Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Celebrating Mom

This year marked two years since my mother passed away. I really wanted to honor her this year, instead of sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I actually did really well on the day, but was feeling rather depressed the day after. Dale was on his annual fishing trip so it was just me and the kiddos. Ethan was being a tween and said some stuff that made me take him to his grandparents, Jack stayed too. It ended up being okay. We each grieve in our own ways, which in the moment can be hard to deal with. We had a nice lesson in how to convey things tactfully without making your mom want to knock you out.

So, me and the girls off on an adventure. We headed to Main St. and went to the chocolate shop for treats. The roses had all started to wilt and had petals falling off. Regan could have spent all day gathering up rose petals. Then we headed to a little boutique and got marbles and pretty soap. Mom lived on Main St for a while when she sold her house before she retired. She would take the kids to the chocolate shop for chocolate covered marshmallows and she had quite the marble collection. I keep them in a mason jar in the window sill at the kitchen sink.

We went to the thrift store and looked around. We ended up scoring a brand new, tags on bathing suit for Ellie for $2.50 and a brand new shirt for either one of the girls for another $2.50. Not too shabby. When I was a kid I pretty much lived on thrift store clothes. There was a neat little thrift store on Main St. and it had old creaky floors and we would spend what seemed like forever in there. Everything was super cheap and there were usually some really neat things. Totally different from today's more commercialized stores, but we had fun nonetheless. We went home and picked up one of Mom's baskets and a pair of scissors for each of us. We went down to the creek by our house and picked thistles and wild flowers. Her cottage was decorated in purple and I had thistles in mason jars at her funeral. They really start to bloom around the end of May and early June. Every time I see one I am reminded of her. We took our finds home and made bouquets, carefully!

We went to the grocery store to pick up some groceries and get a treat for after dinner. Strawberry shortcake for the win! Then it was movie and snuggle time. I was so glad I decided to celebrate her with my girls. She would have loved every minute of it. I still struggle with her being gone and I imagine I always will, but being able to celebrate her and even being able to allow myself to still grieve the loss is okay.



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

First Day of Summer

Rain, rain and more rain. For the first few days of summer vacation it just rained. So we did what any fun family would do and played in the rain, hung out in pajamas, watched movies (Harry Potter marathon), played video games and built forts. It was awesome. I am so grateful that I get to be home with them this summer. I think they really needed their mom back.

Jack is super serious about pillow forts between the couch and ottoman. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Last Day of School Fun

I'm not sure who was more excited for school to be over this year, the kids or me. I think maybe me this year. You see, we didn't get into the Pre-K next to our elementary for Jack. We had to drive about 8 miles round trip twice a day. I know, its not much, but we live within walking distance to the elementary. Just a pain. So next year the youngest will all be at one school!! I am so excited for next year.

We celebrated by going out for donuts at a local doughnut place. I love their donuts. We ran into Ellie's teacher which I think kind of made Ellie's morning. She adored her teacher this year. I did too. The doughnut shop has a neat chalk board corner inside and the kids usually get in some coloring time.

I am ready for summertime and they are too. We tried to get a group pic, but gave up in favor of eating the doughnuts. Good choice.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Cave Tour at Silver Dollar City

The Cave Tour at Silver Dollar City is hands down one of my favorite things to do at Silver Dollar City. I love the excitement and the accomplishment I feel every time I finish it. Here are some tips to make it fun for your kids and easier on you.



  • Get in line and then go to the bathroom. I know this seems counter intuitive but it works. Tours leave every thirty minutes. Your goal is to get there 5-10 minutes after a tour leaves (assuming you don't make the first one). You should be able to get in line and then go to the restroom before the next tour starts. This way there is minimal wait time in the line. 
  • It's okay to let them play on your phone while you wait. I would love to say that the scenes that they have filled with history and facts kept my kids entertained, but they didn't. Four and five year olds just don't care about history yet. 
  • Don't refill your drinks before you get in line. In fact, make sure they are empty. You won't be able to take them on the tour and you will be less likely to drink them right before the tour. There aren't any bathrooms in the cave. You also won't be sloshing them around either.
  • There are a lot of stairs and a lot of walking, this is not the time to wear the cute shoes.
  • Be at the back of the line. This way you aren't holding it up. It also frees you to take pictures that don't include photo bombers. 
  • Have fun. Enjoy the beauty. Ask them questions along the way. 
  • I save this for the last day. This is the only thing we do in the park. We get in, do they cave tour, refill our cups for the car and get any last minute snack for the car. I promise it will make them tired and they will take a really great nap in the car!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Easy Whole30 Meal in 10 Minutes


