Fort Atkinson State Historical Park

Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, twokidsandamap.com

My husband and I were just saying how little time we have spent traveling around our local area here in Nebraska lately. We swore last night, no matter what, we were getting out and doing something local today. Hopefully a new adventure we haven’t tried in the last year. Initially, we planned to go berry picking. Nope, closed. Then we thought about taking a short walk around one of our local recreational parks. Eh, not incredibly exciting for the Fourth of July Weekend. Since I wasn’t struck with any ridiculously amazing ideas, I thought I would turn to Oh My Omaha, a website that has been very helpful to us as a new family in the Omaha area.

June 29th, Kim posted about some Independence Day Celebrations and one idea was a trip to Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska. This weekend was one of several “living history” weekends they hold where you are able to watch, and participate in, re-creations of what it was like to live in and around the fort back in the early 1800s. The fort was free, except you do need to have a Nebraska state park entry permit ($26 annual or $5 for one day).

It is no secret that we are huge fans of historical re-enactments (check out our post on a Civil War Re-enactment, or visiting Colonial Williamsburg…Holy cow, I practically grew up visiting Colonial Williamsburg and just realized we only have one short post about it, clearly I have a job to do!). This trip back in history did not disappoint either!

I am SO glad we hopped in the car and went straight in that direction! Fort Atkinson is only about fifteen minutes north of Omaha, and it took us 30 minutes to drive there from Papillion, an Omaha suburb. It is located on the edge of Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, a small city of 908 people (2010). Click here for other things to see in Fort Calhoun.

The fort itself is an impressive re-creation, which you can read all about as you walk in and out of the various rooms. The hospital, kitchen, mess, barracks, and more, all surround the parade grounds.

Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, twokidsandamap.com

You are able to walk in and out of well over a dozen rooms and learn about Fort Atkinson’s history. However, I HIGHLY recommend visiting the fort during a living history weekend. Upon entering the fort, the kids received a scavenger hunt paper that kept them busy the entire time. They were constantly looking for answers and learned several new bits of information…do YOU know who a Cooper is and what he does???

The fort is very hands on and there are so many rooms where you can test items and get involved. I hope this doesn’t get out to your work honey…

Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, twokidsandamap.com

We enjoyed asking the re-enactors questions about their various skills and abilities, and what life was like. We ate butter that had been churned that morning on bread that was freshly baked. My ten year old enjoyed learning how to bobbin weave lace with the weavers, and my fourteen year old son was thrilled when the blacksmith handed him a miniature sword that had been forged right in front of him from a nail.

Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, twokidsandamap.com

My personal favorite was the Sutler Store.

Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, twokidsandamap.com

I am ALWAYS complaining about gift shops at the places we visit. If I am going to purchase a tourism token while we are traveling, which is INCREDIBLY RARE for me to do in the first place, I want it to be something authentic, original, and unique to that location. Preferably created on site. Well, this shop had several things that fit my standards, like this Fort Atkinson doll, and I just loved it.

Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, twokidsandamap.com

Heather, Sarah, and Morgan (below, left to right) man the Sutler Store counter, handing out dozens and dozens of free candy sticks awarded to children who completed their scavenger hunt papers.

Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, twokidsandamap.com

Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, twokidsandamap.com

The re-enactors were all so friendly and full of facts to share. I cannot wait to let my friends in on the secret of this little gem hidden away north of Omaha. What a great time we had!

Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, twokidsandamap.com

If you live in or around Omaha and are looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon, or if you are in town for a visit, be sure to take a trip to Fort Atkinson State Historical Park and definitely try to visit during a living history weekend! You won’t be sorry! And thanks again for the suggestion Kim at Oh My Omaha!

Don’t Miss Your Local Fall Festivals!

I feel it is safe to say, no matter where you live in America, you are probably able to find some sort of local fall festival.  You may not live near apple orchards or pumpkin patches, but you likely have at least one event to celebrate the harvest.  We happened across one of our local festivals by complete accident!  I saw an ad two days before in the Momaha, a local Omaha magazine our daughter brings home from school.


Apple Jack Festival - twokidsandamap.com

My advice:

DON’T MISS IT!

