Thursday, June 28, 2012

Artsy Travel Memories

Just like I can never pass up a photo opportunity with a beautiful flower, there's rarely a piece of public art that I walk by on our travels that I don't snap a picture of. Perhaps I just appreciate their stillness, when I'm usually trying to grab a shot of a running 3-year-old or a baby who refuses to look at the camera and smile.

But I think these beautiful sculptures, statues and landmarks are worthy of their photo moment. Here are a few of my favorites.

Found outside the Field Museum on the grounds of the Museum Campus in Chicago:

In downtown St. Petersburg, Florida:

Outside the University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor, Michigan:

I only wish I knew more about these pieces. But did I mention the 3-year-old and the baby? Doesn't leave much time for delving into the finer points of art history as we walk around.

Speaking of not having much time, we're off for a week on the lake in Michigan next week (the first of two trips this month to our neighbor state to the north!) I won't be blogging until we get back, but I'll try to update Facebook and Twitter with tales of our adventure there, so be sure you're following.

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

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Day in Bloomington, Indiana

This spring we spent a day in one of my favorite Indiana towns, Bloomington. While it's best known as the home of Indiana University, it's a lovely spot to leisurely wander. So I wrote descriptions of some of my favorite walks around Bloomington for Visit Indiana here.

Our morning was full of science fun at WonderLab, the children's science museum in town. And for lunch we did up Yogi's, a Bloomington staple.

But our afternoon was my favorite part of the day. We tucked Little Arrow in the Ergo* to snooze away, and let Big Arrow skip, hop, run, walk, and ride on dad's shoulders as we made our way through IU's beautiful campus.

Talk a walk with us, won't you?

My husband showing Big Arrow his old stomping grounds, the graduate business school building.

Love the old limestone buildings...

... constrasted with modern public art.

This isn't our first trek through a college campus. We've walked around Notre Dame and Harvard, too. Maybe it'll inspire both Arrows to higher study someday!

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

*Affiliate link.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tips for Visiting the Art Institute of Chicago with Kids

One of my most rebellious moments in high school came during a field trip to Chicago with my art class. We were supposed to spend the day at the Art Institute of Chicago. The moment we learned our teacher was leaving us completely unsupervised, we ditched the museum and explored the city streets, a la Ferris Buehler playing hookie from school (although he actually ventured inside this museum...)

Fast forward a few years (ok, more than a few), a slightly more mature cultural awareness, and a couple of kids. As I was planning some upcoming weekend trips to Chicago, I asked for kid-friendly ideas from my traveling friends. Jessica from Suitcases and Sippy Cups said her family had fun at the Art Institute of Chicago (and she's got her own great tips for a visit, including these flash cards), so I decided to give it another go.

During one of our trips to Chicago this year, my husband and I were traveling only with Little Arrow (at the time, 4 months), so I thought this was the perfect time to explore the Art Institute. Without Big Arrow, we didn't get the full "visit with kids" experience, but we spent a lot of time checking out the Ryan Education Center. I have to say, never have I missed Big Arrow more than while we were here. He would have loved everything, from curling up with a fun, art-inspired book in the Vitale Family Room, to touching art in the Elizabeth Morse Touch Gallery, to getting crafty in the art studio.

Vitale Family Room in the Ryan Education Center
Here are some tips if you're visiting the Art Institute of Chicago with kids:
  • Read the Art Institute of Chicago's family visit planning guide. It's full of really useful info and will help you better determine what you should do during your visit depending on the ages and interests of your kids. There are family-friendly tours, tips for checking out the galleries, and advice for looking at art with your kids.
  • Invest in a Chicago CityPass.* The Ryan Education Center is free (that's a STEAL, people!) but if you want to explore any of the galleries (and you should), you'll need to purchase admission for anyone in your family 14 and older. A Chicago CityPass greatly reduces your admittance cost (and gets you into a lot of other great Chicago attractions at reduced cost, like the Museum of Science and Industry and the Museum Campus attractions).
  • Tag team with your traveling partner. If you bring your spouse, friend or a grandparent along on your travels, you could spend even more time in the galleries by trading off with another adult (one stays with the kids in the family area, while the other enjoys the rest of the museum, then you switch).
  • Introduce some of the famous pieces to your kids in advance of your trip. I laughed out loud (sorry, fellow art patrons!) when I saw Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte at the Art Institute. I can't tell you how many times Big Arrow and I have read Baby Einstein's Master Pieces,* and that's the painting on the final page of this book. He would have been so excited to see it in person. There are a lot of other extremely famous and well known paintings (like American Gothic and Nighthawks) that you could show your kids and discuss. There's also this suggested list of children's books.
Seurat's Sunday Afternoon
  • Wear the kids out before or after by visiting Millennium Park. Just north of the Art Institute is this iconic Chicago park. And the best part for parents is that there is ample room for kids to run around (especially as you get further away from some of the popular attractions there, like the Cloud Gate sculpture). Just south of the Art Institute is Grant Park, another great Chicago landmark. This kind of green space is rare in a city so large, so use it to your advantage!
  • Time your visit to experience some hands-on learning in the art studio. A calendar is available here. The kids we saw were having so much fun that I wanted to join in, but thought it might seem a bit awkward since Little Arrow is a little young for finger paint.
Artist's Studio, overlooking Millennium Park
In my opinion, the Art Institute of Chicago is a model for making visits to a more adult-oriented museum not just family friendly, but family fun. I'm glad I've grown a little wiser since my high school days.

