Another Top Ten Beach list

I saw that Sharon posted Dr. Beach’s Top Ten Beach list, and just to round out the pickings, I thought I’d post another top ten list (the 100 best everything list). So if you’re not a Dr. Beach follower, maybe you’ll prefer this list:

  1. Panama City Beach, Florida
  2. Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii
  3. Kee Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
  4. Kailua Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
  5. Green Sand Beach, Hawaii
  6. Daytona Beach, Florida
  7. La Jolla Cove, California
  8. Caladesi Island, Florida
  9. Fort De Soto, Florida
  10. Kua Bay, Hawaii

Some thoughts: Dr. Beach’s list has more diversity—he’s got a few New York beaches and one in South Carolina, whereas this list is exclusively Hawaii and Florida with one California beach. Also, the only beach that overlaps on both lists is Caladesi Island, which Dr. Beach ranks as #1 and this list ranks as #8. I think it’s safe to say that Caladesi Island is definitely worth going to!
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Summer Trip is announced!

Two or three times a year, my parents take me and the kids on a fantastic vacation, all expenses paid. I have a brother and sister-in-law and a niece who either get their own vacation with mom and dad or join us. This year it’ll be the whole family. Obviously we all get input into the destination, but m&d get the final say. And this year, we’ll all be going to…SAN FRANCISCO!

I am really excited. I have never been to San Fran and have always wanted to. Sometimes the trips are small, like 2-3 nights in the mountains nearby, but it seems like this is going to be a biggie. We’ll be going for 8 days and they already have quite an itinerary.

Here are the definites, and of course, if anyone has any MUST DO’S, please let me know so I can pass on the advice to my parents:

  1. Basic Brown Bear Factory – This will obviously be a winner with the kids, but I’ve always loved factory tours, so I’m looking forward to this as well. And my mother actually collects teddy bears, so that’s probably the real reason why we’re going.
  2. Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf – None of us (except my sister-in-law) have ever been to a wax museum. I, of course, am most looking forward to Elvis Presley. Alexandra says she can’t wait to see Leonardo DiCaprio – how does she even know who that is?
  3. Alcatraz Island – This one is really my dad’s top choice, so he says “it ain’t gettin’ moved off any list.” So here ya go, dad.

It’s a small list so far, but they only just decided on a location this morning and we don’t leave till mid-July. So we’ve got plenty of time. I only wanted to share because I was so excited about the announcement and I have friends who keep asking where we’re going this summer!

Anyways, as always, please feel free to offer advice! Like what are the best beaches? Is it worth it to go to the zoo up there (Oakland Zoo or the San Francisco Zoological Gardens) if we have such a good zoo (Zoo Atlanta) right near our new home?

Thanks for your help!

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Tampa and Tampax

Uh-oh. That’s all I was thinking when Katie pulled a tampon from my purse yesterday and asked if it was a souvenir from our recent trip. I immediately saw the confusion and got all flustered myself in trying to answer. She already “kinda” knew what it was, so the explanation wasn’t too painful. And first I made her run and get Alison, just to save me from going through the same thing twice. And now, I think forever Katie and Ali will associate Tampa, Florida with menstruation.

Wow, it’s amazing how time flies here on this blog. I felt like I just updated our travel plans the other day, and before I know it, weeks have passed! We’ve already gone to and returned from Tampa and St. Petersburg and did everything that we had planned on our itinerary (plus more).

A few highlights: The Lowry Park Zoological Society of Tampa was fantastic. We took a jeep ride and saw animals I’ve never seen before—kookaburra, manatees, and komodo dragons. The girls had a blast in “The Billabong” water area. This hadn’t even been on our itinerary, but we stumbled upon and were thrilled.

Another surprisingly good afternoon was spent at the University Mall in Tampa. In a way it’s a typical mall with anchor stores and other popular stores; and in a way it’s like a big flea market. We spent hours rummaging through locally owned shops, stopped for some snacks in the food court, and then saw a movie. We had spent the morning at St. Pete Beach and wanted to do something low key on our way back to the hotel, and University Mall hit the spot.

I wonder where we’ll be off to next….

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Flashback to my Dolly Parton days…

I was never SO into Dolly, but a few years back I went through a little Dolly phase that brought me around Tennessee to all the famous Dolly hotspots.

So first on the list is Dollywood, one of the cheesiest and happiest places on earth. I don’t know why I’ve been thinking about Dollywood so much lately. I think it’s because part of my wanted to spend part of my precious time in Tennessee (during recent visit) at Dollywood, but I didn’t give in to myself, and now I sort of regret it. I’ve been to the National Gospel Convention there every year for the past few years, and will be sad to miss it this time ‘round. And we’re going to miss KidsFest this year, which bums me out (much more than it bothers my kids). And the kids loved Dolly’s Splash Country.

I was never a tourist in Nashville, but whenever we had friends coming for a visit or passing through, we always sent them (and sometimes accompanied them) on one of Nashville’s music history tours that took visitors to the estates of Dolly Parton, Kix Brooks, and others.

Atlanta’s got great shopping (better than Nashville’s as a whole) but I do miss Broadway Avenue which I grew up with as the best “big city” shopping in the area. I used to love going into old record stores and browsing through piles and piles of old music. And if you go to Manuel Exclusive Clothier, they make a big deal about being responsible for dressing Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash, so that’s fun.

