Friday, April 30, 2010

My daughter loves to take pictures. She dreams of becoming a journalist and photographer and traveling to exciting places like Paris. Yesterday we met some friends at the park and while I was yakking with the moms, she was documenting the day. Here are two of her favorite pictures from yesterday:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park

After driving past the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park several times on our trips from Alabama to Atlanta, we finally allowed ourselves plenty of time to stop and explore last spring. This battlefield in Northern Georgia was the first to become a national military park and was used as a model for those that would follow- Gettysburg, Shiloh and Vicksburg. We began our tour at the Visitor's Center where we enjoyed touring the museum-like exhibits and the impressive collection of firearms from a private collection.
Visitors Center
A glimpse at the private firearms exhibit on display. My guys couldn't get enough!

I had no idea they even had grenades in the Civil War!

You won't want to miss watching the free 23-minute film, "The Battle of Chickamauga" that is shown every hour on the hour. If you're from the North, you'll leave with a better appreciation of the South's opinion of the war.

The seven-mile driving tour will allow you to see the major points of interest in the park. You can enhance your tour by purchasing an audio tour from the bookstore, or you can also access the Dial and Discover service on your cell phone free, depending on your usage terms. For some reason, we weren't able to access any information after the 7th stop, but that could have just been a glitch the day we visited. Along the tour, not only will you hear about the events that took place leading to a short lived victory for the South, you'll also see over 600 monuments recognizing all the regiments that participated in the battle.

This home was used as a field hospital during the battle.

Although the South won the battle, the Union managed to gain control of Chattanooga, the gateway to the Deep South, as they'd hoped.

Today as you visit, it's hard to believe that such a beautiful, serene setting was once the site of one of the bloodiest battles in the Civil War. '

While we spent several hours exploring only the Chickamauga Battlefield before the impending rain clouds chased us away. If you're in the area and you're interested, you may also choose to visit Lookout Mountain Battlefield, Point Park, Missionary Ridge and the Chattanooga National Cemetery.

There you have it, a bit about our day at the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park.

Chattanooga Things To Do on raveable

Field Trips Aren't Really School...or Are They?

I originally wrote this article as part of a series that will be appearing on The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's Fan Page on Facebook but thought it would appeal to some of my readers here as well.

I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but here in Northern Alabama it’s beginning to feel a bit like spring. With the warm weather comes an intense desire to put aside the school books and head outdoors for some incredible field trips! But field trips aren’t really school, or are they?

I think so. I've always believed that the best way my children could learn about something was through experience. That's why I've always been a firm believer in hands-on activities and lots of field trips.

As long as we've had kids, and certainly before we were "on the road" traveling with my husband's job, we've visited parks, zoos, and museums. Even before our kids were old enough to appreciate or even realize we were there! Naturally, field trips, as we began to call these outings as they approached school age, just became a way of life for us.

Some of our most memorable lessons have been learned on a field trip. In fact, some outings have led to a deeper understanding and appreciation with the subject matter at hand while others have led to an interest that never would have developed otherwise.

When my children were younger, I kept a copy of The A to Z Guide to Home School Field Trips edited by Gregg Harris in my minivan. This book was an incredible resource that showed me how to turn nearly any common destination into a field trip with the background information, biblical application, vocabulary words and sample questions that it provided. This resource taught me that trips to the dentist, grocery store, post office and bank could and should be viewed as learning opportunities and I began to realize that learning happens all the time, all around us not just when we were sitting at home surrounding the dining room table with school books open.

If you sat down with my children and asked them what they’ve enjoyed the most over the 11 years that we’ve homeschooled, most likely it would include a field trip. It could be a trip to Colonial Williamsburg which led to a study of Colonial Times and the Revolutionary War that I thought would never end. Or a trip to Washington D.C. that led to an incredible study of how our government works. Or a state park located 15 minutes from our home that was once owned by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Louis Bromfield.

Our field trips don’t have to be far from home, cost a lot of money or be elaborate to be successful, but they do have to arouse my children’s natural love of learning.

We All Need a Bit of Encouragement from Time to Time...

I’ve had some struggles over the past 11 years. Homeschooling is not always the easy path to tread. I don’t know how many times in those moments that I’ve had a conversation with a well meaning friend, and spilled my guts only to walk away not feeling built up, but completely ripped apart from the inside out.

Thankfully, the Lord led me to some moms that did encourage me. They didn’t condemn me and assume that their way of doing things was best. They didn’t tell me how ‘they would do things’. They didn’t boast in their accomplishments or pride but simply let me know that they had been where I’d been too. Realistically, all homeschool moms have struggled from time to time.

You can read the entire article, Have You Encouraged a Friend Today?, at the Homeschool Classroom here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

And it came to pass...

Today I had a flashback of something my husband said to me years ago when I was pregnant with out first child. He had heard somewhere that families that went on regular camping trips were more close knit than families that don't and decided that we should be a camping family. Hmmm...interesting...maybe that was the Lord beginning to prepare us for the eventual journey He would lead us on...

Should I be on Wife Swap?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret here. You may already know this, but if not, I’m going to tell you anyway. Ready? Here it goes…some people are rude. Wow! There you go, I said it. Some are even ruder than others. I’m not talking about people that sometimes stick their foot in their mouth and regret it later; I’m talking about the people who really, truly have every intention of being rude right from the start. Thankfully, most people are not bold enough to be that blatant. But once and awhile, normally when I’m having a bit of an off day anyway and really don’t need that one little comment that they feel necessary to spit out of their mouths, that’s when I encounter them. Just once, I’d love to unleash on them just what I feel about their rudeness, but unlike them, I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings.

By now you may be wondering what all this is leading up to so allow me to clue you in.

When we first began traveling over four years ago, we wound up in Virginia Beach. One day after we’d finished our school work for the day, we decided to leave the hotel and walk to the beach. We had some post cards to mail so on our way; we stopped by the post office.

