My absolute favorite thing that I did on my recent trip to Pigeon Forge was my visit to Parrot Mountain. No one else in my extended family seemed particularly interested in going, so I borrowed my sister’s car and drove myself and my daughter up the mountain to see the parrots! I love any kind of animal encounter experience. These gardens are full of tropical birds to see, hold, and feed. It was heaven!
As you walk the paths, you come across so many different birds. Some just sitting on their perches, others in large cages.
They were all so beautiful and full of personality.
The place is clearly run by Christians with many spots throughout the gardens having Scripture quotes or religious statues. A reminder that we are among God’s creations.
Eventually, we came across an entrance to a “Secret Garden.” This led to a small enclosed aviary.
Next, we came across the first truly interactive portion of the gardens. There is a designated area with lots of parrots sitting on their perches. You can buy seeds from what looks like a candy dispenser for 25 cents per handful. Then you can walk around and hold your hand out flat and allow the parrots to eat seeds directly from your hand!
This was exciting enough until I came across one parrot who wanted to leave her perch and come onto my arm! I was so excited to hold her, even if she did try to eat the buttons on my shirt and take a little nibble at my purse!
She (or he) was so pretty and pink! I believe the name was Valentine!
We continued on to visit more birds.
Next, we went into another little aviary where you could feed the lorikeets. We had purchased tickets to get small cups of nectar for this experience. As soon as you walk in with the nectar, the birds are all over you. I loved it!
The gardens are so beautiful, as are the gorgeous birds.
The end of our visit was in the baby nursery. You walk inside and there are baby birds everywhere, hanging out in their little boxes. Many like to be held.
If you can’t already tell, I had a great time at Parrot Mountain. I highly recommend visiting if you are ever in Pigeon Forge. I would go back again and again to see the beautiful birds.
This is my review of the new Disney film, Cruella. I love Disney. I enjoy watching all of the live-action remakes or retellings. Villian origin stories are particularly compelling, because I love the idea of hearing the stories we know and love from a different point of view. It is also important to remember, that unlike in the movies, people are not all good or all bad. We all fluctuate on the same continuum.
My absolute favorite recent live action Disney film is Maleficent. Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of a different kind of fairy who’s story is much more complicated than Sleeping Beauty would you have you believe is captivating.
Although I love a good villian origin story, I was a little leery of Cruella. How are they going to make someone who desires to kill puppies sympathetic? I absolutely hate movies with any type of animal cruelty. Thankfully, Cruella focuses very little on the dogs. It’s a much more human story with dogs as the side story. A 101 Dalmatians purist may not like that, but for me it made the story much more palatable. Although, this entire movie takes place prior to the story line we see in 101 Dalmatians, so who knows where it could go if they make a second movie.
The movie was really fun. It was full of drama and fashion and fun characters and revenge. I highly recommend it to all Disney movie fans. I enjoyed it more than I expected to and give it a full 5 stars!
The option to see the movie in a theater or through premier access through Disney Plus is great for large groups. It was much cheaper to purchase the Premier Access and watch it with my whole family. We were staying in a cabin in the mountains near Pigeon Forge. Our cabin had a movie room (with old movie seats, not the fancy recliners of today’s theaters and a projector. The perfect way to feel like we were at the movies, while still being able to pause the movie for bathroom breaks or more popcorn!
Today is Mother’s Day, and I told my family that I wanted to visit Avery Island. I hadn’t been since the 8th grade on our Louisiana History Tour. Avery Island is in Iberia Parish and home to Jungle Gardens and the Tabasco Factory. It’s a great tourist stop for anyone visiting Southern Louisiana. I also knew that I could add a few birds to my 2021 list, which was exciting!
The Jungle Gardens can be a driving or walking tour. It is easy to drive and stop at different sights along the way. We saw lots of the nature of Louisiana, including mossy oak trees, egrets, and lots of alligators!
My daughter got me binoculars for Mother’s Day, allowing me to up my bird watching game.
Avery Island was developed by E.A. McIlhenny, who also started the Tabasco company. He received this 900 year old Buddha statue as a gift.
Bird City is an awesome roosting spot for egrets. I saw Great Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, and Anhingas.
