Gulf Shores 2013 – Part 1

A few months back, we were invited to go to Gulf Shores with some friends.  The plan was to share a house, and the rate for the room was too good to even think of passing up.  Plus, who doesn’t love to go to the beach with friends?  Plans were set in motion and packing started.  A small pile started gathering in a guest bedroom.  About two weeks before our trip, the pile was moved to our kitchen.  And then, the pile started to grow exponentially.  We were driving, so we planning on bringing as much as we could from home instead of buying it when we got there.  Add to that the fact that we were traveling with two children – we had a ton of crap.

We aren’t hoarders, we just look like one our our blog.

We hit the road really early the morning of July 5th.  The plan was to make it to Mobile, Alabama early enough for the kids to play and burn off some energy.  The drive was long (about 11 hours), but it was managable – thanks, in part to our new travel trays.

Just us and the highway. Lots and lots of highway.

Luckily, Luke drove most of the way so we could rest.

We made it to Mobile with minimal tears.  Rested for the night and rolled into Gulf Shores the next morning.  We went directly to our house and ran onto the beach.  It was a pretty exciting moment – the first time Luke’s been to the beach and the first time Anna actually got it.  We wanted to dip our toes in the ocean!

Our home for the week

Get me to the ocean!

Baby toes in the sand

Luke’s first time in the ocean!

Are you sure we have to leave at the end of this week??

After the excitement simmered down to a slight boil, we made our way into the house to pick rooms and unpack.  It was organized chaos, but we got it done.  The downside was that we didn’t pack anything for lunch and we hadn’t been to the grocery store yet.  So, it was decided that we would head out to The Hangover for a late lunch that turned into an early dinner.  A dunch, if you will.  We went to the grocery store to grab enough stuff for the first half of the week.  The rest of the city (or all of the other vacationers) had the same idea – it was the craziest trip to WalMart I’ve ever been on.

It’s time for dunch!!

A couple of little cuties!



The next morning, we couldn’t get to the beach fast enough.  The weather wasn’t completely agreeable for a large portion of the trip, but we made the best of it.  We’d hit the beach during the dry times and head inside when the weather turned south.  A little rain wasn’t going to dampen our trip… No pun intended.

Time for the beach!

These two were quite the pair.

The next day, we ventured out to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.  We have a goal of visiting a zoo or aquarium in every state in the USA.  This was the perfect time to cross Alabama off our list.  It’s a small zoo (billed as the ‘little zoo that could’), but it completely makes up for it in experience.  We had the BEST time there.  It was really personal, intimate if you will.  We got to pet and hold kangaroos, lemurs, and a gigantic anaconda.  The kids hand fed even more animals.  We were about 5 feet from tigers and lions.  Heck, if they would have had tiger cubs when we were there, we could have held them too.  It was beyond awesome.

Mingling with the locals.

Lemurs all up in our bid-ness.

Holding a giant anaconda – ain’t nobody got time for that (unless you are at this zoo).

We spent the next day dodging the rain and playing on the beach.  When the sun was going down, we tried our hands at tie-dying (and dyed our hands in the process).  The evening was capped off with a fireworks show on the back deck.

There’s nothing quite like being three-years-old.

— To Be Continued —


Keepsake Ornaments

I saw a post floating around on Pinterest about keepsake ornaments for your Christmas tree.  The post showed pieces of a wedding invite or birth announcement gracefully curled up inside a clear ornament.  It was perfectly put together with fun scripted paint on the outside and staged so that no matter how your ornaments turn out, you are going to feel a little less than par.  That’s Pinterest for you, huh?  Accepting early defeat, I got the idea to have the kids create keepsake ornaments during our Gulf Shores trip.  I figured we could have them collect sand and shells, write a date on the outside, tie a ribbon to the top, and go about laying around on the beach.  In practice, it took about an hour and all the adults ended up super gluing their fingers together.  Ah, memories!

I ordered clear, plastic ornaments from Amazon. These were 100 mm, but smaller would have worked fine as well. I wanted to do plastic so they wouldn’t be as fragile as a traditional ornament.

We sent the kids (and adults) out to fill their ornament with any treasures they could find on the beach. Notice that Anna was filling hers with rocks. Lots and lots of rocks.

The kids actually had a great time searching for stuff to put in their ornament. It was almost like a scavenger hunt…

Once inside, the adults super glued the two sides together to ensure that the ornaments wouldn’t break apart down the road. Nothing like your memories spilling out into your suitcase. We used puff paint pens (regular paint pens would have worked much better) to write the location and year. A ribbon was tied to the top loop so the ornament can hang – like ornaments like to do.

Voila! Eat your heart out, Pinterest.
The ornaments dried overnight and traveled really well for the ride home. Now the issue is going to be finding a branch that’s sturdy enough for Anna’s ball of rocks…

Tie-Dye T-Shirts

I haven’t tie-dyed anything since I can’t remember when.  It was always something that I enjoyed doing because the shirts always ended up looking so much better than you expect them to.  Plus, who doesn’t love rocking some tie-dye?  My first day of kindergarten, I wore a tie-dye jumper and had a ‘101 Dalmatians’ lunchbox .  It was totally psychedelic.  My mom was wearing a full-length jean skirt.  It.was.awesome!

Anyway, I digress.  The last time I tie-dyed anything, we used big buckets of dye to dip the items in.  Frankly, it was a pain in the hump.  I’ve recently realized that someone in the entrepreneurial spirit realized that buckets of dye are annoying and came up with a squirt bottle method to tie-dye.  I saw it in the store and thought that a tie-dye project during our beach trip would be perfect.  Turns out, it was still messy but the shirts still turned out great.  Maybe getting dye all over you is just a rite of passage for tie-dying??

What you’ll need: dye kit, rubber bands, plastic wrap, and something to tie-dye

Pinch and twirl your shirt around and secure with rubber bands. The bands don’t cause the colors to stop, it just keeps the folds together (which causes the funky patterns). You can Google ideas on how to fold and twist your shirt to create different designs.

Once your shirt is rolled and secured with bands (and the dye is mixed according to the package directions), squirt enough dye in areas to saturate but not soak the areas. Notice the finger stained hands. We made the girls strip down to undies so no clothes were harmed in the process. Despite Anna’s clear lack of enthusiasm, she actually really liked making her shirt.

Once the dye is on, wrap the shirt in plastic wrap. Let it marinate for 6-8 hours (the longer is sits, the brighter the colors).

Remove your shirts from the plastic wrap, rinse in cold water to remove as much excess dye as possible. Run it through the washing machine with light detergent, and then toss it in the dryer.  Now, marvel at your masterpieces!!

It’s amazing how different all the shirts ended up being. Luke’s was a striped pattern.

Anna went with the twirl!