Saturday, October 30, 2010

Favorite Posts of the Week: Keep an Open Mind

During dinner one night on our trip to Phoenix, we talked about a week-long boat trip in the Grand Canyon that my in-laws have all done. I immediately dismissed it as something I wouldn't like (hot temps, stuck in a boat for 7 days, less than desirable boat companions, etc.). Ironically, the last couple of weeks I have found some great posts about all the fun you can have when traveling if you keep an open mind. Message received.

Vegas and I: A "Like" Story from Globetrotting Mama
I felt the same way about Las Vegas before I visited, and like her, turns out I loved it.

Camping with Kids: The "Somewhat Roughing It" Version from The Q Family Adventures
I've always loved to camp, but I know many, many people who won't even consider it. This is a great post about one skeptical family's introduction to camping. And there's nothing wrong with "somewhat roughing it."

The One Where the Average Girl Attends the Greatest Spectacle in Racing from Moosh in Indy
I'm not a beer-guzzling car nut. But I go to the Indy 500 as often as I can. That might sound crazy, but read this post. It captures all the reasons why I love spending the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in a much more beautiful and articulate way than I could ever express.

This post is a part of Saturday Stumbles at It's Come 2 This.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Indiana Dunes State Park

This week I've been reading a lot of blog posts about Proposition 21 in California, an effort to prevent state parks from closing. I'm not a California resident and I only recently became aware of this issue, so I'm far from being an expert. But any mention of closing state parks saddens me, especially in one of our country's most beautiful states. We've never taken the arrow to California but I hope we make it there someday. And when we get there, I'd sure like the state parks to be open.

In honor of the efforts to pass Proposition 21, I thought I'd share a photo from a recent trip my family made to Indiana Dunes State Park. To me, this place encompasses why national and state parks are so important. Not only has Indiana Dunes allowed one of the Midwest's most beautiful spots to be accessible to all who want to visit, but it has preserved this area in a way that ensures its fragile ecosystem will thrive.

On top of a dune, overlooking Lake Michigan

The fences in the picture above allow people the chance to hike up the massive dunes, while protecting most of the native grasses that grow all over the dunes and prevent their erosion.

Playing in the sand, Hoosier style.
This post is a part of Spotlight Thursday at Trekaroo and Photo Friday at Delicious Baby. Both blogs are calling attention to Proposition 21 this week.

Trip Report: Phoenix

Last week, we packed up the arrow, headed up into the friendly skies, and touched down in the desert for a family trip to Phoenix.  I'll be sharing some more details on our trip and lessons we learned in the next couple of weeks, but as with every trip, I wanted to provide an overall look at our three days there.

Clinging to dad at the splash pool
We flew out of Indianapolis at 6 a.m., which required waking up the arrow at 4 a.m. Yikes!  But he did doze off on the plane for about an hour, which was great. We landed in Phoenix at 6:30 a.m. local time, so we still had a full day ahead, and yet a very tired little guy. We spent that day getting settled into my in-law's time share at the Marriott's Canyon Villas. After the arrow took a nice long nap, we hit the children's splash pool. He was too afraid of all the cascading water and splashing (have I mentioned he's a bit of a scaredy cat?), so we soon retreated to the regular pool. That night, we enjoyed dinner at BJ's Brewhouse.

Taking in the Desert Botanical Garden
On Friday, the arrow was up VERY early, which meant he needed two naps to survive the day. Between his naps, we spent a couple of hours at the Desert Botanical Garden to explore all the plant life and desert scenery. That evening, we swam, hot tubbed, and grilled out with extended family who live in the Phoenix area.

We woke up on Saturday morning to sunny skies and warmer temperatures, so while I had other things on my to-see list, we just couldn't resist spending the day splashing around the pool.  We left the water to play at the resort's playground and for dinner that evening at Ristorante Tuscany, but otherwise, it was all about capturing as much of the sun's rays. (Because if you've spent a winter in Indiana, you know you need to stockpile the sunlight to combat the months of gray that lie ahead.)

On Sunday, our adventure came to an end and we headed home. It wasn't our most action-packed trip, but it scored very high on the relaxation and family bonding meter, which was what we wanted.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fly me away

Checking out the "pay-ays" (arrow-speak for planes) with Dad
We just got back from Phoenix, and I'm looking forward to sharing all about our trip over the next few weeks. But I'm still digging through laundry, email inboxes and all the other trappings of home life that await everyone upon return from vacation.

