Wake County was a challenge for us because we have spent a lot of time there. We wanted to “officially” complete the county with things we had not seen or done before. We have been multiple times to the art, science and history museums which we love. When the kids were younger, we loved Marbles. We have been to Mordecai House and done the trolley tour which is not to be missed. We have been to the City of Raleigh Museum and done a great walking tour with them. We have spent so much time at the legislature we could give a tour. We have toured the old Capitol and Governor Mansion yes – we have even attended a bill signing with the Governor in the old Capitol. We have had the best tour guide in Raleigh – Frances George while we toured the Lt Governor Mansion. We have been to more farms than I can remember. Cobey has toured the NCSU library which I hear is great. We all toured the design department there which was interesting.   And I will not even attempt to name all the wonderful places we have eaten. After all that, I thought it would be hard but with a few suggestions from friends, we headed out.

20171109_102611Our first stop was in the Living Kitchen. There are three locations – Charlotte, Chapel Hill and Raleigh but we really don’t consider that a chain. It’s very different menu and delicious. Claire and I had smoothies and Cobey was delighted to have a yogurt parfait that was actually on his diet. Bonus we got to visit with friends. Check this place out for sure if you like healthier options.

 

20171109_112452Claire and I then thoroughly enjoyed picking out chocolate from Escazu. The place has a great vibe and delicious unique chocolate. They make chocolate seem like art. There were a ton of choices and many that were dairy free. It was hard but we settled on two each.   The little brown box reminds me of the little blue Tiffany box. You know there is something terrific inside. I am seeing many more brown boxes in our future.

 

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20171109_114417Our choice for lunch was The Roast Grill. When we stepped into this hole in a wall, I had high hopes. I love these types of places. Claire and I got hot dog and bottle drink to go.  The hot dog was a bust.  Claire and I agree with hotdogs in Salisbury are much better.  There are much better places to eat in Raleigh.  I understand it has been there forever. I understand the vibe it gives but there are much better places to get a hotdog. I could barely choke it down. Trust me just skip it!

 

20171109_115725We made the quickest stop ever by the NC History Museum to see Claire’s project. We were in and out in less than 15 minutes. It was record time but it was good to see her two winning projects and we had not stopped by yet.  If you are in the area, be sure to check out the NC Junior Historian exhibit. You will find some great projects from talented students across the state.

 

 

20171109_121429We then headed to Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral. When we arrived, we figured out we were too early and they were not open yet. Honestly, outside we were not that impressed and you have to be careful because there is goose dung everywhere.   It is big but I really didn’t like the brown brick.

20171109_123907We decided to head back downtown to Raleigh Denim. I am so glad we did. We talked the curator about the business and even caught the owner for a moment. They started the business in their home with a sewing machine from eBay. It grew from there. You can see the jeans being sewed on site. We learned about raw denim and what makes the jeans special.  A pair of these is on my wishlist now after I lose a few more pounds.

 

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After the Raleigh Denim, we went back to the cathedral.  The kids were not too excited but we had more time before our last stop. I am so glad we did. Inside is amazing. The architecture, art, statues and stain glass are stunning.   Be sure to get a self-guided brochure so you can learn more about this remarkable building. This place is a must see!

Our last activity was an escape room. We had not done one before and thought it was a perfect opportunity. We chose the Geek Out room at Cipher Escape. We were joined by some friends. It was one of the harder rooms and sadly we did not escape but we still loved it. We would do it again for sure. Gather some friends together and do an escape room!

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Overall, another great adventure and fun day in Wake. It goes to show there is always something new to do in Wake.

 

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20171026_120321We started with a great tour at the Person County Museum of History. There is a lot to see on this small property. There are two houses, a schoolhouse. general store, bell tower, tobacco barn and doctor’s office. I was most intrigued by the people of Person County. There is a small exhibit about the Titanic. There was one Person County that died and one that survived.  There was a room dedicated to the story of baseball Hall of Famer,  Enos Slaughter. There were stories of businessmen, men in the service, a Governor and entertainers.  There is an extensive collection of artifacts and information. Take a tour and learn more about the people of Person County.