Right away the man behind the counter starting asking questions about why the kids weren’t in school. Personally, I don’t always chose to divulge that we homeschool. Not because I worry about opposition, but simply because I don’t really feel that I need to explain myself to anyone. End of story. However, this particular clerk was extremely persistent so finally I let him in on our little secret…we are a homeschool family. Wow! Judging from the barrage of questions that he threw our way, I don’t think this man had ever in his life encountered a real life homeschooling family and though most days I am happy to answer someone’s sincere questions, I got the distinct feeling that this man did not fall into that category.

He wanted to know why we homeschooled, were we religious wacko’s that did not allow our children to speak to others outside our faith? Were my children permitted to talk to people outside of our family? Were we racist? Did I only like my children and think all other children are bad? Did my kids play sports? Did they even know what football was? Do we watch TV? Listen to music? Did I really know what my kids were missing out on? I think you're getting the idea.

Now, I’m normally not speechless, but I have to admit that I was struck dumb. As I stood there waiting for the change that this man was holding hostage with my mouth hanging open with disbelief, he finally made the comment that maybe I should be on wife swap so the new mom could send them to school, apparently they needed to be there.

After four years this statement still infuriates me. So just why do I homeschool? Because after much prayer, soul searching and research, my husband and I decided that homeschooling was the best option for our family.

As a Christian, I do feel that the Lord called us to homeschool, but I don’t necessarily homeschool because of religious reasons- though I would be lying if I said that wasn’t a huge factor in the equation. Clearly, my beliefs do affect how I teach my children. We do study our Bible and I call it 'school'. I do teach them Creation, I do believe that God created everything. I do teach from a Christian Worldview. I do view history as His-story. If that makes us religious wacko’s, so be it.

However, after homeschooling for the past 11 years, I now see a bigger piece of the puzzle. I have two children that have really struggled and have needed the one on one attention. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told from assessors and doctors to be thankful that the Lord led us to homeschool. Clearly, He knew the struggles we would face before I did.

Homeschooling has also allowed us to travel with my husband’s job when that door opened. If the kids had been in a normal school setting, more than likely my husband would have been off working while I held down the fort at home, something that has happened on occasion, but something we never desired for our family.

Homeschooling is not some whim that I embarked on without a thought. And in case you’re wondering, yes, my children are allowed to speak to people outside the family. I’ve even seen them speak to people of other races and though you can’t really tell someone’s religion by looking at them, I’d have to say they’ve spoken to people outside the Christian faith.

I’d have to say that I do have a special place in my heart for my children, but I am their mother! I do like other kids, but if I’m honest, some kids do get on my nerves; as do adults!

We do have a TV that we watch. More often than we should sometimes. We listen to music and even go to concerts. My kids have played sports in the past and yes, we live in a camper, not a cave, my kids do know what football is. As far as being aware of what they’re missing out on? Please….I’ll save that for a future post!

Picture Credits:Image: djcodrin /

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Don't Miss Out on the Offer!

Save on all the things you love to do!

If there is an Entertainment Book available for your city or if you'll be traveling this summer to any of the cities that have one, you won't want to miss out on these savings! These books are good for the rest of the year- there's still plenty of time to put them to use saving you money. This offer is any book of your choice for only $15- that's a huge savings- plus shipping is FREE! Offer ends Friday.

Making Anniversary Travel Plans

In July, my husband and I will celebrate our 18th anniversary! I can't believe it! Not the part that we're still married, but the part that it's already been 18 years. I honestly don't know where the time went!

Anyway, on occassion we like to celebrate by doing something really special. In the past, we've gone to Stan Hywett Hall in Akron, Ohio, had pizza when I was too sick to go out and spent an incredible weekend in Canada in a suite overlooking Niagara Falls.

This year we've been planning a trip to the Hudson River Valley in New York to see the Lyndhurst and the Vanderbilt Mansion. However, I just made one mistake. I asked for recommendations on Twitter of things to do in the area and was pointed in the direction of Alexandria Bay and the Boldt Castle on Heart Island! How neat is that for an anniversary! Now I don't know what to do!

So, how do you plan a trip when you're like me and want to see EVERYTHING in the area? And if you think I'm kidding when I say EVERYTHING, I assure you, I'm not! Oh my. The decisions. When it comes to my husband and I, I have to realize our differences. When he takes time off work, he really intends to relax. He's up for one or two outings a day and after that, he's done. He's simply not interested in anything else and trying to persuade him otherwise only makes him cranky (I learned that many years ago). So, for starters, you have to realize that you simply can't see everything in a weekend or even a week. Pick two or three attractions that you really MUST SEE and go from there. If you can fit in more, that's great, but if not atleast you were able to visit what you considered most important.

So, how do you narrow down the choices when you're planning a quick getaway?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Metallurgist by Day/Blog Designer by Night: Meet Adori Graphics

If you are a regular reader, you’ve already heard about the Savvy Blogging Summit. I know…blah…blah..blah…right? For your sake, I’m trying to keep my enthusiasm contained. Really I am! You may also know that I am actively seeking sponsors to help me get to Denver for the conference. So, if you have a business or would like to advertise on this site, email me for my media kit or stop back in the next couple days because I’ll be getting it posted here for you to view.

I am thrilled to say that I already have one sponsor…you may have noticed that cute new button on the side bar? Well, if not, here it is. It is cute, isn’t it? I just love it. But more than that, I’d like to tell you that I honestly don’t think I could’ve promoted anyone more as confidently as I can Adori Graphics. I first met Louise when I contacted her about creating the graphics for Live the Adventure. That was probably about a year ago. Since that time, Louise and I have corresponded on a professional and personal level. She’s one of my best bloggy world friends! And a top notch blog designer if I say so myself!