One thing I'm very excited to share is that the arrow was a pretty good airplane passenger.  I wouldn't rate him a perfect 10, but at a wiggly 18 months of age, I was shocked at how well he did.  He even managed to doze off on both flights (and if you know the arrow, you know that he's a bit of a high maintenance sleeper and typically requires a dark room, comfy crib, and lullaby music--none of which you'll find on a plane). I'm sure I'll do a post or two on some tips and tricks we learned along the way.

One of the reasons I love participating in Mondays are for Dreaming at The Mother of All Trips is that I spend some time each weekend daydreaming about adventures we've had or what's ahead.  And now that I know flying isn't the parenting nightmare that I thought it would be, today I'm dreaming of far off destinations in the future for my little family. 

PS: The photo above was taken at the Indianapolis International Airport. If you haven't had the pleasure of flying into this relatively new terminal, you might be interested in reading more about its public art, which I wrote about at the Indiana Insider last week.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Orange you glad it's fall!

We've been having so much fun enjoying the fall season around here. I blogged about Nienaber's Farm Market over at the Indiana Insider. It was a great stop to pick out pumpkins and other delicious fall treats. (We're stilling making our way through a jar of their delicious pumpkin butter, and when it runs out, I'll be back for more.) There are several larger pumpkin patches near us, but at the arrow's age (18 months), sometimes I find we have more fun in an environment that's not so overwhelming.  And hey, a pumpkin's a pumpkin.

In year's past, I've looked out at a yard covered in leaves and sighed knowing it would require lots of raking and the impending winter, but now I see those leaves through the arrow's eyes. And its nothing but F-U-N to him! He loved romping around them, and most especially, tackling daddy. (Dad was, afterall, trying to rake them up.)

This week's inspiration at I Should Be Folding Laundry's You Capture is orange. And as you can see, we've been surrounded by that most wonderful fall color lately!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Don't forget: Enter to win a Yo Gabba Gabba CD

A few of the arrow's buddies from Yo Gabba Gabba.
The arrow and I had a blast at the Yo Gabba Gabba live show a few weeks ago.  It was fun to see my little guy in a completely new setting.  We danced, we sang along, we clapped and delighted in everything together.  A special night with lots of memories.

Misleading photo. He spent the entire show on my lap.
Not that I'm complaining, it meant lots of snuggling with mom!

I also thought I'd share this somewhat funny, somewhat disturbing story from Mom 101, who also attended a live show recently.

If you can't get enough Yo Gabba Gabba, check out this interesting interview with the show's creators. They claim they aren't on drugs. I'm still not convinced.

Mostly, this is just an excuse to remind all of you to leave a comment (or two, three or four) at this post to enter to win a Yo Gabba Gabba CD. I'll be randomly selecting a winner on October 31, meaning you'll get the CD just in time to entertain your kids on a long car ride to grandma's for Thanksgiving.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Before there was the arrow, there was... us.

Today is my 7th wedding anniversary, and my husband and I have naturally spent the weekend reflecting on highs and lows throughout the past seven years (and truthfully, the seven years before that... we're high school sweethearts, so our memories include things like, dare I say it... prom).
So many of our highs revolve around our travels together (first as a couple, then as a family). A few highlights?
  • an amazing meal on the Piazza Navona in Rome during college
  • wine tasting along the Rhine in Germany
  • admiring artistic masterpieces in Paris
  • long walks in Killarney when I visited him while he spent a semester in Ireland
  • horseback riding in Jamaica on our honeymoon
  • watching my sister get married on Cumberland Island, Georgia
  • admiring the New York City skyline from the Statue of Liberty
  • sitting under the stars while camping in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
  • discovering amazing towns like Ribadeo during our three weeks in Spain
  • learning we were pregnant with the arrow in Boston
  • snuggling with the arrow in South Haven, Michigan
  • reaching new heights with the arrow in Red River Gorge, Kentucky
  • splashing in the waves of Lake Michigan at Warren Dunes State Park
Wow, I'm one lucky girl.  That's what I'm dreaming of today.  Here's to many more (years of marriage and wonderful travel memories)!

This post is a part of Mondays are for Dreaming at The Mother of All Trips.

Photo courtesy of Photography by Leslie Ann.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Backyard Adventure: Indy's Canal Walk

One of my favorite spots in downtown Indianapolis (we used to live there and we visit frequently) is the Canal Walk. This is a man-made creation (a failed attempt many years ago to make the city a port).  It meanders through the west end of downtown, slightly below street level (much like the River Walk in San Antonio).  As the name suggests, the Canal is a great spot to take a walk.  While the south end of the canal has tons of attractions, like the Indiana State Museum, the NCAA Hall of Champions, and White River State Park, the north end has lots of open spaces, fountains, views of the skyline, etc.

