Monday, July 21, 2014

Sugarboo Farms - With all my Sugarboo Babes


This past April we had our TENTH Girls Weekend with my girlfriends group (honestly didn't even realize it was our 10th one until now).  The location for such a special trip?
Sugarboo Farms in Blairsville, Georgia!

There were 32 wonderful women in attendance.  All came so ready for an incredibly relaxing AND FUN time in the country.  I had stumbled across the property while searching LARGE vacation rentals on VRBO.  I was immediately intrigued by the quaintness of it, the rusticness (word?) of glamping and the just plain old AMAZINGNESS (again a word?) of it!  The owners are local Atlantans who have a company Sugarboo Designs that makes and sells funky fun rustic art and home furnishings.  Thus the farmtastic interiors to Sugarboo Farms.  Sugarboo Designs is even available at Target these days - HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

Anyway, the ladies arrived on Thursday afternoon with suitcase(s) and cooler(s) in hand.  I had sent them packing lists ahead of time with little reminders - like pack comfy clothes for yoga, bathing suit for the hot tub and sneakers for hiking or don't forget your wrapped $15 farm chic gift for the gift swap.  That was Thursday night's activity following the Welcome Appetizer Party.  We ran the Farm Chic Gift Swap kind of like a Chinese Auction but did it at night after dinner with drinks and s'mores in hand around the fire pit!  (ps- have done beach gift swaps and country gift swaps before on other GWs  all worked out SO fun!)

The property is just precious - you feel like you have this whole other little world ALL to yourselves (Sugarboo Farms can only be rented as an entire facility not by the cottage).  I loved watching the girls find their cottage and either stroll down the hill or take the MULE (a golf cart on steriods - true farm equipment).  We had use of the Mule all weekend long!
The "MULE" with us posing in our UGLY Prom Dresses - I'll get to that later....
I got smart and at the recommendation of a few of the girls made a RULE - NO DRIVING THE MULE AFTER DARK!  One it's dark AND two some of them had had many Dirty Arnold Palmers and/or Spicy Jalapeno Pineapple Margaritas (link includes a video on how to infuse your own Spicy Pineapple Tequila!) by the time the sun went down.
Drink Station
Each girl got one of these sweet LARGE mason jars to personalize and use all weekend (it was theirs to bring home - ps~ i drove to about 500 TJ Maxes and Marshall's to accumulate 32!)  


In each girl's cottage were fun farm welcome bags awaiting their arrival containing items like - dry shampoo spray, colgate wisps, mini flashlights, cleansing cloths, mini moonpies, branch pencils and so much more!  

Little signs with farm humor and/or inspirational messages were placed in all the bedrooms, bathrooms and common areas.
Just a few of the table tent style signs that could be found in all the cottages and farmhouse!





The room signs (indicating who slept in which cottage) were so farm funky - I used chalkboard paper, wrote on the with chalkboard marker and hung on jute twine! (don't mind my crappy handwriting)


After a VERY casual appetizer filled Welcome Party (fantastic food provided ALL weekend long by Chef Nancy & crew from In Sister's Kitchen - will post more about fun food ideas in future posts about our Sugarboo weekend), the girls grabbed their farm chic gift swap gifts for the Gift Exchange around the fire pit.  Before each chic's turn she had to introduce herself, tell either her favorite memory from a past trip if she had been on one of our weekends before OR tell what she was MOST looking forward to or why she needed this "getaway".  This was a terrific way to get to know each other a bit and the chalkboard name tags we wore the first night helped too!  We laughed into the night then slept well in the fresh mountain air with stars overhead while visions of day two danced in our heads.





The End - - -
until day two
coming soon!








Birthday Fairy Strikes Again ~ LED Balloon Surprise!

Many years ago, 14+ to be exact I started the tradition of the birthday fairy...
On the eve of our children's birthdays we place something all over the floor of their rooms.  So, when they arise a WHOLE year older on the morning of their birthday their is a surprise to get their day started off a little extra special!