Okay so I must confess that I only made it 12 days on my first Whole30. I think I would have done much better if I had been better prepared. I jumped in to do it concurrently with a friend, who read the book and was ready to go. She did fantastic and lost 15 lbs in 30 days. She looked and felt amazing when she was done (I am still so proud of her!!!). I lost 6 lbs in 12 days. I cannot wait to do it again, but I have learned that I need to give myself plenty of prep time and I also need meals that I can make for my whole family. Cooking for just myself and then making a separate meal for them was not working. It made me feel like I was being punished. I am also rather cranky without cream in my coffee and I was having a really hard time making the transition to nights with sub par coffee. Below is my favorite meal that everyone wanted to eat. It was also one of the easiest so I/we ended up eating it quite a few times in 12 days. It's also something I continue to make because even though it is simple, it is very delicious!

Shopping list:
Chicken breasts
Olive Oil
Assorted bell peppers
Onion
Avocado
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cut the chicken breasts into strips or chunks and add to a heated saute pan on medium with a little bit of olive oil and salt/pepper to taste. While the chicken is cooking cut up peppers and onions and add them to the chicken about 4 minutes in. Continue to let the chicken cook and peppers and onions to get tender. While that is cooking another 3-4 minutes cut up avocados into wedges. There you have it. A delicious, fast dinner that follows the Whole30 guidelines that will fill you up. If you aren't on Whole30, add a piece of bread or a pita to the mix. For the kids I would add some fresh fruit on the side.

I could usually make this meal in less than 10 minutes because I would prep my onions, peppers and chicken breast and have my cutting done ahead of time. That has really been the key to being able to stick to healthy eating in general. When I don't prep I tend to make things that are less healthy. This is a good go to recipe to add to my rotation.

What is your favorite Whole30 recipe?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Homemade Laundry Soap: Tried and True Recipe


Have you noticed that there are tons of recipes now for homemade laundry soap? It can be so overwhelming! I have been making and modifying mine for years now. You used to have to order Fels Naptha online where I live, I've been making mine for that long! My recipe is pretty basic and best of all, it works! I just had someone tell me today how nice I smelled too, bonus!

Ingredients:

2 bars of Fels Naptha (grated)
1 box of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
1 box of Borax
1 tub of Oxiclean
1 container of laundry beads (your choice for smell)

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. That's it.

I just recently started adding the laundry beads. I love them. The best part is you don't overuse them, which I would tend to do using them independently. The hardest part is grating the soap and mixing it up, but you only have to do that every 3 or 4 months so the trade off is pretty good. It also gives you a pretty decent triceps workout. Every little bit counts right? It only takes a tablespoon per load, but you can add more if you have something that is especially soiled.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Top 18 Travel Tips for Driving with Kids

I recently had a friend post on Facebook looking for advice on driving across country with their three kids when they move later this year. I think I could have written a book! Two years ago we traveled from OK to OR and back again in 10 days and the kids were 10,7,4 and 3. Oh my word, it was fun and we survived! So I compiled a list just for you with my travel tips. They don't involve wrapping up small gifts for each hour you are in the car (this mama doesn't have time for that, but I am totally impressed if you do) and I don't bribe for good behavior, you should be good because it's the right thing to do. Kids today are lucky they have all these fun devices to play on!


