Old Car City

Well, the year of 2017 found me twice in this gem of a place in the middle of nowhere in White, Georgia. It is a true photographer’s heaven, especially if you love old cars, junkyards, and the beauty of nature reclaiming the landscape. It’s not too shabby for getting those creep factor shots in either…a bit eerie when you’re wandering about in there alone. No need to worry though. The owners are fantastic, the trails are well worn, and the signage along the way is quite entertaining.

When my photography club set up this outing, my first thought was, “If only I had known about this place while my Daddy was still alive. He would have loved it!” This thought was only confirmed as I arrived there and began wandering about.

When you first go in, you might stumble upon some interesting, and maybe even creepy things …like dolls. “Dolls?” you ask, “in an old car junkyard?” That’s right…dolls.

You just never know where you might find one…or twenty…lying about. Now, I don’t think they move about, so you might be safe. But one just never really knows, you know.

You’ll mostly definitely stumble upon an old bicycle line-up.  It leads the way into the heart of the city.

Oh, and another doll. I forgot about her. I think she’s been waiting a really long time for a ride.

There are also other odds and ends scattered about, like old cash registers, chairs, cans…you name it, and you can probably find it in there somewhere.

Oh, and there’s another doll I missed. Strange how they mysteriously pop up. Hopefully, we won’t run into any more.

Did I mention that there’s a bit of an artistic flair to this 32-acre masterpiece?

Now, be sure to put your walking shoes on and take some water and snacks when you head out there (because I know you’ll want to see this place for yourself).  There are 6 miles of walking trails, and trust me, you’ll get wandering about and turned around and travel the same trail twice or more, and that 6 will turn into 10 pretty quick! Well, maybe not quick, because it’ll take you all day and probably a couple more to see everything. And if you spread your visits out like I did, you might just find a few things change in the newer parts. Then you’ll have to see it all again.

Well, thankfully no dolls showed up in the middle of those trails. I was beginning to get a little worried. So now I guess it’s time to get to what you really wanted to see…all of those old cars.

Mother Nature decided to put her artistic touch throughout the city, and I think she got a little carried away with a few of her pieces.

But for the most part, nature and machine blend quite nicely.

I thought we were safe from the dolls, but I see one popped up on the hood of a truck. That little one is especially creepy.

While you’re there, don’t miss all of the cool hood ornaments.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Some of those aren’t actually hood ornaments. But hey, at least we didn’t run into anymore creepy dolls.

So, I hope you enjoyed the journey, and if you ever get the chance, head on out and see this place for yourself.

Happy trails!

Girls’ Trip! (Part 1: Cloudland Canyon)

My daughter and I recently took our 2nd Annual Fall Break Girls’ Trip. Our original plan this year was to go to Charleston again, but the hurricane the week before down in the Bahamas was causing all sorts of weather trouble for the east coast. Charleston was flooding, and there were photos online of our lodging area where people were paddling down the streets in kayaks. Seeing as how that didn’t seem like the ideal girls’ trip location for this year, we decided to look for an alternative. After a bit of searching, we settled on a trip to Chattanooga so she could see the Tennessee Aquarium for the first time.

Now, though Chattanooga was the final destination, it was not the first destination. There is plenty to see and do along the way. Our first stop en route was Cloudland Canyon. This was my daughter’s first trip there. After seeing photos from my last trip, she really wanted to see it for herself. Since I had my handy-dandy Friends of Georgia State Park Pass, we breezed right through the front gate with a friendly smile and wave from the attendant and headed straight to the lookout point and trail head. When we got there, my daughter had to put on her hiking shoes…and she didn’t like the way they fit. We walked as far as the benches at the trail head, and already, she was complaining. So, being a resourceful mother and hiker, we switched shoes. The shoes worked for me (though I still prefer my boots). Then off we headed to see the waterfalls.

We didn’t get very far before I had to stop for a photo-op though. We found the greatest tree.

