Places to Go - Two Fun, Easy Prepackaged Children's Birthday Parties - Bowie Baysox & Kettler Iceplex


For T's 5th birthday he wanted to take a few of his besties to a Nationals game. At first, this seemed easy enough, but I worried about the responsibility involved with bringing 5 preschool-aged children to such a crowded place. So when one of my friends told me about Bowie Baysox birthday parties, I liked the idea of a much less stressful baseball option.

The party comes with covered picnic table seating (so you can both eat and watch the game), food for everyone, and unlimited passes to Louie's Kids Park (which contains a carousel, bounce house, batting games, and more). Plus, the birthday child can announce a batter live over the loudspeaker and tour the stadium. Pretty cool.

Not surprisingly, none of the kids spent much time watching the baseball game (the Baysox lost), but all in all the party was a success (and SUPER easy). Click here for more info.



Somewhere along the way I realized that I never posted about P's 7th birthday party, which isn't good as there's always a chance that some day in the far far future P might choose to peruse this blog and wonder how we neglected to celebrate such events. Anyways, this year for her birthday P REALLY wanted an ice skating party, which seemed like an odd choice as nobody in our family knows how to ice skate (P went ice skating with a friend a few weeks before and decided she NEEDED to celebrate her birthday by gliding around in circles).

Luckily, a birthday party at Kettlers proved easy enough. The party comes with pizza and drinks, which the kids eat in a private party room prior to skating. The skating portion of the party coincides with public skate and includes skate rentals for every invitee. You can pay extra for a 30 minute group skating lesson in case some children haven't been before.

The party lasts about 3 hours, which proved a little too long for most of the girls. But all in all, it was super easy and pretty fun. Click here for more info.


Things to Do - Solsticing & Cherish This Day

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I can't remember how/when we first came up with the idea of biannual solstice celebrations. I foggily remember reading that if you raise your children without any religious doctrines then you should try to establish some sort of family tradition or celebration. And the solstice just made sense, as both the winter and summer versions occur right before school vacations. So we went with it.

Our first solstice party was a small affair, but over the years the party became bigger and bigger. So this summer we decided to go "all out" - we obtained a permit to close down the block and provided 2 bounce houses (one for big kids, one for little kids), face painting, and balloon animals (which, luckily, can all be rented for reasonable prices through Arlington County's TEAM program). A friend brought a snow cone maker and tables (we REALLY needed the tables). We bought kegs and juice boxes. Dan made gumbo. And everyone else provided lots of other alcohol, apps, desserts (it really does take a village).

And I think we all had a pretty good time (or so I'd like to believe). Anyways, I didn't have time to take many photos, but here are a few moments I managed to capture.

HAPPY WEEKEND EVERYONE!! I HOPE YOUR SUMMERS ARE ALL OFF TO A GREAT START!! Now click on over to Cherish This Day for your weekly dose of amazing.

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Things to Do - 12 in 12 (June 2014)

Thursday, June 12th was sort of a grey day. Still we made the best of it.

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8:30 am - T's grandma gave him an awesome ninja castle for his b-day. I'm still not sure where to put it, so for now the kitchen table is home.

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noon - T spent the morning at a playdate while I went to the health club. When he arrived home, he worked on a scavenger hunt list, which proved interesting as he still can't write.

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1:30 - Meet up with some friends at Huntley Meadows. I think we saw the muskrat. This is sort of a big deal everyone.

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2:00 pm - Still at Huntley, the boys hang on the fence while we check out the views.

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3:40 pm - Pick up the girls from school. We decide to skip swim practice because of the rain.


4:00 pm - Head to P. Brennans Irish Pub to watch the opening game of the World Cup - Brazil vs. Croatia.

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5:30 pm - Still world-cupping.

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6:30 pm - Walk home from the bar.

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7:30 pm - Before bed dog walk.

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9:00 pm - Moms' wine night at Red Rocks.

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11:00 pm - The group that made it til last call.

Now click on over to Not-So-SAHM and Where the Watermelons Grow to see how their days went.


Things to Do - This Untamed Life & Random Links


This week's theme for This Untamed Life is lunchtime, but I'm cheating somewhat by focusing on "brunchtime" (they're practically the same, right?). The pics are from T's end of preschool party, which was super adorable, esp. when all the kids sang together. After 6 consecutive years, it feels so odd to no longer have a child in preschool. Another milestone. Wow how the years do fly.

