From Philly to Washington, D.C. – Independence Day in our Nation’s Capitol

20140629_143544Get Clued In and family went on an adventure this summer to Philadelphia and then D.C.  What a great trip, but we are back and exhausted.  Not too exhausted to share some tips from our trip though.

Hotel Monaco Philadelpia right across from Independence Hall

Hotel Monaco

Philadelphi20140629_172124a- we stayed at the Hotel Monaco, Philadelphia for a night after a family wedding.  It was right across Independence Hall – you know where signed a couple of important documents in our nation’s history, and the liberty bell.  All of the sites are free, and operated by National Park Service.  Get your tickets at the Visitor’s Center which is at the end of the Independence Historic Park.  The visitor’s center is quite amazing in and of itself and not to be missed.  The best thing for kids in this area if you are walking around is Franklin Square- rides, refreshments, a giant fountain and a playground.  It makes for a IMG_4512fun trip and everything is shaded here.  We never made it to the Please Touch museum, but that is on the top 10 things to with kids in Philly.  Another one is the Art Museum, and if you have time in the morning like hubby did, do a jog from Independence Hall to the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  These steps are the historic ones filmed in the movie ROCKY where Rocky Balboa ran up the stairs and did his big victory arms in the air shot (pictured to the left).  What a fun time!  A great place to eat breakfast, lunch and/or

Franklin Square Park

Franklin Square Park

dinner and reasonably priced is Reading Terminal Market which is also in downtown.  What a great market, and the Amish are there to sell their goods Wednesday through Saturday.

Our view of the Delaware River from the 10th floor of Hotel Monaco

Our view of the Delaware River from the 10th floor of Hotel Monaco

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Historic ice cream at Reading Terminal Market

No matter where we ate in Philly except at the NPS concessions, it was pricey so be aware of that.  The Reading Terminal Market at least offers you some wider selections at competitive prices.  But, this was a hike for us from our hotel especially with little ones.  We also visited the Mint here – the largest in the nation, and the original was burned down, so this is the 2nd one.  The Federal Reserve boasts a money in motion exhibit too.  With lots to do and see in Philly, if you can eke out 2 days, that would be perfect.

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Beaches in Delaware- We stopped at the beaches on the Delaware coast because we were heading south this trip to D.C.  We stopped at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  While we thought we were escaping the Jersey shore, it may have followed us here, and it was crowded.  It was apparently the first week of summer break in NJ/PA when we went because schools let out so late this year (due to a billion snow and rain days), so, everyone and their mother, literally were on this beach.  But it is a nice beach.  It was a windy cooler day which is good for us but the waves were high.  The best restaurant on this beach is Nicola’s Pizzeria.  It’s a small, family-owned operation but extremely popular and filled up quickly.  The kids get these super cool crayon looking cups, and the pizza is amaze-a-balls!  I kid you not.  Check it out, and they treat you like family.

IMG_4580Washington, D.C.- If you haven’t been to D.C. for the 4th of July, you should try it sometime.  It is busy and packed but the city comes alive.  And if you are lucky enough to get the weather on the 4th like we did, wow!  Due to Hurricane Arthur, we had amazing weather.  Independence Day in D.C. includes a parade in the morning and a concert with fireworks in the evening, and all the Smithsonian museums and the zoo are open late. Government buildings are closed so make sure to get those tours done earlier in the week- like Treasury, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, etc.  Since all the monuments are open air, you can visit those on holidays too.  But, the crowds are overwhelming.  IMG_4558The best time to see everything was when everyone was at the parade or eating lunch.  The same goes for the National Zoo.  It’s a unique zoo.  There are so many trees and shaded areas, and it literally has hiking paths because of its winding uphill and downhill design near Rock Creek Parkway.  I really loved seeing pandas at the national zoo and so did the girls.  We do not get to see pandas at the Denver zoo or very many zoos.  And, how many zoos do you just walk or hike onto for free?  Right- none.  Your tax dollars subsidize all of the Smithsonian Museums and the National Zoo, so it’s all free!  Now, if you want a map, brochure, or some food,

cooling off at National zoo

cooling off at National zoo

 

you will pay for it, but admission is free to all the Smithsonian exhibits.  This website is awesome for all the Smithsonian museums and the zoo and is informative.  The summer hours are longer and often not posted at this website though.  The best time to hit the zoo may be early morning or late in the evening (after 6pm) since the zoo is open late in the summer months. The heat is overwhelming in D.C. for July 4th.  Bring along your coolers and food and drink because there are plenty of picnic areas to sit and eat.  For cooling off, there are misters throughout the zoo and most people treat these like swimming pools but hey, whatever helps!

