Happy Memorial Day!

We celebrated the Memorial Day holiday with a nice weekend at home. The weather was mostly perfect so we spent a lot of time in the back yard and got to try out the island oasis pool I got Ellie for the first time. She didn’t want to have anything to do with the pool, but she looked adorbs in her watermelon swimsuit and strawberry shades. We’ll work on getting used to the pool.

Andrew and I also celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary yesterday with a fun family outing to Mellow Mushroom. It was the perfect occasion for Ellie to wear her red, white and blue sailboat dress. I love being able to finally dress her in summer clothes. We’re headed to the beach Saturday so there will be a lot more like this!

Hiking to Buttermilk Falls

DSC_7465If you read this blog about seeing waterfalls in the Cleveland area, then you know Buttermilk Falls has been on my list for some time. I had put it off because I knew it would require more time to get to than other waterfalls in the area. When we realized the weather would be perfect for hiking Saturday, we decided to take Ellie in the Ergobaby carrier and go check them out. We actually got to see two waterfalls–the first was Blue Hen Falls, about a tenth of a mile from the start of the trail, then we followed the creek to Buttermilk Falls, another half-mile from Blue Hen Falls.

Blue Hen Falls Trailhead

Both sets of waterfalls are part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, about 30 minutes from our house. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is so big it has train tours that take you through it. Brandywine Falls, the most popular waterfall in the area, is also in this park.

The hike to Blue Hen Falls was an easy descent and it looked like the path had been paved at some point. There were a lot of people hiking the trail and I was surprised to see so many young kids.

This waterfall was beautiful, but it felt like a bonus compared to what we had really come to see. We saw a sign marked ‘End of Trail’ that I had read was the beginning of the trail to Buttermilk Falls. The trail wasn’t on any map that I saw, it just looked like it had been worn in by hikers over the years.

This was the first time we had taken a real hike with Ellie in the Ergobaby carrier. We were worried she might be uncomfortable or get restless in it, but she was snoozin’ halfway into the hike.

img_3165

About midway, the trail got a lot more treacherous for a guy with a baby on his back. There were several creek crossings on shaky rocks and Andrew decided he wasn’t comfortable going any further. We were about 10 minutes away from Buttermilk Falls, so I continued on and picked them up on my way back out. The hike back out was a lot more challenging than going in. We were basically hiking at an incline for the almost-mile back to our car–it was a workout–but the falls were BEAUTIFUL and so peaceful.

DSC_7477

Ellie had a good 30 minute nap in the carrier and didn’t complain the entire time! We rewarded her with her favorite McDonald’s french fries afterward and she was the happiest baby in all of Northeast Ohio.

 

DIY: Artificial Succulent Planter

img_3146

I’ve been a long time fan of using succulents as a house plant because the upkeep is so easy, but I made two succulent planters from real plants last year that I still couldn’t manage to keep alive! Maybe I gave them too much love…or water. They also attracted gnats, which we HATED. Andrew has had to talk me out of getting real plants again so many times this year, so I finally broke down and said I would get fake ones instead.

I’ve been seeing fake succulent planters everywhere. They’ve become so popular, they aren’t difficult to find, but my problem with them is that they look fake. When I saw these beautiful, real-looking plants at Joann this week, I knew I could make a planter that would look like the real thing. This project was SO easy and cost about the same as buying one.

I bought 10 or 11 assorted succulents on sale at Joann for $3-$5 apiece and a green Desert Foam rectangular brick to hold the plants in place inside the planter. The planter I used was 9 inches in diameter, so I cut the foam insert to size and placed it inside the planter before adding the plants.

I found this extremely cute planter at Home Depot for $17.98. I looks like something I would have paid twice as much for at Anthropologie. I love it!

Planter

Once I inserted all of the plants into the Desert Foam, I was done! It was as simple as that. I’m so happy with how it turned out, and I can’t believe how REAL it looks!

 

24 Hours in Dayton, Ohio

DSC_7373

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, but it was also Andrew’s 32nd birthday, so we spent Saturday seeing something he has wanted to since we found out we were moving to Ohio–The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The museum is in the Dayton, Ohio area, about three hours southwest of where we live, so we left Friday after work and spent the night at a nearby hotel. Ellie slept in the car a lot of the way, so she was wild by the time we got there. It took a while to get her settled down and she ended up going to sleep way past her bed time. She actually slept in Saturday morning and, Hallelujah, it was glorious! I can’t remember the last time we slept past 8 a.m.

