Global Discovery Vacations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sunset on the beach

 

Returning from vacation can be stressful. Re-entry into the regular routine slow for me.

I keep dreaming of the beautiful beach we saw in Gulf Shores, Alabama. It was our first trip there, it definitely won’t be our last.

We stayed at the Plantation Resort, part of Global Discovery Vacations. I call it a travel club. The way it works is you pay a one time fee up front to join, then a small yearly fee.

We get two weeks a year at any resort they are affiliated with, anywhere in the world for $189.00 per week for a one bedroom suite with kitchen, living room, laundry, etc.

You can upgrade to a 2 or 3 bedroom if you choose, but different rates do apply.

It has been well worth it to us.

We have taken several vacations in the last two years and they have been great.

The facilities are clean, quiet, attractive and very serviceable.

I keep forgetting to take pictures of the inside of them, my mind is always on the view.

pool view

I actually felt sorry for the folks back home in the subzero temperatures. It wasn’t that warm while we were in the Gulf area, but even a cold day at the beach is warmer than a subzero day back home.

Eye candy for the soul.

The resort had several pools both indoors and out. We pretty much had the entire place to ourselves.

There were a few other midwesterner’s around during the off season, but not many.

The off season is Jan-Feb. Peak season begins in March and runs through December.

balcony view

We found out that our room with this stellar view rents for more than $300.oo per night during peak times.

Wow!

star fish

While we were strolling on the beach, we found lots of these little star fishes had washed up on shore during the night. Isn’t it just adorable?

driftwood

The pieces of driftwood on the shore were in all shapes and sizes. This log was huge, I would have loved to haul it home and put it in the garden.

The white sand almost looks like snow doesn’t it?

Beautiful.

broken shells

Because of the cold temps and rough seas, there were lots of shells on the beach. Many of them were broken, but that doesn’t deter me.

I see great beauty in brokenness.

ferris wheel

On one of the colder days, we amused ourselves at the local shopping mall. The Wharf is a great spot with lots of unique shops and restaurants.

driftwood pelican

This adorable coffee shop specializes in beach art and coffee.

It has become my most favorite place in the entire world.

This pelican was made out of driftwood. If I could have figured out how to cram it into my suitcase, I would have brought it home with me.

It is masterpiece in my book.

brick wall

Another day we visited Fort Morgan, a civil war era fort on the Bay of Mobile.

I love historic spots like this.

The fort is built into the ground at the tip of the bay, making it is almost invisible from the sea. There is another fort across the bay on the other side. Next trip, we will explore that one as well.

This was the site of a number of important sea battles during the civil war. They also have an interesting museum and gift shop.

I love how the inside wall is aged and mossy.

fortress

Other parts of the fort are just as interesting. The salty sea air makes a layer of white crust on the aging bricks.

Can you imagine this place filled with soldiers and cannons?

old house

This beautiful house sits at the end of fort. It was once the command center for the entire place.

I love the big porch and the unique windows.

training plane

 

Since the weather was so cool, we didn’t really spend a lot of time on the beach. We really enjoyed our day trip to Pensacola, FL which was about 30 minutes away.

We spent the entire day the National Naval Aviation Museum.

We love air planes, and have a long history with pilots in our family.

 

blue angels

We took in a couple of flight simulations, and even an IMAX movie about the Blue Angels while we were there. They are so impressive to see up close.

uss enterprise2

My favorite plane had to be the USS Enterprise.

I knew the Enterprise existed, I knew it!

uss enterprise

Even the propeller was massive.

the hot shop

Nearby Orange Beach is the home of this glass blowing workshop called The Hot Spot.

You can watch them make glass, or even take a class and try it yourself.

Very impressive.

Glass flowers

Aren’t these glass flowers just beautiful?

st. louis arch

The trip home was long and snowy, we stopped briefly at the St. Louis Arch on the way.

That blob on the photo is the sun showing through the clouds just before it snowed.

It snowed a lot.

the arch

The Arch is very impressive up close. If you are brave and not claustrophobic, you can go up in the elevator to the top.

I was not so brave.

old court house

Across the park sits the Old Courthouse. I was surprised how similar it is to the court house we have here at home.

So much to discover!

I hope you have enjoyed the tour.

Are you planning a spring vacation?

Where to?

 

Crater of Diamonds State Park

 

Crater of Diamonds

 

We are back from our early spring vacation. It’s always hard to get back into the swing of things after a restful time away. I find it takes me at least two or three days for each week we are away, to be able to re-focus and figure out what direction we need to take for to go forward. I need time to catch up on mail, laundry, shopping, and the ever growing email accounts and social media obligations. Time away is necessary, I find, to re-evaluate where you are and which direction you should be going next. I have never failed to come home with a new vision and a clear perspective.

