Thursday, June 19, 2014

Georgia Aquarium

The Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta is one of our absolute favorite places to visit as often as possible.  It's just a magical place full of amazing underwater creatures, and I feel like a kid when I'm there, staring in awe through the glass of each exhibit.

Georgia Aquarium -

The Georgia Aquarium greets you with a wall of fish at the entrance, where you are then ushered into the huge main lobby.  The lighting and decor makes you feel like you are underwater swimming with the jellies!

There are five different areas to visit - each one with it's own vast array of sea life.  Let's begin this tour with the Tropical Diver exhibit:

Georgia Aquarium -

The jellyfish are so gorgeous and graceful.  There are several species to see here in Tropical Diver, from the miniature to the massive.  The glass goes from floor to ceiling so you really become immersed in the underwater sights.

Georgia Aquarium -

One of my favorite places in the Georgia Aquarium is the Tropical Diver big aquarium.  You'll spot lots of Nemo's and Dory's, as well as a multitude of tropical fish in a rainbow of colors.  The glass goes above your head, and the waves crash at the surface of the coral.  It's a very relaxing spot to sit and enjoy the beauty of the tropics.

River Scout features freshwater animals in very natural habitats.  You'll walk through rain forests and come face-to-face with pirahnas, see the shocking power of the electric eels, and walk directly under catfish swimming around tree trunks.

Georgia Aquarium -

Visit with the albino alligators in River Scout as they bask on warm rocks or swim in their habitat.

Georgia Aquarium -

The cutest animals in River Scout are the Asian small-clawed otters.  They play and swim and chase their toys, and they are just a joy to watch interact.  They are very high energy, or completely passed out - there is no in-between.

For a local flare, the Georgia Explorer area offers hands-on encounters with Georgia native creatures, like shrimp, sea stars, and stingrays!  There are multiple touch pools throughout Georgia Explorer with an array of sea life.

Georgia Aquarium -

The touch pools are so cool and the kids love putting their hands in the water and interacting with animals in their habitats.  Watch out, though - the shrimp like to hop!

Georgia Aquarium -

I remember as a little girl, walking the beaches here in Georgia, and finding empty horseshoe crab shells along the beach.  The horseshoe crab is a really weird but interesting creature, and you can meet one and touch it right here in Georgia Explorer!

One of the larger exhibits is Coldwater Quest, home to the penguins, seals, beluga whales, and so much more.

Georgia Aquarium -

The beluga whales love to interact with people along the window.  They swim straight up from the bottom and rub their big bellies on the glass.  They look like they are smiling at you, too!

Georgia Aquarium -

I'm rather partial to Gracie and Oz, the sea otters who live in Coldwater Quest.  They are so sweet together. Gracie likes to float on her back and suck her paw.  And did you know that otters hold hands when they float so they don't lose one another?  Love them!

Georgia Aquarium -

Here's another awesome sight in Coldwater Quest - the giant octopus!  He has a PVC pipe that he can squeeze through to go from tank to tank.  Absolutely gorgeous!

Finally, you'll visit the largest exhibit at Georgia Aquarium, Ocean Voyager.  You enter this exhibit by riding on a moving sidewalk through an acrylic tunnel with fish swimming overhead.  If you see a giant shadow, it's only a whale shark!

Georgia Aquarium -

I can't even begin to describe the size of the main aquarium in this exhibit, and honestly, I wouldn't want to spoil it.  I've been so many times, but it still takes my breath away.  And I love watching the faces of people who are seeing it for the first time.  It's so amazing.

This is only a very small piece of the huge tank that contains...are you ready for this?...6.3 MILLION GALLONS of water!  There are 4 giant manta rays, one of which has a wingspan of nine feet across!  And they just glide so effortlessly.  You'll also see various species of sharks, other types of rays, giant grouper, sawfish, jack and hundreds more.

Georgia Aquarium -

This is one of four whale sharks that live at Georgia Aquarium.  They are the largest of all fishes, and we have FOUR!  Be sure to plan to spend the majority of your time sitting in front of the main viewing window in Ocean Voyager.  And don't worry about finding a good seat.  With a window that is 23 feet tall and 61 feet wide, there isn't a bad seat in the house!

Georgia Aquarium -

A new additon to the Georgia Aquarium is the dolphin exhibit and AT&T Dolphin Tales show.  This show rivals anything you'd see at Sea World, with an all-star cast of dolphins and human actors, guests of any age are going to love it!  (And, it's included in the regular admission cost!)

What To Know Before You Go:
  • Appropriate for all ages.
  • Plan to spend 3-5 hours touring the aquarium and enjoying the shows.
  • Ticket prices:  $29.95 for children, $35.95 for adults
  • Food is available in the dining room.
  • Behind the Scenes Tours, Animal Encounters, Beluga & Friends Interactive Program, and Dive and Swim Programs are available for an additional cost.
  • Visit Georgia Aquarium online for more information and to purchase tickets.

