Soap Box

My very own cute little soap box!

Posts Tagged ‘fun’

2013 Turkey Trot

Posted by eemilla on October 6, 2014

On a freezing cold morning, I joined tons of other runners to earn our gluttony later in the day at the 2013 Turkey Trot.  It was a nice route with some downtown and neighborhood streets, and none of the hills were killer.  It was my first road running experience so I didn’t appreciate the lack of cars on the route (granted it was Thanksgiving morning).  It was awesome to see the firefighters running in their gear, and it’s also pretty insane how fast some runners completed the race.  As I’m such a slow runner, I typically finish behind the pack so maybe I’m missing the lines, but the lines for post race snacks were incredibly long and slow moving.  I’ve registered for the upcoming race, and my honey and LB are going to do the Gobble Wobble.

2013 Turkey Trot

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Gatlinburg and Dollywood

Posted by eemilla on October 4, 2014

Visiting Gatlinburg is not on my list of things to do; I’ve been a few times (twice at someone else’s expense), and none of them have been very much fun.  I’d also visited Dollywood as a pre-teen or maybe teenager, and I would have rather gone to Carowinds any day.  Dollywood with a pre-schooler made me more receptive combined with their much improved rides since my earlier visit.  Our first visit as a family confirmed the food is still the horribly overpriced junk that one expects when attending an amusement park or other captive consumer situation so we do pack a cooler and return to the car for lunch.  We also pack a snack to consume at the end of the trip before we return home.

We regretted not upgrading at least one of the season passes to the Gold Pass to avoid paying the $10 parking fee, but otherwise we’ve gotten enough good use to justify renewing our passes .  Unlike other parks Dollywood is open most of the year (including plenty of weekdays) which makes it really easy to come out ahead while still avoiding peak times and maddeningly long lines.

I don’t like Gatlinburg even though I tried on the last trip.  Everything is so bright and loud and tacky.  Both of our dining experiences were ridiculously overpriced with amateur service.  After looking online at menus Mellow Mushroom and Smokey Mountain Brewery seemed like the best vegetarian options (I believe I had tried Best Italian on my prior visit with disappointing results) along with best beer selection.  The Mellow Mushroom delivered its standard greasy mess of a pizza, and I was able to order a relatively local beer (out of Knoxville).  I don’t want a hot glass straight from the dishwasher, but the glass shouldn’t be so cold that ice forms in the beer either.  Our service was the normal slow Mellow Mushroom service.  Our wait at Smokey Mountain was about 40 minutes, and our service was better than at Mellow Mushroom.  However two adults and one pre-schooler somehow managed to spend too close to $100 on food that tasted like it could have come directly off the Sysco truck.  On the bright side my flight of beer wasn’t served with ice.  We wrapped the night up with a trip to the Donut Friar because I loved the stupid pun, and I’d had some really delicious doughnuts at a few apple orchards.  The guy behind the counter was not happy to see another customer walking through the door, and I should have saved my cash rather than bother him for a few stale doughnuts.
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Smoky Mountain Brewery on Urbanspoon

Donut Friar on Urbanspoon

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Lego Sculptures

Posted by eemilla on September 24, 2014

Last fall until about January 2014 the NC Arboretum had an awesome exhibit of Lego sculptures by Sean Kinney; it was great to see them up close with the thousands of blocks forming a hummingbird, a rose, a bee, and a gardener among other sculptures.  Check out Sean Kenney’s website to find out where you can see the sculptures.

 

 

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Return to running (and blogging)

Posted by eemilla on July 20, 2014

The only sport I participated in while in high school was cross-country, and I really enjoyed it once I got in shape and moved from the back of pack to the middle. However, I got distracted in the off-season, and I lost all the progress I had made so I didn’t return for a second season. Years later, a friend talked me into running the Runway 5k. I had ample time to complete a couch to 5k program (running my first 5k distance in Central Park), and I let the summer heat keep me from training. I still ran (or jogged or almost walked) the race. At the end I was so flushed with endorphins I suggested running a race a month, and my friend agreed. We skipped October, and I skipped December; we’ve done at least one race a month since January. Even though she’s moving across the country we’re still planning on running at least one race a month  for all of 2014. I did not particularly enjoy the Runway 5k due to the exhaust from idling vehicles on the course, but for my first 5k since high school I could not have asked for a flatter course in Asheville.  The race will not happen this year which gives me mixed feelings; fortunately there are plenty of other races to choose.