20171026_13221920171026_12333920171026_131217We had a nice lunch at  Bookland Eats. There were some interesting different choices. I tried the deviled eggs in three different styles. The bacon with blue cheese was the best but the others had too much vinegar for my taste. We also got pimento cheese and hushpuppies which was okay. (not what I expected) I had steak salad which was very good and I really enjoyed. Claire had fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese which looked okay but she didn’t care for it.   The creme brulee was not very good. I would say overall it was good but not great. Prices were reasonable and service was good so I would give it another try.

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20171026_144808We ended the day with a tour at Sunset  Ridge Buffalo Farm. The property is absolutely beautiful  We had a great tour guide that told us interesting facts about buffalo and the farm. We have been to a lot of farm tours in North Carolina but this was unique and we were able to purchase bison meat after.

Person County is easy to get to from the triangle but mainly overlooked. Make a point check it one day soon!

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20171015_123142When you ask where to eat and the county and they recommend a hot dog at the bowling alley, you begin to worry.  And when the best part of the county is the hot dog at the bowling alley well…

20171015_123107We first went to Stone Mountain State Park. We started with the visitor center which had a few display but dated and not much to speak of. We really didn’t have time to hike and there is nothing else there-  no lookouts or anything. I was hoping for something like Pilot Mountain where with a short walk you could have a scenic view. We didn’t find that in the park. We drove the loop of the park but there was nothing really to see. Maybe we missed something but it was disappointing.  We then headed the Blue Ridge Parkway which was beautiful as usual.

 

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We ended up eating at the bowling alley. First, it is actually outside the bowling alley which makes it a little better. Secondly, they had unique different topping based on different regions. I had the Atlanta  Cobey had the  Kansas City and Claire had the Chicago. I will say it is the best value of any of our meals yet. We ate for 13 dollars and it was a pretty dawg for the good hot dog! If you are ever in Sparta get a hot dog from the Hot Dog Station. There were a few other places to eat in the area that I would have tried if we had stayed longer but we had to get on the road for VA. The parkway and hot dogs at the bowling alley saved the day!

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We love DC- Sept 2017

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Saturday Sep 30, 2017 Under Claire, Cobey, DC, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Politics, Travel

Eisenstein Monument

 

I have lost count of how many times we have been to DC now. We go 2-3 times a year and it doesn’t get old. We still haven’t run out of things to do and I already can’t wait till the next trip. I love the beauty and the busyness. I love the patriotism.  I love monuments and memorials and the many memories. I love DC. We love DC.

22046677_10212278660536367_1347840394320054434_nThis trip was our annual homeschool group trip and it started with the FBI Experience. This is a new tour that just started back this summer. It is fabulous and was a highlight of the trip. They call it self-guided but there are several guides in the museum answering questions and telling you about the exhibits. The guides are really what make the experience so ask questions. The focus is to not glorify the criminals.  (kind of the opposite of the Mob Museum) The true heroes are not the criminals but law enforcement. You have to get tickets through a congressional office so plan ahead and request tickets.

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22007427_10212278665256485_3453032526591892642_nOur second stop was a program at the National Archives Museum. This was our second program with them. It was Civil War: Commemorate or Celebrate. I thought the program we did last year was better but Cobey said he liked this one better. Claire liked both but liked last year because she got to be the archivist. The lady in charge of the program told Claire she needed to come intern there which would really be up her alley.

 

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From there we had a tour with Brian at Bi-Partisan Tours. He always does a great job of packing in the sights and stories. This time we ate at Pinstripes in Georgetown. (the meatballs were delicious by the way) Senator Thom Tillis stopped by to say hello which was a special treat. We went to Einstein, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam, Korean, Jefferson, Air Force,  and World War II.  This time the first part of the tour was in the day which is a totally different perspective. You really need to see them all during the day and at night.

 

22090022_10212284518202805_7324207146161745628_n22308552_10155632335148950_1725879026251298101_nDay Two started early with a tour of the White House.  Believe it or not, this was our first time to tour the White House. It was nice and I am glad we did it but we can now mark it off the list.  It goes in the category of Pentagon Tour which is we are glad we did but probably won’t do it again. You must also get these tickets through your congressional office, so again plan ahead.