We will miss this place, esp. the wonderful teachers that made every day a good day. (And, that miraculously, taught a hesitant T his alphabet, as in the sound and shape of every letter. thank you. thank you. thank you.).

Now click on over to This Untamed Life see how everyone else photographed "lunchtime".


* 24 Must-Read Books for Summer 2014.

* Bounce below - trampolines in an underground mine. Anyone want to go to Wales with me?

* Life through the eyes of a war photographer.

* Cutest couple ever.

* I just finished this book and now I NEED to go to the museum (I'm somewhat obsessed with Istanbul these days).


Um, so most moms received cards that said, "I love my mom because she's the best" or "I love my mom because she takes care of me." But T's card proclaimed "I love my mom because she lets me watch tv so much." After the ceremony I said, "but T, I don't even let you watch very much TV." His reply? "But I love you so much when you do."

Why do I even try??


Things to Do - Grateful List (May 2014)

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* Reading Ha Jin's A Good Fall
* The Kid Should See This blog
* Girls, Season 3 (wonderfulness)

* Longbranch Nature Center with T and Jules on a 75 degree day
* Dan "taxi-ing" all the kids on the tag-along
* Pedicures for Mommy/Freya day
* A Mother's Day family hike from Riverbend Park to Great Falls

* Family veggie dinner night - brussels sprouts, sweet potato fries, and cauliflower
* The healthy margarita - lime, cilantro, romaine, and pineapple

* Turkish towels from Bathstyle
* The Spiralizer Tri-Blade Vegetable Slicer (for zoodles)

* P cleaning her room - "first we did big improvements, then we moved on to Roombie, and now we're working on small improvements that really make a difference."
* Waking up to open windows and the sound of rain
* Flicks at the Frieds
* 10 pounds gone
* F as Laura Ingalls Wilder for wax museum night

VACATION (Assateague Island MD; Corolla, NC)
* Swimming and camping on the beach
* Fishing and playing soccer at Currituck Heritage Park while we waited for our beach house to be ready
* Coronas on the beach
* "Cheerleading" moms
* Duck Donuts (as always)
* Watching a thunderstorm come in over the ocean
* The NC Aquarium (esp. the turtle rescue)
* A house full of good friends


F - That I'm Laura Ingalls Wilder, that everything is so great, a great family, a great vacation, swimming in the ocean, playing German Sherpard-opoly

P - Everything I like, everything I love, everyone that I love, that Coco's okay, playdates, that we're all safe and sound, estee, the beach, the pool, finding seashells, a lot of other stuff, going on vacation, petting the stingrays

T - going to the nature center with Jules, a nice house to live in and food to eat, going camping, my new bow and arrow, playdates with Mateo, going to the beach with all my friends


Things to Do - Become a Loser

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A few months ago a good friend in the neighborhood started a "biggest loser" club. The premise was simple enough - buy-in cost $100 and then you had 7 weeks to lose 5% of your body weight. If you lost the weight, you received your money back. And the biggest "loser" could keep whatever was left in the pot.

Despite the relatively straight-forward premise of the whole operation, I hesitated. I definitely had some excess weight to lose (mainly T's baby weight, still hanging on for the last 5 years), but I'd grown accustomed to regular glasses of wine and dessert, why shake up the system? Anyways, I basically participated because most of my friends were on board and who wants to miss a party?

And now, I'm 10 pounds lighter and much more happy (we're already working on the club's second generation, which concentrates more on workout goals over weight loss). I hate cheesy blog posts where people annoy you with tales of their weight loss success, so I'll try to keep the pep talk/bragging to a minimum. Instead, I asked my fellow "losers" (all of who managed to lose the 5%) to contribute a list of what worked for them. All of the women who participated have different work/life schedules (some work full time and some, like me, are stay at home moms), so, hopefully, everyone can find a tip or trick that works for them. Here goes:


Colleen -

* Hot water with ginger and lemon (it minimizes bloat).
* Bikram yoga daily if possible.
* Jenny Craig's food helped because it was ready to go, the right portions, and tasted good.
* I used to drink very little water, but now I rink 90-130 oz a day. This was a HUGE help.

Liz -

* Chocolate fix - try semi-sweet or dark chocolate morsels. Semi- sweet has 10 carbs and 8 sugars per tbs and curbs choc cravings
* Wine fix - use a smaller glass and fill with ice first. Ice melts and you don't refill as much, plus you stay hydrated.
* Pre-washed organic salad mixes - makes eating a healthier lunch much easier and if it's organic I don't feel as bad not washing (hate watery greens!)
* Cooked chicken breast (like purdue short cuts) thrown on a salad.

