had a good breakfast… if you are ever in the area. AND there was a Panera Bread across the street. I love Panera. We don’t have them here in Louisiana. Boo. Any hoo… we continued on our way.

Our first stop was the Mastodon State Historic Site, in Imperial, Missouri. We pulled in around lunch time. Devin, my husband, was pumped to see some dinosaur bones. A little background- the Mastodon State Historic Site is located on the Kimmswick Bone Bed, reknowned “for it’s extensive Pleistocene ice age deposits of fossils” (as written on their homepage). The park has a fossil museum, hiking trails and a picnic area. It was a huge disappointment, only because the museum is closed on Wednesdays. I swear my New Year’s Resolution is going to be to check and see when attractions are open before we are standing outside the front doors. (A similar incident happened the previous day!) We made the best of it and had a little picnic.

The picnic area was at the top of a cliff.

Somebody was very happy to be out of the car.

So happy that she stole the bread.

After lunch, we took a short hike that took us to the bottom of the cliff and over the bone bed.

Somewhere, buried deep beneath this path, lies hundreds, maybe even thousands more fossils. Kind of mind blowing, isn’t it?

After the hike, we got back in the car and headed to the Meramac Caverns.

The attraction wasn’t exactly on the way, but what’s another hour in the car? And the very idea, after all, these caverns took a millenia to form, was to full of intrigue to miss.

The entrance to the caverns were decked out in the holiday spirit.

Once we started the tour, I was astounded; I had no idea the rock formations would be so stunning.

And they are still forming, changing…

There was a formation called a”wine table.” Why it’s called that? I have no idea. But apparently there are only two known ‘wine tables’ in the world, and this is one of them.

This photo was taken in the Movie Theater Room, named for it’s curtain-like formations.

It was accompanied by an old school light show.

After that, was headed into Saint Louis.

That evening, my Great Aunt and Uncle treated us the Wild Lights at the Saint Louis Zoo. This too, was a quite spectacular attraction.

The photo’s just don’t do it justice. (Another New Year’s Resolution: Learn to master night photography.)

Side note: I’ve been experimenting with Bokeh. Love it.

And that, my friends, was day 2 of our whirlwind journey. What a day.

A Day in Memphis

I hope your Christmas was lovely. What’d you get? Where’d you go? What’d you eat?

Our Christmas was preceded by a whirlwind trip to Saint Louis and back. Saint Louis- that’s an 11 hour drive from our little Baton Rouge home. I am no stranger to long drives, but any sane person would tell you that’s too long to be in the car, especially with a 17 month old. So we got up at 3:30 in the morning (on Tuesday) and drove to Memphis. (I was super excited, I had never been before!) That was six hours. This is what Kennedy thought of the drive:

We bribed her with Fraggle Rock videos and the promise of ducks. For the most part, it worked.

Now, you might be wondering, ducks? The first stop on our day visit to Memphis was to the famous Peabody Hotel to see the Peabody Ducks make their way to the fountain. For the past 70 years, every morning at 11 am the elevator opens to the lobby of the Peabody and several ducks race to the fountain (on a red carpet!) and spend their day there. At 5 o’clock they walk back to the elevator and retire for the day. I couldn’t believe how crowded it was. But it was worth it, we got front seats to the red carpet, and we spent the better part of the hour gaping at the duckies in the fountain.

I don’t know if it’s the 3 am wake up, the crowd, or the lighting, but these aren’t my best photos.

Ahh, the regal duck!

 Look how excited she is. It was “Ducks, duck, Ducks!” all day long!

Once we pried her away from her new feathery friends, we headed to the trolley stop. We took the Riverfront trolley. It’s route gave us a good view of downtown and the riverfront. The trolley itself was fun, very vintage, a relic of a simpler time.

(No, I don’t know those people.)

Look at the conductor’s (Is it a conductor on a trolley?) seat. Don’t think I could handle sitting in that thing the whole day.

