Thursday, January 31, 2013

Exploring Cambridge in the Snow

I'm finally back in the groove after our six-day trip to England just over a week ago. Spending so much time away from the kids was at times complete bliss and at other times a bit emotional. To keep us from missing them too much, and to harken back to our childless travel days, we kept busy and stayed on the move.

We didn't even let six inches of snow get in our way when we made plans to explore Cambridge, which was about a 45 minute drive from where we were based all week.

And while walking around might have been more pleasant had we packed our snow boots and without pellets of ice smacking us in the face, the photos I was able to capture of this already picturesque area were well worth it.

This is Christ's Pieces Park. We took a bus into the heart of the city, which I highly recommend doing even if you are getting around England by car like we were. This green space (or white, in our case) is just steps from the bus station (and makes it easy to find when you need to board your return bus).

The beauty of the winding River Cam was pretty stunning, especially with the snow-heavy willow trees bending over it. Had the weather been warmer, it would have been really fun to pack a picnic and spread a blanket at the area across the river, called The Backs.

Some visitors were brave enough (foolish?) to embark on a punting tour, something Cambridge is famous for. While I consider myself a fairly hardy Midwesterner, I watched the boats go by from the warmth of a cozy pub, sipping a British ale.

Before heading toward the campus itself, we admired the famous Mathematical Bridge. Although not actually designed by Sir Isaac Newton, a tale that was often told to gullible tourists, it does have a significant archetectural component to it. While it may appear to be an arch, it is made entirely of straight timbers.

Just looking at these pictures and remembering the day makes me want to brew a pot of tea and warm up. So I'll share our adventures walking around the Cambridge campus next week!

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Marshmallow Making at 240Sweet

One of the best parts about blogging for Visit Indiana over the last couple of years has been the opportunity to explore some lesser-known attractions and activities around the state. I'm always on the lookout for fun outing ideas, especially those that are a little off the beaten path. Wouldn't you know, I have found a great one just a few minutes from my house in Columbus.

Tucked away behind my favorite little grocer in town, Double Oak Farms, is where you'll find 240Sweet. And despite their non-descript location at the back of a parking lot, inside they're producing one of the world's best marshmallows (anything that gets both Oprah and Martha Stewart's approval certainly deserves a shot at that title).

One of the coolest things about 240Sweet is that while their marshmallows are delicious and quite unlike the bland bag of puffs you might be used to eating on your hot chocolate or around the campfire, they are very much willing to share their secrets. I got to take a marshmallow making class there a few weeks ago, and put together this video for Visit Indiana:

The video was just nominated for a Candi award. How fun!

Naturally, I had someone very willing to sample what I made in the class when I got home.

I'll be writing more about my class at 240Sweet for the Columbus Visitor's Center, so stay tuned!

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

Monday, January 14, 2013

Advice for Traveling Without the Kids

I'm tagging along on my husband's business trip to England this week. The last time we were in Europe together, we looked like this:

In other words, 5 years younger and without the stress of 2 kids!

But as I'm preparing to leave the Arrows for nearly a week, I'm relying on great advice from my fellow family travel bloggers. Here are some tips and stories they shared about traveling without the kids:
As for me, I've put together a medical release letter for both boys, which includes their health insurance and allergy information. I've also created a large document with general info on our day-to-day schedule, favorite foods and restaurants, fun and easy outing ideas, household info like trash day, and contact info for neighbors, friends and our pediatrician. The kitchen is stocked with favorite foods for the boys. We also cleaned the whole house over the weekend and did the boys' laundry right before we left. Hopefully this means there won't be much "housework" beyond the usual clean up after meals and toy clutter.

My husband has an international cell phone, so we'll be an easy and free phone call away. And we've practiced FaceTime with all the grandparents, so it will be nice to actually "see" the boys while we're gone, too.

With such fun grandparents, do you really think they'll miss us?

I'm really nervous about leaving the Arrows for this long. But I know they're in good hands, and I'm a firm believer in spending some time with your spouse away from the kids. So it's time to practice what I preach and get on that plane.

More on our adventures in England to come!