As my very first sponsor, I thought it would be fun to do an interview with Louise because I now know (thanks to that nifty survey I asked you to complete last week) that 87% of you are fellow bloggers. I think you’ll be interested in what she has to say. I love this quote from Louise.
"I'm passionate about how blogging can enhance your life and I'd love to get more people feeling passionate about their blogs."
She does this by offering valuable tools to fellow bloggers in the form of blogging tips, advice and tutorials as well as freebies you can use to enhance your blogs. All this is in addition to the affordable buttons, headers, backgrounds and complete makeovers that she can design for you.

So grab a soda or cup of tea and let’s get started.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Louise and I'm married to my soul-mate, Andrew. We live in the north of England, at the foot of the Pennines, with our cat Meg. In rare moments of free time, I enjoy photography, visiting art galleries and museums, going to the cinema and anything involving crafts or water! I'm a metallurgist by day (a scientist who studies metals), working in the automotive industry and blog/graphic designer by night.

How did you ‘get into’ graphic design?

I got into it when I was about 15 years old (that's 20 years ago, in case you're wondering). We had to complete a project at school, where we were asked to design a brochure or newspaper front cover, using some drawing software on our new computer. The program was very simple back then, much the same as Microsoft Paint is now, but I was fascinated how I could see my designs on the TV screen LOL. Since then, I reckon I've spent thousands of hours working on digital designs, so I guess you could say I'm hooked. Back in 2001/2002, I started creating simple web graphics for people "as a favour" and just spent the next few years doing that, as well as working on my own projects.

Tell us about Adori Graphics. How did it start?

In 2007/2008, I started a new venture called "Write from the Heart", where I create free custom blog designs for people who blog about living with a long term illness or a sick child/adult. This was way, way more popular than I'd anticipated and, before I knew it, I had 50 people in the queue...which I'm still working my way through! Once word got out about my designs, I created a new blog so that I could keep my general graphics work separate to my “charity” graphics for sick people, so Adori Graphics was born! Adori (apparently) means “beautiful”, or something similar, in Aborigine. Nowadays, I just run all of my work from Adori Graphics as it was too difficult to keep up with so many design blogs.

In May 2009, my husband lost his job (and is still unemployed) so I started charging for some graphics, and since then the business has kind of exploded!

What aspect of graphic design do you really enjoy?

I love creating vector graphics - as you know Tonya, I draw all of these from scratch and never use image stock (unless a customer has a particular request for an I-Stock image).

I love the flexibility of custom vectors and that's probably the main reason why people ask me to work for them. Normally, when you buy image stock, you're pretty much stuck with the image that you purchase, but when you're asking somebody like me to design your image, you can specify things such as hair style, body size, clothing, accessories and even eye colour to match your own. I can even create vector people which look just like you! Both styles of vector character have really been improving in popularity lately and are the latest "must have" it seems. I think I enjoy creating vector people the most...maybe more than life itself LOL.

How is Adori Graphics different than other designers?

At Adori Graphics, I have pride in being different to other blog designers. Here are just a few ways in which my designs differ to many other designers…
    1. I don’t use image stock to create my custom vectors, they are all hand drawn, by me, using my graphics pen and tablet.
    2. When I release a premade template, I only install it on a limited number of blogs, so you’re guaranteed not to see it in too many places.
    3. Since I draw my own graphics, I can create a cartoon version of your family…and it will actually look like your family.
    4. I am committed to always finding you the cheapest option to get what you want.
    5. I make my own digital scrapbooking kits for use in my scrapbook style blogs as this keeps the cost down for the customer – although I can use a specific designer’s kit if one is requested. I even sell the scrapbook kits on my blog!
What products and services do you offer?

Although I’m known for my blog makeovers and blog graphics, I also make custom greetings cards and stationery designs and premade blog templates. I have some great business tools for small business owners too, such as custom Etsy shop graphics, custom Twitter pages and custom business card designs. I can even design logos and give you advice on using your logo to brand your products and image!

Where do you see your blog in the future?

I’d like to expand certain areas of my current services, such as my premade blog templates, photography style blogs and my scrapbook style blogs. Expanding my range of digital scrapbooking kits would be awesome too. I’d also love to get a second designer on board to help with the vector graphics (if you're a designer and you're interested, contact Louise at adorigraphics at hotmail dot, but so far I’ve not managed to find any designers who can create custom vector graphics…making me even more unique than I thought! My free makeovers (for those who qualify) have been on hold for a while, but I’d like to pick those up again. I’m relying on finding a second designer to free up the time to do this properly, but I’m still trying to “chip away” at the queue on my own.

Well, that wraps up my interview with Louise. If you're in the market for an affordable blog design, I can't honestly recommend Adori Graphics enough! If you'd like to make a few simple changes to your blog, you may find out how to do that by checking out Louise's regular feature, Tutorial Tuesday. You won't want to miss Freebie Friday! For all you non-bloggers out there, check out this adorable digital scrapbook set.
Hmmmm....look familiar?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Can you say Freedom?

The forecast today called for Thunderstorms and Tornadoes. Not a pleasant combination. Especially since we've already experienced one tornado touching down near us while staying in the motor home.

Though we awoke to rain, the severe weather wasn't supposed to hit until 3:00 p.m. so my husband and I took the opportunity to hit the store for our weekly grocery run while the kids were still sleeping. By the time we returned, unloaded and found a place to put all of our provisions, the skies had cleared and we thought it would be safe to take our furbaby for a quick walk in between showers.

He was soooo excited to hear the "W" word that he began racing from the front to the back of the camper at full speed. Quite a site to see really. Since we replaced the carpet with the laminate flooring he runs to one end, slides, struggles to regain his grip and starts all over. One day I'll video it so you can all have a good belly laugh. Somehow we managed to get his leash on and get him outside while he was bouncing and jumping all around. You'd think he hadn't been outside for days by his reaction. Poor puppy. We walked to a nice shady area and turned him loose just as the rain drops started to fall. Unfazed, he raced around....

and around...

until he could run no more....