I have yet to attend a fall festival that I regretted.  In Virginia, I drove 3 hours to go to my nearest, decent sized apple orchard and the State Fair happened to be along the way.  I picked apples (and many other fruits) on a regular basis in Newport, Rhode Island.  Here in Nebraska, I am lucky to be in America’s heartland, amidst acres and acres of rolling farms.  It is hard to turn around without running into a cornfield or an apple orchard.  We don’t buy apples at the grocery store right now, instead we stop at the local orchard on our way home to buy a few pounds.  I hope we are able to do the same with other fruits and berries in the spring and summer.


Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard - twokidsandamap

There isn’t much you need to know before you go U-Picking:

  • It helps to have a water bottle handy.
  • If you are picking somewhere that will let you, I recommend you bring your own bags for the sake of being eco friendly (make sure it is a light bag so you are not paying for the extra weight when they weigh it).
  • Most local businesses would prefer cash (some ONLY take cash) so they don’t have to pay ridiculous credit fees.  We always try to have a few 20s with us when we go.
  • Apple picking (or anything else for that matter) really doesn’t take very long.  You park, usually check in at the main office, pick your fruit (10 minutes…or a little more if you are walking through a big orchard), weigh your pickings back at the office, and go.  Of course, if you go somewhere like Kimmel Orchard (see more below), you will be spending a bit more time there).

Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard - twokidsandamap.com

Festivals are the same:

  • Bring some water, a stroller for little ones, and some extra cash.
  • Decide to go in advance so you can time your day well.  We attended the Apple Jack Festival in Nebraska City, Nebraska this morning and it began at 8:00am.  It was a 40 minute drive, but we still left early enough to arrive before 9 and I am SO glad we did.  We beat the traffic, beat the lines, and had a wonderful leisurely walk through the orchard.  Our group of 9, comprised of two families, had a blast.

Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard - twokidsandamap.com

If you are anywhere near Nebraska City, NE around this time of year, I HIGHLY recommend you attend the Apple Jack Festival.  It is celebrated in the entire city, as well as most of the local outlying orchards and several farms.  All things apple appear around every corner.  Be prepared to eat apple donuts galore, drink apple cider until you burst, and enjoy hayrack rides, pony rides, and at Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard, an obstacle course to keep the kids entertained!

Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard - twokidsandamap.com

Kimmel is great year round, not just during the festival.  They boast 40+acres of U-Pick property including strawberries, peaches, pears, apples, pumpkins and more!  The shop is enormous and filled with homemade goodies to buy.  My friend, from Brendid, and I even took part in a tasting of Kimmel’s dozen or so wines made with grapes grown on their property.  No, we didn’t try ALL of them! 🙂

Wine Tasting at Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard - twokidsandamap.com

The Orchard also shares it’s property with the Kimmel Education and Research Center, a University of Nebraska Partner focused on agriculture and natural resources.  I truly could go on and on.

Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard - twokidsandamap.com

We had such a fantastic experience at Kimmel Orchard and I cannot wait to return.  It was well staffed, with over 100 volunteers from a University of Nebraska fraternity and sorority.  The orchard is clearly no stranger to this event and they knew exactly how to set up to make things run smoothly for their thousands of visitors.  We will definitely be attending the Apple Jack Festival every year and Kimmel will certainly be a place we bring many of our friends who regularly come to visit us from all over the world.

Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard - twokidsandamap.com

Aren’t our children just lovely???

If you haven’t attended a fall festival yet, you are missing out!  It isn’t too late this year…go read your local paper, magazines, or blogs and find out what is happening near you!

 

Medical Emergencies While Traveling

You are planning out your dream vacation: hotel is booked, adventures planned, restaurants scouted out, clothes packed. When putting your clothes in your suitcase, you usually plan for contingencies, right? A sweater in case it’s cool, a swimsuit in case there is a pool or beach, a nice outfit for dinner out. You never know exactly what is going to happen so you try to be as prepared as possible. What about when it comes to your health or accidents? How do you plan for that? Of course, we can never foresee an unexpected injury, or that cold that hits you right in the middle of your summer trip to the Bahamas.  But just like we prepare for foul weather, I recommend you always have in the back of your head what to do if someone decides to ruin your trip by going and getting sick on you!

Medical Emergencies While Traveling - twokidsandamap.com

We are still in the middle of a less than stellar move from Newport, R.I. to Omaha, Nebraska.  Our housing plans completely fell through at entirely the last possible minute and we found ourselves homeless in our new town.  After some more house hunting we made the unplanned drive over to Denver to stay with Jen and her family while we wait for our home to be available.  It should come as no surprise to us that my 10 year old daughter would suddenly have an abscess appear below one of her teeth.  AGH!  What to do!?!