 

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22140847_10212284519642841_5807573842866149943_nWe spent an amazing afternoon set up by Tillis’s office with visits from Senator Burr, Representative Holding, Representative Hudson and Representative Rouser. We were so blessed to be able to see both Senators and three US Representatives during our visit. I am grateful that they took time out of their busy schedule to visit with us.  We then went to National Museum of Natural History which we had not been too since the kids were little. We liked that mineral exhibit and the African culture exhibit but not our favorite place in town.

 

22050247_10212292408120048_7089886286547203859_nDay Three started off; well. I will be honest. We slept in. My feet hurt and we didn’t have anything scheduled so we took the morning off. We discovered Ben’s Chilli Bowl down from our Brownstone which we loved. There are several locations so check them out for hamburgers, hotdog and of course chili. They are a DC institution. After lunch, we had a program at the Spy Museum. It was on the Cuban Missile Crisis and used real documents that have now been declassified. It was very well put together and executed. I think the kids learned a lot. We then explored the museum for a few hours which is always one of the kid’s favorites.

22008351_10212292412080147_5733731190625529386_nWe then ended the day with a DC By Foot tour of Embassy Row. It was fantastic. Our group’s guide was Bob and he was so knowledgeable, engaging and relatable. I loved how he talked in terms the kids could relate to for example calling the newspaper that was put out 10 times a day the first twitter.  The tour was a highlight of the trip for me. He told us so many stories that I had no idea about. I now have many more places to visit on my next trip because of the stories he told. I would do another tour with them in a minute and I would request Bob from Asheville.

Cobey’s favorite parts of the trip were the Bi-Partisan Tour and Spy Museum. Claire’s favorites were the Bi-Partisan Tour “which included seeing Senator Tillis”, FBI Experience, and DC by Foot Embassy Tour. Three other places we ate that we enjoyed were Poke Papa, Moxie’s and Choong Man Chicken and Seafood.

Oh! And September is the best time of the year to go!  See you next time DC!21768111_10212278664136457_8421956922817056226_n

 

 

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Looking Glass Falls

Cardinal Drive In 2What an amazing three days in the mountains! The first day we started out at lunch at the Cardinal in Brevard, Transylvania County. The food was a good value for the price but nothing to brag about it. It reminded me of a Sonic with inside seating. The service;  well, they were a little grumpy toward the tourist that didn’t know what they were doing. But everyone should order food thru a red phone at least once in their life. It was worth the stop for the atmosphere.

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We then went a little out of town to PARI (Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute). Here, we had a program where we learned about radio astronomy, toured the facility and each student was able to operate a satellite. It is interesting and fascinating to have this facility in North Carolina. It was good but the Challenger Learning Center in Columbia, SC has them beat as far as programs. They have some interesting artifacts from space shuttles and they have a large mineral collection with the highlight being cupcake the dinosaur egg. I thought it was particularly interesting that they told us that the scientists were off on the timing of totality for the eclipse after all. And did you know the atmosphere is in trapped in bubbles in rocks? Fascinating!

Claire Sliding Rock

We went back through Brevard to get to Sliding Rock where the kids spent about an hour or so sliding down the rock. I hear the water was cold. Maybe next time I will join in but someone had to take photos. We ended up in Brevard for dinner at Jordan Cafe. The food was really good. Cobey and I had really good burgers and Claire had a wrap. The service was very slow. They messed up three of the orders and really didn’t try to make up for it. So, over all disappointing but I would try it again.

20170824_104400The next morning after a quick stop to Looking Glass Falls, we went to Cradle of the Forestry which is a National Historic Site. (Tip- It is free if you have a National Park Pass) First, please do not miss the movie. It gives a great background on the history of Forestry and its connection to Biltmore Estates. The museum is very interactive and then there are two walking trails with related buildings and a train. I debated between this and a new military museum in town. I am really glad we ended here because it was well worth the two and half hours we spent there. I highly recommend you stop in if you are in the area.

Kobe BurgerAfter the museum, we headed to Hendersonville, Henderson County for lunch at Flat Rock Wood Room. The lunch turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. It was epic! Our waiter set the stage by explaining everything so well and literally making us want to have everything on the menu. He built the food up so high that I was worried we might be disappointed but I can say it was an outstanding experience. We started with chicken wings which were probably the best I have ever had in my life- just amazing. Cobey had the special Kobe Burger that he said was the best burger he ever had and he knows burgers. He also tried the pizza which he loved. Claire had the Fork and Knife Sandwich which she is still talking about the sauce. I had the brisket with the best bacon cheese grits I have ever had. There were seven of us and we were over the moon satisfied. It was one of the best restaurants we have been to in NC.

