Toddler Travel Tips

1. Senny Books: We had a three hour flight recently and this Senny Book kept Emery (who is almost 2) occupied for most of the flight. This little busy/quiet book is a MAJOR win for our upcoming trips this summer. A Senny Book is a book made out of different textured fabric and other materials such as buttons, snaps, and zippers to help your child develop their gross and fine motor skills. This sensory toy is also perfect for working on color recognition, cognitive skills and imagination. My girls love the garden page in their book where they can pick the veggies and put them in the basket. It’s the perfect travel size and weighs almost absolutely nothing– so easy to pack for traveling.

2. Dr. Pops suckers: I almost always have a sucker in my bag for “emergencies” when we are out and about. If I can tell that one of the girls is on their last leg, and about to completely lose it–a sucker seems to always save the day. When we fly, I usually just have the girls take drinks from their sippy cups during take-off and landing to help with their ears and the changing altitude, but sometimes they aren’t thirsty so I offer them a sucker to help with this. I recently found these little tricky pops that the girls still love even though they don’t know they are actually good for them. They are all natural, with no artificial colors or flavors, and no preservatives or sugar. Made with real honey & eucalyptus oil AND they give them a daily dose of vitamin C while helping their immune systems.
3. Babyganics antibacterial travel wipes: I really try to keep the girls hands germ free as much as possible while traveling. Aiports just gross me out, especially this time of year when every sickness out there seems to be circulating. When we get our seats on the plane, my husband and I always make sure to wipe down our seats, trays in front of us, back of seat–pretty much anywhere we think that the girls might touch during the flight. These wipes are antibacterial, safe for kids, and awesome for just clean-ups too. On our last trip, there were multiple times that restrooms were out of soap, so I was thankful to have these to wipe their hands until we could actually get to a sink with soap.

4.play wallet: I saw this idea on Pinterest about a year ago and we still take these wallets with us when traveling. I found clearance wallets at Target for the girls, or the one I linked on Amazon is only like $10. I filled the girls wallets with old club cards, empty gift cards, and play money. Emery especially loves to take the cards all out and put them in different slots and Adelyn just begs her dad to give her real “dolla” to put in hers. Easy to pack and easy entertainment.

5. Snacks are a must when going anywhere with kids. I buy different things every time we travel, but always take fruits snacks–never forget the fruits snacks. I typically try to buy items that won’t get too sticky, are easy to clean, somewhat healthy and filling, and maybe contain a little protein. I found a few that I have bought on Amazon from our past trips which are all linked here: Pure Organic banana and strawberry sandwiches, dried apple crisps, almond butter packets, Bobo’s Oat Bars, dried coconut chips, fruit/veggie packets, variety nut packets, and fruit snacks.

6. When we travel, I always make a trip to the dollar store before to buy cheap toys that will entertain them during the trip but can be thrown away when we get home. I have recently found a few great small travel toys on Amazon that we pack in the girls’ backpacks each time we go on a trip: tangle fidget toys, doodle pro clip on, baby travel flash cards, scratch art on-the-go, reusable puffy mermaid sticker set,

7. Ziplocks are such a lifesaver when traveling with kids. I pack all of their outfits in gallon sized ziplocks so that I can just grab a bag for each day from our suitcase. I also use the ziplocks in my carry-on bag to separate different items so they can be reached easily. One bag with diapers, wipes, and changing pad, another with all the snacks/suckers, one with antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, chapstick, comb, and pony tail holders, and the last one with their toys. I also pack a few extra bags for dirty diapers to be thrown away in, if one of the girls didn’t finish their snack or breakfast, or if we need to collect trash.

I hope you can find a few of these items helpful for your next trip! What tips do you have for traveling with kids?

Family Travel Guide: Asheville, NC

We recently took a family trip to the south to visit my husband’s brother in Knoxville, TN. It was a jammed packed week of seeing lots of new places as we traveled to three different states and stayed in four different places–but we had the greatest vacation as a family. We flew into Atlanta as we found cheap flights and drove up to Knoxville where we stayed with Garth’s family for a couple days.

After just a few days in Knoxville, we then drove up to Sevierville, TN to stay a night at the Wilderness at the Smokies,  an indoor waterpark. We couldn’t believe all the things that Sevierville offered for families to do and will definitely be making a trip back when the girls are older. You can see all the attractions here. Before making it to Sevierville, we drove up to Cades Cove to explore as well and it was incredible. I can only imagine what it looks like in the summer. Daffodills were just starting to bloom and the rolling hills were beginning to turn green. As we drove through we saw turkeys and deer, but in the summer it’s very common to see lots of black bears. Cades Cove is in the Smokey Mountains so the scenery is beautiful and it was once home to numerous settlers who’s homes and churches are still standing. These are all open to the public to explore inside which was so neat to see these incredible structures dating all the way back to the 1800’s. Also, if you are in Sevierville, please do yourself a favor (if you love Mexican food) and eat at El Paso. Please. It was hands down some of the best Mexican food we have ever eaten.

