Friday, September 19, 2008

Cherry Crest Adventure Farm, Pennsylvania

Cherry Crest Adventure Farm is one of the Amazing Maizes across the US. Although the maze has stops along the way for the younger kids to play in, it is really for older kids and adults because it takes hours to complete! However, while the older kids are completing the maze, the younger kids have plenty of activities they can do such as a huge slide, petting zoo with farm animals, a "pumpkin" slingshot (which you really load with tennis balls), lots of smaller corn and hay mazes, pedal carts, two huge bouncers to jump on and a conestoga wagon to explore, and lots more. The good news, too is that it open until the first week in November.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Our End of Summer Adventure Camp

Every year during the last week of August and the first week of September my husband takes two weeks vacation and our family hosts a family camp. We do lots of at home activities that the kids wanted to do during the summer and never got around to, or things they really like to do and want to do one last time before summer ends. But we also go new places each year. They are usually short day trips, but this year we went camping at two campsites in Maryland. Let me show you some of the fun things we did this year:

We kicked off the camp on Friday night after my husband finished work. We had a Mexican fiesta with a taco bar and pinata. During the next few days we did such activities as making a castle cake from scratch. We baked the cake in the morning and decorated it in the afternoon. We made foil sculptures and play things. They decorated the sidewalk with chalk even after it got dark! We made tie dye t-shirts. We picked apples and made applesauce. We made a pinaqua, which is a trash bag filled with water that they can hit with a stick until it bursts. We had water fun -finally got out the water slide, water balloons, water pistols, etc.
We made homemade marshmallows (pink!), had a bubble fest, foot print art mural, went fishing at a local pond. We went to a local beach and made plaster-sand casts. We had a wonderful time being together having simple fun.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Adventures ending???

So, I suppose TECHNICALLY summer is over now. Good for all of us who made a little more effort to explore our world :) I think - this blog should just stay out there though. I already love that I am learning about so many other amazing places to see and visit.

In summary, if you desire, please continue to post. If you visit somewhere cool and want to share it, please post it here. I know I will - and everyone who played along for the summer, THANKS!! I'll put out a shout on my blog again next summer :)

Assateague Island, Maryland

If you enjoy camping, a wonderful spot is Assateague Island, Maryland. The beach is absolutely beautiful, although you do have to be careful of rip-tides, which can pull you out before you know it. Our kids held hands for safety.
We also enjoyed watching the little clams wash in with each wave and quickly bury themselves back in the water.
The National Park there has a National Seashore Museum with hands-on activities for the kids.

They also have three trails: a Life of Dunes, Life of Marsh, and a Forest Trail. At the Seashore Museum they will give you little booklets on each of these trails and the trails are so nice my husband was able to push me in my wheelchair on them.

But, the most fantastic part is seeing the wild ponies, which just wander the whole island. We saw them on a dozen different occasions, including just wandering by our campsite! Although you cannot touch them, they are wonderful to see, living wild and free.

And we had the added bonus of a wild deer wandering into our campsite. He just walked right up to my son, Sam.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Concert at the Gorge (George, WA)

I really like the Dave Matthews Band; I have from the first time I heard them. I would say that Erik LOVES the Dave Matthews Band. So much that at times I’ve thought “Enough, I’m going to go crazy if I have to listen to one more DMB song!” It turns out that the band loves to spend Labor Day weekend in the practically nonexistent town of George, Washington (ha ha) playing three consecutive concerts at the Gorge Amphitheatre. With Erik’s birthday on September 4 (usually over the Labor Day weekend), what a great gift but tickets to one of the shows! Even better, old friends, Fred and Kim are now living in Eastern Washington so they got tickets too and met us there. Here is a photo of the Gorge that I found online so you can see what a cool venue it is:

It was about a three and a half hour drive from Port Orchard (where we left the kids with Erik’s parents). Once we crossed the mountains the weather was beautiful and sunny! We got passes for the campground and waited for Fred and Kim. Once we could drive in together our quest for a camping spot began. The place was a complete and utter zoo! There were plenty of people left over from the Friday show and there was zero order (park in rows? Don’t be ridiculous!). We finally found a spot near the back cow field which was actually close to one of the few remaining road-sized paths in the humongous field used for camping. Lots of hanging out, drinking, snacking, talking, etc.

Finally it was time to head over to the concert. Silly me, I was just following Erik and Fred as Kim and I chit chatted almost the entire hike over to the amphitheater. Also realize that at this time 1) it is still light out and 2) everyone is migrating to the same location. This will become important later. At the show we parted ways because Erik and I had tickets in a different section. AWESOME tickets I might add—the fourteenth row! I could see everyone on stage with my own eyes! Totally clearly, it was great. I was so bummed though because I realized that they didn’t care if you brought small cameras. I don’t know if that is the band’s policy, or all concerts are like that because they have given up trying to keep cameras out. I remember reading the rules and seeing “no professional cameras” which made me wonder if that meant you could take small cameras, but I wasn’t going to risk getting my camera confiscated. So I was kicking myself as everyone around me whipped out their cameras for cool shots. And they are all lazy because I can’t find ANY of those photos on the web yet. I stole a few shots from the DMB fan site; they are from concerts earlier this summer:

Before the show began they played some old Beastie Boys. I was laughing and asking Erik, “I wonder how many people here are too young to know what this music is?” Then I about died when, during the concert, they performed a cover of “Sledgehammer”! One of my least favorite Peter Gabriel songs, but they did a great cover of it. Again though, how many people didn’t know what that song was? It also seemed very fitting since the last really great concert we went to happened to be Peter Gabriel, so we had been reminiscing a little about that earlier in the evening.