20140701_092337Other than visiting the National Zoo which is a must in my book, my recommendations for the museums are: Air & Space Museum knocks it out of the park!  You will need a full day here so plan accordingly.  Best and cheapest place to eat is the McDonalds inside this museum unless you can get to the L’Enfant plaza metro stop – wow!  Food trucks galore.  You have to see and smell to believe the various food trucks that 20140702_105520await you.  It is less pricey than inside the museums to.   Do not plan on eating at the Natural History Museum – it is disorganized and pricey!  But a visit to the Natural History is a must!  I loved their temporary Beyond Bollywood exhibit too, and the diamonds too- wow!  The dinosaurs are cool too, but the kids enjoyed the interactive parts the most.  We also did the American History museum and that was extensive and quite well done.  I have heard the Postal Museum is great for kids but we never made it out there – it is not in the same location as all the other Smithsonian Museums on the Mall area.  We ate one day at the national mall on P street near the White House and the selection was fabulous – it is right off the Metro Center stop – get off and walk through Macy’s.  We visited the White House gift shop and i would recommend skipping this tourist trap – while they have neat gifts, it was a rip off.  If you do go in, definitely skip taking 20140704_140209the random picture at an imitation Oval Office because the people are just weird about the number of photos, and then finally when you get to the front, the lady takes a blurry shot of you and your family.  Lost time: 30 minutes.

We were fortunate enough to get an insider’s tour of the Pentagon this visit.  One of my friends at DoD personally gave us a tour of the giant building and it was incredible.  How many food courts, banks, chocolate shops, and fun things can one building contain?  We had a good time, and if you haven’t been to the Pentagon in a few years, you can also just walk the memorial outside – the 9/11 Memorial outside the Pentagon is incredible and moving.  20140701_13362820140701_112611There is a 9/11 indoor memorial for the victims too and it is near the chapel.  We drove by Arlington Cemetery and Iwo Jima but it was a super hot day and humid in D.C., considering all that we had packed in.

 

20140704_211048The fireworks were fabulous and we got to see them from a rooftop where my relatives live, and that rocked.  The girls loved seeing the skyline lit up with various fireworks happening from the District, Va, to Maryland – gorgeous 4th of July in our Nation’s20140702_123125 Capitol.  We had a great time and feel lucky we got to experience so much in such a short period of time and especially on Independence Day week.  So much history, and so much more yet to learn.  Hope you had a 4th of July this year, and enjoy the rest of summer!

 

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A Review of Samsung Galaxy s5 Active with Gear Fit *

Samsung Galaxy S5I am no technology geek, nor would I consider myself an expert, but I would be remiss if I didn’t post a review after a little over a week with my new toy.  This is no ordinary smart phone, folks.  Thanks to #ATTDenver, I won a brand new Samsung Galaxy s5 Active with the Gear Fit watch.  I wanted to make the switch to an Android from iPhone for a very long time, and I no longer had excuses.  I think the only reason I stuck so long with a teeny tiny iPhone and iOS was because of the free texting (iMessages) between iPhones.  I do not think I can go back to iOS or anything resembling a teeny tiny phone ever again.   I absolutely love the Samsung s5 Active.  I have AT&T and have had it for a long time now – I think since 2004.  I like their service, and have never had issues.  The best feature for me is being able to talk on the phone while I am on the web or drafting emails.  It is a multitasking mom’s dream come true, but not while driving, of course.   The Samsung is an amazing phone with a large screen.  I like the screen so much that I email documents from my work phone to it, so I can read it and then I can discard the pdf documents easily as well.  It is just easier to read, to maneuver, and I absolutely love the larger device.  That being said, people have asked, “well how do you put it in your pockets since it is so large?”   Answer: Well, for one I do not wear hoochie mamma pants with teeny tiny pockets so that helps.  But, honestly while the screen is larger, this phone is thinner and lighter than the iPhone to me.  Once you put a case on that delicate little iPhone, it is too thick for your pant pockets.  Fs5activeCamo_600x600_xlargeor me, this phone is thinner and sleeker so it fits into my pockets without a problem.