Since we got a later start to our day, we had an early lunch at Smashburger before heading over to the museum. I had never been to Smashburger. It’s kind of like Five Guys, but has even more options, including chicken sandwiches instead of just burgers. Andrew and I tried the cheddar bacon cheeseburger and smash fries–Ellie devoured the fries–and we loved it. We will definitely be going there again.

After lunch, we made our way to the museum and couldn’t believe the vast size of it. The museum is very well organized, with several hangars of planes separated by war era, and it seemed like for every plane on the museum floor, there was also one suspended from the ceiling. There was even a gallery of items from space missions. Here’s a floor map I found online that shows how the museum is laid out, but you don’t get a sense of how big it is until you’re standing inside one of the hangars.

air force musem

We started in the World War II hangar and ended at Presidential Aircraft. Andrew’s dad is a retired Colonel and pilot of the U.S. Air Force, so it was really cool to get to see some of the planes he flew during his military career. I took pictures, but the hangars had very low lighting and I didn’t bring our tripod so they’re a little blurry. There are over 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles on display and even artifacts like sections of the Berlin Wall and an authentic space suit. We tried getting a picture of Ellie in the space suit but she wasn’t into it, so I gave it a try. 🙂

Andrew’s favorite was the first plane we came to–the B-29 Bockscar that dropped the Fat Man atomic bomb on Nagasaki in 1945, the second and last nuclear attack in history. Seeing the giant yellow bomb shell strapped to the plane was definitely jarring. It seemed to be the most popular of the planes we saw, with many visitors crowding around it and taking pictures.

There were a few jet fighters spaced around the floor with stairs leading up so you could sit in the cockpit. Naturally, Andrew had to do it! The museum also had several flight simulators that you could ride for a small fee that looked fun. We decided to wait until Ellie was a little older to go on those.

We eventually made our way to the part of the museum I looked most forward to–Missile & Space. There is something so fascinating about seeing artifacts that have actually been in space, and it was especially cool to see the Gemini space hatch used for launch and reentry to and from space and the Apollo 15 Command Module, used in the fourth successful moon landing mission.

The last thing we did at the museum ended up being my favorite! We walked through an Air Force One airplane used by eight U.S. Presidents over a 36-year span. The Presidential Gallery included several planes once used by U.S. Presidents that visitors could walk through–very cool!

DSC_7391

I planned this visit for Andrew, but I ended up loving it as much as he did. I completely underestimated this place, and highly recommend it if you’re interested in historical artifacts, airplanes, or space travel. Not only is it a fun day, but it’s completely free–free parking, free entry and free A/C on a hot summer day.

TBT: Beach Bumming in the Florida Panhandle

Exactly one month from now, Andrew, Ellie and I will be sitting on a Florida Beach, watching the waves roll in with my family, and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s been over three years since I’ve been to the Gulf Coast and I miss it terribly. It’s where my family used to vacation when my siblings and I were younger, where I took my senior trip, spring break, and many vacations since. When Andrew and I lived in Montgomery, the beach was close enough to drive down for a weekend or even a day trip if we were feeling particularly adventurous. Florida’s Panhandle beaches are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The white sand reflects blue-green water that is unique to the area, giving it the name Emerald Coast. Here are a few pictures of our favorite beaches.

Panama City Beach

PCB has a reputation for being a party beach, which may be true during times like spring break and right after students get out of school for the year, but it’s mostly family oriented with lots of activities for kids like Shipwreck Island Waterpark, Gulf World Marine Park, and the Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise to keep them busy. This is where we’ll be with my family next month and I’m really looking forward to sharing these experiences with Ellie for the first time. Andrew and I tended to stay on the beach and not do too many activities, so some of them we’ll be doing for the first time too. These pics are of our last trip to PCB.

DSC_0235

Destin

Destin is where my family usually vacationed when we were kids and had the chance to go. It is probably the most popular Panhandle destination, with tons of restaurants and activities for all ages. One of the last times Andrew and I went was during winter, so it was too cold to swim, but we had a romantic weekend at the Inn on Destin Harbor, a hotel overlooking a marina that had the most beautiful sunsets. LostFile_JPG_1479527577

The hotel didn’t have a great beach so we decided to check out Henderson Beach State Park. It was beautiful, even during the middle of winter, although there were jellyfish lining the water that looked like Portuguese man-o-war. Whatever kind they were, we made sure to steer clear of them.

