It’s An Ordinary Blog On Vacation! Part 1: Sarasota, Florida #IAOBVacation2014

Sarasota

At some point after my daughter was born in 2011, my life focus started to gradually change. I started to realize that life is all about the memories we have, the love we share, and the people that we share them with. I started to value moments more than things and my love for travel reached an all time high.

Vacation [vey-key-shun]

noun: a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used forrest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday

Recreation, travel, recess, or holiday…what’s not to love about vacation?!

Kansas City to Sarasota

At some point early on in 2014 (I can’t remember exactly when this plan happened), my husband and I decided that we would take a few weeks in December to travel to the South-Eastern seaboard of the United States to visit family, friends, and for a few days in Orlando.

Don’t let that map fool you – I did NOT spend $446 each way for plane tickets (Google, no.). What I did do, however, was follow the sales. I’m a big fan of flying Southwest and I regularly follow their sales for good travel deals. In early June, flights from Kansas City, Missouri to Tampa, Florida went on sale for a little under $140 each way – if you’re planning to travel and you know far enough in advance, I definitely suggest watching the sales and getting your tickets when the fares are low.

Plane

With our bags packed and excitement bursting at the seams, we left for the airport. As we were boarding the aircraft, the captain pulled us aside for a special tour of the cockpit. In all my years of travel, I’d actually never seen the inside of the cockpit up close and so it was an unexpected surprise not only for my three year old (pictured above) but also for me. C loved it. She got a real kick out of pushing the buttons (only the ones that she was told she could) and hearing the plane “talk” to her. Future pilot?! Perhaps!

We flew from MCI (Kansas City) to TPA (Tampa) direct and the ride was smooth and easy. After landing, we made the short drive down to Sarasota for the first few days of our vacation.

Sarasota

Sarasota was warm, sunny, and beautiful…the quintessential Florida destination. While we were there, we trekked through local parks and eventually made our way over to The Mall At University Town Center (UTC). The mall has a great display up for the holidays where children can visit Queen Elsa’s Frozen Ice Palace before chatting with Santa (he’s there!). You can take a peek at some of my pictures from our time at the mall over on the It’s An Ordinary Blog Facebook page.

As wonderful as the indoor shopping center is (and I imagine it’s GREAT during the heat of the summer), our favorite spot in Sarasota was, by and far, the ocean. Living in the heartland, we don’t get to see the shore very often and the beaches in Florida are truly beautiful. We spent an entire afternoon in Siesta Key, enjoying lunch and splashing around in the water.

Sarasota

Please note that the Bead Shack in Siesta Key, Florida sells GLasses, not “asses”. Sorry ’bout that, folks…

There’s a little place in Siesta Key called Daiquiri Deck that offers fresh seafood and drinks at reasonable prices. When in Florida, I think it’s important to get fresh fish so I ordered their Lobster Wrap New England Style for lunch and it was really, really good (like super good, delicious). You can find pictures of that (warning: your mouth might water, mine is just thinking about it) here.

Sarasota

We couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon at the beach. The temperatures were ideal for playing out on the sand and, although the water was chilly, splashing around in the ocean was really enjoyable.

The beaches there are stunning. One thing that I was most impressed with was the fact that I was able to walk out into the ocean pretty far (you can see the picture below) and the water was still only up to my knees. I felt really comfortable letting C play in the water without having to worry about riptides or the water getting deep too quickly.

Sarasota

Our few days in Sarasota were absolutely relaxing and enjoyable. My husband’s sister and her family live in the area and so we were able to spend time with them, letting the cousins play, and just appreciating our time together. I can’t wait to go back!

Sarasota

Next up on the blog: Our visit to Orlando! Stay tuned…

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Adventures In Atlanta: Part 1 (World Of Coca-Cola)

Coca-Cola World (It's An Ordinary Blog)

Happy Thursday, Everyone!

After what seems like a whirlwind of a week, I’ve finally landed in Atlanta for my first ever blog conference and even though the party doesn’t officially start until tomorrow, my internet turned in real life friends Sarah from The House Of Boys & A Girl and Heidi from The Pajama Mama and I wanted to spend some time doing something fun today. So, naturally, we went to The World Of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta.

