Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Abby and I flew to Tampa for our first mother/daughter trip. She has been wanting to visit Clearwater Marine Aquarium since she saw Dolphin Tale and learned that Winter lives there. I signed her up for the Trainer for a Day program. She was able to spend time with different animals. She counted and recorded Nicholas’ respirations. Then we went into the kitchen and learned about the different animals’ diets. She didn’t like the dead fish but managed to get through it. After the kitchen, we went to the otters. Abby was able to work with Cooper and Wally. From there, she went to work with Ricky the pelican (aka Rufus). We got to see Winter’s tail and learn about the different equipment the trainers use with the animals. Then Abby worked with Hope the dolphin. I think that was the highlight of her day. When the Trainer for a Day ended at 1:00, Abby and I had a snack and explored the rest of the CMA. The other building was not open so we just saw the movie props that were at that building. It was a great day and one that Abby and I will not soon forget.


Hawaii:: December 2014

We had an amazing vacation to Hawaii last Christmas. I can’t believe it has been almost a year since we were there. We had a lot of fun while we were there.


We visited the Dole Plantation in Wahiawa, HI. We rode a train, walked the pineapple maze, toured the gardens, and ate Dole Whips! That made me think of Disney World!


We played on Waikiki Beach.


We ate on the balcony of our room at Ilikai Condos overlooking the ocean.


We rode the free trolley to the Hilo Hattie Flagship Store.


We watched the sun set at the luau at Hilton Hawaiian Village.IMG_1005

 The kids got “tattoos” at the Hilton Hawaiian Village luau.


Derek and I hiked with 4 kids to the top of Diamond Head and we saw whales off the shore.


The we ate shave ice and tried not to get stung by the bees that wanted to share.


We spent Christmas Day at Waikiki Beach.


The kids rented a boat and went around the lagoon, or as Cara called it “the goon.”


We went to the Big Island and took a helicopter ride with Blue Hawaiian.


Then we went to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.


Cara had just woken up and was having trouble with the brightness of the Hawaiian sunshine.


We also visited waterfalls.


We saw the King Kamehameha statue.


Derek and Cade went parasailing together on our Xtreme Parasail adventure.


Cara and my Dad went parasailing together.

There they are…way up there.

Abby and I went together. I had to pretend to not be nervous so Abby wouldn’t be scared!

Bay Area Discovery Museum:: Sausalito, California

The kids were having a great time on our road trip, but after awhile they started missing their toys. At one point Cade said, “I miss my Legos.” The Bay Area Discovery Museum, located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, came at the perfect time so the kids could just play. There were many places to explore outside. The kids started with giant blue blocks and spent forever building and making ramps.

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Another fun place was another outdoor area with a boat, a tree for climbing, and other areas to explore.

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BADM Collage 3.jpgAfter we explored the outdoors, it was time to head inside. The kids had just as much fun inside as they did outside. The favorite was building boats and watching the wind send them downstream. After a puppet show and a wave machine, the kids had a snack and we had our best view of the Golden Gate Bridge that we would end up getting (it was very foggy!). We spent nearly 4 hours at the Bay Area Discovery Museum and still didn’t see everything. There is so much to do there. It was a great choice for us on our long road trip. The kids loved having time to play and explore.

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We had a great time being guests at the museum and all thoughts about our visit are my own.

Broken Boot Gold Mine:: Deadwood, South Dakota

Another great stop on our road trip out west was at Broken Boot Gold Mine in Deadwood, South Dakota. Although we had the pleasure of being their guests, all thoughts are my own. After checking in and putting on our safety helmets, Sky led us into the mine. The Broken Boot Gold Mine is named after the nearly 100 year old boot that can be seen in the mine. Sky was very informative and funny. He was also patient while the kids picked up rocks off the ground to fill their bags and when we stopped to take pictures or adjust our helmets. The tour included good information that was interesting and there were plenty of things to look at in the mine. It was neat when Sky turned the lights off and showed us what the mine looked like in candlelight.

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After the tour of the mine, the kids got to pan for gold. Sky explained what to do and the kids were able to follow along. After all the rocks came out, each of the kids had flecks of gold, which they put into the little vile of water they gave them. The kids loved that!

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We had a great time at the Broken Boot Gold Mine. It is something we will all remember. If you are in the area, stop on by and check it out. Broken Boot Gold Mine Collage 2.jpg

Rushmore Cave:: Keystone, South Dakota

On our road trip out west, we had the pleasure of being guests at Rushmore Cave in Keystone, South Dakota. Although we were guests, all thoughts are my own. After visiting Mount Rushmore in the morning and having a picnic lunch, we made the short drive to Rushmore Cave, which is just outside of Keystone. When we arrived, everything looked very nice and clean. It was easy to see where to buy tickets and check in for the cave tour.

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We went on our tour with Mason. He was very enthusiastic about caves and made the tour interesting for all ages. Mason gave a nice history of the cave, answered questions, and threw in a few jokes. He talked about cave preservation and not touching the walls, which Cara took very seriously. That is why she is crossing her arms!

Rushmore Cave Collage.jpgThe cave tour was lots of fun and educational, too. The kids, Derek, and I really enjoyed it. After the cave tour, Abby and Cade got to go on the Soaring Eagle Zipline. Cara wasn’t quite tall enough, which she wasn’t very happy about…but safety first! I think Cade was a little nervous at first, but they loved it!

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After a visit to the gift shop, our visit was complete. Rushmore Cave also offers a Gunslinger 7-D Interactive Ride and panning for gold. I would highly recommend a visit if you are in the Keystone area. It helped complete the day with our visit to Mount Rushmore.


Top 5 Table Service Restaurants at Disney World

These are my top 5 table service restaurants at Disney World. I based my list on service, atmosphere, food, and overall experience (on a scale of 1-5).

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1. Akershus at Epcot- buffet style appetizers with menu order for entree and dessert with character meetings

Service: 5     Atmosphere: 5     Food: 5     Overall Experience: 5

2. Hollywood & Vine at Hollywood Studios- buffet style with character meetings (breakfast and lunch)

Service: 4     Atmosphere: 4     Food: 4     Overall Experience: 4

3. 1900 Park Fare at Grand Floridian Resort- buffet style with character meetings

Service: 4     Atmosphere: 5     Food: 5     Overall Experience: 5

4. Cinderella’s Royal Table- menu order with appetizer, entree, and dessert

Service: 4     Atmosphere: 5     Food: 5     Overall Experience: 5

5. Chef Mickey’s at Contemporary Resort- buffet style with character meetings

Service: 5     Atmosphere: 5     Food: 4     Overall Experience: 5