If You Visit:
Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Avenue
Open 10:30-5 daily except Thursdays when it closes at 8 p.m.
Adult admission: $18 (children 14 and up is $12, under 14 is FREE)

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

* Affiliate links.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Happy Father's Day

Since I tooted my own horn as a traveling mom on Mother's Day, it seems only fair that I acknowledge my better half in our journey as a traveling family. Because while I can swing a quick outing to a museum or zoo on my own, anything beyond a few hours requires a helping hand these days.

Fortunately, back in high school I snagged just such a partner, and I haven't let him go since.

I know some weekends, after a long week of work, he'd probably rather do this:

But instead, I drag him on some crazy adventure, and instead he does this:

I appreciate his patience, his willingness to try new things, and his enthusiasm for bringing our boys along on our travels. I love that he keeps us all laughing, even when things aren't going as planned. (And I should point out that without his freakishly awesome navigation skills and sense of direction, we would be a family who often finds themselves lost!)

Happy Father's Day to the best one I know! And while I'm loving on the Arrow's dad, a special shout-out to my own father, whose love of travel (even lengthy business trips) and adventurous spirit inspired my own wanderlust.

To all the wonderful dads out there, enjoy your weekend! We're taking the boys camping, so I'm sure you'll be hearing more about that.

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market

One of the benefits about returning to a place year after year is it helps you mark the passage of time (as if the wrinkles and graying hair weren't enough). My three trips to the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market illustrate the point well.

On my first visit, I was 7 months pregnant with Big Arrow. I wanted to order food from every single stand I saw (I resisted and settled for a single empanada).

My husband and I could leisurely chat with vendors without being pulled along. There were no strollers, no worries about hungry kids or overtired babies. We definitely traveled to the beat of our own drum. I think we spent nearly 2 hours at the market that morning, listening to music and making a few purchases.

That drumbeat changed to the pace of a toddler on our next trip to this St. Petersburg farmer's market. Fortunately (or unfortunately), Big Arrow had woken up way too early that morning, so he was content to rest in his stroller as we walked through the market. Coffee and tea were our first stop. Did I mention he had woken up VERY early? But like most kids that age, the only way he was happy was if that stroller was moving. I think we wrapped up our trip in 20 minutes.

He did like those same empanadas though. Maybe he remembered them!

This year, we tackled the market with Big Arrow mostly on foot and Little Arrow in a carrier. Little Arrow missed most of the excitment, snoozing away. But we found that at nearly 3, Big Arrow's attention span and interest in the market was much improved. He petted baby chicks at one stand. He marveled over the Balloon Guy (and even got a blue doggie balloon to call his own). And once again, we noshed on those delicious empanadas.

I have no doubt we'll visit the market again someday. It'll probably involve chasing Little Arrow from booth to booth.

I sure hope that empanada stand is still there.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be interested in our 2011 Trip to Tampa/St. Petersburg, our 2012 Trip to Madeira Beach or our walk around downtown St. Petersburg (where the market is held). I also wrote these tips for visiting a farmer's market with kids.

If You Visit:
St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market
1st Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets, downtown St. Petersburg
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Street parking is available throughout the area.
Insider Tip: Come hungry. Unlike many markets where I live (where produce stands dominate), the market in St. Petersburg has a lot of hot, prepared food vendors ready to offer you breakfast or lunch.

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sampling Honey at Hunter's Honey Farm

One of the best aspects of living in the Midwest is the many opportunities you have to show your kids where their food comes from in a hands-on, tangible way. So far, we've done two dairy farms (Traders Point Creamery and Fair Oaks Farms), the apple orchard (AppleWorks), farmer's market trips and our weekly CSA box. You can now add honey farm to the list!