Next, we went to the Tabasco factory, where the famous hot sauce is made. It consists of a self-guided tour showing different parts of the process. We also had lunch at the on-site restaurant.
Avery Island is actually a salt dome. The topography is very unique in southern Louisiana, including hills and is well above sea level.
After leaving Avery Island, we had a brief stop at another salt dome, Jefferson Island. We did not visit all of Rip Van Winkle Gardens, but did stop to see the peacocks and peahens.
Our last stop was at Rips Rookery, where I risked my life by walking along the water with large alligators swimming in order to try and get pictures of the roseate spoonbills that I could see in the distance. My phone couldn’t zoom very well to get good pictures, but my husband’s was a bit better.
Yesterday, my husband called me a birdbrain. He really meant that I always have birds on the brain, which is true. 2021 has been the year of birds for me. It all started last summer when we moved into our new house. Cardinals nested in one of the small trees in my backyard, and I became obsessed. I watched them closely throughout the whole process. Honestly, I’ve never really lived somewhere with a lot of trees before. My current neighborhood is a lot greener than all of my former homes.
So I watched my cardinals and at the beginning of this year (2021), I hung up a bird feeder. I started to notice different birds and about halfway through January, I decided that one of my goals for this year was going to be to learn about birds and identify as many different species as possible. I downloaded the Merlin bird identification app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and went to work.
Everywhere I have gone for the past four months, I look for birds. I pay greater attention to all of the birds that live around us every day. I use my app to identify the birds and read about them. I’m keeping a running list of birds that I have seen in 2021. We are four months in and I have already identified 27 different birds! Here is my list, so far, in the order that I first spotted them:
Great blue herons
Double crested cormorants
Red winged blackbirds
That’s a lot of birds! And to further solidify my crazy bird lady self, I have organized any pictures I take of them into folders on my computer. Granted, it is hard to get good pictures of birds, so many are blurry or far away, but I’m only counting birds on my list if I can at least get some sort of picture to aid me in identification. It’s possible that I have a mis-identification or two, as I’m no expert. But I think most of them are spot on.
The Muscovy duck did not show up right away in my app, because it is considered a domesticated duck and not wild. I had to google duck with a red, warty face to learn more about these guys!
Cardinals are the original bird that got me obsessed. Yesterday, I found out that I had a new nest in my yard! I took a picture of the cute, fluffy baby. Today, he left the nest and has been hopping all around with his parents learning to fly. There are still two more in the nest.
So now you know my deep, dark secret. I’m a crazy bird lady. And I love it.
About a month ago, I joined the Let’s Make Art community by purchasing a subscription to the Kids Box. This is a small business based out of Missouri. They offer free art tutorials online and sell art supplies. They have several different subscription boxes. We got the Kid’s Box which comes with four watercolor projects, along with a few extras. We will get a new box each month.
While the tutorials are free, the subscription box sends you the supplies each month to complete the projects. One thing that drew me to it, was that the supplies are enough to do each project three times! That was perfect for our family of three. We have done each project together as a family fun time. At the start of each video, the artist Nicole leads us in a mantra.
I am brave. I am kind. I am creative. Let’s do this.
The first painting we did was a leprechaun hat. One thing I noticed while doing these projects is that I am much more likely to follow the tutorial instructions exactly, while my husband and daughter are more likely to put their own spin on each project.
The next project we did was a horse. Two of the pieces of watercolor paper that came in the kit had the outline of the horse sketched on it for us. My husband sketched his horse himself. If you don’t have the kit, you can download outlines from the website.
During the next project, we had a bit of a hiccup. We had a 7 year old with a full-blown tantrum when her painting did not go exactly as she planned. She got frustrated, but eventually was able to finish both hers and her daddy’s paintings. Nicole is very flexible in her instructions. She encourages free thinking and positivity while painting. We just had one bad day.
One of the extra projects in the box were two papers that had this Color Your Life rainbow drawn on them. After the meltdown, my daughter and I colored these papers. I didn’t realize until later that there was actually a tutorial with Keenan for these. Keenan is the camera guy who talks to Nicole throughout the tutorial videos.