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Charleston Fun

Posted by eemilla on October 20, 2013

For every vacation (aside from oblications) we work out an itinerary which is often overly ambitious, and for Charleston I continued the tradition.  I scaled it back to allow for nap-times (which didn’t occur for the most part), but I still failed to get down to the Battery to spend more time than our trip a few years back.  We did, however, enjoy a quick stroll through Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art along with a stroll around King and Meeting Sts.

The Children’s Museum of the Low Country was the best value with all of the great things for LB to do; admission is $10 per person, and if your little one isn’t walking or is toddling I would wait as there is a huge castle exhibit and a boat that are difficult to navigate as an adult.  However, there is a huge water table and an area with blocks that a could be fun for a less mobile baby.

The South Carolina Aquarium was less enjoyable as it pretty small, but it charges the same admission as much larger and much better aquariums (Vancouver Aquarium, California Academy of Sciences).  The touch tanks were fun albeit crowded, and the boat play area was a crowd pleaser for the toddlers.

We also took the drive down to John’s Island for the Angel Oak Park.  It was a bit sad to see the beams supporting the tree (although it was more sad to see people ignoring the signs about not climbing on the tree), but I was quite happy to be able to get so close to such an awesome living thing.

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Of course we loved being so close to the beach.   I took a morning run, and we had multiple beach days with sand castles and boogie boarding.

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Family vacation

Posted by eemilla on September 21, 2013

For the past few years I’ve been lobbying my maternal family to forgo the end of the year gift card exchange in favor of a family vacation, and last year everyone finally seemed to agree it was time to do something different.  Then interest dissipated for about four months so my honey and I planned a trip to Manhattan thinking we would not be taking a vacation with the extended family.  An almost collective itch to travel brought the idea back to the fore after our vacation had been booked for months.

My idea was to travel somewhere new or exciting or exotic which was in direct conflict with economic concerns and comfort levels that limited us to the Charleston area or the Savannah area.  As we’d just visited Savannah and Tybee Island last year and only I wanted to visit the Outer Banks, my honey and I were all for Charleston.  After spending hours searching for houses in both locations that met all of the various needs of everyone (pool, close to the beach, large kitchen, bath for every bedroom, enough bedrooms) the group decided the Charleston area had better large house options for the money.

Once we narrowed it down to the Charleston area we had to find a large enough house available and in our price range.  While the task sounds easy enough it required hours of searching between three or four members of our group.  My frustration was that there were multiple folks who were non-commital about if they would be joining us or how many people would be in their party.  Without having one person footing the entire bill another concern was the best way to distribute rooms without having to haggle over different pricing, and fortunately everyone acquitted themselves admirably.

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great room panorama great room panorama from dining area
bar in need of an icemaker 2nd floor alcove laundry room
king sans daybed one of 2 jetted tubs walkin shower
king bed with day bed king with daybed bathrom king with shared bathroom shared bathroom twin room twin room bathroom
view of screened in pool from twin room balcony 2nd floor balcony with view of twin room balcony spiral staircase to rooftop rooftop

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Including the couches in the living room there was enough room to sleep 20 adults based on double occupancy in each of the king beds, and there were enough areas for everyone to mingle or retreat as needed.  The crows nest or rooftop was a favorite place to escape the noise, and the patio chairs were comfortable even though a few were worse for the wear.  The second floor balcony was sparse without any furniture, and the balcony off the twin room was so small it seemed superfluous.  My honey and I didn’t want to have to spend the extra money to rent a house with a pool, but we were certainly sold on the benefit of having the pool to float around in especially after the ocean.  I believe the house came with two separate gaming consoles, and there was a nice flat screen over the fireplace in the great room.