Instead of rows of plants or fields for cows to graze, a honey farm consists of (you guessed it) bee hives. Lots and lots of them.

I wrote about our time at Hunter's Honey Farm for Visit Indiana here. I'm also sharing the first video that I've done in collaboration with Visit Indiana:

Believe it or not, Big Arrow was actually scared to try the honey at first. Then again, I've never seen it by the bucketful either, so I guess I can't blame him for being a bit intimidated.

But once we got him to try out a honey stick, it was pure love. He couldn't get enough. He continues to ask me at every.single.meal if he can have a honey stick. (It's my go-to "not until you finish your vegetables" trick lately!)

If you ever get a chance to check out a bee hive, I highly recommend it. The art of beekeeping (which I knew NOTHING about prior to this trip) is totally fascinating. Even my crazy boys (all three of them) were pretty interested in checking out the hive.

(Why, yes, I did let my husband carry around 50 lbs. of children throughout our visit. Somebody had to do the hard work of taking pictures, right?)

Did you know drone bees don't sting? Big Arrow got to hold one.

I've definitely been inspired to use honey a bit more in the past few weeks since our trip. I've typically only used it in tea or spread it on toast. But I put some in stir fry last week and it gave it a great little sweetness. We purchased a bottle of Hunter's honey mustard dressing/marinade and that's delicious too. All kinds of uses for Mother's Nature's finest sweetener! How do you use honey?

This post is a part of Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust and Lipstick and Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What I Wore to The Hottest Race in Indy 500 History

The Indy 500 has a long history. In fact, this was the 96th running of what is called the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. So you know to break a record, it has to be something quite extraordinary. I now have the honor of saying I was at the hottest Indy 500 in history. (You can see some of my favorite pictures from the 2012 Indy 500 here.)

With temps expected to be in the 90s, and understanding that it always feels even warmer when sitting on aluminum bleachers, inches from 250,000 other race fans and a 2-mile black pavement track, I knew I better dress with keeping cool in mind.

Fortunately, Fresh Produce had contacted me a few weeks earlier, wondering if I'd be interested in reviewing one of their products (they offer all kinds of options in casual clothing, including beach cover-ups). While I'd normally decline an offer like this, since I try to keep product reviews to those that pertain pretty strictly to family travel, having recently had a baby I couldn't resist a chance to beef up my wardrobe. (And hey, you have to wear clothes while traveling, so...) A few weeks ago the BFF top arrived in the mail:

I chose it in the melon color, and here's how it looked on me (a model I am not):

The fabric is extremely thin, and so I knew it would keep me as cool as possible. I also liked that it covered my shoulders, since sunburn is always something I worry about at the race.

Other pros:
  • It's a really flattering top, particularly if you're working with a post-baby body. Flows nicely around the tummy, but still fitted.
  • Bright, feminine color choices
  • Very soft
  • The shirt sells for $44. Maybe I'm just cheap, but I don't normally pay that price for a cotton short-sleeved shirt.
  • Because the fabric is so thin, it is a little sheer. I'd choose a darker color next time.
You can browse Fresh Produce's other women's tops here. I don't own any other clothing from them, so I can't speak to the quality of all their products. But I'm pretty happy with it and I'm sure it will become a staple in my wardrobe this summer.

Disclosure: I received the BFF top from Fresh Produce to review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Indy 500 in Photos

Indianapolis may host the Super Bowl, Final Fours, and other major sporting events, but it will likely always be known most of all for the Indy 500. And while the city is so much more than just a great sports locale, if you have to forge your reputation around one event, I'm certainly ok with it being the Indy 500.

I'm not a car fanatic, but I always attend the race any chance I get. In fact, this year it happened to be my first day away from Little Arrow. Someday we'll take the Arrows to the race, but for now, it serves as a nice day-long getaway from parenting for us.

Here's our day in photos:

My first peak at the Pagoda always makes me feel like I've really arrived.

As if 250,000 people singing the Star Spangled Banner didn't already give me chills, then came the flyover.

Then the engines get fired up and the balloons are released.

At first I was disappointed when I realized that my planned photo of the cars on their first lap around the track was ruined. And then I fell in love with the exuberance of these two fans. It's probably exactly what my husband and I looked like if someone had snapped our picture at this moment.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby. Come back on Monday when I'll be writing about what I wore to the hottest Indy 500 in history!