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*I am not affiliated with or paid by Georgia Aquarium.  This review is simply my own opinion of the Georgia Aquarium and all information reflects my own experiences.  I simply love where I live and wish for others to enjoy their visit to Georgia!

See all posts about awesome places in Georgia on one page!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How to Prep Soil and What To Plant for Fall Harvest

Yesterday I showed you how we easily and affordably built our first raised garden bed.  Today I'll show you what we planted, but first, we needed to prep the soil.  Here is the layer-by-layer guide to our garden, and in parentheses, I have listed the product we used and the cost at time of purchase, all of which were purchased at Home Depot.  Quantites listed are for a 4' x 8' garden bed.

1. Level the ground under the garden bed for even water flow and growth.  Till up the dirt while you're at it and dig out any weeds or grass.

2. Sprinkle fire ant killer throughout the bed and around the outer edges.  Allow this to penetrate the soil for 24 hours before moving forward.  (Orthene Fire Ant Killer - $10.48 - qty: 1)
3. After 24 hours, you can begin layering your soil components.  To prevent weeds and grass from growing back up into your bed, begin with a layer of cardboard along the bottom.  Try to cover as completely as possible.

4. The next layer is peat moss.  Peat moss naturally retains water, so when those roots get to this layer, they'll hold onto their water much easier and have a better chance at growing big and strong. (Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss - $11.97 for 3 cu. ft. - qty:1)

{The brown layer is the peat moss and the black layer is the manure.}

5. On top of the layer of peat moss, spread a layer of cow manure or other fertilizer.  The nutrients in the manure help aid vegetable growth, much like compost would.  If you compost, you can use that instead of manure.  (Black Kow cow manure - $4.97 - 50lb. - qty:1)

{That's one way to get the bags of soil down the hill!}

6. Next, add a solid layer of garden soil.  We chose MiracleGro Garden Soil, which is specifically designed for fruit and vegetable gardens.  (MiracleGro Flower & Vegetable Garden Soil - $7.97 for 2 cu. ft. - qty: 3)

7. Finally, fill the remainder of the garden bed with top soil.  Leave only a few inches at the top of the garden bed.  (Timberline Top Soil - $1.49 for 1 cu. ft. - qty: 10)

Now we're ready to plant!

We live in Georgia, which is Zone 7B according to garden maps.  I found a great planting calendar on A Way to Garden, and there are links for most states.

Using the Georgia planting calendar as a guide, we came up with this planting schedule:

Planting Now:
  • Cantaloupe - September harvest
  • Blackeyed peas - August harvest, then replant for October harvest
  • Giant pumpkin - October harvest
  • Zucchini - August harvest, then replant for October harvest
  • Okra - August harvest
Planting July 15th:
  • Cucumber - September harvest
  • Tomato - October harvest
Planting August 1st:
  • Broccoli - October harvest
Marley is very hopeful that the giant pumpkins will produce large pumpkins in time for Halloween. Everything else will be eaten or canned, or a little of both maybe, if there is enough.

After the initial harvest in August, I'd like to plant some carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, and spinach.  We'll just have to see how it goes.  I'll be sure to keep you posted on the progress of our little garden!

Have you planted fall veggies?  What did you plant?  Any gardening tips to share?

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Monday, June 16, 2014

How to Build A Raised Garden Bed for under $40

Ever since we starting making our backyard nicer, Marley has been asking to plant a vegetable garden, so we added that to our Summer Bucket List.  Now, to be perfectly honest, I've never been known to have a green thumb, so we're really hoping this will turn out with at least a few crops to harvest in the fall.  

We decided to start with one 4' x 8' raised garden bed for this year.  If all goes well, we'll add another bed in the early spring.  Here's how to make your own:

Home Depot had these 8' timbers on sale for $1.97 each over Memorial Day weekend, so we bought nine of them.

First, we laid three 8' timbers on top of one another.

After pre-drilling the holes in each end, we used a 3/8" x 8" screw to attach the timbers together.

I say "we" used the screws....meaning Mark used the screws.  Because he's strong and I'm not.  We did this for another set of three 8' timbers, which gave us our long sides of the bed.

Then, we cut the remaining three timbers in half, which gave us six 4' pieces for the ends.  Mark drilled the holes and screwed those together as well.

To attach the ends to the sides, we used inside corner braces and more screws.  This package was about $6 at Ace Hardware.

Mark screwed them into the middle timbers in each corner.

And voila!  Attached!

It's a simple, yet inexpensive garden bed that is now ready to be prepped for planting!

Total cost of our garden bed:

  • Eight 8' x 4' timbers @ $1.97 each = $15.76
  • Eight 3/8" x 8" screws @ $1.38 each = $11.04
  • Pack of four inside corner brackets = $5.99
  • TOTAL: $32.79

Stop by tomorrow to see how we're getting the soil ready, and what we're planting first!

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Good {Summer} Reads

I've never been one of these people who constantly has their nose in a book (ahem - Mom - ahem) but when I do find a book that I enjoy, I have a tendency to inhale it within a couple of days.  Over the past few months, I've devoured a few really great books, and I thought I'd share them with you in case you need some summer reading inspiration.

