Country Living...Island Dreaming

April 29, 2014

Family Trip - Baltimore Inner Harbor

Our Spring Break was cut short this year due to all the snow days we had to make up from this horrendous winter.  So, with the time we had off, we decided a road trip would be a perfect getaway!

 On the Wednesday before Easter,
we headed south about  3 1/2 hours to Baltimore, Maryland.

We arrived in time to drop our luggage at the hotel
and walk a few blocks down to Camden Yards.  
This was the first time the kids attended a professional baseball game!

Let me tell you, there is no way we could have scored these awesome seats at Yankee Stadium!  We were right behind the dugout and only paid $49.00 - unheard of where we live!  It was a little chilly that day but thankfully our seats were in full sun.  I must say, I was a little stressed about foul balls hitting us in the head.  Luckily we all survived!

Afterwards we walked back to our hotel.
It was so convenient to have everything within walking distance.
And our room at the Sheraton had a wonderful harbor view!

We spent the latter part of the afternoon strolling around the harbor.

We would have loved to paddle around in these dragon boats but it was a little chilly and getting late.  We had just enough time to tour one of the historic ships before it closed for the day.

We chose the USS Constellation which is the last all-sail warship built by the US Navy.

The boys were fascinated by every inch of the ship.

And were surprised at how small even the captain's quarters were!

And needless to say, the canons were a bit hit.

That night we had dinner reservations with our friends from New Jersey who also happened to be in Baltimore at the same time.  We joined them at Morton's Steak House which was located at the bottom floor of our hotel ...very convenient for our exhausted family!

The next morning around 10:00 a.m., we headed to the National Aquarium forgetting that Easter week might be extra busy.  When we arrived there was already a wait so we were given an entry time of 10:45.  With the free time we toured the ship next to the aquarium, the Lightship 116 Chesapeake.  
The boys got a lesson in navigation
and learned about the importance of lighthouses.
They also loved climbing around the deck of the ship.

Then we spent a few hours exploring the very crowded aquarium.
The kids loved it though!
I think the sharks were their favorites.

We walked to the other side of the harbor for a late lunch
at the Rusty Scupper.
I felt like we were dressed a little too casual because most of the clientele were business people and lunching ladies.  Probably the more touristy restaurants near the aquarium and other attractions would have been more appropriate but, oh well!  The food was great and the views were gorgeous!

Then we took a taxi to the Baltimore Railroad Museum.
Now with boys, I get dragged to railroad attractions all the time
but I must say, this one was really impressive!

Many of the old trains were kept in a huge roundhouse.

The extensive collection included historic trains from a variety of periods.

Along with a couple areas dedicated to model trains.

The boys explored every inch of the place.

That night we walked just a block down to the Kona Grill.
I read on that the restaurant was loud and kid friendly
so I thought it would be the perfect place to dine!

Normally, we have a "no screen rule" at dinner
but we allowed the "screens" that the restaurant provided!
Remember these?!!
Such a cute idea.
Oh - and the food was excellent there too!

After the huge line at the aquarium the day before, we made it a point to get to the Maryland Science Center early enough the next morning.  We waited a few minutes in line when it opened at 10:00 a.m. but it's a good thing we got there when we did!  The line behind us stretched out the door!
This picture was taken when we were leaving a few hours later.
As you can see, the line was still very long!

Inside, the kids occupied themselves for hours.
The bed of nails was a huge hit!

And all the interactive exhibits kept them busy.
They absolutely loved the place and said it was their favorite part of the trip!

We drove home Friday afternoon but plan to go back again someday!
Baltimore was a wonderful place to spend a few days with family.

A few things we didn't see but would be great for kids:
Fort McHenry National Monument - the fort that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem.
The rest of the Historic Ships since we only toured 2 of them.
Baltimore Water Taxi - my kids really wanted a ride in the water taxi but it never worked out for us time-wise.
Ripley's Believe it or Not - The kids had this on their list and it's located right near the ships but we never made it there.

You can also click over to TripAdvisor for more ideas.  I use that excellent site all the time when planning a vacation.

Have you been to Baltimore Inner Harbor?
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April 24, 2014

Throwback Thursday - 15 years

It's official!
We have lived in our house for 15 years now!

Can you believe it?  That sounds like forever to me!

I thought it would be fun to show you a few before and after photos.
And when I say "before" I really mean "before"!

Starting with - before there was even a house!
 How surreal it was when the builders broke ground!

Before we had a kitchen...

Yes, I took a picture of the kitchen windows because even then I insisted they were too high.  And 15 years later I am still complaining about them!

Yeah, there they are still too high.
Mark my word, that will change soon!

 Here I am inside our future fireplace in the family room.

And here is a current view from the kitchen into the family room.
The fireplace is only for Santa now.

 The front hall looked a bit different then.

I think I like it better now.

And here we are looking from the living room into the conservatory.

Here is the current view.

I hope you enjoyed this little flashback!
We sure have come a long way in 15 years...
but we are not finished yet!

Because seriously...
Is a house ever really done?

April 22, 2014

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day everyone!

On this Earth Day, I thought I would share some pictures
I took a few years ago in beautiful Woodstock, VT.  
Woodstock Vermont
Not only is Vermont one of my favorite places to visit but I have always been impressed with the state's commitment to the environment.  Vermont is known for being one of the healthiest states and now they are on their way to becoming the first state to pass mandatory GMO Labeling Laws!  You can read more about that here - Huffington Post - Mandatory GMO Labeling Bill Passed In Vermont Senate, Could Be Nation's First.  If you read my blog, you know that I try to avoid eating GMO foods as much as possible so I am thrilled that they are paving the way for other states.