Don't be disgusted by the water in this shot.  It was dyed pink a few days earlier for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

When we lived in Indianapolis, I often took the arrow for a walk here.  It was one of my favorite early outings with him--he was so tiny and snuggly then, and usually slept right through it.  To really come full circle, when my water broke my OB encouraged me to go for a walk before coming to the hospital to try to spur contractions.  We went to the canal because its only a few blocks from the hospital, naively thinking the arrow might pop out at any moment.  (By the way, the walk didn't work... the arrow was born THREE days later. Oof.) Needless to say, its a special spot with lots of memories for our little family.

If you want to know more about our morning along the Canal, check out my post at the Indiana Insider.

PS: If you've always dreamed of a gondola ride in Venice, Indy scored a few of those special boats and you can live out your dream in the Circle City. They'll even serenade you.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

Camping with a toddler must-haves

I continue to reflect on our time camping up in Michigan a few weeks ago.  I posted a full trip report here, as well as some advice on camping with a toddler here. I'm by no means an expert (this being our first camping trip and all), but with each trip we take as a family, I learn more and more.

There were some products that we found really useful during our trip that I wanted to share.

  • Ella's Kitchen Organic Baby Food      Ella's Kitchen Organic Baby Food Carrots, Apples and Parsnips (4+months), 3.5-Ounce Pouches (Pack of 7)
The arrow is way too old for baby food these days, but he is crazy about these squeezable pouches.  At home, I use them as a treat at restaurants, but they were particularly helpful when camping because they were easy, didn't need to be refridgerated, and didn't create dirty dishes.  Plus, it was a good way to ensure he still got some veggies in each day even though our eating habits were a little "off."

  • Fisher-Price Portable Booster Seat    Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat - Blue/Green/Gray
I love this booster seat.  We used it all summer long on our back patio so that we didn't have to keep dragging our high chair outside.  I almost didn't bring it on the trip to save on space.  But I'm so glad we brought it.  It was nice to have a place to contain him so we could do other little chores around the camp site.

  • Waterproof picnic blanket   Fleece Blanket with Water Repellent Backing 5 Feet x 4.1 Feet
We picked up a blanket this spring that had a waterproof side to it, and that folded and zipped up.  It wasn't the same as the one pictured above, but same concept.  It was awesome when we were camping.  Perfect for the beach, around our site, and we used it like a tarp to cover a few things in the evening.  Very versatile.

  • "Pat" books Pat the Bunny Classic Boxed Gift Set   Pat the Puppy (Pat the Bunny) (Touch-and-Feel)
The arrow got these books as a gift and I remember flipping through them while pregnant and thinking they had this cute, retro look to them.  And then they sat on his bookshelf.  When I was packing up for our trip, I threw them in the toy bag because they were small.  He LOVED them and they occupied much of his time around the camp site and on the train to Chicago.  I'll definitely be packing them for our upcoming flight.

Any products you recommend for camping with young kids?  Please share!

This post is a part of Things I Love Thursday at Diaper Diaries.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sometimes the world comes to you

Entrance on Washington St.
This weekend, we discovered a real gem in our town.  I had been reading about Columbus, Indiana's "Ethnic Expo" in our local paper for the last week or so, and decided it was a good excuse not to cook.  I didn't have very high expectations.  This is the middle of southern Indiana afterall.  I figured there would be a little stage, a few vendors, and maybe a handful of visitors.
Pot stickers

Was I ever wrong.  As we headed in, we joined masses of people, wandering from booth to booth, which lined about five city blocks.  There was cuisine from nearly every continent, and it took us 45 minutes just to choose where to begin sampling. The pot stickers from Vietnam were heavenly, as was the kabob from the Philippines. My husband really enjoyed having roti for the first time from the Trinidad tent, and I happily devoured my gyro from Greece. And we couldn't turn down a tamale from the Mexico booth, as the servers' enthusiastic dancing and vibrant costumes beckoned us.

We were nearing the point of combustion, so we decided to check out the live music.  We spread out on the big green lawn in front of City Hall and listened to Indian music.  It was fun to watch kids of every color dance and run around together. The arrow liked the view from Dad's shoulders. We'll be putting this on our calendar each year, I'm certain. What a fun way to learn about new cultures and introduce our son to a little bit of what the world has to offer (without the red-eye flights and jet lag...)

This post is a part of Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust and Lipstick.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A change will do you good

Next week, we're off on one of our biggest adventures to date.  We're taking the arrow on a plane, and we're finally leaving the midwest with him. We're looking forward to warm temps, sunny skies, mornings by the pool, and who knows what else.  We also get to spend lots of time with my husband's family, as we're all vacationing together (also a first!)  Phoenix, here we come!

I've been to Phoenix before, but it was before I had the arrow.  I've stumbled upon a few great resources for family travel to Phoenix that I wanted to share. Have any you'd like to add?  I'm looking forward to adding my own two cents upon our return in a couple of weeks.

Phoenix/Scottsdale City Guide at Delicious Baby

Where We've Been: Arizona at The Mother of All Trips

Phoenix: 5 Family Favorites at Travel Savvy Mom

Fun for Kids in Phoenix at Trip Advisor

A funny story about Phoenix?  I literally walked straight into a cactus at the Desert Botanical Garden.  If you've ever wondered what that feels like, I can assure you it hurts. However, my travelmates thought it was so funny and offered me no sympathy whatsoever, even when I started to swell.  (I'm looking at you, Mom and Sister.) 

This post is a part of Mondays are for Dreaming at The Mother of All Trips.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fearless Friday at Rookie Moms

Today a little something I wrote is on the Rookie Mom's blog.  It's a part of their Fearless Friday series running this fall.  I love this site and all the great ideas it has to make being a new mom less scary and more fun.  I was honored to be chosen to share my story.  Thanks also to method for sponsoring this series.

If you're visiting Arrows Sent Forth from Rookie Moms, welcome!  Make yourself at home.  I blog about adventures our family takes, including longer trips, day trips, or just little outings.  Or sometimes I just write about whatever I want.  :)  If you like what you see, please consider subscribing and/or following me on Twitter.  Or just check in here once in a while.  We're always up to something!

Chicago's Millennium Park

When Big Arrow first started walking, he was quite the little explorer.  Since then, we've had lots of fun keeping up with him and helping him see more of the world.  A highlight of our camping trip along Lake Michigan was spending a morning in Chicago's Millennium Park

My favorite feature of the park was the Cloud Gate sculpture (or what everyone calls "The Bean.")  If you like taking pictures, you'll love all the interesting shapes and reflections you can capture. 

Insider Tip: If you visit early on a weekday morning, it will be far less crowded and great for photos! At 9 a.m., it was just us and a few joggers.

The Big Arrow's favorite was the Crown Fountain.  He loved splashing around in the water (even though it was about 60 degrees and windy... kids...) 

Insider Tip: If you visit with kids, I highly recommend bringing a change of clothes for them. We learned this the hard way, and Big Arrow spent the 2-hour train ride home with a wet bottom.

I love an oasis of nature in the midst of an urban environment.  It gives kids the freedom to run around and be themselves (especially toddlers who love a little bit of freedom), all while the vibrancy of tall buildings and city life surround you.  On your next trip to the Windy City, carve some time out for a stop at Millenium Park.

More photos of the Cloud Gate sculpture here, and more photos of Millennium Park here.

If You Visit:
Millennium Park
201 E. Randolph Street
Open each day from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Free admission.
There are parking garages, but the park is served by many El lines, buses, and even has a train station beneath it.

Insider Tip: In 2012, from July 2 to September 2, each day between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., a family fun fest is held in the park.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Breakfast at the Blue Plate

In my trip report on our recent vacation to Warren Dunes State Park, I briefly mentioned our delicious breakfast at Blue Plate Cafe (located in Union Pier, Michigan).  We had driven by this cozy spot the day prior, and I announced to the family, "That's where we're having breakfast tomorrow."  The next morning, we woke up to 40 degree temps that we were not prepared for, and so we were all happy to pile into the car (with heat) and head to the Blue Plate to warm ourselves with a hot breakfast.

Half-consumed Popeye's Pit Stop
The Blue Plate did that and more.  The menu is inventive, yet you'll find most of your favorite breakfast comfort foods.  They are particularly adept at baking, and they bring out a little sampler plate while you wait for your meal.  It reminded me of tapas in Spain. (By the way, why don't ALL restaurants do this?  Especially when dining with kids... the arrow loved a little treat while he waited.  And we loved what they served so much we bought pastries on our way out.  Win, win for everyone!)

When our meal arrived, we devoured it.  In fact, I forgot to take a picture of my beautiful Popeye's Pit Stop (a spinach, mushroom and cheese scramble) until I was already halfway through it.  (My husband thinks its gross that I'm posting pictures of food with my dirty fork in it.  Please forgive me.  But it was just that good.)

The arrow's Tuty Fruit Hot Cereal
I wanted to give the Blue Plate's kid's menu a standing ovation.  I hate seeing a kid's menus with nothing but chicken fingers, pizza and fries (I don't mind any of those things, per se, I just think we need more choices!)  The Blue Plate Cafe offers healthy yet kid-approved options.  The arrow couldn't finish his "Tuty Fruit Hot Cereal," so his dad and I got to savor it later in the day while he napped.  Yum.

