Great Smoky Mountains in Pictures (by a 9-year-old)

The Great Smoky Mountains in Pictures (taken by a 9 year old) Leave only footprints. Take only memories. A motto that accompanies the wandering spirit. I’d only make one small tweak to it. Take photos. Lots of them, taken by lots of people. 

That lots of people clause is key. None of us see things exactly the same way. Put a camera into the hands of someone else and your whole experience changes. Light reflects differently. Angles transform and small details give new meaning to the memories.

About a year ago my youngest asked to start taking pictures with my phone. Not able to part with that piece of codependent technology at the time, instead I let her use an old point-and-shoot. She had a blast. There may not have been many ‘usable’ images but remember this is about perspective changes. Those early photos gave me a whole new perspective on the cat’s toes.

Flash forward a year and she’s moved through an old-school-style instamatic, her own point-and-shoot, and the occasional borrowing of a smart phone. What she loves most though is mom’s Cannon Rebel.

After toying around with it in Coney Island, during the Cherry Blossom Festival, and several trips to the park, she felt ready to move onto bigger things. Like shooting photos near water. Gulp!

Our most recent trip was to the hills of Tennessee. I took a deep breath, and leap of faith {lord, please don’t drop it in a creek!} and turned it over to her on a hike up to Alum Cave.

Never one to subscribe to the less-is-more theory, she shot over 275 pictures. I’ll take partial blame for that though as I never told her to just push one button and not fiddle with anything else. Turns out the fiddling actually allowed her to  capture some great shots. Though I doubt her older siblings will appreciate the clarity of some of the faces they were making – or that time one was smacking the other with a tree branch.   

Great Smoky Mountains in Pictures (taken by a 9 year old) When we went over the shots to pick the best for saving, she asked if I’d put her pictures in my post about the trip. I think her photos worthy of their own post entirely. I give you The Great Smoky Mountains as photographed by Em.

Great Smoky Mountains in Pictures (by a 9-year-old)


2016 kia sorento SXL AWD (review)

It’s a funny thing, how different the lives of our kids can be from those we lived as children. For example, my offspring have zero clue what a hand-me-down is. My first car was one, and yet my husband and I are still on a quest to find the right brand-spankin-new car for our teen.  I call this the, up hill in both directions’ effect. Always wanting better for our kids while continually reminding ourselves how we never had it so good. Ha! 

Collaborating with Drive Shop has allowed us to do a few extended test drives – one week or so– for cars we’re considering. The latest ride to go through the paces was the Kia Sorento SXL AWD.

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD Review

First let me start by saying that I completely get that this car isn’t exactly what most would think of for a 17 year-old. I’ll go a step further and say that part of me is green with envy at the thought of my kid driving a shiny new set of wheels all decked out with nearly every bell and whistle you can imagine.

Here is the thing, it seems the kiddo has her heart set on a couple of colleges in the frozen North. Like… way north! So having a car that can handle both harsh winters and ski gear could be a plus. Also, she’ll be home for well over a year so this is going to start off as a family car. That brings us to this 2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD review – and spoiler alert this one tops her list so far.

Is It Big Enough for 5?

Driving around town it certainly felt like it fit the bill. It has tons of leg space and three rows of seats you can configure to your needs.

That configuration ability is a saving grace as the rear cargo space is nearly non-existent. As we’ve done with all the cars we’re testing though our Drive Shop collaboration, we took this one on a road trip for a real test.

2016 Kia Sorento XSL AWD reivewThree hours – and enough in tolls to nearly make a car payment— later, we landed in the Big Apple. Packed into the Kia were not only bags for a family of five, but also our newest fury family member, Gordon Von Ottawa du Barkimedes a.k.a Gordon the Frenchie. I swear this dog has more gear than all the kids combined. All that fit easily into this car. 

Major points in the roominess category and extra props for the panoramic sunroof that makes you feel like the space is even bigger.

Best Safety Features?

Three words… Electronic Stability Control. Driving in harsh winter weather is about more than scraping ice off off the windshield. My first winter on the East Coast Maryland got hit with an epic storm. After three days being snowed in when I finally ventured out I took a epic skid on black ice. It was terrifying. If my kid is going to drive in the Tundra THIS is the must-have safety feature.

This model also boasts Side Curtain airbags in the first and second row seats and my other must-have feature, lane departure warning. I have to tell you, going back to a car without lane departure warning is tough. It’s like walking a tightrope without a net. Seriously, how is this not a mandatory feature?

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD review of tech

Let’s Talk Tech

Hands down the tech in this car is the reason it makes the whole family’s short list. As you might expect the kids were stoked about the plethora of power outlets for their gadgets. We aren’t talking just a couple of old-school cigarette lighter style outlets that need an adapter.

