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.

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.

Making Plans

Well, I started some online work a few weeks ago and every extra moment I have had has been spent working on my projects. I took a quick break today to make a reservation for our trip to Hawaii. Abby (aka my dolphin obsessed daughter) will have an amazing birthday party in Hawaii complete with dolphin encounter. She will be beyond thrilled.
I have also been trying to figure out itinerary for NYC which is coming up soon. I have put our summer road trip on the back burner for now, but after NYC I’ll have to start back in on that too.

Walt Disney World:: Epcot

We went to Epcot on January 4, 2014. We started with Spaceship Earth which is inside the “golf ball.” Abby loved it and it was the first time we’d been on that one. For some reason we missed it in 2010. We rode a few rides in the morning and then ate an early lunch at Electric Umbrella. The best thing about this restaurant is that the drink machines were accessible to us. In other words…free refills! Electric Umbrella is also where I found out that Disney does not keep track of adult and child quick service credits. Since Cara was under three years old, we couldn’t get her a meal plan. So, there were times that we were sharing meals. Sometimes the kids wanted what was on the kids’ menu but sometimes the same thing was on the adult menu. It made sense to order the adult meal and get more food for the kids to share.
Epcot collage editedAfter lunch, we walked around the World Showcase. We rode a few rides, including Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros at Mexico and Maelstrom at Norway.  After we walked the World Showcase, we used our FastPasses. We did the rider switch again and Derek, Abby, and Cade rode Soarin’ while Cara and I went on The Seas with Nemo and Friends. Then Derek and I switched so that I could ride Soarin’ with Abby and Cade. It really worked well. After we rode Soarin’ we headed toward Akershus Royal Banquet Hall for dinner. We met Belle on the way in and met more princesses inside. I had the grilled pork chop with mashed rutabaga and it was amazing. It was one of the best meals I had the whole trip. When dinner was finished, we went into the Norway store to peek at Elsa and Anna. The line to meet Elsa and Anna was so long that at that point it had been stopped for the night. Earlier in the day  it was a wait of 4 hours. After we looked at the Frozen characters, we decided to call it a night and headed toward the front of the park and on to the hotel.

Matthiessen State Park

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I almost hate to post this. I love that most people think of Starved Rock State Park and not Matthiessen when deciding which park in the Illinois Valley to visit. When visiting nature, I like to not be surrounded by hundreds of people. My own three children provide enough noise as it is. One particular place that holds a special place in my heart is the bridge at the entrance by the Deer Park Golf Course. My brother and his wife got married there back in October of 2001. It is also about 5 minutes from our house. This is our entrance of choice. I like starting on the bridge and either just walking a little ways up the paved path and back again if we want a short walk or being able to hike all the way to the lower dells area from there. If you visit after some rain, the waterfalls are quite amazing. I love going down into the lower dells and feeling like I’m far away. Sometimes it is hard to believe that this amazing place is just a few minutes from my house. Anyone visiting the Illinois Valley should visit Matthiessen State Park, but if you would rather visit Starved Rock, that would be okay with me. After all, I am hoping that Matthiessen continues to stay overshadowed by it’s more popular neighbor.

Candy Crush Time Travel

Ok…so I realize this a travel blog but I decided this was just too good to not pass along. Now, for those of you who don’t play Candy Crush, just stop reading now. If you do play, you are not going to want to miss this.

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Next time you are out of lives and you just can’t wait to play again, you don’t have to. Just Time Travel. Go into your phone or ipod SETTINGS, then go to GENERAL, then DATE & TIME. Turn SET AUTOMATICALLY to OFF. Then go to SET DATE & TIME. Manually set the time to a few hours in the future. When you go back into Candy Crush, you will have lives. So, no more asking your Facebook friends for more lives and no more staying up 30 minutes longer than you wanted to. Just don’t forget to go back in and change your clock back to set automatically, especially if you use the alarm and need to get up in the morning.

Ramada Limited Waterfront, Mackinaw City, Michigan

Last summer, we stayed at the Ramada Limited Waterfront in Mackinaw City, Michigan for two nights. It is a great choice for a stay in Mackinaw City, Michigan for a few reasons. One of those reasons may seem strange at first and that is that the Comfort Suites Lakeview is right across the street. What? Well, as a guest at the Ramada Limited, you have access to the amazing waterpark at the Comfort Suites. We also ate breakfast there one morning. The location of the hotel is also great. It is located directly next to one of the ferries that goes to Mackinac Island. The Ramada Limited also has a small beach. It was a nice place to relax and unwind for a bit. The rooms are a bit rundown and outdated, but our room was clean and comfortable. Overall, we enjoyed our stay and I would choose it again for the price, location, and to see the kids have a great time in the waterpark.

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Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport

Derek and I decided to fly out of Milwaukee for our trip to New York City. This was the second time we flew out of MKE. The first time was in 2010 when we went to Disney World. We are lucky with our location in north central Illinois that we are able to use many different airports: Bloomington, Peoria, Quad City, Rockford, Chicago Midway, Chicago O’Hare. My parents live further north and so that helps with the use of Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport. Of course I partially chose our flight for the price because I always enjoy a good deal but it also is an easier airport to fly out of than say, O’Hare. When searching for flights, it is good to keep in mind that you may be able to use a multiple airport search. Don’t assume that the one you are used to will have the best prices. Also take into consideration how much it will cost driving, parking, tolls, etc…

When we arrived at Mitchell Airport, we followed the signs to the SuperSaver lot. Remember of course which Lot and which area you park in because it would be difficult to find your vehicle when you return if you don’t. I wrote down the information. Ours was Lot A. Section H. 3rd Shelter. It was enough information that I was afraid I wouldn’t remember it. If you forget to take note of it, your shuttle driver may remind you. Our shuttle driver, Charlie, was very helpful. He announced the location of where he picked us up and also gave us information about where we would find the shuttle to take us back to the parking when we returned, which was outside near Baggage Claim 5. For a total of $6/day, the price can’t be beat. That even includes tax.

We had a 9:15 flight and we got to the airport by about 7, which is more than enough early. We were the only people at security so that was quick and easy. There was even a recombobulation area after the security area which made me laugh out loud. I kept asking Derek, “Why do I find that so funny?” Then I would laugh more. It was nice, however, to have a bench to sit on to retie shoes and get our stuff put back together.  There weren’t a lot of choices for breakfast once we cleared security, but there is enough. I wished I would have gone through McDonald’s on the way there. The airport was very clean and not busy. It was a nice change from O’Hare. We took off on time and had no issues, which is a great thing when in an airport.