The last watercolor project we did out of this box was the lighthouse scene. When you order the subscription box, you get all of the tutorial videos at once, so we did them in the order that my daughter selected. If you are just painting along at home with your own supplies, a new tutorial releases each Friday.
The last part of the box was this small postcard which came addressed and stamped. All of the postcards will go to one family. We received information about the set of sisters who would receive this month’s postcards. There was a mini-tutorial. We will put the card in the mail tomorrow!
Overall, it has been a fun way to spend time together as a family being creative. I ordered a special edition Spring box with acrylic projects and our April box should be arriving soon. We will have plenty of art projects to keep us busy. The other subscription boxes include watercolor projects for adults and art journaling. I highly recommend checking out Let’s Make Art!
It’s been awhile since I wrote a blog post. I haven’t written since the 1st of the year! Life’s been pretty boring, and I haven’t been doing anything too exciting. But today, I visited the National World War II museum in New Orleans for the first time.
I have heard for years about what a great museum it is. It is actually the number 1 rated tourist attraction in New Orleans on Trip Advisor. But I had never visited until today. The museum is very well done with lots of exhibits. I learned a lot, but could go back and learn so much more. Because I was visiting with my family (including my seven year old daughter), I did not have the time to read all the information or watch all of the videos. A history buff could easily spend a whole day there.
I took a lot of pictures.
At the start of the museum, you can get a dog tag card. You board the train and are able to scan your card to learn one particular person’s story during the war. Each card is unique, so if your family gets multiple cards, you can follow the stories of multiple people. Throughout the museum, there are places where you can scan your dog tag and learn more about that person’s journey. My daughter enjoyed this interactive feature. The museum also provides each person with their own stylus to use on the touch screen displays instead of your finger!
While I was well aware of the United States’ extreme reluctance to join the war (prior to Pearl Harbor), I had no idea how small our army was compared to other countries at the time. The U.S. was 18th in the world in terms of armed forces during the 1930’s.
Throughout the museum, the stories and artifacts from particular soldiers was shared. Personal anecdotes, a copy of a journal, a uniform, etc. give a real view of how the war affected individuals. I liked seeing this poem written by a high school senior from the Westbank (where I grew up).
It is so interesting to learn about how everyone in the U.S. contributed to the war effort. Women took over the factory jobs for men to make the supplies needed. And of course, women served overseas also.
The museum did not shy away from the discussion of racism in America and how it was during wartime. There were definitely inconsistencies in our nation’s own practices and the fight to stop the evils associated with extreme racism by the enemy. But it took all of our nation (black, white, Latino, Chinese, Native American, etc.) to win this war. The Japanese interment camps are a particularly sad part of our history at that time.
I learned that the Merchant Marines suffered the highest casualty rate of any branch of the armed forces.
The museum spans across several buildings and several floors. The buildings are connected by walkways that go over the street below. In one of the buildings, there are two separate immersive exhibits – The Road to Tokyo and The Road to Berlin. Each one gave detailed information about the battles fought on the two different fronts (in the East and in the West). I call them immersive, because the exhibits were designed to showcase the unique landscape of each battle.
There is a huge gallery (four stories high) that houses planes and other vehicles used during the war. You can climb all the way to the top to look down at the planes, also, but we didn’t do that for two reasons. 1) a museum employee warned us that it can be quite scary up there for those scared of heights and 2) the elevator was not working, so we would have had to take the stairs!
An interesting interactive exhibit gave you ethical dilemmas that had to be made during the war. First, you watch a video explaining the pros and cons of making the decision. Then you vote with what you would do. The statistics are put up on the screen of how your group and visitors in general voted. Next, you watch another video telling you what actually happened and how it turned out. My daughter and I are definitely not cut out to make those difficult wartime decisions.
We also watched the 4-D movie, Beyond All Boundaries, narrated by Tom Hanks. You buy tickets for this when you purchase admission. It is an immersive theater experience with props on stage with the screens. There are also special effects, such as gun shots, your seat shaking, snow, etc. There is a warning before you enter that it may be a difficult experience for those with sensory issues or post traumatic stress. The movie was very powerful, but a bit much for my daughter, who had to cover her eyes several times. It is an emotional journey through the war, bringing to life some aspects in a way that can’t be seen just through the exhibits. I definitely recommend attending the show if you visit the museum.
