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Archive for June, 2011

Photo Friday: Eaten by an Alligator, Loxahatchee Florida

June 30th, 2011 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Family Travel, Florida With Kids, Photo Friday


Justin Gets Eaten Loxahatchee Florida


As we reach the mid point of our Florida adventures,  I wanted to share one of my favorite pictures so far.  Our family took an air boat ride at the Loxahatchee  National Wildlife Refuge.  After our tour, we took a few minutes to explore the tour company’s museum.  Destiny was a bit hesitant to pose, but twelve year old Justin embraced the opportunity.

Happy Trails,


Visit Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday for more great travel photos.


Move It Monday: The Fitness Room is My Friend

June 27th, 2011 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Uncategorized

Until last winter, I had never seen the inside of a hotel fitness room.  With three kids, I often felt to exhausted at the end of the day to go work out. Then, on a ski trip to Mount Charleston in February, my husband invited me to join him for his early morning work out.    After the first day I was a fitness room convert.

Let’s face it.  Traveling with kids is very stressful.  You are always busy making sure everyone is happy and well fed.  The next meltdown may be just moments away.  You need to make sure they’re walking at all times in those hotel corridors, not poking and arguing in the back seat as Daddy navigates a new town, and using their inside voices in restaurants so they don’t disturb the  patrons at the next table. 

A trip to the fitness room gives me  a chance to get away and build up the adrenaline high I  need to lift my spirits and get my cheerful mommy mojo back.  On that ski trip I discoverd an added bonus, no sore muscles after a day of skiing!  I can also burn off a few calories after all that yummy vacation food!

Here are some great discoveries I made about hotel fitness rooms:

  • They are underutilized, especially at night.  Often I am working out by myself.
  • They have TVs so if you have to bring the kids, they can hang out and watch Nickelodeon. while you use the treadmill.
  • Nice people leave their magazines and newspapers so there is always something good to read.
  • The nicer hotels offer filtered water, so it’s not necessary to BYOB.

Off for a day of Florida adventures and looking forward to a fitness room getaway tonight!

Happy Trails,



Photo Friday: Bull Riding Adventures in Auburn, California

June 24th, 2011 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Uncategorized

It’s funny how a simple park outing can lead to fun and dramatic adventures.  Our last night in Auburn, Mom and I planned a low key outing to let the kids blow off some steam.  We decided to visit Auburn Regional Park, one of my childhood favorites.  The park has a great play structure and a lake complete will Canadian geese.  On this evening, however,  Auburn residents were enjoying the annual Party in the Park.  Activities  included a live concert,  food and educational booths, and an amazing kids play zone filled with giant bounce house slides, a climbing wall, and a bucking bronco.

The kids were excited about the Kids Zone, but I only had a $24 in my wallet and passes for three would cost $30.  I planned to just buy a few tickets, but the company running the Kids Zone  took pity on me and sold me three wrist bands for that price.  While the little kids checked out the jump houses with Nana, Justin took on the bull riding booth.  Here are the results:

Auburn is a family friendly town with lots of warmth and personality.  We can hardly wait to go back!

Happy Trails,


Stop by Delicious Baby for more Travel Photo Adventures.


Photo Friday: Cherry Delight, Auburn Drug Company, Auburn California

June 17th, 2011 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Uncategorized

Destiny Enjoys Her Cherry Delight at the Auburn Drug Company, Auburn California

 One of my favorite childhood travel memories was  visiting the soda fountain at Widman’s Candy Company  in Crookston Minnesota.  Well, Crookston is a bit far from Southern California, so I had to settle for the next best thing.  On our Gold Country road trip, my mom treated us to cherry delights and Irish sodas at the Auburn Drug Company  in her hometown of Auburn, California.

Mom fondly recalled after school treats at the marble soda counter of the Auburn Drug Company.  At a quarter,  the Irish sodas were too expensive unless it was a special occasion so my mom would order a  lime phosphate for a dime  instead. 

Jared Delights in His Ice Cream Sundae, Auburn Drug Company, Auburn California

The prices are higher, but the marble soda counter remains, and the frozen treats are as delicious as Mom remembers them.  The kids loved the soda fountain experience so much we wil be returning this afternoon!

Nana and Her Irish Soda, Auburn Drug Company, Auburn California

If you stop by Auburn Drugs on a Gold Country road trip, be sure to try the Irish Soda.  The secret recipe has been passed on by generations of pharmacists.  I’m looking forward to mine.

Happy Trails,


This post is feature on Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday Blog Roundup.