I know CRAY - CRAy of me to add just one more thing to the already list of crazy things parents do for their kids (ie. the stupid elves that trash our homes, luny leprechauns that pee in your potties, etc).  But the birthday fairy is a little bit different.  It doesn't have to be B-I-G...  It is just a fun addition to their special day.  All our kids know that the birthday fairy is us!  Which is neato cause they actually thank US (not some fantasy) for our thoughtfulness and generosity.  As an added bonus often the other kids get in on the plan.  On more than one occasion - I have had another kid approach me and say, "mom, what are you doing for so and so's bday?  Because I have an idea!".  Some of the best birthday morning surprises have come from their sibling's minds - for example one year my second daughter suggested journals and notebooks for her big sister who is SUPER passionate about writing.  BEST idea ever!

Some of the things we have done in the past through the years for our four kids are -
cars (matchbox and dollar store cars not BMWs)
change (kids love money)
candy
barbie bonanza
make-up (for my teen)
legos
nerf stuff
princess paraphernalia
bubble gum
play doh
bras (that was for one of my preteen daughters not my son - he he)

This year we did one of MY FAVES! -- It looked so incredibly cool.  LED Balloons (that flashed!).  My second child turned 13 on Sunday and her room looked like a disco the night before.  What a way to usher in the TEEN years!

Here is the link to Amazon where I got my TOTALLY AWESOME - blinking balls of birthday fun!
(the 20 piece pack seems to be the best deal with free shipping with Amazon Prime) 


video

Keep in mind that this was done creatively not necessarily costing a ton of $.  Barbies were always sale ones,  lots of barbie clothes because those are reasonably priced and I even included just printed pics of the glamorous girl.  Makeup was always buy one get one and included a bunch of Dollar store stuff (thank God she didn't get an eye infection).  Bras were from Ross and TJ Maxx (great prices on undergarments)!  
You get the picture....

Friday, August 16, 2013

Navigating a City? Let the kids give it a go!

Most people either have a great sense of direction or they are lost most of the time.  Is a sense of direction or the ability to read a map something we are just born with?  Or are these learned?  In a world of GPSs, are these abilities null and void? 
I love maps!  One of my daughters loves maps. It is rare that I am lost even before the invention of the GPS I always kind of knew where I was, knew where I came from and knew where I was going. 
On our family trip to Charleston for spring break I had an idea. Charleston is a very walkable city. It was a new city to us and as easy as it would have been to use the walking option on our navigation app on our phones, I decided let's let the kids navigate us through the city. 
I had made plenty of reservations for meals and activities during our stay. Sidebar - kind of a must when visiting during a super busy time like spring break.  Due to the fact that we knew in advance where and when we needed to be certain places I printed directions from our condo to all the activities. I chose the walking option on mapquest and printed each leg of our day separately so that the kids could alternate who had the chance to be the navigator.  With print out in hand our little explorers looked excited with their new sense of purpose. To get there family from here to there. Even at the age of 11 or 9 or even 3 to have that much responsibility is fun. Yes, I did one for the baby too (only one turn). As parents it was awe inspiring to watch their tentative little faces tilt up to read street signs and raise their hands to make the letter L shape with their fingers to help them remember their left from their right. 
Yes, this whole process was more work for me before we even left our home.  Printing and highlighting activities for three days- from the condo to breakfast, from breakfast to museum, from the museum to lunch -  you get the picture.  It was certainly worth the effort. I hope to instill in our kids a sense of exploring wonder that they can manage their way through our big beautiful world with a built-in internal compass.  That will always help them find where they are going and help them find their way home. 

If you like this post check out this one you will LOVE it - Where the Road Takes You (or your kids take you)

SkyView Atlanta and More ~ Want Someone to Come Visit Us - so we can go downtown Atlanta

