Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring Cleaning Stuff

Okay, so I probably scared away half (or maybe more) of my potential readers for this one with the title, but oh well. Don't worry, I won't bore you with all the details of cleaning my house, you all know how that goes. I just had to share two of the things I did that I think are awesome. One is an idea I found on and instantly knew would be my favorite pin ever (yes, I am that nerdy, you'll see why), and the other came as a stroke of inspiration as I was mourning one of the little details in my house that has always bugged me and I've never been able to solve to my satisfaction.
The way this post is organized may seem a little random, but bear with me.

Let's play "I Spy", and I'll start you off with a really easy one. Can you find all the food storage items that have been taking up a large chunk of my pantry?
Good Job! Now on to business, there will be more "I Spy" later.
I know I'm going to sound OCD when I say this, but it REALLY bugs me when I'm looking at my bookshelf and the little books are pushed clear to the back so you can hardly see they're there, and the big ones are sticking way out in front hiding everything else. If you scoot the little ones forward to line up with the big ones than they look good for the moment, but you know it's just a matter of time until they all get pushed back again and you have to start all over. You can kind of solve this problem by grouping them on the shelf with other books of the same size, but it still just isn't perfect. I was trying to find a way to squeeze a few more books onto my shelf and lamenting the cluttered look of all the books, when the thought came to me that all I needed to do was put something behind the little books so they wouldn't get pushed back. Sounds good right? But what am I supposed to put behind all those books that is the right size and that I'm not going to have to use regularly, necessitating the removal of all my books on a regular basis?

Okay, now for the harder "I Spy". Can you find all the food storage items that have been taking up a large chunk of my pantry?
TA DA!!!!!!!!! Look at those pretty books, all lined up nicely on their shelf. I dare you to try to push those little ones to the back! AND, there's actually room to spare behind a few of the books that I could stick some more food in if I wanted to. I'm such a dork, but I was sooooo excited when I figured this out! Poor Ethan had to submit to being pounced on the minute he walked in the door from school, and dragged over to the bookshelf to admire my handiwork. And now I have almost a whole shelf of empty space in my pantry, so Sam's Club here I come! Someday when I'm no longer living in a tiny apartment all my excess canned goods will migrate back to the pantry, but for right now I'm loving this.
Now for my favorite pinterest pin, which shows how to roll up grocery bags so they pull out from the center of the roll like wipes. When I saw this I was so excited I actually got up off my lazy bum right then and tried it out. It was AWESOME, definitly the opposite of a pinstrosity!
If you're like me you tend to collect plastic grocery bags. They work great as trash bags in little garbage cans (such as the one in your bathroom), they make great lunch bags, disposable tote bags, packing material, etc... BUT, they take up soooo much space and it's not too long before they start to take over. And, have you ever pulled one out of your stash to use for something and it's got a huge hole in it, or a torn handle, or some other defect? It's so annoying, right? I've started doing this little trick with all my grocery bags, and it's so great. They take up so much less room, and are so handy. I'm not going to post my own tutorial, but the one on the original website is great, so you should check it out. Just so you can see why I love this, here's a few pictures of before and after the process(the dvd case is there as a size reference, not necessarily as an entertainment suggestion):
Okay, don't judge me for my mountain of bags, this is a couple of months worth.
As part of the process for rolling these, I check each bag for holes, tears, etc, and then dispose of the unusable bags. I'm too lazy/cheap to make the pretty containers the like the original blogger does, so I just secure mine with rubber bands and it suits me just fine. I keep a roll in the bottom of each of my small trash cans, as well as in the car. It's so nice to have a bag handy whenever you need one.
This is the final product. Four rolls of 12 bags each, and a pile of bags that were defective in one way or another and will be taken to be recycled. Look at how much space I'll be saving!
This entire process took me about half an hour, but that included time to stop and take pictures and to go help Erik resettle when he woke up from his nap too soon. And, if you don't wait forever in between bag rolling sessions (maybe you're even organized and motivated enough to do it right when you get home from the store) than it wouldn't be too bad at all. You could even do this while you sit and watch TV, it's that easy.
Anyways, now you've had a little peek into my oh-so-exciting life, and the high levels of nerdiness that I posses.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Break 2012, Part 4 (Yes, I know this is getting ridiculous)