There were many years where we didn’t take any vacations as a family, but as our children begin to leave home, we have decided to make family trips a priority. We now make an effort to take at least two trips a year together.

The last couple of years, we have concentrated on exploring the beach areas, as I am addicted to warm sands and southern sunshine. This trip was no different, but I will tell you about the beach in my next post.

We began our journey by driving south and making a small detour through Arkansas to the Crater of Diamonds State Park. We have never been there before, but it was well worth the trip.

Arkansas is a beautiful state.

We first read about this park as part of our home schooling journey, in a monthly children’s publication called Which Way USA. It is a monthly Geography Book Club by Highlights Magazine. The kids get a different state map and puzzles each month with interesting information and attractions to help them learn about the states and their geography. All our kids loved them, and couldn’t wait for the next one to come in the mail.

One of the attractions listed in the Arkansas book was Crater of Diamonds State Park. Our kids have never forgotten it (this was years ago), and they have always wanted to go there.

Even with our son being in high school we had a great time, it’s a fun place for all ages.

Crater of Diamonds-2

When you get to the park, you purchase a ticket to dig in the diamond field. Some of the biggest diamond discoveries imaginable have happened here, including some incredibly huge, famous diamonds and sapphires. You can read more about them here.

We purchased some yellow rubber booties to wear over our shoes, and rubber gloves to wear as it was a very muddy day.

Aren’t they just so darn cute?

We chose to just walk around the diamond field and pick up our rocks rather than dig for them, you have both options available. The largest stones have been found just by walking around the park, so that’s what we decided to do.

Yes, you really can just walk around and pick up diamonds.

Who knew?

Crater of Diamonds-4

The field doesn’t really look very remarkable at all. There are rocks strewn about, in all colors shapes and sizes. They have sample rocks on display to show you what to look for when you search for your stones.

It is a bit of a challenge trying to find the right one.

We found some of the rocks looked suspiciously like rocks we have here in Wisconsin, but it was still fun to search. My husband was skeptical and thought that they perhaps trucked rocks in from other areas of the country just to make things look good.

I think he was jealous cause my rocks were bigger than his.

Just saying.

Crater of Diamonds-6

You never know, there could be a diamond in there someplace.

Crater of Diamonds-7

The locations of the most famous diamond finds are marked with these black shovels. I spent my time circling around these areas.

I don’t think I found anything but obsidian, quartz and shale.

Crater of Diamonds-8

There are covered tables where you can sort your rocks. I picked through my bag and chose the most colorful examples.

It’s just my nature.

They may be worthless, but they sure are pretty.

The park has gemologists on site to identify your finds if you should find a valuable candidate.

Crater of Diamonds-9

You can even wash your rocks with a sieve in these long troths. It was very cold the day we were there, and the water had ice on it.

No rock washing for us this time around.

I will take the dirt home, thank you.

It was a lots of fun and I would highly recommend it to anyone even though we came home without a famous rock. Hands on experiences like this are how we have taught our children many things, including the science of geology.

Learning about rocks is so much more fun when you are out in the dirt looking for them instead of staring at them in a boring text book. Don’t you agree?

The park also has a museum and a great gift shop where you can buy pretty shiny rocks and other gifts to take home even if you don’t find the rock of your dreams.

There is camping available and I am sure the park is lovely in the summer months. Perhaps we will come back and try again someday.

Check it out if you happen to be driving through Arkansas!

Confetti Soap

 

 

 

Confetti soap and wash towel

 

I recently taught a soap making class. It was so much fun! A group of local home school Mom’s and a few of their kids got together for a time of fellowship and learning.

I am not really sure who learned more, me or them. That’s the funny thing about being a speaker, you go in expecting to teach, but come out having been a student.

Even if it’s something you have been doing for years, like making your own soap.

I would do it again in a heart beat.

We spent the entire night discussing soap bases, herbs and essential oils. We debated about different chemicals in the bases, what’s good, what’s not. We even googled a few technical terms for clarification.

It was a blast.

We experimented with new molds, tested new soap bases, mixed beautiful new colors and tried out new experimental techniques.

The results were beautiful.

They smelled even better than they looked.

Confetti soap and wash towel

My favorite soap of the night was this Confetti Soap.

It’s not at all complicated.

The basic soap has a combination of 3 Butters, Mango, Shea and Cocoa butter. It’s the first time I have used this product, and I love the way it moisturizes my dry winter skin.

The beautiful color comes from adding chopped up bits of Glycerin Soap that I made previously.

We simply chopped the soaps into little pieces and added them to the white liquid soap base when it was poured into the mold.

How easy is that?

I had been working on this little Confetti Wash Towel as well, here’s the DIY Knitted Dish Towel Pattern. I thought it would be fun to use the two Confetti items together.

Homemade is beautiful, don’t you think?