Hendersonville BearsAfter lunch, we had a nice guided tour of the Henderson Historical Museum which is housed in the Old Courthouse.  Afterward, Claire enjoyed walking downtown and getting photos with all the bears. They have some quaint little shops including an ice cream shop, hard cider shop, bakery and Mast General Store. After hunting down all the bears, we headed to the cemetery to see the angel from Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel. By this time I don’t know how but we were hungry again and went to Hot Dog World. This is one of those local been there forever dives.  I had the pimento cheese burgers which was truly amazing. Henderson County has the food thing down pat.

20170825_092752On the last day, the first quick stop was the horse in quaint Tryon.  They use to make toy horses in the town and pull a giant wooden horse like this one down the street. We then headed to Columbus where we saw the Doughboy Statue and where we had one of the best-guided tours ever by Robert Williamson. We spent three hours at the House of Flags Museum and it was fascinating. It inspired Cobey for a history project and gave us an all a totally new appreciation of flags and their meaning.  You need to go just to find out about a Liberty Cap. Who knew you would find one of the best museums in the state in little Polk County?

 

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20170825_130405The last stop of the trip was at Tryon Internation Equestrian Center where we had lunch at Roger’s Diner. The food was very good and decent service. The center is very well laid out and impressively done. There are several restaurants, shops, general store and a large arena. I can see why horse folks love this place. Top Notch!

Three days and we found one of the best restaurants in the state and one of the best museums. I would call that a successful trip.

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Is A Disney Cruise Worth the Money?

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Sunday Mar 27, 2016 Under Claire, Cobey, Crusies, Disney Cruise, Kid's Corner, Travel

Carnival EcstasyIt was NOT planned this way but we have been fortunate to go on two cruises this year. In January, we went on a Seven Day Disney Cruise out of Puerto Rico on the Wonder that was fabulous. It had been booked for over a year.  In November, my brother decided to get married on a cruise which caused two things to occur. One, we booked a Carnival Cruise which we would probably would have not done. Two, we booked a cruise two months after another cruise.  Last week, we went on a Seven Day Carnival Cruise out of Charleston on the Ecstasy. We have been on several Disney Cruises. I have been on several Royal Caribbean Cruises, including one to Alaska with the kids.  I have been on one Carnival previously but it was a long time ago. Having the two cruises so close together gave me the real opportunity to compare the two cruise lines.  Both ships were older ships. The Ecstasy is seven years older (1991) and a little smaller  (about 350 guests or 130 feet in length).  I think the ships are similar enough to be a fair comparison. I will have another post with more details about a cruise wedding but I have had many questions about is Disney worth the extra money and this post will mainly focus on that issue.

Cabin – Disney Wins

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Disney rooms are arranged for families! The smallest inside cabin for Carnival  is 160 square feet and Disney is 185 square feet. Our cabin was 170 square feet. Disney has figured out how to get more out of a smaller space.  Our Carnival cabin was an inside cabin and it felt tight for the three of us. Cobey’s bed was on the floor and Claire had to walk over it to get to the bathroom. Cobey said it was comfortable but it was inconvenient. We had a small chair that was more in the way than used because it barely fit. There was enough space to put away all of our clothes but it would have been hard with four people. The bathroom was a nice size. Disney manages to put a small couch in each of their rooms. The couch turns into one bed and one comes from the ceiling. It is a great way to optimize space. Most of their rooms also have two separate bathroom areas. One area with a shower/tub and a sink and the other with a toilet and sink.  I can’t tell you how nice this is when getting ready for dinner. Our room for Disney was 215  square feet but felt twice as big. When you look for a cabin, layout is key. My guess is that Carnival has figured this out and some of their newer ships have a better layout but for this comparison hands down Disney wins.

