My Mom-cation in Atlanta

Way back in November, one of my very best friends (who happens to live out of state) asked what I wanted for my birthday.  I explained that it would be fun to just take a trip together.  I’d love to just hangout together!

And so, we scoured over airfares and researched travel destinations that would be warmer than Wisconsin and easier for us both to reach with a direct flight.

Atlanta was the perfect destination for our mom-cation. Yes, mom-cations are a thing, and science even proves that we need them, just read It’s science: Girls weekends boost mental health.

Day 1: Ponce City Market + Spa Time

Upon arrival, we met up in the airport and grabbed our very first Lyft ride to Ponce City Market.

Ponce City Market

Ponce City Market – possibly the coolest food hall of all time.

This place was amazing!!  We stopped at the French bakery for croissants and cappuccino before having to catch another Lyft to our pedicure appointments.

French Bakery and donut from Ponce City Market Go Mama O.

Almost too pretty to eat.  Almost… The donut came from another food stall at Ponce City Market.

Day 2: National Center for Civil & Human Rights

During the month of February, Black History Month, the Civil & Human Rights Museum had free admission, so it was no surprise that it was a popular destination on Saturday morning.

Civil and Human Rights Museum

We had a long, but worthwhile wait for this museum

spring flowers in Atlanta

So excited to see FLOWERS and grass in February (unlike Wisconsin)

The museum in a word is POWERFUL.

They have a lunch counter simulation where you sit in a row with other museum-goers, put on headphones, and hear the taunting and feel your seat jerk (being kicked) to give you a small taste of what protesters experienced.

I cannot even begin to imagine what that was like.

They had signs that listed the Jim Crow laws of each state that seem so ridiculous to read.  Sadly, this was not that long ago.  And we still have a long ways to go to achieve equality for all.

While the main floor looks at the civil rights movements in the U.S., the top floor looks at human rights issues happening all across the world: women’s rights, human trafficking, LGBTQ rights, rights of the disabled, workers rights…and more.  As a country and as an entire world, there is work still to be done.

Let’s all help the change.

Here’s the waterfall sculpture outside of the museum.  I especially love the Margaret Mead quote.

Day 3: Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park

The next morning, we wanted to walk to a dinner in the historic Martin Luther King Jr. neighborhood.  The walk from our Air BnB was a bit longer than expected…and not as enjoyable as it was slightly drizzling at the time.  Nevertheless, we carried on.

Unfortunately, our restaurant of choice was closed, so we googled other nearby dining establishments, ending up at the Thumbs Up Diner.

Mama O at Thumbs Up Cafe

Mama O. outside of Thumbs Up Diner.

Cathy and BFF in Atlanta.jpg

Mama O. and her BFF at breakfast. The diner had really fun paintings.  It was hopping! 

After filling our bellies with a big breakfast, we explored the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park.

MLK National Historic Site

We started in the visitor center that gave more in-depth timelines about MLK Jr.’s and Coretta Scott King’s lives.  Another exhibit talked about Mahatma Gandhi’s life, which served as an inspiration for Martin Luther King Jr.

Not far from the visitor center was his birth home. Apparently reservations to tour the home go very fast and early in the morning, so we were only able to look at the exterior and pictures of the interior at the adjacent building and gift shop.

Martin Luther King Jr Birthplace.jpg

MLK Jr. was born here. 

Day 4: More Great Food and the Beltline

Our last day in Atlanta we enjoyed another hearty breakfast before having to catch our flights back home.

yummy breakfast

French toast and fried chicken on a biscuit

The sun was shining and we had some extra time, so we started to walk around the neighborhood, finding the Atlanta BeltLine. It really was a cool walking path, busy with walkers, bikers of all ages. There are many murals adorning the bridge underpasses and walls. I really liked the donut and witch with a cat murals.

Ironically, the beltline path led us back to our favorite stop: Ponce City Market, where we grabbed a yummy smoothie as a snack – a preferred alternative to airport food.

All in all, I have to say that Atlanta was a pretty cool city!  I loved the chance to getaway from frigid Wisconsin in February for a mom cation with one of my very best friends.

Atlanta skyline

Atlanta skyline

Atlanta, I’ll see you another time! Cheers!










Wonder of the World, Indeed

How do you react to one of the natural wonders of the world?

This is what my mom and I looked like:

Grand Canyon First Reactions Go Mama O.

Amazement mixed with fear, excitement and joy: Mama O. and her own Mom

Upon first glance of the Grand Canyon, my heart leaped right up in my throat.

The canyon is so immense.

We were up so high.

We were glad there were railings!  Look how far away from the railings we first stood.

Even my first pictures were taken farther away from the edge, or I can’t remember if my kids took these pictures.

Grand Canyon View

Grand Canyon – view from the South Rim. 

Can you see the river at the bottom of the canyon?  This is the oldest part of the canyon.

Grand Canyon View 2.jpg

No railings at this part of the South Rim! 

My eight year old daughter took this picture below.  I love the view of the tree’s shadow. It’s incredible seeing the Grand Canyon through another photographer’s points of view.

Shadow of the tree Grand Canyon

Shadow of the tree overlooking the Grand Canyon

It’s impossible to take a bad picture there!

Seeing the Grand Canyon is a powerful, moving, and spiritual experience. How blessed are we to have such wonders in our world!

More pictures and stories from our adventures to come.



Checking out the Como Zoo

A cancelled camping trip led to a trip to visit friends in Minneapolis – St. Paul earlier this summer. Though we’ve been to the Twin Cities several times during summer, we have covered Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet, but we hadn’t been to the Como Zoo.

We started out pretty early and found parking in nearby lots.  We decided to check out the animals in the morning, enjoy a picnic lunch in the park by a playground, and then try some rides after that.

