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Natural Tunnel State Park – the 8th Wonder of the World

8 Mar

Chairlift at Natural Tunnel State Park

Natural Tunnel is a beautiful wonder of nature  that many in the Commonwealth have never even heard of.  William Jennings Bryan called Natural Tunnel the Eighth Wonder of the World.  Located in Duffield (Scott County), this park can easily fill your day with lots of fun and Kodak moments!

The are 2 ways to reach the tunnel from the parking lot.  You can walk…..or you can take a ride on the chair lift down into the gorge.  For those who need some extra help, a lot of thought was put into making this landmark accessible, visit the website for the details.

Once you reach the end of the chair lift, it’s a short walk to the tunnel.  I can’t even begin to describe what it looks like as breathtaking seems to0 weak a description.  The tunnel is 850 long and 100 feet high inside and it’s creation began more than a million years ago in the early glacial period.

Of course, with almost 1000 acres, Natural Tunnel State Park is much more than “just a tunnel”.  Cabins and campgrounds are available for overnight guests.  There is a 5400 sq ft pool with a water slide open to day and overnight guests.  For kids, the park offers guided nature walks, hayrides, campfires, cave tours and astronomy programs.   Special events and a calendar can be found here.

Click here for a great map of the park (.pdf file).

Tina’s tips:  if you have to bring a stroller, go with a lightweight one like an umbrella stroller.  There is a snack bar, but a few juice boxes and crackers would be a good idea just in case someone gets hungry or thirsty along the way.  There is a bathroom at the bottom station of the chairlift – but it would be wise to take bathroom breaks before embarking on the journey down into the gorge.  Bring some cash along as the chairlift and pool (for day visitors) are not free.  Call ahead or visit the website for exact rates and schedules.

Mosby Carter Cabin Built in 1784


11 Ways to Protect Your Child’s Online Reputation

7 Mar

We all know that the way our children communicate now and will communicate in the future differs greatly from how most of us communicated growing up. Many children today have never picked up a traditional, land line telephone and said, “Hello?”. They learn about what is happening in the world around them from the internet instead of a newspaper or magazine.

Along these lines, it is a parent’s responsibility to teach their children the proper use of technology and monitor their child’s online activity. The excuse of, “I don’t understand all of this technology” is irresponsible and careless. Protecting your child’s online reputation should be just as important as washing their clothes and making sure they eat their vegetables. Here are a few tips to help:

1. Register the domain of your child’s name and renew it every year.

2. Set up a Google alert for your child’s name as well as any common misspellings of the name.

3. Google your child’s name on a regular basis and monitor what comes up in the search engines.

4. Teach your child how to use their technology tools and take the role of a leader. Sit down at their computer every couple of weeks and clean it up, keep it updated, etc. Same thing with their cell phone.

5. Teach your child how to avoid getting a virus on their computer.

6. Require access to all of your child’s online accounts. Explain to them that having online access is a privilege and you trust them to make good decisions; however, it is also your responsibility as a parent to fix something if they (or one of their friends) make a mistake.

7. Show your child examples of the proper and improper use of social networking sites. Explain to them how what they post is permanent and could hurt themselves (or others) if they aren’t careful.

8. Don’t prevent them from using technology. Today’s children will need to be proficient in technology and communication in order to succeed in school and their chosen career. Because of how fast technology grows, many careers that will be available in 10 years don’t even exist today.

9. Have your child use a screen name other than their own when online. Help them choose an online id that is generic, unassuming and unspecific. Avoid using their name, location and anything that could be used to identify them or their age. For example:
No: ashleybaker123, dallasgirlashley, ashlovesjustinbeiber
Yes: summer321, riverdesert, greengrass3

10. On sites that require a “real” name, (such as Facebook), consider using a modified version of your child’s name (such as an abbreviated name or a middle name).

11. Do not use your child’s name online either. Use a nickname instead when mentioning something about them or posting a picture.