They also win with cabin service.  Disney offers cabin service twice a day. They put the beds away in the morning and then back out in the evening. This is really nice so you can use the couch during the day.  On Carnival we had to choose either morning or evening.  I also think Disney did a slightly better job cleaning. They both did a great job with the towel animals that Claire loves. Claire missed the chocolate on the bed. The return guest gift is also better on Disney. On Disney it is usually a bag with something inside it. Our last cruise was a tote with a photo album. Another cruise was a backpack with water bottle. On Carnival, I got a bottle of water and my brother got a lapel pin.

Food – Carnival Wins

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Cobey back from Midnight Mexican Buffet

Food is the most important thing on a cruise to Cobey so I am going to go with his opinion the most. We all thought the quality of the food was about the same except for the burgers. The burgers were better on Carnival. The burgers were dry on Disney and I complained I could never get a good burger the last trip. The food at the wedding was the wonderful.  The quality is about the same.  You will never go hungry on either trip.  Cobey liked Carnival better because of the variety. He likes to try new things. On this trip he got his lamb, duck and lobster which he always enjoys but he also got ox tongue and boiled frog legs. Disney has four course meals while Carnival has three. Disney has Appetizer, Soup/Salad, Entree and Desert. Carnival doesn’t have Soup/Salad separate. I really don’t think this matters because you can order multiple and we often did. Cobey ordered 3 Apps, 2 Entrees and 2 Deserts often. He got his money’s worth in food for sure.  He also loved the Midnight Mexican buffet.  We didn’t order room service on the Carnival because we never found the menu and the one time I called everything I ordered cost money so I gave up.  The other downside of Carnival is soft drinks are NOT included. You have to pay per soda or purchase a soda plan. For seven days for a family of four the soda plan would be $170 whereas soda is included on Disney.  Claire was the only one that got the plan this trip. Overall though the win goes to Carnival for food.

Kid’s Club – Disney

Cobey did not even try his Kid’s Club this time but he barely did the Disney one last trip. He would rather read or watch movies. Claire did try the Kid’s Club for Carnival and I looked at the list for both age groups.  There is no comparison, Disney by a long shot has a better program. For starters, Claire’s club was mostly in a conference room, yes the conference room. I guess they were suppose to be having a board meeting.  I guess they tried with the programming but can you really compare Giant Jinga with Boot Camp with Toy Story Soldiers or Wax Museum  with Dancing with Snow White or Would You Rather with a Pajama Party with Goofy. You get my point!  At night you have to start paying for the club which REALLY bothers me. You don’t pay on Disney unless you have someone in nursery less than three. Royal Caribbean was the same way.  They listed decoupage box as an activity and when Claire went it was coloring on a box. Disney on the other hand had some nice crafts last time we went. When they said tiles it was really made out of tiles.    As my kids get older this becomes less important but Club was the highlight of the trip for ALL parties while they were young.

Excursions – Carnival 

Claire Dolphin Swim

I think the actual excursions offered seem very similar. There have been some special excursions on Disney that are very special and unique. We had a tea with Alice in Wonderland in a garden in Canada and that was an awesome excursion. But overall I think they are similar. I am giving a slight edge to Carnival on this one because they offer a price guarantee and they were so easy to work with. I got to watch the Dolphin Swim with Claire and Stingray with Cobey and Claire without paying. They also had a great variety of options at different price points.

 

 

Atmosphere – Disney

I was worried about the party atmosphere on the ship. I can only speak to what I experienced on this ship and I was pleasantly surprised.  Yes, I had to explain what a beer bong was to Cobey and there were a few drunk people here and there but overall it was fine. Claire loved the dancing at dinner every night and the over all fun atmosphere on Carnival, but we both missed rotating dining rooms like we did on Disney.  The part that bothered me the most was the smoking in the middle of the ship in a main thoroughfare and that is why I give the edge to Disney. Disney allows smoking but I don’t ever remember seeing it so it must not be in a main thoroughfare. This may be better on other ships with different design.  Overall, Carnival is fun but Disney is Magical. We have so many truly magical moments from our five Disney cruises.