During the ride, some locals recommended Mud Island. Mud island is a man made island that features a museum of the Mississippi River and a scale model. It was a bit far, but we decided to walk it. (After all, we’d been sitting in the car for 6 hours.) On the way we spotted the Fire Museum and stopped there. (FYI, we lucked out, on Tuesdays the tickets are half price, so it cost 6$ instead of 12$.)

I think we were the only people in the whole museum. It was pretty neat though, they had all kinds of fire engines that you could walk into and ‘drive.’ They also had a firehouse pole. (We may now install one in our next house.)

They also had exhibits on the history and evolution of the Fire Engine.

Finally, they had a room on fire safety in the home. Kennedy found another duck.

When we made it out of the Fire Museum, it was pouring down rain. We hopped back on the trolley and regrouped. eventually we decided to head to the Civil Rights Museum (it has a reputation for being phenomenal!) ….And whomp, whomp… luck was against us this time. It’s closed on Tuesdays. (Who closes on Tuesdays!?!) I am still glad we went, though. The museum occupies the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, and the building  that James Earl Grey was in when he shot him.

Martin Luther King Jr. was standing in front of his room, 306, when he was assassinated.

The whole area just feels heavy. The bright colors of the once hotel feel jarring and crass, it’s the very definition of juxtaposition.

The area around the Museum is nice- very artsy. I could have been happy spending the day walking in the galleries and admiring all be freshly renovated buildings. We walked around- heading loosely in the direction of the Peabody Hotel. It was around this time the baby passed out. Poor thing.

We found the infamous Beale Street.

I spotted Elvis. Sort of..

We couldn’t leave Memphis without trying the bbq. We had dinner at Rendezvous, known throughout the world for their barbecue. (To be honest- I thought it was a let down- but smoked ribs just aren’t my thing. And they didn’t have milk or juice or a kids menu or dessert)

And that as our day. I feel like we could have done more, but at the same time I feel like we did a lot. I would really love to go back. Actually go to Mud Island and the Civil War Music. Experience the legendary blues. Go to Sun Studios. See Graceland. Ahhh- I missed so much! One day ….

Have you ever been? Any recommendations?

Our World

I am so excited. So so so excited. I have been agonizing for weeks over what to by my husband for Christmas. He’s one of those that are impossible to shop for. He has may interests but they are all too specific for gifting. He doesn’t read for fun. Clothes won’t do. To be honest, I usually default to beef jerky. But not this Christmas.

This Christmas I got creative. I have seen a lot of maps on Pinterest and around the blogosphere.

Like…

vintage-framed-map-pin-board-frame-art-travel-project-how-to-diy-cheapNail Wall Art World Map, Bold and Beautiful PalettePinned Image

from http://www.younghouselove.com/2008/02/the-frame-game/http://www.etsy.com/listing/73262666/nail-wall-art-world-map-bold-and?ref=sr_gallery_15&ga_search_submit=&ga_search_query=map&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=US&ga_page=3&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_facet=handmadehttp://astepinthejourney.blogspot.com/

I love the idea of personalizing a map, showcasing our travels. Devin, however, would not be truly impressed with a simple framed map (ever the critic).

I wanted something unique, something oozing with masculinity. This is what I came up with:

I used wood planks as my ‘canvas’ and nails to outline the land masses as well as document the places we’ve been. You can’t tell from the photo, but I used shorter nails to outline the continents and longer nails on our various vacation spots.

I love it! It isn’t the world’s most practical ‘map’ (1 nail covers as entire state, or even country in some cases) but Devin and I will know what each nail means. Plus, it is truly a art piece. Even if he doesn’t like it, I do. But how could he not like it?

