Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Feature: Disney's Memory Maker

**NOTE** None of the photos in this post have been edited.  They are exactly as the PhotoPass photographers took them with the exception of added borders and signatures.
 

For the past 3 Disney vacations we have purchased the Memory Maker, a photo package that includes all photos taken by the Photopass photographers at all the Disney parks and resorts, plus all of the ride photos.   It also gives you access to special borders, stickers and character signatures that can be added to your photos.  Considering that the cost of one photo download is $14.95 the Memory Maker can be an awesome deal as long as you use it wisely.

The first time we purchased the Memory Maker in December 2013 it was called something different, the Photopass+ but for simplicity sake I'll call them all the Memory Maker.  This photo package included a Memory Maker card that photographers used to upload our pictures, a CD with general Disney stock photos of all the parks and resorts, a CD of all of our photos plus the digital download, all for $149.  Our visit was during the holiday season so there were many Photopass photographers at the Disney resorts in addition to the ones at the parks.

PhotoPass+ picture with added signatures...
...compared to one taken with my personal camera (for free)
We had a total of 12 family members visiting Disney that year and some had their pictures taken by photographers elsewhere in the park.  Since I had the only Memory Maker card they received a generic one from each photographer and I was able to use the code on the back to upload their photos to my Memory Maker package.

After our trip I was able to go online and add some borders, stickers and character signatures to some of the best photos.  I especially loved the Christmas themed ones because this was our first trip to Disney World during the holiday season.  I received a CD copy of the pictures in the mail and made copies for the rest of the family.  During our first trip we got 184 photos in all.
A Disney stock photo that came with our first Memory Maker package
A Disney stock photo that came with our third Memory Maker package
The second time we purchased the Memory Maker was 5 months later when it had switched from being called PhotoPass+ to being called the Memory Maker.  We didn't receive a physical card in the mail, instead the photographers scanned our Magic Bands, nor did we receive a CD of Disney stock photos or a CD copy of our pictures (they were digital only).  Since everyone uses the Magic Bands there is no way for the photographers to tell that we had purchased (i.e. invested in) the Memory Maker.  I felt that with our previous visit the photographers made an extra effort to take decent quality pictures because we had the Memory Maker card.  This time around, however, our pictures weren't quite as nice and we only had 120 photos taken at the two parks we visited (we had a really rainy day at Epcot though).

Good photo: Everyone looking at the camera!
Bad photo: Poor lighting a little blurry
Good photo: Love the angle this photographer got on the picture
Bad photo: Clearly nobody was ready for the shot
This year I once again decided to purchase the Memory Maker, though the decision was a little more difficult to make.  I was concerned about getting poor quality pictures but ultimately decided to invest once again in the Memory Maker to ensure that we would get a few family photos.  Unfortunately the pre-purchase price had increased from $149 to $169 so I was determined to visit as many Photopass photographers as possible to really get our money's worth.
Good photo: A little dark but everyone is looking at the camera and smiling
Bad photo: Too dark and Brandon wasn't ready
This vacation was heavily focused on character meets but we also had our picture taken at other locations.  We asked about Magic Shots, special graphics that can be added to a photo after it's taken.  Each photographer can do different ones (almost all of them can do Tinkerbell) but don't forget to ask the photographer in Epcot's France about getting your picture taken with Chip.  That's the only location you can have it done!
A Magic Shot with Chip: My expression is over-the-top, Brandon and Stink's are indifferent
Although we managed to have 219 photos taken at the 2 parks we visited I was pretty disappointed in the quality of the pictures.  About half of them were scrapbook-worthy, and of those only about a dozen were truly awesome pictures.  Either the photographers aren't as skilled as they once were or they simply don't care enough.  Many pictures had spots on them, were in terrible lighting, or were taken when we weren't looking at the camera.
Good photo: A very sweet one of Stink and Goofy
Bad photo: Nobody was ready
Good photo: A great example of a Magic Shot...with a toddler!
Bad photo: Just accept the fact that the indoor pictures will be dark
The Verdict:  We've purchased the Memory Maker 3 times but would I purchase it again?  Only for special trips, not an annual vacation.  Brandon and I recently purchased a set of 10-Day Non-Expiring Disney tickets so we have a few more trips to take.  We might purchase it again once during those next few trips.  For other visitors I would only recommend getting the Memory Maker under certain circumstances: 1) if you plan to use it at more than 3 parks, 2) if you plan to go on the rides that include ride photos, especially the Seven Dwarves Mine Train which includes a video instead a photo, or 3) if it's a very special once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disney.  If you're only going to a few parks then skip the expensive Memory Maker and ask the photographer to use your camera instead.  They will gladly do this for free.

