Monday, February 24, 2014

St. Augustine Alligator Farm

St. Augustine Alligator Farm

Emily has been fascinated with alligators for years, so she has anxiously been looking forward to the visit we just made to the St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. Every time we go to Florida, she asks to see some alligators, but this year was the first time we actually made it happen!

The Alligator Farm specializes in alligators, having all 23 species of crocodilians on site, but it also includes other reptiles, small mammals, and exotic birds. We spent about three hours here visiting the exhibits and watching three presentations: “Realm of the Alligator,” “Alligator Feeding,” and “Scales and Tails,” a presentation featuring turtles, skinks, and snakes.

The park was small enough to navigate easily, and to quickly get back to the theater or lagoon for the scheduled shows. The landscaping was lovely, and sidewalks and boardwalks wound around to the different exhibits.

We found it fascinating to see the different types of crocodilians and to learn about their features. I had some of my misconceptions corrected. We learned that a person can easily outrun an alligator—and no need to zig zag as I’ve heard before. Alligators, like other reptiles don’t need to eat daily and can, in fact, survive for weeks without eating if necessary. (The reptilians here are well fed, of course.) I was also fascinated to learn that alligators are intelligent enough to be trained and to learn their names. Sure enough, when called, “Skipper”  crawled right out of the water to receive a treat!

Interspersed among the reptile exhibits were a rookery of exotic birds, small mammal exhibits and a reptilian fossil display.

We had a very enjoyable day at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and I highly recommend it if you are in the area, especially if you have an animal lover in your family!



Alligator Feeding



"Gomek,” The World’s Largest Crocodile lived at St Augustine Alligator Farm until his death in 1992.


Albino Alligator


This Komodo dragon has a creepy forked tongue!


Touching a baby alligator


Admission:   Adults $22.95

         Children $11.95

I was provided with free tickets to this attraction in exchange for writing about my experience. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fun With Dolphins! Our Marineland Visit


Yesterday, we visited Marineland Dolphin Adventure, in St. Augustine Florida. Marineland has a very long history. It opened in 1938 as a facility for Hollywood film makers and continues today as an educational facility—for both scientists and for the public. An ongoing purpose is to preserve and protect marine life.  Marineland is not a “show” facility, but offers both viewing and hands-on experiences for guests. If you want to actually interact with dolphins, this is the place to be!

Emily and had just had general admission tickets, which allowed us to observe the dolphins and some of the hands-on experiences that others had. It is always a thrill just to see dolphins in the distance in the ocean, so we really enjoyed being able to get so close to the dolphins, watching them swim in tanks and interact with trainers and visitors.  Hopefully on a future trip, we will be able to try out one of the “encounters” and actually interact with the dolphins.P1030939

We enjoyed learning all kinds of interesting information about dolphins from the signage around the tanks. One fact that we found very interesting: although dolphins in the wild generally have a lifespan of 20-30 years, one of the dolphins in Marineland was born in 1954, making her 60 years old!



P1030874 - Copy

Guests are able to participate in a variety of dolphin encounters, depending on comfort level and budget. The “Touch and Feed” encounter ($29) allows the participant to spend 5 minutes touching and feeding dolphins.


“Dolphin Designs” ($99) is a 15 minute experience in which a dolphin will paint a picture on a canvas that the participant holds. As we entered the facility, we saw several people carrying their “dolphin paintings.” They looked like fun souvenirs!

In “The Immersion Program ($209+), the participant is able to interact with dolphins in both shallow and deep water.

Visitors who sign up for “Trainer for a Day” ($450) are able to spend 5 hours experiencing the life of a dolphin trainer, both in and out of the water.

We were able to observe a group taking part in the “Discover Dolphins” experience ($169).  The participants were having fun feeding, touching, and giving commands to the dolphins swimming around them. What a great experience!

General admission ($9.95 for adults ages 13 and up, $5.95 for children, $8.95 for seniors-60+) allows visitors to observe the dolphins and dolphin encounters through glass windows.

We were provided with complimentary general admission tickets in order to write this post. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014



We’re currently enjoying a couple of weeks in Florida visiting friends and soaking up some sunshine. We left home just a day before a snowstorm hit. I was actually a bit sorry to miss the snow, since it’s a rare occurrence in Alabama, but was happy to escape the freakishly cold weather we’ve had this winter.




Friday, February 14, 2014

Science Fair Projects

Our homeschool group puts on a science fair each year. We always make the effort to participate and have found it to be a worthwhile experience. Unlike most public school science fairs, there are:

  • No grades
  • No competition
  • No rules about what constitutes a “legal” project

Some students do traditional projects by coming up with an hypothesis, testing it, and drawing conclusions, all displayed on a project board. Others bring an experiment to demonstrate or make a poster about a favorite animal or concept. Because it is low pressure, most of the results are obviously kid-made, not adult-designed. Certainly parents assist, but the students are doing most of the work (and learning). There isn’t the pressure for perfection that there might be in some situations. Each student has the opportunity to tell about his or her project. I think for some, this is one of the few opportunities they have to speak in front of a group. That, too, is good experience.

Here are some of the topics we’ve visited through the years:

Structural Strength of Different Shapes


Do Objects All Fall at the Same Rate?


Testing the Effects of Leaving Different Ingredients Out of Bread


Bubble Gum! Comparing Different Brands for Maximum Bubble Size, Stretchiness, Flavor, Etc.


Water Cycle



science fair 002

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dial Vitamin Boost Body Wash (Review and Giveaway)

I keep hearing that certain vitamins are good for my skin and that there are some that can actually be absorbed through the skin to promote healthier, younger-looking skin. A new product from Dial, Vitamin Boost Body Wash, contains a vitamin complex, which helps draw moisture directly to your skin, leaving it healthy and soft.