to check out some of the NEW or IMPROVED sites.....
I know it seems hokey but kinda want to ride the new SKYVIEW ATLANTA.  Recently completed last month sitting 20 stories high with 42 gondolas (that can accommodate up to 6 people each) right next to Centennial Olympic Park.  I love carnival type stuff and I love sightseeing - this seems to package the two very nicely.
The SkyView Ferris wheel was initially in Paris right across the street from the Louvre Museum.  It was also in Switzerland for a little while, and then it was in Pensacola, Florida. Pensacola was always a temporary destination. They moved from there to here because they decided Centennial Olympic Park was the perfect place for this attraction. - according to Jason Evans an Atlanta SkyView spokesman.
While downtown I would of course try to catch the Fountain Show at Centennial Olympic Park. There are four shows a day check out the website to see what time works for your schedule.  Search out our BRICK (maybe this time remember paper and crayons so the kids can make a rubbing of it).  Grab lunch at Googie Burger right there in the middle of the park.  They have a burger here that has a hot dog on top of it!  No need to choose burger or dog/ burger or dog, why not have BOTH?  Yummy fries and delicious shakes both for kids AND adults.  Yup, they have adult milkshakes complete with a bit o' booze in them.  Delectable flavors like - Twinkie (vanilla vodka and crème de banana) and the Red Devil (vanilla vodka, creme de cocoa, maraschino cherry juice).    Make your day at the park feel like an instant vacation.
Next up would be to visit the newly remodeled Sundial Restaurant, Bar & View at the top Westin Peachtree Plaza.  It had been closed ALL summer long for these renovations.  I would love to see this cool space brought up to today's style.  Have a drink at The Bar on 73, the rotating bar on top of the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere!  Don't forget your pennies and a little note pad/pen.  We like to leave a little gift at one location on the railing then when you have made the complete 360 degree rotation you can see if anybody else played along.  Either adding a penny or writing a little note back.  A complete rotation takes 35 minutes, the perfect amount of time to order a drink and a bite to eat.  As they now have a bar menu available or if you prefer for more of a sit down meal experience you can always make a reservation at The Sundial Restaurant itself.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA - guest post by my friend kim again!




 An hour south of the Atlanta airport there is a little piece of paradise called Callaway Gardens. If you are looking for a scenic, relaxing get-away with plenty to do, then this is not to be missed.  Don’t forget to pack your camera and a nice outfit because this is the perfect time to get that great photo for your next Christmas card.


Before I get started let me clarify how our family travels.  We have four energetic boys ages 7-14.  So our criteria for a good trip includes a place with space to run and play, sturdy stain-resistant furniture, and menus that include chicken fingers or mac-n-cheese.  Callaway Gardens is scenic, luxurious, and relaxing enough for us parents while being rustic and outdoorsy enough for our adventurous offspring.

This was our second visit to Callaway.  The first time was over Spring Break last year.  The visit in the spring was fun, but our options were a little more limited since some of the activities and restaurants are seasonal.  This time it was July so everything was open and there was more to choose from than we could possibly have fit into three days.

We arrived in Pine Mountain, GA around lunch time and before check-in, so we stopped just outside of Callaway Gardens for a bite at Aspen’s Mountain Grill.  It is a small restaurant with a wrap-around covered porch.  Since I love to eat outside this put me right into vacation mode.  The bacon cheeseburger was delicious, the kids loved the mozzarella cheese sticks, and my husband liked the grilled chicken.  The staff was friendly and the atmosphere was warm.  Of course after lunch we had to stop in next door at LuBell’s Ice Cream Shop.  Small shop- good ice cream. Is there such a thing as bad ice cream?


Thanks to my hard-working hubby and his business travels, we had plenty of Marriott Rewards Points available to book two nights at The Lodge & Spa at Callaway Gardens which is a Marriott Hotel located inside the grounds of Callaway.  The Lodge & Spa at Callaway is part of Marriott's Autograph Collection.  The entire staff was gracious and accommodating.  The regular rooms are the size of standard hotel rooms and are well-appointed.  They have junior suites and suites available for reasonable rates but not for points and there are cabins available too.  Our oldest was not with us on this adventure so we fit in one room just fine.  The bathrooms are fantastic with a large shower and separate garden tub- very luxurious.  Our view from the balcony was gorgeous.  Make sure to request a courtyard view, it really is beautiful, and to be able to open the sliding glass door and hear the sound of a waterfall just makes it all the more relaxing. The rooms that face the front of the hotel and the parking lot do not have balconies.  The parking lot is wooded just like everything else there which means it is hidden by all the trees.  It should still be a nice view from the front rooms just not quite as fabulous.




The lobby is cozy, with a large fireplace and comfy couches.  They have complimentary coffee in the mornings and a large dispenser of ice water with lemon slices set out during the day which is a nice touch.


The Piedmont Dining Room, which is just off the lobby, has a good buffet breakfast with an omelet/ pancake station.  Our stay included two adult breakfasts each day ($16.50 value) and since the kids’ buffet was $6.95 it was a fairly reasonable meal that really filled us up for the whole morning.  The Piedmont also serves lunch and dinner; the Friday night seafood buffet looked promising but we were not there on a Friday night to try it.

