DragonCon 2017, from a newbie

DragonCon, it’s every type of convention rolled into one.

DragonCon, my uncle calls it Nerd Fest,  it is a nerd fest.

DragonCon,  Labor Day weekend in Atlanta –  just go!

Now that I have persuaded you to attend let me tell you what to expect (I would love to say let me prepare you, but there really is no way to prepare.)

There will be Star Wars, Star Trek, SciFi, live action roll play, anime, Harry Potter, epic heroes and villains, celebrities, wackos, geeks, nerds and anything else your mind can conjure.  I guarantee  a huge crowd no matter where you look. Just envision 82 thousand people dressed up as their favorite fictional characters,  that’s what it looks like.   To many activities to pick from, there will be celebrity panels, workshops, photo/autograph sessions, a parade and the most magnificent people watching.  As a newbie I was overwhelmed.

So what did my husband and I end up doing? We saw panels with cast members from Firefly, Battle Star Galactica, Dr Who and ST Next Gen to name a few.  Went to the parade, which people started lining up to see two hours before it started.  By the time the parade got going the route was five people deep on the sidewalks.  Huge shout out to the Atlanta police by the way.  We went to costume night at the Atlanta aquarium dressed as Kaylee and Jayne from Firefly, used  it as an opportunity to catch up with a local friend, she even came dressed as River.

I think my favorite thing was the people watching – it really was monumental.


If you are ever in Pittsburgh….

It’s that time on my blog again where I get all gushy mushy about visiting the Phipps.  The current installation titled Super Natural is by artist Jason Gamrath. It consists of huge glass and metal orchids, pitcher plants and venus fly traps intermingled through the greenhouse rooms for a  brilliant display of color and texture.  Disclaimer – lots of photos ahead.

The breathtaking instillation wasted no time getting starting with these 12 foot sculptures.

Flanked by potted white orchids this piece truly was super natural in the main greenhouse.

Giant pitcher plants line the greenhouse leading to the orchid room.

In addition to the feature exhibit the Phipps itself looked spectacular, the ever changing scene lends this feeling of experiencing it for the first time every time.
They even cultivate all their own orchids, cherry picking the very best for the orchid room.

I loved the delicate details on this one.

Pitcher plants tucked in the ferns.  It’s always a toss up when I ask myself which room is my favorite; orchid or fern.   One is bustling with color, the other like some lush oasis.

The butterfly room was all a flutter none of them sitting still for a photo. Yes cheesy, I know – but at least I’m owning it.

My favorite of all the giant orchid sculptures was this orange one nestled in the corner of the butterfly room.  Like a little, or great big, surprise when I walked around the corner.  I hope they get to keep it!

More orchids that speak to the name of the exhibit – Super Natural.

I wish I had a better picture of this one where the deep purple and white flecks were noticeable.

Giant waterlily. Interesting – One of the first exhibits in this very greenhouse, dating back to 1895, featured giant amazonian lily pads.  There is even a picture of a girl in Victorian dress standing on one!

About ten years ago there was another glass sculpture instillation by artist Chihuly, the Phipps managed to acquire some of the pieces.  One of my favorites – the “swirly purples”, as I like to call them, are tucked into a defunct old fountain in the fruit and spice room.

The Dessert Gold Star hangs just inside the entrance to the dessert room.     I always wonder how they clean it, I mean seriously.

 If ever you are in Pittsburgh go visit the Phipps.  As you can see the well maintained Victorian greenhouse and grounds are nothing short of amazing.

Want to learn more about the fascinating history behind this Victorian greenhouse? Even see the picture of the girl standing on the lily pad.   Check here.

Even better, want to take a virtual tour?  Check this page out!

Let me know what you think, I would love to hear if any of you have visited the Phipps yourself!

Jeep Invasion!

When I say Butler is a small town in western PA, I do mean a small town.   One main drag, a couple of stop lights and small mostly family owned businesses dot the downtown.  Just a mile outside of this metropolis it’s a landscape of farmland and old homesteads.