It can be incredibly stressful being in a strange area, out of your usual medical coverage area, trying to get in to see a doctor that you aren’t even going to be a patient of in the future. Our stress was compounded by the fact that we are getting ready to separate from our children as they continue their vacation with family.  This had to be fixed YESTERDAY.

I have taken many trips with and without children and here are my tips for how to cope with an injury or illness on the road:

  1. Give Permission for Medical Treatment in Advance: If leaving your children with other friends or family members while you (or they) vacation, write a letter that gives their caretaker permission to seek medical treatment.  Include your name, your kids’ names, the caretakers’ names, and be sure to sign it. Also leave a copy of your insurance card, allergies or illnesses and current physician’s contact information.
  2. Bring Your Insurance Cards: Always be sure to have access to your insurance information while traveling.
  3. Be Aware of Your Out of Network Policy: The last thing you want to worry about in an emergency is if you are making the right choice financially. Our medical insurance company had a webpage specifically geared toward what to do while you are traveling. Do try to be sure you make it to a provider that your insurance will allow, or you could be smacked with major bills later.
  4. ICE Contacts Stored in Your Phone: ICE (In case of emergency) contacts are vital in case you get hurt and are unable to call your emergency contacts yourself.
  5. Timing is Everything: Do not wait to see what happens. If there is a problem, whether accident or illness, take care of it ASAP.  It could develop into something so much worse and your issue could get out of hand faster than you imagine.
  6. Pack a Small First Aid Kit: I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to use antibacterial cream when someone gets cut while camping, or worse. Jen posted once about what to pack in a car first aid kit. Take a look and see if you are ready for the unknown!
  7. First Aid Kit - twokidsandamap.comStay Calm and Cool and Think With a Clear Head: Nobody will benefit if you are having an anxiety attack mid-emergency.

Have you had to deal with an emergency while traveling? Do you have any other advice to share?

Camping at Crabtree Falls, Virginia – A Photo Tour

Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Recently, Virginia is For Lovers posted about 13 Awesome Tent Camping Experiences in Virginia. The list was a great selection of camp sites across Virginia from False Cape to sites in Luray. Though 13 locations does not even begin to touch on the amazing places to set up your tent in the wildlife of Virginia, I was disappointed that one site in particular was left off the list.

Crabtree Falls Campground is the epitome of what family travelers would like to see in a camping experience. There are things to do, clean facilities to use, nature all around, a friendly ownership, and the list goes on… One of the great pulls to the campgrounds is Crabtree Falls, the highest vertical cascading waterfall on the East Coast, surrounded by lush forest and abundant wildlife.  It is located in the George Washington National Forest and is touted as one of the best known Virginia hiking trails. Crabtree Falls Campgrounds is immediately adjacent to the stream that flows from the base of the waterfall. Saddled with enormous boulders, the grounds are a brief walk down the road from the waterfall.

Crabtree Falls Campgrounds - Two Kids and A Map

Whenever I try to explain the experience here, I am almost at a loss for words.  How do you describe the beauty of one of the most serene places you have ever been?  We learned about Crabtree Falls through our Boy Scout/Cub Scout group.  The boys take a trip there each year and one day my best friend recommended we stop letting the boys have all the fun, and take our two families there together.  I had no idea what was in store.  When we arrived we were greeted by the husband-wife owners of the campsite who live on location.  We were given a description of the amenities – clean bathrooms and showers, a small shop with just about everything you could have possibly forgotten at home, a game room (not that you will use it when you have this type of location), playground, laundry and YES! well behaved pets are allowed! Then we were directed down to our waterfront tent sites beside the gurgling stream.  After our four older children helped our families unpack the car and heft the equipment down to the site, they were off!  They immediately turned into children of the land, climbing over rocks, wading in the water, and more.  It was straight out of a movie.

There are options for every type of camper at this campground…cabins, RV sites, and tent sites – many with electric – are all available and each is equipped with a fire pit and a picnic table.  However, NOTHING beats the four waterfront sites, two of which we took up with our party of 9!  We built so many memories that weekend and were all able to get away from the world and experience nonstop relaxation.