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Then we started our walk down into the canyon. Before long we happened upon a rock wall (that of course reminded my daughter of MineCraft) and a little ways up the wall was a little hole that looked like a cave. I decided she could probably climb right on up there, so she agreed and gave it a try…and did very well.

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I of course didn’t try it. Those rocks were better suited to the lighter-weight and reasonably flexible. I would’ve broken something…a rock, my camera, MY HEAD! Needless to say, we did not want to take any trips to the hospital because of Mama’s foolishness, so I refrained (this time). As we continued along the path we eventually came up on a giant boulder overhanging the trail. Now the last time I was here, I only had my dog, Dixie, with me, so getting a photo to convey the shear size of this thing didn’t really work out. This time, however, I had a crazy teenage girl with me who let me direct her for photos. It is amazing how perspective can change with just a little manipulation. In the first photo, I had her stand directly under the boulder, so you can see just how massive it is.

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Then in the next photo I wanted to make it look like she was holding the boulder up. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look nearly as impressive in the second photo.

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And of course, we had to get the Hercules shot where she actually has her hands on the rock.


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Eventually we moved on from here and rounded the corner. In the distance, I could see the bridge that crosses Sitton’s Gulch. I wasn’t able to cross the bridge the last time because the grating hurt Dixie’s paws. This time, however, it was just us people, so across we went, and it was well worth the trip. We made it across and saw some lovely cascades beneath us, so we made our way around the trail to get a better look. As we were firing off a few shots, my daughter said, “I wish we could get down there to the bottom.”

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This of course was responded to with, “I think we can.” So down we climbed. There were plenty of sturdy tree roots and a somewhat worn footpath where others had attempted the descent. Soon we were at the bottom and trying to figure out how to get the best shots. It was absolutely beautiful down there!

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Of course, the trouble with making your way down is that eventually you have to make your way back up. After we were done marveling and exploring and photographing, we headed back over to where we came down and realized that this was going to take a bit more effort. Hand and feet were required for this climb, so the all equipment had to be secured and free from dangling into our way. Then up the tree roots we climbed back to the path. It was awesome! My daughter, however up for the challenge she may have been, does not find hiking to be her sport of choice after this adventure.

Soon we made our way back across the gulch and onto the path for the first waterfall. Along the way we passed more “MineCraft” rocks…

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…and a leaf stuck to the canyon wall.

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And eventually we made it to Hemlock Falls. Here I got a few shots of the waterfall disappearing into my daughter’s head.

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And a couple of good shots too.

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And always remember when you’re out hiking to stay well hydrated.



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Then we decided to head over to see the other waterfall. The path from one fall to the other is a bit of a walk, so we got several pictures along the way as we stopped to catch our breath. It was getting into the golden hour, so I managed several beautiful shots of reflections in the water.

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Eventually we made our way over to Cherokee Falls. You can get right up to (and into if you want) the water here. Of course there were a few fun shots just before the waterfall came into view.

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My crazy girl was the first one to make it out to the rocks at the water’s edge, so I got some really great shots of her there.

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Then we got busy taking shots of the waterfalls…

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Then, of course, there were more fun shots.

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Ahh…I just love taking pictures of that beautiful, silly, crazy, wonderful girl.

Finally, we headed back up out of the canyon and got a few shots from the lookout point.

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And before long, we were back in the car driving over Lookout Mountain headed to Chattanooga.



Sweetwater Creek State Park

I’ve recently discovered another state park gem in my beautiful home state of Georgia. What is this gem? Sweetwater Creek State Park. It is located in Lithia Springs which is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Six Flags.

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Now, you may be wondering why this is important. Well, my lovely children had the good fortune (or perhaps small fortune depending on which end of the spending spectrum you may be on) to acquire season passes to this awful…I mean wonderful…roller coaster thrill ride filled land of amusement.