Billings Farm and Museum
These photos were taken when we visited a working dairy farm -Billings Farm and Museum.  We toured the grounds, witnessed an afternoon milking session and learned about the farm's sustainability practices.  The day was educational for the kids and for us!

Vermont Vacation
If you are ever in the Woodstock, VT area, you should make it a priority to stop by Billings Farm for a lesson in Vermont history and culture.  After visiting, you will feel like you experienced the "true" Vermont!

Click on any of the links below to see more Vermont posts.

Vermont Ski Weekend
Vermont Vacation
Quintessential New England Town
Weekend in Vermont

Later today, the boys and I are heading to an Earth Day event at their school.  

April 21, 2014

A New Floor Lamp

Most of the time, my boys do their homework in their bedrooms.

And even though my 10 year old has his own desk, lately he likes to work on his bed.  He says he can spread his papers out when he sits there.  I figure, as long as he is getting the work done, he can sit wherever he wants!

Benjamin Moore Paint
Since the bed area can be a little dark at night, I recently purchased a new floor lamp to bring some much needed light to the space.

Julian Apothecary Floor Lamp
This is the Ballard Designs - Julian Apothecary Floor Lamp.  It recently went on sale and I knew it was exactly what I wanted for his room.

Ballard Designs Floor Lamp
The lamp was easy to put together and works well in this corner.  My son was thrilled with how much brighter his "work space" has become!

Boys Blue and Gray Bedroom
But as you can see, he still has his poster hanging over to the left.  I guess that thing is here to stay.  You can read about why I decided to let him "help" decorate his room here - Why I Allowed My Son to Hang a Poster.  Now that I look at these photos, I am thinking about replacing the other lamp with something a little taller.  Maybe by the time he leaves for college I will get this room finished!

If you have kids, 
where do they work on their homework?

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April 15, 2014

End Table Upgrade

The other day I picked up this table at HomeGoods.
It was the right size to replace my old family room end table
AND it was only $99.00!  How could I pass that up?!!

The new table replaces this sad little drop leaf oak table below.  The oak table has definitely seen better days.  It's old, worn, faded and we no longer bother using coasters on top.

Not only is it ugly and old, but it's also broken.  You see, the table has a drawer that you can't see in the above picture.  A few years ago the drawer fell apart so we flipped the table around so the back faced out.  I planned to buy a new table right away but never made it a priority.  So there it stood, looking hideous with a big open hole in the back collecting dust!

One scary, dusty mess!

So for $99.00, I didn't even hesitate
 when I saw the cute little Broyhill table at HomeGoods!

One simple change can make a huge difference, 
don't you think?

 Old End Table:

 New End Table:

Now my husband just has be careful when he is snacking in there!
(Ironically, only the kids obey the "no snacking in the family room" rule!)

Have you held onto any furniture way too long?

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April 12, 2014

Why I Allowed My Son to Hang a Poster

This was not my plan for my 10 year old son's room...
I envisioned a beautiful gallery wall for this spot.

But my 10 year old decided to take charge with the room decor...

Please note that this post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something from my links below, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thanks for your support!

Although I must say, he proudly informed me that he was "very careful to hang it up straight"...with thumbtacks.  As you can see, he also keeps his K'Nex Roller Coaster right below the poster.

Wouldn't the playroom be a better place for this monstrosity?  Well, when the 10 year old built it himself and wants to keep his brother away from it (and show it off to his friends), his bedroom is only place to keep it!

When he then decided to rearrange the shelf above his desk by displaying Lego projects along with all of his trophies, I decided - well it's his room!  I guess he should be able to express himself!

He is getting to that age where he definitely wants to make decisions about his things.  Even when we redecorated his room almost 2 years ago - (My Son's Room - Before and After) he was already involved with many of the decisions I made.

While looking at the poster tacked to the wall and the collection of treasures scattered around,  I recalled a book I read a few years ago - The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.  If you haven't read the book, you really should!  Actually, you must!  It was one of the most inspiring books I have ever read and reminded me of what is important in life.  Randy Pausch was diagnosed with terminal cancer and in his lecture he emphasizes the importance of overcoming obstacles in life and seizing every moment.  In fact, I just dug the book out of my nightstand (where I store books that mean something to me) and I plan to read it over again.

"Anyone out there who is a parent, if your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let them do it." - Randy Pausch

A version of the above quote has always stuck in my head.  Although my kids were little when I read the book, I remember thinking that some day I will have to let them express themselves in their rooms.  Pausch's parents did an incredible job of encouraging his creativity.  I want to be that type of parent.

"I really do see myself as a guy who had this incredible leg up in life because I had a mother and a father who got so many things right," - Randy Pausch

I want my kids to tell inspiring stories about me someday.  I want to my kids to remember their childhood as being "magical" like Pausch did.  What an incredible gift that would be!

Of course I will not be allowing my boys to paint pictures or draw a quadratic formula on the wall like Pausch had!...

But a poster, yeah I can deal with that!

Do your kids "help" decorate their rooms?
Have you read The Last Lecture?

I'd love for you to follow along so you don't miss a post!

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