He was free and he was lovin' it!

You May be a Rude Camper...Part 2, The Bath House Edition

Yes…this is a continuation of my first post. You do know this is a great way for me to vent, right? Amazingly, most of my rude camper stories are believe it or not, focused around the bath house. Not sure why that is, but that is apparently where my pet peeves really run out of patience.

Okay…here goes…

    You may be a rude camper if…you leave all of your empty shampoo bottles and used razors in the shower for the next person to pick up.
    You may be a rude camper express yourself in many ugly, ugly 4 & 5 letter words in the presence of my 13 year old daughter and then give me dirty looks when I ask you to clean it up.
    You may be a rude camper if…you leave cigarette butts in the shower.
    You may be a rude camper if…you leave dirty clothes in the shower. For the life of me I can’t figure out how they fail to remember their clothes but this happens in the Men’s Restroom and infuriates my husband.
    You may be a rude camper if…you race to the bath house, don’t quite make it in time, poo all over the toilet seat and fail to clean up after yourself. That’s just gross!
    You may be a rude camper if…you leave used feminine products on the floor of the stall instead of disposing of them in the waste basket. Ewwww!

And we haven’t even gotten to what happens OUTSIDE of the bath house! Stay tuned…more to come….

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Russell Cave National Monument

I hope that you'll consider joining me each Friday as I share the field trips we've enjoyed as a family or as an organized group. I'd love to see where you've been and what you're learning!

This week the National Parks are offering Entrance Free Days. In honor of this amazing deal, I've decided to share one of the many National Parks that we have enjoyed visiting in the past.

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, this may sound familiar. It was posted on my original blog.

We finally had a beautiful day with no rain in the forecast and decided that we’d head outside and take an educational field trip and save the book work for the rainy days that we’ll have next week. We chose to visit Russell Cave National Monument to learn about prehistoric peoples. This cave is unique because it offers one of the longest and most complete archeological records in the eastern United States. The cave was first excavated by the Tennessee Archeological Society and later by the Smithsonian Institute with financing by the National Geographic Society.

The site was discovered to have been used much like a nomadic hotel by Native Americans, who mainly occupied the cave during the cold winter months and moved on in the warm weather to hunt and farm in other locations. Russell Cave was established as a national park by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, after the land was donated by the National Geographic Society to the American people.

Our visit began in the Visitor’s Center which also has a small museum exhibit telling the story of Russell Cave and displays some of the artifacts uncovered in the excavation. We also watched a short 8 minute movie that told mainly about the excavation process and the formation of the cave.

Next, we took a short, easy walk to the cave. Of course the kids beat me to the cave opening as I had to stop along the way and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The entrance to the cave was shrouded in mist and looked very enchanting. My son commented that the area could have been used in a Lord of the Rings movie. Although the entire cave is 7-10 miles in length, only the mouth of the cave is assessable to visitors. My children didn’t mind this since they were aware of that fact prior to our arrival. Had they found out once we were there that they wouldn’t be exploring the recesses of the cave, they would have been very disappointed.

After viewing the cave, I thought it would be fun if we'd go on the nature trail. My daughter was not a happy camper. She thought it was too hot to hike and yes, it was a rather warm 80 degrees or so, but the trail was wooded and there was a slight breeze. We soon discovered that the trail pretty much goes up, up and up. Every time we thought we’d made it to the top, we turned another corner and there was more trail to climb. My daughter was so upset, that we finally decided to turn around and head back down, although that was not an easy feat. It seems that heading down was tricky because the trail is paved and moss covered, making for a slippery combination along the shaded part of the walkway.

Chelsea fell first with Joshua also slipping when our overzealous puppy yanked a bit too hard on his leash. Then, Chelsea fell a second time and since Nickolaus was walking closely behind her, he actually stepped on her as she went down! Now my poor daughter is really unhappy and feels tortured since she didn’t want to go on this walk in the first place and what does her mean mother do to console her? I took a picture of her! How awful is that?

The walk wasn’t a total waste, along the way we saw lizards, butterflies, and even a sinkhole. Thankfully, we concluded our hike with no further mishaps and arrived back at our vehicle drenched in sweat. We couldn’t get back to the camper and bath house fast enough!

On the hour drive back to home base, we discussed our day. On a scale of 1 to 10, they gave our trip a 9 for most tortured experience ever due to the hike- did I mention this hike is not a long hike? On a scale of 1 to 10, they gave the outing a 6for fun, though they agree it could have been higher, but they had to factor in the torturous hike. On a scale of 1 to 10 for educational value they rated it a rather low 6, but that may have been higher if a Ranger would have accompanied us to the cave, or if their would have been a presentaion going on. They may want to visit again with my husband, but would not drive an hour to see it again. So, there you have the official take of the day from the Traveling Prater kids! Be sure to stop by our fan page on Facebook, I'll be adding a few more pictures of our day.

On a side note, while we were there we met a really nice man from Seoul, Korea. He told me that he and his wife are touring the U.S. and will be stopping at each state. They have gone to many of the National Park sites. They have 20 states and 3 months to go. How neat is that?

Interesting tidbit: Russell Caves is located near Bridgeport where Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto and his crew chose to enter into what is now Alabama in June 1540.

Thanks for joining along on our trip this week! Now you can link up and share your own and please don't forget to tell others that you are a part of Field Trip Friday so they can get in on the fun!

For those of you who have participated, don't forget to snag this awesome button that Adori Graphics created just for you. Isn't it cute? Just don't forget to link it back here so Field Trip Friday can continue to grow! Until next week...Happy Field Trippin'!

