Monthly Archives: March 2014

Command center: take one.

Well, I got halfway through writing a different post yesterday, but then I spent the rest of my afternoon cuddling with my puking nine-month-old, both of us covered in vomit for several hours (it’s pointless to try showering until he’s done; as it was, I misjudged it and we ended up taking two showers).  Full-time mom, right?  (He’s fine today.  Apparently he hasn’t outgrown his intolerance of/aversion to grains yet, so it was yesterday’s lunch that set him off.)

So, instead of finishing that post (I haven’t had time yet), I’ll give you a brief update on that sign I finished last week, now that it’s made it onto the wall alongside my menu board.

Our command center.

Our command center.

Of course, it being me, as soon as it was on the wall, I thought, “You know, I should actually……”  So, when I have time, I have some changes I intend to make (hence this being “take one”).

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I’ll post “take two” once that’s finished.  Hoping to get to it this week!


Scotland.

I finally made a Shutterfly photo album of our honeymoon in Scotland!  It only took me six years to get around to it….

We flew into London, took a train to Edinburgh, and took almost two weeks driving from there to Aberdeen, up to Aviemore (in the Inverness area), down to Glasgow, and back to Edinburgh, then took a train back to London to fly home.  Going through all these pictures has me aching to go back!  I loved Scotland.

I thought I’d share some of my favorite photos from the trip.

Sir Walter Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Sir Walter Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Dunnottar Castle, Scotland.

Dunnottar Castle, Scotland.

Dunnottar Castle was built on a peninsula on the eastern coast of Scotland.  Now in ruins, it was the most picturesque castle we visited.

Dunnottar Castle, Scotland.

Dunnottar Castle, Scotland.

Dunnottar Castle, Scotland.

Dunnottar Castle, Scotland.

Edzell Castle and Gardens, Scotland.

Edzell Castle and Gardens, Scotland.

Edzell Castle was one of the ones we hadn’t planned to visit (we’d never heard of it), but we bought a historical explorer’s pass at our first stop–Edinburgh Castle–which included a ton of smaller, off-the-beaten-path sites.  A lot of these ended up being my favorite treks, because they were largely unpopulated by tourists (we were the only non-staff at Edzell that day) and only the really unsafe parts were roped off, so there was a lot more to explore than at a lot of the more tourist-y castles.

Huntly Castle, Scotland.

Huntly Castle, Scotland.

Huntly Castle was another that we had nearly to ourselves.

Elgin Cathedral, Scotland.

Elgin Cathedral, Scotland.

Elgin Cathedral was burned down, rebuilt, and then left to crumble for centuries.  (Also, northern Scottish accents are the best.  And the Glasgow accent is the hardest to understand–even I had trouble at times!)

Elgin Cathedral, Scotland.

Elgin Cathedral, Scotland.

Elgin Cathedral, Scotland.

Elgin Cathedral, Scotland.

Elgin Cathedral.

Elgin Cathedral.

Glamis Castle, Scotland.

Glamis Castle, Scotland.

Glamis Castle is the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Loch Ness, Scotland.

Loch Ness, Scotland.

No monster sightings, unfortunately!

Urquhart Castle, Scotland.

Urquhart Castle, Scotland.

Urquhart Castle is on the western shore of Loch Ness.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness, Scotland.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness, Scotland.

(Urquhart was one of the most disappointingly tourist-y castles–plastered with signs, railings, and cement, and crawling with people.)

Doune Castle, Scotland.

Doune Castle, Scotland.

Much of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed at Doune Castle.  It was my favorite castle to explore–tons of nooks and crannies, and out-of-the-way doorways that led to hidden hallways and unexpected rooms!

Doune Castle, Scotland.

Doune Castle, Scotland.

Wallace Monument, Stirling, Scotland.

Wallace Monument, Stirling, Scotland.

We watched Braveheart around when we were beginning to discuss where to honeymoon; hence, Scotland.  Also, William Wallace is one of the several Williams that influenced our decision to name our son William.

Stirling Castle, Scotland.

Stirling Castle, Scotland.

Dunnottar.

Dunnottar.

And, of course, my favorite shot of us.  Dunnottar was gorgeous!


“The Richeys” sign part II: Painting.

Back to the sign I started making in this post!

The rest of our command center (pictures coming soon!) is made up of things with black frames and silver lettering.  So, obviously, this had to match.

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To start with, I spray painted the whole thing black.  I made sure to get the sides of the piece as well, since there will be gaps on all sides between the sign and the rest on the wall.

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You can still see the letters burned into the wood under the paint; that was the idea.  I didn’t want to trace the letters over the paint, because it would be harder to cover up any mistakes; since I already had the wood-burning tool for searing ribbon (like I did for this project), this seemed like a logical alternative.

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Next, I hand-painted each letter with silver paint.  (I’m a lefty, so I started on the right side.)  I did two or three coats on each letter by the time I was done.

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I used a toothpick for the smaller letters.

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When the silver paint had dried, I went back with a small brush and black paint to touch up a few areas where the silver spilled out over the lines a bit.  You can see the difference between the black paints close up, but it shouldn’t be noticeable on the wall.

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Finished lettering!

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Next, I just need to get it hung on the wall!


Cheesy Baked Pasta.

I love pasta.  I love cheese.  So, naturally, I love cheesy pasta.

But I don’t like it with weird stuff in it.  Like mustard, or nutmeg.  (I’m super picky.  It sucks.)

So, this is a very basic-but-delicious dish of gooey goodness.

Cheesy pasta bake.

Cheesy pasta bake.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients.

Ingredients.

  • 16 oz rigatoni, ziti, or penne
  • 16 oz jarred alfredo sauce
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 oz ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • parsley, to taste
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350.

Cook pasta, in a big pot.

Cook pasta, in a big pot.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Use a big pot; you’re going to have to dump it all back in there once it’s cooked and stir it in sauce.  (I used a smaller pot once.  It did not end well.)

What, you've never done this?

What, you’ve never done this?

While the pasta cooks, pour the entire jar of alredo sauce into a large bowl.  Then pour the heavy cream into the jar.  Put the lid back on and shake well.

This is how you get ALL the alfredo out of the jar.  Well, as much as is physcally possible, anyway.

This is how you get ALL (or as much as possible) of the alfredo out of the jar.

Pour the contents of the jar into the bowl.

Alfredo, heavy cream, and sour cream.

Alfredo, heavy cream, and sour cream.

Add the sour cream.

Stir to mix.

Stir to mix.

Stir to mix well, and set aside.

Beat the eggs.

Beat the eggs.

Crack the eggs into a medium-sized bowl.  Beat with a fork.

Eggs, ricotta, parmesan, and parsley.

Eggs, ricotta, parmesan, and parsley.

Add the ricotta, parmesan, and parsley.

Stir.

Stir.

Stir to mix well.

Stirred and mixed.

Stirred and mixed.

Once it’s thoroughly mixed, set it aside.

Drain pasta.

Drain pasta.

By now, the pasta should be done.  If it is, drain it.

Back in the pot.

Back in the pot.

Dump drained pasta back into the pot.

Add alfredo mixture.

Add alfredo mixture.

Pour the alfredo mixture into the pot with the pasta.

Stir to coat.

This is why we needed a big pot.

Stir to coat the pasta evenly.

Spread half of pasta in baking dish.

Spread half of pasta in baking dish.

Spread half of the pasta in a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.

Add ricotta mixture.

Add ricotta mixture.

Spoon ricotta mixture over the pasta.

Spread evenly.

Spread evenly.

Spread evenly with spoon or spatula.

Add the rest of the pasta.

Add the rest of the pasta.

Spread the remaining pasta over the ricotta mixture.

Top with mozzarella.

Top with mozzarella.

Top evenly with mozzarella.

Baking time!

Baking time!

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Done!

Done!

Remove when the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.

Delicious cheesy goodness.

Delicious cheesy goodness.

So good!  It’s also good reheated–with our family size, we could easily cut the recipe in half and have plenty for dinner, but I make the full amount every time because then I get leftovers! 🙂

And for your cut-and-paste convenience:

Cheesy Baked Pasta

  • 16 oz pasta (rigatoni, ziti, or penne)
  • 16 oz jarred alfredo sauce
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 oz ricotta
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • Parsley, to taste
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In large pot, cook pasta according to package directions.
  3. Dump alfredo sauce into a large bowl.  Pour heavy cream into alfredo jar; replace lid and shake well, then pour contents into bowl.  Add sour cream and mix well; set aside.
  4. In medium bowl, beat eggs, then add ricotta, parmesan, and parsley.  Mix well; set aside.
  5. Drain cooked pasta; return to large pot.  Add alfredo sauce mixture and stir to coat.
  6. Spread half of pasta in greased 9 x 13 baking dish.
  7. Spoon ricotta mixture over pasta in baking dish; spread evenly.
  8. Spread remaining pasta over ricotta mixture.
  9. Top with mozzarella.
  10. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown.

“The Richeys” sign part I: Adventures in wood-burning.

My blog hit 1,000 views today!  Thanks, guys!  (And random strangers!  Hi!) 🙂

One of my first posts was my DIY Menu Board tutorial, which is now getting plenty of use on my kitchen wall.  But before I show you the “command center” it is a part of, there was one last piece I needed to tackle.  It’s nothing major–I really just needed something to fill a space so everything lined up right, so I thought I’d make a sign with our last name on it to hang above some other pieces.  But it’s been a fun project, so I thought I’d share!

Materials.

Materials.

Here’s what I used for part one, the wood burning:

(The frame pictured is just what I set my wood-burning tool on while it’s hot, since I do most of my crafting on the living room floor–very carefully!)

Traced text.

Traced text.

First, I typed up the text I wanted in the fonts I liked.  I measured the width of the wood and used the “ruler” feature on Word to size the font correctly.  Then, I would have printed it off, if our printer had been working; instead, I ended up resizing the text on-screen, holding a piece of paper up to the computer monitor, and lightly tracing the text with a pencil onto my paper.  Hey, I’m nothing if not resourceful!  But printing it would have been easier, so you should go with that….

Next, I cut out my text, used a ruler to find the exact middle of my piece of wood, and centered the papers as I wanted them.  Then I held them in place with one hand while I traced over the letters with a permanent marker, slowly, so the ink would bleed through onto the wood.

Burning time!

Burning time!

Then came the fun part!  I fitted my wood-burning tool with a fine tip and carefully traced the inked letters.

I’m not gonna lie, there’s something exhilarating about burning things.  And burning it into something pretty?  Awesome.

Part I: finished!

Part I: finished!

This was my first attempt at wood-burning, but I think it turned out well!  In fact, I was a little sad to paint over it today, but it just didn’t match….

Sign 05

Part II: Painting will be coming soon!


Brown Sugar Carrots.

This is the only way I like my carrots.

I’m a pretty picky eater, but I do like a few basic vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, peas, corn, and carrots).  And this is by far the tastiest and easiest way I’ve found to eat carrots.

Easy three-ingredient carrots.

Easy three-ingredient carrots.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients.

Ingredients.

  • 1 lb carrots
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
Chop 'em up.

Chop ’em up.

Wash, peel, and chop the carrots as thick or thin as you like.

All good things involve butter.

All good things involve butter.

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.

Good things often involve sugar, too.

Good things often involve sugar, too.

Once the butter has melted, add your brown sugar.