Nashville’s public transportation system is called the Music City Star—I’ve even feeling nostalgic for that, and barely ever rode it!

Dolly Parton was born in Sevierville, Tennessee (near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which is a beautiful place to visit, if you’ve never been) and at an early age was making TV appearances and performing at the Grand Ole Opry. In Tennessee, that’s a huge accomplishment for a child. In Dollywood there’s a replica of the house where Dolly and her 10 brothers and sisters lived, it’s tiny and inspiring, how someone who grew up with so little of what we now consider necessities made it so big in the world and now provides so much for others who grew up like she did.

Dolly is not just a sex icon and a country singer, though. I’m most impressed with her Imagination Library project which sends one book a week to children from the time they are born until Kindergarten.

My heart breaks when I hear the song Just Because I’m a Woman, one of Dolly’s first hits and one of my favorite songs to listen to when I’m feeling down. Here are the lyrics (from; I’m sure every woman can relate:

I can see you’re disappointed
By the way you look at me
And I’m sorry that I’m not
The woman you thought I’d be

Yes, I’ve made my mistakes
But listen and understand
My mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

So when you look at me
Don’t feel sorry for yourself
Just think of all the shame
You might have brought somebody else

Just let me tell you this
Then we’ll both know where we stand
My mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

Now a man will take a good girl
And he’ll ruin her reputation
But when he wants to marry
Well, that’s a different situation

He’ll just walk off and leave her
To do the best she can
While he looks for an angel
To wear his wedding band

Now I know that I’m no angel
If that’s what you thought you’d found
I was just the victum of
A man that let me down

Yes, I’ve made my mistakes
But listen and understand
My mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

No, my mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

So just a little reminiscing…we all need that sometimes. By the way, I came across a fun blog post that has great pictures of Dolly’s model house in Dollywood and some fun facts about Dolly Parton. Julia (the author of the blog, a self proclaimed real-estate junkie) also gives a list of other famous houses, in fact that’s the theme of her blog—fun!

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Adjusting in Atlanta

We’re been in Atlanta now for a few months, and thank God, everyone is adjusting quite well. I think it’s hardest for Alexandra. Being 12 and in middle school is hard enough, but having also to make new friends and try and “fit in” just makes it harder. But she’s such a sport. I always make an effort to spend one-on-one time with each of my kids once a week. Usually when the other two are at an after school activity, the third one and I will go to Southlake Mall, go get ice cream, see a movie, or just hang out at home—I’ve become a mastermind at planning schedules so that this can work out each week.

Anyways, Alexandra and I have really been talking a lot. Sometimes I want to cry (and sometimes I do) when it hits me how mature she’s getting. The other day we were at The Mall at Stonecrest, and she asked if we could check out some makeup—she got a little sheepish about it and it was so sweet. We picked out a lipstick together (something VERY CLOSE to lip color) and then got manicures together.

I’m actually really excited about their spring break coming up. We’ll be going back to Antioch (or nearby) to visit friends and family. I’m trying hard not to say “back home” because I want the kids to accept Atlanta as our new home. But I really do feel that way, that Tennessee is home. Besides seeing their friends and grandparents (my parents!) I know all three of them will love going to Hickory Hollow Mall, The Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park and the Tennessee Aquarium. I’m just worried about leaving…I hope it’s not too soon to go back for a visit….

Hello, Atlanta!

My job recently relocated me to Atlanta in the middle of the year and with three kids in elementary and middle school, the move was not easy. I made every effort to make the move smooth and fun for them, so I bought every guidebook there was on the state of Georgia and told them they were welcome to plan some trips. Every Sunday for the first couple of month of our move, I took the kids to the places of their choice. At the end of every daytrip, the kids and I rated the location on a scale of one to ten. I decided to write up all of our nines and tens so other people can reap the benefits of our organized ranking system!

First and foremost was the Georgia Aquarium. We moved from a small town in Tennessee where the local aquarium was a few fish tanks set up in a fourth grade classroom. The Georgia Aquarium blew us out of the water! That was a definite ten on our chart. Also up there was the Zoo Atlanta. We’d been on a family trip to the St. Louis Zoo before, so we knew great zoos—and now we had one in our very own city! The kids were thrilled about that. Also a raving ten was Stone Mountain Park, where we all piled into a glass-bottom boat and saw all the underwater life of some of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world. We happened to be there during annual Indian Pow Wow, so the kids got a historical and cultural look at the area as well. Not too far out of Atlanta is the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. The kids loved playing in the Chattahoochee River (and they loved trying to pronounce its name too!). We rented a canoe and saw the beautiful wildflowers as we paddled down stream. We packed our day with fun. Went hiking, had a picnic, and even went horseback riding—it was Justin’s first time and he did great!

Those were the tens. The nines really just include some malls that grabbed our attention as malls we’d like to return to. For us, going to the mall means spending an afternoon shopping, eating, playing at an arcade, eating some more, going to a movie, and taking advantage of other perks that the mall may have. Malls that fit our criteria included Mall of Georgia, Perimeter Mall, Gwinnett Place, Cumberland Mall, and Lenox Square Mall. The Mall of Georgia is number one mall, complete with a skatepark and a simulated NASCAR racing center—you can imagine how that went over with the kids! I personally vote for Cumberland Mall because of the Costco!

Lately the kids have been saying that Atlanta is not so bad after all…phew!