The Smith Family Adventures: California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento

June 16th, 2011 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Sacramento Adventures, Sacramento Family Travel

Destiny and Jared Show off their Label Creations@ California State Railroad Museum

Yesterday the Smith Family visited the California  State Railroad Museum in Sacramento California.  I have fond memories of visiting this museum with my four year old train fan Justin.  The little engineers cap we bought him was worn by three Smith kids before being passed on to a friend of ours.  At the time, Justin was fascinated by the Thomas Trains upstairs, but also enjoyed the full sized train exhibits.

Jared, Jr. Thomas the Tank Engine Engineer 2011, California State Railroad Museum

Eight years later Justin returned with his  brother and sister in tow.  The Thomas the Train play area was still a big hit with every Smith kid.  We spent about half of our time in that area.

Twelve Year Old Justin's View, California State Railroad Museum Sacramento

Twelve Year Old Justin's View, California State Railroad Museum Sacramento

This Sacramento Road Trip is focused on our family’s rich history.  My Dad’s grandfather,  Frank McGarrity was a train engineer as was my Mom’s Uncle Frank. (Ironic,  isn’t it? Two engineers named Frank on two different sides of the continent)  This engine was the same kind driven by my Great Grandfather Frank at the turn of the century.

Great Grandfather Frank's Engine, California State Railroad Museum Sacramento

One of the most kid friendly activities at the museum was about those beautiful labels that they put on the side of fruit crates.  Tucked away in a corner, this exhibit covers the fruit growing and packing industries which played an important role in our family’s history.  My mom worked as a peach packer one summer,  Destiny’s great grandma works for a Watsonville fruit cannery, and my Dad’s cousin Jack was an orange rancher.  The kids enjoyed learning important role that trains play in moving California fruit across the country.  They also had a chance to use a magnet board to make their own colorful fruit crate labels.  What an ingenious activity!

Destiny's Fruit Variety Label, California State Railroad Museum Sacramento.

Jared Prouldly Displays His Fruit Label, California State Railroad Museum Sacramento

The kids enjoyed walking through a variety of real train cars from different periods of history.  The mail car and the train kitchen was particularly impressive.

Mail Car, California State Railroad Museum Sacramento

Kitchen Car, California Train Museum Sacramento

The California State Railroad Museum is a must visit Sacramento attraction for kids of all ages.  Be sure it has a spot on your family’s itinerary.

Happy Trails,



Kid Friendly Sacramento Hotel: Best Western Sandman

June 14th, 2011 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Sacramento Adventures, Sacramento Family Travel

Jared enjoys the Grotto, Best Western Sandman Sacramento

Yesterday we officially kicked off our Sacramento road trip.  My mom grew up north of Sacramento in Auburn California.  The grand daughter of a gold miner, she has unique insight into this area.  For many years I have dreamed of taking a trip up North to explore our mining heritage and to introduce the kids to all the kid friendly Sacramento attractions that I have visited over the  years .  I’ve been waiting and waiting for the little guys to be old enough to enjoy such a journey and we’re  finally here!!!!

My mom discovered a fun and kid friendly hotel about a 2o minute walk from Old Town Sacramento.  From the outside the Best Western Sandman looks like the classic 1960′s style motor lodge.    Behind  closed doors, the rooms are updated and spacious.  They include a microwave and refrigerator. The also have free Wi-Fi that actually works!  The hotel has a laundry room and a fitness room as well as a small pool. 

 The kids loved the “secret” gate that led out to the banks of the American River.  We all enjoyed a walk before taking a dip in the pool.

American River Walk, Sacramento California

The Best Western Sandman serves continental breakfast including waffles.  The attendant was so kind, helping the kids get their food as I juggled the needs of  two hungry younsters.

Jared is still discovering new cool statues throughout the property.  I’ll take some  pictures of the more ambitious works of art (some  are two stories high), but here are two of Jared’s favorites.

Jared and his Bear Buddies, Best Western Sandman Sacramento

Off to the train museum and Sutter’s Fort.

Happy Trails,


*Best Western Sandman did not provide me with anything complimentary.  In fact they don’t know I exist.  I just think that their hotel is great for families with kids.


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Photo Friday: Ethiopian Feast

June 10th, 2011 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Washington DC

Ken and Justin prepare for an Ethiopian Feast

Last June we took my oldest child to Washington D.C. after his fifth grade graduation.  One advantage of a big kid only trip is that you can be a lot more adventurous with your choice of restaurant.  I found this Ethiopian restaurant on Yelp near our Virginia hotel.  We enjoyed the sour tasting flat bread and the wide assortment of items to dip it in. 

On the same trip, we had a delicious sushi dinner and spent way too much money at the Capitol Cafeteria.

Next time you travel, get bold with your restaurant choices. You’ll never know what you and your family will discover.

Happy Trails,


Stop by Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday to see some great photos of her Vancouver adventures.