Tips and Tricks:  Don't rely on the photographers alone for your vacation photos, especially if there is a special character or photo spot that is important to you.  During our first vacation we had a large group photo at the 'Ohana breakfast, the ONLY group photo of our entire vacation, and it was lost by the Photopass photographers.  We were assured that it would show up in my account within a few hours so we didn't bother to group everyone back together for another photo.  Big mistake!

Also, the secret to getting good photos with the Memory Maker is quantity because quality is no guarantee.  One photographer in front of the castle might be inexperienced so have your picture taken by 2 or 3 different photographers along Main Street, and at different times of the day.

Review your photos at the end of each day.  It's easy to sort through your Memory Maker photos.  The pictures are divided by park tabs at the top and then within each park it's divided by times and meets.  For example we have "8:07 am Visiting Stitch" listed first under our Magic Kingdom tab.  When reviewing the pictures daily it's easier to spot missing pictures and sometimes a phone call to the Memory Maker customer service representatives can help retrieve those missing photos.

Memory Maker editing screen

When editing your photos keep in mind that the Memory Maker site has an auto-save feature.  If you don't like the changes click the button "Revert to Original" before moving to the next photo, or click the "Make a Copy" button before you make any changes to begin with.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Feature: U.S. Capitol Tours, Washington, D.C.

I just want to preface this post by saying this was supposed to be about touring the White House and U.S. Capitol.  Unfortunately we never made it inside the White House.  After walking a mile and half in mid-December with a toddler and no juice, stroller, diapers or snacks we were turned away at the gate because I had brought my purse.  I was pissed, mostly at myself for forgetting to leave it at the hotel.  Brandon offered to take Stink back to the hotel with my purse while I went inside but by then I was too angry and we took the bus back.  This was one of the reasons why D.C. has been my least favorite vacation so far. But I digress.

One of the perks about visiting Washington D.C. is that almost all the attractions are free, including tours to see the White House and U.S. Capitol.  Simply send an email to your Congressman/woman and let them know the dates you will be in town (they'll need other personal information as well to book your tour).  Our Congressman (actually his assistant) was able to give us a tour date for the US Capitol right away but it wasn't until about 2 weeks before our trip that we were given the date and time for our White House tour.  The U.S. Capitol tour was at 3:20 in the afternoon which I thought was great because the afternoons are when Stink is most active and well-behaved.  It turns out that 3:20 is the very last of the tour times and because of this we were rushed through the whole thing.

Outside the Capitol building, right where you take the elevators for the tour
The entrance for the tours is located behind the Capitol building, on the opposite side of the National Mall.  A wide walkway has elevators on opposite sides that take you down to the first level, or you can take the stairs.  After going through a security check we went indoors to present our reservation tickets.  Unlike at the White House we were permitted to bring a very compact bag for Stink and even her stroller.  I also brought my camera as photos are permitted at the U.S. Capitol (but only in December for the White House).

Capitol Building Visitor Information Center
The tour starts off with a 13-minute introductory film.  Disabled persons and parents with strollers are taken up an elevator to a balcony where they can view the film.  Afterwards the group is divided up between 3 or 4 guides for a 45-minute guided tour.  Our group consisted of about 10 people.  Everyone is given a set of headphones that is connected to their guide so that they may hear what they're saying without the guide having to shout.  Genius!

Our guide's name was...hell, I don't even know because he talked so fast.  This was partially because he was just a fast talker in general but also because he admitted that we were the last group of the day and we could either get a thorough tour but not see as much or we could get the quick and dirty.
The old Supreme Court Chamber
A statue of Roger Sherman, first mayor of New Haven, CT

Guide NoName took us through multiple rooms, showed us a spot where George Washington was supposed to be buried but never was, pointed out various statues and artwork and showed us the beautiful dome which was still is under construction.  By the way, did you know that they're going to be electrifying the dome to keep the birds from shitting on it?  Seems like the wrong way to go about it, doesn't it?  I mean, wouldn't the electric zap just scare the shit right out of them?  Digressing again.  Back on track.

