Learning about Rockets at a Rest Stop in Alabama

Rest stops along the highway not only provide a place to stretch your legs and have a picnic lunch, but they also often have some fun roadside attractions that have something to do with the local area. On my way home from Nashville, I stopped at the Welcome Center just over the Tennessee border in Alabama. This is the first rest stop that you can see before driving into Huntsville, Alabama, where you can visit the US Space and Rocket Center.

At the rest stop, you will find this…

This is the Saturn 1B, a 224-foot rocket that is one of three Saturn rockets that were developed in Huntsville. The Saturn 1B had enough power for orbital missions with the Apollo spacecraft and was the predecessor for the Saturn V, that took American astronauts to the moon.

You can read about the history of the rocket as well as the history of Huntsville’s role in space exploration. I read that you used to be able to walk under the rocket, but now you can’t because there is a chain link fence around it.

Stop by Delicious Baby to see other Photo Friday submissions!  I am also participating in Friday Daydreaming over at R We There Yet.

Page and Palette

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The Page and Palette, in Fairhope, Alabama, is one of those bookstores that has managed to not only stay alive but thrive in the midst of all of the big box chain bookstores.  When you walk into Page and Palette, you are welcomed with the smell of books and coffee from the small adjoining cafe.  I loved the stacks and stacks of books found on shelves, tables, and carts. 

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Despite the fact that it was a Tuesday morning, the place was packed with shoppers and people stopping by the cafe.  Page and Palette holds book signings for authors of all different genres.  Mark Childress had recently been in town for a signing.

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Although the teen section didn’t have any chairs, it calls out to you to grab one of the brightly colored, glossy books to flip through while sitting on the floor. 

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I love the books stacked on top of the shelves!

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The Page and Palette is located at 32 South Section Street in Fairhope, Alabama.

Thank you to Debbie at Delicious Baby for hosting Photo Friday!

Monday Dreaming – Mobile Bay Jubilee Phenomenom

I have lived on the Gulf Coast for almost fifteen years but didn’t hear about this Gulf Coast phenomenon called the Jubilee until recently.  Once I did a little research on it, it promptly moved up my list of things that I want to see while I live on the Gulf Coast. 

The Jubilee is a natural phenomenon that usually occurs early in the morning before sunrise.  The water loses its oxygen forcing the sealife to push its way to more oxygenated waters.  They push their way shore and become lethargic making it easy for fishing for flounder, crab, shrimp, etc.  Once the water begins to mix the oxygen will level out again and the bottom-dwellers will head back into the ocean. 

Apparently it is a sight to see and those who have grown up in the Mobile area describe how they can sense a Jubilee is going to occur.  There are a few things according to several articles I read that said that it usually occurs during a rising tide and will stop when the tide falls, the wind is usually coming from the east, and they usually occur in the summer (August and September being the most likely months according to one article). 

I can only hope that the oil slick will not affect this and that maybe sometime this summer we should make reservations at a hotel on the Mobile Bay and take our chances to see a Jubilee in all its glory!

To see pictures of a Jubilee, visit this site.  For more information about the Jubilee, see Wikipedia and this article in the Clanton advertiser.   To read a wonderful narrative from a local who spent many summers on Mobile Bay, visit here.

Stop by Mother of All Trips to see what others are dreaming of today!

Bellingrath Gardens – Theodore, AL

A few weeks ago, we went to Bellingrath Gardens.  I wrote about our experience here, but wanted to share this photo with you in honor of Photo Friday!  These beautiful Southern Belles wear these dresses, petticoats and all, in the ridiculous humidity and heat of the spring and summer.  You can read about the standards of the Azalea Trail Maid dresses.  I wish the gentleman in the front hadn’t been in my perfect shot, but I think it shows a little bit of new and old charm!  These girls represent true Southern charm and hospitality!  Those are the azaleas blooming all over the background.  It was an amazing sight to see.

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Let it Snow – Foley, Alabama

This is the closest that we will get to snow this year. 

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Last year we were sledding down mountains of real snow in Germany.  It snowed on Christmas morning, the kids went sledding every day and my husband was able to ski as often as he wished.  This year, we are staying in sunny Florida where yesterday it was 78 degrees and I turned on the air conditioner.  Seriously…the air conditioner.  Today it did drop down to the 50’s so the air went off but we have no hope of seeing snow this year although I do have to admit we had little snowflakes fall a few years ago…they just didn’t hit the ground! 