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I myself, in case you haven’t caught on, am not a fan. As far as theme parks go, I would much rather spend my days searching for autographs from my favorite Disney characters or exploring the magical world of Harry Potter. However, since we don’t live in Orlando and since I prefer the natural world to the theme park world any day, I have acquired a season pass (well, really it’s a parking pass with a few benefits) to the Friends of Georgia State Parks. So, voila! Everyone is happy! I drop the kids off at Six Flags, and I head to a state park.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t figure this out at the beginning of theme park season. Well, unfortunately this was the hottest summer EVER (and trust me, because I’ve been a Georgia girl all my life), and I was suffering from an unknown illness all summer (not to worry, the source was discovered and easily treated, and I’m all better and ready for hiking season! Yay!). So, all that to say, it’s October, season of Freight Fest and every weekend trips to Six Flags (thanks to Rat Man and Cheese Boy, the dynamic duo cleverly disguised as my son and his best friend),

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and Mama needed a close-by place to go to find adventure and a bit of peace and quiet (because the “my son, Cheese Boy” part of that duo doesn’t want to take Enderchick, the minecraft warrior cleverly disguised as my daughter).

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Well, that and dear old Dad decided to get a season pass, too…For next year! For everyone! A whole year more of that dreaded theme park!

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So dear old tired Mama gets to drop half the crew off at that place and head to the woods. Good thing is, they all ride home together, so I don’t have to pick them up.

Ok, so back to my hidden gem. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of this state park. It is one of the smaller ones and quite close to Atlanta. But like all of the state parks in Georgia, it did not disappoint. So far, I’ve hiked the same trail twice, but the view each time was amazingly different. The trail that I took was the Historic Trail and blazes red. It takes you down to the ruins of the old New Manchester Mill. This mill was built during the Civil War era, and unfortunately, it was not running for long. Soon after it began operation making textiles, Union troops captured the employees, sent them up north as prisoners of war, and burned the mill. The scorch marks from the fire can still be seen on some of the walls.

Now, this mill may have a tragic history, but that history has left some beautiful ruins for photographers like myself to hike out and photograph. The hike out to the ruins is about a half mile, give or take. The first time I went was after a long stretch of rain from Hurricane Joaquin on the coast. (In fact, that hurricane flooded Charleston, but that is a story for another day.) The creek’s water level was very high. Some of the areas where trails went were inaccessible due to the water level. However, it made for some lovely shots of rushing water. The water cascaded over large boulders (which I discovered on my next trip when the water level was back to normal).

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I managed a few good photos of the mill as well, but I couldn’t get very close to it due to the water level. The mill is situated right beside the creek, so the creekside of the mill was actually in the water that day.

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I hiked out past the mill to the end of the trail. After the mill, the trail gets a little more difficult with steep hills,

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slippery rocks,

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and narrow spots on the trail with some steep drops.

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However, it is worth the hike, because the view is gorgeous.

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Unfortunately, I was anticipating an easy hike, so I didn’t wear the right shoes. Needless to say, it made the trail harder to navigate and my feet hurt by the end. Western boots are for riding, not hiking. Hiking boots have a little more play in the sole for climbing those rocks.

When I reached the end of the trail and set up my tripod for some panoramas, the sky suddenly got very, very dark. I was caught in a sudden state of panic, because I was about a mile into the woods and not prepared for a storm. I snapped off some quick shots for a panorama that didn’t turn out at all, but I did get a shot for my monochrome photo challenge of a beautiful stump that had been shaped by the running water.

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When I felt a few rain drops, I hurriedly packed up my things, threw the rain cover over the backpack, and darted out of there…well, as much as one can dart on a wooded trail. By the time I reached the mill again, the ominous clouds had moved on and the rain threat dissipated. So, I slowed down a bit, retrieved my camera from the waterproof safety of its bag, and began the end of that day’s journey.

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I even found some cool fungi,

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a couple of interesting trees,

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and a great rock to relax on for a few minutes.