The spot where George Washington was supposed to be buried
I honestly do not remember much from our tour (except the bird shitting thing, obviously) and we were all so rushed that we weren't given time to ask questions before the tour was over and we were literally escorted out the door.  One thing that did stick with me was the history of the frieze, the panoramic artwork inside the dome that depicts 19 scenes of major events in American history.  The giant paintings and statues in the dome also match many of the scenes sculpted in the frieze.
The dome under construction
A portion of the frieze
The Verdict:  I wouldn't really want to do this more than once but I really feel that I need to visit again in order to fully enjoy the experience of seeing the Capitol.  Though by the time we make it back Stink will be out of the stroller which will allow us to finally see the galleries!

When to Visit: If you're given the 3:20 pm reservation time I really recommend asking for an earlier tour.  If that's not possible then try arriving about an hour or two early so you have to visit the gift shop and check out the Senate and House galleries before your tour begins.  You will not have time to visit these places after a 3:20 tour.

What To Bring: You can bring a camera, small bag and stroller on the tour but these items are not permitted in the Senate and House galleries.  We had brought food and juice for Stink for our trip to the Smithsonians but by the time our Capitol tour came she had eaten everything.  Food and drink are not allowed on the tour.

Child Friendly?  Older kids will enjoy visiting the Capitol, especially if they are studying American history.  Toddlers like Stink, though, wouldn't find any interest in this so it's best completed during naptime.

Pet Friendly?  No

Monday, March 16, 2015

Finalized Itinerary for Europe

With less than 2 months until we leave for Europe I'm proud to say that everything in our schedule is finalized. Our train ticket from Munich to Paris was booked this past week but that's the only public transportation that I'm booking ahead of time. I'm childishly excited to be traveling by train and even decided to splurge the extra 30 euros for first class seats. Our only activity that we pre-booked was our combination tickets to Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles, the rest we will buy once we get there. So without further ado, here is our finalized itinerary for Europe:

Iceland
Hallgrimskirkja Church, Reykjavik.  Image courtesy of Trey Ratcliff via Flickr Creative Commons
Day 1
Arrive in Keflavik at 6 am. Pick up rental car at 7 am. Quick breakfast and spend a few hours at Blue Lagoon. Check into Hotel Laxnes in the afternoon. Shop at Alafoss Wool Store. Overnight in Mosfellsbaer.

Day 2
Day trip to Reykjavik. Visit Hallgrimskirkja Church and Laugardalur zoo. Eat hotdogs at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. Stay a second night in Mosfellsbaer.

Day 3
Take a drive around the Golden Circle. Stop at Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, Gulfoss Falls and Skalholtkirkja church. Stop for lunch and ice cream at Efsti-Dalur Restaurant. Stay a third night in Mosfellsbaer.


Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle.  Image courtesy of R*** via Flickr Creative Commons
Day 4
Leave for Munich at 7:30 am, arrive at 1 pm. Check into Hilton Hotel Munich Park. Spend the afternoon walking around English Garden (Munich's Central Park). Overnight in Munich.

Day 5
Meet my penpal and her son for a day trip to Munich Zoo (Hellabrunn Tierpark). Stay a second night in Munich.

Day 6
Spend the day around Munich city centre. Visit Marienplatz and watch the Glockenspiel play. Shop around Viktualienmarkt and pick up snacks for the train ride to Neuschwanstein. Have a meal at the Hofbrauhaus. Stay a third night in Munich.

Day 7
Leave at 10 am for a day trip to Fussen. Arrive at noon. Visit Hohenschwangau Castle at 2 pm and Neuschwanstein Castle at 4 pm. Eat dinner and shop around Fussen. Take 7 pm train back to Munich and arrive at 9 pm. Stay a fourth night in Munich.


Austria (Day Trip)
Salzburg, Austria.  Image courtesy of Diego Cambiaso via Flickr Creative Commons
Day 8
Leave at 9:30 am for a day trip to Salzburg. Arrive at 11 am. Visit Salzburg Fortress and Altstadt (Old Town) for shopping. Leave at 5 pm for Munich and arrive at 6:30 pm. Stay a fifth night in Munich.


France
Eiffel Tower across the Seine.  Image courtesy of Jiuguang Wang via Flickr Creative Commons

Day 9
Leave at 10:30 am for Paris. Arrive at 4:30 pm. Check into Les Toits de Paris B&B. Stay overnight in Paris.