Butler holds one great secret – it’s the birthplace of the Jeep.   Every June all the little Jeeps come to pay their respects at the Bantam Jeep festival.  There is a multitude of activities for Jeep owners to participate in to flex their Jeep muscles.  I had the opportunity to attend the Jeep Invasion, and it really is like an invasion this small town; absolutely astonishing how many of one badge can find their way together.  We all know I’m a ford truck girl, but yea – this was cool.

Jeeps lining Main Street and still pouring in.
This is what i think of when I think Jeep.
Still pouring in.
Even the side streets were being used this year.

Unravel My Travel – South Dakota

I am admittedly a little late in posting this since our trip was in October, but South Dakota was great none the less.

The two big attractions that fueled our travel choice were Mount Rushmore and The Badlands, however we were pleasantly surprised with everything the area offered.  Most notably was Devil’s Tower, a little over an hour drive from our hotel in Deadwood it was an easy day trip.   At the visitor center we walked up a steep path to the base of the tower, and then followed a fairly flat paved trail around the base.  The views were spectacular, and no we did not have any close encounters.

Devil’s Tower

Also notable; steam engine rides, The Blackhills, Crazy Horse, greasy dinners for breakfast, old cemeteries and cave walks.

It was a long days travel from the southern east coast to get there but well worth the trip.

Mount Rushmore
The Badlands

Unravel My Travel – Visiting the Phips, Again!

I love visiting the Phipps, its probably my favorite place in Pittsburgh.  Its like being transported to a rain forest, Victorian greenhouse, spice grove and Japanese garden all in one afternoon. Last year in August ( late on this post I know) I was so excited to share it with my husband.  The shutter bug took 1600 photos.  I’m serious, my finger gets a cramp just thinking of it.  So no more yammering on about how awesome it was.  Here are a few photos to prove it.

Oh and this great picture I took of my parents super cool cat, Buddy.  He was eating ants???? 

Unravel my Travel – Guest post

KC is a college student who loves to travel and is enthusiastic about doing it on a budget!

He has traveled Europe several times and done so on a college student dime.  He also shared with me that she can do it with ten pounds of luggage!  I don’t think even my purse weighs less than ten pounds!  So, when He asked to share some travel tips I said “yes please!”.   Be sure to check out the link to his blog after the article, He just got back from Europe!  Enjoy!

Top 5 Travel Tips
Traveling around the world is a wonderful experience that can have a lasting effect on your life. Whether you taste a pastry in Paris or a new brew in Germany, traveling can be a rewarding way to spend your time off. There are many beautiful countries to visit and it doesn’t matter which ones you stop by but we recommend that you get out there and see a few. Go ahead; take a vacation, you deserve it. To help you get wherever you need to go, here’s a list of savvy tips to get you on your feet.
  1. Book your trip in advance.
    1. The beginning of any vacation is the plane ticket. The best time to buy a plane ticket is two to three months before your vacation actually starts. Once you buy your ticket, be sure to continue to watch ticket prices because most airlines will give you a better rate if one arises.
  2. Be sure to finance your trip properly-especially for a family vacation.
    1. Do some research and educate yourself about your financial options that are available to you and your family. There are many travel rewards programs through banks, which can be helpful. If you cannot put money down on your vacation, this might be a viable option for you. Finances can be the most stressful part of your life, why worry about that that during your vacation away from stress?
  3. Sleep somewhere outside the city.
    1. If you plan to tour a big city, then be prepared to pay big hotel bills. This is fine if you’re a city-person; personally, I try finding a smaller bed and breakfast outside the city limits. It’s always a little quieter and less damaging to my wallet. Plus, this way I can relax and see how the culture really is and not just how commercial cities look and feel.
  4. Utilize technology, it’ll save you a few dollars and a few headaches.
    1. Everyone has a smart phone these days, why not use it correctly? There are thousands of (free) travel apps, which help plan and organize your vacations. Planning to take a lot of pictures? Upload pictures to an online sharing platform for free in case your camera breaks or is stolen. Family and friends back home can look through these pictures without you and your family being smeared all over Facebook. This is a much safer and more personal way to share pictures with the ones you love.
  5. Flexibility is crucial for any trip abroad.
    1. Nothing is more frustrating than having to follow strict guidelines. Relax. You’re on vacation to enjoy yourself, remember? Make sure you stop and take the time to browse through markets, walk through parks and pose for memorable pictures.
KC Owens has written and submitted this article. KC is a college student who loves traveling, college life, fitness and a good survival kit. He enjoys studying different cultures, meeting new people and leaving his footprint somewhere most people only read about.