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The second time I went out to the park was the next weekend. The boys invited another friend along to Freight Fest and headed out early with our Expedition, and my husband and the girls (my daughter and her best friend, Shipwreck Samantha…check out her cool clay creations on Etsy) wanted to go up later, so I drove them out, dropped them off with the boys, and headed out to the park on this super clear, absolutely beautiful, fall day. It was a bit later in the day this time, so I only hiked out to the mill. As soon as I saw the creek, however, I was very much surprised. What was nothing but rushing water before was now a reasonable creek with boulders you could make your way across. So you know what this girl did…walked out on those rocks and got some close-up pictures! I traveled a little lighter this time…no pack, just my camera. I took the 55mm lens, so I wasn’t able to really zoom in. I was, however, able to get some good macro shots, up close and personal shots, and some great landscape views. I had my proper shoes on this time, so I was a bit adventurous with climbing up and down the sides of hills, venturing across the stream, and picking out those less traveled paths. I navigated across an off-shoot of the creek and traveled the path right next to the water on this trip.

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I was able to get right up next to those little waterfalls, and the water was calmer, so the golden hour reflections in the smoother water were magnificent! As I traveled further downstream, I found many amazing waterside views,

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and eventually, I stumbled upon a most spectacular view of the creekside of the mill. So of course this required a little trip out into the creek to get just the right shot. It also meant a short trip down a steep hillside, but there were plenty of rocks to help me down (and back up again when the time came).

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It was well worth the adventure, that is for certain! By the time I made my way back up to the front side of the mill, however, it was starting to get dark, so it was time to head back. Night was fully upon me as I exited the trail, and as I looked back, I saw a line of lanterns heading to where I had just been…a twilight tour to the mill. (I bet they had a blast. I wonder if they got to hear spooky ghost stories about that old place.”

So that was the end of my journey. Expect to hear more about this place in the future. There’s a five-mile trail out there I plan to do the next time.

Ye Olde Georgia Renaissance Festival

It’s that time of year again. Time for lords and ladies, pirates and wenches, fairies and fire eaters. There are only a couple of weekends left if you want to make it to this year’s festivities in Georgia, so you better hurry on out. This coming weekend is a pirate weekend! Arrr!

Speaking of pirates, I believe my husband transformed into one this year. Of course, he didn’t have a hat, so we set out for the hatter’s booth straightaway. We found the perfect headpiece to round out his pirate look. And since I spent so much time playing around with editing settings, I think I will share with you my cartoon-like photos. (If you want to see the regular photos, just click on the link to my Facebook page below).

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A might handsome pirate he doth make, methinks. Arrr!

I of course went for a gentler look. My intent was to be a fairy, but most everyone I ran across decided I was the Butterfly Queen…who is a fairy, but shhh, don’t tell.

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Our daughter was a fairy too. Of course, everyone recognized her as a fairy. She had wings.

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At the hatter’s establishment, our son momentarily transformed into Robin Hood…or perhaps one of his merry men.

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But alas, his transformation was short-lived.

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We also picked up the frozen queen and the queen mother along the way. The tiny queen was a little concerned that she might be recognized by her enemies, so we purchased a lovely mask from one of the visiting merchants.

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Near the gates to the kingdom sat a lovely couple who trained birds. They allowed us to meet their kind birds, a lovely little goose family and a delightful cockatoo. The cockatoo entertained us immensely trying to eat my toule and make a nest in a fair maiden’s hair. He even flitted over to say “hello” to our son.

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The tiny frozen queen adored the gosling, and after she visited the little one for a bit, she headed out for some adventure!

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Afterward, we headed over to a dragon hatchery. What adorable creatures we found!

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And of course, there were many more festivities…The Tortuga Twins, jousting, dog shows, face painting, and many more. It was a lovely visit, and we all look forward to returning next year.

(A big thank you to my husband, Jason Cato, for being the photographer this year, so I could enjoy the festival.)

Do You Want to Build a Doh-man?

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Do you want to build a doh-man? Come on let’s go out and play!

 How’s that for a cool combination of the weekend’s activities? Play-doh creations, Disney music, cartoons, balloons…but I’m getting ahead of myself. What is this all about? Well…it’s about a fun-filled weekend with my favorite 5 year old in the whole wide world. And it all started with a phone call saying, “Rosie wants to know if she can come spend the night with you.” Of course, considering all of my extended family live in the same house, her choices are rather limited when she wants to spend the night away from home. So, obviously my reaction was…”Yay! My Rosie wants to spend the night with me! I’m the cool aunt!”