Just about every seat has a USB port nearby. There is even a rapid charge USB port in the center consul. The real swoon inducing moment was finding the AC plug! I’ll admit it takes some getting used to how it works – plug, turn, push – but man what a great option for a family on the go.

Telematics. Know what that is? You need to. It takes the rear camera concept and turns it into an all-around view from above. I am the worst parallel parker in history – or I was until Telematics. 

Infinity surround sound was made for satellite radios and people who love to drive. Or in my case mothers who like to cruise the pickup line at school with the base cranking on some Jamiroquai. The kids totally loved that, not-at-all.

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD review safety feature

Gas Mileage

Every rose has it’s thorn my friends. You might find yourself getting poked by a few at the gas pump. While we aren’t talking Hummer-bad gas mileage here we aren’t exactly in hybrid land.

I drive a minimum of fifteen miles a day and with an average of around 19 miles to the gallon… ouch. The Sorento did do better on the highway clocking in at about 24 mpg.

Price Tag

The 2016 Kia Sorento follows on the heals of it’s older brother , the 2015 winner of the JD Power “Highest Ranked Midsize SUV in Initial Quality” and the price tag reflects that champion lineage. That said, with all the tech, safety and luxury features {hello Napa leather cooled and heated seats and surround view monitor} I’d say it’s still a good deal.

The 2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD we drove came in at $45,600.00

Lifestyle Points

50/50 fold third row seats. Panoramic sun roof. Kickin’ sound system and tech galore made this ride score super big in the Lifestyle category.

 

Having the roller coaster all to yourself.

A photo posted by Lara DiPaola ✈ (@dipaolamomma) on

We trekked to, from and around New York without one single, “She’s touching me.” That alone puts this one high on my list. I may not let the teen abscond to college with it.

Do you have a teen driver? What are you looking for in a car for them? I’d love some advice!  

 

Even for Tech Savvy Kids…

Ah, the interwebs. What a wonderful world it can be. It can also be down right dangerous, even for tech savvy kids.
 
Today my youngest son {the 11 year-old} and his team of science guys are taking a video game they developed into competition. Listening to them rehearse their presentation the night before was one of those ‘Proud Parent’ moments that serve as reward for all the late nights, hectic days and endless hours of worry.   Raising a tech kid can be tough though.
 
The biggest challenge is the fact that nine times out of ten the kid speaks a foreign language.  Foreign to me that is.
 
Sometimes the look of pity on his face as he slows his speech and uses metaphors to explain to his mother what a particular line of code does, undoes me. Wait, I used to change your diapers child. When did you become smarter than me?!
 
With this latest project – he started writing simple code at age 8 – he and the team* are turning cyber safety for kids into a game. The team are all into basketball nearly as much as science, so that’s what the game is framed in. Play ball, get pointers on cyber safety. I sort of love it! 
 
What an amazing tool tech is for reaching kids, getting the message across. When I was growing up we had public service announcements – and that’s about it. Remember, “The More You Know?” The jingle more than the message got stuck in your head.
 
Even if they are getting the message though sometimes tech is such a big part of their daily life they may miss some things. A perfect example comes from a recent field trip both of my youngest kids went on.
 
We love the USA Science and Engineering Festival! The whole family went to the last one. How awesome to rock out with The Might Be Giants, listen to Bill Nye THE science guy speak, and remote-drive a rover across the ocean floor from the DC convention center?! Way, cool!
 
Science is the best idea humans have ever had. The more people who embrace that idea, the better.  ~Bill Nye
Sadly this year we couldn’t go as a family. Thankfully the kids made it there with their STEAM club from school. An epic field trip filled with some serious science. I so wished to be there that I let the boy take along my Droid Turbo 2. After all it’s pretty much unbreakable.
 
The phone performed like a dream. Check out the super cool shark pic he snapped.
 
Sadly it’s made from trash found in the ocean. Giant brains, rocket boosters, 3D printed prosthesis, he texted me tons of science awesome. Then he thought I might like to walk through with him.
 
Even for tech savvy kids
Since we’re Verizon customers, even the kid knew he’d be connected and could do that. What he didn’t do was ask permission. Smart kid that he is he just tapped open mom’s Periscope app and then texted me to watch. It never occurred to him that the settings on the app would allow his video to be viewed by anyone, anywhere, who was also on Periscope. Nor did the danger that could come from that occur to him.
even for tech savvy kids…
 
He didn’t know that those people watching would know exactly where he was, what he was doing, who was with him. I think it just really didn’t get, until that moment, how very big the world is and how small tech can make it. I quickly deleted the automatic Tweet sent out by the app, had him turn it off and uninstall it from the phone.
 