Unravel my Travel – Disney’s Wild Africa Trek

Unravel My Travel Wild Africa
Disclaimer – this post is all nerded out with animal facts. 
Un-ravel my travel.   There are so many things that I could say were amazing about my trip to Disney.    I have probably been asked the most “how was the wild Africa trek?”  So I decided to share my experience for this unravel my travel blog.   
We arrived at the Animal Kingdom Park before it opened, and were met by our guides at the gate.  Once everyone had gathered we walked back through the park, signed a few waivers and headed down to get into our gear.  The gear was a vest body harness combination with an umbilical cord elastic do dad off the back.   Group Shot!  There was one other guy in the group but he didn’t want to be photographed.  Tim said the guy must be in witness protection.  


From there we moved to the back of the park where the head of the foot trail started.   Although they weren’t actually on the trek we did encounter yellow basket weaver birds.  They were fearless playing chicken as they swooped past.   
After one of our guides, Mark, checked for snakes we were off on our adventure.  The foot trail was narrow so we walked single file and had in ear monitors to hear our guides.   The first thing we saw was the Meerkat.  They each have their own job; this one was the lookout with his nose in the air, sniffing for passersby.   

We walked a little further on and met up with the hippo expert.  Our “cords” were attached to an over head track that allowed us primo unencumbered viewing of the hippo having a snack.    I learned they don’t use those front teeth for chewing but for defense, and their bite strength exceeds that of a crocodile. 
big teeth!

 From there we moved on to the swinging foot bridge reminiscent of the last scene in Temple of Doom, (“Indy, cover your heart!”).  The second stretch of the bridge was over the crocs.  They were very chill but something tells me they would have been happy to snack on me if I fell in.  

that would be me…looking down at the crocodiles
 More bridge pictures, it kinda was a big thing

Then our “cords” were once again attached to an over head track and we were lead past the enclosure walls to look at the crocodiles.  I learned that the white spots seen on many of their backs were actually exposed bone and part of their great body armor.  Also, this group had been raised together since the 70’s and brought to the park shortly after it opened in the late 90’s.  How cool, litter mates.  

From here it was a short walk to the African savannah, were our special trek vehicle waited.  We took off our vest/harness, were given a cool towel and climbed aboard.  This is the same area that the regular Kilimanjaro Safari ride takes park guests except we were free to off road a little and take our time. 
From the vehicle we saw lots of roan antelopes.  These were all females and I learned that the matriarchal female actually controls the breeding of the other females.  

At some point this matriarchal female on the reserve had an infection that took one of her horns.  The caretakers were concerned that if she lost both her horns or died the replacement female would not be as generous in allowing the others to breed.   Thus, dwindling the heard and the breeding program.   So they took action by treating the infection and reinforcing her remaining horn.  

Armed with our mighty trek vehicle we continued through the savannah.  We saw lots and lots of giraffes and the elephants.  Similar to how they would in the wild the elephants have separated into two families and occupied separate sections of the park.  
 We then proceeded to our lunch destination which boasted 360 views of the savannah and a potty break! The African inspired meal was supplied by the “Tusker House” and included lots of yummies.    

Then we loaded back up into our truck and set out again.  We encountered a white rhino that didn’t really want to move out of the road.  