Virtual Field Trips: No Need to Leave the Comfort of Your Own Home

I wrote this article for the Facebook Fan Page of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine this week, but thought that some of my readers may really enjoy it, so I decided to post it here as well.

We’ve been to some incredible places in the past few years including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Monterrey Bay Aquarium, the Eiffel Tower, Easter Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. What may surprise you is that we visited all these places from the comfort of our own home. As much as I love getting out of the house and exploring the world around us, sometimes it’s just not practical or possible to do so. Time, Distance, and Finances can sometimes hinder the big plans I construct in my mind. Thanks to the technology of the internet, there is no shortage of where we can travel too. Virtually, that is.

The best part about taking a virtual field trip is that there is very little preparation on your part. No need to load up the car, drive across town or even get dressed if you don’t want too. And if the weather is nasty or someone is sick? Who cares? No need to cancel something you’ve been looking forward too. Did I mention that Virtual Field Trips are Free and work on YOUR schedule? Do you prefer to take your field trips in the morning before you start school? After school? or when the baby is napping? Do you find that you are always running late no matter how hard you try to prepare ahead of time? Don’t worry, this field trip waits for you.

It's important to remember that with all field trips, some are better than others and that goes for Virtual Field Trips too. Below you'll find some of my favorite resources when it comes to selecting a virtual trip.

We are huge fans of the National Park system and have been known to plan our real travels according to where there nearest National Park may be. It’s only natural that we would enjoy learning about some of the parks that we have yet to travel to. If you have 5-12 graders, Teaching with Historic Places is a great starting place because it can be searched using several criteria including theme, location and time period. The lesson plans are written for the classroom settings and some are a bit heavy on the reading and short on images, but they do contain a wealth of information and often contain links to additional supplemental material if your child really develops an interest.

Virtual field trips can also be used to enhance a current study. If you’re teaching about the ocean, or desert, owls, dolphins or roller coasters, why not Google it with the word webcam and see what comes up? This website, Making Teachers Nerdy (for classroom teachers, but very relevant) has a great selection of webcams linked up and waiting for you to view. The list is divided by Animals/Insects, Landforms, Geography/Travel, History/Social Studies and Science. You’ll find a brief description of the website, whether the webcam is live, or delayed and if the site is interactive ex., allowing a chat feature.

Want to learn how chocolate’s made, guitars or Motor Homes? Factory Tours Online is your gateway to understanding. Some of these links will just contain a few pictures, but you’ll also find some video factory tours which are a special treat. Especially to Hershey’s. Yum.

Of course there are also virtual tours of museums, famous structures, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the Grand Canyon. You’ll find that and more at Education World,two sites that share the name, Virtual Field Trips, Virtual Field Trips and Virtual World Travel.

Have I gotten your attention yet? I hope so, your adventure is waiting just a few clicks away. So, who’s up for a trip to Niagara Falls, in…hmmm…ten minutes? I’ll grab the rain coats!

Until next time, Happy Field Trippin’!

*Just so you know, though I’ve listed these websites as resources, I have not thoroughly combed over each one and have no way of knowing if they contain material that may be unsuitable for your family. I would not knowingly point you in the direction of something that would be harmful, but websites change daily. For that reason, I always suggest that you peruse these websites before passing them on to your child, and better yet, take the field trip with them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You may be a rude camper if.... hear me enter the bath house while you are in the shower and tell me you'll be right out. After waiting over ten minutes, you finally emerge from the shower and tell me that I may want to wait a bit because the water just got cold!

Need I say more?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Roadtripping with Teens: What they Consider Essential

When it comes to packing for road trips, my kids are just about professionals! They’ve packed and unpacked more than many adults have in their lifetime. Four years of heading to hotel rooms, temporary apartments and the camping life has really honed their abilities.
They can pack in record time and rarely forget anything that’s essential. You may be surprised that when it comes to packing, I tell them where we are going and when and they jump into action. I don’t have to lift a finger. In fact, I’d say for the past 3½ years, I’ve not even helped to pack the vehicle- my boys take care of that. They think of it as their ‘job’ to make sure it’s packed and ready when it’s time to hit the road. Yes, traveling with older kids certainly has some benefits!

This week I asked my kids to share some of the things they consider essential when it comes to taking a road trip, not necessarily in the order of importance, but here are their lists. The first list is mainly a compilation, the latter two are more specific to my children's interests.
  • iPods, MP3 or CD’s- You just have to have your music!

  • Cell Phone- You never know when you’ll get lost! Plus, if you’re meeting up with friends, it’s important that you stay in touch. Besides, our friends worry about us if we don't text them regularly.

  • A Camera- Because we always see something neat.

  • Laptop- You never know when you’ll find a hot spot and score free Wi-Fi! The computer is also good for watching movies. We rent them at various Redbox locations and return them on our way.

  • Bubble gum- You don’t want to be in the car with someone with stinky breath (go figure) and its fun to blow bubbles.

  • A pillow and a blanket- We like to be comfortable! Besides the air conditioner can get cold.

  • Snacks, Pop & Water- We’re teenagers, remember? We eat all the time!

  • A sweatshirt- In case we get cold, besides it doubles as a pillow.

  • Money- We like to have our own money on the trip.
My daughter added a few of her own:
  • Books- Nothing beats boredom like good reading material.

  • Stamps- I like to mail post cards to my friends from the road. Sometimes I even like to mail one to myself so it will be postmarked from places like Paris.

  • An Extra Pair of Shoes- In case you step in something not so nice. (You may remember our trip to The Crater of Diamonds )
And here are a couple thoughts from the boys:
  • A Knife or two - Just to be safe. You never know when we may need them.

  • My journal and pen- Just in case I get the urge to write.

  • Books- I pack books too, but not books with too many words because I get a headache from reading in the car. I prefer books with lots of pictures like my Star Wars book (says son #1) or my Mustang book or knife book (says son #2).