Next time we're in the area, I want to try their lunch menu, order a smoothie, and buy more treats from the bakery!

This post is a part of Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust & Lipstick.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My First Giveaway! Win a Yo Gabba Gabba CD

Over at the Indiana Insider, where I've been guest blogging from time to time, I outlined what I consider to be the perfect, kid-friendly evening along Mass Ave, a great cultural district in the heart of downtown Indy.  We lived just a few blocks away for 7 years, including the arrow's first 9 months of life, so it holds a special place in my heart as the home to many of our first outings with a baby.

Next week, the arrow and I are heading to Mass Ave to see a live performance of Yo Gabba Gabba at the Murat Theatre at Old National Centre.  I'm grateful to the folks at Bohlsen PR for providing these tickets to me.  I'm a middle-of-the-road parent when it comes to letting my son watch TV.  I would never plop him in front of the set for hours on end, but I do think it has its place.  I know for us, an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba or Sesame Street has been a lifesaver when the arrow has been sick, didn't nap well, or when I needed to take a really important phone call.

A live show is going to make for such a fun outing, and I can't wait for these characters to come to life for the arrow.  I'm looking forward to sharing our experience with all of you.  If you're in the Indy area and want to join us, tickets are available via many major ticket outlets.  The show is scheduled for 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on October 13.

Regardless, I want to let all of you in on the fun, too.  So I'm hosting my first giveaway--if you can't make it to a Yo Gabba Gabba show near you, then listening to the music is the next best thing, right?  Bohlsen was kind enough to supply me with the Yo Gabba Gabba Music is Awesome Volume 2 CD .

Here are the rules:
On October 31, I will randomly draw one lucky winner.  I will do my best to contact that winner (so make sure you provide some contact info!)  You will have one week to respond to me, and if I don't hear from you, then I will move on to another.  So on and so forth.

There are four ways to win:

• Please leave me a comment telling me your favorite kid-friendly outing.
Subscribe to my blog feed and leave a comment here to tell me you've done so.

• Follow me on Twitter at @arrowssentforth and leave a comment here to tell me you've done so.

• Please share a link to this giveaway through a social media outlet of your choice, and leave me a comment here to tell me you've done so.

Can't wait to see who will be getting their dancey dance on to these spirited tunes!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Going places strollers never will.

Stephanie over at Adventures in Babywearing is calling attention to recent efforts to ban nearly all baby carriers, slings, etc.  I'm all about keeping our little ones safe, but I also firmly believe in babywearing when done correctly.  Not only has it been super cuddly and comforting to our little arrow at nearly every age, but it has allowed us to do so much more as a family.

So to support Stephanie's declaration of International Babywearing Month, here are a few of my favorite photos of the arrow in various babywearing products.

Love those babywearing daddies too!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Favorite Posts of the Week: Making Travel Fun

I've been too busy the last few Saturdays to share my favorite posts, but I'm finally catching back up.  I stumbled upon some really fun travel tips this week.

Our Vacation with a Stuffed Chipmunk Named Chip at 4tunate
I have loved this blog forever and ever.  Jen is a great mom to 4 boys--quads!  She and her hubby just took a parents-only trip and brought along one of the boys' prized possessions.  Too cute, and such a great idea.  (If you need another reason to visit 4tunate... Jen is a fellow Butler grad.  Oh yeah, THAT Butler.)

Travel Tip of the Day at Fodor's
Fodor's recommends finding fun places to stop along the way when traveling with kids.  We love that idea, and have incorporated some very fun stops on our drives around the Midwest, including Notre Dame, Fair Oaks Farms, the Louisville Zoo and the Indianapolis Zoo.  Getting there really can be half the fun.

And, finally, just because I like pictures of little baby bottoms, this post:

What a VIEW! at Traveler's Barista

This post is a part of Saturday Stumbles at It's Come 2 This.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hi Sheep! XOXO, The Arrow

One of the reasons I love Midwest living is the glorious seasons we experience, and fall is one of the best here in Indiana. This week, my mom's club traveled to Trafalgar, Indiana to tour the beautiful Apple Works Orchard there.  I blogged about our visit over at the Indiana Insider.  The arrow loved romping around the apple trees, and my only challenge was keeping the dirty apples out of his mouth.

He also loved the petting zoo.  I mean, reeeeeeally loved the petting zoo.  You can't tell from this shot, but he did in fact make lip to lip contact with that sheep.  His first kiss?  Not exactly the way I pictured it.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.