You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll totally relate.  Honest stories of a Southern family and all it's quirks and fabulousness, with a good heaping helping of grace.  I couldn't get enough!

Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford

This book found me.  I swear.  One day after making the decision to go 100 days without social media, I went to Barnes & Noble on my lunch hour looking for a Bible study book, and instead left with this.  It was divine reassurance that by limiting my own social media distractions as well as limiting my family's screen time was the absolute right decision.  Rachel also blogs about her hands-free journey on her blog, aptly named Hands Free Mama.

Anything by Jennie Allen
This book changed my life.  I'm not exaggerating in the slightest.  This book/Bible study gave me the courage to completely pour my heart and soul out to the Lord and give Him anything and everything for the sake of His Kingdom.

This sweet story of friendship without limits goes from fall-on-the-floor-laughing-your-face-off funny one minute to jaw-dropping-I-can't-believe-that-just-happened surprises to I-just-want-to-wrap-my-arms-around-that-girl-and-can-I-have-a-box-of-Kleenex-please sadness.  And that's just the first book.  Must read, and you won't put them down once you start.  Promise.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

I've read every Dan Brown book, with the exception of the brand new Inferno (which I'm anxious to get my grubby little hands on, so I'll keep you posted on that one).  I love, love, love Dan Brown novels.  This one has so many twists and turns that keep you guessing until the very end.  I also highly recommend all of his other novels, if you've never read them - The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons, Deception Point, and Digital Fortress.  Each one is packed full of amazing facts with a fictional thriller woven throughout.

Stop by in a couple weeks when I share a list of books my 12-year old daughter has been devouring lately. Perfect summer reading for tweens and teens!

Any good books that you'd recommend?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Zoo Atlanta

My family and I absolutely love the zoo.  Typically when we travel, we visit the zoo in whatever city we're in, just because they are always great for a fun day out with the family.  Living in the Atlanta area has a lot of perks, and one of them is that we can go to Zoo Atlanta any time we want!

Zoo Atlanta -

Located in Grant Park, Zoo Atlanta is in a wooded setting, which provides lots of shade as you visit each habitat. We always spend a lot of time at the panda habitat, and right now, Zoo Atlanta is home to twin panda cubs! Twins!  Meet Mei Lun and Mei Huan!  Seriously, how cute are these two?

Zoo Atlanta -

Zoo Atlanta -

Here's a lovely pair of warthogs rough housing in the mud.

Zoo Atlanta -

The parakeet aviary is so cool!  You are surrounded by literally hundreds of colorful parakeets chirping and flying around.  I had parakeets growing up, and they are social little birds.  This is a real treat!

Zoo Atlanta -

Hey look!  It's Timon, the meerkat!  He looks so comfy, huh?  He's one of over 40 species of mammals that you can see at the zoo.

Zoo Atlanta -

This gorgeous bird is one of over 50 different bird species.

Zoo Atlanta -

A lot of the smaller monkeys are very friendly.  This little guy kept poking his hand through the fence reaching out for us.

Zoo Atlanta -

The orangutans are awesome.  They have a huge habitat with hammocks to relax in, but this handsome guy wanted to face the crowd and entertain us instead.  He's quite a character!

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With 40 acres and roomy habitats for each species, the animals seem to be spoiled rotten.  This red panda is one of my favorite animals at the zoo, but it really is hard to play favorites because there are so many amazing creatures at Zoo Atlanta.

Zoo Atlanta -

The World of Reptiles is a huge building full of every kind of snake, frog, and iguana you can imagine!

Zoo Atlanta -

The tiger habitat gives these beautiful kitties tons of room to explore.  Visitors get to stand close to the action with floor-to-ceiling windows looking directly into the habitat.  This momma was teaching her cubs how to fight!

Zoo Atlanta -

Zoo Atlanta is open everyday except Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it's very affordable, too.  Adult tickets are $21.99 and kids get in for $16.99.  Children 2 years old and under are free!

Also be sure to catch a few of the shows while you're there.  The birds of prey show, Fantastic Flights, is not to be missed.  (Visitor tip: sit on the aisle of a middle row, and you might experience a great fly-by!)  Stop by the petting zoo and feed the goats, or add a wild animal encounter to your trip!

What To Know Before You Go:
  • Suitable for all ages.
  • Plan to spend a minimum of 2 hours.
  • Cost: $16.99 children 3-11, $21.99 adults, children 2 and under are free
  • Food IS allowed!  There are picnic areas for dining in the zoo.  There are also several restaurants and eateries to purchase food inside the zoo.
  • Also available for an additional cost:  Carousel rides, giraffe feeding, and wild animal encounters.
  • Visit Zoo Atlanta online for additional information and to purchase tickets.

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*I am not affiliated with or paid by Zoo Atlanta.  This review is simply my own opinion of Zoo Atlanta and all information reflects my own experiences.  I simply love where I live and wish for others to enjoy their visit to Georgia!