Located across from the Aquarium here in Atlanta, The World of Coca-Cola is just a hop, skip, and a jump from the hotel I’m staying at for the duration of the week. In other news, it’s an easy ride on the Marta to get there (the way back is an entirely different story which will have it’s very own dedicated post- stay tuned!) and it was well worth the adventure.

In an effort to keep this post short (and because, honestly, I’m feeling kind of tired and lazy), I’ll just share the pictures from our visit today. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend visiting. We saved up our reward points from all of the Diet Coke we drink (because I’m an addict) and it paid for our admission today but I’d happily pay the entrance fee any day. As an added bonus, at the end of your tour, you can drink all of the carbonated beverages from around the World that you want (as long as Coca-Cola manufactures them).

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The staff at World of Coca-Cola were absolutely INCREDIBLE and their hospitality really put the experience over the top. Special thanks to our new friend Noland who was working at the vault (where the secret recipe for Coke is located) for his time and attention today. He came up to chat with us while we were hanging out and we shared some laughs. I kind of wish every business had at least one Noland on staff- he was great.

I’ll leave you with this: When you go, make sure you watch the “Moments Of Happiness” video. It’s something I’m told will be public at some point in the future but, for now, you can ONLY watch it at World of Coca-Cola. I had all of the (good) feels. It was great.

With that, I bid you adieu. Until tomorrow, goodnight.

Let’s Chat About Lemurs

Island Of Lemurs Madagascar

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words…

When I look at pictures of one of my absolute favorite animals on Earth (I’ll give you a hint, it’s the Lemur) a few words come to mind:

Amazing | Fascinating | Incredible | Adorable

Island Of Lemurs

Happy Sunday, Folks!

After a crazy, busy week I was beyond ready to settle in and enjoy the weekend with my loving family. On the docket was some much needed poolside R&R, a fun Saturday night with great friends, and an afternoon with some Lemurs in Madagascar (note the lack of chores included on my list, looks like I’ve got some catching up to do). That’s right, I said “…an afternoon with some Lemurs in Madagascar”.

Now although I didn’t actually have the time or the resources (hello expensive plane tickets) to physically travel to the island of Madagascar, I was able to experience it through the lense of IMAX 3-D, which came in at a close just kidding second best.  A few of the AMC theaters in our area are playing the 40 minute documentary highlighting these fascinating creatures called “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar” right now and it’s a pretty neat and educational experience for families. Check out the trailer:

The film, which follows the story of Dr. Patricia Wright, a scientist who has made it her life’s mission to help these unique and amazing Lemurs survive, is narrated by none other than Morgan Freeman himself. “Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar” captivates audiences and aims to gently remind everyone of the impact we have on the creatures of the World. You see, Lemurs are the oldest living primate still in existence today. Dating back nearly 60 million years, Lemurs have survived a myriad of worldly events including the collapse of the dinosaurs and the evolution of the human species. As incredible as their story is, these amazing animals are facing the possibility of extinction…and that’s pretty sad.

Island Of Lemurs

Now, I’ll admit that I am the type of person that’s into documentaries but I think “Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar” is a great resource for caregivers and educators who are looking for something to help teach young children about one of the oldest living creatures known to man.

Island-of-Lemurs-logo

The journey this film takes you on is both beautiful and extraordinary. It gave me a greater appreciation and deeper respect for an animal that I already adored. So check it out at an IMAX theater near you.

Island Of Lemurs

I Speak Italian (Sort Of) & So Can You!

Hello, friends! Take a look at that stunning image from a lake town in Italy.  I imagine the people who inhabit that beautiful place are friendly.  I imagine that the cobblestone streets are lined with small shops and that people sit outside of cafes, chatting about life while enjoying the company of their loved ones.  I imagine all of these things because I have never  actually been to Italy (at least not from what I remember).  In the late 1980’s, my family was stationed in Germany for a few years and we had the opportunity to travel throughout several countries in Europe but, since I was still a toddler, I don’t have many memories of our time living overseas.  The travel bug has bitten me and the only cure for it is more cowbell to either hop on a plane and go somewhere new or take some time learning about a culture from afar (with the hope of one day visiting).  For now, my only option is the latter.  From the rich history to the vibrant culture, I love all things Italy.