We also had lunch at The American Sector, the restaurant located in the museum. I needed a fork and knife to tackle this po-boy, but it was quite tasty.
We did not go to the main museum store across the street, which in addition to souvenirs and World War II memorabilia had super-cute vintage style clothing. We did pass by the two stores located in the museum, however. Among all of the Rosie the Riveter merchandise, I found this awesome shirt and had to take a picture.
After leaving the museum, we headed down the street to the Higgins Hotel, where my brother-in-law works. The hotel is World War II themed and very nice.
I hope you enjoyed my pictures from the National World War II museum in New Orleans. It is an excellent museum, and I definitely recommend that you visit!
I love reading. The older I get, the more I read. Books teach us so much about the world and other people’s lives. In 2020, I read 42 books. I hope to read even more in 2021.
I track the books I read in Goodreads. I am a pretty generous reviewer. I give most books that I read a 4 or 5 star rating. But I also refuse to read any books that have below a 3.8 average review on Goodreads. I figure that I will never have enough time to read all of the books that I would like to in the world. I might as well spend my time on ones that most people agree are worth the time.
As a lover of lists, I sometimes spend more time adding books to my “want to read” pile than the actual reading of books. My want to read shelf on Goodreads is 3x as large as my read shelf. I recently purchased the book, “Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany” by Jane Mount.
This book makes my list-loving heart happy. Jane Mount is an artist who is known for painting people’s “ideal bookshelves.” You can order a piece of her artwork to include a stack of your personal favorite books. She paints all things bookish. She wrote and illustrated this book to talk about all things bookish.
The book has many different spreads with both information and artwork. She has spreads on all different categories of books, such as children’s picture books, cult classics, books from different time periods, historical fiction, romance, history, dystopia, graphic novels, poetry, cookbooks, memoirs, and on and on and on.
It is perfect for adding on to my never ending to be read pile.
She also has spreads about other interesting bookish topics, such as famous and interesting bookstores and the cats that inhabit them.
There are spreads about libraries and books recommended by various bookish people. There are spreads about iconic book covers and books made into great movies. There are bookish quizzes and much, much more.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in all things bookish. Cheers to another year of wonderful reading. Have a happy new year of books!
We visited Sea World Orlando on the Monday before Thanksgiving. Compared to Universal Studios, the crowds were less, but it felt that the Covid precautions were a bit less also. They did not give hand sanitizer before you got on rides and did not seem as strict in general. Due to the lower crowds, it wasn’t that hard to socially distance. But it also meant that whole sections of the park were not open in the morning. If I had known this, I would have planned differently. We arrived for park opening, but everywhere we went, rides and sections of the park were blocked off. It was also the warmest day of our trip. In addition to an excessive amount of walking (the park is quite spread out), it is the only day that I felt uncomfortable and sweaty in my mask. All this is not to say that we did not have a good time. I just don’t know that I would recommend a visit during the pandemic.
I was excited because Sea World was supposed to have a lot of Christmas celebrations, but we didn’t see them because we didn’t stay until the evening when they all took place.
The only attractions opened at the start of the day when we arrived were the large roller coasters. Sea World has taller, faster, more intense roller coasters than Universal Studios. I don’t ride those types of rides, but my husband did get to go on a couple of them without a long wait.
We were excited about visiting the Sesame Street Land in the park. It was therefore disappointing to find out that it did not open for a couple of hours. Once we did get to visit, it was certainly cute. The quality of the kiddie rides though was more along the lines of a smaller carnival. My daughter had fun, but it was nothing too fancy.
But, of course, the main reason for visiting Sea World is to see the animals, not the rides. It’s been many years since I have been here. The last time was before the controversy of the Blackfish documentary. I’ve been uncertain over the years whether or not to visit again. On the one hand, I love zoos and aquariums. I love interacting with animals. I do believe they are important for conservation and education in this world that has endangered their natural habitats so much. On the other hand, can the natural habitat of a whale (the great, wide ocean) be replicated in captivity? No, it cannot. Sea World has changed their killer whale shows since the last time I was here. No more trainers in the water, as there have been great tragedies. They also no longer breed orcas at Sea World. Ultimately, I decided that as a fan of zoos and aquariums, I was also comfortable with visiting Sea World again.