Como Zoo really is a lovely free zoo! There is a suggested donation at the entrance followed by many gift shops, rides, food and other opportunities to spend money. We made it out with two stuffed animals for our kids!

The zoo has a nice variety of animals and it’s small enough to walk through with kids quite easily.

We spent the most time at the Primate House, watching the mom and baby gorilla munch lettuce. They were positioned so close the the glass and just looked so comfortable, hanging out in the shade. I love how the mom is cradling the head of romaine like a baby too – it’s hers! It looked like such a sweet, domestic glimpse into their gorilla family life.  Meanwhile the silverback gorilla was out pacing the yard. The gorilla forest was a really cool exhibit, housing seven gorillas in total.

apes and monkey at Como Zoo

Emperor Tamarin and Mom & Baby Gorillas

After checking out the gorillas, we kept walking through the primate house. I really liked watching Como Zoo’s Tamarin climb and leap from branch to branch in their exhibit. The mustaches gave them a distinguished sort of look.

As a member of our zoo since our kids were babies, I’ve been going to zoos a lot over the last six to eight years, though it seems to be less and less frequent as my kids get older. Still, it is a treat to see endangered animals up close, showing off their normal behaviors, such as eating a head of lettuce with her baby or effortlessly jumping from branch to branch.  I / we may never have the opportunity to see these animals in the wild. While that would be preferred, we will enjoy zoo visits and learn the conservation stories the animals and their habitats around the world.

Thanks for a great visit, Como Zoo!

So Many Stars: The Price of Freedom

This spring I saw the WWII Memorial in Washington D.C. for the first time. It was beautiful and moving to say the least. This part of the monument hit me the hardest.

WWII Memorial Stars

Wall of Stars on the WWII Memorial. So Many Stars.

The plaque reads:

Freedom Walls hold 4,048 gold stars. Each gold star represents one hundred American service personnel who died or remain missing in the war. The 405,399 American dead or missing from World War II are second only to the loss of more than 620,000 Americans during our Civil War.


My grandpa was a lucky one, who was able to come home after serving in the Pacific in WWII.  So many others had their lives cut short. This is true of any conflict or military operation. It is those whom we remember today on Memorial Day.

Here’s another part of the WWII Memorial on the opposite side of the Freedom Wall of stars.

WWII Memorial Quote Nimitz

WWII Memorial Quote by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

We visited on a splendid, sunny day during the week. A few more pictures captured the full monument and the Pacific side, including New Guinea and Buna, where my grandpa served in the Army.

WWII collage

WWII Memorial Monument, you can see the Lincoln Memorial behind it.  Sparkling fountains and gray columns and stone make for a moving and reverent tribute to the fallen.

Blessings to those who made the ultimate sacrifice and to their friends and families. May we all remember and honor them.


Visiting the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

On a trip to Chicago, the kids and I ventured to the Lincoln Park area and visited the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on a very hot and muggy afternoon. The museum was perfect for escaping the heat and learning about nature during our two hours there.

1st Floor Highlights:

We sort of few through the Riverworks and then paused a bit more to see the live reptiles and amphibians. The exhibits are very much hands-on, reminding me more of a children’s museum. Both my four and six year old enjoyed the Hands On Habitat area, designed for kids age seven and under. They played in various animal habitats, went down a “tree” slide and even played dress-up in animal costumes.

2nd Floor Highlights: the Butterflies!

The butterfly haven really stole the show at this museum, though on our way there, we did walk through the taxidermy areas that showcased Illinois ecosystems. Most of my pictures are from the butterfly area. I just love this oasis – it’s so peaceful and relaxing to watch the butterflies flutter around the greenhouse.

So many butterflies

I loved the Blue Morpho Butterfly, upper left. My smartphone camera took some decent shots!

Butterfly collage

Upper left – feeding time, a butterfly by the fruit plate. Upper right – turtle hanging by the pond / waterfall. Lower left – a Blue Morpho butterfly landed right by my kids!

The circle of life is represented in this habitat. In the picture above, lower right corner, there is a quail and below a bird that both eat dead butterflies.

Bird in the butterfly exhibit

Pretty bird. Must eat a lot of butterflies too…

After hanging out in the butterfly haven for some time, we made sure that none were coming with us (not one butterfly landed on us), and left the greenhouse. Outside we could see the chrysalis with the next crop of butterflies for the garden. I think the lifespan of these butterflies is about one month in the garden, so I can imagine how many have to hatch to re-populate this beautiful exhibit.

hatching butterflies

Hatching new beauties

We spent some time in the weather exhibit, having the most fun with the green screen! My daughter did pretty well reading and keeping up with the lines.

Fun with the green screen and reporting

This line was perfect for the HOT weather we were experiencing that day. 

You could choose between fast or slow reading (we chose slow for my soon to be 1st grader), which was nice. I think all kids (adults too) enjoy seeing themselves on camera! \

After one more visit to play in the under age seven habitat area, we briefly hit the gift shop and cafe. While there are many tempting and exciting items (my kids wanted a lot of the stuffed animals), we managed to each buy a drink and then leave the building to hike the nature trail outside.

My kids found some ducks and scared them into the pond.

Enjoying a hike outside the nature museum

Ahh – noisy kids, better swim away!

It was a really nice, shady nature trail that hooked up with a larger park, so we could have kept on walking if we wanted. Instead we cut our time short and headed back to the car. This was our view as we left:

View of the Chicago Skyline from Lincoln Park

All in all we enjoyed our visit to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum! It is a nice, manageable museum in Chicagoland that is not in the main museum campus near the lakefront, so it was relatively easy to find. I think it was perfect for my kids, though it seemed people of all ages were visiting. I’d recommend checking it out if you’re in the area.