Watermelon Roses

A collection of random thoughts, commentaries, and journaling. There is a lot to explore here, including links to other sites of mine. These are mostly for my own benefit, but guests are welcome to browse and explore as much or as little as they like.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Treasure Hunt!

Letterboxing is a hard day's work for babies!

Even favorite stuffed bunnies can go letterboxing!

While sitting in a doctor's office about a month ago, I ran across an article in a magazine about something called letterboxing. It started in 1854 in Dartmoor National Park in England, and after Smithsonian ran an article about it in 1998, it began to take off in North America. It sounded like modern-day treasure hunting, and like so much fun that I couldn't believe I hadn't heard of it before! I would enjoy this with or without children along, but what a great way to get the family out and exploring new places!

When we realized that our non-refundable San Antonio trip wasn't going to have anything to do with the Riverwalk as we had planned, I decided that it would be the perfect time to start our letterboxing adventures. I looked at the available letterbox clues for San Antonio and selected two locations, one we had been to before and enjoyed, and one we had never been to. I printed out the clues before we left home. We stopped at Michael's Arts and Crafts on the way out of town to pick up some pre-made rubber stamps (letterboxers prefer homemade ones, but we just didn't have time - I plan to try my hand at making one soon!) and log books.

Our first letterbox hunt was in a park we'd never been to. By the way, never have I loved and appreciated our GPS navigation system more than when we were exploring new places in an unfamiliar city! We parked where the clues instructed us (or so we thought,) which happened to be right next to a playground, so we let the children play while I changed the baby's diaper and loaded up the stroller. We were instructed to park in a particular spot, face south away from the parking space and walk approximately 100 paces to a certain tree, where we would find the letterbox. This is about as easy as the clues get. Many require compasses, and some are written like a mystery novel, where you have to solve difficult clues even to find the starting place for your hunt. As easy as our first hunt was, we misinterpreted the instructions for finding the right parking space (twice!) and did a lot of traipsing through sticky mud and poking around in various trees before we finally found the right parking spot. What a sense of accomplishment we felt when we finally found it, though! We huddled around the letterbox, trying to shield our activity from passersby (letterboxing is like a big secret that outsiders aren't supposed to stumble across by accident, but at the same time new letterboxers are welcomed, because it just means there may eventually be more letterboxes to find) and re-hid it when we were finished. There were two more boxes to be found in this park, but we used up all our remaining daylight trying to find the second one (which required a compass) without a compass. It didn't work.

The next day we went to Brackenridge Park, a park we had enjoyed on our last visit with the children that has a miniature train, ducks, and a playground. We purchased our popcorn and cotton candy, rode the train, and set off on our hunt. Along the way, we stopped to feed the ducks. Layth said "ducks are nice," to which his father replied, "mmm, yes, with Chinese pancakes and hoisin sauce!" The clues here had us cross the bridges that look like castles, find a monument, cross at a boulder, turn at a "concrete tree," count steps, and identify certain trees by their shapes or nearby fallen logs. This was even more fun than the hunt the day before!

If this sounds like something you and/or your family would enjoy, be sure to visit
http://www.letterboxing.org/ for details on letterboxing, what it is, and where to find clues. You might be surprised how many are hidden near you!

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Texas Longhorns shirt seen in San Antonio.

Aside from being a funny shirt, this also desribes our recent trip to San Antonio fairly well.

The good: We were able to salvage the last half of K's vacation and spend a few days in San Antonio. We used Hotwire (as we always do) to book a riverfront hotel on the Riverwalk. We had beautiful weather while we were there (74 degrees at one point,) ate at two of our three favorite San Antonio restaurants, discovered two new favorite San Antonio restaurants, had a lot of fun visiting parks, playgrounds, the children's museum, and enjoyed our first letterboxing adventure (more on this in the next post.)

The bad: The reason we only had half of a vacation was because the closing on the sale of the Grand Prairie house was postponed again and yet again. Although the weather was perfect for our full days in San Antonio, we had non-stop rain for the drive in both directions. After paying the non-refundable cost of the Riverwalk hotel on Hotwire, I checked to see if the lights were still up on the Riverwalk and discovered that the river had just been drained for its annual maintenance. Yes, our hotel was on the Riverwalk ... about a mile from the main touristy part of the Riverwalk area. The great deal on our hotel was also offset a bit by the $16.25/day self-parking fee.

And the ugly: The day before we left San Antonio, our agent reluctantly called to tell us that after all the postponing, the buyer's financing had fallen through, and that we are going to have to put the house back on the market. *sigh* The bloody nose Layth got by running smack into part of an airplane in the children's museum wasn't very pretty, either. Torn between protecting my new top and comforting my son who may or may not have had a broken nose, I hesitated only a moment (shame on me for even that moment!) before scooping him up, bloodying my top, and taking him to the bathroom for cleanup. (His nose was not broken, for the record, and kudos to whomever treated the fabric of my top, for the blood came right off with wet paper towels.)

My reviews are available for the following places in San Antonio:
Crowne Plaza Hotel - Riverwalk
Le Peep
Luciano Ristorante Italiano
Magnolia Pancake House
Golden Wok
Colonial Room Restaurant
San Antonio Children's Museum