About a month ago, I was given the opportunity to learn something new. I was given the gift of learning the Italian language.  I will be the first to tell you that I was both excited and nervous about the prospect of learning Italian.  Having studied other languages in the past (Spanish, French, and Arabic), I am no stranger to the amount of difficulty associated with learning and the commitment it takes to become fluent in a language that’s different from your own.  While some may think I have an affinity for learning languages (trust me, I don’t), I wasn’t as confident in my own abilities.  Then I popped in my first Pimsleur Approach Italian I CD and I really felt confident that I could do it.  “Dear Universe,” I said, “challenge ACCEPTED!”

Pimsleur Approach Italian 1

Learning with the Pimsleur Approach has been an absolute breeze. The CDs, which total over 16 hours of learning, guide you through conversational Italian.  When you begin each section, you’ll spend a minute listening to a conversation (the dialogue increases in difficulty the deeper you are into the lessons).  Afterwards, the conversation is broken down for you part by part in a listen and repeat style manner which is easy to understand and allows just about anyone to quickly pick up the language (my three year old daughter repeats some of the words and it’s adorable).

I’m only about three weeks into my lessons but I already feel confident enough to at least introduce myself to an Italian speaker as an English speaker and to let them know that I don’t speak Italian very well.  My plan is to share my progress with all of you as I continue on through this first set of CDs so feel free to follow along with me (and keep me accountable for learning).  If you’d like to join in (it’s not too late!) and learn Italian with me, you can find more information about the Pimsleur Approach on Amazon.  I would like (and plan) to continue on through their more advanced language learning CDs and, hopefully, reward myself with a trip to Italy someday where I’ll feel confident having a conversation with a native Italian all thanks to the Pimsleur Approach.

Disclosure: I was given a generous discount on my Italian language CDs in exchange for using the Pimsleur Approach and discussing my experience on It’s An Ordinary Blog. All expressed opinions are uniquely my own and I wholeheartedly endorse their approach for my readers who are looking to learn Italian. Please feel free to connect with me any time if you have questions about this review.

Staycation All I Ever Wanted: Kansas City’s GRAMMY Music Experience

If you’re like me, as Kansas City begins its descent into cooler weather, you’ll be looking indoors for activities to escape the Winter cold. GRAMMY Museum Experience, located inside Sprint Center in Kansas City, offers a musical adventure for kids and adults of all ages. I recently had the opportunity to spend some time touring the GRAMMY Museum and found it to be a unique and wonderful early afternoon spent downtown.

Upon entering the facility, guests are invited to become part of the band. No auditions necessary. Each station is set up with its own individual headset so that the musician can hear his or her own talent (or lack thereof) while at play. This stage, which features various instruments and a vocal station, is the perfect opportunity for people to explore. I imagine that it’s especially useful for students who think they might be interested in playing in an actual band later on down the road. One thing I learned during band practice? I probably shouldn’t quit my day job…unless, of course, someone wants to offer me a job singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” for a room full of toddlers.

As visitors continue to navigate through the experience, they’ll find themselves feeling rather groovy as they’re encouraged to take part in dance lessons from one of the two major music legends of the 20th century. This interactive area comes complete with bright lights in alternating colors that create a fun, playful atmosphere within the GRAMMY Museum Experience. Even though I was the only person in the room at the time (thanks for the special tour, GME!) I still didn’t muster up the courage to dance on the floor.

Also available within the experience is an abundance of information detailing Kansas City’s rich history with music, a timeline of the Grammy’s in America, and an incredible opportunity to witness how modern day hip hop has been influenced by performers in decades past. Guests will be blown away by the connections between modern music and musicians who paved the way in America. Additionally, visitors have the opportunity to listen to tracks of by artists who put meaning behind their lyrics. I personally appreciated being witness to the meaning behind the words, it’s something I enjoy most in music.

After dropping a beat at one of the mix stations available within the GRAMMY Museum Experience, guests will have the opportunity to take a peek at some amazing artifacts from their favorite musicians. Including costumes worn on stage, instruments, and awards. All in all, the GRAMMY Museum Experience offers a mix of education and fun right in the heart of Kansas City.