Day 10
Take a cruise on the River Seine. Picnic and shopping around the Eiffel Tower. Stay a second night in Paris.

Day 11
Walk around Île de la Cité area. Visit Notre-Dame cathedral and Shakespeare and Company bookstore.  Play in Luxembourg Gardens until Stink naps, then visit Orsay Museum. Stay a third night in Paris.

Day 12
Check out of B&B and leave for home.


This itinerary isn't nearly as chock-full as our usual vacations are but then again we never had a Stink to accommodate so I think that with a toddler we have the perfect balance of busy and relaxing days. I still need to research places to eat in Salzburg and Paris but if I don't get around to it then we can always find a random cafe. My main reason for wanting to research restaurants is to find family-friendly establishments. But other than that it looks like the itinerary is done and all that's left is to look forward to our trip!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Feature: Duolingo App

I'm constantly trying out new apps, especially free ones, but many tend to be glitchy and disorganized.  Over the past year I've been trying to find some travel related apps and one that I came across was the free Duolingo app.

The Duolingo app is a foreign language app that's actually intended for kids but the owl mascot looked adorable so I thought I'd give it a try.  The app includes 9 languages to learn: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish and Swedish.  I started with German but then had the grand idea of adding French which thus far has turned out to be a miserable failure.  It turns out that French is a REALLY hard language for me to learn.  I mean, "enfant" (child) and "enfants" (children) are pronounced exactly the same! So for the purposes of this post I'm going to stick with the easier German language.

No matter what language you choose to learn the Duolingo app is set up in the same manner.  There are various "courses" each with 2-6 lessons to be learned.  Each lesson focuses on a group of words to learn before moving on to a new lesson.  Mastering a full course opens up a new one.  Basics 1 and 2 come first, followed by courses like Phrases, Food, Animals, etc.  Right now I'm studying Plurals and Adjectives but the Travel category is a full 14 courses away, down in the more advanced section of the app.  I fear I won't reach that level before our trip in May but at least at I can say "The fly is eating the bread" in German.  Totally useful, right?










There are various ways that the Duolingo app teaches a foreign language, all of which are easy and fun.  There are matching games, translation typing, speaking via your tablet's microphone and sentence completion.  Each lesson has 20 questions and at the beginning of them you start out with 3 red hearts.  If you get a question wrong you lose a heart.  Lose all 3 hearts and you have to start the lesson over.  Keep all 3 hearts and you earn Lingots, Duolingo currency that you can use to buy snazzy outfits for your owl or to unlock special lessons for your language.  I unlocked the Idioms lesson for German but idioms are a little difficult to understand for a foreign language and I haven't managed to complete the course yet.

I don't practice nearly as often as I should
Duolingo Shop

The Verdict:  The Duolingo app really is a must-have for your traveling needs, whether it's for you or your kids.  The food course is one of the first ones offered so it makes ordering at a restaurant much easier and locals always appreciate it when you try to speak their language.  The only disappointment is that courses that are important to me like "Numbers" and "Travel" are waaaay down the course list and will take forever to reach.  It seems to me that "Numbers" should be ranked much closer to the top as its one of the basic things you need to know when traveling abroad.  Also, while it rocks that this app is free I do wish they would offer additional languages for purchase.  Perhaps Mandarin Chinese or Icelandic?  Considering the popularity of this app I wouldn't be surprised to see them offer new language options in the future.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

So There's This Conference...

I always felt that I was a bubbly, outgoing person, at least throughout high school and college.  But as adult I've found myself to be much more of an introvert.  Maybe I was just faking it when I was a teenager, trying to be someone that I'm not.  Small groups are fine for me but I always end up being a wallflower at large parties, especially if I don't know anyone.  So it took quite a big of courage, riding on a huge wave of impulse, to register for my very first conference, the Women in Travel Summit being held in Boston at the end of this month. 

I found out about this conference through Ashley from Under the Ash Tree.  I've always wanted to attend a blog conference and this one just seemed to be the perfect one for a first-timer like me.  I mean, a travel blogging conference FOR women that's only 2 hours away?!  It would be absurd to pass up an opportunity like this.

But then there's the little introvert problem.  After registering for the conference and booking my hotel I had a slight panic attack.  What if I don't learn anything useful while I'm there?  What if I don't form any lasting relationships with other bloggers?  What if I discover that my writing is even more terrible than I think it is?  What if the whole weekend just ends up feeling like an awkward blind date? 

