Thursday, August 30, 2012

rahh...rahhr...rahh...boom...boom...boom...da..da...da..da..


If Jack could say "Happy Birthday Daddy!" it would sound something like that.  He is stringing sounds together more and more in an effort to communicate. It is really sweet.



Daniel's birthday was low-key this year. Adding a child to the mix and just being plain busy isn't conducive to our usual quick getaway to celebrate routine.



Tuesday night, Daniel's dad dropped in and took us to The Docks to celebrate. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset. Unfortunately they didn't bother to turn any lights on on the deck {normally there are more candles and tiki torches that are lit}. Eating in almost complete darkness with a baby was a bit of a challenge.



For his actual birthday, I asked Daniel what he would like for dinner. He requested salmon, rice and caramel pie. I honored his request with BBQ-Spiced Salmon with Pineapple Salsa, Rice and a Spinach Salad with Caramel Pie for dessert.



Caramel Pie is a favorite in Daniel's family. It is super easy to make and tastes superb.



Caramel Pie
Ingredients
2 (14 oz) cans Eagle-brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 Graham Cracker Pie Crust
Cool Whip Topping
Mini Chocolate Chips
Directions
Boil the cans of condensed milk for 4 hours. The water needs to be a rolling boil the entire time and it needs to cover the cans completely – you will have to add water to the pan as it boils. Make sure you removed the label first.

Once the cans have finished "cooking" removed them from the water and carefully open them – be careful because hot caramel may shoot out the top and you don't want to get burned.

Pour the caramel into the pie crust and let cool in the fridge for several hours.

Once cooled, add cool whip and chocolate chips and serve. 

Delish.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

See Jack {and his cousins – late August}

This is an ongoing series of videos that I am sharing so that our extended family can keep up with how Jack is growing and changing in these early years.

Jack and I were blessed to be able to go to Nashville for a last minute visit right before we went to Charlotte. It had been a while since we had seen my brother or my sister and her family. It is great to live closer to family, but we are discovering that sometimes it still takes effort to make schedules fall into place to get a quick visit...

Jack really enjoyed it when Aunt Angela sang "This is the way the Farmer Rides" to him.

This was the first time I caught Jack sitting up on camera – glad I was 
able to capture this moment for Daniel. Now he does it all the time.


The first time that Jack got in a pool. Unfortunately Daniel missed it :( 
Mostly Jack just wanted to drink the water.


Lots of first on this trip – Aunt Angela pushed Jack around on a tricycle. He loved it.


Jack loved playing with his cousins. Of course he loves Izzy antics, 
but he really seems to enjoy having another little one his own size.

These two really got a kick out of being in the swing and bouncer.


Uncle Mark and cousin Izzy make breakfast. These two are 
the entertainers in our family. Never a dull moment.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pin It: Removing UnWanted Dog Fur


By far, this is the best tip that I have come across on Pinterest. Ever since we got Sophie, I have struggled with a way to get the dog fur off of our couch. Our leather couch is easy – you just wipe it down, but our cloth sofa has been a pain.

We have tried keeping a blanket on the area of the couch she predominantly sits on... More often than not, she is cuddled on other parts of the sofa.


I have tried using a tool designed for removing dog hair... I have tried duct tape... I have tried vacuuming my couch... I have tried shop vac-ing my couch. So many things and none of them work. We could always kick Sophie off the couch, but it doesn't bother us bad enough to do that. Basically I have been doing my best to control the dog fur and ultimately fighting a losing battle.

Then I came across 2 different ideas on Pinterest. The first suggested you use a window squeegee to removed pet fur from carpets. We happened to own one, so I figure I would give it a try.


The second suggested you use a rubber cleaning glove and rub your hand over your furniture. The friction of the rubber on the cloth pulls the fur out.

I decided to try both. It is like MAGIC. The squeegee is great for big, flat sections of cushions. The gloves are great for more rounded sections of cushions and rounding up all the loose fur into a pile that can be easily vacuumed up. No more random hairs stuck in the weave of the cloth. No more spending hours vacuuming my couch with a big, clunky shop vac!

I try to do this once a week (it doesn't take very long) and it really makes a huge difference.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Provino's Italian Restaurant

On a recommendation we checked out Provino's Italian Restaurant in Chattanooga. Reviews on Urbanspoon were a mixed bag, with a 77% rating.