DIY Candy Cane Soap

Candy cane soap lead

 

We have been hard at work on making Christmas gifts. One of the joys of homeschooling for us over the years has been to learn basic homemaking skills, along with a few skills that are just fun projects.

Making soap is just plain fun. It’s an easy project for younger children, and the next thing you know they are 16 years old and begging to help you make soap for gifts.

We love Candy Canes at our house and decided to combine the two for our very own DIY Candy Cane Soap.

Candy cane close up

If you didn’t know, sugar has long been known to be an excellent ingredient for smoothing and exfoliating the skin. You can buy sugar scrubs, make your own, or have one professionally done at your local spa.

Since we had a bundle of candy canes around the house, they became our inspiration for this holiday soap.

We made a couple of different batches, experimenting as we went. I had a bunch of left over glycerin bars from another project, I think it was a 1 lb. bag that we melted on the stove top in an old pan.

The first batch was poured into small bars (you can buy molds at the craft store) where we added crushed candy canes to the melted glycerin (center bars). The bars hardened quickly and looked so pretty with the crushed candy in them.

So far, so good.

Then, we got braver and made a bigger batch, using crushed candy canes in the bottom of a large bread pan, then adding the melted glycerin (white) for the bottom layer.

After we allowed it to harden, a another layer of glycerin tinted with red food coloring was poured on top.

The soap was left to harden, inverted on a tray and cut into slices.

I resurrected an old cookie tin to wrap the soap in for giving.

Magical!

Candy cane trees

The Candy Cane Soap was born! We also added some extra peppermint essential oil to the melted glycerin.

Our kitchen still smells minty.

It smells good enough to EAT.

By the way, the soap rather looks like peppermint bark doesn’t it?

If I could figure out how to add a layer of chocolate to it, I would.

Candy cane bee soap

The last batch we made was with the crushed candy canes melted into the glycerin to get this lovely pink color. The bee design is my blog logo and I love using it for special gifts.

The only mistake we made was in cleaning up after we were finished.

I had this great idea of saving myself some time and putting all the dishes that I used to make the soap in the dish washer.

This was not wise.

We had a mountain of minty, soapy bubbles all over the kitchen floor.

Ooops! Who knew soap would be so, SOAPY?

Candy cane display

I had fun putting together this little display in our bathroom. The pink soaps called for some pretty glass jars, striped ribbons and my Mason Jar Snow Globes.

Candy cane bath cabinet

This is the only spot in the bath where I can decorate. It has a little holiday feel now and that makes me happy!

Guess what else made me happy this week? I was one of the bloggers featured in the Huffington Post article on gifts you can make.

Read all about it here.

The wall cabinet was another project, but we will talk about that on a different day!

Seasons of Change

designerssweetspot.com

 

 

I have been sick this week. Stuffy nose and sore throat are no fun in the summer time. I haven’t had much energy to create anything new, let’s just say I am in my planning phase.

Summer is winding down, I am planning for fall. I see lots of things around me, ready for the change of seasons.

My plants are looking tired and wilted. They are ready to be replaced with some beautiful cool weather varieties with the coming of fall.

I am ready for seasons of change too. I am craving cool nights in front of the fire, and I just found my knitting basket today.

I can’t wait to sit and knit in front of the fire. It’s one of my favorite past times. It gives me time to think and plan just about anything.

I began organizing our homeschool books today, I am eager to get started on the school year. My older boys are going back to college soon, and those still at home have begun some early homework assignments. I have noticed all my kids seem more mature than they did at this time last year, they are taking on more responsibilities and have become more independent. I have more time to work on projects (which is not necessarily bad), but I miss the days when we would curl up together on the couch and read a good book together.

Fall isn’t far away.  Our rowing time on the lake has been cut short lately, it is getting darker each night, the air feels cooler. The crew team will continue until late October to row on the lake but I am not sure how dedicated I will be to the sport when the colder temperatures come.

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Our chickens have been under attack from a family of raccoons. We have fortified the coop with extra hardware on the doors and lock them in the peak of it each night. My husband came home to see the entire family of coons jumping up and down on top of the coop late one night.

Their time with us is limited I fear, the hunters will not give up until they have gotten what they want.

designerssweetspot.com

We have decided not to winter the hens this year, since we don’t have the space in the garage anymore, but it makes me sad to think they will have to be sold in the near future.

We lost one hen to a hawk last week, Dumpling disappeared one day leaving only a small pile of feathers behind. I miss her.

We have also had a battle with chipmunks, mice and a big, fat wood chuck in the yard. There seems to be more wildlife here in the city than when we lived in the country. We are filling holes, insulating and hoping to get ahead of the critters before they try and nest for the winter.

Are you ready for the coming change of seasons?

What sort of changes are you making at your house?