Photography – Disney

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This may not matter to some but I love photos on cruises. I love going to all the different backgrounds and getting tons of pictures and coming home with a stack. Claire loves posing for photos. Carnival did have lots of backgrounds probably more than Disney so that was nice. The lady who did the wedding was superb and I loved her but beyond that the photograph was pretty bad. Most of the staff seemed very unhappy and not to like kids.  Claire usually loves to take photos but really didn’t want to on this cruise.  The ship still had the old system where you had to search for your photo on the wall.  Even though this is an old ship they could have updated the system like they have on Magic. I had a stack of our photos together – did I mention that I had to search for them and they lost them. There are no packages and the prices are high. Instead of a package you get free gifts after a certain number of photo. I say keep your free gift and give me a packages. I also like that I can take the disc home with all the photos and decide after the cruise which ones that I prefer.

Entertainment – Disney

Claire Sword Fighting Captain Hook

There is so no comparison to entertainment. Disney is top notch with Broadway level performances each night. I have not found anything on Carnival or Royal Caribbean to compare. Disney has a movie theater on every ship and shows recently released movies throughout the entire day. We go to at least one movie a day, sometimes multiple. They also had much better movies on the TV in your room. During this trip they had  only had one family movie per day and the same movie played for two days. I hear on some ships they do have a movie theater but you have to pay a fee, on Disney it is free. On many of our Disney trips we got to see the movie BEFORE it came out in theaters. The musicians and comedians are comparable.  Disney does not have a casino so if that is important to you then that is a factor. Disney does have Bingo but I am not sure they have it as often. I also enjoyed the Art Auction this trip which they have on Disney put I have never attended. Carnival had a ton of trivia contest and we went to a few that was fun. Disney has a wonderful Pirate Night on all of their ships with characters, shows and fireworks.  It is the only ship that does fireworks. Everyone dresses up and it is so much. Claire having a sword fight with Captain Hook is one of my favorite members.  But overall you just can’t beat Disney entertainment.

Themed Meal on the Ship – Carnival

Sam I Am

 

l can’t believed I am giving the each to Carnival for this one but for value Carnival wins. The Green Eggs and Hams breakfast was only five dollars a person. You got photos with three characters a great fun menu for breakfast and great decorations. Claire and I did a Royal Court Tea on Disney’s Fantasy which was wonderful with a lot of gifts but it was over $100 to attend. This breakfast was economical with great food and fun. We all enjoyed it.

Private Island- Disney

Carnival has Half Moon Cay and Disney has Castaway Cay. Both are beautiful beaches with beautiful water.  I am giving a slight edge to Disney because of the adult only beaches with the hammocks, the character statues in the water you can snorkel and see, the huge play pirate ship in the water for the kids to play on and parasailing. We went parasailing for the first time at Disney’s Castaway and it was fabulous. On Half Moon Cay the kids did swimming with the rays which was better after other locations.

So what it comes down to is it worth. If you have kids 10 and under there is no question Disney is worth every penny if you can afford it. Even for us, our kids will be at least 14 and 12 by the next time we cruise, I would love to go on another Disney cruise.  Did I have a great time on Carnival? Yes! Would I go again? Yes! I would probably get a bigger room and compare prices and weigh options. We are running out of itineraries with Disney. It is easy to see why Disney cost more and I think it is worth the extra money especially for families with young kids and people who love Disney. And no, Carnival is not Disney but it doesn’t have to be because it doesn’t have the price tag.

 

 

 

 

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Why I love the NC State Fair?

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Friday Oct 23, 2015 Under Claire, Cobey, Kid's Corner, North Carolina, Travel

Blue Ribbon for Digital ScrapbookThe state fair really is not a place one would think I would like. It is crowded and full of food that I can’t eat. And did I say crowded? I hate crowds and avoid them with a passion. I really don’t enjoy rides anymore. So why do I love the fair because there is so much more than rides and crowds and food. First there are all the entries. Claire entered several categories this year. I love that it gives or a chance to try something new or show off her talent. This year she discovered she loved making dish gardens. She also made an apron, did flower arrangement, scrapbook pages, tie dye and more.  So I love going and checking out Claire’s entries and others.

12140570_10205277293552451_574336622841564267_nCobey got a mask of Greg Fishel and loved going around the fair being Greg Fishel all day. I think he liked it because he didn’t have to smile for any of the photos. We also love going around getting all the free stuff and the answer is no you can not have too many bags or pencils or things. Oh and they loved all the free samples to taste.  And while we are on food, the kids got hamburgers, hotdogs, doughnut with strawberries and cream, and funnel cake. The typical fair food but I found a great Mediterranean Place and had a salad with a kabob.  It was delish!