One of the best ways I recommend enjoying this experience is to grab a ticket to Rock The Line, offered at select Sprint Center events, which includes access to the GRAMMY Museum Experience, red carpet fun, and a spot at the front of the line during your favorite concert or event. For more information or to purchase tickets, head on over to the GRAMMY Museum Experience website. Be sure to check them out Sprint Center on Facebook and let them know that It’s An Ordinary Blog sent you.

Historic Corydon, Indiana Series Part II: Point Blank Brewery

Point Blank Brewing Company

As you may remember from my last post in this series, we recently ventured from our home in the central Midwest to the historic town of Corydon in Indiana (fast fact: Corydon was Indiana’s first state capitol. You’re welcome for that tidbit of knowledge ;)). Like any good former scout, I did a little research on the area before we headed back East for our extended weekend and were excited to discover that Corydon has a small gastropub downtown. Since the husband is somewhat of a beer aficionado (read: beer snob), we knew that was a place we definitely wanted to check out. The restaurant is highly recommended both by the reviews they have online and the locals who talked about their extensive beer selection.

Point Blank Menu

In addition to their American style menu (brick oven pizza, sandwiches, etc), Point Blank has an impressive beer menu  for a town as small as Corydon. Their plan is to start serving their own brews later this Fall but, in the meantime, they have over 100 bottled beers and a diverse selection on tap. Within the large bottled list were some of the more rare and obscure offerings from Boulevard (Whoo, Kansas City). After sampling a beer from the tap, my husband decided to pair his Ruben with a German beer he knew that he would love, Franzikaner Hefe-weisse. After a mixup with the wait staff, he ended up with a Weihenstephaner Dunkel.  The Dunkel is still considered a ‘world class’ beer and paired nicely with his menu item so, all in all, it was a happy mix-up.

The beer selection is only a fraction of what Point Blank offers residents and out of town guests. They also offer a full, family friendly, menu at reasonable prices. Although I could nit-pick on certain things about the service (like my husband getting the wrong beer), the drinks were cold and the food was hot. The owner, who was on site during lunch service, obviously knows and appreciates good beer and it was a pleasure being able to spend a few minutes speaking with him about the restaurant and his vision for the future.

Nestled in the shops of the quiet, historic downtown area, Point Blank is an unexpected surprise. It’s a gastropub and brewing supply store you’d expect to find in a larger city but with the comforts of being down home.

Point Blank

Historic Corydon, Indiana Series! (With Pictures!)

Corydon, Indiana

My husband, two year old daughter, and I recently made the nearly 500 mile journey from our home in Kansas City to beautiful Corydon, Indiana. You might be thinking that a small town near the Indiana / Kentucky border makes for a unique travel destination and you might be wondering what brought us there in the first place… Corydon happens to be a great almost-half way point between where we live in the central Midwest and where my husband’s parents and grandparents live back East. Within a stone’s throw from Louisville, Kentucky (about a half hour drive), it’s the ideal setting for a laid back, relaxed time in a small town atmosphere.

Corydon has a lot to offer both residents and visitors alike and their downtown area is a beautiful setting for history buffs who want to learn about Indiana’s first state capitol. During this series, I will be featuring some of the things I enjoyed most about our stay in Corydon but I encourage you to check it out for yourself. You can find more information about the town, their vibrant history, and what they have to offer by checking out their website: This Is Indiana. For now, I want to share a few of the pictures I snapped while we were there. If you’d like to use these photos for any reason, please email me first: itsanordinaryblog@gmail.com. Enjoy!

Butt Drugs Corydon Indiana

Feeding right into my sense of humor (which isn’t unlike that of a 13 year old boy), I couldn’t help but snap a photo of Corydon’s famous “Butt Drugs”.

Public Library Clock Indianas First Capitol Indiana Capitol Fredericks Cafe First State Capitol Corydon, Indiana Corydon Indiana Corydon Indiana Corydon Indiana Corydon Indiana Corydon Indiana Corydon Indiana Corydon Indiana Butt Drugs

I can’t wait to highlight some of my favorite moments from the trip including our dining experience at a unique gastropub in Corydon, a fantastic ice cream shop in the area, and our visit with the Louisville Bats. Stay tuned!

