This is my first attempt at using this particular application to make a video on my phone.

Our day was mostly spent in the van listening to Harry Potter audio, random radio stations and the Steve Miller Band. Ryan watched Rhett & Link videos, Carter watched River Monsters and Haley played her new license plate game. We picnicked at a rest area and ate a sandwich supper in our hotel room.

We stopped in OKC to see the memorial. There were chairs set up to represent each person who lost their life including small chairs for the children. We listened to an audio of the only recording of the bomb and just hearing the noise was frightening. There was a room with pictures of all the deceased along with a token to remember them by. Haley & I loved that room. She found a note a child had written to her mom who had died in the attack. We both started crying.

Chris was a senior in high school when it happened. He said he remembers coming home from school early (due to work) and it was all on tv.

The landscape is very flat and you can see forever. Cattle ranches are everywhere and it’s very windy!

I miss trees.

J

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Earlier

Just the beginning,

J

What an amazing day! We didn’t strike it rich but had hours of hot, sweaty, muddy fun!

Carter found tons of “diamonds” and I found quartz! All 3 of my kids enjoyed searching for diamonds. Check it out: Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas.

What to Bring:

Shovels (big, small, and/or medium)

Buckets

Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses

Old clothes and shoes (we wore flip flops)

Screens (available to rent at the park which is what we did)

Hope you find what you are looking for,

J

Today is the Day

It started as over 365 days. Now it’s down to hours!

Counting down,

jb rb hb cb

the quest

I am that person who said I would never, ever, EVER own a van. I even made fun of families who bought vans.

Here I am three years in. The van purchase was probably the best choice when our kids were 5, 9, and 10. Before the van, we had an SUV. I loved it. It was my first purchase after teaching for a year. It was fully loaded and only 1 or 2 years old. Then it became a kid SUV. We fit a lot of car seats in that 5 seater and when the kids became older and we needed more room for their friends it just wasn’t big enough anymore.

I went to several car dealerships and looked in the used section to find a bigger SUV. I just knew I was getting a Tahoe with a 3rd row. I found a few I loved but none I wanted to afford. I then rode in two different vans owned by my friends and talked Chris into test driving one. I immediately fell in love with the room! I met the best car salesman and told him what I was looking for:

  1. Nissan Quest preferably white
  2. used (we have never owned a new vehicle)
  3. price range (around 25K)
  4. mileage range (under 30K)
  5. I explained I did not need the bells and whistles. I just wanted a radio and power windows and leather seats.

Guess what? It took him a couple of weeks to a month to find what I was looking for but he did it. He brought one in I found on the Internet (in stock at another dealership location) that was only a few years old and was not anything fancy.

If you can hold out and be patient and remember what you need and what you want are two different things.

I am not ashamed,

J

 

About that Go Pro….we just could not justify paying the costly amount for one. Instead we opted for Chris to search Amazon for hours which turned in to days, weeks, and months of research. He annoyed the mess out of me trying to decide on the best one for us at a price we could afford.

We ended up with the AKASO 4K Waterproof Action Cam. I cannot wait to use it and see if it was worth the purchase and great reviews.

we shall see,

J

rei

I have to admit I thought going to REI was going to be a bust. I expected high prices and unrealistic buying. Chris was over the moon from the first step. The National Park section got me. We were there for two hours and walked out with a lot of final “big trip” items. We also joined the REI Co-op. A lifetime membership is $20 and you earn annual dividends and members-only special offers. I think Chris has been on their website almost every day to check out the deal of the day.

rei

Knoxville, TN

check it out,

J

 

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls

For the past couple of years we have gone hiking over Easter weekend. This year we narrowed down our annual hiking trip to Branson, somewhere in Georgia, or Knoxville. The Wednesday before we were to leave we checked the weather. Too cold in Branson and rainy in Georgia. Knoxville it was! We had planned to let the kids do a treetop adventure zip-line then hike a nearby quarry. Our whole reasoning to go was to finish buying for our big trip and go to the REI store for the first time.

On the way to Knoxville I was searching the area for hotels on Expedia. I had been at it for a couple of HOURS and just couldn’t find anything I wanted to pay for. I was beginning to wonder if we would ever find a good, cheap hotel when up popped a suite in downtown Gatlinburg for $103 a night with great reviews. It had a king bed and queen sofa couch with fireplace and balcony. The reviews were great! I quickly booked it and our plans changed from a stay in Knoxville to a weekend in Gatlinburg. It obviously was a cancellation but we were excited.

Our hotel was really nice and updated. You could tell it was old but had been modernized. If you ever get the chance to stay at River Edge Motor Lodge I highly recommend it.

We did not do much except walk the strip, eat, and hike while we were thererainbow-falls elevation profile. We went on a 5.4 mile trail to Rainbow Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains. The hike was (of course) uphill the whole way. At some point I was sure my lungs were going to burst. Considering we will be way higher than this “out west” I better get ready. It was pleasant and cool but as we made our way back down the sun started to shine and it got very hot.

