Butterflies and Best Friends

This trip is flying by. A month might seem like a long time for a vacation, but it really isn’t. With only 10 days left, I feel like I have so many more people I want to see and so much more to do.

We met up with my friend Brittany in Gainesville. We took Ava to the Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida (which is also where Tony went to college). I had been before, but it had been so long. I think I was in high school last time.

Butterfly Rainforest Museum of Natural History

The main attraction for us was the Butterfly Rainforest that they have there. I knew Ava would be all about it!

Butterfly Rainforest

Ava had a blast! She ran around, pointing at all the butterflies. Brittany and I spent some time identifying some of the plants. We decided on a few we needed to have in our gardens.

Tropical Plant

The Butterfly Rainforest at the Museum of Natural History is a giant screened in room filled with lush tropical vegetation, trees, flowers, waterfalls and ponds, a few very interesting birds, and HUNDREDS of butterflies. The butterflies are all around you. One may even land on you. It really offers you the opportunity to get an up close look at them.

Butterfly on Flower

We took a break from the butterflies and checked out the rest of the museum. Although I had been there before, I had never taken the time to see the other exhibits.

Baby on Slide

Ava found the children’s discovery room right away. It had a slide. Guess what we did for about 20 minutes? We also found this contraption. It’s a sort of wind tunnel. The kids can put different objects in the tube and they fly up. I think we might need one for our playroom. Maybe a possible DIY?

Wind Tube

There were a few other exhibits about the history of Florida and the environment. Nothing I haven’t seen before. There was one exhibit that really intrigued me.

They had a set up with photos from all of the natural springs around North Central Florida. Each spring had a collage of photos, some old, some new. The purpose of this display is to show how much the springs have changed and how some are closed down. The springs are being polluted. The worst part is that some of the worst changes occurred in the pictures taken in the early 1990s to the present. The springs have changed significantly in my lifetime. I’m not old! It breaks my heart that Ava may never get to swim in and enjoy these natural wonders. If you are near Gainesville, Florida, check out this exhibit. It’s free. If you can’t make it there, do a little research. Sulphur Springs in Tampa, Florida is not just a slummy neighborhood, there’s actually a spring there. Stop and think before you pour things into our water supply.

Toddler at Butterfly Rainforest

Have you been to the Butterfly Rainforest? Which is your favorite spring in Florida to enjoy during the summer?


We Made It

We made it to Houston! We’ve actually been here for over a week now, but things have been crazy. Tony has been transitioning to his new work location, we’ve been looking for a car (ugh), I’ve had a few orders come in, and Ava has been spending lots of time playing outside.

Our flight here was a very, very, verrrryyyy long 18 hours. I am going to take a second to brag on our daughter. Ava is a champ when it comes to flying. We had 3 flights with 2 layovers and this girl was AWESOME! For both of the first two flights, she didn’t say a word. She did flirt with the US Air Marshall that sat next to us on the second flight (Tony notices EVERYTHING). Ava loves to fly! Our last flight was a quick commuter flight from Dallas to Houston. The entire flight was only about 45 minutes long. Every time the plane dropped altitude, Ava would say, “Weeeeeeeee.” I love that girl!

Toddler at Airport

Ava in Airport

We normally fly Delta, but we took United this time because their tickets were less than half the price of Delta’s. The United flights were fine, but they almost saw the bad side of me when Ava’s car seat didn’t show up with the rest of our luggage. We had to send someone to look for it. They never took it off our last flight. It almost went to Pensacola.

We are thoroughly enjoying the weather in Houston! It has been very mild thanks to a few cold fronts. Ava loves running in the yard. It’s so nice to send her outside in sandals and shorts and not a snow suit and boots.

We are still getting settled. I have a lot of updating to do on the blog. I may have to take the computer outside. Who wants to be cooped up inside with beautiful weather like this!




Seward Highway and Turnagain Arm

Yesterday we finally took a drive down part of the Seward Highway. We drove just south of Anchorage and around part of Turnagain Arm. We didn’t go all the way to Girdwood (where the great skiing is) because we had to make it to the Ale House in time for the Gator game. Priorities, ya know! (Shock! They have Gator Football in Alaska!) We drove down just before 10am. We stopped near Potter Marsh to take a few pictures. The Marsh has completely frozen over and the locals have been out ice skating.  If you look really closely, you can see another mountain range in the distance.