Once he was back home {and I could breath again} we had a long talk. I spent some time on the Verizon website’s Tips for Parents page and over at The Online Mom. Obviously this kid wasn’t the only one who was missing a few things about safety on the net. I needed to step up my game too.
 
How about you? Have you had any scary parent moments online? Better yet, got any tips for us?
 
 
* they call themselves the ‘Five Fists of Fury,’ in true nerd fashion. 
 
Disclosure: As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events. All opinions entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less! 
 
 
 
 

how to make a starburst candy cocktail

Remember those cheesy 80’s ads for Reece’s peanut butter cups, “You got your peanut butter all over my chocolate!” Yuck, just nope. I may be alone in my loathing of that combination but I can certainly get behind the tagline for those ads, “Two great things that go great together,” if we’re talking vodka and starburst candies.  So the question now is, how to make a Starburst candy cocktail.

Time for a confession, the Starburst candy cocktail was an original idea of mine.  Oh sure, I’d love to take full credit for it but that rests with the little BBQ joint in suburban Maryland where my team, The Little Urban Achievers play (and by that I mean own) Pub Trivia.

While The Hideaway cocktail was tasty, it was just a tad to sour for me so I thought I’d take inspiration from their unique libation and give it my own twist. Of course it will still be garnished with starburst – duh.

Starburst Candy Cocktail
Serves 1
Sweet, a little sour and perfect for happy hour!
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1.5 oz Limoncello
  2. 1.5 oz Stolichnaya Wild Cherry Vodka
  3. 1 oz Tart Cherry Grenadine by Quince & Apple
  4. San Pellegrino Aranciata
  5. Starburst Candy
  6. Cocktail Skewers
  7. Ice
  8. Cocktail Shaker
Instructions
  1. Place ice, limoncello, vodka and grenadine in cocktail shaker. Shake well. Strain into glass of your choice. Top with chilled Aranciata. Place several candies onto skewer and garnish.
Notes
  1. If using standard grenadine, add in some fresh squeezed lemon juice to balance the sweet and sour.
Adapted from The Hideway
Adapted from The Hideway
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

Using that craft grenadine may be the key to the success of this cocktail. Quince & Apple really let the cherry shine in this simple syrup. Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but it doesn’t take much of it to impart that deep cherry flavor. Plus it doesn’t go bad. I may even give it a try as a flavoring for ice cream or pancake topping.

Though not YET tested, I suspect this would be great in the summer over crushed ice! Do you have a favorite candy? Think it might make for a tasty cocktail? Let me know. I’m always looking for new ways to mix things up. Mixology.. mix.. get it. Okay, maybe I’d better lay off the taste-testing for a bit.

 

Because every #cocktail should come with Starburst garnish. Bring on Pub Trivia night!

A photo posted by Lara DiPaola ✈ (@dipaolamomma) on

Ireland Road Tripping (in pictures)

More than just about any other place in the world the Emerald Isle makes for a driver’s delight. Last spring I had the joy of driving my dad and oldest daughter from Dublin to Westport and back. Memories were made. Songs sung. Food devoured. A few unexpected detours taken.  Endless pictures taken Ireland road tripping.

Snapping photos is one of my favorite things about any trip. From monuments to meals, I take pictures of everything. Yes, it drives the family nuts — sometimes.

I harbor zero delusions that I’m anything more than marginally passable as a photographer.  In fact, there were times before the advent of smartphones and mobile editing apps, that i was famed for lopping off heads. The wonderful thing about Ireland is that it’s pretty much impossible to take a bad picture. It’s just that beautiful.

Deep greens, hauntingly beautiful ruins, even overcast days can’t cast a shadow on the beauty here. There is simply no better way to see – and photograph – Éireann than from it’s winding roads.

Ireland Road Tripping (in pictures)

 

We traveled the width of Ireland – from Dublin to Westport– in a quick five-day jaunt. The nice thing about this route was that it was certainly less traveled than say the Great Atlantic way in the north or the winding roads of the southern coast.

If this is your first time Ireland road tripping – or driving on the “wrong” side of the road– it’s a great place to start. Lots of history, cute small towns and villages, great if you’re in search of antiques and certainly picturesque. One thing I will say is that planning your stops for gas needs to be done in advance. There were a couple of times there that I wasn’t sure if we’d see anything but rolling green hills and sheep. There were also a few petrol stops that didn’t have gas. Gads!

Part of the adventure though is in the getting “lost” and seeing what you find.  It seems that nearly every town, village and county in Ireland has it’s own art and history. Getting lost in that was the best part of the adventure. That and trying to interpret pictograph road signs. 

Is road tripping something you enjoy? Where is your favorite place to roam?

 

 

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