Saturday, March 29, 2014

#128 He Likes Fish

As promised in my post about my trip to Baltimore I have prepared myself for a comparison of the National Aquarium in Baltimore and Camden's Adventure Aquarium.  Originally, I was going to make this a two-part post so that by the middle you weren't thinking, "Good Lord, this girl takes a lot of pictures".  More than likely, that would have been the thought regardless.  So here it is, the long awaited:

Baltimore vs Camden*

*Disclaimer: I receive no kickback for recommending one aquarium over the other and regardless of my final choice this is not to be a determining factor of my love or loyalty to my home state, New Jersey.

The National Aquarium
Baltimore, MD

Upon entering the National Aquarium, a massive Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit awaits.  The best part?  As you work your way up the five levels you maintain a view of the reef.  If only we realized that when we first walked in, we wouldn't have bothered to try and squeeze our way into the crowd to get a glimpse of the reef.


The reef contained dozens of different sea creatures from sharks and sting rays, to turtles and Dory fish*.

*Note: Dory fish is not their given name.  Hopefully you already knew that.

This was my favorite:


Like the Dory Fish, this guy is clearly misnamed.  He is a "Honeycomb Stingray" but obviously he should be named a "Leopard Stingray" for his spotted body.

There were artsy photo displays throughout the halls as we walked towards the different enclosures.


I learned after my most recent aquarium trip that I do not like bullfrogs.  They are disturbing.  However, I was okay with this little guy.  I think his turtle friend had something to do with it.


Speaking of turtles, I know I mentioned it in my Baltimore post, but I have to again:


The National Aquarium has to earn some props for adopting 'Calypso', a green sea turtle who had one of his flippers amputated, to their staff.  You can read about Calypso's story here.  

The sea creatures at the National Aquarium were lively...


(Ummm....helloooo Mr. Stingray!  We are watching you!)

and also lazily secretive...


Do you see them?  Because it took Hubby pointing at the glass a half dozen times before I realized this wasn't an empty tank.

Both aquariums had frog exhibits.  However, the below picture has no glass separating me from this little guy.


No bigger than the top joint of my thumb, these little froggies were everywhere in an open air rain forest exhibit.

These, however, were in glass enclosures:


Is it weird that I'm a little jealous of this frog's blue skin?  I mean, seriously, how cool would it be to be the color of this frog?

I suppose it would be a lot like living in the movie "Avatar".

The Dolphin Discovery Amphitheater is amazing.  Visitors can come and go as they please.  There is more than enough seating to sneak in unnoticed during a dolphin show or to come in to sit and watch the dolphins swim and play together.  Staff is standing by to answer any questions guests might have about the dolphins.


Such as this, why oh why does a dolphin find the need to flop out of the water and onto the landing?


Is he trying to escape?


Nope, he's simply grabbing another toy to play with and then going back into the water.*

*You can't see it, but he tossed a ball that had been sitting out of the water back into the water, I swear.


Adventure Aquarium
Camden, NJ

In name alone, Adventure Aquarium already sounds kid friendly.  However, it doesn't end there.  From the layout to the entire zone dedicated to children, the Adventure Aquarium clearly had children in mind when they renovated the museum.

These frogs, painted by local schools, decorate the area visitors are met with upon stepping off the escalators.


I love projects like this because they show just how different and unique each person (or classroom) is.  

Adventure Aquarium has several please touch areas.  The first we encountered was the 'Touch-a-Shark' tank.  I said, "No, thank you," to the experience, but certainly could understand the thrill each student experienced as they waited with their hands over top of the water, ready to reach in and touch an actual live shark as it swam by.


This one in particular disturbed me.  He seemed to be more of a snake of the sea than a shark.  I wanted nothing to do with him or his friends.

On our way towards the 'Kid Zone' (had we grabbed a map and realized that's where we were headed we would have turned our heels and ran away screaming) we found these little guys:


There were actually fish in this tank too, but I was more in awe of these snails no larger than my pinkie nail.

I love snails.  I love snails, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  I could watch them slide around all day.