One of the whales was celebrating his birthday on the day we were there. He got a special cake treat.
We also enjoyed the dolphin show.
There are small aquariums spread throughout the park.
I always love petting sting rays. They are soft and friendly.
I also love manatees.
One of my favorite parts of the park was visiting Antarctica.
The penguin ride was closed due to Covid. There was a walk-through exhibit to get to the penguins, however. I love penguins.
Overall, despite my complaints, we did enjoy our day at Sea World. I would visit again, just not during the Covid-19 pandemic, but at a time when everything was open.
On Sunday, I visited the LSU Rural Life Museum for the first time. I’ve been to other things on the property such as the corn maze at Burden and Arbor Day celebrations, but I had never went to the museum before. It was the perfect place to visit during the pandemic because most of the museum is out in the open air. There were few visitors and it was really easy to spread out. Most of the time, it felt like we were the only ones there.
There were several rooms inside that we explored first. They were full of all kinds of objects from southern Louisiana that show what life was like in the past.
There was a lot of historical information on slavery and plantation life.
There was clothing and art.
There is lots to see if you are interested in historical artifacts. It’s fun to see local history also.
After exploring the indoor rooms, you go outside. The majority of the museum consists of many historical buildings which have been relocated here. They come from various parts of the state, but represent many different parts of rural life. There are slave cabins, a post office, a school, country houses, barns, and more.
If you love history and southern Louisiana culture, I definitely recommend a visit to the Rural Life Museum when visiting Baton Rouge. There are also other things to see on the property, including gardens and trails. We finished our visit with a stop at the playground towards the front of the property.
Here are the remaining pictures from our trip to Universal Studios Florida. I’ve already shared the pictures from Diagon Alley, so here is a peek into the other parts of that park. Be warned, there are a lot of pictures in this post!
The Simpsons-themed section of the park has a fun 3-D ride, carnival games, and lots of food options.
We rode the Men in Black ride several times, as it usually did not have a long line. You get to shoot aliens. One time, we got stuck on the ride and had to get off and walk back to the front. It was like a backstage peek at the ride.
Most of the kiddie section of the park was closed due to Covid, as it consists mainly of themed playgrounds. We rode the Woody Woodpecker kiddie coaster over and over again.
We did take pictures with Barney, Baby Bop, and BJ!
The Minions ride is another 3-D ride. It is very popular, so we only rode it once.
There is normally a Christmas parade. Due to Covid, it was cancelled for 2020. In place of the parade, however, there was a walk-through Christmas exhibit with real Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloons. It was festive and cool to see the balloons up close.
At the end of the exhibit, you could see Santa (socially distanced, of course).
Another fun 3-D ride is the Race Through New York featuring Jimmy Fallon. It was fun to watch all the clips from The Tonight Show as we waited in line.
We even saw Hashtag the Panda.
The Horror Makeup Show was really fun. It is full of jokes and gags. It is also informative as you learn about how they do many of the special effects in horror movies.
We also loved the Animal Actors on Location show. We saw how they train animals to be in movies.
There was a Shrek 4-D show. It was okay, but not quite worth the long wait in line. We did take a picture with Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey, though.
We also rode E.T., of course.
Also, Transformers. My daughter wouldn’t go on that one, so we had to child swap.
In addition to rides, we met lots of different characters in this park. Of course, they are all socially distanced pictures. We saw the trolls twice. The first time, we saw Poppy and Branch. The second time, we saw Poppy and Guy Diamond. He even had a Tiny Diamond with him.
Spongebob and Patrick.
Back to the Future.
Scooby Doo and the Gang.
Madagascar characters were on parked floats since the parades were cancelled.
An Egyptian walking down the street near the Revenge of the Mummy ride (one that I did not go on!).
There are lots of cute, themed stores, such as Hello Kitty.
The whole park is of course Hollywood and movie themed, so there were other cute touches, like seeing Marilyn Monroe get driven down the street.
Of course, it is always fun to take the Jaws themed pictures.
We had a great two days in Universal Studios Florida park. There is a lot to do to fill your time.