  • My PSP
Depending on where we are going, the boys will also pack their xBox because they think they can’t survive without it. Of course, they also pack extra clothes because to go on a trip without spares, in their own words, is just...well...gross!

So, is this an exhaustive list? Of course not. What the kids pack changes based on where we are heading to, but this is a list of what they consider to be essential. I thought it'd be interesting to hear from a teenager's point of view.

Now let's have some fun...what ONE item do you consider essential when it comes to packing for a road trip?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Gardens and Galleries in Nashville

I hope that you'll consider joining me each Friday as I share the field trips we've enjoyed as a family or as an organized group. I'd love to see where you've been and what you're learning!

This week’s field trip was to Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art, a beautiful sprawling private estate turned botanical garden and art museum; a union that compliment one another beautifully.

Let's start with a bit of background information about Cheekwood, home of the Cheek family. They made their fortune and secured their financial futures by investing in a family member’s coffee company which was later sold to a company that would eventually become known as Maxwell House. The proceeds were used to purchase 100 acres of land in West Nashville and construction began in 1929 on what is now the incredible Cheekwood Estate. I also found it interesting that every detail of the house and grounds was at the discretion of the designer and architect, Bryant Fleming of New York. They furnished the home with purchases made in Great Britain. It took four train cars to transport their finds to Cheekwood. It was the largest employer in Nashville during the Depression.

In 1933, Leslie and his wife Mabel, moved into the estate however, sadly Leslie only lived in the home for two years before his death at the age of 61. In 1944, Mabel deeded the home to her daughter, Huldah Cheek Sharp who lived in the home with her husband until 1957 when they gave the property to an art museum and botanical garden.

We began our visit in the Visitor’s center where I picked up a few brochures and determined how to spend our day. Though I originally thought we'd spend an hour or two, it was quickly evident that there was much to discover.

Our first stop was the Japanese Garden. This garden is designed to be viewed from one direction, the viewing pavilion. It is intended for the visitor to sit for awhile in quiet reflection, before moving on.

We also walked past the water garden, on the way to the mansion, though it was a pretty setting, the kids were disappointed that the water wasn't cascading over the rocks.

Continuing on our way, Joshua was delighted to have spotted a large snake sunning itself on some rocks near the home. I can count on him to pick out all the wildlife, he always does. Thankfully, he had no interest in catching it.

The main home has been transformed into a beautiful art museum. We especially enjoyed the Silver room which showcases 650 pieces that were created during the 18th-20th centuries. My daughter was excited to discover that a one of the pieces, a goblet was designed and commissioned by Thomas Jefferson. Originally at Monticello (which we have been to) it now rests behind glass with the sketches from which it was designed.

Across the hall we enjoyed viewing the Worcester porcelain collection. The third largest of its kind in the United States. Upstairs we found the Faberge collection that is visiting. I know that some people would really enjoy all the glittering jewels, but I'm just not a bling kind of girl. I'm more at home among, my favorite, the Impressionist collection that will be on display until September. To celebrate this exquisite collection, you'll even find gold frames located outside in the garden where guests can design their own masterpiece by spinning the frame to display a scene that they find particularly attractive. I really wanted my kids to pose for me so I could get a shot of them in the frame, but they just weren't going for it! Go figure.

I could have stayed in the galleries forever, but the kids were ready to walk along the sculpture trail, where we saw our second snake of the day, I might add! The sculptures all seemed to be pretty contemporary but fun.

This is a beautiful place to take your time, stroll through the gardens and galleries and pack a lunch to eat on the lawn. If you're in the Nashville area, I highly recommend Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art. We enjoyed this so much that we'll be returning in May as a field trip and I'm really excited because there will be a new Chihuly exhibit! Can't wait! I'd love to share more photos so if you get a chance, you can hop on over to the FaceBook Fan Page and take a peek.

Thanks for joining along on our trip this week! Now you can link up and share your own and please don't forget to tell others that you are a part of Field Trip Friday so they can get in on the fun!

For those of you who have participated, don't forget to snag this awesome button that Adori Graphics created just for you. Isn't it cute? Just don't forget to link it back here so Field Trip Friday can continue to grow! Until next week...Happy Field Trippin'!

A Deal You Shouldn't Miss

Save on all the things you love to do!

In order to pay my way to Colorado to the Savvy Blogging Summit, I've decided to find an affiliate link or two that would complement my blog. Maybe that's bold in telling you that, but I figure if it's a product that you may be interested in anyway and it would offer you, my reader, a good value, perhaps you wouldn't mind just checking out a couple things. Don't worry, my intention is not to flood my blog with affiliate links but if I happen to find a good deal that would be of value to you, I'll share and I hope that you won't mind.

This week I ran across something that I thought was an excellent deal, the Entertainment books that are featured in the ad at the top of the page. I was actually looking at one of these in Walgreen's last week thinking it would be a great fit for our family. It would save us money on some of the fun things we like to do on occassion, like eating out, movies, bowling, and visiting some of the local attractions and even items like groceries and car care from some of the retailers you know best like Target, Border's, Dick's Sporting Goods and Sears. This nifty discount book blends perfectly with my new-found frugal couponing endeavor and our life of adventure! *smile*

The only problem is that I'm cheap and I have decided that I will no longer pay full price for anything if I don't have to. Well, problem solved, right now you can purchase ANY of these books for only $15 and the shipping is free! Wow! How can you beat that? I can't. Personally, I'm not buying just one. I'll buy several so when we travel back to places like Nashville, Atlanta or Cleveland I'll be able to save even more money on our travels. There are over a hundred cities around the US and Canada to choose from so I'm sure you'll find one near you. There's even a guide for Puerto Rico!