There is a Ironwood Lounge that has plenty of cozy couches and chairs along with regular small tables and a fireplace, and it attaches to an outside courtyard with another fireplace.  On our Spring Break trip the year before, the staff was very gracious about starting a fire for us outside even though we were the only ones out there.  We ordered drinks and played Monopoly with the kids in front of a roaring fire.  It was a lovely way to end the day.

Spa Prunifolia is located in the hotel and looks upscale and inviting.  It has a large selection of treatments but I did not indulge on this trip.  Maybe next time...

The pool is heated and gorgeous- stone walls, beautiful landscaping, comfortable padded lounge chairs, yet another fireplace, two secluded hot tubs, and a bar and grill that is open on the weekends.  My boys love to swim so we spent plenty of time poolside.  Don’t forget the bug spray! After all the rain Georgia has had this summer the mosquitoes were bad.  Since everything is wooded and there are lakes and streams everywhere, bug spray is a must-have for this trip.





There is a daily charge to get into Callaway Gardens but as guests of the hotel, our admission was free.  We could take the walking/ biking trail just past the pool then across a small road and be right at one of the main attractions, Robin Lake Beach.  It is not a long walk but it was a bit of a haul in the heat with our pool bag and cooler so the next time we went with lots of stuff we opted to drive around to the beach parking lot. There is plenty to keep a family busy at this beach for an entire day. 





Start at the activities pavilion where they rent the umbrellas and beach chairs.  You can bring your own, people even had pop-up tents, but an umbrella with two chairs was only $16 for 3 hours.  They also rent cabanas; those cost a little more, are right off the beach on the lawn, and are not very big.  It is a covered row of stalls on a concrete slab that have two Adirondack chairs and a ceiling fan in each. Nice and shaded, but we opted to be on the beach with the kids. They also sell the tickets for Aqua Island, a floating playground, which my kids loved.  We got there at 2pm and had to wait until 3pm for an umbrella and chairs to become available and until 4pm for the kids to have a turn on Aqua Island. There was plenty of space on the sand to set out our beach towels so we did not mind the wait. Still, I recommend getting there early to make your reservations.  Aqua Island has its own lifeguards and all the participants wear life vests.  You are given a color-coded wrist band which shows the hour you have been assigned.  Ten minutes before your assigned time they get you fitted for the life vest and give you a quick run-down of the rules, then you swim the short distance in shallow water to the floating island of fun.  It was well worth the $10/participant. 

Aqua Island 
They also have laser tag, shuffle board, ping pong, paddle boats, and speed boats that pull tubes or skiers around the lake.  The Beach Pavilion, located just across the lawn from the beach, has bathrooms, a snack bar, picnic tables, and a playground.  Right next to that is Florida State University’s Circus.  Yes, they have a large open-air circus tent right there where they perform 5 days a week in June and July, one show a day, except Tuesday and Wednesday, and two shows on Saturday.  They also have a Trapeze Experience outside of the tent for those of you who are brave enough to fly through the air with the greatest of ease.




A five-minute drive from Robin Lake is Mountain Creek Lake, where you can rent canoes or jon boats from Kingfisher Outfitters.  Of course you can always get there by trail too but we were not interested in a long walk. The gentleman who runs Kingfisher could not be more gracious.  He rents the boats and fishing gear and is very accommodating.  He took us down to the beautiful covered stone canal where they house the fleet and walked us through what we needed to know about the boats and the lake, where to fish, and what to look for.  He offered sunscreen and bug spray and told us not to worry about being back right on time just to enjoy ourselves. So we did.  We took a three-person canoe and a two-person canoe and paddled around the scenic lake, stopping to watch all the brave souls maneuvering the Treetop Adventure Course which includes multiple zip-lines across the lake and a challenging obstacle course through the trees.  We stopped our boats right under the zip-lines and some of the really brave zip-liners let go long enough to wave to us. The boys got a kick out of watching them.  My husband and one of the boys got up early the next morning to take one of the jon boats out for a little fishing before breakfast and said that was fun too.



Jon Boats just waiting to be used to reel in the BIG one

On our first trip to Callaway we had stopped by the boat docks at dusk and had wandered around enjoying the lake view and exploring where they dock the boats.  There is a large stone fire pit surrounded by Adirondack chairs right next to the docks and it looks like there is also a ferry, although it was not running during either of our visits.