First off, the restaurant is in a strip mall off of East Brainerd. The outside was nothing special, but we forged on. The inside was quaint, in a cozy bistro kind of way. We were early on a Friday evening and got right in. The place was really hopping by the time we left.


They sat us in a back section close to other families. This was actually nice since we didn't feel like Jack would interrupt anyone's meal {which he rarely does} and Jack and the toddler at the next table spent some time "talking" to each other. Our waiter was friendly and did a good job of taking care of us.

We decided to stay simple and try the Lasagna and Chicken Parmesan. Meals are served with a family-style Italian salad and garlic rolls – very à la Olive Garden. The salad was good, but included chick peas and beats... which was a bit different. The rolls were great. Jack ate bits and pieces of salad, rolls and some of my spaghetti.


Finally our main courses showed up. Here is where things went a bit south. I don't know why this happens but it seems as though some restaurants that use ground beef end up with dishes that taste like they are straight from a school cafeteria. Italian and Tex Mex being the worst offenders. Does anyone else run into this problem?

In the future if we are in the mood for Italian I think we will stick with Tony's Pasta Shop & Trattoria.

Provino's Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Skillet Apple Pie

I have gotten into the habit of relying on the internet for recipes and I often forget that there is an arsenal of recipes at my finger tips – cookbooks and magazines galore floating around my house. 

The other day I picked up an old copy of Southern Living and saw what looked like a great recipe for a Skillet Apple Pie. I am so glad I tried this out – it is one of the best {and easiest} pies I have made. It has caramelized brown sugar that really anchors the dessert – almost making it too sweet... but that is what vanilla ice cream is for.


Skillet Apple Pie
recipe adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients
2 Granny Smith apples
Braeburn apples
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 package refrigerated pie crusts – I used the Walmart brand in a tin – which I have discovered to be a really flaky, really yummy crust

Directions
Preheat oven to 350º. 
Set pie crust on counter to thaw {make sure you have at least 10 minutes for thawing}.
Cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges and toss with cinnamon and granulated sugar.
Melt butter in a cast-iron skillet {I used a 12-inch skillet} over medium heat. Add brown sugar and stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. 
Remove from heat, and remove 1 pie crust from store tin and place in skillet OVER  brown sugar mixture {this is genius!}
Spoon apple mixture over pie crust, and top with remaining pie crust {also removed from tin}. Pie crust will probably break as you remove it... don't worry, this allows for air to circulate and cook more evenly {the upside is that you don't have to cut slits in the top of the crust}.
Bake at 350º for 60-70 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.
Allow to cool for 20-30 minutes before serving. 
Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

See Jack {late July 2012}

This is an ongoing series of videos that I am sharing so that our extended family can keep up with how Jack is growing and changing in these early years.

See Jack try to help his Grandpa Moore sign the check when we were out to dinner.
{late July}


See Jack laugh at his Grandpa Voyles – who makes lots of fun noises.
{late July}


See Jack play on his new play mat. He explores the texture of the mat, 
attempts to touch a light socket and works on his crawling.
{late July}


See Jack Bounce. He loves his little jumparoo – anything that he can stand in, really.
{late July}

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Our IKEA Couch: L-Shaped is now U-Shaped



Back in January of 2010, we purchased the 3+2/2+3 Karlstad couch {in Korndal brown} from IKEA. We also picked up the matching chaise {in light gray/blue– a fabric that is no longer offered} and an extra cover {in Korndal brown} so that we could add it to our sectional if we ever felt the need.

You can see part of the couch in bottom lefthand corner of picture and a small part
of the chaise on the far right – this image is of the basement in our Charlotte house.


Since November of 2010 we have been in a new house and I have been bothered by the configuration of our bonus room. 

Jack was sure that he could help.

It is really long and just felt like an awkward use of space and was particularly uncomfortable for visiting when we had company {great for TV watching, but that was about it}.



Last year we added a recliner to the room so that I would have a comfortable seat for nursing.


Again, it was great for watching TV but terrible for visiting. Our living area downstairs is best for visiting {no TV} but we always seem to end up in the bonus room at some point.


I had been thinking about this dilemma for sometime when it struck me that we could add the chaise to the couch, converting it from an L-shape to a U-shape and then move the recliner so that it was facing the couch instead of the TV.