So Friday came, and I watched the clock. As soon as I knew school should be just about out, the phone call was made. “Is she home yet? Can I come get her?” She was! And off we went to go get her. My sister works night shift, and it was her weekend to work, so of course I asked to keep Rosie for the entire weekend. So an extra outfit was stuffed in the bag…along with the armloads of toys…to start a fun-filled weekend.

 What was the first order of business? Well, creating a Disney radio Pandora station of course, because…well, I just don’t have kid music around the house anymore. My kids are nearly grown. One is (GASP!) an adult as of a couple of months ago, and one is a teenager. Therefore, a request of music from the Little Mermaid could only be filled by a search on Pandora for some Disney music. The first song did not meet our Little Mermaid request; however, much to our surprise and delight, song number two was the perfect fit!

 Our first night was planned by yours truly. It consisted of pizza from Little Caesar’s, cartoon movies, a fire in the fireplace, hot chocolate, and toasted marshmallows. Despite Mom’s concerns, the marshmallows were a hit! And of course Rosie added something to the mix. The activity for the evening for her was blowing up balloons…more like the activity of the evening for me. Of course, the hot chocolate reminded her of our last tea (coffee) party, so a “coffee” party was added to the breakfast agenda.

 Morning came all too soon, and after a breakfast of chocolate chip waffles, which apparently has come to be expected when there is a Rosie spend-the-night involved, we had our “coffee” party. Now, a coffee party must be done right. It must have all of the right ingredients: 1) antique china tea cups and saucers, 2) musical carousel horse figurines, 3) candles, and 4) lots of cream and sugar. Usually there are cookies involved too, but seeing as how it was still early in the morning, we decided to forgo the cookies (and when I say we, I mean me). We had a lovely coffee party, and we even had a server! Of course, our server also got to be the handy man when we broke the bottom shelf of the island work station (and again when I say we, I mean me…oops).

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(The server, aka my husband, took the pictures of me and Rosie having coffee.)

And after the coffee party…Play-doh! Now if there is any wonder as to whether this bright-eyed little girl has everyone wrapped around her finger, the following picture should put to rest those suspicions…

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Yes, indeed! Even the boys gladly played Play-doh with the girly-girl. We made all sorts of creations…mostly snowmen. And since Aunt Athenia is the photographer of the family, lots of pictures of our lovely creations were taken to share.

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(That’s my Doh-man.)

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(Rosie’s Doh-man…or woman)

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(And this is why boys are sometimes not invited to play.)

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(Uncle Jason’s creation.)

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(The cute couple.)

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(Picasa art)

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(This is a cake.)

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(Rosie’s cake.)

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(Rosie cutting her cake.)

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(Boys…insert eye roll here…)

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(Another Uncle Jason masterpiece.)

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And that’s not all! Cool cousin Kat with all of her creative geekiness led an experiment in making goo. Pink goo of course, because we are girls after all. The experiment was a success! Therefore, there was lots of goo for us to play with (and when I say us, I mean them…goo is icky, yuck!)

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And then there were the cartoons…lots and lots of cartoons. Millions of cartoons. I didn’t know there were so many. We watched a dozen different kinds of fairies (well…I got corrected on this, because apparently a pixie and a fairy are not the same thing. What do they teach kids in schools these days?). Then there was the Monster High Enchanted according to Rosie. This ended up being Ever After High…probably the same thing. And then we went to see Big Hero 6, and Rosie made the whole theatre laugh. The boy in the movie made a robot and claimed it as his greatest creation, and it popped out of the box, and Rosie said in her most quizzical voice, “A marshmallow man?!” Ahhh…if only these memories could be bottled up and replayed to remember always.

And so are the adventures of a weekend with my five year old niece, Princess Rosie! It was so nice having a little one around the house, and I think we’re all looking forward to the next adventure. (Yay! I’m the cool aunt!…hehehe.)