Thursday, November 29, 2012

Zaharakos for the Holidays (video)

There are just some places that I struggle to really capture with the written word. (This does not bode well for my writing career, unfortunately.)

Zaharakos, the 1900 ice cream parlor and soda fountain here in Columbus, Indiana, where we call home, is that sort of place. I've written about Zaharakos here and for Visit Indiana, but I've never felt like I've done it justice. And during this season of good cheer, it's all decked out in its holiday finest, making it even harder to describe.

So this time around, I went with video and put this little ditty together for the Columbus Visitors Center, where I've been blogging regularly over the last few months. My video skills could use some work too, but at least its a new take on one of our favorite spots.

Yes, you saw that correctly, I do in fact feed my baby ice cream. These kids won't grow big and strong on fruits and veggies alone. In fact, a giant serving of their chocolate ice cream was the last thing I ate before having Little Arrow a year ago!

Here are a few other photos from our recent visit.

I think my favorite part of Zaharakos' atmosphere is the chairs. It makes me really nostalgic for the ice cream shop my family went to when I was a little girl. And I love that I'm giving the Arrows those same memories.

Mmmmm. Soda syrups!

Someday he'll love me enough to look at the camera and smile.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby and Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom?

Don't forget to check out my Passports with Purpose prize, an Ergobaby Carrier and Travel Pack!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Passports with Purpose: Win an Ergobaby Carrier

Like many travel bloggers around the world, I'm honored to once again be participating in Passports with Purpose. If you're unfamiliar with this annual event, it's a virtual fundraiser among travel bloggers and their readers. Bloggers procure prizes and our readers donate in order to win. Simple enough. This year, we're raising money to build two wells in Haiti. We're aiming for $100,000. You'll help us, won't you?

This year, I'm excited to be contributing a prize for the first time. And I could not be more in love with what I'll be giving away.

If I had to name one product that makes traveling with a baby or young toddler easier, more comfortable and more convenient, it would definitely be my Ergobaby carrier. I never take it out of my car so that I'm always ready for impromptu adventures, it joins us on every trip we take, and Little Arrow (who turns 1 this week!) has called it home for quite a bit of his life on the road thus far.

I'm basically a walking billboard for this thing. In fact, I'll be sharing a picture of my family using the Ergo each and every day of the Passports with Purpose fundraiser on my Facebook pageIt's just so versatile.

Use it hiking, like our trip to Clifty Falls State Park.

Or use it on the beach, which I did in Florida last winter.

It's essential for navigating big cities, and makes taking public transportation, like the light rail in Minneapolis, a breeze.

I didn't have an Ergo when I traveled with Big Arrow (now 3 1/2) when he was a baby. So I can tell you from firsthand experience just how comfortable this product is compared to other baby carriers. I'm somewhat petite, and yet I've managed to bring two pretty big baby boys into this world. I've literally worn Little Arrow in the Ergo for hours at a time, and I'm not the least bit sore or uncomfortable. It's really amazing.

More reasons to love the Ergo:
  • The Ergobaby carrier, along with the Ergobaby travel pack, make traveling and exploring with a baby or young toddler practically hands-free. And trust me, you need your hands for the hundreds of other tasks of parenting... taking pictures, wiping noses, fetching snacks, finding pacifiers...
  • It's machine washable. You really don't appreciate that feature until you need it.
  • You can take it through airport security. Who wants to wake a sleeping baby when flying? Because there's no metal components to this carrier, you'll walk right through without disturbing baby, other than a quick hand check.
  • The sun shade. Little Arrow spent hours on the beach or by the lake this summer. Mostly, he spent this time snoozing away in the Ergo, protected by the innovative sun shade.

So how do you win one? Easy. Head over to Passports with Purpose. There you'll see a listing of all the prizes that are being given away, including my prize (details below). For each $10 donation you make to this important cause, you'll receive one entry toward the prize of your choice.

The Details:
  • A black Ergobaby Performance Carrier (like the one shown here)
  • A black Ergobaby Travel Pack (like the one shown here)
    • I don't have one of these nifty travel packs, but I sure wish I did! It's essentially a diaper bag that connects right to your Ergobaby carrier.
  • Dollar value of approximately $220.
  • Prize can be shipped anywhere within the United States.
The Cause: This year, the team that organizes Passports with Purpose selected as the organization that will receive all the money raised. It's hard to imagine a more basic need (fresh water) in a more deserving place (Haiti). You don't need me to convince you why this is a cause worth supporting, but let me just say this:

Did you flush a toilet today? Or pour your kids a sippy cup full of clean water? Or take a shower? Did you stop to give thanks for these things?