But then I have to my mom has to give me a little boost of confidence and say What if I learn of ton of new tips to help improve my blog?  What if I meet a lot of new people and make friendships that last a lifetime?  What if my writing just needs a few tweaks to make it better?  What if the whole weekend ends up being a blast?

So from March 27-29th you will find me with 300 other like-minded ladies in Boston, participating in writing workshops, hearing stories from other travel bloggers and networking with dozens of companies.  I'm extremely nervous and excited all at the same time.


Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday Feature: Imagine Nation Children's Museum, Bristol, CT

February's 12 Trips in 12 Months was a quick day trip to the Imagine Nation Children's Museum in Bristol, CT.  I had been wanting to check out this place for a while so when a Groupon became available at half the price of regular admission I snatched it up.  Unfortunately due to the bad weather in Connecticut I literally waited until the last week to redeem my Groupon to go there.  I'm a procrastinator at heart.

Bristol is in central Connecticut, southwest of the capital of Hartford.  The museum is located on the corner of a main road and a quiet residential street.  We had a hard time finding parking with all the snow buildup, ultimately parking on the residential street.  Apparently there was a parking lot available but there was no sign to indicate it and it was down another street before we reached the museum so we missed the turn.

The entrance to the museum includes a lobby area with seating, a coat rack, gift shop and old fashioned soda fountain bar that serves ice cream as well as kid-friendly lunches like chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.  Our Groupon was for 4 admissions for $14, reasonably priced, but there were only 3 of us and since the Groupon only allows for one visit we didn't get the use of the 4th admission.  Still, we saved $16 considering regular priced admission is $10 per person (children under 1 get in free).

Floor 1 of the museum has a large food-themed play area in the center.  There's a kitchen, dining area, market stand, and fake cow that you can milk (or ride, as in Stink's case).  There's also a Science and Energy area which was a little too advanced for Stink, although she really enjoyed playing with the "dragonsaurs" in a giant box filled with wood chips.  There was a pen with 2 friendly bunnies under the staircase but a sign said they were available for adoption so I don't think they are a permanent exhibit.
Science and Energy Area
Dinosaur Pit

Petting the friendly bunnies
Cooking in the play kitchen

Floor 2 has a lot more exhibits.  There is a very nice water play area with a coat rack full of raincoats for the kids to wear.  Children can stand inside a hoop and surround themselves in a large bubble or play a fishing game in the water table.  There is also a chalkboard wall and cups filled with water for water painting.  There's a medical-themed play area with a dentist's chair, a huge kaleidoscope and a Pinterest-worthy Light Bright on the wall that both Brandon and Stink enjoyed.
Water Play area
Protecting our kiddo by sticking her in a bubble...forever

Playing doctor
I could use one of these for our house

Some of the room exhibits on Floor 2 include the greenhouse, a warm sunny room filled with tanks of reptiles and insects and western-themed play clothes.  There is also a multi-cultural room filled with books, toys and dress-up clothes from various parts of the world.  There's also a lot of musical instruments in this room and I think Stink tried every one of them out.  Floor 2 also has a stage for performances, large foam blocks and a very nice arts and crafts center.  Stink created a lovely masterpiece with feathers, plastic flowers and leaves which we left on a drying rack until we were ready to pick it up. 
Creating a masterpiece
Push a button and hear the word "Hello" spoken in different languages

Beating on a drum

The Imagine Nation's website boasts 3 floors of interactive play but really it's just 2.  The top floor is nothing more than a catwalk that leads to a little broadcasting station (the same thing you can visit on Floor 2) and a large tire.  Pretty disappointing but they said they were raising money to add new exhibits.

Now for the complaints.  Imagine Nation only has one unisex bathroom per floor and every time I walked by there was a line.  I eventually discovered a men's restroom on the first floor near the preschool classrooms but couldn't find the women's and just gave up and waited my turn in line at the unisex.  Also, one of the things I always bemoaned about KidCity Children's Museum were the cramped tiny rooms for playing but after having been to Imagine Nation I now see why they set things up the way they did.  At Imagine Nation almost all the play areas are open spaces and the echoes from children running and screaming can get pretty loud.  Frankly I felt quite a bit of pity for the rabbits and birds that were part of the exhibits at the museum.  Parking was another issue for me.  There were no clear signs for museum parking so we ended up on a residential side street where we were promptly asked to move our car because one of the homeowners was moving.  Even they couldn't give suggestions on where else to park.

