One Thing Down

Saturday, April 18, 2015

We just recently became homeowners.  Though I had some initial decorating ideas about our new abode, not all of them have seen the light of day.  I have (mostly) finished the girls' room and am feeling rather accomplished.  Here's a look:



First we painted, and then we painted and then, painted some more.  I do like how this buttercream yellow turned out, but the other rooms anxiously awaiting paint, are still waiting.  


Instead of buying posters, I found some online that I liked and printed and enlarged them right at home onto shimmery heavy weight paper.  The large one is printed on four sheets of paper, so I made my own matte to hide where they meet.


I had been searching for a tall, skinny chest of drawers to go in between these twin beds, and I happened to come across one at our favorite thrift store downtown.  That snazzy chandelier is a wall decal that I bought on Etsy.  They are applied the same as the ones that go on your car.



After I got all of the kids' clothes sorted out, I had extra space in this piece of furniture I already had. I had seen on Pinterest a few times stuffed animal zoos and I thought how easy it would be to convert this!  I bought a pack of two bungee cords at Dollar General and the hubby attached mug hooks on either end.  This whole project cost less than two bucks and was done in five minutes!

I certainly didn't think the kids room would be the first one finished, but it's always nice to check something off the list!


Creamy Pasta Salad

With warm weather having arrived, invitations to cookouts and barbecues will soon start filling your calendar. Well, this is a perfect recipe to bring as a side dish. It's a creamy pasta salad with a kick of garlic flavor. Can't beat that!

This has been my go-to pasta salad recipe for years. It doesn't have any fancy ingredients and most people will willingly give it a try, which is always a bonus when you're bringing food to an event. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. ;-)


Creamy Pasta Salad

1 1b box penne pasta, cooked al dente per package instructions
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
1 large cucumber, roughly chopped
6 small green onions, chopped (green and white parts)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp mustard
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
3 Tbsp parsley (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
  3. Serve chilled. Refrigerate leftovers.
Notes:
If you're feeling a little more adventurous, give some of these other tried and true Harris Sisters side dish recipes a try:

Must-See Family Friendly Attractions in Atlanta, Georgia

Thursday, April 16, 2015

We recently visited Atlanta, GA over Spring Break, and we're always on the lookout for family-friendly activities that the boys would enjoy. Below is a list of my recommendations, with bonus tips for accommodations and ticket savings.


1. Georgia Aquarium - Aquariums are always popular with the boys and this one was fantastic. Housing more than 100,000 animals, it is one of the largest aquariums in the world (which definitely makes it a must see attraction when in Atlanta). 


The aquarium features whale sharks, large manta rays, dolphins, and beluga whales, among other ocean creatures. Admission into the aquarium also includes admission to Deepo's Undersea 3D Wondershow, an animated short movie that is shown in 4D with special effects that coincide with the 3D movie.



2. Fernbank Museum of Natural History - This stop was a definite winner. In fact, we ended up staying there MUCH longer than we'd anticipated and had to juggle our schedule for the remainder of the trip. But it was worth it! 


From dinosaurs to gemstones, this museum has it all covered AND it also boasts an IMAX theater that runs two shows daily. In addition to the regular museum exhibits, they also have a kids' area called NatureQuest where kids can run around and explore on their own. And to top that, the floors are tiled with fossils. Need I say more?




The museum regularly hosts temporary exhibitions. While we were there, the temporary exhibition on display was The Power of Poison, and it covered everything from poisons occurring in nature to how those same poisons are portrayed in classic literature. Even though I did NOT find out why you can't trust a big butt and a smile (sorry, Bel Biv Devoe), it was an excellent and very informative exhibition. :-)





3. Atlanta Botanical Garden - While this might not be the first place you'd think to take kids, it really was a wonderful experience for our family. 




The garden is 30 beautifully planted acres to explore at your leisure. In addition to the wonderful plants and flowers, the garden boasts many art installments and a large separate children's garden that the boys really enjoyed.



Make sure to check out the website before your visit to see what will be in bloom when you'll be there. And, also check to see if they'll have any "drop-in" family programs on the day of your visit. These are educational programs for kids, such as learning about ladybugs or how to make a terrarium.




4. World of Coca-Cola - This exhibit is in downtown Atlanta and is located right next door to the Georgia Aquarium. If you can manage visiting both in the same day, then that's a good plan.