Quick Packing Tips for Surviving a Summer Road Trip with Kids

June 8th, 2011 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Uncategorized

Among my friends my claim to fame is that I’m the woman who takes so many road trips with her kids, usually on her own.  When we relocated to Southern California, I committed myself to eight hour road trips to visit family and friends back in Santa Cruz.  Combined with the fact that plane tickets for a family of five are steep, we spend a lot of time on the road for our family vacations.  I’m in the midst of preparing for a road trip up to the California Gold Country and thought I would share a few packing tips  for your summer road trips:

Divide=Conquer:  Pack a Separate Suitcase for Each Stop

Since most of our stops are only for a night or two I pack a series of small roller bags with the appropriate clothes for each hotel.  Then I just transfer PJ’s and toiletries from one suitcase to another.  The swim suits and towels go in a separate beach bag.  This strategy has served me well.  It’s easier to juggle kids when I have less bags to wrangle and dirty clothes don’t get mixed up with clean clothes.

Stay Comfy Smith Family!

I have the kids bring a soft blanket and a pillow .  These come in handy when we are leaving on a chilly dark morning or arriving late at night.  I also throw in a camping air mattress, sheet,  and pump in case the kids don’t want to share a bed or the room can’t accommodate everyone.  I also make sure that everyone has flip flops to wear at pit stops since my kids like to take off their shoes when they travel, and I don’t want to waste time with socks and shoelaces for a short bathroom stop.

Well Stocked Cooler=Road Trip Success

I have a small cooler with wheels in the trunk where we keep healthy snacks for pit stops  as well as a small bag of non perishable snacks up front.  I also stock the cooler with some picnic food so we can avoid restaurants  at our destination  and have do it yourself room service.  Instead of waiting for food and paying high prices for tip and taxes, we have a picnic in our room with food from our cooler supplemented by TV dinners or food from the supermarket deli counter.

A few bottles of Starbucks Mochas  purchased from my local grocery store keep me alert for less than that fancy Starbucks drive through coffee.

Looking forward to a summer full of Smith Family Adventures!  Where are you headed?

Happy Trails,



Dreaming of Florida Adventures

June 5th, 2011 by bsmith | Comments Off | Filed in Family Travel, Florida With Kids

In a few weeks I’ll  be on a plane to Florida.  It will be our first family plane ride in five years so I expect it to be a little rough.  I’ve purchased Gameboys off e-Bay and am brainstorming  other ways to keep the kids busy and quiet for the flight.  I think the trip will be worthwhile, however.  It will be wonderful for the kids to experience a different part of the country and explore  unique marine ecosystems.  We plan to snorkel, kayak, fish, and collect shells during our Florida family adventure.

Our first stop will be West Palm Beach, and today I’m dreaming of a getaway at the Breakers Palm Beach Resort.  This newly refurbished classic luxury resort would be the perfect place for a Florida family getaway.  We could take dip in one of the many pools and enjoy the private beach club.  The kids would delight in the children’s activities while I  read a novel pool side.  It would be a great way to relax after my crazy plane flight.  They also have some great family friendly promotions right now, like free day camp for certain weekdays and free kids meals at their restaurant.  Despite these perks, for  this family on a budget, the Breaker’s may be an impossible dream.  Still, with a little luck and the help of the family travel website Trekaroo, my dream may actually come true.  They are running a contest for a three night stay at the Breakers Palm Beach.  Contest ends on Sunday, June 6th so head on over and enter.   Hope I’m the winner though ;) .

Happy Trails,



Photo Friday: Spring Comes to the Self Realization Temple Meditation Garden Encinitas

June 3rd, 2011 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Outdoor Adventures, San Diego Adventures, San Diego Day Trips, San Diego Family Travel, Uncategorized


Family Adventure Guidebooks Photo Journalist in Training, Justin Smith

This post is made possible by one of the hansomest young photographers I know,  my son Justin Smith, age 12.  I did not join him on this outing.  Although this garden really brings out the best in kids who are able to walk quietly and use their inside voices, it is not appropriate for preschoolers, toddlers and even exuberant kindergarteners.  Jared and I stayed home!  Recently my seven year old daughter joined my mom for a trip to the Self Realization Temple Meditation Garden.  It was a rite of passage for Destiny that she was able to enjoy the garden in a quiet and mature manner, and we lavished her with praise.  Looking forward to that hopefully not so far off day, when the entire family can enjoy this garden.  In the mean time I live vicariously through Justin’s gorgeous photos:

Cactus in Bloom, Self Realization Temple Garden Encinitas

Koy Pond, Self Realization Temple Garden Encinitas

Cacutus by the Sea, Self Realization Temple Garden Encinitas

Check out Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday for more amazing travel photos!

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