The show was simply incredible. I thought I liked DMB before, but they are so much better live! I can see why they have such a following. However, I don’t see how people AFFORD to follow them, those tickets weren’t cheap! There was a couple sitting behind us who had flown in from Minnesota and were going to all three nights. Wow! It would be kind of cool though because they perform completely different shows each night of the weekend. It amazes me how much good material they have to choose from. Here is the set list from our show (again, thanks to the DMB fan site):

Dave Matthews Band
Gorge Amphitheatre
George, WA

Dreaming Tree *
One Sweet World *
Stay Or Leave *
Two Step *
The Song That Jane Likes *
Grey Street *
Louisiana Bayou *
Out Of My Hands +
Sugar Will *
Jimi Thing *
Sledgehammer *
Pantala Naga Pampa *
Rapunzel *
Stolen Away On 55th & 3rd *
Crush *
So Much To Say *
Anyone Seen The Bridge *
Too Much *

Sister ~
Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)
Stay (Wasting Time) *

Special Guests:
* Jeff Coffin
+ No Horns, Dave on piano
~ Dave, Tim, Carter and Rashawn

After the show Erik and I waited in line to buy shirts and then started our trek back to the campground. Note to self: take a flashlight next time you go to the Gorge. It is DARK out there! And once you get to the campground it is extra dark and everything looks the same. And it’s huge. I was with Erik and he has an amazing sense of direction. But I remember stifling a feeling of panic as we seemed to roam endlessly around searching for our campsite! We finally got back around 12:30. I saw a lantern out and yelled “We’re here!” But no one else was there. Hum. To make a long story short (oops, too late), Fred and Kim had decided to race each other back to the campsite. Unfortunately Kim took a wrong turn and got lost! Of course she didn’t have her cell phone on her. I waited at the campsite in case she arrived there while Fred and Erik went on the hunt. Amazingly enough, they found her! Praise the Lord for cell phones! I can’t imagine how completely frightening that must have been. I know I would have lost it—they didn’t get back to the campsite until 1:30.

After a freezing night with bad camping gear (ergo, hardly any sleep) we packed up bright and early to start our trek back to Port Orchard. On the way out we stopped at the scenic overlook to get a photo (self-portrait). I was thinking if we had been smart we would have stopped on the way there—I must have looked better twenty hours earlier.Hopefully we'll be heading back to the Gorge again, it was great.

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

My boys love trains, especially my 14-year old, so it was an easy choice for us to check out the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Since we have a large family, it was the same price for us to become a member as to buy tickets for the whole family for the day ($40). With the membership, you get free admission to the museum for the year. I am suspecting that we will be back again!
As well as the hundreds of locomotives on display, some of which you can go inside, there are lots of hands-on activities for kids to do. There is a simulator in which you can pretend to actually drive a train. The screen responds to your motions, and shows what you would see.
There is an area in which kids can pretend to shovel coal (black foam shaped like coal) into the firebox.
A display of the system used to sort mail on the train allows kids to sort plastic cards into the slots just like they did on real trains.
And they have a huge area that has all kinds of models and hands-on activities. Even my 16-year old daughter had fun there, directing the romote trains that were on a shelf around the top of the whole room.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Port-Huron Metroparks - Michigan

We were lucky enough to find out about the many Metroparks around our area. These are parks that offer all kinds of activities. The activities are different at each park. We visited two parks this summer: Metro Beach and Stony Creek. Metro Beach Metropark is a huge place. There are docks for boats, a pool with water slides, mini golf, lake swimming, bike trails, etc. Stony Creek was more tranquil and in a more natural setting. It has lots of trails for biking and hiking and two beaches for swimming. You can also rent paddle boats and canoes there. The cost is only $4 per car and there is SO much to do. We will have to explore the other parks next summer.

Tuckahoe Park

For years now we have been taking our kids to the "Tire Park" at Tuckahoe. It is a wonderful playground made out of recycled tires. This year, however, we decided to camp there so we could do more of the things they offer. The campsites are comfortable; set in the woods. The kids had a wonderful time hiking and exploring in the woods and even found a cute little bridge over a stream. Once we had set up camp, we went canoeing on the lake there and then we played a golf type game with flying disks. We all had a wonderful time and plan to do it again in the spring.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum & the Capitol Building - Austin, Tx

Ok, so I only got to three of my five I had planned, but it's been brutally hot and I'm 8 months pregnant, now. I can write up a few of the other places I went, later, because even if I've been there before, you probably haven't.

Anyway, the kids had cousins in town, just before school started, so we did a ton of stuff together. One of these days we went to the Texas State Capitol. If you get the chance, this is always a fun tour.
They've done a fabulous job of keeping all the historical architecture while upgrading technology for modern convenience. Of course, the funnest part when I was a kid (and even now as a parent) is to walk to the center of the rotunda and look at the seals of the six sovereign nations that have ruled here (FYI, this is where the Six Flags theme parks got their name, the Six Flags Over Texas) and then look up to the star at the very top of the rotunda dome.

I never get tired of the capitol. There's always something new to discover, and the building itself is just so beautiful.

Just up the street is the Bullock Museum. The exhibits are pretty good, and they do cover the whole of Texas history, from pre-colonial & Spanish eras, all the way up through the Alamo, cowboys & the Civil War then on to NASA & Buddy Holly.

It's an interesting place, but not quite as cool as I was hoping. This was especially a bit of a letdown after the utter awesomeness of the capitol. The one thing they do have going for them is the IMAX theater. They're currently showing Dolphins & Whales, Grand Canyon Adventure 3D, Sea Monsters 3D, and The Dark Knight. Yup, they've got Batman, and he's three stories tall. How cool is that?

**In the interest of full disclosure, all these pictures are off the web. I got there too late to do the whole tour at the capitol and the Bullock museum doesn't allow cameras.**

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lake Blanche, UT

I really love backpacking. When Peter and I married, we did a couple of backpacking trips. Then when Zach came along, (naive as we were) we even entertained the idea of toting him along into the great back-country wilderness. With one of us hefting all of the gear and the other keeping baby happy... it would be a great time. Or would it? The truth is that I don't know, because we've never tried. Packing for anything overnight with a child, even in a hotel, seemed like work enough!

This year, for our anniversary, we decided to save a little money (thank you, rising cost of EVERYTHING!) and do one night backpacking and the second in a hotel. As we looked at our options locally, I was totally playing the tough girl. Like this: Well, hun. I can probably handle the long hike, but what about your ankle? It's true, and I was secretly hoping he would choose the easiest one. :o) Well, we're still 21-at-heart, or nuts, or SOMEthing. Because even after my dad described the hike to Lake Blanche as having "a couple of tough grinds," we felt overly confident and good to go.

It was about 6:30 at the trailhead, which you'll find at the stairs switchbacks up Big Cottonwood Canyon. I think it is officially called Mill B Fork. With our headlamps, mountain house meals, water filter, and itty-bitty camping stove tucked away, we were on our way. I should have paid more attention when we looked at the topo map on the computer where it gives you a graph of the incline. The first part was moderately easy and I was thinking, 'yeah! this is my kind of hike!' Then came the grind. And let me tell you, my dad's words kept repeating themselves in my head for that final S-L-O-W stretch. AND the blisters developing on my heels were not helping.

We reached the lake, which we had completely to ourselves on a Thursday night, just in time to see the sun setting. Lovely, lovely. The lake itself isn't much, but the view of Sundial Peak was fantastic. It is still spring at this elevation and we had a lovely field of wildflowers to walk through on our way to a little waterfall where we could filter water. I have given up trying to get the pictures we took to go with this post, since they were taken with hubby's phone. But here is a picture someone else took of Sundial Peak...

The distance of this hike was 2.78 miles, and the elevation gain was 2700 feet. In the end, I was really glad Peter stuck to his guns on doing this instead of two full days of lounging. Yes, it was tough. But I get a bit of a thrill and satisfaction when I push my limits. (remember that one time I ran a marathon? :o) And it feels oh-so-nice to completely get "away from the things of man... away from the things of man." (I'll make you brownies from scratch if you can name that movie!)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Troy Family Aquatic Center - Troy, MI

This has been my favorite place to discover about our new city. I have always been a pool girl whether taking lessons and hanging out with the SAHM's kids at PG Pool in Mt. Rainer, MD when I was a kid or working in the summers, so I had to find the pool here. Well, I fell in love. It is such a great place. This is the public pool. I'm sure that there are plenty of membership only pools, but this is really a gem.

One thing I love most about this city is the diversity. It is a different kind of diversity than I have been used to living in the DC area, so it has been so lovely to get to know cultures with which I have little experience. There are fairly large populations of people from China, India and the Middle East. The pool is no exception. I have met people from Iraq, Sweden, and Morocco. Jackson's swimming classes are made up of kids from all over the world, some even wearing long sleeved leotards and long pants to swim in. One woman, who the boys and I met, is from Iraq and she has such an interesting life story. (That is for another post.) She actually thought that my husband must have been from the Middle East after looking at the kids. I don't know about that, but it was a first.

If anyone is ever out here in the summer, it is a great fun way to spend the afternoon. It isn't too pricey, unless you go there often. They have a large snack bar and a great main pool with a beach entry, so it was great for my 12 month old. The children's pool is very shallow with spraying water features, a slide, and a waterfall. There are two adult slides that are similar to water slides at a large water park. Jackson took and passed the swim test to go on them. If that wasn't enough they have two enormous sand volleyball courts. We spent a lot of time at the play structure that has tons of sand around it. The kids go crazy in there making sand castles with the water that they get out of the mini waterfall. It is really cool how they all end up working together with kids they just met on some great creation.