Voila! Problem solved. 


No more awkwardness and we now we have a couch that is 10+ft long. The only downfall is that we may never sit next to each other to watch TV again!


As a bonus, about 1/3+ of the room is semi-empty, which is great for little ones to play. This also gives me an excuse to shop for more furniture and I certainly need to think about what kind of art can go on the walls...


Daniel will tell you that our top priority is to get curtains to eliminate the glare on the TV.

Follow up: After 2 years, we are still happy with our IKEA purchase. It is holding up to a dog {and baby} very well. Since we didn't spent a fortune on this enormous couch, we don't have to worry too much when it gets fur on it or spit up or drool, or whatever dogs and babies will do to it. Later I will share my favorite tip from Pinterest on how to remove dog fur. It is AMAZING.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Edith Ann's Taste of Home Diner


After church on Sunday, we decided to do a little exploring and headed south on Memorial Pkwy in Huntsville. We normally head the other direction towards Research Park and University. We discovered there wasn't much when you head south. We made a quick stop at a Home Depot so that Daniel could pick up some supplies he couldn't get in Scottsboro, and while I waited in the car {and Jack napped} I googled "Best Breakfast in Huntsville."

I am a sucker for breakfast joints and since moving from Charlotte, we haven't really found one that we love. I guess I should have utilized Google sooner. The first place to pop up was Edith Ann's Taste of Home Diner and it happened to be less than a mile from where we sat in the Home Depot parking lot. It had good reviews on Urbanspoon {and some not-so-great ones} and was awarded best breakfast in 2010.


It is truly a hole-in-the-wall diner, but that happens to be my fave. Between us we ordered scrambled eggs, smoked ham, bacon, hashbrowns, toast, biscuits and gravy and blueberry pancakes. It was a ton of food and met my expectations for a good country breakfast. The wait staff was a little slow, but very friendly and kept my coffee hot.

Funny story: While we waited for our food, an older gentleman came over to our booth and asked Jack if he had a piggy bank... then proceeded to give him a $1 bill. A little while later, another older gentleman came over and pulled a nickel from behind Jack's ear and gave it to him. Not sure what it is about Jack but people {even old men} seem to be drawn to him. The small diner atmosphere is nice with a baby. Jack looked around and smiled at everyone. There was plenty to see. When he is a bit bigger, we might sit at the counter so that Jack can watch the kitchen.

Edith Ann’s Taste of Home Diner on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 17, 2012

2012 Book 20: The Plains of Abraham


Whenever I visit my parents, they load me up with books to read. Last summer I came home with a big stack. Being pregnant at the time and then becoming a new mom has not provided ample opportunity to read. Most of my books these days come in the form of a digital publication on my Kindle. However I find that I still enjoy picking up an old, well-worn book and diving into the musty pages.

The Plains of Abraham by James Oliver Curwood has sat on my shelf of over a year. The cover is unassuming and I had kind of forgotten about it. When my parents visited a couple of weeks ago, my dad saw that I had started it and let me know that 1) it was based on a true story {historical fiction is one of my favorite genres} and 2) there was a good twist at the end. His comments were enough for me to devour the book over the course of several days.

I am so glad I finished this book. It is amazing that the story really happened and the twist at the end took me by surprise. 

The story is about French settlers who lived in Canada at the time of a pivotal French-English war that determined the course of the history of North America. The Plains of Abraham is a real place in Quebec where a bloody battle was fought. It also has significance to the family that the story is about. The story also delves into the roll that the Indian nations played and how the more "civilized" nations encouraged scalping. Really some interesting food for thought.

I also identified with the book in that my mom is Canadian {she now has her American citizenship} and my dad is American. The main character has a father who is French and a mother who is British.

I truly enjoyed this book. I only wish that I had found the time to read it sooner. Never underestimate an unassuming cover of a book!

Excerpts from the book:
To the boy and the dog this timbered country... was a silent and mysterious realm of adventure, a place filled with whispers of mighty things to happen... To the man and woman it was different, for to them, with their experience and understanding, the beauty and greatness of God in nature had never grown common or old...