The Verdict:  With Imagine Nation being $2 more per person than KidCity plus 15 minutes further from our house I doubt we will visit again.  The Groupon was a good deal but without it I would never pay $10 a person to visit.  There are plenty of other exciting things to do in Connecticut.

How To Get There: Imagine Nation is on the corner of Pleasant Street (residential) and Church Street (main) in Bristol, CT.  Their parking lot is accessible on the next residential street over, Upson Street.

What To Bring: You can bring a bag lunch and eat in the lobby if you choose but no food or drink is allowed in the museum.  There wasn't enough space to hang our coats so we had to carry them around in our backpack which I'm glad we brought!

Child Friendly?  Imagine Nation is good for kids who enjoy science, animals, imaginative play and arts and crafts.  There are more exhibits here for older kids than at KidCity but is still good for toddler-age children.

Pet Friendly?  No

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Travel Updates and Other Random Thoughts

Between planning two major vacations and my 12 Trips in 12 Months adventures my mind tends to get a little jumbled.  That's why I love my blog so much.  It gives me a chance to purge my thoughts out on screen and years from now I can go back and read my old posts to help me plan future trips.
  • Ever since Disney announced that starting February 21st they will no longer be offering non-expiring tickets I've been considering buying a set for our family.  There were still some available on sites like Undercover Tourist but at $750 for a 10-day Parkhopper ticket it's been difficult for me to click that mouse to actually purchase them.  So instead I opened up a new credit card with a $400 sign-up bonus.  I told myself if the tickets are still available by the time the card comes in the mail then I'll buy them.  If not, well it just wasn't meant to be.  Well it turns out the 10-Day Parkhoppers are gone and all that's left are 5- and 6-day tickets.  Not sure what I'm going to do about that now.
  • Speaking of Disney, I've finally booked all my dining reservations, signed up for our Fastpasses and scheduled our days at the parks down to the half-hour.  Yea, I'm one of those detailed planners but at least it will ensure we're not wasting our Fastpasses on rides that don't have long wait times or we're needlessly criss-crossing the parks 5 times in one day.  Our vacation is going to be heavily centered on character meets and family-friendly rides though I do plan to take our little thrill seeker on her first roller coaster ride, The Barnstormer. 
My crazy detailed Epcot itinerary
  • Our second set of Magic Bands just arrived in the mail today, woo hoo!  Did you know that you get a free set of Magic Bands every time you stay at a Disney resort?  We received our first set in 2013 while staying at Old Key West and I just assumed that would be the only ones we would get.  Luckily they send out new sets because Brandon's band was starting to fray around the edges.  The old and new bands will work interchangeably so we can bring both sets with us if we want.  We plan to leave Stink's at home since she doesn't need them yet. 
I would love it if Disney had a purple option for Magic Bands
  • Our European vacation is pretty much settled as well but I'm waiting on my new credit card to arrive to book our train tickets.  We are renting a car in Iceland but for our stay in Germany and France we'll be relying solely on public transportation.  Aside from using the Metro North to get to New York City I've never used the train to get anywhere and I'm really looking forward to the mountain scenery of Bavaria, especially on our trip to Salzburg.  However I find myself not really thinking about our trip that much.  It might be because I'm so nervous about how Stink will do, especially on the flights.  Last year she was such a mellow baby but this year we have a full-blown toddler whose attitude can change at the drop of a hat.    
  • I REALLY need to start planning our route around the Golden Circle in Iceland, especially since we won't be renting a GPS with our rental car.  Don't be surprised if I forget to write this week's Friday Feature.  I'll probably be perusing Pinterest all week for some Icelandic travel inspiration.
  • I received an email this morning that I had won a $100 Visa giftcard through a giveaway that Adventures by Daddy was hosting in conjunction with Enterprise Rent-a-Car.  How's that for luck?!  
  •  For all my upcoming vacations I'm really hoping to improve the quality of my photography so I've been reading the book "Better Photo Basics" by Jim Miotke.  It's pretty easy to understand for beginners like me.  One of the "assignments" listed in the book is to take pictures of a bunch of flowers using the macro setting on our camera.  What do you think of my work?
Original photo
With auto-editing from PicMonkey