Category Archives: Places

Crater of Diamonds

crater of diamonds state park
If you’re looking for a fun destination, earth sciences field trip or just a way to break up a long cross country drive, consider Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas.

My son has been interested in minerals and gems for at least 3 years, so we have ventured out in search of fossils, Pecos valley diamonds and other crystals. This park deserves special recognition for its uniqueness.

A volcano erupted here about 100 million years ago which created an 83-acre crater. That eruption brought rocks and minerals including diamonds and other gemstones from the Earth’s mantle to the surface.

The Crater of Diamonds is the only place in the world where the public can mine for real diamonds. And you keep what you find!

The chances of finding a diamond are very rare- an average of two are found a day. But the possibility of finding is what makes the trip exciting.

I had no idea what to expect before visiting the park, but now that I’ve been twice I can share my observations and tips.

1. It feels like being on another planet.
The search area is about 33 acres, and at times one can feel completely alone. I’m not sure if it’s the way the sound carries, the possibility of hundreds of diamonds under your feet or standing in 10 million year old volcanic dirt, but I have felt a very quiet and calm, almost meditative feeling both times.

arkansas diamond mining

2. It also feels like being at a casino in Vegas. You get the feeling that everyone there is trying to hit the jackpot. There are obvious regulars who are looking for their fortune. But there are also many families who are just having a fun and interesting visit to the crater.

The first time we went was after a big rain. We basically spent the whole time in the mud- wearing shoes made it difficult to walk, as our feet felt cemented into the crater. We didn’t mind being barefoot- it was like a mud wrap for our feet, and I loved the idea of earthing in 100 million year old volcanic soil.
crater of diamonds

muddyfeetDCarkansas diamond field trip
The second time it was sunny and dry and akin to walking in a large hardened dirt field.

diamond crater pump2

Here are some tried and true tips to make the most of your visit:

You can rent screens, buckets and shovels from the park, but you probably already have most of what you will need.

***Take your own buckets- sand pails for the kids and a 3 gallon bucket like this one for the adults-

With your own buckets, you can take what you find home in them- in our case, my kids find big cool rocks and other minerals, and it’s great to have something to carry them in. You can also fill up your buckets with more volcanic dirt to take home, and your kids will have something to sift through on a rainy day.

diamond mining arkansas review brookssearch

***I also recommend taking your own shovels- basic gardening tools work well.

I recommend a trowel and hand cultivator.

If you don’t have any, they sell basic hand trowels for $2 at the park.

***It’s worth renting a screen at the park ($3 to rent) for the wet sifting.

***Take some small plastic baggies to keep your sparkly crystal finds safe while you’re still searching. There are staff members who will identify what you’ve found when you are ready to leave the park, and you’ll want to have those separate from the other rocks and collection you might have.

***Bug repellant is a must- both times I’ve gone I have been bitten by sand flies, also fittingly called no-see-ums. I never saw them, and then the bites itched like crazy for a week. Click here to find the best non-toxic bug spray for these critters.

***Hats, sunscreen and bottles of drinking water are all also very important.

***If it has rained recently- take trash bags with you to carry your muddy shoes after you decide it will be easier to walk barefoot.

Recap of things you need:
1. Trash bags
2. Insect repellant
3. Sunscreen
4. Water
5. Plastic baggies for those small crystals you might find
6. Sand pails, shovels and rakes for kids
7. Large utility bucket
8. Hand trowel and cultivator
9. Change of clothes for kids

We also took a picnic lunch both times, as there are many picnic benches in the park before you go into the crater.

Have fun and good luck!

PS- it is also worth noting that there is a small water park right in front of the crater, so if you want to cool off and swim and slide, take your bathing suits and towels!



There is not a day that goes by that I am not carrying a stick for my son. “That’s my special stick Mom- keep it safe.” I have been known to bring home sticks that are over 5 feet long from the park. We have a wonderful stick collection.  This seems to be universal with children- give them nothing but sticks and dirt and they can entertain themselves.

patrick dougherty

Ever since watching Saving Mr. Banks and seeing a young P.L. Travers constructing little fairy houses, and reading Thumbelina by Hans Christian Anderson, my son has been building little stick houses in our yard, at the park, really anywhere he can find sticks and leaves.

patrick dougherty

When he’s not drawing in the dirt with sticks, building houses for The Littles, roasting marshmallows on sticks, sword fighting (cringe), or finding keepers, he’s making himself forts and tee pees.

patrick dougherty

Imagine his delight when while attending his cousin’s high school graduation in New Mexico we happened upon this glorious sculpture.