"Let the war come if it must... But why talk of war, Brother, when there is peace and plenty and a beautiful world about us to enjoy? Let kings fight or play, just as they will, but as for me, should fighting chance to come – why, I shall be a friend to both sides and strike at neither. For no matter what cause should bring about the strife, I could not strike at the people of my Catherine's blood, nor would she have me turn against my own. So why move from here? This is a glorious place. It is neutral ground, and we, being neutral, are fitly placed here. Oneidas and Mohawks have eaten under our roof as well as Hurons and Algonquins, and when deadly enemies such as these meet thus on common ground, what cause have we for fear?" – Henri

Catherine had taught him {Jeems} that all things had souls and language, even flowers and tress and the birds and beasts they slew for food, and that while destruction of life for the achievement of necessities was neither wrong nor to be condemned, wanton destruction was a sin which only God Himself could forgive. 

...mothers dread the day when childhood draws itself away, like a beautiful shadow, to be replaced by the sterner form of maturity in her offspring.

...we began hating the French and the French began hating us; and then we set the Indians to hating our enemies and our enemies did the same; and after that, not being content with the devlitry we'd done, we started the Indians to hating among themselves. We did that, lad, we white descendents o' the Son o' God, with our greater wisdom, our whisky, our guns and lies, until... there isn't a tribe that doesn't hate another tribe, and all because we hate the French and the French hate us...

...down in the Colonies, some of us are getting tired of a game so bloody and vile and are beginning to call ourselves Americans. It's a new and wholesome name, Jeems, and one that is bound to grow. And for a like reason, because the shortcomings of a parent sometimes give birth to pride in a child, a lot of the people of your father's race are beginning to call themselves Canadians...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thursday Things: 10 Products We Regularly Used for Jack (6-9 Months)

As a follow up to our favorite baby products at 0-3 months and 3-6 months, this list details the products we found to be the most useful at 6-9 months.

We continue to love and use some products (like the cloth diapers, crib, bibs, burp cloths, iPhone Nursing app, books, BOB, Kelty diaper bag, our Angelcare baby monitor and sound machine) while Jack has outgrown other items (Fisher Price Rock 'N Play, play gym and Baby Bjorn). The following list includes new products we began using on a regular basis once Jack turned 6 months.

1. Baby Einstein Musical Motion Activity Jumper – a gift that we introduced this around 5 months, but Jack didn't really love it until after 6 months.


2. Toys and Books – in general, Jack has become more interested in toys and he continues to love his books. Though his favorite thing is anything that he can put in his mouth {i.e. everything} and he has a special affinity for remote controls and cords.

3. Fisher Price Space Saver High Chair – at six months we started introducing food. His high chair has been the biggest help with this process. We are following the Baby Led Weaning approach, so he eats regular food, we just make sure it is soft and small enough for his hands. We love this high chair. We can easily move it from our breakfast area to our back porch dining area. We removed the pad that covers the chair because it gets too messy, especially with baby led weaning.


4. The Deuter Kid Comfort Carrier II – we actually have this on loan from my sister and brother-in-law. We love it though. It is great for hiking. The only negative is that the torso adjustments aren't quite long enough for Daniel's torso, so I get the pleasure of carrying our little man.


5. Recaro ProRide Carseat – at seven months, we went ahead and upgraded from the baby carrier to a full-blown carseat. We haven't looked back. We like the Recaro and are happy with our purchase, but we really wanted to buy the Diono Radian... maybe once we get a bigger car, we will swap.


6. Graco Pack 'N Play – we finally purchased a pack 'n play when we had friends visit in July. We let them use our nursery for their baby and put Jack in our room. Also, we knew we would need one for traveling, so we bit the bullet and went with the cheapest one that had the best reviews. It has worked great. We took it with us to Charlotte and Jack did fine. It folds up fairly small and I am sure we will use it the next time we travel.


7. Umbrella Stroller – just before Jack turned 9 months old, we made the decision to get a cheap umbrella stroller for our trip to Charlotte. Since we were staying in a downtown, urban area, I knew that trying to take our BOB stroller into cafes and shops might be a problem. The umbrella stroller served its purpose. The wheels were a bit of a hassle, they didn't always go the direction I wanted and the handles seemed a little low, but overall, definitely worth the $15 we spent. We still use our BOB revolution stroller a majority of the time.


8. Neat Solutions Waterproof Bib with pouch – this little food trough of a bib is definitely our favorite. It catches all of the food that would otherwise land in Jack's lap or the floor. We especially love it when eating out.