  • DVD's. Okay this one is a no brainer right? If you don't have one, ask your friends or family if they have one you could borrow, barter or rent. Did you know that you don't have to pack any of your own DVD's? We used Redbox the whole time! You can download their mobile app and plan your gas/food/breaks for places that have them. Wal-Mart's usually do and while I am not a Wal-Mart shopper on the norm, it will suffice when we are traveling!
  • A sturdy kid potty. The kind that you use to potty train with. This one is similar to the one I have, but they don't make mine anymore (what? why???). The point is for it to be small and compact without a back, so you can put it in a re-usable shopping bag with wipes, toilet paper, clorox wipes and extra plastic shopping bags. If it doesn't have a back then you can use it too. Middle of nowhere, you better believe I used it! Some of the best stops were in the middle of nowhere doing business in the woods. 
  • Extra clothes in zip lock bags for when there is an accident. If its pee or vomit, you don't want that leaking out of a bag you tie up. 
  • A positive attitude and a sense of adventure. If you are nervous, they will see right through you. 
  • Snacks that your kids normally eat. Some people say to bring lots of candy or treats. The last thing I want in the car is my kid on a sugar high who then gets a tummy ache. No thanks!
  • Markers if its summer time. Crayons if its winter. 
  • I let them pick new coloring/activities themselves. Sometimes when I pick something for them they aren't as into it as I thought they would be. 
  • Are we there yet? Give them the schedule. Very important for my oldest to know where we are going and when we would get there. You can even download a map app for them to look at or print off your own "map" coloring pages.
  • Plan rest stops for parks if the weather is nice or Chick-Fil-A for an inside day. A lot of times its more about moving around then it is about eating for the kids. We stopped once outside of Colorado and the sky was so big and blue and beautiful I could have stayed right there forever. Those are the times when memories are made. 
  • Wear comfortable clothes (ones that would be okay to sleep in) and shoes that are easy to get on and off. Regan was a big fan of wearing her pajamas all day. Worked for me. She was happy and it really felt like a vacation I think for her. 
  • Don't try to fit too many miles into one day. I know that I could travel with just me and the hubs and crank out a ton of miles and be fine...the kids just get cranky, which is no fun for anyone.
  • Try and book hotels with pools. Again, this is just so they have a place to move around. It's often hard to sleep after you've been in the car all day. This really wears them out so they (and you) can get some solid sleep. 
  • Eat dinner in your hotel if you are just beat and not up for social graces. We found a local pizza shop in a small town in Idaho and had a party in our room one late night. It was great pizza, we didn't care if they ate in bed and everyone was happy. 
  • Instead of buying more stuff for them to do in the car you can let them purchase a new game. movie or app for their tablet. They only get paid apps when they get a gift card or something in our house. Let them know ahead of time what their app purchase amount limit is. 
  • Bring an inflatable air mattress for the hotel if you have a bunch of kids. I don't think we have ever checked in as 2 adults and 4 kids. Mainly because they will tell us that we need two rooms. I don't think so! Especially when we are just passing through. A couple of good quality air mattresses that fill up on their own (you just plug them in) really serve us well. The kids already have extra blankets and pillows so we just bring a couple up with us. It also helps that the kids can have their own space. Sometimes you don't get good sleep when you share.
  • If they have a breakfast buffet in the morning and its been a late night, usually the hubs and our oldest child, will go down and load up as much as they can, bring it up and then go back and do it again. That way we don't miss breakfast because we are still getting kids (or myself) ready and you can have breakfast in bed! Pack up and eat at the same time. No rushing and no forgetting stuff. 
  • Keep electronics in one spot and have a reusable checklist for each stop. You could even have an electronics bag that houses all electronics upon pack up. We totally left a tablet at a non-Disney hotel in Anaheim and of course cleaning never found it. At the point we realized it was left, we wouldn't have made it home on time if we had doubled back. 
  • A small container for the laundromat with essentials. Use an empty drink mix container to put dryer sheets, detergent pods and quarters in. If you need to use the laundry at the hotel or because someone barfed all over their car seat cover you will be totally prepared to stop, strip and wash. You can also pack lighter and/or arrive home with clean clothes by doing laundry as you go! We stayed in a hotel off of Hwy 1 and grabbed a six pack from a convenience store and hit the laundry mat. Best beers and we were good to go with clean clothes for the rest of the trip.

The boys at the potty break spot.
Can you survive? You betcha. And if all those don't work, take turns driving and sitting in the passenger seat with headphones in. And remember that its not just about the destination, but the journey as well.

On her way to the potty break spot in her pajamas and shoes. It was a breathtaking potty break!


Monday, May 18, 2015

The BEST Homemade Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting

Seriously this frosting is so good I could eat it straight out of the bowl and frost everything in sight. It is addictive, rich and so creamy. I made so many batches to get the right combination of chocolate to make it taste amazing.