There was a unique piece of coral, at least I'm assuming it falls under coral, there was no sign for it:


It felt like it was something that belonged in a science fiction world.  

The next please touch was 'Creature Feature' where the students could touch a starfish.  Thanks to Spongebob Squarepants, this area was even more crowded than the shark tank. 


The 'Ocean Realm Dive Theater' was amazing because of the glory that is technology.  Today, unlike when I was a child, the scuba divers can talk to the crowd while an employee is giving a discussion on the ocean realm.  Amazing.


Like snails, I have a weird love for turtles.  They are so sad looking, yet, adorable at the same time.


Sharks.  Any aquarium would be majorly lacking without them, so Adventure Aquarium makes sure you don't miss them by including a shark tunnel for visitors to walk through.  It's incredible, and sadly, I have no picture of it.

I do, however, have a picture of this:


This shark is not bothered by this cleaner fish who stayed hooked to his back the entire time we watched him.

While the jelly fish were breathtakingly beautiful, there were only three different tanks of jellyfish.


The biggest let down was that the 'Hippo Haven' was closed.  However, the outdoor exhibit of 'Penguin Island' was open.  One of my students and his father even saw a penguin lay an egg.

After visiting the National Aquarium, I was almost certain I was going to favor the Adventure Aquarium.  The last time I had been to the Adventure Aquarium was our first anniversary, six years ago.  I remember loving it, but perhaps it was because I was so clouded by romance.  Shame on me.  After comparing the two my vote goes to the National Aquarium with the mention that Adventure Aquarium is still an impressive facility with many features that the National Aquarium surprisingly does not have.

The National Aquarium has a fantastic layout.  Whether it actually is or isn't it larger than Adventure Aquarium, it still has a much larger feel without any confusion.  The areas of the museum are leveled rather than spread out so it makes accessing everything easier.  What really wins me over to the National Aquarium is that I felt they had more different and unusual animals to offer than Adventure Aquarium.  Although the dolphins are a major perk, they aren't the only one.  The National Aquarium had puffins, an incredible Animal Planet Australia exhibit, and I didn't even show pictures of the beautiful jelly fish or sharks.

As said, Adventure Aquarium still isn't the loser here.  Adventure Aquarium was much more kid-friendly than the National Aquarium.  Being that I do not have children, that could be the reason for my sway in vote.  However, I could certainly understand how the mothers would vote Adventure Aquarium over the National Aquarium.  The opportunity for your child to be able to pet a shark, stingray, or starfish is irreplaceable.  I know this by the look of disappointment one of my students gave me after he told me he didn't get to pet the shark as compared to the look of delight that my assistant teacher's daughter and classmate had as they awaited the shark to swim by so they could reach out and touch danger by the fin.  Speaking of sharks, the shark tunnel that Adventure Aquarium put in during their most recent renovation is incredible.  It is also packed on a field trip day, hence why I do not have it pictured here.

A major negative, however, is the layout of the museum.  There seemed to be so much space, yet it was easy to miss part of an exhibit simply because of the way the area was arranged.  Rather than levels, most of the Adventure Aquarium is on one level.*

*Note: If you don't have children, stay completely away from Level 2, also known as, Zone C.

Adventure Aquarium offers outdoor exhibits of penguins and, in the summer, butterfly gardens.  This is one area I think that The National Aquarium is lacking, however, the National Aquarium is surrounded by other attractions of the inner harbor such as restored ships that visitors can purchase passes to board.

Either visit, you can't go wrong.  You'll see beautiful and interesting sea creatures.  Considering that they are both so close to each other, my final recommendation would be that if you have children, go to Adventure Aquarium, if you don't, visit the National Aquarium.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

#127 He is Aware

For once, I'm right on time.

World Down Syndrome Day is tomorrow, March 21st.

The first time I realized this was a date actually etched in calendars across the country, I blogged about it a little late.  You can find that post here.

The second time, not to find myself in the same situation as the year before, I blogged about it a week early.  You'll find that post here.

Rather than give a spiced up version of the point that Jonathan has changed my life in such a drastic and positive way, I've decided to take a more photojournalist approach to this post.

Hopefully these pictures will speak better than my finely laced words ever could.