Some of the best features of the phone?   Well, AT&T has a list on this website- yes, water resistant, dust resistant, heart rate monitor built in, and so much more.  For me, the camera is amazing- 16 Mega Pixels produces some amazing high quality photos.  I can’t wait until this weekend when I take pictures of family and friends adorned in beautiful, vibrant outfits at an Indian wedding ceremony.  The video quality is amazing too, and the lighting adjustment is unbelievable.  With the bluetooth I can connect to all my gear  – external speakers and my favorite new gadget, the Gear Fit watch.  Wow!  My boss jokingly calls it “the Space watch.”  But, shhh- don’t tell him it is way better than that.  I absolutely love this.  It is a watch, stopwatch, pedometer, exercise monitor (cycling, walking, running), heart monitor, sleep timer, and notifications center all in one.  It is literally a smart watch.  With the bluetooth function activated, this teeny tiny, sparkly and good looking device is an all in one hub for your phone.  I can even control media like music (stored on my phone) andGearFitBlk_600x600_xlarge play it, fast forward, rewind, or go to the next track.  So, with bluetooth activated in a vehicle and all three connected, I can use this as a “remote” control and not have to look down or fumble around with the phone at all.  If I have bluetooth headphones while exercising and the phone nearby, I can play music and control volume and what is playing using this gear fit watch on my wrist.  It is awesome  And, when hubby sends an emergency text, I get a notification.  Of course, I can turn notifications on or off because at night, I do not want it to beep or vibrate and scare the crap out of me.  Yes, it also monitors how long I slept.  Unlike the UP jawbone(c) which I also own though, it does not tell me how well I slept and how many times I woke up, etc.  It only acts as a stopwatch for sleep.  The watch will also help me find or locate my Samsung smartphone.  When I hit LOCATE, my samsung will turn its flashlight and a beeping sound on.  Hard to miss.  Overall, pretty cool gadget.

The biggest con of this device, now that I have exercised with it for a week, is that I cannot see the display clearly when I am running or walking outside in the Colorado sunshine.  It is too bright out and the gear fit will only let me adjust the brightness up to OUTDOOR mode for up to 5 mins and even that is not bright enough for sunny Colorado.  So, I had to duck under a tree to see my heart rate when I ran.  I suspect it would be tough to push buttons on the touch screen whilst cycling too.  So, in that sense, it seems like it is not really practical.  But for daily use, I love it.  If I am visiting my co-worker Charlie down the hall, and I left my phone in my office, my watch will buzz slightly on my wrist and it will say “husband calling.”  So I can go run and go grab the call.  That’s a cool feature for me.  The watch and the Samsung Galaxy s5 sync too and so I can open the application on my Samsung and track my calories in, calories burned, and miles walked/ran etc., and just see my overall health.

I can also send a quick text back too.  For example, if someone texts me and I am occupied or away from my desk, I can send a simple “canned responses” on my watch to quickly text back…”Okay” or “Thanks- I will write you soon.”  It is nice and I can do that from the watch on my wrist.  I cannot watch TV on it or stream music other than controlling what is on my Samsung Galaxy s5, but hey, it’s a neat little gadget.

Now, back to the Samsung Galaxy s5 itself, not all apps from the iPhone are available on Androids but there are comparable ones created to help out.  Transferring over was a b!$&, but I blame Apple for that and its lack of compatibility with anything non Apple.  If you get this phone and are switching over, immediately download SAMSUNG SWITCH app and all your files, contacts, a list of apps, and text messages will convert for you including music.  Download the app on the phone and the software on your laptop and you can hard wire the Samsung and all your music will convert over which is super cool.  For apps, you have to re-download them all so, back them up first on the iPhone using Itunes (what a pain), and then you can re-download using the list Samsung produces for you.  The contacts transferred over but I lost some information.   My other favorite feature of being back to an Android is that I can drag and drop files.  So, ringtones, pictures, files, etc., I can just drag and drop them once the phone is connected to my PC.  I love this feature and have missed it for far too long.  Imagine this- I have control over my device, and not some dinky little software program starting with the letter i and ending with tunes.  I also love that I downloaded ringtones straight in with the app already on my phone- so easy.  That is how things should be.  I disliked being forced to buy them from iTunes. The other big con is that Email accounts do not operate very well when they are on the phone. The iPhone handled that feature way better. So, that’s something to keep in mind too. If you want all your folders to work download the app for that Email. The iPhone is way more powerful with certain functions like email and push notifications than the Samsung based on my one week experience.  I think for streaming, etc., they are both about the same.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATransferring the microSIM card was no easy feat only because the iPhone treats its like some super secret stealthy thing.  It was paper clip hell for me as I transferred back and forth to get data.  Since I won this phone, I can transfer back and forth without a new contract which totally rocks.  The Samsung’s SIM card is in an easy location and obvious so it’s just easier.  I did it all myself and went to the AT&T store to just buy accessories.  They installed the screen protector for me – I bought the top of the line one because I am rough with my phones, and I got a decent case too.  They are so helpful at the AT&T store which is so nice.