Treat Bags for Traveling With Toddlers

Travel Map

 

2 Adults | 1 Toddler | 486 Miles | 7 Hours | 1 Road Trip 

We recently spent an extended weekend in historic Corydon, Indiana and I’m proud to say that we made it through the road trip with our two year old unscathed! I will admit that my husband and I were both a little nervous about the prospect of spending nearly 8 hours on the road each way with a two year old passenger in the car. Toddlers, by nature, can be unpredictable in their mood and we weren’t quite sure how our daughter would react to our long weekend. All that said, she was an incredible travel companion. So much so, in fact, that we’re planning another long trip this Autumn with her (wish us luck!). I’d like to think that my impeccable planning skills played some small role in our recent road trip success and so I thought I’d take a couple of minutes to share what I did with all of you.

The week before we left, I hit up my local Target in search of some great deals in their ‘cheap toy / items you’re probably going to end up tossing’ section (the one that’s generally at the front of the store as you come in). I went in without any real expectations for what I would find but I was on the hunt for some small toys, books, or games to keep my daughter busy in the car. My plan was to pair a couple of the items with a small snack and drink in a special bag that we would present to her at various stages throughout the trip. A half hour and about $10 later, I had what I needed to get started.

If you’re like me (a planner) who will be traveling with small children, I highly suggest taking the time to prepare these bags ahead of time. I found that they really helped make our trip so smooth. Each bag contained:

  • A fresh diaper
  • A small baggie of wipes
  • A small snack
  • A drink
  • A small book
  • A small toy
  • A glow stick

We presented a bag at each of our semi-planned (within a desired time frame) pit stops and found that it was a great way to introduce something new to capture her attention for long enough that she wasn’t bored in the car. I don’t know about you but I call that a win. Here’s what the bags looked like:

Treat Bags for Kids

Travel Treat Bag

Treat Bag 1

Pit Stop Treat Bags

With a little planning and preparation you, too, can enjoy (yes, I said enjoy) a road trip with your toddler. Happy Travels!

The Gateway To The West: Our Trip to St. Louis (With Pictures)

We had the opportunity to spend some time in St. Louis on Monday and enjoyed a trip to The Gateway Arch. I’d been there before but not since childhood and this was the first time either my husband or my daughter (that goes without saying) had ever seen it up close. My husband didn’t believe me when I told him that the Arch sways when it’s windy but he got to see first hand what I meant during our trip….Here are some pictures that I took.

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Please ask my permission before copying these photos. Feel free to email me at: itsanordinaryblog@gmail.com

Why I Still Write Out Directions

In a world full of smart phones and navigation devices, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who still uses maps and writes out directions…

I am one of those people.

Handwritten Directions

I love my Tom Tom and the navigation system on my phone but I’m one of those rare breeds that still writes it all out. Nothing really compares to writing out my own directions. It’s something I always do for every trip I take and it’s something I recommend to anyone who plans to travel long distance.

Why I Write Out Directions

You might be wondering why it is that I write everything out…Well, you never know what life is going to throw at you while you’re traveling and I’ve found that it’s always best to be as prepared as you can be before you head out. So I take each leg of the trip and get to work looking at the different suggested routes (thanks Google maps) and figure out which would be ideal in terms of distance and also in terms of traffic congestion. I’ve found that even though some routes say they’ll save you an hour of time, it doesn’t always work out that way…especially when you find yourself in a major city around rush hour.

Google Map

Once I figure out which route I plan to take, I then look at towns in between here and there that might be good to stop off at for breaks. I’ve found this to be especially helpful when traveling with small children. During this past trip, I looked for Chick-Fil-A restaurants on our route since I knew I could trust that their play areas are always clean for C to get some energy out in.

I also try to compare gas prices between states so I know when I should plan to fill up and when I might be better off waiting. There are plenty of websites that can help you find the lowest gas prices in certain areas (which I used last year when we took a trip back East for my brother’s wedding).

Google Maps Total Travel

I’ll never forget the time that the charger for my GPS device broke in my car (literally in the charging portal in my car). It was at that moment that I realized you can’t always rely on technology to get you from point A to point B. You have to know where you’re headed.  Plus, I’ve found, it gives me more peace of mind.

So my question is this:

Do you rely solely on technology to help you navigate during trips (or in life in general) or do you still plan and write out your route like me?