For a house with a 20 person capacity, the refrigerator/freezer/icemaker was the feature that everyone agreed to be insufficient; it was a double door deal so there were narrow shelves which made it difficult to accommodate groceries.  Even after the ice maker was replaced it took about eight hours to make a tray or so of ice which left of us purchasing bags of ice for the sodas, iced tea, and blended adult drinks.  There is a nice wet bar with a wine cooler, and a stand alone ice maker would be perfect there.  The maintenance man said the freezer’s ice maker had repeatedly been an issue.  The large gas range was more eye candy than functional; all five burners had two temperatures: on and off (which for a gas stove is really irritating and unexpected).  We also had to have a towel rod and a door knob replaced on the first day, and although we mentioned the additional three of the five (in addition to the one that was replaced) atrium doors had alarmingly loose handles they were not replaced.

With so many cars it was difficult to juggle them as the two driveways were a car’s width, and the street was much too narrow to park on.  The golf cart created most of the tension as people wanted to pocket the key rather than leave it in the lockbox, but it was an even better feature than the pool as we could cart our gear to the beach rather than lug it the few blocks on foot (especially as any parent knows the kid will want to walk then insist on being carried whilst you juggle the beach bag and/or chairs).  The key to main house also had a lockbox which really came in handy as we had about fourteen adults sharing three keys.

The house was a few blocks from a public beach access point, but we were so far down on the Isle of Palms that the beach was never crowded even though we were there during the high season.

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Grandfather Mountain

Posted by eemilla on September 19, 2013

On our list of things we’d like to do was to visit the Linn Cove Viaduct and Grandfather Mountain.  Our day ended up being a cloudy and overcast day with moments of sunshine, and I found that I am more disturbed by heights than I had previously thought.  LB also found the heights scary, and she was quietly insistent on returning to the parking lot and putting distance between herself and the mile high bridge.  The entrance fee is steep ( at $18 per adult), but overall we did enjoy the vistas and the small zoo.  I left my wrap at home so we had to lug LB around on our hips which dissuaded us from hiking from the parking lot or doing much hiking on the far side of the bridge.  It was quite laughable to encounter the below sign shortly after the admission gate.

It is my understanding that you can hike from the parkway and avoid the entrance fee, but even with the wrap my stamina is quite insufficient for any sort of steep grade traverse.  We packed a picnic lunch to enjoy at the ample tables at various locations.  The otters and eagles were the crowd pleasers of our zoo visit, even though the bears were pretty active too.

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The trees on top of the mountain reminded me of oversized bonsais.

I didn’t think that the bridge would scare me or make me feel so grateful to return to the mountain as I love roller coasters and the like.   I made it across, and if I had felt so anxious about it on my first few steps I wouldn’t have complete it; however it wasn’t until I was on the last portion that I began to feel uneasy.  I didn’t notice any severe wind or some clown jumping on the bridge so I cannot say why I had a sudden urge to get back across and be done.  Maybe it was LB’s fear.   Needless to say, I did not take any photos on the bridge.

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Brooklyn Bridge and More Sights

Posted by eemilla on July 17, 2013

Our walk across the Brooklyn Bridge was the last thing we all did that I really enjoyed doing since we didn’t make it to MoMA, and The Empire State Building was a let down.  We had fine weather, and even though it was a Sunday and there were plenty of other people enjoying the views.  Originally I had wanted to rent bikes and ride across it from Manhattan to Brooklyn then back, but my husband wanted to ride the train into Brooklyn then walk back to Manhattan.  With the costs of the bikes approaching $100 for  a few hours (including a seat for LB), I conceded, and it was a lovely walk.  There were so many pedestrians that the bike lane was frequently overcome, and it was also the same day as the Five Borough tour which meant there were plenty of cyclists needing the use of the full lane.

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We followed up our walk across the bridge with a train ride to Washington Square Park; LB got out of the stroller and ran around and burned off some energy while we debated where to eat.

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After striking out on lunch we returned to the apartment for nap time, and I laced on my running shoes to complete my first 5k route since high school.  I completed a couch to 5k training program, and I saved my first complete run for Central Park.  I really didn’t plan on any particular course; I just ran and followed the signs to the Reservoir, and I ended my course running a loop around it.  I felt really good to run a full 5k especially within one park without having to loop and repeat sections or run on concrete or pavement unless I wanted to.  I love green spaces!

