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.

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

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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!

Photo Challenge: Day 18

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Something You Always Wanted

Welcome back to the 30 Day Photo Challenge! It’s been a refreshing break for me to just take photos and have time to pack boxes to prepare for our upcoming move. As a blogger I tend to put a ton of pressure on myself to get posts out daily, this challenge has really been relaxing for me. Some days I get a good shot, some days I don’t.

On the days that I don’t get a good shot, I don’t post anything. It’s as simple as that.

I have found that I really look forward to each assignment, and I am learning much about my new equipment.

Today’s assignment: Something You Always Wanted. I have a very short list of “wants” in life.

I am pretty much content with everything I have and everything I don’t have.

You can have your mansions and million dollar homes. They are not for me.

You can have your designer wardrobes. Been there, done that. Don’t need to do it again.

You can have your fancy cars and yachts. I wouldn’t even know what to do with one if I had one.

But, I do want a kayak.

A red kayak to be specific.

I just love how the red boats look with the blue water and the white fluffy clouds in the sky. It’s completely a visual experience for me.

We learned to canoe when we were kids. We would go out each day on the river where we lived and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The turtles sunning themselves on the rocks along the water were so peaceful.

The fish would jump, you could even fish from the boat if you wanted to. I hate fishing, but you could fish if you wanted to. Just saying.

But, as much as I enjoy canoeing, the boats are long, cumbersome and hard to handle. Even if you are canoeing with a partner.

You also can’t do serious rapids very well in a canoe without dumping it over. Rapids lend a fantastic thrill to the overall boating experience.

You really need to communicate well to the person in the back of the boat what lays ahead or you will have serious issues. My husband and I were the only boat not to capsize on the level 5 rapids we took on during a camping trip years ago. Just sayin.

I love the idea of a little kayak, easy to haul and store.

You can use it with or without a partner.

They are easy to slip into the peaceful water and row in the early morning, all by yourself.

I mentioned the other day that I won a membership to our local rowing club.

My debut on the water is next week, I can’t wait to share.

Until tomorrow….

enjoy the view!

Photo Challenge: Day 17 Technology

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Technology

This is day 17 of the Photo Challenge. I have a confession to make, I took this picture 5 years ago.

That’s where the Technology part comes in.

You see, I took this picture with my first smart phone, the Droid while we were on vacation in New England.

I uploaded it to Facebook and completely forgot about it.

My old computer that I used at the time to store my photos is long dead, but low and behold FB saved my photo for me.

I am eternally grateful. This has to be one of my all time favorite photos.

Our two boys were playing in the sand at the beach that day, when they discovered hundreds of little hermit crabs.

They thought they were rocks at first, but then the sprouted legs and began to move around.

It was the perfect setting for an afternoon of hermit crab races.

We had a ball watching them run about.

I had a ball taking pictures.

I was hooked on digital photography even then.

I love that I was able to beef up the colors and make this photo look brand new with my photo editing program.

I can’t imagine life before computers.

How did we ever do ANYTHING????

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