Here’s how I did it:

The first step was to go in search of a world map. A map of the US of A would have been much easier to find, not to mention much easier to complete this project with. But I didn’t want to send the wrong message, we will travel the world one day. So a world map it was. The map needed to have each continent in one piece. Turns out, this isn’t the easiest thing to find (and there was no time to order one online). I settled on this one from Hobby Lobby:

Next, I found some 2×6’s in the Garage (I swear our garage is a bottomless pit) and cut them down to 37 inches. I wanted to use what I had on hand, But I’d recommend using thinner wood, 1′ thickness would be better. This thing is way too heavy! Then I linned the 2×6 planks up and used a thin line of Gorilla Glue to glue them together

I then found some more scrap wood in the garage and glued two pieces vertically along the back. Then I nailed it together. Then I sanded the whole thing down. I forgot to take a picture of the back, but here is the front at this point:

Next I stained the wood. I used 1 coat of leftover ebony stain, but it came out way to dark. So I sanded it down and applied 2 coats of mahogany stain.

Now to the fun part!

Once the stain dried, I taped my map to the front of the wood planks.

And I got to a-hammering. I hammered around the perimeter of each continent. All this was done during naptime and it’s simply amazing that all the banging didn’t wake the baby up!

I was very liberal with the perimeter, the nails only loosely follow the shape of the landmass. As for small islands, I experimented a bit, but I found it best to use a single nail to represent it. If we ever travel to one of those islands, I’ll probably replace the short nail with a long one.

That’s my dog, Niki. She helped.

Canada got a little confusing up at the top. I never realized it was that segmented.

And a few day’s later, Voila! World map complete!

Then I used the long nails. Unfortunately, we haven’t been many places together, so it didn’t take long.

Then I had to pull the poster up. This was tedious work. I used an exacto knife and a pair of pliers to assist me. Although it took forever, it was kind of exciting, like opening a present…. I kept thinking, “What’s it going to look like?” and “This is going to be so awesome!”

Some of the nails came out as I tugged on the poster. I just nailed them back in. The nails that landed between the wood planks didn’t want to stay put so I applied glue to the tips.

Once the poster was off. I had to do a little stain touch up. The nails had caused the wood to split in a few areas, so I used a thin paint brush to stain those areas. After, you couldn’t tell!

Yep she’s a beauty!

 Here’s a closer view of North America:

You can see we have mostly stuck to the Southeast in our travels. (At this point, my pride demands that I mention that I have been out of the US quite a few times, just not with the hubby)

Hopefully, one day, every continent will be filled with nails.

I hope he loves it as much as I do! I can’t wait to see what he is going to say!

The Last Few Austin Adventures

Any one ever been to Chuy’s? It’s pretty much the best Tex-Mex in the state of Texas, at least according the locals. The atmosphere was nothing to sneeze at either. See below? Those are hubcaps covering the ceiling

And those, those are Pez lining the bar. How’s that for design aesthetic?

And here’s the lobby, all gussyed for Christmas. ((According to the hostess, it was decorated in the spirit of a drunken Christmas) note the upside down Christmas Trees.)

The company was nothing to sneeze at either. We left the baby with Rebecca’s mom, so it was just us twentysomethings (me, Rebecca and her boyfriend, Chad). Aren’t they cute?

The next day we headed downtown. Rebecca and Chad had taken me to 6th street one night earlier in the week, where we listened to an awesome band called the Space Rockers, and I drank a cranberry-vodka (Seriously a big deal for me, I realized as I took my first sip that I hadn’t had a drop of liquor in over two years!) Downtown in the daytime was a different sight, Not quite as glitzy, but still impressively clean.

Our first stop was the Museum of the Weird. If you ever find yourself trying to find something to do in Austin, you can skip this attraction, especially if you have a 1 year old. If you don’t, I ‘d still skip it. It’s a basically one room full of  ‘real’ shrunken heads and mermen statues.

We then headed up the street to the Driskill Hotel. Apparently the hotel is haunted by several ghosts. It is also hauntingly beautiful.

The lounge was my favorite. It was so masculine and Texas-y. I love copper ceiling!

I am not a huge fan of fur…. but this cowhide downright sexy.

Then we headed to the Arthouse, an art museum also downtown. But it was Monday, and the Museum is closed on Mondays. On the bright side, we got a great view of the state capitol.

And that was it. We headed home the next morning, and here we are, as always, working on the house, reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, baking cookies and blogging.

Hope you have a great weekend.