Thursday morning dawned not quite as bright and sunshiny as we were hoping for, with a thick fog having moved in off the Gulf during the night. We decided to stay off the freeway, and instead took a smaller highway over to Pensacola.
By the time we hit the Florida border, the fog had burned off and it was promising to be a beautiful, if somewhat hot, day. We made our way through Pensacola, which we didn't love as much as we loved Mobile, but it was still cool. You could see the Pensacola Bay on the horizon, and it was really pretty. Other than Walmart, we didn't make any stops in the actual city of Pensacola, but just went straight through town, across another huge bridge, to the town of Gulf Breeze, which is out on a small peninsula.

After driving for what seemed like forever down the length of Gulf Breeze, we got to our first stop for the day, the Gulf Breeze Zoo, and were greeted by the official welcoming committee. This guy was just hanging out in this tree in the parking lot, crowing out a welcome to everyone who drove in.
The zoo was another one of our splurges, but while we enjoyed it, it wasn't as awesome as we'd hoped it would be. So far, no zoo I've ever been to can compete with the Albuquerque, NM zoo. Ethan felt the same way. Erik just knew that it was hot and he wasn't so excited to be out in the sun. He did seem interested in the animals, when we could get close enough to them. He and this little cow spent several minutes studying one another, and both seemed a little disappointed when we finally moved on.
 The zoo had this really fun little aviary that was clear full of parakeets. You could go in and they'd land on you and (if you weren't as cheap as us) they'd eat the food you'd bought for them right out of your hand. Erik couldn't figure out which bird to watch. One would get close enough to catch his attention and then it would fly away and another one would move in. He was pretty interested in them all. It made me want to get one for a pet!
Just chillin'...
 Okay, I told myself I wasn't going to post any pictures of just animals, since you all are probably not interested in seeing our crummy pictures of every animal in the zoo, but I just had to put this one up. This little monkey was bound and determined to get some food that somebody had dropped outside of his pen. His tail has a longer reach than his arms so, as you can see, he backed up to the side, hung on with one arm, and stuck his tail through to get the food. He was so funny to watch. Even the other monkey's were just sitting there looking at him like he was nuts.
 This was just too cute a photo opp to pass up, so here we are pretending that this cute little kangaroo was meant as a photo prop, and not as a garbage can lid... Hey, at least I just sat Erik on the edge instead of sticking him inside the kangaroo's pouch (the inside of the trash can).
After the zoo we hit McDonald's for lunch. After being out in the heat and the sun Erik was WAY thirsty, I think he drank half my cup of water.
We climbed back in the car, and across another massive bridge, this time heading for Santa Rosa Island, the 40 mile long barrier island that separates the Pensacola Bay from the Gulf of Mexico. The island isn't quite a mile wide at its widest point, and when we first got off the bridge we were surprised at the amount of buildings and people everywhere. It reminded us of being around the beaches in San Diego. People in bathing suits were everywhere, with lots of touristy shops and restaurants all over the place. I was kinda disappointed that we were going to have to share the beach with such a crowd.
We were people on  a mission though, so we forgot all about playing on the beach for a few hours and started searching for the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which was our last major stop of the trip. We had to pay a small fee to get into the park, and once you got into the fee area it was empty and we had all the beaches we could want pretty much to ourselves.
First though, we drove clear to the end of the island to check out Fort Pickens.
This fort was built in the early 1800's to protect the natural deep water harbor of Pensacola Bay and the Naval Shipyards located there. There was no specific threat to the area at the time, but the people in charge just wanted to be ready if anything ever happened. It took 400 slaves 4 years to build this brick fort, which by the end of the Civil War was outdated and had to be modified repeatedly over the ensuing years to keep it usable. It was an active military base off and on until the end of WWII, when it was handed over to the National Park Service. The only time it ever saw any action was during the civil war, when it was one of only 4 southern forts that never left Union control. After Geronimo surrendered, he and his people were put on a train and shipped off to Florida. They were originally destined for St. Augustine, FL, but when people in Pensacola notice the crowds he drew at every train stop, they petitioned the government to let them pull Geronimo off the train and keep him in there. They won and when the train stopped for water in Pensacola, Geronimo and 15 of his men were taken away from their families and dumped out at Fort Pickens which was semi-abandoned at the time. They were left there without their families for almost two years, and attracted an average of 20 visitors a day, who just came to stare at the famous Indian medicine man.
Here's Erik and I checking out the teeny tiny little guns they used on top of the walls to repel enemy ships.
We took a guided tour of the fort, and then wandered around and explored for ourselves. It was really neat! After that we hit the beach. We chose to play in the water on the side of the island closest to the mainland because the surf was smaller and we thought that would be better for Erik. We got him slathered in sunscreen and then hit the waves. Or not. More like we dipped his toes in the water and he went NUTS. He thought we were trying to kill him and screamed accordingly. Granted the water was a little cool, and he hadn't had a nap pretty much all day, but he really HATED the ocean. (This pictures doesn't really do his reaction justice, but we didn't get a better one.)
 We tried just sitting in the sand and letting the waves come up to us, but that wasn't any better. Then he put sand in his mouth, which was a bad idea, and he was pretty much miserable all the way around. It didn't help that there were little moon jellyfish ALL OVER the place and we had to keep jumping up and moving around to avoid them. At first we thought there were just one or two, but once we looked closer we realized they were all over the place. They were almost clear, and the biggest ones were about the size of my fist, so they were really hard to see until they were almost touching you.
Luckily none of us got stung and we got out of there before the jelly's had a good chance to get us. We took Erik over to some water spigots a little ways from the beach and stripped him down and washed all the salt water and sand off him and out of his mouth. By this point he was completely traumatized and it took us forever to get him to calm down.  