Kids’ Tech University 2011

1 Dec

Children are full of “why” questions about the world.  The goal of Kids’ Tech University (KTU) is to explore questions that will spark kids’ interests and excitement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” – http://kidstechuniversityorg

Kids’ Tech University is a spring semester program developed by the Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech and Virginia 4-H.  KTU is open to kids between the ages of 9 and 12 (as of September 30, 2010) who reside within a 4 hour drive of Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus.

450 children will be accepted into the program and online registration begins at 6:00pm EST on December 6, 2010.  For enrollment details, please click here.  The program is free; however, there is a $25 registration fee.  Parents may apply for scholarships for the registration fee.  The dates for KTU 2011 are:  January 29, February 26, March 26 and April 9.

Registration is limited so be sure to register online as soon as it begins on December 6th!

Museum Day is Coming! Free Admission 9/25/2010!

23 Sep

Museum Day is an annual event hosted by Smithsonian Media in which participating museums across the country open their doors for free to anyone presenting a Museum Day Ticket.

Here are just a few of the museums in Virginia offering free admission Saturday, September 25, 2010:

Amazement Square, The Rightmire Children’s Museum


Children’s Museum of Virginia


National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum


Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum


Virginia Museum of Transportation


National Civil War Life Museum


Old Stone Jail Museum and Holland Page Place Log Cabin

The Museum Day Ticket provides free admission to one person, plus a guest.

  • • One ticket per household
  • • A ticket will gain entry in only one museum and only participating museums
  • • Only an official Museum Day ticket is eligible for free entry.

Get your FREE TICKET by clicking HERE.

Here is a list of the participating museums in Virginia.

How to Make Laundry Detergent

21 Aug

I know this post doesn’t have anything to do with places to see and do with kids in Virginia; however, it was something Lil G and I did together and thought I would share.  Making your own laundry detergent is easy, a great way to save money and also a fun project to do with kids.

Here is what you will need:

Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

20 Mule Team Borax

1 Bar Soap (any type – make sure it’s a scent you like though because your clothes will smell like the soap).  We used a “soap” scented Dial that was 3 bars for $1 at the grocery store.

1 Five Gallon Bucket with Lid.  (We got one from Home Depot).

1 Smaller Container with Lid.  (This gave me a great excuse to finish the contents of this container!)

First step is to heat 4 cups of water to boiling in a medium pot.  While the water is heating up, cut up the bar of soap.  We used a cheese grater and this is what the soap looked like when we were done:

Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down to a low boil or simmer and start adding the soap a little at a time.  Stir constantly to melt the soap.  Congratualtions!  You have now made Soap Soup.

After all of the soap has been dissolved, pour 4 gallons of hot/warm water into your bucket.  Add 1 cup of washing soda and 1/2 cup of Borax.  If you have a lot of REALLY dirty laundry, you may want to add a little more Borax.  Next, pour in your Soap Soup and stir it all together until dissolved.

Next step is to cover your bucket and put it aside for 24 hours.  Depending on the soap you used and the type of water you have, your detergent might be runny or thick and/or might have some clumps in it.  Stir it up again and pour some into your smaller container which is more manageable for doing laundry.  Use one cup of your homemade detergent for each large load of laundry.

Depending on your water type and how dirty your clothes get, you may need to adjust this recipe to work better for your needs.

You can find Borax and Washing Soda in the laundry stain remover section of your grocery/drug store.  The Food Lion near me had the Borax but not Washing Soda.  I went to Kroger and found both items.  Borax is about $4/box and Washing Soda abut $2.50.

FREE Admission to US National Parks This Weekend!

11 Aug

Time to put on some comfortable walking shoes and explore a few of our beautiful National Parks and Historic Sites this weekend!  August 14th and 15th, 2010, admission fees are waived for all National Parks.

In Virginia, we are very fortunate to have a great number of National Parks!  From the Appalachian Trail to the Yorktown National Cemetery, there is sure to be something for your family to explore and enjoy.