Prime camping right next to the stream and away from the road:Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

The kids were off to explore as soon as we were all set up!Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Wildlife abounds in all the nooks and crannys (see the butterflies on the ground???)Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

The two year old was NEVER boredCrabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Can’t beat relaxing in a stream on a warm summer’s day
Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Crabtree Falls is a short walk up the road from the campgroundCrabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Once reaching the base of the trail, you start your hike to the top!  The trail winds in and out and up and down and is a REAL hike (especially when carrying a 30 pound two year old on your back the entire way!)Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

One of the many small waterfall sections you see on your way to the topCrabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

There truly was never a dull moment on this trip
Crabtree Falls Campground - Two Kids and a Map

I cannot wait for a chance to return, especially if it is with this crowd again.  Next time you are camping in Virginia, seriously consider staying a Crabtree Falls Campground.  You won’t regret it!

Where is your favorite campground?!

6 Reasons To Visit (or move to) Omaha, Nebraska!

Hello from Marissa, Two Kids’ East Coast Editor! Did you see the announcement that I am moving to Omaha, Nebraska!?! If not, now you know! In about a month I will be digging up my roots in Newport, Rhode Island and relocating to the grand city of Omaha, Nebraska. Now you can call me the Midwest Editor!

Omaha? you ask. Grand?

I would be remiss if I did not admit that I had the same reaction. We tell people where we are relocating to and they have the same reaction…Oh. Omaha. Why?

In our case, we don’t have much of a choice.  My husband’s job sends him where he is needed. However, we have met several past residents of Omaha and they speak only amazing things of the city. I was eager to find out why people loved Omaha and what it had to offer. After a week there house hunting, I now know. The place is PHENOMENAL.

Omaha Push Pins
Jen, of Two Kids, even flew out and joined me for a few days of my house hunting trip and we had a terrific time exploring. There is so much to see and do – a list of 6 things is not enough, but I will try nonetheless…

1. Omaha LOVES visitors.  Omahans are proud of their city and they are happy to share that pride with you.  The tourism center was closed the day we were down there, but I did learn from our new friends The Walking Tourists about the Nebraska Passport (really click that link, it’s a great resource). It’s an awesome guide to Nebraska, highlighting must see attractions, restaurants, etc. to visit while you’re in the state. Many of these places are local to Omaha. You receive a passport stamp each place you visit from the guide and you are able to keep track of your travels across the state. The passport can be picked up at any location that participates. I grabbed mine and received my first stamp at Hollywood Candy, definitely a must see! Visit Omaha is another resource you can’t miss out on.  Their site includes a plethora of things to do, calendars, and information.  Right now they are encouraging you to share pictures of your visits on Instagram using #omahaweekend.

Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge in Omha
2. The downtown area is bumpin’! Jen and I spent a day traveling all over downtown, in particular the Old Market area. People out shopping and dining made it clear how much they enjoy being a part of this community. The vibe is fantastic and you really feel the energy of the local artists and culinary masters. And because of reason #6, it is so easy to get anywhere without a major hassle.

Omaha
3. Food, Food, Food!  I ate my way through Omaha in my 7 days and didn’t have a meal I didn’t like. Everything from the Upstream Brewing Company (12 beer flight!) to Mexican food at La Mesa in Bellevue (terrific cheese dip) to Stokes Grill and Bar (fantastic steak tacos and we had a blast bantering with our servers) to Spin! Neapolitan Pizza in Papillion. Trip Advisor has a list of 1,157 restaurants to choose from and I am elated to try as many as possible.

Stokes Bar and Grill Omaha
4. Attractions.  The pictures at the end of our trip were priceless.  Jen and I walked out to the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge where we stood over the Missouri in both Nebraska and Iowa.  On a whim we rode B-Cycles from the bridge back to the Old Market. We spent a morning walking around the tranquil Lauritzen Gardens where they also happened to be holding a plant sale for a day.  I am saving the Omaha Zoo, apparently the best zoo in the world, for an outing when my whole family has relocated.