9. Footless pajamas – we love these for summer months and also Jack can wear them a little longer than the footie pajamas. He grows so fast that anything that will last a couple of extra months is a plus in our books.

10. Evenflo Johnny Jump Up Up – this swing hangs in a door frame has been a big hit. He likes that he can swing and try to walk. I like that I can keep him contained if I am trying to get something done.


Honorable Mention: Tinted Windows in our Subaru. With the extra hot summer, we are so glad we went ahead and had our windows tinted. This has helped tremendously on making the car less hot whenever we get inside. It also seems to cool down faster. A must for living in the south. Our next vehicle will have rear vents for the heat and air.

We are still trying to keep the toys and books from overrunning our house. I know that there will come a day when that is more of a challenge. Right now we are thankful that the stuff we do have is all pretty manageable. 

By choosing to use cloth diapers, continuing to nurse and deciding to do baby led weaning, we have been able to eliminate or reduce purchases that we might be making otherwise. I realize that these choices wouldn't work for everyone, but we are really happy with where we are at and it is working for us.

I would love to hear what your favorite baby products are.

See Jack {mid July 2012}

This is an ongoing series of videos that I am sharing so that our extended family can keep up with how Jack is growing and changing in these early years.

Jack is at a stage where he is changing quickly. Sometimes I feel like I blink and he has learned a new trick. It is quite amazing. In an effort to share his development with family (and friends who are interested), I will be posting weekly video updates of our little guy. See Jack...

See Jack try to talk to us. 
He is developing quite the little "vacabulary" with each passing day {i.e. lots of new sounds}.
{mid July}

See Jack play in the laundry basket. 
This was all fun and games until he tried to pull up and the basket tipped over. 
He continues to be fascinated by laundry though.
{mid July}


See Jack swing. 
He wasn't too sure about this new contraption at first. Now he really enjoys it.
{mid July}

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Week in a Hotel with a Baby and Dog – What We Learned


Traveling to Charlotte, NC with Daniel so that he could attend the NA-YGN conference was a learning experience for all of us.

This was our first time to take a trip, as a family, that lasted more than 5 days. It was our first time staying in a hotel with a baby. It was our fist time staying in a hotel with our baby and our dog. It was our first time to exclusively use disposable diapers (since starting cloth at around 8 weeks). It was the first time (in a long time) that we had to take Sophie on regular, daily walks (at home, we just open the back door and let her roam our 3-acre property to her heart's content). It was our first time to eat at restaurants for every meal for an entire week.

So how did it go?

Overall, I'm going to say that we learned a lot and would do some things differently in the future. There were some tough days, but overall I am glad we were able to tag along. I don't know that we would go on a work trip with Daniel again, but it was nice to visit our old city.

What we learned:

1. Rule #1: on any road trip, as long as the baby and dog are both asleep, keep driving. 
We would have LOVED to stop at NOC to watch the rafters, grab lunch and let Sophie roam around, but when your babies are asleep, sometimes you have to forgo fun stuff and keep on driving.

2. In the future, we will try to stick to renting houses whenever possible. 
Hotels are tough. Having a baby in our room was tough. We stuck the pack 'n play in the bathroom, but that meant we had to plan showers, teeth brushing and other bathroom activities around a sleeping baby.
Also, trying to get in and out of the hotel, via an elevator, with a dog and a stroller for multiple daily walks was hard. Thankfully most of the people that road the elevators with us were pretty laid back about having to ride with a dog. Maybe they were just distracted by the cute baby.

3. To some degree, nap times and dog walks are going to dictate what you will be able to do.
We have a pretty flexible schedule with Jack, but we still try to make sure that he gets at least one good nap every day. I was really hoping that he would nap in his stroller on at least one of our daily walks with Sophie, but that was rarely the case... I guess there was too much to look at.

I had hoped to visit more museums and shops, and while I did get to go to the Mint Museum and IKEA, I decided for the good of everyone, naps for Jack were more important. I try to find balance when it comes to my baby. It is important that we get out and enjoy activities, but it is also important that he gets rest.

Sophie needed to get out at least twice a day. We tried to walk her in the mornings, then again around dinner time and/or around bed time. Daniel had to walk her in the rain at night on more than one occasion.