Dori -

* I joined Weight Watchers. Stick to it and it works. Weight Watchers really teaches you to make good choices regarding food but the program also accommodates splurges.
* In terms of exercise, I ran (very, very slowly), I pushed myself and signed up for a half marathon (with my husband). I had to train, so therefore I couldn't say no to exercise. We also picked a nice location for the half marathon and had a nice weekend getaway.
* Oh and I can't forget the team approach with friends! Couldn't have done it without the support and friendly competition.

Janeese -

* I limited my carb intake. Instead of having a bagel for breakfast I had two hard boiled eggs and fruit or cottage cheese and avocado. I tried to do this for two meals a day.
* I cut out most snacks. I have a sweet tooth so this was next to impossible, so I did allow myself a treat every once and awhile (like a donut once a week).
* I tried to healthier - more fruits and veggies, less processed foods. That was a lot harder than I expected.
* Exercise - I would have liked to exercise more, but its always hard to find time. I tried running (hate it), and I was doing Zumba twice a week.

Melissa -

* For the most part I eliminated sweets-except on Mother’s Day when I had two bites of chocolate cake.
* When I wanted something sweet I had tea with a splash of milk - not sure why this filled my craving but it did.
* The $3.50 small harvest apple salad at Quizno’s (conveniently located in my building) was a life-saver. Not a ton a food and only 350-400 calories!

Megan -

* No alcohol except twice a week (on Fri./Sat.)
* No dessert, except on Sunday
* No food after dinner
* No other caloric drinks
* One snack per day
* Limit processed foods
* Limit portions
* Limit sugar
* Limit dairy
* Limit carbs
* Keep running food diary
* Weigh-in at home every day


* The biggest motivator for me on this challenge was the group of women who were doing it with me. Hearing about their successes throughout the 7 weeks was just what I needed to get me focused on taking better care of myself and get me going on this challenge.

* As far as how I lost my weight . . . my obstacle was my diet. I love sweets, Mexican food, and wine! I’ve always been a really active person, so working out was not a problem for me. To kick start my weight loss on this challenge, I decided to just eat whole, plant-based foods. I started with a “raw” week to help level out my blood sugar spikes and clean out my system. But, I really liked how I felt after the first week of eating raw that I continued it for another couple of weeks until the end of our weight loss challenge.

* I basically ate a ton of fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts. There is so much you can do with raw food - make soups, blend raw soaked nuts until they are creamy like ricotta cheese, make delicious smoothies, and so much more. I have always been a calorie counter when I needed to lose weight, but I took a chance that I would reap the weight-loss benefits as well as overall good health by just eating foods that are good for me.

* I get plenty of protein and fats through nuts and avocados (and I mean a lot of nuts and avocados) and found that after a while, I no longer craved the sugary or salty foods that come prepackaged. And, I eat as much as I want so that I don’t get hungry throughout the day. Eating this way for a few weeks doesn’t mean I’ve gone totally raw, there are way too many foods that I love and won’t ever give up completely, but I plan to continue like this for about 75% of the time.

Darcy (me) -

* I started out by spending a week on Gwyneth Paltrow's cleanse (available for free, with recipes, here).

* I loved how the cleanse made me feel, so after the first week I (loosely) stuck with a similar diet - very limited gluten, no sugar, very limited dairy. I love most of the recipes in Gwyneth's cookbook - It's All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great, so I ate about 95% of my meals this way. I also read Alejandro Junger's Clean -- Expanded Edition: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body's Natural Ability to Heal Itself (Gwyneth's diet is based on Junger's theories) and made several of Junger's recipes as well (though I prefer Gwyneth's cookbook, mainly because the recipes are simpler).

* When I began to slack, I would get back on track by doing a 3 day juice cleanse. I love Jrink's juices and they deliver (click here for info). Also, when I hit a plateau towards the end I relied on Tracy Anderson's "performance cleanse" menu (available in her book - Tracy Anderson's 30-Day Method: The Weight-Loss Kick-Start that Makes Perfection Possible) to lose the final 2 pounds.

* I completely gave up caffeine (except for a few "emergency" green teas). Honestly, giving up Diet Coke remains the hardest part of this diet. I haven't had one in over 12 weeks and I still think about Diet Coke constantly. I guess this is true addiction.