Omaha B Cycles and Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge
5. A smile around every turn. My realtor became my best friend (and not just because he was trying to sell me a house). I stopped in to get information from the school my kids will be attending in Plattsmouth and felt like I made new friends with all the administration (one of the principals lives in the neighborhood I’m buying in). Our servers at Stokes were helping me think of captions for my Instagram photos. We met up with fellow bloggers The Walking Tourists who shared a WEALTH of local information and places to see.  The ladies at my hotel front desk were telling me about different schools and areas to live in.  The cars on the freeway let me into their lane whenever I put my blinker on.  Seriously, every person I met in and around Omaha was so happy to just be plain nice and pleasant.  Okay, except for that one guy who honked behind me at that stop sign.  He must have just been traveling through town through. 🙂

image
6. It really does only take 20 minutes to get anywhere in Omaha. I drove around all hours of the day and night during my house hunting and tourism adventures. Never did I encounter any traffic. The infrastructure of Omaha and its surrounding cities is fantastic. The roads are wide, easily traversable, new in many areas, and clean!  Parking downtown was no where near a problem.  As a matter of fact, the parking pass we paid only $5 for was good until 6am the next day!  That is unheard of in most cities I have lived around!  Not Omaha.

Nebraska Tourism Passport
The memories I made this week will last a lifetime, but more importantly, I have a whole new outlook on our move to the Omaha area. Our family is going to thrive there. I don’t know if three years will be enough time for us to enjoy all this city has to offer but I am going to strive to make it happen!  Stay tuned and follow my Nebraska traveling to see what happens next!

 

National Cryptologic Museum

MZPZO OAD FQJSOTWBZF VNPDNV UTL!

Key A=H

Can you decode the message you see in blue above?  If you visited the National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Meade, Maryland, you would be able to!  Okay, okay. I will give you the encryption code.  Use this cipher wheel (obtained at the museum).  I have already lined the letters up to match the key I chose (you can’t tell from the picture, but the black wheel turns independently…I have it lined up so that A=H). Now, match up each of the letters in the message above to find the answer (the answer can also be found at the bottom of this post)!

cipherwheel

This is just one example of the engaging activities that caught our attention today at the National Cryptologic Museum.  My husband, father, and two oldest kids had the pleasure of visiting the museum today and I was so pleasantly surprised, as was everyone else!  We had a TERRIFIC time.  The museum had several rooms of displays depicting the history and growth of cryptology in America.  Actual machines that were used, models of items used in international espionage, encrypted letters, and more.  Everything you could possibly desire to awaken the super spy inside of you.  Be careful though, you  may leave with a whole new sense of paranoia!

The museum was first built for use by NSA employees at the nearby offices, designed to enlighten them on the history of their careers.  The museum has been open to the public for more than two decades now and they offer opportunities for individuals, groups, and organizations to visit.  They offer guided tours and countless free booklets to take with you.  Once we returned home, my husband spent the better part of the afternoon reading a booklet and trying to confirm the mathematics behind the Enigma encryption machine!

Enigma Machine

The most valuable service they offered, however, was the Crypto Kids Challenge!  Oh my gosh.  Every museum should have a program like this.  Every museum.  We all know that the mention of a museum does not exactly insight excitement in people under the age of 18.  I cannot even count on my two hands the number of museums that I have been too and have barely been able to graze the surface of the information they had to offer.  The kids are bored after five minutes or constantly wanting to move from display to display, without really learning much of anything.

Deciphering Codes                     Deciphering Code

The National Cryptologic Museum has a great solution to that with the Crypto Kids Challenge!  My son, age 12, and my daughter, age 9, were both given a clipboard, challenge sheet, pencil, and cipher wheel at the entrance to the museum.  A pleasant man explained the “rules” to them:  They were to seek out the special signs throughout the museum, read the question, and decipher the code that contained the answer to the question.  After they documented all of their answers the children took their answer sheets to the front desk and received their choice of prize (both of mine chose a Frisbee and a pencil).

How many kids can you count on the floor focused on their work???

Not only did this engage my children in the displays, but it also gave them the opportunity to become a cryptographer for the day!  Not to mention, us adults were able to peruse the museum with very quiet, intent children, doing their own thing.  There were just enough signs to decipher to keep my kids involved for the duration of our visit.  They were also able to read about Native American Code Talkers and Soviet Spies, and see cryptology computers that filled up entire rooms and were only able to hold 256 MB of data!  The displays were filled with interesting topics.  There were plenty of interactive areas for everyone to enjoy, including typing your own code on an enigma machine, writing with invisible ink, and more.

Hands On Activiities

I highly recommend you visit the museum if you are in the DC  or Baltimore area, or anywhere in between.  It is a terrific way to spend the afternoon!  You can also follow in our footsteps and go to Expressway Pit Beef to grab lunch or dinner.  It’s a fantastic outdoor local BBQ spot.  Get your favorite BBQ dish and sit down or eat at one of the stand up picnic tables.