Each book is filled with 50% off discounts and 2-for-1 coupons to things like dining, groceries, shopping, services, and attractions. You'll also receive a membership card that will allow you additonal discounts on fine dining and travel services. Finally, you'll have access to online printable coupons to more local attractions and online shopping discounts. Whew. Okay. Just one more thing. These books normally sell anywhere from $20 to $45 depending on the size of the book but you can choose any for $15. The best part of this is you can preview the deals that you'll get before you buy it! There you have it. I hope that you'll stop by and take a peek at this incredible deal and if you do decide to buy one or two, thank you for helping me pay my way to Breckenridge!

Nashville, Tennessee

This week has been a bit different in our camper. My husband is in North Carolina undertaking a week long training session for his job. Originally we thought we’d tag along with him but the company wasn’t paying for us to go…so here we sit…at home in the camper. Well, not really. This past weekend we took off and drove to Nashville for a day of fun. We’d also planned to visit Chattanooga, but I kind of spent all my mad money during our Nashville excursion. Hmmm…bad…I know! We are still working really hard to get out of debt so a trip to the bank was really not the direction I wanted to take. So, the kids and I made a tough decision and cancelled out Chattanooga trip for now. I can’t say that the kids were terribly disappointed. They weren’t. After making the return trek from Ohio last week, they weren’t looking forward to spending anymore time in the car than was absolutely necessary. Besides, they’d much rather run around with Daddy than run around without him.

It’s not like we didn’t have plenty of fun in Nashville, we certainly had a great time!

Our first stop was to Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art. We were there for hours and had such a great time! We only left when my daughter’s flip flop broke, making it hard to continue walking along the trails. I’m going to save the details about this trip for my Field Trip Friday post, but let me just say that this was certainly a thumbs up for all of us! I can't wait to share the details and pictures of this amazing place with you so make sure you stop back tomorrow.

Next stop was to the Parthenon in Centennial Park. This attraction is actually closed on Sunday and Monday, which I knew before visiting but we couldn’t resist driving by and taking a peek anyway. Apparently something was going on and it was very crowded, which my kids can’t stand. So we just drove by and snapped a picture. We’ll add this to our collection of Roadside Attraction pics.

Our last stop of the day was to the Rainforest Café which you've already read about at Opry Mills. Who could resist? We had an incredibly fun day and can't wait to visit Nashville again.

Have you been to Nashville? Tell me what you liked...or didn't...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rainforest Cafe: Another Look

I know I already posted some of our fun pictures from Our Walk on the Wild Side at the Rainforest Cafe, but I couldn’t resist going in depth a bit more.

We aren’t a family that eats out on a regular basis other than fast food but every now and then it's a welcome treat, like our trip to The Varsity in Atlanta.

When I told the kids what I had in mind this past weekend they told me they’d rather eat at McDonald’s. They just didn’t see the point “spending a lot of money just to eat”, but I really wanted to go to the Rainforest Café! So, we compromised…instead of having a full meal, we’d have a ‘snack’ consisting of an appetizer or two and desert. I already knew I wanted the erupting Volcano Cake! After twisting their arms and much begging on my part…they relented. Okay, maybe it didn’t take that much work, but they weren’t incredibly thrilled until we pulled into the parking lot and they realized that the restaurant is located in the Opry Mills mall AND there just happens to be a Bass Pro Shop, Outdoor World nearby. That’s all it took, the boys couldn’t exit the car fast enough!

The restaurant was easy to find and there was a bit of a line, but after checking in and obtaining a ‘passport’, we found out that we only had a 10 minute wait. We spent a few minutes browsing through the gift shop, which you have to walk through to enter the restaurant,brilliant marketing strategy. I couldn’t resist smashing a few pennies for my collection while passing time.

We didn’t wait the full ten minutes before hearing our name called over the loud speaker and entered the enchanting rainforest by passing through huge aquarium tanks filled with tropical fish. There were huge trees planted throughout the seating area that produce a canopy of cover overhead. It’s lush and green with flowers, vines, butterflies and as you saw in the previous post, snakes. To our delight we were seated under an opening in the branches that displayed a night sky, complete with stars near a cascading waterfall.

Our server promptly greeted us and took our order. Keeping my part of the deal, we ordered four waters, one Onion Stack and the featured Awesome Appetizer Adventure which consisted of four each, cheese sticks, chicken fingers, chimi-cha-cha’s and a yummy spinach-artichoke cheese dip and tortilla chips. After browsing the menu, I was a bit relieved that we had agreed prior to our visit that we would only have appetizers. I did think the prices were a bit high, but then I saw the servers walk by with the plates of food and saw that the portion sizes seemed to be pretty hefty.

Our food had just arrived when we experienced our first thunderstorm! The sky above us began to rumble and flash with lightening and if we thought it was loud before…well…let’s just say we didn’t talk much for a few minutes. We did take advantage of each lightening strike by snapping a few pictures so our flash didn’t annoy the other diners.

It was during the thunderstorm that the animals on the side began to jump, stomp and dance around. Clearly, the Rainforest Café is designed for younger children. They would simply be amazed and probably wouldn’t eat because they’d have so much to distract them!

We finished our meal by ordering the legendary erupting Volcano cake that was easily large enough for the four of us to split (unless you wanted a really big piece all to yourself), but would probably be ideal for three. Although the kids wanted to give it a try, they didn’t want to order the cake because the servers bring it out with a sparkly thing on the top yelling “Volcano, volcano” so everyone stares and it’s quite the spectacle. I did ask our server to refrain from the chorus, but of course, she couldn’t promise anything and so guess what? Secretly, I think my kids were pleased anyway.

So, that about sums up our trip. Our total bill came to $40.39 for our appetizers and desert and since I used to be a waitress myself, I left a 20% tip since ours did a good job. Even though she sang the Volcano song, she did give us good service so I didn’t hold it against her. Our grand total then came to just under $50.