Last weekend we headed to Foley, Alabama to check out Fish River Tree Christmas Farm and see snow at the annual Let it Snow event.  Yes…in the deep south we got to see snow.  It was man-made snow…more like ice chunks, but it was great big fun for the kids!  There was a children’s village, food, and performers.  The kids thought it was fantastic and we enjoyed seeing them play in the snow.  This is what snow in the south looks like!

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Stop by DeliciousBaby to see the photos that other travelers are sharing!

Fish River Tree Farm – Summerdale, Alabama

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I have a fake tree.  It is a beautiful tree, but it is most definitely fake.  Oh, that fake tree didn’t enter this house without a fight.  Unfortunately, my husband and the fake tree won but I went down kicking and screaming!  We bought the tree the day after Christmas and my husband couldn’t have been happier taking the tree out of the box this year.  We didn’t fight over whether the tree was straight in the stand or not, we didn’t dump water all over our hardwood floors as we tried to feed it, and there were no pine needles to sweep or sap to clean.  On the one hand, the tree was much easier this year.  The jury is still out as to whether or not I am happy about the fake tree.  However, my consolation prize was a family field trip to Fish River Tree Farm in Summerdale, Alabama (just a few miles from the Foley Outlets!).

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Fish River Trees is a beautiful tree farm where you can cut your own Christmas tree, purchase a tree already cut or purchase a tree grown in a container.  This farm is way bigger than I expected and is a great place for a holiday family outing.  There is a small train ride that takes you around the property while you enjoy your complimentary candy cane. 

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After the train ride, pick up a hot chocolate and wander over to see Santa and two of his reindeer! 

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The kids loved running around and exploring the different trees. 

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My son thought it was fascinating that there were such teeny tiny trees right next to huge trees. 

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If you are cutting your own tree, they have made the process very easy.  All the trees are already tagged with prices, you cut your tree, carry it to the cleaning and netting area, and then get the tree home to decorate! 

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The train conductor told us that the tall tree in the picture below is 19 years old!

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I am hoping that next year, my husband will cave and allow me to buy a container tree to plant in our front yard!

Foley Things To Do

Fairhope Alpacas – Fairhope, Alabama

PhotobucketThis week, for the first time, I am participating in You Capture over at I Should Be Folding Laundry.  The theme for this week is the feeling of fall.  Hmmmm…well, just this week did the thermometer drop below 90 degrees (we spent one weekend day at a water park all day!); however, when I think of fall I think of farm visits. 

Did you know that this past weekend was National Alpaca Farm Day?  We made the short drive to Fairhope Alpacas for a visit to the alpaca farm.  I am so glad that we did!  We saw so many beautiful alpacas and the owners were so friendly and welcoming to all of the farm visitors.  My children thought the alpacas were hilarious but “stinky”.  We spent some time watching a very cool spinning demonstration and couldn’t get over how soft and beautifully colored the yarn was.  Even if you missed Alpaca Farm Days, you can still visit the alpaca farm.  Email the owners to set up a visit!  Not going to be in the Gulf Coast area soon?  Check out the National Alpaca Directory to find a farm near you.

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You can find Katy and her alpacas at her blog (Yay!  A fellow blogger!), Alpaca Farm Girl or on Twitter as @alpacafarmgirl.  I wish I had a chance to meet Katy while we were there but she was very busy with all of her guests!  Hopefully we will make it to their next open house!

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The alpacas were so curious about all of their visitors!  When we went from one end of the barn to the other or when we wander outside, they constantly followed us!

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Fairhope Things To Do

A Day Trip: Five Things to Do in Mobile, Alabama with Your Kids

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Mobile, Alabama is a city that is rich with history and culture.  When you think of Mardi Gras, you automatically think of New Orleans.  However, according to the Mobile Chamber of Commerce, Mobile is actually where the first Mardi Gras party originated.  Mobile has plantations, forts, museums, and battleships.  It is a great place to take the kids for both extended and day trips.  Today, we took a day trip to Mobile and this is what we did!

1.  The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center – The Exploreum helps to promote science literacy with its many exhibits and IMAX show.  One of the current exhibits is My Body Works.  When you enter the exhibit, you are given a card that you carry around with you to each of the activities.  You participate in activities such as blood pressure checks, how much blood is in your body, how high can you jump, and how far can you stretch and the card stores your data.  Once you have worked your way through all of the activities, you plug your card into a computer and it prints out a personal health profile. 