Details for the National Cryptologic Museum:

Fort Meade, MD

Like Their Facebook Page

Phone numbers
Office – 301-688-5849
Gift Shop – 301-688-6857
Library – 301-688-2145
Fax – 301-688-5847

Monday-Friday
9:00am – 4:00pm
Saturdays
(1st and 3rd of the month)
10:00am – 2:00pm
Closed Sundays and
Federal Holidays

Answer to the encrypted phrase above: Visit The Cryptologic Museum Now!

Civil War Reenactment at Endview Plantation

Did you know there were only two major battles fought in the North during the Civil War?

That is the question my 12 year-old-asked me while we were driving to Endview Plantation in Newport News, Virginia last weekend.

My answer: No, I didn’t.  At least I don’t think I did.

His response: Yep, the Battle of Antietam and the Battle of Gettysburg.

Yay for the Virginia Public School System!

I do have very vivid memories of driving through battlefields as a child listening to George Winston instrumental soundtracks playing in the cassette player of my mother’s car.  Considering there were only two major battles fought in the north, I find it odd that in my 15 plus years of living in the deep south I have never attended a Civil War reenactment…until last weekend.

Calvary

 

This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia.  Over 70,000 lives were lost during those 9 months of battle south of Richmond, Virginia.  There will be several activities this summer at the National Battlefield Petersburg that honor that battle and those who lost their lives, but we got started a little early in Hampton Roads.

I am so sorry it took me that long to go. Have you ever seen Sweet Home Alabama? The movie about the southern transplant returning home to divorce her first husband? Her father is an AVID re-enactor and they show a scene where he is in character, dying on the battlefield. THIS WAS JUST LIKE THAT!

Camping

My family and I took advantage of the Civil War Reenactment at Endview Plantation in Newport News (cost was $7 per person over 7 years old) this past weekend and we had a terrific time!  There were Boy Scouts selling food and reenactment vendors selling their mostly handmade goods.  I couldn’t resist buying a bag full of pewter and bone buttons for my knitting habit!

Vendors

We slowly meandered through some of the soldier encampments where we found out what life could be like for men on the road during the war.  It was great for the kids to check out the different types of tents and living situations.  The authenticity was amazing from the cooking, to the clothing, to the way the horses were outfitted.

Tent Setup

We only had time to wander into one of the several encampments that filled the tree line before we decided to head down and grab a seat before the show.  And what a show it was!

Union Soldiers

The actors hooted and hollered.  The cannons LOUDLY rang.  The gun shots were almost nonstop.  The reenactment itself lasted about 30 minutes.  The men and women did a terrific job depicting a battle of the Siege of Petersburg.  The Union troops advanced slowly across the field and continually pushed the confederates back, trash talking and goading each other all the while.  Men fell dead right and left and several crawled away injured, fighting their way to safety.  I was presented with several opportunities to answer important questions my children had.

Brochure

While we sat on our blanket and ate lunch (much like crowds would do on the sidelines during the war) the kids learned why the men were marching and basically standing in line to die.  My daughter wanted to know why it was taking them so long to fire their weapons between shots.  I even learned how to tell when the cannons were about to blow (“the cannon handlers cover their ears, hon,” my husband pointed out).

Boom

I may possibly have had the best time in our group.  It was such a unique experience and I was so thrilled I pulled the family along to check it out with me.  We were there a total of about three hours, and we could have easily spent more time exploring.

Plantation House

I don’t know if Endview Plantation has reenactments on a regular basis, but the Plantation is a permanent historical site where you can tour the house and grounds.  You can check them out on their Facebook page or visit their website for information about their tours and summer camps for children.

And if you have the opportunity to attend a reenactment, jump on it!  You won’t be sorry!  You can find a list of battlefields in your area here on the National Park Service page.  Just click on search “by topic” and select Battlefield/Military park.

Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island

Along the coast of Newport is a rambling walk where the waters of the Atlantic ocean break against the cliffs of Aquidneck Island.  Cliff Walk is rated as one of the top things to do in this summer resort town in New England.  There is good reason.

newport5

There are no fancy restaurants or special attractions along the walk.  Just you, the seagulls, several famous mansions, and the coastline.  Of course, in the summer time you will also likely have your fair share of tourists sharing the walk with you.  I, however, was thankful to be visiting Newport in the beginning of March.  The weather was consistently cold and windy and we even had a snow storm during the five days I was there.  But none of that could have, nor did it, stop me from enjoying this tranquil part of town.