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We wrapped up our awesome day getting a photo of the Flatiron Building for my collection.  The area that we walked to from the Flatiron Building to the wretched John Dory Oyster Bar was the dodgiest I’d seen in New York.

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Skyscrapers

Posted by eemilla on July 16, 2013

We purchased the City Pass thinking that we’d be able to get our money’s worth out of it so it meant we had passes to Top of the Rock and The Empire State Building.  Of the two I prefer Top of the Rock, and maybe only because we saw The Empire State Building on our last day after a manhunt shut down the four closest subway lines forcing us to walk several blocks while trying to figure out if the whole system was down or just every train near us.  The subway shutdown and our late start ate so much of our time we had to decide between seeing the MoMA and The Empire State Building, and as I had never seen the latter it is were we went.

Both skyscrapers had unbelievable amounts of velvet ropes, and I cannot imagine waiting in all of those lines.  It took over two hours to visit each building as it was, and at the top of each it was really crowded making it difficult to enjoy the views.  Again I cannot imagine going during peak times.  We went on a sunny day to Top of the Rock so our views were better, but the pictures didn’t work that well being behind plexiglass.  The Empire State Building also had a lengthy exit line for both the elevators and the stairs to catch the larger elevator on a lower floor, and it just seemed to add insult to injury considering the observation decks were smaller than at Top of the Rock.  With the City Pass I don’t know how admission compares, but Top of the Rock seemed to be managed more professionally and to be more tourist friendly.

Top of the Rock Top of the Rock

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Pho 32 saved my crappy mood after we left The Empire State Building.  The food was tasty and plentiful with fast and friendly service, and as an added bonus it was a good deal (less than $35 before tip for at least two beers and two entrees).

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Natural History Museum

Posted by eemilla on July 8, 2013

Unfortunately, we didn’t learn our lesson in Savannah about double checking for the pass before leaving the rental so we traveled down to 81st from 132nd St only to realize the passes were not with us.  Rather than use four train fares we decided my honey would go back while LB & I killed time in Central Park.  While watching the ducks and geese swim, I also spied a huge pile of puke or poop on the bench that LB really wanted to sit on.  Fortunately this was one of our few gross experiences in NYC.  I chased LB around while she burned off some energy, and I somewhat searched for a playground without wanting to venture too far from the Natural History Museum entrance.  When my honey returned with the City Passes we began our exploration of our second (and ultimately last museum) of the trip.

Our first floor tour began with the dioramas, and I wasn’t a big fan.  Once we moved on to the ancient civilization artifacts I began to enjoy it more.   We then covered lots of the same ground as we were lost in search of a restroom to change LB’s diaper which was déjà vu of the Met from earlier in the week.  Post diaper change, LB decided to take a nap in the stroller, and I felt both guilty and vindicated as my itinerary was based on her napping in the stroller; however, she didn’t look terribly comfortable, and she ended up taking a second nap that afternoon so the sleep must have been fairly poor.

The dinosaurs were really cool, and I hope we can return with an older and awake LB.  I also enjoyed the stones and gems much more than I expected too even though some of the large stones were underwhelming.  I was surprised at how different sulfur can look (the photos we tried to take didn’t really turn out).  We ended our visit at the butterfly conservatory after haggling with the attendant to allow us to trade our pass to the planetarium to admission to the butterflies.  While I would have loved to view the planetarium, we agreed that it wouldn’t be LB’s cup of tea plus we were all fairly hungry.

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My honey landed on Raku II for our lunch spot, and it was one of the first restaurants that I’d been in that didn’t have a changing table for my wee one.  Trying to change a toddler’s diaper in a closet of a public bathroom is something I don’t want to do ever again, and I didn’t even catch a poopy diaper as we took turns changing them.  I guess with space at a premium it makes sense not to have a place to change the kid, but at many of the restaurants there was plenty of room just no thought. Raku II was a closet sized bathroom which was in proportion to the size of the restaurant.  The menu had plenty of vegetarian options, although I failed to write down what I ordered I do recall being pleased with the taste and price and portion.  Plus the staff made LB a makeshift sippy cup out of a storage container (she positively refuses to ever drink of her own sippy cup in every single restaurant in favor of drinking from my cup).
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