* Like Janet, I've always worked out. But I stepped up my game somewhat by purchasing (and obsessing over) a Fitbit Flex . I promised myself I'd walk a minimum of 12,000 steps a day and, for the most part, I kept with this goal (which proved much easier in spring, with its 70 degree days).


Places to Go - Fishing and Floating Down the Shenandoah River for Fathers' Day (Bentonville, VA)


Yesterday morning, we all woke up at 6:30 am and drove 1.5 hours to Bentonville, VA for a Fathers' Day fishing/rafting trip down the Shenandoah River. We rented our "family raft" through the Downriver Canoe Company, who also provided paddles/life preservers and shuttle service. The company offers a variety of trips to choose from, we opted for the moderate 7.5 mile Burners Bottom route and it proved a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning.

At first the kids couldn't wait to paddle, but then the novelty wore off and they opted for reading books and dipping their feet in the water. The river is pretty calm, so except for a few very mild "rapids", we floated along, while Dan fly fished off the raft's side. I'm pretty much the world's worst paddler, but eventually I started to find a rhythm.

We came across tons of birds, including an egret, along with cows and campgrounds along the banks (though, sadly, not many fish). A light breeze kept us from becoming too hot and every time we hit a faster section T yelled "oh, yeah, this is my JAM!" as we cheered the water along.

The trip took about 4.5 hours total (by the end, the kids became restless, but in their defense they were pretty tired). Downriver Canoe Company also offers overnight camping trips, which look fantastic. We're hoping to try one soon. If you're interested, click here for more info about the trips offered. All children must be at least 5 years old.

Happy Monday everyone!! How was your Fathers' Day??



Places to Go (Vacation) - A Mellower Outer Banks (i.e. Vacation, Part II) & Random Links


The second half of our Outer Banks vacation proved much more mellow then the first half. Due to jobs, sports, school, SOLs and various other commitments everyone else in the big group left on the Tuesday following Memorial Day. In contrast to our friends, we decided to keep the kids out of school and stay for the rest of the week - after all, Dan can (sometimes) telecommute. We invited some good friends to join us and thus began a few days of complete relaxation. The kids painted seashells and played German Shephard-opoly (seriously is there any noun (as in ANY NOUN??) that hasn't become a version of Monopoly?). F said "wow, this used to seem like a small house and now it's a MANSION." To prove her statement the girls slept in different bedrooms every night.

After Wednesday, outdoor temps cooled considerably (though the ocean actually became warmer). I read books and searched for seashells. My friend Julia made us a fabulous pasta dinner. It felt like an entirely different vacation, which made for a wonderful week. It was hard to leave. So. So. Hard.

Don't forget to check out this week's fabulous images over at Cherish This Day. HAPPY FRIDAY THE 13TH EVERYONE!! (Any ideas for kid-appropriate scary movies?)


* I love these tablecloth playhouses, but I think my kids are too old for them now (so sad).

* 5 Great Documentaries. I loved Queen of Versailles, now I need to see the rest.

* The Metropolitan Museum of Art Puts 400,000 High-Res Images Online & Makes Them Free to Use.

* For local folks, KidFriendly DC posted about renting a pontoon boat on the Patuxent, which looks awesome.

*"Artistic" temporary tattoos - part of me thinks, jeez "haven't we upmarketed enough already?" and part of me thinks "they're just so so pretty" (link via A Cup of Jo).


When the days became colder, at first the kids didn't want to swim. But then (of course) they changed their minds.


Things to Read - Seven Interesting Articles From Around the Web (on meal replacements, Tom Cruise, "book girls", busy people, life off the grid, women you should read, & unattended children)

1. (Meal Replacements) - The New Yorker published a fascinating article about a meal replacement named Soylent that some college kids (particularly engineering folks) live on.

"The doctors I spoke to agreed that you could subsist on Soylent. But would it be a good idea? The debate, for the most part, revolves around substances found in real food, especially phytochemicals, which come from plants. Such compounds are not known to be essential for survival, but, in epidemiological studies, they appear to provide important health benefits. Lycopene, which makes tomatoes red, has been linked to lower rates of prostate cancer; flavonoid compounds, which make blueberries blue (and can be found in chocolate), have been associated with lower rates of diabetes. The science behind how our bodies use these chemicals isn’t precisely understood. But Walter Willett, the chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, said that it would be unwise to miss out on them. “It’s a little bit presumptuous to think that we actually know everything that goes into an optimally healthy diet,” he told me. You can live without plant chemicals. “But you may not live maximally, and you may not have optimal function. We’re concerned about much more than just surviving.”

