Saturday, July 31, 2010

Camping at Burke Lake

For the longest time I have been meaning to take the family camping but I go so often with the boy scouts that I always push it off due to camping fatigue. Tiffany and I finally sat down in front of a calender and picked a weekend to go. We headed out to Burke Lake Park which is a great family oriented getaway in Fairfax county.

We had a good time fishing, watching wild life, cooking on the camp fire, and making s'mores of course. They even have a ride able train, an 18 hole frisbee golf course, carousel, ice cream parlor, and put put golf course. The kids were fantastic. Gavin liked to explore the woods and showed no fear grabbing at a lizard like it was a piece of candy. Logan loved fishing and even though we only caught a bat (watch the video below) he never got discouraged. Samara loved endlessly throwing rocks into the lake and hamming it up for the camera. Our only wish was that we stayed longer. One night just wasn't enough!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Richmond Drive In Movie Theater

My older brother now owns two old Volkswagens. The awesome "Thing" on the left and the beautiful Karmann Ghia on the right. He made friends with the owner of a NEW drive in movie theater who also happens to have a VW Herbie bug. The owner let my brother and the rest of a local VW club go to a double feature for free Friday night. We just happened to be in town that weekend so we tagged along!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Scout Camp

A day after returning from Louisiana I left to go to scout camp for a week. This year we went to Goshen scout camp which is the local camp for this region. We attended camp the week of July 4th and while it's not quite the same as being with your family on Independence Day, it was still a lot of fun being with the boys.

Last year we suffered from nonstop rain, this year it was nonstop heat. Overall, this summer has been very hot and this week at camp was one of the worst. At one point we were sitting in an open field in the sweltering heat watching scouts perform a play they created for a merit badge when the scout staff informed us it was 107 degrees. That was just one of several days in 100 plus degree heat. Towards the end of the week we had one spectacular storm roll through camp just as we were retiring for the night. It got so bad that we all headed to the dining hall for a couple of hours just to be safe.

As challenging as it is, I very much enjoy scout camp and being away with all the scouts. Maybe I'm making up for never doing it when I was a youth. ;-)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Louisiana

Tiffany and I were itching to get back down to Louisiana again after visiting her grandmother there in 2004. I absolutely love the southern food, New Orleans, the swamps, and of course visiting her family. Visiting New Orleans a year before Hurricane Katrina really gave us some context to all the horrible pictures we saw on the TV during the storm. We were curious to see how much had changed in those 5 years since.

Once again we drove instead of flying. This time we had three kids instead of one, which greatly increased the potential for a disastrous 18 hour drive. We left prepared though. We departed Virginia in the evening on a Friday so that the kids would sleep most of the trip. During their waking hours the DVD player and Nintendo DS saved the day. I fueled up on gas and 5 Hour Energy drinks along the way and ended up driving the first 16 hours myself. Tiffany took over for the last two so that I could finally catch some sleep.

Making the trip as well was Tiffany's mom and sister Melissa with her two kids. Which made for a very full house and some volatile card games (sisters can be so petty).

I'm normally a tightwad and conscientious eater, but this is one of those trips where I completely let go of both. See two yummy dishes at a restaurant? Order both, try everything! The most unusual thing we ate was fried alligator, it did NOT taste like chicken. Most everything was fried which isn't my preference, but that's how they do it. We ate shrimp po' boys, soft shell crab po' boys, shrimp gumbo, crab claws, fried oysters, stuffed shrimp, boiled crawfish, fried eggplant, fried catfish, hush puppies, and of course fried chicken from Popeyes. Can you say YUM!? My favorite was still the boiled crawfish.

We spent a couple of days in New Orleans, specifically the French Quarter. Just like our last trip there, it absolutely poured on us both days. We had to hang out under some shelter while the storms past. But it made for a memorable experience. Hanging out in the French Quarter one day was singer songwriter/Tiffany's crush - Jason Mraz. We didn't know it but he was in the middle of a large crowd that had gathered to protest the BP oil spill. It was only after we returned back home and I was checking out the news did I see a picture of him there. I went back through the pictures I took of the crowd and you can certainly see a glimpse of him in my photos. Had Tiffany known he was there while we were she probably would've embarrassed herself, so maybe it was for the better. ;-)

Samara had been watching the Disney movie The Princess and the Frog a lot before we visited Louisiana. The movie is set in New Orleans and the main character works in a beignet shop and dreams of opening her own restaurant. Beignets are french donuts which are basically fried dough with LOTS of powdered sugar on them. For weeks leading up to our visit, we told Samara we were going to visit the famous beignet shop Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter. She was so excited when we finally sat down in the very crowded outdoor cafe and ordered our beignets. She savored every last bite and every last lick of powdered sugar. We've asked her several times what her favorite part of our vacation was and she always says the beignets. We brought some beignet mix home with us and made some of our own as well.

Logan's favorite part of our trip was by far the alligator ranch we visited. This place was pretty cool (and expensive, but totally worth it.) They were taught a lot of facts about alligators, why they're important, how the eggs are harvested, how they're raised, and what the ranch does with them. We learned that the most popular alligator skinned item is the wrist watch band and that Louisiana has more alligators in the wild than all other states combined. After the classroom portion of the tour we were taken into the alligator barns where we fed them marshmallows and a live mouse. The guide took one out, taped the mouth shut and let the kids touch it. We took a group photo with the alligator across our laps. The most exciting part about the ranch though was the alligator petting pool where they got to pick up baby alligators. Logan and his cousin Payton were skittish at first of course, but once they realized the alligators were harmless (they're mouths were closed shut of course) they became pro alligator wranglers! Logan still says this was his favorite thing he did all summer.

Some other random memories were of the kids so desperately wanting to play with Tiffany's grandmother's cat. The poor cat was freaked out by all the kids and stayed hidden in the master bedroom all week. In the woods behind Tiffany's grandmother's house people have heard the screams of panthers. That thought spooked us whenever we had to go out to our cars at night. Can you imagine hearing a woman like scream coming from the forest? Scary! I went for a short run one morning and nearly died of a heat stroke. The humidity was unbearable. I sweated so much that I shorted out my iPod after only a mile and a half. And of course there's that crazy game of Uno that sent Tiffany and her sister to bed angry at each other on our very last night together.

The drive back up to Virginia was so much more difficult than the drive to Louisiana. The week long trip had worn us out and it showed on the drive back. We still left at night (after seeing The Last Airbender movie) but at some points Tiffany and I were swapping in and out of the driver's seat every two hours. Sleep was fleeting as the kids were having a rough time as well, especially little Gavin. We eventually made it home of course and with no speeding tickets thankfully. It'll be a while before we take another road trip that long!

Be sure to click on the title picture to see the rest of the photos