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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Roadtrip Tips

Recently, my family (husband, myself, and 5-year-old son) went on a 13-hour roadtrip to Washington, D.C. From Illinois. Then, we came back after 3 days there. That may sound a little crazy to some people. It sounds crazy to me! However, it was for a good cause. My husband's cousin was getting married and we wanted to be there so we did the best we could and made it there and back in one piece.

I did my research ahead of time and planned the best I could. Roadtrips are hard. Especially with a little one. They're just so unpredictable. Are they going to sleep? Are they going to throw fits because they're so tired? Are they going to entertain themselves? Are they going to need you to entertain them? You never really know until you're on the road.

Let's start out with the packing of the car. I think the best piece of advice I can give you is to have everything you might need within reach. I even bought a 3 drawer organizer to help us with this. I kept snacks, travel gifts (more on that later), and things to entertain the adults in this. It was a great thing to have handy. My husband and I (whoever wasn't driving) sat in the back with our son so we kept the drawers in the passenger seat, facing the driver so that the driver or the person sitting in back could reach them.

The thing I find to be most helpful with my 5yo son is to bring travel gifts. I buy little toys and things that will entertain my son on our trip and then wrap them like presents (usually in tissue paper rather than wrapping paper to make it easier to open) and then number them. I let my son open them about 1 every 2 hours. Sometimes more often depending on how many gifts I end up buying.
Some ideas for travel gifts:
1. Playpack – there are so many different ones to choose from! They have everything from Star Wars to Hello Kitty to Minions to Inside Out.
2. Small Lego sets – we have one of those awesome travel trays so the Legos stay in one place, but if you don't have one of these awesome trays, bring along something else, like a cookie sheet to keep all the Legos in one place.
3. Coloring Books – I particularly like the Color Wonder books. That way, there is a guarantee of no mess (how often can you say that?).
4. Candy – Clearly, we don't want our kids to be on a sugar-high while stuck in the car, but a fun candy necklace is entertaining and delicious!
5. Pen and Journal – Even for my little 5yo son, he absolutely loved the 6-in-one pen I bought him with the different colored ink and a sketch journal to draw in. Add some stickers and you've just provided hours of fun.

Take breaks as often as you need them. I know there are some people out there that say to take a break every couple of hours. But I'm here to tell you that as long as you have gas in your tank and a sleeping child in the backseat, DO NOT STOP unless you have to. The ride will go so much smoother if you don't have a whiny child. We left at 5am and my son doesn't usually take naps, but sometimes, traveling just makes everyone tired!

Play games. You can play the license plate game or travel versions of regular games (battleship) or paper games (tic-tac-toe or hangman). There are so many options out there!

These are just a few tips to help you on your roadtrip. I hope they help you on your next adventure.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Crochet Earrings

So I made these crochet earrings a couple months ago and they are so easy! Plus, they are so light! I almost forgot I was wearing them one time. So here's the pattern:

Ch 13
Row 1: ch1, skip 1, 4 dc, skip 1, sc, skip 1, 4 dc, skip 1, sc, skip 1, 4dc, skip 1, (sc, ch1, sc, ch1, sc – you should now be on the other side of your work), skip 1, 4 dc, skip 1, sc, skip 1, 4 dc, skip 1, sc, skip 1, 4dc, skip 1, (sc, ch1, sc), ch1, sl st into first st, sew in ends.
Add a pearl to one side.
Add an earring hook to the other side.
Make another one just like it.
And voila! Beautiful earrings!

And if you don't want to make them yourself, you can buy them from my Etsy shop here.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Review: Miller Park Zoo

I have been to this zoo more times than I can count on my fingers. It's a great little zoo. My family has a membership so we get in for free with our card. It pays for itself after the third or fourth visit for us. Once you enter, you can go left or right. The zoo is pretty well set up in a circle so it doesn't really matter which way you go. We normally go to the left, but that's just us. Right now, there are no concessions, but I believe they've been talking about putting some in when they do their next renovation.

Update: They are currently under construction right now so you can't turn right when you first walk in. They're putting in a flamingo exhibit.

There are some really great animals here. The river otters are always entertaining. We love to see the harbor seal feedings. They do training exercises with them. In the back are the large animals like the Sun Bear (who has terrible arthritis, I've been told by the trainers) and the tiger and the 2 snow leopards (who just had 2 babies in early 2015, which is very rare). There are also 2 eagles, singing dogs, reindeer, and many other animals. We love the petting zoo. It's always fun. There is also a carousel in the middle.

One of our favorite things about this little zoo are all the events they hold. We have been here to see if our reindeer could pass Santa's tests to be a backup for his Christmas Eve trip. We have been here for Halloween (always the Sunday before) to go trick-or-treating. We have even been here for Star Wars Day! In 2015, we went to the Zoo Wild Lights event for the first time. This was pretty cool. One thing to know about all the events is that you need to come early. Come right when the event starts. These things get very busy very quickly. We normally finish up about an hour after it starts and by then, there are lines 30 people deep for everything.

Now, if you're not visiting during an event, you will probably need 1.5 hours to see everything. It's a great way to spend an afternoon with the kids. Don't pass up the zoo if you're in town.