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Newport, Rhode Island, is well known as a summer resort town full of opportunities to sail, shop, congregate at the beaches, and tour remarkable mansions from the Gilded Age of New England.  Several of these attractions are not open year round.  Or, as with the mansions, they are open on a limited basis.  I cherished my quiet time spent meandering around the city.  Traveling with no kids (what a rarity that is!!!) I had more than enough time to take in the scenery.  Though several areas are closed and weather can affect outdoor adventures, the city of Newport does not shut down in the winter as other resort cities do.  There is enough of a local and military population to keep restaurants, shops, and attractions open.  However, traveling in the winter meant the streets were not full of traffic or crowds gathering at the popular spots.  I didn’t have to wait even a minute to get into The Breakers, the mansion I chose to tour.

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Which also happens to be right on the cliff walk.  Here’s the view from the walk:

 

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Cliff Walk was the same.  Other than the occasional bundled up family out to get some fresh air, or adorable couples out walking their dogs, it was incredibly silent and serene.  Silent for all but the waves breaking on the coastline and the water running down the rocks.

While out walking, I sent many pictures and videos to my friends and family boasting of my moments of peace and tranquility.  I walked up and down the open section of Cliff Walk (parts were washed away due to hurricane Sandy, but they are hoping to have those open by this June) several times during my five day stay.  I relished, many times in the fact that I was visiting Newport in the winter and I was able to partake in a different tour of the city than the average summer traveler does.

Here are a few things you should know before traveling to Cliff Walk:
  • Parking is at a premium, not because it is expensive, but because there just isn’t any.  There are only a few areas to park and only a handful of spaces.  There is parking at the beaches at the beginning and at the end of the walk, but I am sure those also fill up quickly.
  • Bonus about Newport: you can walk to parts of Cliff Walk from almost anywhere in the city.  I think the longest you’ll walk to get to some point of the walk is about 15 minutes.
  • newport2The north end of Cliff Walk is the part of the walk that is paved and easiest to maneuver.  There are three separate sets of stairs, but only 5 – 8 steps at each stairway.  I easily could have picked up the stroller by myself and made it up or down if I had one with me.
  • The south end of Cliff Walk is more like scrambling over rocks and such, though I was not able to experience this due to the closed area.  The last entrance you can currently begin (or end) at is Sheppard Avenue.  The walk is inaccessible at Ruggles Avenue and south.  That should change in June of 2014.  My walks still gave me several miles of walking between all the days I visited Cliff Walk.
  • The website states you can walk the entire length of the walk in about 2.5 hours if you are in good shape and moving at a decent pace.
  • Much of Cliff Walk is lined by private property which means there is not unlimited road access to the walk.  The main entrances I saw were at the beach on the North end, Narragansett Avenue, Webster and Sheppard Avenue.  I drove along the south end roads of Cliff Walk and did not see any obvious entrances except for at the beach down there but that could have just been me.
  • The website states that the best area to view with limited time is from Narragansett to Ruggles Avenue and I would assume that is because it is the best view of the rocks down by the water and the waves crashing, but I don’t know if I agree.  I really enjoyed walking north of Narragansett to Eastons Beach because of the view out across the water of Middletown, the neighboring city.

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I cannot wait to return to Newport.  My family and I are moving there this summer from south east Virginia…I know, BIG CHANGE!  The Cliff Walk played a fairly big role in helping me decide where I wanted to live.  We will be close enough to hop onto the walk whenever we would like to for an afternoon stroll or evening run.  I am looking forward to all the adventures we can cram into the year we will be living there and I will share as many with you on Two Kids and a Map as possible!

Oh, and you just have to love the caution signs all over the place.

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-Marissa

Stonz Booties for Kids

*As part of my brand ambassadorship with Stonz, we received a pair of Stonz Booties to review.  All opinions are ours and ours alone.  For the record, I will buy Stonz Wear gear from here on out as long as they fit my children.

Winter has been slow to arrive here in Hampton Roads, Virginia.  It was cold, then rainy, then 80 degrees, then rainy, then rainy.  Did I mention the rain?  We have yet to see snow on our side of the country like Jen has in Colorado, but the weather we are experiencing has still called for more protective gear.