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Jonathan makes my world positively beautiful.

Monday, March 10, 2014

#126 He Holds My Bag

I'm going to give you an inside view to a world that no man has ever dared to enter and most women keep completely private and to themselves because it is so horrifyingly revealing about who they are deep down inside.

The World of Purse.

Alright, perhaps I may be a bit dramatic, but men: understanding the world of purse may save you the death glares you receive when you say to a woman, "What on earth have you got in there anyway?  Do you really need all that junk?"  Women: this is simply a declaration that You Are Not Alone.  Many times I thought I was the crazy one for always having band-aids, paperclips, and a nail clipper in my handbag.  Then I met women who carried scissors, dish towels, and toilet paper in their handbags and I realized the vastness of the World of Purse.

I wish I could tell you that it is as simple as men versus women, but sadly, it is not.

Since men are rare creatures in themselves, we'll begin with them.  A man needs no bag to go anywhere.  Everything he needs he carries with him in his pockets.  If it doesn't fit, it doesn't go.

Gosh, the life of a man.  So simple.  So blissfully ignorant.

Then we have women.  There are so many varieties of baggage that women carry with them that I cannot lie and say there is a cookie cutter mold.

We have:

1. Pockets: The woman who refuses to use a purse and stuffs everything she needs into every one of her pockets.  (This is much different from a man because the woman will magically be able to produce ten times what a man ever could).

2. One and the Same: The woman who has one purse and only one purse that she uses.  The exception is the possibility that she switches her bag seasonally, but in that event she sees the seasons as only winter and summer.

3. Bag and Basket: This woman has a handbag which is One and the Same (see above), but oddly no matter where she is or what she is doing she has with her additional baggage.  It may take the shape of another purse, a laptop bag, a basket, a briefcase--the sky is the limit.

4. Different and One: This woman, has a different handbag for every week.  She changes with her outfits.  She changes with her emotions.  She changes because it is Tuesday.

5. Car Purse: This is the woman who keeps everything that one would normally carry in their purse in their car.  They may even have a purse in their car that for some inexplicable reason never leaves their car.

I am a Different and One girl.  Here is where I make myself perfectly transparent.  Here are the insides of my purse:

1. My violin shoulder rest.  This is the most extraordinary item in my purse.  It makes an appearance for about half the week, longer if I forget to take it out.  Usually it ends up being there longer.  

2. My cosmetic and everything else bag.  I'm pretty sure every girl has some combination of necessary cosmetics in their bag.  Mine, surprisingly, I hardly ever touch.  It is, naturally, the times I leave my cosmetic bag out of my purse that I need the items within.


3. My second cosmetic bag.  I got this tiny pouch with a MAC lipstick/lip gloss combo shown above.  Somehow it has ended up in my bag and I have yet to combine the items within the two cosmetic bags in order to eliminate one.


4. My notebook.  Even if I ditch both my cosmetic bags to lighten my load, I always keep my notebook in my purse.  You never know when a story idea, intriguing phrase, or interesting conversation will occur and beg to be written down.


5. My wallet.  When I took this photo, I actually had money in it.  Today, well....


6. Sunglasses and lotion.  Now that spring is almost here, my sunglasses go with me everywhere.  This lotion has been a necessary addition to my purse for the last year.  'Shea Cashmere' is absolutely divine in scent and touch.  It is on the more expensive side, especially for Bath and Body Works, but worth every penny.


7. Receipts.  Regardless of how many receipts I throw away, somehow I always manage to have a receipt crumpled in my purse.  This one is from this weekend when Hubby and I went to Barnes and Noble for coffee and cheesecake.  Seriously, who can resist red velvet cheesecake?


8. My pencil case and my battery.  Having a writing utensil is a necessity for me.  If ever I leave my case at home, odds are I at least have a tuxedo black sharpie on hand.  I bought the battery when my cell phone decided to stop working properly.  It turned out it wasn't the battery that was the problem, so rather than return the purchased battery, I keep it fully charged in my purse in case of emergency.

And there you have it.  My insight into the World of Purse and a rather unromantic view into the contents my purse.