Monday, June 16, 2014

Kickin' it in Austin: Barton Springs, The State Capitol, and Congress Bridge Bats

The other day, after hiking Enchanted Rock, we drove out to Austin to do a few more things before we leave grand ol' Texas.  Our first stop in Austin was the famous Barton Springs Pool.  Located in Zilker Metropolitan Park, Barton Springs Pool is a huge pool--3 acres--and is fed by the Main Barton Springs.  With a slippery, mossy, bottom and water temperature of 70º year round, you really feel like you're swimming in cool, natural spring water!  Honestly, the water was a little cold for our kids after a while, but they had fun splashing around until their lips turned purple!

Just outside the gates of the pool, also in  Zilker Park, is the Zilker Zephyr Train.  It's just a cute little train that takes you on a 20 minute ride through the park along the river.  The kids loved it.  They also loved the snow cones that we'd bought at the snack bar to eat while we rode the train :)

After Barton Springs and the train ride, we drove over to the State Capitol for a nursing break and to let the kids run around before we went down to see the bats.  It's such a beautiful building with plenty of well-mainucured grounds to explore, have picnics, and run around. 

Around 7:30pm we headed down towards South Congress Bridge to find a parking spot and to make our way over to find a spot to camp out and wait for the bats to emerge.  The Congress Bridge Bats are an awesome phenomenon.  The bridge is home to about 750,000 bats, and they emerge after sunset to hunt for food in the form of insects.  Watching the bats is a wildly popular activity and it's fun to just hang out and enjoy the evening with all the other spectators.  Once the bats come out, you'll want to be close to the river because that's where they are most visible in the night sky.  William thought it was awesome to see the bats flying around crazily and both our kids have been asking to go back to the "bat house" to watch the bats ever since.  But if you go to see the bats, be warned, it will be a late night!  With sunset being so much later on these summer nights, the bats didn't emerge until 9:00pm, and we didn't head out until about 9:45pm.  A few days later and we're still paying the price with our kiddies!  But it was a great experience and we had a ton of fun. 

All of those black specks in the picture above are the bats.  It was hard to get a good picture in the darkness, but if you're lucky enough to see them fly out during sunset as opposed to after sunset like they did for us, then I'm sure your pictures will completely outshine ours :)  

Overall, our day in Austin was a blast.  It was a very full day, but we left having completed everything we set out to do and our kids held up like champs, so we consider it a huge success!  If you go to Austin, be sure to check out Barton Springs and the Congress Bridge Bats!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Kickin' it in SA: Enchanted Rock

Image Via

Since we're getting ready to move, we spent last weekend checking things off of our bucket list.  One of those items we wanted to check off was hiking Enchanted Rock.  Enchanted Rock is a giant batholith  (which is essentially the top part of a giant rock, the rest of which is buried in the earth) that is located north of Fredericksburg, about an hour and a half from San Antonio.  We'd heard great things about Enchanted Rock since we moved here, but between Peter's residency and being pregnant, having a newborn, etc., we hadn't had a chance to get out there to hike it until this last weekend.  But I'm definitely glad we made the time to do so before we left!  It's a fairly short hike; the Summit Trail, which goes straight up the to the top is .6 miles.  This is the easiest of the trails and very doable for kids.  However, don't be fooled!  It's still quite steep and will get your heart pumping!  Will, my 4 year old, though, is apparently in stellar condition and he pretty much ran straight up to the top.  He kept telling me I was walking too slow :)  Clara (2 years old) probably would've been able to make it, but we put her in a hiking backpack which I'm sure saved us about an hour of time that we would've spent waiting for her and chasing her from taking off down the side of the rock.  Plus, it can get a little slippery walking back down the steep slopes, so she was much better off being carried.  And then, little Benny was of course happily strapped in the Baby Bjorn.

The top of the rock is incredible.  The views are beautiful, there are unique plants growing out of the rock, and there's plenty of room for kids to run around and explore.  There were also a bunch of small craters in the surface of the rock that were full of water.  Clara and Will had a heyday jumping over these puddles everywhere.  There are also some caves on the backside that are supposedly really cool, but we didn't have time to go down and explore them.  All in all, if you're in the area, make sure you take a day to drive up and hike Enchanted Rock!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pipe Cleaner Ninjas

Since finding out that we'll be moving to Japan, we've been talking a lot about ninjas around here.  William is really excited to get there and begin setting "ninja traps" and looking for their hideouts.  I'm pretty sure any ninjas around will mostly likely be able to outsmart a 4 year old's traps, but we'll do our best :)

Anyway, the other day while I was doing my usual pinteresting (yep, I just verbed it.  And I also verbed verb.  Just go with it :)), I came across these adorable pipe cleaner ninjas and knew that William would go crazy for them!  I originally planned to save this project for our 11 hour flight from LA to Tokyo (YIKES, I know.  Definitely not looking forward to that!), but Will spotted the post on my computer and could not get it out of his mind.  So, I gave in and told him that we could make two now and we'll make more on the flight later.  Lucky Will.  So, today we gathered our supplies and created a couple stealth ninjas of our own.  And they turned out so cute I can hardly stand it!  I can hardly wait to make all sorts of fun little guys out of pipe cleaners, straws, and beads with Will and Clara.  Maybe it'll even keep them entertained for a few minutes of our LOOOOOONG flight!  Hopefully anyway :)

Meanwhile . . .

