Monday, May 20, 2013

On the Road Again

A couple of weeks ago, Jason and I decided we needed to get out of town for a couple of days and debated about where to go.  It didn't take long to pick Chattanooga for its close proximity to Nashville (two hours!) and long list of family-friendly activities.  

We hit the road early Saturday morning and gave Sophie her first taste of a feature-length movie (Happy Feet - the perfect length for the drive, a happy accident!) so we had a pretty easy drive.  Our first stop was the Tennessee Aquarium, and we knew after talking to some seasoned veterans that the lines can be long, but there are kiosks outside the main box office that offer expedited ticket-buying, so that's what we did.  

Happy Feet!
There are two buildings that make up the Tennessee Aquarium, the River Journey and the Ocean Journey.  We started with the River Journey and spent about an hour walking through those exhibits.  After a couple of hours in the car, Sophie was more excited about running around than looking at the exhibits, but they were really impressive.  There is an IMAX theater on the campus and, between exhibits, we took in a 45-minute film called "Born to be Wild," about orphaned orangutans and elephants, narrated by Morgan Freeman.  Not a dry eye in the group!  

After the IMAX, we headed to Cheeburger for lunch, on the recommendation of some friends with young kids, and it didn't disappoint.  They had lots of veggie options and the kids meals were affordable and came to the table in cute car cut-out boxes.  

Next up was the Ocean Journey, and we all easily picked it as our favorite building.  Penguins, sharks, stingray, jellyfish, seahorses, salt water fish... so many fun things to look at and touch!

We weren't sure where to stay when we planned our trip, and we found a great rate at the Marriott downtown.  However, if we went back, we would consider staying at one of the properties just outside the Aquarium for convenience because there is so much to do in that area and it's really walkable.  We were happy with our hotel, though, and it was just a couple of minutes from everything.   

Since it was Derby weekend, we made sure we were back at the hotel with plenty of time to hit the pool with Sophie and watch the race before heading out to our favorite restaurant in Chattanooga, The Boathouse! We'd been going all day long and Sophie was a trouper without a nap, but she hit the wall toward the end of dinner, announcing "I wanna go night-night now." Can't argue with that!  

We planned to visit Ruby Falls on Sunday before heading back to Nashville, but it was closed due to flooding - something we understand rarely happens.  So, we visited See Rock City instead.  We had the best time!  Sophie loved all the nooks and crannies, bridges, and rock climbing wall.  Overall, lots of fun if your kids are old enough to walk or young enough to be in a sling or carrier, but not stroller-friendly.  

One last stop before heading home was Terminal Brewhouse for lunch, and it was really kid- and adult-friendly!  Probably not a great place to take your kids at night, but perfect for lunchtime.     

We didn't have nearly enough time to do everything people recommended, so a return trip is definitely in the works so we can check out the Creative Discovery Museum, Incline Railway, Ruby Falls, and more outdoor attractions.  It was the perfect getaway and we had such a good time.  

On another note, this is National Vegetarian Week, so if you've thought about trying some new vegetarian recipes, maybe this is the week to give them a shot.  Have a great week!


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

All About Snacks

After I got on my soapbox last week about shopping for non-GMO foods and buying the least processed foods I can, a friend asked what we do about snacks.  My kid is obsessed with fruit, yogurt and cheese, so those are staples in our house at snack time.  Sometimes, though, it's nice to have a little treat and a little variety, so these are a couple of recipes we've made recently that have been big hits. 

No-Flour Black Bean Brownies

Photo courtesy of
Not only did Sophie love these, but Jason and I did, too.  They were not cake-y brownies, but more like fudge-y, not-all-the way baked brownies, which is the kind I love!

No-Bake Energy Bites

Photo courtesy of
All I'll say about these energy bites is that I had to hide them from Sophie because she was so obsessed with them and would cry if I wouldn't let her have as many as she wanted all at once!

I've found a few good organic staples in the grocery store for car rides, snacks after swim or gymnastics lessons, etc, but we're not perfect and sometimes Goldfish or the additive-laced but so tasty orange peanut butter crackers are the only things that will do!

What are your go-to snacks? 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day

Happy May Day! It has been almost three weeks since my last post and I really don't know where the time has gone! 

One of my closest and most treasured friends flew to Nashville in April for a long weekend and sadly, we didn't take even one picture while she was here!  We've tried to see each other at least once a year with constant plans to make that twice a year, so we'll see if this will be the year we live up to that!  She is always one of the first people I want to call with good news or bad, to rant about random things that I know she will appreciate, and we have been through a lot of ups and downs together since we first met in the dorms our freshman year at IWU.  

Sophie officially moved up to the Older Toddler room last month and she's loving it.  All the kids are verbal and we've noticed a huge increase in her vocabulary and ability to form sentences.  To think, less than six months ago we were contemplating speech therapy!  Each year, Sophie's school has a parade to celebrate the Week of the Young Child and the birthday of the school.  Here are a couple of pics from this year's parade, held last week.

I've been cooking quite a bit, but haven't posted many new recipes lately and I need to work on gathering them to post.  Here's a recipe for a shredded veggie salad adapted slightly from a Healthy.Happy.Life vegan blog recipe that I made last Monday and enjoyed for lunch for a few days with plenty to share at work and with Jason and his colleagues, too!  We have a 12-cup food processor, which is what I used to shred all the veggies.

1 raw beet, shredded
1 red onion, shredded
1 lb of carrots, shredded
1 head of broccoli, shredded
golden raisins to taste
sesame seeds to taste

2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp agave nectar
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 small lemon, juiced

Since this made a huge batch of salad, I didn't dress the it until right before eating. I made a little more dressing after the first day and it's really tasty on any salad.  Here's a picture of the Happy.Healthy.Life. blog - it's really colorful and pretty!

Photo courtesy of Happy. Healthy. Life.
We have a share in the Avalon Acres CSA again this year and look forward to our first delivery, although I kind of dread the prep and chopping when the box comes.  A small price to pay for good produce that I know is good for my family.  The more we learn about GMOs and the sourcing of food products, the more vigilant we feel as a family about that issue.  I find myself buying less and less packaged or processed food, especially those with lists of ingredients I can't pronounce and becoming more focused on local and simple foods.  I know that's easy for me to say when there are so many families out there who don't have access to local, fresh and organic products because of finances, food deserts, and many other reasons, and I only hope as time goes on it will become easier to buy local and organic products.  

I'm off my soapbox now and leave you with this photo of Sophie and Sparky - two best friends.  Until next time!