Ingredients:

2 sticks of salted butter at room temp
4-6 cups of powdered sugar
2 teaspoons or so of vanilla extract (don't be thrifty on this and get the good stuff, no imitation)
1/2 cup of Hershey's Cocoa Powder
2 Squares of Ghiradelli Baking Chocolate (the semi-sweet kind big bar)
1 tablespoon or so of milk or half and half

What you do:

It is really helpful to have a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer but if you don't you can do this in a bowl with a regular mixer, no problem, you're going to get a nice arm workout!

If your butter is cold you can soften it by unwrapping and putting it in the microwave on 50% power for 10 sec intervals. Making sure it doesn't melt is crucial, so don't do anything else while you do this!

Put your butter in your mixer and let it whip on medium speed for about 5 minutes, stop and scrape the sides once or twice.
While it is beating, melt the chocolate squares carefully in the microwave (half power, short intervals) until it is just melted all the way through. Make sure that there are no lumps.
Add the vanilla and melted chocolate to the butter.
Add the 1/2 cup of Hershey's Cocoa Powder
Once the cocoa powder has been incorporated add the powdered sugar (minimum 4 cups) 1/2 cup at a time. After 2 cups of powdered sugar add in the milk (or half and half). You can add more than 4 cups if you need more frosting. Just keep alternating powdered sugar and milk.

Depending on how you like your frosting (thicker, thinner) alternate adding milk and powdered sugar until you get the consistency that you are after. If it doesn't have enough chocolate for your tastes add more cocoa powder 1/8 cup at a time, although this is pretty perfect to me. Frosting is never an exact measurement for me. Cupcake baking is another story, chemistry is not forgiving!


Airstream Progress: Gutting, floors, must haves

We worked tirelessly to get at minimum the floors installed for our first camping trip in our 1978 Argosy Airstream we have affectionately named Three Magee. We took her to the bones and thankfully there wasn't much underbelly damage. The hardest part of gutting for us was taking off the wheel wells! Here are some of the things we did and what we did on our first trip!

Once we had everything out we checked and sealed any leaks. This part is super important, nobody wants to get wet or deal with water damage. We will be testing to see if we got them all soon, more on that later. We purchased a bunch of insulation and decided to go with a higher grade so that we would save on heating and cooling costs and make it easier to maintain a comfortable temperature. Even on a 50-60 degree day it would get really warm in there without the insulation and walls in. We really wanted to be able to go anywhere without temperature limitations. We tucked the insulation in and began cutting the floors using old flooring as cutting guides. We did not place our plywood under the shell (like when it was built). We didn't measure it correctly somewhere and ended up with a one inch gap going across the width of the trailer. We were putting in some serious time on it and well, I guess we only measured once. It was around 2 a.m on the day we were supposed to be leaving so we MacGuyver'd it and made what reminds me of a door way threshold cover. Dale made it nice and smooth so it wouldn't be too bothersome. It sure worked for the first trip, but we will have to go in and fix it.

After we got the floor in we set to getting the electrical hooked back up and getting all of the outlets and wires duct taped to the walls. We made sure that no one would accidentally electrocute themselves and that it would be kid friendly! We assembled a futon at the front for Dale and I to sleep on and pulled 2 of the kids mattresses down from their rooms instead of using air mattresses. We also had a cot that we put on one side. Best purchase ever was a mini-fridge. It was the most convenient thing to have. We put a spare TV on top of the fridge and brought a cable cord. I strung up Christmas lights and had pretty bedding and put some rugs down.

It was super rainy before we got there and during, which means mud. The spot we reserved was a muddy mess and not big enough to put our pergola in front of the door...which I've decided would have made the trip much more pleasant. I brought our outdoor rugs and they helped with the mud control, but it would have made a huge difference if we had had the pergola in front of the door. I was so glad that we brought the TV. It rained just after we finished cooking dinner over the fire on the first night and we snuggled up and watched movies together and listened to the rain. Everyone was so tired from walking all day that they pretty much crashed.

Here are the must haves for the next trip, which we hope to take at the end of summer. Walls up and painted. Bunk beds for the kids. This one is a biggie. Of course when they are at home they want to share beds and have slumber parties. You would have thought we were torturing them this time! I want to leave it open so that they can see out of their bunks towards the TV. I have always wanted it to feel open, and I think this will really help with that. I really want the toilet back in. Just for those early morning trips to the bathroom. A kitchen sink. Okay this one isn't so much a need as a want. I am definitely an outdoor kinda girl, but it would have been so much easier to have done dishes inside and have a nice place to wash my hands for things like contacts or teeth brushing. Curtains or some major window tinting. Changing while laying down or putting a sheet up only cut it because I knew it was only for a few days. I found some neat tutorials on new curtain rods. Now I just have to settle on some fabric!