Just chillin'
There is a lovely restaurant upstairs from Kingfisher’s called “The Garden Restaurant”.  It overlooks the lake and appears to be a little more upscale.  We have not had a chance to try it but it is on my to-do list for next time.

The Garden Restaurant
After a day at the beach and canoeing, we were happy to hit the showers and get some dinner.  The kids voted for Subway which is in the same corner shopping center as Aspen Mountain Grill.  It is inside The Corner Store along with a KFC.  The Corner Store is also a Chevron station and it has a good selection of staple items such as bug spray and sunscreen. We had planned to eat our dinner at one of the courtyard tables back at the hotel then play some board games, but in the end we were all so worn out that we opted to eat in the room while watching a movie then climbed into the comfortable bed with it’s down-comforter and fell right to sleep.

On our first visit we went to the Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center where we rented bicycles.  There are many miles of trails to walk or ride all through the gardens; everything is connected by the trails so if you have the stamina, you could bring your own bikes and never use your car for the entire stay. Since our youngest was only six at the time we took some of the shorter trails but still managed to explore the Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel which is tucked into the woods beside a bubbling brook. 

Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel

We also explored the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl, a pioneer log cabin, the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, and my favorite, The John A. Sibley Horticultural Center, which has a koi pond (bring quarters for fish food), and a 3-story green house with enormous folding glass doors that house a tropical paradise with a waterfall. There is also a children’s maze that has only one entrance and exit so parents can sit and relax under the magnolia trees while the kids play safely in the maze. Our boys used the maze for a nice long game of hide-and-seek. The whole garden is breathtaking. 

Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl
pioneer log cabin
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center
John A. SibleyHorticultural Center




There is so much more to do including two golf courses and a birds of prey show, but there just were not enough hours in the day.

birds of prey show
At the far end of the gardens is The Callaway Gardens Country Store.  It sits across from the entrance to the F.D.Roosevelt State Park and has a stunning mountain view.  The store is adorable with wine, preserves, fudge and gifts.  There is also The Country Kitchen restaurant attached with a gorgeous view from the mountain top.  The drinks came in mason jars, which always makes this Southern Girl smile, and the chicken tenders were coated with what I assume they use for the fried chicken as well- they were delicious.  My club sandwich was good but I should have opted for one of the Southern cooking menu options. As with everywhere else we went, the staff was gracious and polite.  It is well-worth a visit.

The Callaway Gardens Country Store

Before we headed home, we took a small side-trip a few miles up the mountain through the state park to see The Little White House, FDR’s vacation home, and the warm springs which first brought him to the area looking for healing from the paralysis he faced after contracting polio.

The Little White House
Since I enjoy history, and since we had just visited Truman’s Presidential Library on a visit to Kansas City where they referenced The Little White House and FDR, I was glad we took the kids and made the connection.  The property is lovely and the small town of Warm Springs had a short main street with a few shops, a motorcycle museum, and a handful of restaurants.  We wanted to try The Bulloch House Restaurant, it had great atmosphere, but it is closed for a few hours between lunch and dinner so instead we tried Paradise Grill which was a brightly painted, eclectic little place with outdoor seating, friendly staff, root beer in glass bottles, and delicious fried green tomatoes.
(a note from Kara: I have been to The Bulloch House Restaurant with my brownie troop and their moms several years ago ~ DELICIOUS food.  They offer an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet and a regular menu!  The fried chicken is juicy and crunchy, just what you look for in a piece of fried bird.  There is a great antique/gift shop right next to the Bulloch House!  As a side note the motorcycle museum got great reviews on Tripadvisor.)

motorcycle museum
Paradise Grill
There is a Bed & Breakfast right on the main street nestled in between the small row of shops, a winery right down the street (a note from Kara - many happy wine people on Tripadvisor, they offer Hotlanta Red - a red wine with a touch of jalapeno, great with spicy foods), and F.D.Roosevelt State Park has hiking trails that all might be worth checking out on another visit, but we were out of time.  We headed back to Atlanta tanner, more relaxed, and a few pounds heavier after all the good home-style cooking and fried foods.  Definitely a destination I would recommend for a romantic weekend, girls’ trips, business conventions, small weddings, family reunions, or a family vacation.


TO READ MORE FROM MY FRIEND KIM -