Vitamin Fact: Vitamin B is a natural humectant that helps draw in moisture and keep skin hydrated.

The first thing I noticed about Dial Vitamin Boost was the nice scent—light and fruity. I like my bath products to smell nice—feels like I’m pampering myself a bit. My daughters are even more picky about scents. They don’t buy anything—detergent, shampoo, lotions—without opening the cap and sniffing it in the store! I think this scent would please any member of my family.

Reading the ingredient label, I saw that it actually does contain fruit juices! It left my skin nice and soft, as advertised, and I will certainly continue to use this product.

Please visit the Purex facebook  page for more information and promotions for Purex products.

Would you like to win 2 coupons for free Dial Body Wash? Enter here!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received free body wash as a member of  Purex Insiders. All opinions are my own.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Storm Inside (Review)

The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are  -     By: Sheila Walsh

Life is hard. When we become Christians, things don’t suddenly start going our way. Life is still hard. Sheila Walsh’s new book, The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are  addresses the different types of storms that women find themselves struggling with—unforgiveness, shame, regret, despair, rage, and more. None of us are immune. The storms in our lives may be externally triggered, but they rage inside us, immobilizing us, and keeping us from being who God has called us to be. To paraphrase the book, “If you are not currently in a storm, you have just come through one, or will be in one soon.”

I read this book slowly, savoring each word and phrase. I didn’t think I had a problem with unforgiveness, but the chapter on that topic called me to examine more deeply some of my relationships and the small resentments I may still be harboring against others. As I read, I wrestled with my disappointment with God when my prayers seem to go unanswered. I examined how my regrets over the past affect how I act now.

Through each topic, Sheila returns to the ultimate truth:

“We don’t know how long the night will be, but we do know this: no matter how things appear, God is at work—all night long! Only the morning light will reveal what God has done. Do not despair or give in to the chaos of what you feel. Stand strong on what you know is true…You are a daughter of the king of kings!”

I am a big fan of Sheila Walsh. I have read many of her books and heard her speak several times at Women of Faith conferences. When you hear what she has to say,  you know that she really understands the women she ministers to and that she really cares. Instead of just giving solutions and easy answers, she shares her heart and her own life lessons. Life can be hard and she doesn’t dismiss that, but she still directs our gaze to our heavenly Father and His love for us.

I am privileged to be part of the launch team for Sheila’s new book, The Storm Inside, and believe that this is her best book ever! Available for sale of February 11!

Would you like to win your own copy of The Storm Inside?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a free ebook and t-shirt as part of  The Storm Inside launch team. All opinions are my own.

Stack the Countries App—FREE Today

The Stack the Countries Game is today’s “Free app of the day” at Amazon. It’s a fun way to learn countries of the world (and worth the $1.99 that I paid for it a few months ago.)


Stack the Countries


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Our Workbox Modification

We started using workboxes several years ago and found it a good way to organize the day and to keep Emily on track with her assignments. This year, she decided that she would prefer to simply work from a printed schedule. I always kept a printed schedule in my planner, so now she is checking it herself and marking off assignments as they are finished.




















Before this year, books were supposed to be kept on a particular shelf or in a cabinet, but often weren’t. Smaller items, like flashcards couldn’t be stored easily with the corresponding books. Homemade games had yet another holding spot. We were spending too much time just hunting down supplies!

We decided to repurpose our workbox drawers. I printed new labels—one for each subject, added stickers, and laminated them. Because they are velcroed to the drawers, it’s easy to move them around. (I actually have a few more subjects than drawers, so I just rotate the subjects we don’t use every week, like “games,” “art,” and “critical thinking.”) We keep the books and supplies for each subject in the appropriate drawer. Some 3-ring binders don’t fit well in the drawers, however, so we store them on top.

This has been a fairly successful way to keep up with our books and supplies. It’s given me more shelf space and allowed the cart to continue to be useful!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Benefits of Using Common Core

In recent years, the majority of the United States has adopted the Common Core. You would have a hard time finding a teacher who doesn’t have an opinion on the topic. Many teachers argue that the Common Core requires teachers to teach to the test. This may be true; however, there are a lot of benefits to teaching the Common Core. With the new curriculum being released, the teacher-designed math courses that are given during Core trainings are a great resource for all teachers.

The rigor of the math curriculum between kindergarten and 12th grade has drastically increased. The change in curriculum is requiring teachers to change the way they teach. In some cases, it is making them change the way they learned the material to begin with. The courses are designed to retrain teachers in the new ways of learning math.

Oftentimes, teachers are expected to start back at the basics. The instructors take you back to the very beginnings. This is done to help teachers recognize the areas that students will have problems with. Some instructors even have the teachers work in a different number system, like base six, instead of in base ten, which most teachers are familiar with. Doing this requires teachers to rely on the math and not on the memorization and knowledge that they come to the lesson with.

In the beginning, many teachers will tell you that they do not enjoy these courses. They are frustrated. They feel like it is silly to relearn what they already know. However, these courses are not about relearning the information. These courses are designed to help teachers relearn how to teach the material. They help teachers recognize the issues that may come up while teaching their students math and other subjects.

Whether you agree with the United States education system’s adoption of Common Core or not, most teachers will agree that the teacher-designed math courses that are provided for the new math curriculum are very beneficial. Through this process, the teacher becomes the student. There is no better way to connect to your students than by doing this.

This paid post is sponsored and written by Bucks2Blog.