It was fun, certainly something different since you don’t find a Rainforest Café on every corner but probably not someplace that I would visit on a weekly or monthly basis. To me I’d consider it more of a ‘been there, done that’ type thing. However, if you’re ever in the area, I’d certainly suggest that you give it a try, even if it’s just for the appetizers or desert. It really is quite an experience and if you visit the Opry Mills location, the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World Store is pretty neat too!

So, if you stayed with me this long, let me ask you a question. Do you prefer the short non-descriptive post or something a bit more detailed when it comes to mentioning places we’ve been? I’d love to hear what you have to say so please share your thoughts below.

A Walk on the Wild Side

My husband is at a week-long training session this week in North Carolina. Originally, the kids and I thought we would tag along for some fun, but the company was paying for his way, not ours. Besides, the kids had just returned from Ohio so they weren't eager to embark on another long trek anytime soon. Instead we decided to drive to the big city of Nashville for a bit of fun.

Maybe you can guess what we did...

We saw fluttering butterflies on trees...

and slithering snakes hanging from the ceiling...

an indoor aquarium, a cascading waterfall, chest-beating gorillas,stampeding elephants...

...some yummy grub...under the night sky and an occassional raging thunder storm with flashes of lightening...

that ended with an erupting volcano!

Did you guess?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Can you spare a minute?

You've probably read my last post sharing my excitement about attending the Savvy Blogging Summit in July. In preparation for the summit I really want to prepare a media kit, which entails really knowing my readers. If you read this blog regularly or on occasion, would you please take a minute to answer these 10 simple multiple choice questions? I would really appreciate it! Just in case you're wondering, this is completely confidential, but of course if one of the questions offends you, simply don't answer it. Finally, thanks in advance for taking the time to fill this out.

Click here to take survey

Savvy Blogging Summit...Here I Come!

I'm excited. Really excited. Ecstatic, really. This past weekend I opened my email and discovered that I was one of 60 bloggers to be accepted to the first ever Savvy Blogging Summit that will be held in July in beautiful Breckenridge, Colorado! You should have heard my reaction. I guess it was something. Though I don't remember it being that bizarre, the kids say they held their breath for a few minutes because they were sure someone had died or that I was having another meltdown (last week was rough, what can I say?)before they realized that I was truly ecstatic!

Ecstatic because I have DREAMED of attending this conference since I first read about it in February. Ecstatic because even though I had applied, I really didn't think I had a chance of getting accepted. I'd decided that it was worth the $5 application fee just to receive a copy of the conference handbook. So, when I saw that e-mail that said 'Welcome to the Savvy Blogging Summit', I guess maybe, just maybe my reaction was a bit over-the-top!

Now I just need to figure out how I'm going to get there. So in the days ahead I will be posting a sponsorship package. If you have a business or an Etsy shop and feel your services or products would be a good fit for my blog, and are interested in helping this ecstatic blogger attend this intensive blogging summit, please make sure to check back.

Until then, I'm off to work on my package for potential sponsors...

Travel Tip: Rental Cars

Following the tradition of the past travel tips I've posted, I learned this by experience. When you are booking a rental car, check the price online and then call the local office. See which one will give you a better deal. I saved over $40 this week just by booking online instead of per phone! The representative I spoke with confirmed that generally you will obtain the best rate online, but not always. That's why it's worth it to check it out yourself.

I'm fairly new to renting cars. Do you have any tips?

Monday, April 12, 2010

One Incredible, Mouth Watering Pizza

Pizza is my favorite food. I think I could eat it everyday and never tire of it. Ever. But even then there are a few pizza's that stick out in my mind as particularly yummy. Not your typical run of the mill pizza, but something really tasty. Something special. One of those happens to be in my old neck of the woods, Mansfield, Ohio. For years I lived within an hour or closer to this establishment, and yet I can count on one hand how many times we actually ate one of these pizza's. The reason? As much as I LOVE pizza, my husband DESPISES it that much more. Well, maybe I'm not being fair. He'll stomach it once in awhile to appease his family because he's just really sweet like that, but every reason that makes me really, really love this pizza, everything that makes it especially delicious to me, makes it especially unappealing to him. Since I do not normally enjoy punishing my husband, on the occasions when we did have pizza, it was not from this incredible pizza place.

Of course, there were a few special occasions. Once, my husband took the boys to a father-son sleepover at our church and it was just my daughter and I. We watched chick flicks like The Prince and Me and ordered one of these special treats with pepperoni and cheese.

The second was when my husband and I celebrated a wedding anniversary. We'd purchased tickets for a special dinner theater, but I'd been deathly ill and was recovering from a spinal and a horrible headache. Since he really did think I was dying, he gave away our tickets and relented to ordering a pizza and spending a quiet night at home.

I know we ordered it once just because...and after we ate it at my parent's home, my husband realized that they had some especially yummy fried chicken that he was fond of.

Finally, after asking my husband if we could get it the last three times we traveled to Ohio, this time he agreed. So, just what is the reason I love this pizza... well... take a peek for yourself:

Okay, maybe you can't tell that this pizza is nearly an inch thick..but surely you can tell that it is loaded with toppings! In fact, the reason my daughter didn't eat this until she was five was because I was afraid she would choke on the cheese. Just ask her what the experience was like the first time she ate this pizza! Maybe this picture will show it a bit better:

I wanted to hold a ruler up to the slice, so you could really see what I was talking about but my husband put his foot down and said enough is enough. Of course, since we were eating at my mother-in-law's, I think I confirmed her suspicions that I really had lost know...taking pictures of my food and all.

Is your mouth watering yet? Well, if you're in North Eastern Ohio or just passing through, head on over to Deschner's Carry Out & Drive Thru in Mansfield, Ohio. This is one pizza you need to try!
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