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

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Light Rail in Minneapolis

There are many things that make traveling with children difficult. Tantrums. Picky eaters. Nap schedules. Bulky strollers. And on and on. But one of the things I find that make taking on all those challenges so worth it is the joy kids find in the simplest things when they're traveling. Experiencing the commonplace, like taking the light rail around Minneapolis, through the eyes of your kids is pretty awesome.

First, you help your uncle buy tickets from the fancy machine. Lots and lots of buttons.

Then you wait. Watching him peer down the tracks and ask repeatedly, "Is it coming? Is it coming?" was beyond cute.

Then you board. And you get a little cranky when no one comes to take your ticket like you've seen on movies and tv shows. (Minnesotans: apparently, a very trusting people.)

Even your little brother seems to like the ride.

My husband and I took the light rail in Minneapolis several years ago when we were in the city for a wedding. To be honest, I barely remember it. But having now taken a little ride with my children, my eyes were once again opened to the wonder of simple travel experiences like this.

Even if you have a car to use while traveling, I encourage you to explore public transportation options with your kids when you travel. It just might be one of their favorite things, and it is relatively cheap. Here are a few other posts you might like:

More information on our trip to Minneapolis is here.

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

Monday, January 7, 2013

Big City Travel with Kids Tip: Visit the Library!

One of the challenges of visiting big cities with young kids is that you can't let them run wild on crowded city sidewalks. And if you've got a crawling baby, you definitely can't let them loose on dirty cement for a whole host of reasons.

But as any parent knows, young kids have a huge need to MOVE. The stroller or baby carrier will only suffice for so long. Never fear, traveling moms and dads. There are places to go, even in the confines of urban environments, where your kids will be welcome to wiggle to their heart's content.

I've written about city playgrounds and what a lifesaver they can be. But what to do in inclement weather or when a park can't be found?

The public library.

Minneapolis Central Library

We spent a morning wandering around downtown Minneapolis during our trip there this fall. Little Arrow snoozed through a lot of our walk, and Big Arrow happily rode in the stroller or walked for the most part. But as we were beginning to contemplate where to go for lunch, I had a hunch the boys needed some time to play.

As luck would have it, we walked right by the Minneapolis Central Library in downtown Minneapolis. We ducked in, found the children's area, and let the boys explore for about 20 minutes.

This environment was particularly advantageous for moms of babies. There was a nice, cushioned area perfect for crawlers. It was clean and safe for both boys to have some fun. Changing tables, water fountains to refill sippy cups or make a bottle, and countless age-appropriate toys added to the convenience.

And we adults got to sit and rest a bit while we watched them play. Win, win.

Oh, and visiting is FREE.

So in addition to identifying a few parks or playgrounds during your trip to the big city, go ahead and look up the address to the public library too.

*I claim no responsibility if your 3-year-old throws a fit because he can't check out the books, though. And don't ask me why I know that there's a possibility of that happening.

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

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Then and Now: 2013 edition

I love the way photos help us mark the passage of time, particularly when it comes to the growth of young kids. One of the things I hope to do now and then on this blog is show, in a visual way, how our adventures change as the Arrows grow older. I've done this before, but now that Little Arrow is in the mix, it's even more fun to look back.

In 2011, my husband captured this moment during our trek to the pumpkin patch at Nienabers Farm Market.

Fast forward a year during our return to Nienabers, sit on the same bench, and replace that big pregnant belly with an 11-month old. (We also got a new camera... huge difference!)

At the 2011 Indiana State Fair, Big Arrow couldn't get enough of Little Hands on the Farm, especially feeding the pig.

He was still pretty enamored with the pig in 2012 (and was also willing to wear the hat and apron they provide).

All while Little Arrow observed intently, quietly plotting his pig-feeding tactics for the 2013 fair.

During our 2011 trip to St. Petersburg, Florida, I relaxed on a beach chair at Fort De Soto Park and watched these two play in the water.

In 2012, I still watched these two play at Fort DeSoto.

I just did it from a beach blanket while nursing Little Arrow.

I can only imagine what 2013 will have in store for us and how quickly our lives and travels will change. Thankfully, I'll always have pictures to help me remember (particularly because the sleep deprivation and constant toddler chasing means I hardly recall what I ate for breakfast...)

Thanks for joining me on a little walk down memory lane!

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