Also there were cheetahs and an ostrich.  The interesting thing about this ostrich is it’s a female with male coloration.  After the male had been separated from the females this one took on the male coloring.    Apparently it’s the males’ job to sit on the nest at night and that is why their coloring is dark.  As opposed to the female which is typically a light brown.  Pretty neat, huh?  I told you it was going to be all nerded out with animal facts.  
Then we made our way back through savannah to where we had started from.  A few more pictures and the quick opportunity to say good bye to our guides and we were almost done.  One of the impressive things about the entire experience was the conservations global efforts.  We were given the opportunity to choose a cause where we wanted a portion of our tickets to go.   

In closing it was a wonderful experience, we came away with tons of pictures, and even more memories.  Thanks for making it to the end of my journey recount with me. 

You can read more about the Disney Wildlife Conservation work here.
Book your tickets for the tour here.   

What I learned at Disney

Well its true Disney World really is the happiest place on earth.  I went, I saw, I conquered lots of pavement and had a blast doing it.  Little did I know that the trip was going to turn into and educational experience.  With that I give you the list of things I learned in Disney. 
I am still capable of squealing like a five year old when Cinderella waves at me.
“Its boring but it has AC”, is the last thing you utter when walking into the bear jamboree. 
Expect to be humming the carousel of tomorrow’s theme song for many days to come.
Multiple trips through pirates of the Caribbean is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.
After several hours of the Florida sun, Spanish on the monorail announcement is funny.
Strollers make un predictable sudden stops, however if you have to get behind someone pushing a stroller make sure its a man.  Dads stop for nothing, they just keep pushing the stroller.
Watch for the grumpy lady on the hover round. 
If they look like they smell bad, they probably do. 

Unravel my Travel

 I forgot to post my parks and rec Pittsburgh unravel my travel blog.   This was suppose to go up months ago.  Oh well carry on.

Unravel my Travel: Pittsburgh and vicinity
Disclaimer: Truthfully its Butler and vicinity but no one knows where that is.  Butler is where my parents live, a small country town outside of Pittsburgh.  Travel south towards Pittsburgh and there are museums, restaurants and sightseeing.  Move away from the hustle and bustle there are some of the most beautiful parks and trails.  The purpose of this travel blog is to highlight what I have experienced and enjoy about the area. I hope you enjoy while I unravel my travel.
Parks and Rec
State Parks
If you head Northwest of Butler, away from the Pittsburgh area, there are beautiful places to see and visit.  My father’s favorite is Maurine State Park.  With thousands of acres of woods, the approximately 3300 acre Lake Author and miles of trails he describes it as his own private park.  The focal point, Lake Arthur is the product of ancient glacial activity and a man made dam.  They only allow small boat motors on the lake so its very quiet and the marina is filled with sail boats and pontoon boats.  There are so many miles of shore line anyone can find a quiet place to fish or relax.

Pennsylvania is filled with many railroads that were used during coal mining and when steel production was high.  Eventually these rails have been retired and turned into beautiful walking and biking trails.  Several summers ago we visited Sandy Creek Trail, south of Pittsburgh it was quite a drive from my parent’s house but well worth the trip.   The trail boasts the Belmar Bridge and its spectacular view of the Alleghany river.  Tim and dad walked far enough in to see the Deep Valley Tunnel while mom and I preferred to venture off the trail a little and play in the creek.

The most recent time I visited my parents we went for a little adventure in the Allegheny River with my aunt and uncle.  The initial intention was to go tubing on the river but, everyone was worried that my delicate southern nature would be too cold in the river.  Instead we parked at the head of a trail, walked down along the river bank to a shallow spot to go wading.  Much more fun than our muddy river here in Wilmington.  There were all kinds of funky creatures lurking under the rocks.  With a little cheerleading from my Aunt, I even caught my first crayfish.

In closing there is so much to do in Pennsylvania and I have only hit the tip of the iceberg offered in this area.  There are more trails, museums and events to explore.   I hope you enjoyed my compilation of visits.  If you have visited something interesting in the area I would love to hear about it.  It’s never too soon to start planning my next visit.

References, Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources