Push Away the Screen: Florida Museum of Natural History

Last weekend my family pushed away the screen by visiting the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. We seem to be on an every other year schedule and the museum has changed since our last visit in 2010 (so maybe more like every 3 years Tongue Out)

Like other museums around the country, FMNH has traveling exhibits. This summer they were featuring TITANOBOA-Monster Snake! Ella is a huge snake lover, so when she asked to visit for her birthday, we happily obliged! Titanoboa is the largest snake EVER discovered! Over 48 feet long, and weighing over 2,500 pounds, this snake could crush and devour a crocodile! I'm thankful this snake is only a fossil and went extinct over 60 million years ago!!


My budding naturalist exploring microscopic life in 2007!


And again in 2013! But this time she knows what she is doing!


Our favorite traveling exhibit from years past was the Carcharodon Megalodon. We loved that exhibit.

They kept a few of the jaws and teeth for a permanent exhibit, but it doesn't even come close!

This was the first year we went in to the butterfly exhibit. We always visit the butterfly wing (no pun intended) but in the past the kids have been too young to follow the directions of "DON'T TOUCH THE BUTTERFLIES"  but this year we thought they were ready and they were!! They loved it! They sat still on a bench and allowed the butterflies to fly right in front of them! One Blue Morpho was particularly fond of Miss Ella! You can see it flying in front of her in both of the photos below.



We spent a total of 3 hours at the museum exploring Titanoboa, Florida Fossils, Our Energy Future, South Florida people, and the kids also really enjoyed their new interactive play area: Discovery Room.


The museum is FREE, but there is a charge for the special exhibits and the Butterfly Rainforest, though students who receive an 'A' or 'E' grade in science can provide their most recent report card at the front desk and receive a free admission with the purchase of a paid adult admission. The offer is valid for the Butterfly Rainforest exhibit, the temporary exhibit, when available, or a value admission for both exhibits.

Do you enjoy visiting natural history museums? Which museum is your favorite?


Push Away the Screen: Biltmore Bonding on Bikes

This is part three of a three part series. You can read part 1 here, and part 2 here.


During our hike throughout the Biltmore Estate we saw miles and miles of bike paths. James and I were so excited to get out there and cycle, but we were nervous about the kids. Why? Hills. Living in Florida we don't cycle over any hills. And some of these hills were saw on the Biltmore Estate were actually more like mountains and I was scared of the kids going down those!! We've done overpasses here in the Sunshine State and they do okay with those, but it's been a while since we've done one, and Ronin has been stopping his bike with his feet (like Fred Flintstone) and not his brakes, so I was sort of freaking out about his careening down a mountainside on his bike!

The Biltmore Estate offers a TON of outdoor activities. From bike riding, to horseback riding, to kayaking, to skeet shooting, and fly fishing, there is something for everyone!! Because of the odd number of people in our family, and the age of our children, we were limited to only biking, which really is fine with us, because that's all we really wanted to do!

We arrived at the "bike barn" and checked in . I had made a reservation, so they were expecting us. The staff was excellent, making sure that each of us was properly fitted on our bikes, that our helmets were nice and secure, and they had each of the kids take a test lap through the barn to demonstrate that they knew how to brake properly and mount/dismount the bike. Ronin did a great job with his hand brake.

Ella was SO EXCITED to be able to choose a bike with GEARS!! She has been wanting a "gear bike" for quite a while and we thought this would be a good opportunity for her to try it out! Haley refused to give it a try, and stuck with a simple bike.

It took her a few tries to get it just right, and they had to adjust the seat a few times as well, but soon we were ready!

They also gave us step by step directions where we should cycle to avoid getting in to terrain that would be too challenging for the children, and gave us a hand map as well! We brought our own water (they let me know in advance we'd need this!!) and off we went! We were instructed to stay on the green marked path, though we thought we might be able to handle some of the light blue path as well, and would take it on a trail by trail basis! We had 2 hours to explore, so off we went!!

I quickly went to the head of the pack, and watched as James and the trio made their way to me. Why did I go so far up ahead?? Why, to test the terrain of course! I wanted to make sure that there was nothing too challenging or dangerous for my gang, James included! He was riding a bike that he wasn't familiar with and despite my recommendation that he chose a DIFFERENT bike, he didn't listen to me. More on that later Tongue Out


Ella was having a grand ole' time changing out her gears!

There were a couple of tricky spots, not with terrain but with having to cross the road! So I'm glad I went first!! Typically when we ride as a family, we are on designated "NO CAR" bike paths, we don't have to cross roads, we just bike. On this path, we had to cross the main Biltmore Estate road, and traffic was quite busy because they were having a motorcycle festival on property, and the bikes were driving pretty fast, and in large packs. Thankfully I was able to get to the stop sign first, get in to the road, and pretty much stop traffic to allow my gang to pass. Then we were back on the paved bike trail and off exploring the property!

As we crossed over this bridge, we came across a bunch of geese just cruising along!! We had 2 loaves of bread back in our room that we knew we weren't going to eat, so we had a discussion about going back to our room after we returned the bikes, picking up the bread and heading back down to feed the ducks! The kids were excited about that. Off we went again on our ride!!

We made it to the end of the green trail really quickly! The blue trail took us right in front of the motorcycle camp, so we decided to head back and see what we could find the other direction!

But first we stopped at the geese again for a water break!

James and I even managed to talk one of the kids in to taking our picture together!

It was at this stop that James mentioned how uncomfortable he was on his bike. Really?? Really?? After I told you to pick something else?? This is where I did my "I told you so, honey" talk. We knew we'd be passing close to the bike barn again, so he decided at that point that he would go and trade his bike in for the one I recommended. This made him very happy.

We took a different path towards the bike barn, and came across the Biltmore Farm! The kids and I stayed here while James rode up to change in his bike.

The kids were in love with this cute little donkey. We was very friendly and just stayed at the gate and let the trio pet him!

James came back quickly and off we went!! We decided to head "off-road" since we all had "fat tire" bikes.


I let the family get in front of me, and then they all slowed down, so I took the lead again, and off I went. I was just pedaling along  dodging big rocks, and  low limbs, when suddenly I realized that it was VERY quite. I slowed down, dismounted my bike and realized that NO ONE was with me. Oops. I went to fast and left them all behind. I back-tracked found James and the kids, and the kids were all upset and crying Undecided the off-road path was too hard for them. Their little legs just weren't strong enough to pedal through the rough terrain. Poor guys. I felt so bad for going so far ahead, and I felt a little guilty because I was having so much fun while they were crying. Bad mama. Oops. Tears turned to smiles though as James and I reminded them that we were going to feed the geese after our ride!!

Our 2 hours was nearly up, so we decided to head back to the bike barn! Our return trip took us up a very steep hill. So steep that I had to get off my bike and walk up. The kids walked their bikes up, too. But James...not James! He made it up on his bike! GO JAMES!!

We had a great time biking at Biltmore and I really hope that we can go back one day when the kids are older and do more mountain biking because that was a lot of fun for the short time I got to experience it! I made Ella pose with me for a "bike ride over" photo. She was not amused.

Next up! Geese!!

We went back to our room, grabbed the bread and headed back to the lake. We drove our car since it was getting near twilight and I didn't want to be walking around in an unknown place in the dark. We called the geese over, and some started to come as did some cute little ducks.

But it didn't take long for the whole gang of geese to make their way over to the food!

2 loaves of bread went quickly!


The kids loved feeding the geese!! It was cute to watch and there were some goslings (too bad no Ryan!!) in the mix too and the trio kept trying to make sure that they were getting their bread pieces close to those cute babes!

When our bread was out, the geese wanted more and came up on land to see what else we could offer!!

We got in to our truck to head back to the Inn. We had to drive out and back to get to the main road and by the time we got there, this was waiting for us!

Hundreds of geese were foraging on both sides of the road!! I have never seen so many geese in one spot, at one time before!! It was pretty cool!

Overall, our 2 full days at the Biltmore was AMAZING!! We created some great family memories, and it certainly gave me the taste for some more family adventures!! I can't wait to go back when the kids are older and perhaps really bike those amazing mountain trails. I'll have to be sure to work on some hills climbs so I don't have to walk my bike!


What's the best family vacation you've taken with your kids?? Do you take active vacations, or do you go to try to relax?

Jenny's Top 5 Reasons to Give CrossFit a Try

1) It's FUN.

2) You'll gain a new social network.


4) You'll get fit FASTER.

5) CrossFit will make you a BETTER person.

Do you belong to a box? What aspect of CrossFit do you enjoy the most? Have you wanted to try CrossFit but haven't yet? What's holding you back?