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 The Hands on Hall has over 50 interactive activities.  Kids can participate in a news cast, pull their own body weight with pulleys, play DJ, play a harp, and so much more. 

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The Wharf of Wonder is for children ages 0-5.  They can climb on a ship, play in the ocean, or catch fish!  Be sure to check the website for scheduled events.  The Exploreum has camps throughout the summer and preschool programs throughout the school year. 

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The next exhibit is going to Bob the Builder and will be at the Exploreum from October to January!  Tickets are a little pricey, but there are great membership prices and right now, on Sundays, adults get in for the child prices!

My children’s favorite part of the Exploreum: Playing the laser harp, the shadow wall, and pulling themselves up in the air!

2.  Fort Conde – If you are headed to the Exploreum, you should add the fort to your list.  Fort Conde is located right across the street from one of the public parking lots you use for the Exploreum.  Fort Conde is such an interesting place to visit because it is smack in the middle of the city.  You are looking at cannons that are aimed right at a skyscraper!  While you are on the second level of the fort, you can see that Interstate 10 goes right under it! 

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The rooms of the fort are set up much as they would be in previous times.  We saw bedrooms, ammunition rooms, and storage.  Checking out Fort Conde is FREE!

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My children’s favorite part of Fort Conde: Checking out the cannons and the little hidey holes around the fort!

3.  Battleship USS Alabama – During WWII, the USS Alabama participated in war action for 37 months.  It now rests in Mobile Bay.  When you are going west into Mobile, you can see this majestic battleship looming in the distance.  Tours of the battleship are self-guided.  You must pay $2.00 to park.  Adult tickets are $12 and they go down from there. 

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4.  Bass Pro Shops – Okay, I know this is not a travel destination but if you do not have one of these near you, it is worth a stop.  My kids love to wander through the store back to the humongous aquarium that holds very large fish.  If you are a family of hunters, check out the second floor where you can participate in an arcade-like game of hunting.  Check the schedule of events before you go because they often have great children’s activities.  For example, during the holidays we made crafts and saw Santa!

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5.  Eastern Shore Center – Just over the bridge, the Eastern Shore Center is a great shopping spot.  The kids will love to cool off in the splash fountains.  Be sure to throw their swimsuits, a towel, and a change of clothes.  It will be too much work to keep them out of the fountains.  There are always kids running around in their swim suits! 

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Mobile Things To Do

The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama — Photo Friday

The Wharf in Orange Beach is a shopping center, marina, amphitheater and resort all rolled into one right near the beautiful beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast. One morning, we decided that we needed to get out of the house so we made the 45 minute drive to check it out. We haven’t stayed the night yet, but I hope to head out there one weekend this summer. While we were there, we had lunch at Johnny Rockets which is perfect for the kids because it is SO loud! Then we let the kids each make a stuffed animal at the Build-a-Bear workshop. All that was lots of fun and it was great to hang out together as a family, but the best part was watching the kids stare at the Ferris wheel. There is this great Ferris wheel in the middle of the shopping center. We decided not to ride it because Big S was not thrilled with the idea! He must have left his sense of adventure at home that day! However, we sat and stared at the Ferris Wheel as it went round and round for about 30 minutes from the bench across the street. The kids loved it!

Be sure to visit Debbie at Delicious Baby to see other great travel photos from around the world!


Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival

I just saw that the dates for the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival have been announced. They have probably been out for awhile, but I just checked out the website today. The 5th Annual Balloon Festival will take place on June 19-21. I am so excited to take my kids!

Last summer, my friend and I took the hour drive over to Foley, AL with BigS to see the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival. We almost didn’t go because it was getting a little late and the weather wasn’t great, but we are so glad we decided to chance it! BigS loved the balloons until he got up close to them and saw how big they actually are. He wouldn’t get in one even though I told him that they didn’t go far up in the sky and he didn’t want me to get in one either. I guess I will have to fulfill that dream another time! We got great pictures and had a fantastic time.

Once it got dark, there were a bunch of people selling these light saber swords. BigS had to have one! There was so much to see and do at the festival. The balloons were amazing to watch as the sun set. When they lit up, everyone was just in awe. Besides taking a tethered balloon ride, there were other kid’s activities and a great list of bands playing all day long! We can’t wait to attend with both children this year!