This museum does a good job of telling the story of how Coca-Cola was created, and features exhibits about the history of their advertising, their presence in pop culture (think Santa Claus advertisements and American Idol sponsorships), the "secret formula", and their bottling process.





In addition to these exhibits, they also offer an opportunity for photos with a 7 foot polar bear and a 4D movie In Search of the Secret Formula. (3D glasses from this movie are branded Coca-Cola and are yours to keep.)



At the end of your experience, you can visit the tasting room to taste more than 100 different beverages from around the world. Each visitor is given an 8 ounce bottle of Coca-Cola with a special label and cap indicating that it was bottled at this location.


5. Legoland Discovery Center, Atlanta - THIS particular stop was specifically for the boys. :-) One benefit that I can point out is that it is located inside a standard mall, which means that if you're eating out on most days, you'll also be able to find plenty of lunch or dinner options at this location for reasonable prices.

At Legoland, the boys were able to see how Legos are made, ride two indoor rides, see some very intricately and expertly built miniature models of Atlanta (all recognizable landmarks), view 4D Lego The Legends of Chima movie, and build and play to their little hearts content (which was a VERY long time). After completing the Factory Tour, each visitor is given a Lego brick with a special label indicating that it was made at that location. Everything is awesome here, indeed.




6. Centennial Olympic Park - Also located in downtown Atlanta, this Park was created as the central gathering place for the 1996 Olympics. At the time, the Park hosted entertainment, concerts, receptions, and Olympic merchandise vendors.


Today, the centerpiece of the Park is the Fountain of the Rings, an interactive fountain that features jets of water synchronized to music for a show 4 times daily. (Throughout the remainder of the day, the jets function as a normal fountain and form a splash pad that children can play in. They are not allowed to play in the fountain during any of the scheduled show times.) Admission to the Park is free.


7. Zoo Atlanta - Founded in 1889, this zoo is located in Grant Park, the oldest city park in Atlanta.




It is one of four zoos in the US currently hosting Giant Pandas (which definitely makes it a must see attraction). They also feature the Boundless Budgies exhibit, where you can hand-feed parakeets. The boys definitely enjoyed this stop on the trip.



8. Stone Mountain Park - While technically a quick trip over to Stone Mountain, GA, you don't want to miss this opportunity while visiting Atlanta. The mountain itself has a carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson that measures 90 by 190 feet.


The park features several attractions including a sky hike adventure course, a working train that tours around the mountain, a skyride cable car that you can ride to the top of the mountain (rather than walking), mini-golf, and "Ride the Ducks." 



The Duck vehicles are 1940's era Army DUKWs, converted into open-air vehicles that operate on land and water. They let children on board take turns operating the vehicle while on water. Plan a full day of your trip to visit Stone Mountain; there's lots to do here.




***********************Bonus Reviews***********************

Best Place to Stay on Your Atlanta, Georgia Vacation

We chose to stay in downtown Atlanta. If you're a rewards member with any particular hotel chain, now might be the time to redeem some points!

Staying in downtown Atlanta guaranteed that all of the downtown places to visit were within walking distance. We didn't have to find or pay for parking at those locations. Also, the boys had a blast staying in a high-rise hotel.

The views from the 38th floor were beautiful and certainly added to our experience.

How to Save Money on Your Trip's Attraction Tickets

  • Buy tickets online before leaving for your trip. You're almost guaranteed to save money by going this route.
  • Check AtlantaOnTheCheap.com for all the best local deals and lowest ticket prices before purchasing directly from vendors.
  • If you've already purchased a membership to your local zoo, check this Reciprocity List and Details to see if you may receive reduced admission to Zoo Atlanta.
  • Atlanta CityPASS offers bundled tickets for reduced prices. If you opt to go this route, you'll have 9 days from the date stamped on your ticket booklet to visit five Atlanta locations. CityPASS gives you admission to Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Inside CNN Tour, Zoo Atlanta OR Center for Civil and Human Rights (choice of), and Fernbank Museum of Natural History OR College Football Hall of Fame (choice of). Once you purchase these ticket booklets, present the booklets at each location, and let attraction staff remove the tickets. Tickets are invalid if separated from the date stamped booklets.
  • Even if you don't purchase tickets from places like Groupon or bundled ticket deals, often purchasing directly from the vendor online is cheaper than purchasing day of tickets at the ticket window. Make sure to check out this option if you cannot find other deals.
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