By the way, I know I listed 1/3 cup brown sugar, but let’s be honest: it tastes better with more like 2/3 cup.  But that’s obviously not as healthy.  Of course, we’re dumping our carrots into butter and sugar, so how healthy are we trying to be, really?  But 1/3 cup is about the minimum amount of brown sugar that you need for these carrots to taste good, not just a little bit sweet.

Stir.

Stir.

Stir butter and brown sugar to mix.

Add carrots.

Add carrots.

Add chopped carrots; stir to coat.

Cover and simmer.

Cover and simmer.

Cover pan and simmer on low heat for at least twenty minutes, stirring occasionally.

Apparently, carrots leak.

Apparently, carrots leak.

By the way: In the beginning, two tablespoons of butter doesn’t look like enough for a pound of carrots to “simmer” in, but as they cook, the carrots leak their own juice.

Typically, once I cover the carrots and lower the heat, I move on to making the rest of dinner, and let the carrots simmer for however long it takes to get the rest ready.  I’m a big fan of overcooking vegetables, though, so you may not want them simmering for more than thirty minutes if you like to keep a little crunch.

All vegetables should taste like candy.

All vegetables should taste like candy.

And that’s it!  I’m a fan of easy.

And, for your cut-and-paste convenience:

Brown Sugar Carrots

  • 1 lb carrots
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  1. Wash, peel, and chop carrots.
  2. Melt butter in pan over medium heat.
  3. Add brown sugar; stir to mix.
  4. Add chopped carrots; stir to coat.
  5. Cover pan and simmer over low heat at least 20 minutes.

The Walking Dead: Look at the flowers.

I spent the first fifty minutes of this week’s The Walking Dead episode complaining to my husband about how the dialogue in this episode all felt forced and cliché, and the drama manufactured, and how this season’s writing just overall sucks…..and then–BAM, the episode got good.

So, if you got bored and turned off your TV early this week, watch the end online.  That was (by far) the most intriguing ten minutes of the season.  (Which is still the worst season of the show, sadly.  As much as I loved the first three seasons, and the concept overall, this season has been disappointing in so many ways.)

It’s been nice having TV this year–we normally don’t; we got a good deal for a year when we upgraded our internet upon moving.  But the upside of The Walking Dead (the only show I watch live) sliding downhill is that at least it won’t be as hard giving it up again.  Kind of like how Matt Smith being the Doctor has made waiting for Netflix to put up season seven soooo much easier than if I’d discovered and binged on Doctor Who in the middle of David Tennant’s reign and then had to wait….


DIY Onesies to Tees.

The weather here in Georgia is (off and on) warming up.  We’ve had a few days warm enough for short sleeves….at which point I realized that Kaylie, whom we bumped up a size in late fall, had only four short-sleeved shirts that fit.  But she also had three short-sleeved onesies, two gifted to us and one from a set.  As you may recall from my Buying baby’s wardrobe: What you need (and what you don’t) post, onesies are great for kids before the walking stage (they don’t ride up like tees do every time you pick the kid up), but tees are so much more convenient for diaper checks and changes, and now that Kaylie’s potty-trained, there’s no way I’m putting her in a onesie she can’t undo herself.  So I decided to hack them up!

Onesies to tees (in ten minutes).

Onesies to tees (in ten minutes).

Easy peasy.

That’s a weird phrase.

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Start with the onesies your kid isn’t wearing.

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Cut just above the leg holes.

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Like that.

Onesies-to-shirts 04

Turn the shirt inside out, and flip the bottom edge up.

Onesies-to-shirts 05

Pin.

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And sew.

Onesies-to-shirts 07

I totally pinned all of these the wrong direction, by the way–all the sharp ends were pointed toward me instead of toward the needle.  Fortunately (unfortunately?), I do this so often that it doesn’t even throw me off anymore.

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I stitched the white one first, and my tempermental sewing machine was not feeding the fabric correctly, so I thought I might be screwing up the hem while I tugged it along (if you’re doing multiples, it’s always a good idea to start with the one you like the least, in case it turns out like the proverbial first pancake).

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Instead, pulling it tight while stitching stretched it enough to end up with this suprisingly cute ruffly hem.  I think it might be my favorite.

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Normally, I’m a stickler for straight stitching, but this project was more about functionality and finishing during naptime, so it’s not the prettiest sewing I’ve ever done, but it took less than half an hour to do all three.

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And now Kaylie has three more shirts for spring!


Lazy Chicken Dinner.

Confession: This is a lazy post.

Arrange two chicken breasts, two largish quartered new potatoes, and heaps of green beans in 8x8 baking dish; top with packet of Italian dressing mix and half stick of melted butter; cover with foil and bake 45 minutes at 350.

Arrange two chicken breasts, two largish quartered new potatoes, and heaps of green beans in 8×8 baking dish; top with packet of Italian dressing mix and half stick of melted butter; cover with foil and bake 45 minutes at 350.

Not only is this a super easy dinner idea, but it isn’t even mine.

If you’re on Pinterest, you’ve undoubtedly seen this pin:

Seen this pin?  "4-6 raw chicken breasts, new potatoes, green beans (fresh or canned-really any green veggie would work. Broccoli is good, too). Arrange in 9x13 dish. Sprinkle with a packet of Italian dressing mix and then top with a melted stick of butter. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour."

Look familiar?

It’s usually accompanied by something along the lines of:

“4-6 raw chicken breasts, new potatoes, green beans (fresh or canned-really any green veggie would work. Broccoli is good, too). Arrange in 9×13 dish. Sprinkle with a packet of Italian dressing mix and then top with a melted stick of butter. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.”

Every pin I’ve seen of this image either leads to a broken link or to a page that, like mine, cites “Pinterest” as the recipe source; I got more of the same when I tried to Google-search the image.  Honestly, I feel kind of bad for whoever first pinned this, because their blog traffic should have been outrageous due to the popularity of the pin.  But no one seems to know where it came from!

Anyhow, I decided to give it a try last week.  And it’s a winner.  (Made it again already.)

I’m an incredibly picky eater (unless it’s chocolate, I mostly like only white and yellow foods–pasta, bread, cheese pizza, corn, popcorn, etc.–and I don’t like the taste of meat), but this dish is surprisingly good.  I can eat all elements of it, and that’s rare for me.  Add to that that it’s a one-dish wonder, with maybe five minutes of prep?  SCORE.

All you need are five ingredients:

Ingredients.

Ingredients.

  • Chicken breasts
  • Green beans
  • New potatoes
  • Italian dressing mix
  • Butter

These are staples in my fridge and pantry, so there’s no shopping involved.  So easy.

Arrange chicken, new potatoes, and green beans in baking dish.

Arrange chicken, new potatoes, and green beans in baking dish.

I don’t eat much meat, and my almost-three-year-old is a light eater as well, so I use only two chicken breasts, two largish quartered red potatoes, and as many green beans as I can fit (we looooove green beans in this house–hence the five-pound can), arranged in an 8″ x 8″ baking dish.

Sprinkle with Italian dressing mix packet.

Sprinkle with Italian dressing mix packet.

Although I basically halve the other quantities suggested, I still use the entire Italian dressing mix packet (I tried about 3/4 of the packet the first time, and the hubby suggested it could have used more seasoning; full packet was perfect!).

Top with melted butter.

Top with melted butter.

I top with half a stick of melted butter.

Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes.

With my smaller portions, we found that the chicken was too dry after baking for an hour, so I went with 45 minutes this time, and it came out perfectly juicy.

Done!

Done!

And that’s it.

Delicious dinner from items I keep stocked anyway and with almost no work?  Yes, please!

Delicious full dinner–meat, veggies, and carbs–from items I keep stocked anyway and with almost no work? Yes, please!

This lazy chicken dinner is now in my regular rotation.  Love it!  (Thank you, anonymous person on the internet, for this wonderfully simple recipe!)


Georgia Aquarium.

We have an annual pass to the Georgia Aquarium that expires this month, so we all made a trek downtown the other day.

Look, fish!

Look, fish!

As soon as you enter the building after the ticket line, there’s a narrowing hallway between these two walls of fish.  There’s nothing spectacular about them (they just swim around in a circle, and they’re not even pretty), but all three times we’ve visited, Kaylie has spent at least ten minutes perched on the ledge beside the tank, utterly enchanted.  On our first trip, we had a hard time convincing her to move on at all!

Look, a waterfall!

Look, a waterfall!

And then there’s her other favorite part….the waterfall at the entrance to one of the exhibit tracks.  No, there are no fish or animals or anything….it’s just a waterfall over some rocks.  But that’s two-year-olds for you!

Yes, it's fun to look at fish.  It's also fun to JUMP!

Yes, it’s fun to look at fish. It’s also fun to JUMP!

She’s almost three now, and age three is when the Georgia Aquarium starts charging admission (two and under is free), and they have got that pegged.

Aquarium 04

Kaylie will be three next month, and this was our first trip where we felt like she was really able to enjoy all the exhibits (except for the touch-and-feel pools–she still doesn’t want to touch anything in the tank, though she likes dipping her hands in the water).

Albino alligators, aka "dinosaurs".

Albino alligators, aka “dinosaurs”.

They had a pair of albino alligators, but I’m not sure we were successful in convincing Kaylie that alligators and dinosaurs are not the same thing.

Beluga!  Well, beluga tails, anyway.

Beluga! Well, beluga tails, anyway.

They were feeding the three beluga whales when we got to this exhibit, so they were really close to the glass, but the food must have been good, because we didn’t see much more than their tails!

More jumping.

More jumping.

That’s okay, Mom; I’ll just jump some more.  (In fact, I’ll jump right into these nice strangers over here, since you’re four steps too far away to reach me in time!  Yes, she did.)

Waiting for the dolphin show.

Waiting for the dolphin show.

I was super excited for Kaylie to go to the dolphin show.  The first time my mom and I took her to the aquarium, we went to the dolphin show, and Kaylie, at almost two years old then, was very overwhelmed.  We didn’t even try going to it the second time.  But I figured she was old enough now to enjoy it, and she did!  Casey got to take her, since I had to stay with Wil (who spent nearly the whole trip just chilling in his stroller–he’s so laidback!), but she loved it.

Hello, there, Mr. Dolphin!

Hello, there, Mr. Dolphin!

Apparently she really liked this dolphin figure.

Two-year-old camera faces are the best.

Two-year-old camera faces are the best.

And this is what happens when you tell Kaylie “Look at me!” while you’re trying to take a picture.  (Thank goodness for digital cameras!  You other parents know what I mean.  Though this is still often the best we can get….)

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We were about ready to call it a day after the dolphin show, but we’ve watched enough Finding Nemo that Kaylie did want to see the jellyfish (like the ones that Marlin and Dory swim through).

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Bizzare creatures.  But very relaxing to watch, so it was a good way to wind down at the end of the trek.

Aquarium 13

We stopped at one last large tank, full of all kinds of colorful fish.  We didn’t see any “Nemo” fish, but we did find a few “Dory” fishes!  Those were Kaylie’s favorites.

Another "camera face".

Another “camera face”.

“Kaylie, look at me and smile!”  Yeah, that’s about as good as it gets.

It was a fun day!  When I bought the annual pass almost a year ago, I was six months pregnant and we lived five minutes from MARTA, which we could take almost right to the aquarium, so I had all these plans of taking Kaylie for little trips during the week to get out of the apartment…..but instead of my morning sickness going away by my last trimester, it just got worse.  So, while we’ve gone enough times to pay for the pass, we didn’t get as much out of it as I hoped to.  I think we’ll wait to renew our pass until Wil is old enough to enjoy it, too, but I am loving living in a big city with these sort of attractions to take our kids to!