Then do so by helping to ensure your fellow man can do the same.

Not interested in an Ergo but still want to contribute? There are FABULOUS prizes available. Please check them out and donate generously.

And before I end this, big kudos to the generous sponsors that elevate this fundraiser to astounding levels and make our $100,000 goal within reach. They are:

Disclosure: I received the Ergobaby carrier that I'm giving away by having a blog post I wrote selected for inclusion on the Ergobaby website. I chose to donate this prize to this campaign. All opinions about the carrier are entirely my own, and I received the one I use as a gift from family.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

AppleWorks in Trafalgar, Indiana

Like much of the country, we had some really bizarre weather this spring and summer. An oddly warm March, followed by an extremely dry summer. It caused all sorts of problems with many of the crops grown here. One of my favorite fall activities, the annual trek to the apple orchard, was affected as well.

The apple trees at AppleWorks in Trafalgar were hard hit, so picking apples wasn't an option (although they had plenty for sale). But for me, it just made a visit and a little financial support of their enterprise all the more important. So when a friend called me up and said they were heading that way, we jumped at the chance to spend a morning there.

They've got an awesome petting zoo. Two years ago, Big Arrow was particularly taken by the sheep. This year, it was the llamas.

Gotta get in for a closer look.

Award for most creative use of a barn? This slide!

Big Arrow was a little scared, but with encouragement from his buddies, he made it down. (And then, go figure, wanted to do it again and again and again.)

Next up was a miniature train ride through the orchard ($3 per person). A little bumpy but beautiful views of southern Indiana's rolling hillside. They also offer hay rides.

My favorite part of the AppleWorks experience is exploring the short trails that weave through the orchard, especially around their pond. (If you have a jogging stroller, bring it. You can easily navigate these paths with one.)

Beautiful photo opportunities. (We attempted to get all of us in a picture. Our only fail of the day.)

The sunlight coming through Little Arrow's ears makes me chuckle. The Arrows did NOT get their ears from me.

Tossing pebbles in the pond. Boys will be boys.

Do you think they missed the apples? Not a chance.

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

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Como Park Zoo

Earlier this week, I posted a video of the Arrows playing zoo. We had just returned home from our trip to Minneapolis, so I know their game of pretend was inspired by the morning we spent at the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul.

The grounds at this zoo are really gorgeous. I already shared this picture, which is one of my favorites (especially considering it's in the parking lot!) I also loved this shot of the zebras.

We didn't have time to explore the adjoining conservatory. But the building itself is impressive.

One of the reasons I love to visit zoos when we travel is that there is almost always a chance to see an animal you don't get to close to home. For instance, they had a great polar bear exhibit at the Como Park Zoo, and while the Indianapolis Zoo has a polar bear, he's rarely been active when we've been. Not so at Como Park!

The polar bear lair was one of Big Arrow's favorite parts of the Como Park Zoo. Kids get to crawl around a tunnel and explore as if they were polar bears themselves.

The giraffes are a favorite in our family. Probably because they're always eating (in other words, they'd fit right in with us).

Little Arrow was content to just enjoy the view.

A few tips if you head to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory:
  • Bring cash in small bills. This is a free zoo, but a donation is strongly encouraged as you enter. So you'll want to have a $5 or $10 bill handy.
  • Use a baby carrier or have an extra set of hands. Given the colder Minnesota climate, many of the animals are housed indoors, so you'll be in and out of buildings. Unfortunately, the doors were a little tricky to navigate with a stroller. So bring a friend to help you or use a baby carrier.
  • Don't worry about weather. It was a beautiful, sunny day when we were there, but if it had been gloomy, it would have been fine. Like I said, many of the animals are indoors. There's also a great area for kid activities just off the entrance if you need to escape the elements for a longer period of time. And you could always spend even more time exploring the indoor conservatory.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby, Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom, and Travel Tips Tuesday at Walking on Travels and Suitcases & Sippy Cups.

Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Help Kids Remember Travel

Occasionally I'll read articles by or about naysayers when it comes to family travel. One of their biggest arguments against traveling with young kids is that these children will never remember the experience, thus making it not worth the effort or the cost. I find this logic really faulty for a few reasons:
  • Remembering a trip isn't the point. I love traveling with young kids in part because it teaches them flexibility, patience, diversity, proper behavior on airplanes, in restaurants, how to sleep away from home, etc. They may not remember the specifics, but these lessons become ingrained in them at a young age via travel. And hopefully, we'll reap the rewards as they get a bit older. 
  • Important time together as a family. When my husband has time off and we decide to stay home, we inevitably get caught up in projects or chores around the house. When we travel, we simply spend time together away from those distractions, enjoying one another and our surroundings.

  • YOU will remember it. Someday the Arrows will grow up and leave our nest. I hope that in 20 years I'll be sitting on a beach with my husband, enjoying retirement, and reminiscing about watching our boys splashing in the water as babies.
  • My experience shows that young kids often DO remember trips!
With the exception of trips we took before he turned 2, Big Arrow (now 3 1/2) remembers and frequently talks about all of our vacations and many outings we take. Sometimes he'll comment on something that to me was completely insignificant, months and months after we return home, like what color train we took in Boston or that time we let him take his shoes off at a restaurant.

I'm sure he doesn't remember everything, and he may end up recalling very little by the time he's older, but seriously, who cares?

But if you DO care, here are a few ways we keep the memory of vacations and adventures alive in our boys:

1. Read books. This doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of money on a book about every destination (although they'd make great gifts or souvenirs). We check out books from the library, or we read general books that have an element related to where we're going or where we've been.

A few recommendations:
2. Play pretend. I'm always catching Big Arrow deep in an imaginary storyline with a plot that I can barely follow. Often his imagination takes him somewhere we've been before or recalls a particular event we went to. When I caught him "playing zoo" with Little Arrow a few weeks ago, I couldn't resist capturing it on video. He got a little silly when he realized I was filming, naturally. But bonus points for the creative use of a baby gate!

If your kids need a little encouragement when it comes to make-believe, you could think about where you've traveled lately. Perhaps a pretend trip to the museum or an imaginary airplane ride!

3. Pictures and video. Maybe it's just my kid, but Big Arrow is obsessed with seeing himself, whether it is in pictures or video. (In fact, he's asked to watch that zoo video about 30 times.) This is a great way to keep those memories fresh. You could even make small photo books for them to flip through after a big trip and display photos in their bedroom.

4. Just talk about it. Sometimes when we have time to kill (often in the car), I'll ask Big Arrow what he remembers about a vacation. Or what his favorite part was. Or what he didn't like. (This is often pretty funny, actually.)

I don't do these things with my kids because I'm desperate for them to remember our travels or because I'm super mom. Like I said, I don't really care. I see enough benefits to traveling when they're young to do it anyway. I just happen to love travel, so reading vacation books instead of another Elmo one or talking about our favorite museums while driving home from preschool is just fun for me (and hopefully them).

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walking on Travels.

*Affiliate links.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Children's Garden at Dow Gardens

What a rough week... 24 hour news coverage of total devastation on the East Coast, two sick kids at home, chilly weather. I just want to give everyone a big mug of hot chocolate (and running water and electricity for those without it). But all I've got is some pictures of a pretty place. So that'll have to do.

Earlier this week, I shared my tips for visiting Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan with kids. I mentioned carving out a lot of time for the Children's Garden. It is truly a magical, natural space of exploration for kids. Plus, there's a lot of hands-on fun beyond the beautiful scenery. Here are some of my favorite images of our time there. I hope it's a giant serving of happiness during an otherwise dreary week. May there be better times ahead, friends!

My favorite part of the garden was the watering station. An old-fashioned hand pump and plenty of watering cans for kids to take anywhere they want and water the plants in the garden. While much of the Children's Garden is geared toward the younger set, I even saw older kids getting into the act.

What is it about kids and bubbles? Always a hit.

I also really appreciated that the Children's Garden is just as beautiful and well-landscaped as the rest of the Gardens. You might even time your visit around an educational chat or storytime (shown above). Big Arrow wasn't really into it and wanted to explore instead. Can't say I blame him.

Afterall, there were elephant trees to see!

But the piece de resistance for Big Arrow was the giant sandbox. I shared this photo on Facebook of the epic fit he threw when it was time to leave.

In other words, pick your child's favorite outdoor pleasure and they've probably got it at the Children's Garden. Just brace yourself for a tantrum when the fun has to end.

Oh, and Little Arrow came too. And he doesn't throw fits... yet.

You can read more about our time in the Saginaw Bay area of Michigan here.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby and Friday Daydreamin' and R We There Yet Mom?