Seward Highway

Potter Marsh

The other side of Potter Marsh.

Potter Marsh Seward Highway

Tony waiting in the truck. He’s on baby duty.

Land Rover Freelander

Potter Marsh

I climbed the rocky hill to the railroad tracks that run along the Seward Highway to take these pictures, that was until the police officer came on his loud-speaker and told me to get off the tracks. What can I say? I’m such a rebel. =)

Seward Highway Railroad Tracks




Looking south at Turnagain Arm.20121028-160703.jpg

My wonderful chauffeur for the day!

Tony driving seward highway

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Our Trip to Willow

Ava and I went to work with Tony yesterday. I thought it would be nice to take a ride up to Willow. I was right! It was nice to see more of the state.

It snowed recently in Willow and it was still on the ground. Ava had her first experience with snow. She was truly mesmerized!

While Tony was working, Ava and I walked around. I think it’s absolutely wonderful that even in a rural place like Willow, they have gravel or paved paths along all of the roads. On our walk we saw some animal prints, possibly from a wolf. We also watched a lady pass by training her sled dogs in front of an ATV. The snow is so beautiful. It glistens in the sunshine.

I can’t wait for Ava to start walking so she can really experience the snow and explore.


Flying First Class with an Infant

My mom, sister, and my mom’s friend Leslie dropped Ava and me off at the Orlando International Airport on Wednesday evening. It was very hard leaving them, but I was excited for the adventure. I knew that traveling alone with an infant was going to be interesting, to say the least.


Left to right: Susie, Ava, Mom, Me

Security was the first challenge. I knew I was short on hands, seeing as I only have two, and tried not to bring too much on the plane with us. We brought Ava’s heavy-duty umbrella stroller that has a few storage compartments on it. This was nice because it wasn’t so big that it was hard to manage by myself, but it also had a little space for me to pack a few things on it. I also had our laptop, which fit snugly in the pouch behind Ava, my coat, and our one carry-on bag. Our carry-on contained all the necessary items from my purse and Ava’s diaper bag, plus some extra toys and snacks.

When we got up to security I had to get all of our stuff into the bins, take the laptop out of its bag, take off my shoes, and fold up the stroller, all while holding a baby. I somehow managed this while not holding up the line too much. We went through the metal detectors and then I was selected to have my hands swabbed.  I’m not really sure what they were swabbing for, but I was cleared.  The man in line in front of us asked if I could bring bottles on the plane.  I explained that we breastfeed and that it was not a concern for us, so I really couldn’t answer his question.

I made sure to change Ava’s diaper right before we boarded the plane.  We boarded the plane and stepped into first class and you could see the horror sweeping across everyone’s face.  I know they were thinking, “please don’t let the lady with the baby sit next to me.”  Our seat was next to an empty seat, but I knew it wouldn’t stay empty for long.  Eventually, a middle-aged business man sat next to us.

I was hoping for a friendly female flight attendant who would be understanding of my situation.  Alas, all of the flight attendants were men.  I will have to say, they were all surprisingly very friendly and helpful.  Good job gentlemen!

Ava was surprisingly well-behaved on the plane.  She only had 2 or 3 little outburst, which I quickly shut down with a nursing session.  I made sure to nurse her during takeoff to help with the elevation change.  We were served dinner on the plane to Salt Lake City.  This proved to be interesting.  I had a choice of gnocchi with Bolognese sauce or grilled chicken with grits.  Bolognese sauce would be a messy option, so chicken it was.  45 minutes later, there was bread on the floor and Ava and I were both wearing grits.  Thankfully, she fell asleep shortly after that.

Our flight landed late in Salt Lake City (my first time in Utah) and we had to run to ourDancing Deer_brand_88x31 next flight.  I was the last passenger to board.  So much for getting Starbucks.  Ava was even better during the second flight.  She didn’t cry AT ALL.  After we had our “snack” (a chicken sandwich, chips, fruit, and a really good brownie from Dancing Deer), Ava and I attempted to get some sleep.  Our flight wouldn’t land in Anchorage until almost 5am Florida time.