Now for my wants. At first I didn't really care if we had a shower, but if we are going to put the toilet back in and since we have a practically brand new hot water heater, I say why not. We had originally planned on reconfiguring it to have the bathroom in the middle and the bunks all the way pushed to the back, but snuggle family movies totally trumped that. For me glamping and camping isn't necessarily about removing electronics, for the daytime sure, but at night, I just want some peace and quiet and to be able to relax together. Especially if it's raining! I really want to have cute coordinating bedding for the kids. I also want some pretty light fixtures. We ditched the 70's and I am not looking back! I also want it to have more storage and shelving. There were so many times that I just really wanted a hook or a shelf to put things. We were kind of living out of totes and suitcases. Maybe storage is a need! With the bunks and storage we will have walking space which is at a premium when you are confined to 24 ft!

What worked. The futon worked great. I don't know if it will be the last thing we have there, but it made for a decent nights sleep. There was still plenty of room back there if we decided to put a fresh water tank in behind it like what had been in there originally. I loved the functionality of it and being able to have a couch or a bed. It was also really light weight so moving it was a breeze. We got a great little space heater too. It worked perfectly to heat the whole place, as long as the kids didn't mess with the buttons...which for sure happened. I was happily surprised with how warm it was and the temperatures were in the 40's. I also was so glad we got a mini fridge. It just made it feel more like a little home and it was great to have things like milk for cereal.

We had a pretty good time. I can't wait to get some more done and take her out again.

We stayed at the Silver Dollar City Wilderness Campground. I would totally stay there again. The showers were decent, but hopefully next time I will have my own.

Lots and lots of insulation.

He worked so, so hard!

Bare bones, but a floor and mattresses. 

You can see the standing pools of water! Our pergola was amazing, I just wish it would have been in front of our door. That would have made all the difference. 

Those black pants on Jack are the reason you pack spare clothes no matter what. Let's just say I'm a ninja.

These two were total best buds.

Quick! Selfie time!

I love doing the cave tour.

This is the moment right before the shit hit the fan and we went from having the best day to whine city.

Love this one!

More next time about what to pack and tips for traveling with kids. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

5 Ways to Make Your Morning Routine Less Stressful {with kids}

I have been getting kids up and out the door for what seems like forever. It is sometimes the most excruciating thing I have to do all day. On some days I would rather walk across a room covered in Lego pieces. That bad! So lets make it a bit easier. I can't calm all of the "but I don't wannas" and the "she looked at me" drama but I can help you to get it go a bit more smoothly.

1- Pick out their clothes the night before. Have your kids help you pick out their clothes either for the week on Sunday night, or every night before you go to bed, with the shoes they want to wear, because shoes like to mysteriously walk away when you are trying to find them at the last minute in the morning.

2- Make lunches ahead of time. If you make their lunch, do it the night before. I have been known to procrastinate this. It never works in my favor to do it in the morning. It also helps to have an extra lunch box and drink container for the one that forgot theirs at school.

3- Load and Go Area. Have a dedicated place for backpacks and coats. Have them look at the weather and put anything they will need next to their backpack. This is a really great time to sign folders and read all of those science project is due tomorrow notes.

4- Me Time. Wake up 20 minutes earlier than you normally do. Okay, I am the worst at actually getting up earlier than I'm supposed to. Hell, I struggle with getting out of bed at any appointed time. I am a self proclaimed night owl living in an early birds house. I hate it, but when I give myself that extra 20 minutes things really seem to go much more smoothly and I am more calm. Or maybe it's because I've had my coffee earlier.

5- No TV. Leave the TV off. That is unless they are all done and waiting. The kids know that I am more than willing to let them watch TV if they have eaten their breakfast, got dressed and brushed their hair and teeth. Only then. TV's have some insane, mind controlling laser that makes it to where they can't do anything without their eyes glued to the screen like little zombies. I consider it more of an incentive than a bribe. It's understood that it will happen if they do what they are supposed to but I don't ever use it to get them to move their keister.

Do you have anything that works really well for you?

Here they are on a successful morning where they did exactly what they were supposed to do!!