Everything else works about the same, and I have to say I am not impressed with the battery life.  I think it is about the same if not worse than the iPhone 4S.  But the Samsung does have this Ultra Power saving mode which is kinda neat especially if you are caught in Disneyworld with no outlets in sight.  This ultra power saving mode shuts off everything not essential and then, you can get 24 hours more if need be.  I have a lot to learn and play with still, since it has only been one week with my Samsung Galaxy s5, and my new Gear Fit, but I absolutely am in love and I feel liberated too.  I have not yet tinkered with finger print scan (yes, Samsung 5 has one built into the home button), nor have I tinkered with almost 60% of the features, but soon, soon.  Oh yes, soon! Oh and folks, do not go swimming with your phone or Gear Fit- they are water resistant and dust resistant, not water proof.  So, beach is fine with a splash or two or more but don’t drop them into a bucket to test things out.  Just saying… and no, I didn’t do that.  I love my new Samsung Galaxy s5 Active with the Gear Fit.   And if you don’t believe my review, check out CNET’s review on the Samsung Galaxy s5. 

* Disclaimer: I won the Samsung Galaxy s5 Active at an event for bloggers hosted by AT&T in Centennial, CO.  I did not receive compensation to post this review, nor was I asked to do so.  All the views and opinions expressed here are my own. 

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I hope they say

IMG_9552* This post was written for Mother’s Day but alas, here we are a week later….

When I am gone and have left, I hope they say, “she was a good mom.” That is the only thing I hope they say.  Yes, I am ambitious, I am driven, I am successful in my career, and my profession, and I do so much.  Yes, I have made rank, earned a few accolades, received some awards, and traveled to far away lands.  I am told I am smart, motivated, driven, blah, blah, blah.  I am not sure if this is true.  But, I do not know if any of that matters.  So many women have made so many more sacrifices, so many women have done far more to make a difference in this world, to change the world.  I am not defined by my work and what I do, rather, I am defined by the choices I make, and the lives I have helped create, and the world I leave them behind in.  The world in which they can make a difference, the world I hope they can change, and ultimately, the world they can leave behind better than they found it.  This is what I hope they say.

I am defined by so much more.  I hope they say, “she was a good mom- she left behind these people who ultimately made a difference, who made the world a better place.”  Out of all the things they can say about me and who I am, I hope that is what they say.  Being a mom day in, day out, 24/7; nothing compares to this most important job in the world.  And, moms, don’t fret, you don’t have to be stay or work at home to know what a difference you are making daily.  Frankly, those who juggle the most often make the biggest impact.

Happy Mother’s Day 2014!  “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi

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Frontier Airlines Changes effective April 28, 2014

Thanks for the notice, Frontier… or not!  Here we go again.  The discount airline is now skimping and turning European on us.  But, I am not so sure the European airline model works in a country like ours that is so widespread from coast to coast.

I wrote about FRONTIER a couple of years back when Frontier first sent out some mass changes including charging for sodas, and bags.  Now, take it a step further.  All seats are either $3 or $5, but the last row is free.  Oh, thanks!  I also wrote another FRONTIER post a long time ago when they were previously owned by another company and were not assigning seats to us lowly Economy travelers.  Well, all that is out the airplane window now.  Now, you have to join some club and still pay $20 per carry on bag.  This would be for bags that go into the overhead compartment.  Otherwise, it is $25.  Even if you book on frontier.com, it is still $25!  You are still allowed one personal item.  Gee, thanks, Frontier.  No judgment on how big that “personal item” should be, right?  Wait for it… wait for it… there is.  The guidelines are on their website.  Make sure you measure before you go!  Also, you still pay for checked bags.  Annoyed yet?  It gets better.

Their entire program is overhauled and now, you do not even get a calendar when you try to book to use up those pesky miles/points you have built up over the years.  Yep!  You just get an error message that there is nothing available.  Try again and again, but their website is more frustrating than ever.  If flying the “friendly” skies wasn’t bad enough, another airline bites the dust.  The sad part for me is that they are still Denver-based and I live in Denver, so my choices are down to SOUTHWEST, SOUTHWEST, and SOUTHWEST.  That about sums it up for me.

