Category Archives: Review

Tony Tries It: Geocaching

Have you ever had something that always sounded fun, that you always wanted to try, but never got around to doing it?  That’s how I’ve been about geocaching.  I’ve talked about doing it for a few years but never did anything about it.

As we approached the weekend (with a lighter than normal schedule) I suggested to my girls that we give it a try while my wife was at work.  They both enthusiastically said that it sounded like fun.

Anyone with a couple of kids knows that when you can get them to agree on something you run with it… so this weekend we set out on our first ever geocaching adventure.  Read on and then be sure and watch our video at the end!

First Geocaching Adventure Selfe

If you’re wondering what exactly geocaching is… let me put it quite simply: it’s a real world treasure hunt.

You go online, or use the Android or iPhone app, to create a free user name and account.  Then you look up hidden geocaches that you’d like to find.  You’re given GPS coordinates and maybe a hint or two on how to find what you’re looking for.

There are millions of geocaches all over the world.  They can be large enough to hold trinkets, paper, and pens.  Or they can be really tiny with just enough room for a rolled up piece of paper.

On the paper in the geocache you write down your geocaching user name and the date you found it.  You can also “check-in” on the app letting the geocache owner know you found it. Once you do a smiley face shows up on your app map.

Geocaching App Screenshot

Using the app we found out that there are 4 hidden geocaches in our town.  One is less than a half mile from our house.  That’s where we started.  We set out on our bikes and were in the general location quickly.

The geocaching app let us know we were close.

Geocaching App Screenshot Getting Close

The first one was the hardest of the four for us to find.  Mostly because we had no idea what exactly we were looking for.  We knew it was small, though, about the size of a film canister.

We almost gave up but kept looking and eventually found it.  The excitement for all of us was pretty high.

Geocache hidden in a tree

We signed the log and returned the cache just as we found it.  Then it was a short bike ride to the next one which we found with a lot less looking.

The third geocache we went after was the easiest find of the day.  It’s probably because we now had some idea of the types of things to look for. Plus, we were getting more familiar with the app and how to use the compass in it.

Tiny Geocache

Our last geocache of the day was super small.  My girls looked all over the area but couldn’t find it.  We wondered if it had gone missing because checking the geocaching app we knew the people that tried to find it before us came up empty handed.

Through a little dumb luck I found it.  It was about the diameter of a dime and probably a half inch tall.  If you weren’t looking for it you’d never find it.  Even if you’re purposely looking for it I can see where you might miss it.

I’ll admit that we all felt a little bit of satisfaction knowing that we found it when others hadn’t.  We returned that super tiny geocache to it’s hiding place and rode home talking about our first geocaching adventure.

We all agreed that we wanted to go again.  Next time, my youngest wants to find a bigger geocache containing trinkets.  That way we could take one to keep and leave a trinket that we brought behind.

Geocaching is a fun activity for families! It’s free and when you download the app you’ll have everything you need to get started on your smartphone.  I especially liked that it got us all outside and paying attention to our surroundings.

If you give geocaching a try make sure to bring a pen along to sign the log.  You might even want to bring a pair of tweezers to get out the paper log.  As previously mentioned, they can be really small.

Fortunately, I had someone with small fingers with me on the trip that got all the logs out fairly easily.

Opening a tiny geocache

You also want to bring along your phone charger or portable battery pack.  GPS and have your screen brightness on high to see it in the sun can really eat up your battery.  (Click here for my review of the portable battery pack I use.)

Geocaching was a successful Tony Tries It that I’d recommend to anyone. We can’t wait to do it again!

Have you gone geocaching before? How many have you found?

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The Great Jolly Rancher Soda Taste Test

I was not provided free product for this review. In fact, my wife thinks I’m crazy for spending $4 so we could conduct it. All opinions expressed are those of my family… and me! 😉

Several weeks ago as my daughters and I were shopping at our local grocery store we came across a small display near the end of the aisle that caught all of our attentions.  It was for Jolly Rancher soda.

I had no idea such a product existed and debated out loud with my girls whether it was any good.  I snapped a picture of it and shared it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posing the questions:

Drinkable Jolly Rancher? What do you think? Does it sound great or gross?”

Jolly Rancher Soda On Store Shelves

I got a couple great votes, some people thought their kids would like it, a college friend thought there might be a reason it was on sale, and Jeni from the blog “Jeni Eats” suggested that a taste test was in order.

The next time we did our grocery shopping we picked up 4 bottles. There were some different flavors like kiwi-strawberry and lime punch but we stuck with the more traditional Jolly Rancher flavors for our taste test; apple, blue raspberry, cherry, and watermelon.