We finally landed in Anchorage and got off the plane.  Tony was waiting right outside the terminal for us.  It was really wonderful reuniting with him.  Ava was very excited to see her Daddy!

So here are a few things I learned about flying first class with an infant:

  1. The laminated safety brochure is better than any toy you will bring.
  2. The seats in first class don’t recline as much as they should.
  3. The only people who fly first class are older couples and middle-aged business men. (Okay, not entirely true, but that was it on both of my flights.)
  4. Flying first class was worth not paying $455 for my three suitcases.
  5. Less is more when it comes to your carry-ons while traveling with a baby.

Have you ever been on a flight with a small child?

Packing for a Flight

Moving to Alaska is not cheap.  You may have figured out by now that we sold everything except our clothes and a few small items.  It has been very difficult trying to decide what is worth shipping and what has to stay.  My sister is on the receiving end of most of our stuff.  She is a senior in high school and will be going away to college next June.  Perfect timing!

I am taking three suitcases on the airplane with us, fee free!  But, that being said, I need to use every square inch of the suitcases.  I have gone through my wardrobe at least three times to eliminate things.  I gave a lot of my clothes away to my students, the rest will be donated.  I invested in a few Space Bags and my mom donated (read: I made her dump her stuff out of them and give them to me) a few more.

I was able to pack 95% of my wardrobe into one large Space Bag Cube.  This is everything, including my coat.  I apologize for the poor picture quality.  The lighting in our dining room is horrible.  So, I packed it all up and sealed the bag.  Below you can also see one of my $10.36 Goodwill suitcases!20121010-210124.jpg

Next, I vacuumed all of the air out.  This helped a lot as you can see, but it was still a little bulky.20121010-210134.jpg

I then put the Space Bag in the suitcases on its side.  I realized that I needed to make it a little bit more flat.20121010-210141.jpg

After I put the bag on its side, I opened the valve and let the air back in.  I promise this is not counterproductive.  The bag wouldn’t have fit in the suitcase before I removed the air the first time.20121010-210148.jpg

Finally, I removed all of the air from the bag again, pushing down on the bag to form it to the size and shape of the suitcase.20121010-210153.jpg

Take a look at that!  So much better.  And, there is still room in the suitcase to stuff small things around my clothes.  Now I need to tackle Ava’s suitcase.  That will be an adventure in itself.  I am hoping to have enough room in our third suitcase to pack some miscellaneous items and some of Ava’s toys.  Keep in mind, packing this many clothes into one suitcase may make it over weight.  I have no earthly clue how much mine weighs because I sold my scale already.  I’m willing to pay an overweight bag fee.  It will still be cheaper than shipping a few boxes.

Do you have any crafty ways to pack a suitcase?

South Florida Long Weekend

Last weekend I went down to visit my Aunt Sue in Boca Raton with my Mom, Grandma, and Ava. We left Friday afternoon and got down there just in time for a yummy Chinese dinner. Saturday morning, my mom, aunt, and I ran in the March for Hunger 5k in Hollywood. It was a really nice race right on the boardwalk next to the beach.

Aunt Sue, Mom, and Me!

I am very proud of myself for running the entire thing, even though I was sick. This was the first time I was able to run 3 miles straight since Ava was born. I finished in 40:00 (clock time). Not my best time, but I can only improve. After the race, we hit up a restaurant for crepes and then on to a very fancy Goodwill (oxymoron, I know). This Goodwill was nothing like the others I have been to. I found a small round banana leaf basket for $1 and this size 2T Gymboree jumper for $2.

Now I’m on a mission to find all the matching accessories! Even though it was a goodwill, I felt that a lot of the stuff was overpriced.  That evening we all painted our nails with shellac. I had never used shellac before, so we will see how it holds up.

Update: The shellac only lasted a week.  I’m going to try it again and see how it does.

On Sunday we went to Babies R Us and picked up lots of goodies for Ava. That night, we went on a dinner cruise in Fort Lauderdale. Even though it was a little chilly, it was very nice. It was Ava’s first boat ride! We left to come home on Monday morning. We learned on the way down that Ava needs a break from the car. She isn’t going to stay asleep or relaxed for almost 4 hours. Good to know. We had a great time!