 

King BMX ShowWe went to three shows. Claire went to a dog show which she liked. The rest of us could not get close enough to see. Did I say I hate crowds? The other two shows were King BMX Sport Show and pig racing. I was surprised but I  really enjoyed the Sport Show.  I would see it again for sure. The pig racing was corny but fun. You can’t go to the fair without seeing pig racing. Overall, We stayed from about 10am to 6pm. We didn’t ride any rides and there was still plenty we didn’t see.  I gave the kids each $20 for food or whatever they wanted and both came home with extra. I think of the fair as a celebration of our state and its people. I think everyone should go and find something they love!

 

 

 

 

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Historical Harpers Ferry

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Monday Aug 24, 2015 Under Civil War Sites, Claire, Cobey, Good Eats/Not So Good Eats, Kid's Corner, Travel

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We were blessed to have a tour with Scot Faulkner the President of the Friends of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.  This was our second visit to the area but through the eyes of a local historian was more than we could have imagined.  We started with a great overview at Bolivar Heights.  Mr. Faulkner told story of the Great Train Raid of 1861. He did a brilliant job explaining the strategic importance of the area and painting a picture of what occurred.

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We then headed to Murphy Farm. This is where we saw some great views. In 1862, General A.P. Hill forced the surrender of 12,000 Union troops here which concluded General “Stonewall” Jackson’s siege of  Harpers Ferry.  This was accomplished with a flanking move on Bolivar Heights. The area has great views and trails. We then headed down to the town.

 

 

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In the town, we learned more about the story of John Brown through a great exhibit there. We visited the Lewis and Clark exhibit, the General Store and John Brown’s fort. We learned about the different floods and saw the water line for each one.  We also let the kids wade in the river.  I knew there was a possibility of that not ending well and it didn’t. I let Claire go out one last time and she slipped and fell. She was soaked.  A purchase of an over sized T-shirt at the Bookstore saved the day.  The bookstore is phenomenal so don’t miss it if you are in the area.  We learned about the St. Peter’s Church and how it was saved from being burned during the war by Father Costello raising a Union Jack flag. We then stopped for some great ice cream at Scoop’s Ice Cream. This was the fuel to tackle our last stop – Jefferson Rock.

 

Jefferson RockThomas Jefferson wrote about this place in his book – Notes of the State of Virginia.  The book was like a travel guide.  He stood on the rock October 25, 1783 and wrote “this scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic”. The rock used to rest on a natural rock formation that  you could rock but over the years it became dangerous and supports were added.

We then had a great dinner at the Anvil. They had a great variety of food and everyone was able to find something they wanted. Cobey got the suicide wings which were very hot. The waitress was surprised he finished them and said grown men sent them back saying they were too hot. The food was good and great service. Great ending to a wonderful afternoon and evening in Harpers Ferry.

To top off the day, Scott Faulkner was kind enough to sign Cobey’s book. He is the author Naked Emperors- The Failure of the Republican Revolution which is a great read.

 

 

 

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We have been to Asheville several times and decided to official complete Buncombe County with field trip friends. In previous trips, we have been to Biltmore multiple times. We absolutely love it. We have eaten at the Stables and also Cederic Tavern. They have the best audio for kids staring Cederic the dog. If you go to the area, don’t miss Biltmore it is worth the money. Homeschoolers check out Homeschool Days to save money.  We have stayed in Biltmore Inn also which is nice but not worth the money unless you get a special. Just my opinion. Having said all that, this trip was about exploring different things.

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The first stop was a tour of Basilica of St. Lawrence. The tour was informative but not my favorite tour guide. The church is breathtaking. It is open to the public and a must see. There is parking beside the church and a brochure in the church that will give you more information. Raphael Guastavino who worked on the Biltmore House was the architect for this National Treasure. After the tour, we took a walking tour of the Urban Tour in Downtown in Asheville. The tour has 30 stops with whimsical statues. It was a fun walk with a little history worked in. One tip, be careful not to get lost and try to cut through the parking lot of the Federal Building. They really don’t like that.. The photo below is from the trail.