LostFile_JPG_1238626977

Pensacola Beach

Our day trip to Pensacola was our last trip to the Panhandle before we moved to Ohio. Of all the areas we’ve been to, this one may be my favorite because it is home to the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a 10-mile stretch of beach with no hotels, condos or shops–just you and the ocean. Because there is so much space, it’s easy to have a section of beach all to yourself.

IMG_3617

Seeing these pictures again after so long has me even more excited about our upcoming trip. I’ve bought so many swimsuits, flip flops and sundresses for Ellie, I’m going to have to do a baby fashion blog when we get back!

Lake Erie Waterfallin’

img_2937

Left to Right, top to bottom: West Falls, Berea Falls, Fortier Park Falls, East Falls

Maybe it’s the Southerner in me, but I’ve always loved the water. It doesn’t really matter what kind–ocean, lake, river–I’m naturally drawn to it, so when I found out how many waterfalls there were in the Cleveland area, I was anxious to see them all. In the three years we’ve lived here, we’ve had the chance to see a few!

I found this map on gowaterfalling.com that shows exactly how many falls there are and where they are located. All of the ones we’ve been to so far have been very easy to get to.

falls

Paine Falls

Andrew and I came across Paine Falls by accident back when we were house hunting in summer 2014. We were in the Painesville area, and drove across a bridge that had the most beautiful falls flowing underneath it. We decided to stop and take a look. We walked a short path to an overlook and found this view:

img_4928

We didn’t find a house in that area, but we were pleasantly surprised to find this gem.

Brandywine Falls

In April 2015, right before I got pregnant with Ellie, Andrew and I took a drive through Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I had heard Brandywine Falls was one of the best waterfalls in the area and wanted to see for myself. It definitely didn’t disappoint!

img_5810

Chagrin Falls

Chagrin Falls marked our first day trip with Ellie in September of last year, and we had the best time checking out the town surrounding the falls, eating ice cream and watching the ducks play in the river. In fact, it was my first post on this blog. Click here for that post.

img_0850

Berea Falls

Last weekend we had perfect weather for seeing the closest falls to us in location. Berea Falls is part of the Rocky River Reservation, a huge nature reserve that runs the length of the Rocky River from Lake Erie to Berea, about 15 miles. The reservation is one of Cleveland’s greatest attributes and one of my favorite places to spend time. Ellie loved running around on the path and climbing rocks.

img_2681

David Fortier River Park

As we drove to Berea Falls, I noticed the prettiest park with the Rocky River running through it. We decided to stop and take a look and ended up discovering another small set of falls not on the map.

This park was really nice. The water was calm enough for people to fish and there were several kids around with parents close by. We held onto Ellie so she couldn’t get far, but I can definitely see us bringing her when she’s older to play in the water or have a picnic.

Cascade Park East Falls

Yesterday, I decided to go on hike by myself to check out Cascade Park’s East and West Falls. I had wanted to see them for a while, but Andrew wasn’t as excited about it as I was, so he stayed home with Ellie and watched NBA Playoffs while I had some one-on-one time with nature. I have to admit, it was SO PEACEFUL! Lol.

img_2824

There was actually not much hiking to the East Falls. I parked my car and a very nice boardwalk took me to an overlook of the falls. The East and West Falls flow through the Black River in Elyria.

I took a short path for a different view of the falls and then headed to the more popular West Falls.

Cascade Park West Falls

The West Falls were not only beautiful, but fun to get to. I enjoyed doing a little hiking to get to the overlooks. It reminded me of my childhood in Mississippi, climbing over fallen trees and trekking through streams to get there.

img_2903

This was the path to the falls:

A bridge along one of the interior paths gave me my first view of the falls before I walked to the main overlook.

I’m not usually one for selfies, but I did snap a quick waterfall selfie since I had the place to myself, lol.

Now that we’ve seen so many, we know which ones would be ideal to bring our visiting nature-lovers to. And we’re still not done–next on my list is Buttermilk Falls!