We've been MIA around here for a while, and I'll probably only be posting sporadically for the next month or so, but I have good reasons!!!  In July we are moving to JAPAN!!!!  My husband is in the Air Force, so we'll be stationed just outside Tokyo for the next 3 years.  And we can't wait!

And also . . . this little cutie turned 3 months old today :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Kickin' it in SA: Guadalupe River State Park

Last weekend, at the recommendation of some friends, we went to explore Guadalupe River State Park.  The Guadalupe River runs nearby San Antonio, and people often go tubing or kayaking down it.  Right now the water is very low, which is unfortunate, but it makes it perfect for a day of swimming with toddlers and young kids!  So, we packed our bags full of snacks and sun and water gear, and we made the hour drive to the river.  The water was still a little cold (but in a month or so when the temperatures are 100º +, it will feel perfectly refreshing), but we jumped in anyway, and a had a great time!

If you decide to make a day of the river, here are some tips:
- bring beach/camping chairs!  the beach is completely rocky--no sand, so if you're going to be sitting a lot while your kiddies swim, you'll want a chair in which to sit.
- have water shoes (or shoes that you don't mind getting wet) for everyone.  because it's so rocky, it's pretty uncomfortable to walk around and play in the water without them.  
- bring water toys (this might be obvious to most people, but we forgot and our kids, who like to splash around near the shore more than swim, were wanting more to play with)
- bring tubes or floats.  the water is pretty shallow and there's a slight current, but it's really perfect for lounging

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Kickin' it in SA: Strawberry Picking at Marburger Orchard

As I mentioned in my last post, last week while my brother was in town visiting, we went strawberry picking!  We went to Marburger Orchard which is near Fredericksburg.  It's about an hour from where we live in San Antonio, but it's a beautiful drive so we didn't mind at all!  

There are several "pick-your-own" farms around the San Antonio area (like Love Creek Orchards where we picked apples last year), but we had heard great things about strawberry picking at Marburger Orchard so we decided to give them a try!  And they didn't disappoint!  The owner was nice, but he was strictly business :)  He had lots of rules to follow (many of which pertaining to keeping children from yanking the plants out of the ground), but we didn't mind--I'm sure there have been plenty of situations to warrant the creation of all his rules!  We kept an eye on Will and Clara, but they did great.  They had more fun just putting the berries into the basket than picking them, so my brother and I ended up doing almost all the picking ourselves!  It turned out to be a pretty good system :)

The nice thing about strawberry season is that it's not sweltering hot!  It was a pleasant day in the beautiful orchard and we had a lot of fun.  Peach picking in a couple of months, however, might be a different story!  But I'm sure they'd be worth it.  (FYI blackberry season starts around next week and peach season starts the last week of May and goes through July.)

We filled our basket and ended up with a little over 7 pounds of strawberries!  That's more than enough for our little family to eat, so at that point we called it good and went and sat at a picnic table on the property and pulled out the lunch we had packed, which was complemented very nicely with fresh strawberries.

Going to Marburger Orchard was a lot of fun.  It's a special outing that's out of the ordinary, it provides a great opportunity to teach kids about where our food comes from, and of course there's the fact that fresh berries are just about the best thing ever!  After this little adventure, we ate strawberries with every meal for several days, I made our family's version of strawberries 'n cream (simple recipe below), and we made a batch of homemade fruit leather!  We definitely have had our fill of strawberries this season and we've loved it!

Strawberries 'n Cream

- Slice as many strawberries as you need and place them in a bowl
- Cover the strawberries with milk (to make it extra creamy, substitute half the milk with half and half)
- Add a tablespoon of sugar at a time until it's sweet enough for your liking
- Add approximately 1 tsp of vanilla extract (more/less depending on your quantity)
- Enjoy!!!

For me, eating strawberries 'n cream like this brings back wonderful memories from growing up.  Plus, I think this is the perfect sweet treat in the springtime or for brunch!  And feel free to experiment and use this recipe with other fruits as well; it works well with all other types of berries, but I particularly like to make peaches 'n cream this way!  And if you try peaches 'n cream, don't forget to add a dash of nutmeg as well!  YUM!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Homemade Fruit Leather

Last week we went strawberry picking (more on that later!).  We came home with a little over 7 pounds of strawberries!  And they are so delicious!  However, since we're not really jam or strawberry pie people, we've just been eating them straight for pretty much every meal.  But, as madly as we've been trying to eat them, we still had more than we could handle and I really didn't want them to go bad!

So . . . I decided to pull out our good ol' food dehydrator!  I really don't use that thing enough.  Anyway, my kids LOVE fruit leather, so instead of just drying strawberry slices that I know my kids wouldn't eat, I decided to puree those ripe little berries right up and make some strawberry fruit leather!  If you have a dehydrator, it's super simple.  I just dumped my berries in the blender, blended them until smooth, then poured the puree right onto the sheet and set it for 135º F and turned it on!  (It can take anywhere from 4-8 hours, you just have to check it regularly.)  I didn't add any additional sugar because our strawberries were so ripe, but you can add honey or corn syrup or other sweetener if you'd like to make your fruit leather sweeter.  And, guess what???  You can make fruit leather even if you don't have a dehydrator!  Just stick it in the oven!  I found this great recipe from pinterest, and there were about a million more to choose from!  Next up: dried pineapple.  I'm on a dehydrating kick now!