Stick ARt

It was incredible. Sticks and twigs molded and shaped to mesh with the surroundings, Art that is as much experiential as it is beautiful.

The sculptor is Patrick Dougherty. Naturally I came home and researched, and he has installations all over the world. There is a documentary based on his life and work.

Bending Sticks explores how the artist’s childhood – spent rambling through the woods and building forts and hideouts with his four siblings – fueled his career and nurtured the prolific, insightful artist he is today.”

All that time Patrick Dougherty spent in nature as a child now benefits people and children around the world. His story is encouraging and inspiring, and as a mother of young boys I am reminded that no time spent outside collecting sticks is a waste of time.

More p

Spring Cleaning and H&M

Happy spring!

Thinking about organizing and spring cleaning? I recently read two articles in the same day that could not have been more opposite.

First, The Minimalist Mom who, if I am counting correctly, only has 16 items of clothing in her closet.

Then, I read about Beth Shak- the professional poker player who has a shoe collection reportedly worth around $1 million which she stores in four password-protected closets.

Both articles offered organizing tips.

I relate more toward the woman with 4 shoe closets- one of my favorite movies from childhood was “Overboard” with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell…not necessarily for the storyline, but for the incredible rotating shoe rack he built for her.

And as for minimalism- I can barely go away for the weekend with only 16 items in my overnight bag. Perhaps my love of clothes and shoes is a byproduct of my pre-motherhood career. Perhaps it’s because I’m my mother’s daughter.

Whatever the case may be, like most of us, I often find myself in need of paring down and doing a bit of spring cleaning. I hate the thought of adding to landfills, and have found a great way to recycle old clothes, that are not in good enough condition to donate.


From their website: “Every year tons of textiles are thrown out and end up in landfill. As much as 95% of these clothes could be used again; re-worn, reused or recycled – depending on the state of the garment.

sco friendly H&M

Producing new resources – such as cotton – to make garments at one end and wasting them on the other does not make business sense. Also it doubles the stress on our environment. This is why we have launched a global garment collecting initiative as the first fashion company in the world.”

Customers are encouraged to bring in unwanted garments of any brand and in any condition to H&M stores in all 53 markets to be given a new life. And they give you a voucher for 15% off any item in exchange for your bag.

Most “fast fashion” has a negative impact on the environment. But H&M maintains a commitment to sustainability and their operations are run in a way that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

They have set seven ambitious commitments:

  • Provide fashion for conscious customers
  • Choose and reward responsible partners
  • Be ethical
  • Be climate smart
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle
  • Use natural resources responsibly
  • Strengthen communities

I have always loved H&M, and knowing about the H&M conscious program makes me love them even more.

Here you can read more about their sustainability. And next time you’re thinking about throwing out an old t-shirt or pair of socks, take it to H&M instead!


Baby Friendly Bakery in Austin, TX

I absolutely LOVE when I discover a coffee shop where I can go and meet my friends whether they have children or not AND take my 2 year old without wondering whether or not I’ll actually get to have any adult conversation.   This (combined with the fact that pain au chocolat is probably my favorite food on the planet thanks to my time living in Paris) led me to my new favorite place in Austin.

La Patisserie

The owner is a friend of a friend, and I’ve also heard many other moms mention how great it is.

Yes, the macarons, millefeuille, and eclairs are reason enough to go, but what makes me want to return again and again is the corner of the shop they safely sectioned off as a play area for babies and toddlers.

baby friendly baby bakery

There are books and toys and a kid sized table and chairs all enclosed by a baby gate, and my husband and I had coffee, French pastries and actual conversation!  It was a glorious day and we were ready to leave long before our 2 year old- which means I can meet friends there and we can linger over lattes.

Thank you La Patisserie!