 

We enjoyed a little putt-putt golf at Gatlin’s and took the kids to the Mysterious Mansion. Carter thought he was going to die inside but we all made it out alive. If his crying and screaming didn’t scare away would be assassins I don’t know what did. I am not sure how the fan got Ryan and me on the sky lift but we made it out alive there as well…

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I have to admit Gatlinburg was a little cheesy and tourist-y but the Smoky Mountains were phenomenal and the family gives it a definitive thumbs up!

Happy trails,

J

Even if we JUST go to Disney we make a trip over to Universal’s City Walk just to dine at this place! It’s $20 to park but if you throw in a movie at the huge AMC it is totally worth it. Plus if you have never been to AMC before you can get $4 off per person just by signing up for their email list when you purchase tickets. That was $20 off for us 5 which was the cost of parking.

Back to Toothsome…

 

We eat here a lot. It is without a doubt everyone’s favorite place to eat. The basic idea behind the restaurant is a character, Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome, travelled the globe learning about chocolate. She establishes the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen to share her knowledge of chocolate. The restaurant is 19th century steam-punk inspired decor.

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We recommend getting there at 11 when it opens if you are not going inside the park. Otherwise you will have to wait. We have been late at night as well. They do not take reservations so it is first come first served.

The menu is a gigantic book with so much food it is hard to find just one item to order! There is a merchandise area with loads of chocolate to choose from and a confectionary counter (think old-fashioned milkshake counter) so if you do not want a meal you can just order dessert! Ryan orders flatbread pizza, Haley and I get pasta or a hamburger, Chris gets a sandwich/hamburger. Carter is just in it for the dessert. They give you so much food there is no way you can eat it all.

Toothsome is located on Universal’s City Walk.

Eat all the chocolate,

J

*photo from DisneyFoodBlog.com

 

 

Janet & Ryan’s Pick: Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom

Ryan says to just get a plate and eat only mac & cheese. That’s basically what he did although he enjoyed a few other items. The rest of the family enjoyed it, too, and we will definitely go back. I was most excited to see the characters! It’s hard to get reservations so as soon as your reservations “open” try and get a spot. The restaurant is buffet style with a mini-buffet for kids. The food was wonderful!

Chris and Haley’s Pick: Tusker House Breakfast at Animal Kingdom

We eat breakfast here every time we come to Disney. It is our favorite. (It used to be my favorite and Ryan’s, too, but we found the Crystal Palace.) Tusker House is in the Harambe Village part of Animal Kingdom. We get reservations for about 8:30-9:30 a.m. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy make appearances while you enjoy an all-you-can-eat breakfast. The best thing about Tusker House is the Passion Juice. Chris & I enjoyed Passion Juice in Kenya and did not think we would ever taste it again. Tusker House’s juice is the next best thing.

Carter’s Pick: T-Rex at Disney Springs

We ate here once at 9:30 p.m. We had reservations over 2 months in advance and we were not seated until after 10p.m. Because of their mistake we were invited to the color-changing ice cavern. Carter LOVES dinosaurs so it was the perfect place for him. There are life size dines and a fossil dig. The food was good, too. The rest of us enjoyed it, too.

Other places worth mentioning:

The Turkey Leg – This is not a restaurant but a cart/quick stop you have to find. We always buy at least one and share.

Nine Dragons at Epcot (Chinese) – We booked Nine Dragons as a part of Disney’s Candlelight Processional. I was shocked Chris booked this without us knowing but pleasantly surprised. Our dinner was at Nine Dragons then we each received a ticket for the processional which started at dusk. It was so beautiful! We listened to Neil Patrick Harris narrate the Christmas story while a 50-piece orchestra and choir played. I really enjoyed it, but I like orchestras and such. The Chinese food was okay. I would eat there again but the food was just so-so. They gave us a lot of food! The service was great!

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A blurry Neil Patrick Harris

 

Garden Grill – Adult’s only unless your kids like “fancy” food. My kids do not. Their noses snarled up even at the kids menu. This restaurant rotates and Chip & Dale make appearances. We have been here twice, but probably will not go back again unless the kids are not with us.

Hollywood & Vine – We went here once when Carter was little. He loved Jake and the Neverland Pirates and some other Disney, Jr. shows. These characters walk around and the restaurant has a good kid’s buffet. Chris and the kids liked this place mostly because of the dessert buffet. It wasn’t my favorite. There were a LOT of little kids running around. I’m sure it wasn’t chaos but it seemed that way.

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Places we want to try but haven’t been able to obtain reservation:

Akurshus Royal Banquet Hall – Who wouldn’t want to dine with princesses!

La Hacienda de San Angel – We call it the Mexican Pyramid. This spot is always booked during days we are at Epcot. We hope to visit it soon! There’s a ride inside the pyramid that we ride to get out of the heat and the food smells delicious.

Be Our Guest Restaurant – because Beauty & the Beast is my favorite. I think people set alarms so they can reserve this place. I have never even seen an opening here!

‘Ohana Polynesian Village – Hawaiian style dinner

We have been to other places, too, but these are a few of our favorites!

One day Chris and I want to spend a whole day at Epcot trying food at every country. Has anyone done this?

C + J

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