We have a couple things planned in the next couple of months with the zoo that I'm really excited about! First, we're doing a 5k through the park as a fundraiser for the zoo in March. My 5yo son is even going to do the Fun Run (¼ mile). Then, we're having our son's 6th birthday party at the zoo in April. There will be a post about that later. I just love this place.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Recipe: Spinach Dip Bread Bowls

I said I wanted to post more than just reviews this year so here is my first recipe of 2016!

I made these in a regular-sized muffin tin first, but then a couple weeks later, I made these in a mini muffin tin and in my personal opinion, they were much better. They're super filling, so if you're making these as appetizers or for a party, the mini just makes more sense. These have just now become my go to appetizers. I have actually made them 3 or 4 times in the past year (which is a lot for me). Hopefully, you'll love them as much as I do.

Roll of refrigerated french bread loaf, I used Simply Pillsbury
2 Tablespoons oil, I used canola
2 cups baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
3 oz softened cream cheese
½ cup light sour cream
2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese, I used grated
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 20 mini muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. Unroll the package of french bread and slice into 10 equal slices, about 1 inch thick. Then, cut each of those slices in half. Press each slice into a circle with your hands. Press into the bottom and up sides of the muffin cup. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir spinach until wilted. Add garlic, cook and stir for another couple of minutes then turn the heat off.
3. Place cream cheese, sour cream, cooked spinach and garlic, parmesan cheese, garlic salt, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl. Mix until well combined. With a spoon, scoop dip into each of the centers of bread bowls. Top evenly with shredded cheese and bake for about 15 minutes or until the edges start to turn brown. Remove and let cool for a couple minutes.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A New Year

So 2015 is gone and 2016 is here (and has been for 10 days). Last year, I made some resolutions. They included to blog more on the regular, lose a little weight, and get a job. Truthfully, I didn't do too bad. Except for August, September, and October, I blogged about once a week. But I'm pretty okay with that because that is exactly when I started my new job. I am an assistant teacher at 2nd Pres Preschool. That's two boxes I was able to check off. As for the last one: lose a little weight. Well, we all know how easy that is. I lost about 17 pounds so at least I didn't gain any.

All of that being said, I have a few resolutions I would like to make for this year.

1. Keep up with blogging. I have been increasing my number of blog posts every year (2012: 18 posts; 2013: 32 posts; 2014: 62 posts; 2015: 70 posts). Let's see if I can keep up that momentum, huh? I also want to keep my posts diverse. In 2014, I did a lot of recipes and reviews. In 2015, I did a lot of reviews (like a lot!) and the 25 Days of Christmas. I mean seriously. I did like no recipes or crafts. What was I thinking? Oh well, I want to put a lot of my school crafts on here too to help out some fellow teachers!

2. Lose Some Weight. And I seriously mean just a little. I hate having unrealistic expectations for myself. I want to lose like 40 pounds this year. I got a FitBit for Christmas. I'm hoping that helps keep me on track.

3. Become a better teacher. Now, this shouldn't really be THAT difficult since I just started 4 months ago. But still, I think we should always strive to be better.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

25 Days of Christmas: Day 24

Elf on the Shelf: Merry Christmas!
Our little elf just loves Christmas so much, he wanted to be a part of it! So he made himself part of our Charlie Brown nativity set!

Day 24: Charlie Brown
Every Christmas Eve, my son opens a box that has a new pair of pajamas, a Charlie Brown Christmas DVD and book, hot cocoa and popcorn. So of course, we read the book, watch the movie, and eat popcorn and sip on hot cocoa all while wearing new PJs! It's a fun tradition.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

25 Days of Christmas: Day 23

Elf on the Shelf: Hiding in the Wreath
My son loves finding our elf every day so to make it extra hard, he hid someplace that took my son quite a bit of time to find.

Day 23: Apple Cider and Coloring
We had a great time just watching Christmas movies, coloring some Christmas coloring pages, and sipping on some hot apple cider. These relaxing moments with my family are some of my favorites.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

25 Days of Christmas: Day 22

Elf on the Shelf: Leaving Presents!
Well, it looks like our elf was just checking things out yesterday, but today, he actually left some presents! Books! But it looks like he got stuck before he could get down completely.

Day 22: Christmas Shrinky Dinks
So these are not quite Shrinky Dink brand, but if you look on Amazon, you will find some shrinking paper. I bought some of this special paper and my son and I made some. They turned out awesome! I drew the outline for my son and he colored it in.

Monday, December 21, 2015

25 Days of Christmas: Day 21

Elf on the Shelf: Leaving Presents?
That silly elf was found half in my son's stocking. I wonder what he was looking for.

Day 21: Holiday Shirts
We made some tye-dye t-shirts. I didn't want to use red and green because those can get muddy. So we just used blue and turquoise to make them winter-y. I like them!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

25 Days of Christmas: Day 20

Elf on the Shelf: Took a Shower
That silly elf of ours took a shower in the hotel room.

Day 20: Christmas Lights
After we got home, we decided to drive around and look at the lights in ours and surrounding neighborhoods.