A few of our favorites that you might not be familiar with:

George Washington Birthplace National Monument – Westmoreland County, VA
Orignial birthsite with Memorial House in the background. George Washington, America’s first and greatest hero, was crucial to the establishment of the United States as a nation founded on the principles of liberty. George Washington Birthplace preserves the heart of the Washington lands and a memorial plantation. Here, in the peace and beauty of this place untouched by time, the staunch character of our hero comes to the imagination.DirectionsOperating Hours & Seasons
Green Springs – Louisa County, VA
??? house in Green Springs Green Springs National Historic Landmark District encompasses over 14,000 acres in the piedmont of central Virginia. The homes and farms are a continuum of Virginia rural vernacular architecture, reflective and respectful of their location, preserved in their original context with little alteration. Here the landscape has been enhanced, rather than despoiled, by the presence of civilization.DirectionsOperating Hours & Seasons
Claude Moore Colonial Farm – McLean, VA
Claude Moore Farmhouse Step back in time and experience life on a small farm in northern Virginia.  Living history programs and demonstrations offer a glimpse of what life was like for a poor farm family, just before the Revolutionary War.DirectionsOperating Hours & Seasons

Why Parents Need a Kindle

18 Dec

First, let me start by saying I do not make any money off the sale of Kindles.  I am writing this post because I truly believe that this is a great tool for all parents.

I originally wanted a Kindle for purely selfish reasons.  I had visions of myself curling up on the couch and ordering a great book and reading it instantly.  But, things changed when I pulled the Kindle out in a restaurant while waiting to have dinner with my family.

My son had gotten bored waiting and like most children, was starting to get antsy.  Just to entertain him, I pulled out the Kindle and we started searching the store for children’s books.  He picked out a book from the Junie B. 1st Grader series and well, the rest is history.  In the morning, he brings me the Kindle when he wakes up and asks me to read to him.  I keep it in my purse all the time now and whenever we are waiting or have the time, we pull out the Kindle and can just pick up where we left off.  Best of all, when we finish one book, it takes (literally) 30 seconds to get another loaded onto the Kindle.  He actually has stopped bringing his DS and/or portable DVD player when we travel since we have the Kindle.

The Kindle is very thin and lightweight.  It features Whispernet to connect directly to the Amazon store and does not have a monthly fee.  The children’s books are about $2-$4 each and do not expire once you load them.  My son is easily able to follow along as I read to him and he loves pushing the “next page” button.  The children’s books we have loaded have a few illustrations as well which are very clear on the device.

Something I thought was all about me has turned into a great bonding experience for parent and child.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Why Mom’s Need a Kindle“, posted with vodpod

Free Planetarium Shows!

10 Nov

radford university planetariumThe Radford University Planetarium offers FREE shows to the general public on Tuesday and Thursday nights at 7:30pm and on Saturday mornings at 10:30am.  The shows vary by the season, time etc. so be sure to check their website for the shows currently running.  The Saturday morning shows are usually specifically for children.

Current shows include:

  • The newly-acquired show “The Planets” which takes audiences on a tour of our solar system, explaining how our solar system and its planets formed, why things rotate around the sun in the ways they do, and eventually looks at the planets that have been discovered around other stars.  This show was produced by the Southeastern Planetarium Association and is narrated by Kate Mulgrew (aka Captain Katherine Janeway of “Star Trek: Voyager”) .
  • The three shows in the “Explorers” series.  These were produced by the Bishop Museum Planetarium in Hawaii and address many of the national and Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) for K-12 students.
  • The children’s show “In My Backyard”, produced by the Calgary Science Center.  This show takes younger audiences (from 3 years old to second graders) on a tour of many of the objects that can be seen in the night sky without a telescope.
  • “Dinosaur Prophecy”:  The audience joins paleontologists at the scene of the crime, excavating bones and wondering what killed the mighty dinosaurs.  Be amazed as your favorite giants come to life, roam across the dome, and meet their catastrophic deaths.  Find out how NASA scientists monitor the Earth and solar system for potential disasters!
  • And the always-popular Christmas show ” ‘Tis the Season” chronicles many of the legends and traditions of the Christmas holiday season, including the story of a certain star.