Rhinehart, naturally, is doubtful about this line of thinking. “How many humans in history were even getting broccoli and tomatoes?” he asked. As part of his research into Soylent’s formula, he told me, he considered adding some phytochemicals, but after reading dozens of inconclusive and contradictory studies, he said, it didn’t seem like an efficient use of resources.

. . . .

Living on Soylent has its benefits, though. As Rhinehart puts it, you “cruise” through the day. If you’re in a groove at your computer, and feel a hunger pang, you don’t have to stop for lunch. Your energy levels stay consistent: “There’s no afternoon crash, no post-burrito coma.” Afternoons can be just as productive as mornings.

But that is Soylent’s downside, too. You begin to realize how much of your day revolves around food. Meals provide punctuation to our lives: we’re constantly recovering from them, anticipating them, riding the emotional ups and downs of a good or a bad sandwich. With a bottle of Soylent on your desk, time stretches before you, featureless and a little sad.
On Saturday, I woke up and sipped a glass of Soylent. What to do? Breakfast wasn’t an issue. Neither was lunch. I had work to do, but I didn’t want to do it, so I went out for coffee. On the way there, I passed my neighborhood bagel place, where I saw someone ordering my usual breakfast: a bagel with butter. I watched with envy. I wasn’t hungry, and I knew that I was better off than the bagel eater: the Soylent was cheaper, and it had provided me with fewer empty calories and much better nutrition. Buttered bagels aren’t even that great; I shouldn’t be eating them. But Soylent makes you realize how many daily indulgences we allow ourselves in the name of sustenance."

2. (Tom Cruise) - How YouTube and Internet Journalism Destroyed Tom Cruise -

"The Internet told us Tom Cruise killed Oprah. The truth is the Internet tried to kill him.

Today, when even ABCNews.com runs "5 Things to Know About George Clooney's Fiancee, Amal Alamuddin," it's hard to remember that just nine years ago, the worlds of tabloid and legitimate journalism were more sharply defined. (The Huffington Post has made a fortune blurring the line.) In turn, we've become more cynical about click-baiting headlines, even as celebrities have figured out the new rules. After the summer of Cruise and the couch, celebrities go on network TV fully aware that anything they say could go viral. Actors weaned on the web can wield it to their advantage — think Emma Stone lip-synching on Jimmy Fallon.

Today's Internet-driven media culture isn't necessarily worse than the one run by the big, boring conglomerates that Pat Kingsley expertly controlled. Even Cruise has figured out how to navigate the new playing field.

But the lesson came at a cost."

3. ("Book Girls") - I loved this short NPR piece on the power of "book girls." (yay books!! yay girls!! yay teenagers!!)

"The Book Girls are only partly real; like most heavily marketed-to demographics, they only sort of exist. Every Book Girl is something else, too – a sportsy girl, a scientist, a nail-art aficionado, a poet, a prodigy, a patient. But the force they are exerting is real. They have created a market for what they love, and they insist upon it. The things marketed to them are not the only things they love –some of the same girls who later showed up at the Roth panel were at the morning panel with John Grisham and Carl Hiaasen, neither of whom is probably being sold with the idea that he's sharing a lot of readers with dystopian YA. They have allies in boyfriends and boy friends, in parents and other adults, in librarians and book critics. The world of their books is much more complicated than just them, and they are more complicated than just their books.

But they, moving and talking and starring and sharing and making fan art and packing paperbacks in their pocketbooks, have helped create a space where girls who fight and feel things are not genre-breaking but genre-defining elements. They can stroll around with The Fault In Our Stars-branded tissue packs, which they acknowledge are funny, stuffed into a Grisham tote bag along with a treasured copy of a novel about death that has a fireball on the cover.

They are voracious and fascinating, curious and powerful, and they have arrived, loudly

4. (Busyness)
- The New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert asks "How Did We Get So Busy?"

"One theory she entertains early on is that busyness has acquired social status. The busier you are the more important you seem; thus, people compete to be—or, at least, to appear to be—harried. A researcher she consults at the University of North Dakota, Ann Burnett, has collected five decades’ worth of holiday letters and found that they’ve come to dwell less and less on the blessings of the season and more and more on how jam-packed the previous year has been. Based on this archive, Burnett has concluded that keeping up with the Joneses now means trying to outschedule them. (In one recent letter, a mother boasts of schlepping her kids to so many activities that she drives “a hundred miles a day.”) “There’s a real ‘busier than thou’ attitude,” Burnett says.

A second theory that Schulte considers is that “the overwhelm” is a function not so much of how many things Americans have to do but of how much time they spend thinking about how many things they have to do. A doctor who’s running through the list of groceries she needs to pick up on the way home is not actually any busier than one who’s concentrating on the task at hand, but she may feel more beleaguered."

5. (Life Off the Grid) - I LOVED this blog post on spending a year, somewhat unintentionally, off the grid (thanks to Julia's Book Bag for the link).

"For four people and a dog and a cat, living in tight quarters is . . . well . . . tight. But it’s been a beautiful year of togetherness, grieving, healing, and growing. The kids have been blessedly TV-free without remembering the difference (though some nights we do put a movie on the computer, and we do have an iPad) and with free reign to roam and nothing but time, they’ve been forced to find things to do outside and with each other. They always surprise me with their resilience, their willingness to go with whatever we throw at them. Sure, they’re tired of the long road to school. Sure, I’d love to turn a faucet and have hot water. But this is where we are and we’re making the most of it, together. Everything has become a process (dishes, lighting, cleaning, shoveling in a particularly heavy-snowfall and freezing cold winter) and we’ve really had to embrace it all. I’ve loved giving them that. “Getting back to basics” is actually a lot of work, but it’s been an eye opening year for us, one I really appreciate and am thankful for. It’s not something I would have wanted to do, not something I was necessarily prepared for, but it’s an experience that I’m glad we’ll all have in our back pockets.

6. (Women You Should Read) - Equality is so complicated, hence The Trouble With "Women You Should Be Reading" Lists

"What a sad state of affairs it is that people need to be reminded or instructed to read women. That people need to perform their reading of women, to read a female writer as if they are adopting a stretch of highway—look at me participating in this oh-so-worthy endeavor, reading The Goldfinch. Hashtag social action. Hashtag women."

7. (Unattended Children) - And finally, I have to say thank you to Free Range Kids for defending the woman who BRIEFLY left her child in a car unattended.

"If we judge parents for putting their kids at very low risk, we could jail them for serving solid food (the child could choke!) letting them walk down stairs (the child could fall!) or permitting them to join a sport (concussions!). Our first order of business would be to prosecute any parent who drives her kid anywhere: The number one way children die is as passengers in cars.

We haven't made those things illegal (yet) because we understand there is no such thing as a risk-free world. But one risk does loom large: Being a parent in these unforgiving times."


ETC. - If you're up for more reading, the Atlantic published a list (with links) of over 100 fantastic pieces of journalism, which I keep planning to make my way through.


Places to Go (Vacation) - Petting Stingrays & "Saving" Turtles at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island (Outer Banks, NC)


By the last day of our vacation I had grown somewhat tired of the beach (so. much. sun.). Thus we planned an outing. Unfortunately, most of the Outer Bank's major attractions are located at the south end of the peninsula, approximately an hour from our rental house in Corolla. Luckily, the drive went smoothly and eventually we arrived at our destination - the North Carolina Aquarium.

Upon first arriving, we learned that our National Zoo memberships entitled us to discounted ticket prices (I forget the total amount of the discount), making us all very happy. Then we started exploring - the aquarium is small but really well done. The otters and albino alligator kept both children and adults entertained for quite awhile, until we finally arrived at the turtle rescue center - an interactive exhibit where children "diagnosis" rubber turtles in trouble and then rehabilitate them for the wild. The exhibit even includes child sized lab coats. We spent A LOT of time here (so many rubber turtles need saving!!) and I must say, it was one of the best kid-based exhibits I've ever come across.

After saving the turtles, we pet stingrays in the museum's touch tank. I especially liked that the tank was deep, so we had to wait for the rays to come to us. And then we spent some time checking out the sharks, as a presentation at the aquarium taught us some info about how sharks operate in the wild.

This summer the museum also hosts an outdoor exhibit full of animatronic dinosaurs, complete with a dinosaur dig sandpit. In addition to the dinosaurs, the grounds of the museum are absolutely lovely with gorgeous water views and nature paths.

All in all, a fantastic destination. We stayed for over three hours and the kids still didn't want to leave.


If you're looking for other things to do in the Outer Banks, here are some of our adventures from past years:

* Roanoke Island Festival Park
* Estuarine Nature Walk (Corolla, NC)


I'm a little addicted to green screen photos, despite their crazy marked up prices. Maybe because we have so few pictures of me. Then again, maybe I just love the cheese factor.



Things to Make - Strawberry & Balsamic Vinegar Popsicles

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(As the above picture testifies, I have absolutely NO IDEA how to "style" a popsicle post. You can't exactly leave them on the table or on a plate. T thought Ninja Turtles would help, but I'm not exactly buying into his vision.)

I've wanted to make these popsicles since the beginning of strawberry season, but I worried that the balsamic vinegar would prove too sophisticated for the younger members of our family. I also worried that I would, in turn, eat 9 popsicles myself. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

My worries were, apparently, silly because the kids LOVED these. F kept saying, "they taste better than ever, but I can't tell why." When I explained that vinegar was my secret ingredient she said, "what's vinegar? can we have it more often?" So goes popsicle success, I love almost-summer.

STRAWBERRY & BALSAMIC VINEGAR POPSICLES (from my absolute favorite popsicle book - People's Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops from Brooklyn's Coolest Pop Shop)

* 4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled.
* 2/3 cup sugar
* 1 tablespoon lemon juice
* 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (no need to get fancy, cheap balsamic works fine)

1. Make simple syrup by combining the sugar with 2/3 cup water in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
2. Puree the strawberries in a blender.
3. Mix the strawberry puree with the lemon juice and 3/4 cup of simple syrup.
4. Add the balsamic vinegar to taste.
5. Freeze in an ice pop mold.
6. EAT!!

(this recipe makes about 9-10 pops)

(And don't forget to check out our other favorite popsicle recipe - Salted Apple Caramel Popsicles).


Things to Do - This Untamed Life (A New Project) & Random Links

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A few weeks ago I participated in Molly Flanagan's fantastic Visual Storytelling class through the Define School. The wonderful thing about online classes is you meet photographers from all over the world with lives so different from your own. We decided to start a group blog to document our days. Each post will focus on a different time of day, we chose mornings to begin.

Posted above our some of my favorite "morning" photos from our beach vacation. The great thing about vacationing with other families is you can photograph an adorable toddler without having to take care of an actual toddler (oh how I hated swim diapers).

Happy Monday Everyone!! Now click on over and check out This Untamed Life.

And posted below are some random links for your Monday, because some Mondays need a little randomness.


* A Game of Thrones vacation. Sounds gorgeous.

* A Woman in Science - isn't this tumblr beautiful? (link via A Cup of Jo)

* Gwyneth has the scoop on alternative sweeteners (plus some wonderful recipes).

* 54 Films Not to Be Missed. I'm curious.

* Oh, how I wish I could sew. I'd wear this this dress all summer long. (If any readers know of someone in the DC area who gives private lessons, please contact me. I've tried Craigs List and had no luck).

* Trader Joe's now sells cold pressed juice for only $5 a pop. I'm pretty excited about this.

* School for acrobats.


Places to Go (Vacation) - A House Full of Friends in the Outer Banks (Corolla, NC) & Cherish This Day


Last year we had so much fun in Corolla, NC for the week of Memorial Day (click here for 2013's photos) that we decided to return this year. We mentioned it to a few of our friends, who mentioned it to a few of their friends and soon we had 6 wonderful families committed to vacationing together (12 adults, 13 kids).

Planning a group vacation always causes some anxiety for me (what if our parenting styles don't mesh? what if people don't get along? what if it feels awkward?). Luckily, we all had an amazingly good time - turns out it really does take a village (or, at least, villages are more fun). Parents took watching kids in the ocean, making huge (and amazing) meals, negotiating screen time disputes, etc.

And every day at 4 pm, us adults gathered together for Coronas on the beach (actually, I should say we STARTED at 4).

Really, I could not feel more blessed to have such an amazing group of neighbors/friends/crazy people in my life. Now click on over to Cherish This Day to see some wonderful photos.


Every beach vacation requires a few (or more rounds) of Cards Against Humanity. Just to keep the sarcasm flowing.


Sometimes a group of 20-somethings invites a group of 30-40 year old dads to play football. And the dads win. This was a BIG deal everyone.


The end!! Have a great weekend everyone!!


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