When he'd finally quieted down, we drove over to the gulf side of the island, hoping the bigger waves would keep the jellies away. It worked. It took just a few minutes to get exhausted Erik to sleep, and then Ethan and I played in the surf for more than an hour while he slept on a blanket shaded from the sun nearby.
When the baby woke up it was time to go. We rinsed off in the water spigots as best we could, but it just didn't come close to removing all the sand. We still had one more full day of Spring Break we could've taken advantage of, but with Erik wanting nothing to do with the beach, that left us with not enough stuff to fill up a third day, so we decided to head back home. We left Pensacola just in time to see the sunset over Mobile and the bay.
We took turns driving and made it home shortly after midnight. Those two days were some of the funnest two days I can remember having. I hope we get to go back there some day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Break, Part 3

After Battleship Park closed, we headed back across downtown Mobile, towards the Botanical Gardens. There were so many cool buildings and trees to look at, we could've just wandered downtown and filled up the rest of the day.

 Pulling into the Botanical Gardens. I LOVE the azaleas!
Erik and I waiting for Ethan to catch up. He thought these bright red snapdragons looked like the yummiest things he'd seen all day. I was sooo mean and wouldn't let him eat them.
We wandered around in the gardens for an hour or so, but by that time Erik had had just about enough and really needed a nap. So we jumped back in the car, went back through Mobile, and headed out on possibly the longest bridge I've ever been on to cross the Mobile Bay and get to our next and last stop for the day. I've been telling Ethan of the magic fairytale land of Bass Pro shop ever since he tried to impress me by taking me to a Cabella's. I'm not even into hunting and fishing and all that stuff, but I love the Bass Pro Shop, it's sooo cool. Needless to say, Ethan was suitably impressed.
Notice those little deer up there near the ceiling? Those are real deer (stuffed of course). That gives you and idea of the size of this place.
 As soon as Ethan saw this he was hooked. He loves corral reef aquariums, and this one was huge! I think it was somewhere around 15 feet tall, and formed one of the walls in the in-store restaurant. We stood there and drooled over it until the people in the restaurant around us started to give us funny looks. 
Our next stop nearly sucked Ethan into its vortex permanently. It was all I could do to drag him away. Actually, to be fair, he reached a point where he knew if he stayed another minute in here he'd lose all self control and blow every last penny we own and leave us homeless and stranded on the sidewalk outside. So he forced himself to leave and tried really hard not to look back, except to take this picture.
 Seriously, what could be better than a huge room filled with fancy shmancy fly fishing gear. I think this is what heaven's going to look like for Ethan. Erik thought pretty highly of it too...
This is standing at the top of the water fall (yes, there's a huge waterfall in the back of the store that you can climb to the top of) looking back towards the entrance. So much fun stuff here!
 After Bass Pro, we went and found a hotel and crawled into bed for the night. Erik was asleep before he even hit the bed, and didn't twitch 'til morning. As long as he's got his afghan he can sleep anywhere.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Break 2012, Part 2