My family is an outdoor family, come rain, sleet, or snow, and it is difficult finding the right clothing and accessories that will hold up to how tough the elements can be.  Not to mention the comfort and convenience factors.  We will be outside to run and play in almost any weather.

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We were so excited to receive our Stonz Booties a few weeks ago.  The world changed a little bit for my 17 month old daughter, and of course, me!  We have finally found a shoe that cures every shoe issue we have ever had.

Every. Single. Time. We get in the car the first thing my little sweet pea does is remove her shoes.  Then the socks.  NOT WITH THESE BOOTIES!  The absolute first thing I noticed after she had been wearing them a while is the function of the two adjustable toggles – they keep the booties on.  ON!  She can pull and squeeze and push all she wants and not once has she been successful in pulling these Booties off.  She doesn’t even bother trying anymore.

imageWhat is more, she genuinely seems to love wearing these booties.  We throw them on to go out in the cold and she immediately starts jumping around the house.  The booties are incredibly versatile and are made to fit over the toddler’s shoes.  However, you can also purchase the Stonz Linerz to wear inside the booties instead of shoes.  My daughter has never worn them any other way.  She clearly enjoys the freedom of being without shoes.  Using the booties with the Linerz allows her to have the same freedom as if she were running around barefoot.

photo I have been incredibly grateful for what a difference the Stonz Booties have made in our outside play and errand running abilities.  I am looking forward to trying them out in the snow up at SnowShoe Mountain during our upcoming vacation.  Maybe we will even get a little snow around here soon!

Marissa

Why EVERY Mom Should Own a Totseat Portable High Chair

What is a Totseat, you ask?  Only one of the most clever inventions in recent baby travel gear.  It is basically a piece of fabric that you attach to an adult chair that keeps your infant or toddler strapped in.  It is fully adjustable to fit ALL types of dining style chairs – tall back, short back, skinny, wide, with and without back spindles (please notice the different chairs in my pictures).  It EASILY squeezes into a sack about twice the size of my wallet.  It keeps my child CONTAINED.  It is essential for every mom on the go!

totseat4When I found, ordered, and used this contraption my very first thought was, “If it hasn’t already happened, some mom out there is going to be very rich one day from creating this thing.”

I could just see it – a mom stuck somewhere without a highchair, and with the need to keep her baby in one spot.  She probably grabbed a towel and tied her kid to a chair or something and thought of this BRILLIANT idea.  Sure enough, I read Totseat’s history and I was almost totally correct – except instead of a towel, she was using her long sleeved sweaters.  She made her first prototype out of her wedding dress.  I love it.

Compliments abound when my daughter uses her Totseat.  Every time I place her in it, strangers want to know what the heck that thing is, where I got it, and how much it cost.  The seat is a UK product and they do delivery to most all destinations but shipping and handling will run you 10.95 in pounds if you are not located in the UK.  With the conversion rate, it makes more sense for US residents to purchase the Totseat through Amazon like I did.   It was $39.19 with free shipping since I am an Amazon Prime member.

Some of you may be thinking to yourself, “Well, that’s what I have a stroller for.”  I very rarely use a stroller for my 10 month old.  My daughter much prefers to be worn everywhere we go and I find strollers to be cumbersome and annoying to maneuver.  Also, strollers aren’t exactly ideal in the situations I have used our Totseat.

You know the problem: you go out to eat and the only highchairs are the big wooden ones that your child can slip right through.  Or all of the highchairs are taken.  Or there is no high chair at all!  Totseat!  Seen below hanging out at a friend’s birthday at a restaurant (left) and meeting a friend for lunch (right).

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You head out to enjoy a delicious dinner at a friend’s house and she doesn’t have any highchairs (or they are already occupied by her own children).  Totseat!

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You just need to be able to keep your infant or toddler in one place!  For instance, when you are at the gym, fresh out of baby swim lessons.  Changing in the locker room, where there is obviously no where to put baby, is much easier when you are not trying to keep her out of lockers, or balance her on a bench.  Totseat!

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I have not encountered a time where I wanted to use the Totseat and was not able to.  Not to mention, it is now my go-to gift for baby showers!  This will become one of those items that you say, “I have no idea how I survived without it!”

 

Marissa