Jolly Rancher Soda Bottles

The Great Jolly Rancher Soda Taste Test

I’ve conducted experiments for my blog with my oldest daughter before so I enlisted her help in coming up with a way to evaluate each beverage.

We decided to break it down into 3 areas: overall taste, how it tasted compared to the actual Jolly Rancher hard candy, and aroma.  Then we devised the score sheets our family would fill out.

Four clear juice glass were filled with each flavor we judged.

Green Apple Jolly Rancher Soda Taste Test

Here are some of our notes on each flavor:

  1. Apple – Smelled identical to the candy. Closest tasting to the actual Jolly Rancher candy.
  2. Watermelon – Tasted good at first but had a bad after-taste.
  3. Cherry – Smelled like cough syrup… tasted like carbonated cough syrup.
  4. Blue Raspberry – Looks like Listerine. Smelled pretty good. Tasted ok.

So, what flavor came out on top?  Apple was the overall winner in 1st place.  Blue Raspberry 2nd.  Watermelon 3rd.  Cherry 4th.

Final Thoughts:

Jolly Rancher Soda was fun to try but I can’t see our family ever buying this again… but as my wife pointed out, we’re really not the target market.

My kids don’t like carbonated beverages, I don’t drink much soda, and the only things my wife ever drinks are water, milk, and Diet Coke.

I can see the younger 5-10 year-old, juice loving crowd really enjoying these.  Perhaps older folks would like using them as a mixer with rum or vodka.  Hmmmm… perhaps I should do another personal taste test. 😉

Have you had Jolly Rancher Soda before? What were your thoughts?

If you enjoyed this head over to Learning As I Go for a taste test review of Wildwood Soda.

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Review: Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium At The Mall Of America

I was provided admission for my family to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are mine.

Review: Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium

There’s more to the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN than just shopping! There’s the Nickelodeon Universe Amusement Park… and in the depths of the MOA there is Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium.

The Mall of America isn’t your ordinary mall… and Sea Life Minnesota isn’t your ordinary aquarium.  It’s over 1.2 million gallons of water filled with just about any kind of sea creature you would want to see.

You begin you Sea Life Minnesota adventure by taking an escalator down to the aquarium where you’re greeted by a pool filled with creatures you can actually touch: starfish, coral, sea anemone, and more.

There was an aquarium staff member here giving information about the sea life we were touching.  My youngest pointed out to me how one of the anemone was sticky and tried to cling to your finger.  I gently touched it and she was right.

Next, was the ray 15,000 gallon ray pool.  This is where you can actually feed and touch the rays.  When we were there they were circling the pool in a counter-clockwise pattern.

All we had to do was hold our palm flat under the water and the rays would brush against them as they passed by.  They are very smooth!

Sea Life MN touching the stingrays

From there it was on to watch the sea horses.  What cool creatures they are.  It was interesting to see how they clung to each other.

One of my favorite parts to Sea Life Minnesota is the jellyfish area made up of  large cylinders from floor to ceiling are filled with jellyfish.  The room is dark and the jellyfish tanks change colors periodically.

This showcased just how graceful the jellyfish are.  Very fluid and translucent… changing colors in the light.

Sea Life MN Jellyfish

I could’ve spent all afternoon watching the jellyfish but was prodded along by my daughters who were ready to head into the 300 foot aquarium tunnel.

Sea Life MN Underwater Aquarium

It lets you literally walk through the aquarium and watch the sea life swim all around and above you.

My family loved seeing the sharks!  These weren’t tiny sharks either. Some appeared to be bigger than me and I’m 6’2″.

Sea Life MN Shark

One of the things I really appreciated about Sea Life Minnesota was all the information shared throughout the exhibits.  It seemed like there was something interesting to learn everywhere you looked.

Sea Life MN interesting info

It took my family about 90 minutes to go through all the exhibits… but to be honest, I could’ve spent twice that amount of time just watching all the underwater creatures.

Your adventure ends in the Sea Life Minnesota gift shop.

Sea Life MN Gift Shop

My youngest was excited that they had two pressed penny machines so she could add to her collection.

We went mid-afternoon on a Friday and it was busy but didn’t seem crowded.  If you’re taking kids I think afternoon would be a great time to go.

It’ll give them something to look forward to while you shop in the morning.

If you’re planning a trip to the Mall of America you should add some time to explore Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium.  You can learn more on their website here.  I was checking it out and think that their snorkeling experience looks pretty cool!

Have you been to Sea Life Minnesota? What tips would you give to a first time visitor?

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