4. Diapers. 
Wow. This turned out to be our biggest problem. For four nights straight Jack kept waking up multiple times throughout the night. I would have to change his wet diaper and then he would fuss, so I would give in and nurse him back to sleep for the sanity of Daniel and anybody staying in adjacent rooms. I, on the other hand, was losing my mind. I was also concerned that a week of "training" to wake up and nurse multiple times every night was going to mess us up when we got home.*
FINALLY, we decided to try Pampers Baby Dry overnight (12-hour) diapers. This was a game changer. We had no idea that we would need different kinds of diapers for just a week, but regular disposable diapers were not cutting it. We made the swap (at the end of the week) and we got our good sleeper back. This made everyone happy.
Now that we are home, we are thrilled to be back in cloth diapers. I had to change diapers more often with the disposable and we had some near fiascoes when we were out and about. I already loved our cloth diapers, but now I appreciate them even more.
*Thankfully Jack has resumed his normal sleeping schedule without incident. Whew.

5. Eating at restaurants was surprisingly easy.
We only had one meal that was a near disaster. Thanks to our experience with baby led weaning, we just offered Jack whatever was on our plates and he did great. 

Our one not-so-good night was when we ate with Daniel's colleagues from TVA. We all walked to McCormick and Schmicks. Jack started the evening out happy, but he had missed his afternoon nap completely. About 10 minutes after sitting down at our table, Jack was done. Daniel and I had to take turns eating our meal and sitting with Jack outside. If it had just been us, we would have gone home early. 

To top this off: as soon as our food came, a monsoon started. I'm talking torrential downpours and loud thunder. Thankfully there was an awning outside to sit under. We hoped it would clear up, but after two hours, it was still going strong. 

Daniel took a shuttle with his co-workers back to the hotel while Jack and I waited. It made for some interesting people watching as no one wanted to get out in the rain. When Daniel pulled up, I had to run through the rain to the street where I handed Jack to Daniel and then I had to go back for our stroller (which we could not collapse). Daniel ended up throwing a fully open stroller into the back of our Subaru. Fun times. 

I am looking to taking a real vacation one of these days. We have been incredibly busy this year and could use a break. It was nice to visit Charlotte, but it didn't feel like a vacay.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Charlotte – Parks


One of the things we miss most about Charlotte is the abundance of parks, greenways and green spaces found throughout the city. It always amazed us that the streets and parks were always pristine and you rarely found trash anywhere.


On this trip to Charlotte, we went on many walks {mostly out of necessity since our dog was along for the trip}. Most frequently we walked the two blocks from our hotel to The Green, a small park next to St. Peters Catholic Church in uptown Charlotte. It is a small 1.5 acre park, but perfect for getting Sophie out of the hotel without a whole lot of effort.

Fountain in front of St. Peter's at The Green

Daniel took a longer walk with Sophie from our hotel to Marshall Park at least once.

View of uptown from Frazier Park
 
A couple of times, I drove over to Frazier Park in Third Ward, which is a part of the Irwin Creek Greenway and has a dog park. I used to take afternoon walks at this park when I worked uptown since it was right next to where I worked.


I also drove over to Freedom Park, which is a part of the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. I have no idea why we didn't spend more time at Freedom Park when we lived in Charlotte. We sometimes used the greenway system to bike home via Myers Park, but didn't spend much time in the park itself. It is a gorgeous park.


We also made a special trip out to the McAlpine Creek Greenway which is close to our old neighborhood. Having a greenway {or forest} with access from {or close to} our house is on our must have list for the next house we buy.


Daniel also went and checked out Romare Bearden Park, which is currently in the early stages of construction. This particular park holds special interest to him since he worked on some of the civil engineering for this park when he worked at LandDesign.

Other parks we love in the Charlotte area, but didn't have time to visit, include: The U.S. National White Water Center – has rafting, mountain biking and climbing walls; Colonel Francis Beatty Park – we loved mountain biking at this park; Fourth Ward Park – close to our apartment when we lived uptown; and finally Crowder's Mountain State Park – a bit of a drive from Charlotte, but on a clear day you can see the Queen City from the pinnacle.

Recipe for a Happy Birthday │Jack's 6th Birthday Party

Over the course of the last six years, my idea for what is a good kid's party has evolved. And by evolved, I mean relaxed. ...