 

Urban Trail

 

 

 

North Carolina Arboretum We made a stop that evening at the North Carolina Arboretum. I had been wanting to go for a while. It was not a good call. After a morning hiking at Mt Mitchel and then a long walking tour,  we were worn out. Claire loved the Bonsai collection which is phenomenal. We also liked the section that had a quilt pattern with flowers and the one that showed dye from different flowers and plants. There are a ton of trails you could enjoy and spend half a day easy. We were just too tired and hungry and headed out. We had a terrific meal at Stone Ridge Tavern. Cobey liked it so much that he asked if we could come back the next day. Cobey had gator bites, Claire had basil tomato soup and I had Greco Chicken. We had good service and good atmosphere. I highly recommend it and hope to make it back there.

 

 

11954810_10206275918111558_122406355404593091_n11232129_10206275914111458_4375354067668124217_n The next morning we started with a tour of Vance Birthplace in Weaverville. The Vance family purchased the property in 1795. There is a small visitor center with information where we learned more about civil war. In the house, we learned more about Governor Vance and about how it would have been to live during that time. The program was well put together. They recommended we had lunch at nearby Stoney Knob Cafe. This place was out of this world. They handled a large group seamlessly. The food was fresh and delicious. Go check out Vance Birthplace and then grab a bite to eat at Stoney Knob Cafe.

Thomas Wolfe HouseWe then went to Thomas Wolfe House for a tour.   Thomas Wolfe was a famous writer who wrote “Look Homeward, Angel” in this home which was a boardinghouse his mother had.  The house was built in 1883 and the second owners called it Old Kentucky. Thomas had a troubled childhood with an alcoholic father, distracted mother and a brother that died. We watched a film and had a tour of the house.  There is also a small museum which we unfortunately did not have time to enjoy. The photo on right was taken by Kim Biglow.

11951869_10206275903471192_8679276978285113411_nThe final day tour was at Asheville Botanical Gardens which is on the campus of UNC-Asheville. We started a talk by the director of the gardens. He did a great job of telling us about things to look for in the gardens and gave some background. It was clear that he was passionate about his work and I love for my children to be exposed to people like that. Some of the highlights of the gardens were bullfrogs, the moon tree from a seedling that went to the moon and a hummingbird moth.  I actually liked this place better than North Carolina Arboretum. I loved the native plants to the Southern Appalachia and natural feel. It is a beautiful area. Our last stop for the county was Ultimate Ice Cream. We had been hearing that it was the best in town. Cobey tried the Brown Sugar Maple and Bacon Ice Cream which they are famous for and he said it was great. He said it did not disappoint. They were not stingy with the samples and everyone enjoyed the ice cream.

Ultimate Ice Cream

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11987104_10206301221544128_466116147548740139_nBecause of scheduling issues, we ended up doing  Yancey County in two parts – Sunday afternoon and Tuesday morning.  We arrived in Burnsville at lunch time on Sunday. We soon figured out Sunday may have not been the best day to visit. We had a hard time finding a restaurant that was open. We finally found Sam’s Regal Beagle and decided to give it a try.  After we sat down, we began to hear a table in the next room loudly complaining. They complained about how long it took to get food, the waitress, and the quality of the food. The restaurant ended up charging them very little for a large party. We couldn’t help but wonder if this was a bad decision.  We stuck it out and ended up pleasantly surprised. They were out of some items but we were happy with our orders. Our waitress was the same one and she was friendly and attentive. Our food came out in a timely manner. It was not great but good.  Glad we had a better experience.

We then rode around the town looking for something open without much luck. We did enjoy looking at the quilt squares and the many murals in the area. The photo above and the photo to the right are all from the area.

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11902497_10153453222548950_1943773066144332891_nOn Tuesday morning, we had a foggy but beautiful drive to Mt. Mitchell.   It gave the background about the tallest mountain not only in North Carolina but the Northeast. The mountain is named after Elisha Mitchell who measured the mountain three times. The last time he fell to his death. There are several great trails.  We split up into several groups and tackled several different trails. Cobey had a great time and Mt Mitchel helped saved Yancey County from the bottom to closer to the top. Claire and I went on a shorter hike and then went to lunch at the Mt Mitchell Restaurant. I had a burger and Claire had soup. It was a good lunch with a nice view.  Mt Mitchell makes Yancey worth the visit.

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