The light at the end of the tunnel...
So, in case you haven't already figured it out, we survived the tunnel and found our way to the most awesome place of our trip (we really can't decide if this or the beach was better, it was that close!)
This park was one of our splurges, but it was so worth it! The website says to plan two hours to see everything, but I think you need at least twice that long. We got there about three hours before they closed and we moved as fast as we could and we still didn't get to see everything. As soon as we got in the park we made a beeline for the USS Alabama.

The Alabama sailed into active duty in 1942 and worked hard to pull her weight in World War II in the Pacific. She was decommissioned in 1947 and "mothballed". Eventually it was decided that the expense of maintaining ships like the Alabama was too great and she was slated to be scrapped. The people of Alabama couldn't stand for that so fund raisers began and they managed to earn enough to buy her for the state of Alabama. Now she sits in Mobile Bay and is open for tours.
We took tons of pictures, but I won't force you to sit and look at them all. Just remember that when you're thinking I put a ton of pictures on here, this is just the tip of the iceberg!
This is standing at the top of the gangplank, looking at the main deck.
This narrow hallway is actually the bakery. Those shiny things? Walls and walls of ovens stacked on top of each other. It would've been SO hot in there!
Here's some of the sleeping quarters. The men had to keep all their equipment on their bed. Anything out of place would've been confiscated and as punishment they would draw extra duty. Also, you didn't just get your stuff back. If you wanted it, you had to bid against everyone else for it in an auction at the end of the month.
Standing at the bow of the main deck looking towards the stern. Notice the chains running down the deck? Those are the tiny little anchor chains.
To give you a size reference:
Here's the view from the top of the tower looking back towards downtown Mobile.
Once we'd seen enough of the USS Alabama that we could manage to peel ourselves away, we headed over to the USS Drum. First launched in 1941, the Drum is one of the top 10 subs from the WWII Pacific theater. She's eighth highest of all U.S. submarines in total Japanese tonnage sunk, and earned 12 battle stars. Here's Ethan and Erik getting ready to head down the stairs into the forward torpedo room.
We thought things on the battleship were crowded, but the sub was crazy! We weren't able to get good pictures of the inside because it was all so darn cramped. This is the galley (aka kitchen). Don't you wish you had a kitchen this huge! (By the way, in order to get the whole thing into the shot, I am standing in the captain's cabin across the hallway with my camera zoomed out as far as it would go. That's how tiny this is!) 
Ethan and Erik manning the Conn. Again, I'm standing way back in the corner behind some big piece of equipment I had to practically climb under in order to get far enough away to get this much into the shot. I don't have enough room to turn around, and getting back out of there was tricky!
After we finished on the Drum, we went to the Air Craft Pavilion, where I sat and fed Erik while Ethan wandered the HUGE warehouse full of aircraft. He was pretty impressed by it all.
This whole park was SO cool, I highly recommend it to anyone who's in the area and looking for something to do!
So it seems like a five hour car trip and a three hour tour of Battleship Memorial Park should be enough to fill up a person's day right? Nope! This was just the first of three stops that day, but the rest will have to wait for another blog post.