Tina’s take:  I brought my son and a couple of his friends here for an evening show.  They loved it and can’t wait to go back!  Curie Hall, where the Planetarium is located on the Radford campus, is easy to find and free parking is available right behind the building.  The young lady leading the show we attended seemed to be very passionate about her work and took extra time to answer all the kid’s questions.  Shows last anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes.

Smithsonian’s Autumn Conservation Festival

29 Sep

Smithsonian Autumn Conservation FestivalHead to the National Zoo’s Autumn Conservation Festival October 3-4 from 10am-3pm and enjoy an unforgettable day in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  This is the ONE AND ONLY time every year that CRC is open to the public.  And this year, it’s your ticket to getting a peek at the clouded leopard cubs born at CRC this spring!

Visitors get behind-the-scenes looks at some of the CRC’s endangered animals, the bird house, and the veterinary hospital.  One of the Zoo’s endangered brown kiwi’s will also be available for meet and greets.  In addition, there will be live music, draft horse wagon rides and cavalry maneuvers.  Lunch, beverages and zoo-themed merchandise will be available for purchase.

Admission is free for CRC members.  For non-CRC members, a car pass is required and may be purchased for $5.  Car passes are also available at the Front Royal/Warren County Visitor’s Center (414 East Main Street, Front Royal, VA) and at the gate each day of the event.

Please note: The Conservation and Research Center is set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The Autumn Conservation Festival activities are scattered throughout the campus.  Dress appropriately for outdoor activities and wear comfortable walking shoes.  This event will be held rain or shine.


From the East (Washington DC Area)

  • Take I-66 to the Linden/Route 55 exit (Exit 13)
  • Turn left at the bottom of the exit ramp
  • Turn right at the first stop light onto VA-55 West and go about five miles
  • Turn left at the first traffic light onto US-522 South/Remount Road
  • The main gate to the CRC will be on your left in about two miles
  • Turn left into the CRC

From the West (Winchester/Strasburg)

  • Take I-81 to I-66
  • Take the Front Royal/US-522 exit (Exit 6)
  • Turn right at the end of the ramp and follow US-522 South/Remount Road through Front Royal and for about two miles south of town
  • Turn left into the CRC

smithsonian conservation and research center

Go Pick Your Own in Virginia!

13 Jul
By Casey Williams

By Casey Williams

Have you had sticker shock lately at the produce prices in the grocery store?  Have you seen the prices of blueberries lately even though they are “in season”?

In the spirit of going green, spending more time with family and supporting the local farmers and economy, why not try picking your own?

My favorite site for finding pick your own produce is:  The site is filled with not only places to pick all over the world, but also tips for preserving and canning your harvest.  Thanks to this site, we have been able to enjoy family-time throughout Virginia picking our own fruits and vegetables.

Best of all….KIDS LOVE IT!  Here are a few tips to make your pick-your-own trip a success with the kids:

  1. Try to pick early in the morning.  It’s not too hot nor too crowded.
  2. Cover the kids with bug spray and sunscreen before going.
  3. Some pick-your-own farms offer containers, some don’t.  Bring a sturdy plastic bucket for the kids to use and hopefully, that will avoid any spills and tears.
  4. Let them eat as they pick!  Ask if the farm uses pesticides and if not, let the kids indulge.
  5. Plan ahead what to do with the harvest and let the kids help.  Some items, such as blueberries, can be put in plastic bags and frozen for later.  Something as simple as a scoop of vanilla ice cream with “their berries” on it can make a child light up with excitement.
  6. Teach the kids what vitamins are in which foods.  They love this stuff!  Before you know it, they will be telling you how they can see better because they ate 3 carrots or that they grew because they ate an apple.

Here is a list from the site of the farms in Virginia:

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