Some more information for you to consider is in-flight meal/beverages.  They charge for everything and the TV isn’t free either.  Southwest has teamed up with Direct TV to give you some limited free TV  – super nice when you have kids in tow.  Buckle up folks, and enjoy the wild ride as you turn over your money with all the hidden charges and fees.  Sure, you may able to get a cheap flight to Omaha or a destination you can drive to, but be prepared to pay for everything – every single thing including choosing a seat.  Since normal seats are $3 per seat and some up front are $5, calculate that per person and then double it for a round trip.  And remember, deregulation of the Airline industry in the 70s permitted you, the consumer, one very important thing- CHOICE!  It’s time to exercise that choice.  In a free economy, all we have is our voice.  Exercise it and take your business elsewhere if you do not like this.  You are not tied to travel with them. Of course, I can’t say that I like very many airlines anyway.  Don’t even get me started on United – they are the worst airline I have ever flown and hope to never fly again.

In tough economy times, it is equally tough to find good deals on travel, and traveling shouldn’t have to be this hard or miserable.  While the discount model may work overseas where flights cross-country are 2 hours long, and cost 20 Euros round trip, it is tougher here in a country where we are so spread out we have no choice but to fly from city to city (often in the same state).   Good luck finding what works for you, and just say no to airlines that mistreat you, or that do not fit that mold.

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Carry Green, Jute Bags & More – A Review

20140411-191744.jpgI had the opportunity to try out Carry Green bags.*  Wow!  I am in awe!  I received the samples you see in the picture to the left, and below you can see how I use them.  Jute is burlap, and all the samples I received were made of jute- just different sizes.   These bags are Eco-friendly, and earth friendly.  I absolutely love them!  I have been using the Seebug Urchin Tote BagJUTE NAVY (Seebug Urchin Bucket Tote) bag pictured here.  It has a beautiful design and strong large handles and a zipper on the top to keep all my stuff inside and safe from falling in the car.  I have been using it for a week now to carry my laptop and work projects, and it has worked out beautifully.  These bags are strong!  I put a laptop, cords, and all sorts of projects in it and it has managed to not fall apart, or tear.  Unlike some of the reusable grocery bags you get for free, these bags are very sturdy and strong.   drawstring burlap smallI traveled last week and used the small burlap drawstring jute bag for my shoes.  There is a tie at the top so I could close it.  It worked out great, and everything stays in its place!20140411-191734.jpg

The wine bags are so cute, and if you give wine as a gift, these are great, and re-usable.  See mine pictured below.  This could possibly be my favorite, well, other than the Seebug Urchin Tote pictured to the right and above.  We took it to a friend’s house.  I actually wanted mine back though.  But, at carrygreen, you can buy in bulk, so you can have plenty on hand.  Imagine giving gifts in these bags instead of those not so sturdy paper bags you give gifts 20140411-210113.jpgin routinely.  You can put kids’ presents in them as well.  I love getting reusable totes with presents.  The paper ones simply do not compare.

20140411-210037.jpgAlso, you can put your groceries in them.  Here is a picture of the medium size jute burlap tote bags with groceries inside.  They are extremely sturdy and can hold a lot of groceries.  Then, the handles are very comfortable even on your shoulders.  They do not cut into your shoulder which is nice.

small gift toteI also tried out the small Jute burlap wedding party gift bag.  Of course, you don’t have to use it for a wedding gift, but you can get it printed with a logo or symbol too!  You can gift these, or use them to transport things.  My mom loves using small bags for when she goes to the store (in place of a purse) or just for an outing.  Whatever you choose to use them for, they are great bags.  For example, you can put snacks in it and head to the park.  Perfect size!

carrygreenlogoFor shopping, and groceries, or the beach or for fun, these bags are Eco-friendly, sturdy and quite nice to use.  Check out Carry Green today and let me know what you think.    You can order samples too, and then order in bulk.  Such a great find – I feel so lucky to get to try them out, and it’s something I believe in too – Eco, Earth-friendly reusable bags of all shapes, sizes, and purposes that look nice and last!  And bonus: All orders ship for free, and there is a sale going on right now so check out Carry Green.

 * DisclaimerI was offered free bags to review.  No other compensation was provided. All of the opinions expressed here are my own.

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