Where to Stay

Once in Asheville the next day, we checked in early afternoon to our hotel and made some dinner reservations for the evening. We stayed on the Biltmore estate at hotel called the Village and would highly recommend this place for families. It was just built a little over a year ago, so everything was very new and clean. The Village had such a neat atmosphere with a modern farmhouse feel throughout the hotel and rooms. White barn doors to the bathroom, a trendy coffee shop called “The Kitchen”, and an actual farm on the hotel property were just a few of my favorite things. It was walking distance to shopping, an ice cream shop, and even a winery. Our stay also included breakfast at their restaurant, and I am still dreaming about their pecan waffles–so good! If you stay at a hotel on the Biltmore property, you also get free admission your entire stay to the Biltmore which can save you quite a bit because I believe tickets run about $50 a person (lower for children).

The Biltmore

Most of our stay in Asheville was experiencing The Biltmore. If you aren’t familiar with The Biltmore, it was George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre estate–the largest home built in America with over 250 rooms. It is spectacular and is something that I believe everyone should see sometime in their life. It reminds me of chateau’s that I visited in France so it gave me a major travel-bug to go back to Europe soon. Come to find out through the tours that the Biltmore was actually modeled after French Renaissance chateaus and they brought workers from Europe to build it.

We had unlimited passes to the Biltmore because we stayed in the Village on the property, so we did the self-guided tour when we arrived. There is also audio tours available which I would love to do next time but with the girls, we knew our time around the Biltmore had to be quick in order for us to avoid any possible melt-downs. Once we walked through the Biltmore, we did the rooftop tour which was also included with our stay at the hotel– or the cost was $19 per person. Again, another reason to stay on the Biltmore property because it does include one free tour of choice. We loved the rooftop tour as it took you places that you couldn’t get to if you didn’t take the tour. It took us out on private balconies and even the attic of the Biltmore. It was quick, which was great with kids but you do have to climb a decent amount of stairs which is something to consider.

**side note: The drive from the hotels on the Biltmore estate to the actual Biltmore home is about 15-20 minutes, its a very scenic drive but something to consider if you are needing to make a certain time for tours.

We took the roof-top tour in the morning, and planned to do the legacy tour where a motor coach takes you around the property in the afternoon. However, we didn’t plan it out well enough around nap-time and Emery was still sleeping so we decided to skip. So while all the girls took a nap, the guys went and did the sporting clays session where they had fun shooting clay targets. After they finished, we took the kids back up to the Biltmore to explore the gardens. Even for February, the grass was turning green and there were tulips and daffodils blooming. There is also an indoor botanical garden which was absolutely beautiful with some of the most interesting plants I have ever seen.

(This tree was called a Puff Ball tree and had bright neon pink puffs all over it. It reminded Adelyn of the Trolls movie so she was convinced there were trolls living inside them)

There is so much to do at the Biltmore but we feel like we missed quite a bit by going in February which is the off-season. There were so many things closed and the weather was chilly and windy. It was so nice to avoid the crowds, but we would love to travel to the Biltmore in the summer so we can do more the outdoor activities they have and see the gardens in full bloom. The morning before we left, we walked down the Antler Village shopping area next to our hotel, which had the cutest little farm full of chickens, goats and donkeys. There is also a fun little shopping area, an ice cream shop, and a winery in this area.

Next time we visit, we would love to take the girls on their horse-drawn carriage rides, try stand-up paddle boarding, and maybe go horse back riding. You can also do hiking, biking, Segway tours, Land Rover tours, tour a winery, or float the river. So much to do at just the Biltmore!

Where To Eat

We loved our included breakfast at the Village hotel in their restaurant called the Village Social. For lunch we ate at The Kitchen, another restaurant in the hotel that had great coffee, smoothies, sandwiches, and salads. For dinner the first night, we ate at Tupelo Honey Cafe and it was so so good. I highly recommend this restaurant for great food and it accommodates kids as well. They had awesome speciality drinks, homemade biscuits with blackberry jam with every meal, and the best southern meals including the sweet potato pancakes & chicken.

For the next night’s meal we ate at Chestnut which was recommended to us for a nicer dinner downtown. I thought it was good, but very overpriced for the amount and quality of food. Our girls were also ticking time bombs because it had been SUCH a long week of traveling and they were so over having to sit down in another restaurant. I would recommend this restaurant possibly sans kids.

After eating at Chestnut, we walked across the street to Double D’s which is a double decker bus that  serves desserts and coffee in. Such a neat concept and the brownie sundae was ah-mazing. The atmosphere was fun, but there is limited seating obviously because it’s on a bus, but if you went in the summer they do have outdoor seating.

The morning before we left, we made a trip to The French Board Chocolate Lounge. A very trendy cafe with a European feel. The girls were in chocolate heaven as they sampled brownies, chocolate cake, and cookies. I got the salted maple hot chocolate and it was the perfect combo of sweet and salty. If you are in Asheville, this place is a must–especially if you are a chocolate lover.

Other recommendations that we missed out on and were top-rated on Yelp were:

White Duck Taco Shop

Wicked Weed 

Corner Kitchen 

& Rhubarb 

With the weather being chilly and windy, we didn’t get to explore the downtown area as much as I would have liked to, but it seemed like there was some really neat restaurants and shops!

The city of Asheville is beautiful and charming– a place that we can’t wait to go back to. I think we will wait awhile until the girls are older and can do more, but I believe this city has many things and sites to accommodate almost any age.

If you have been to Asheville, what other recommendations would you make??

Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! The last couple of years I have really come to LOVE this holiday. I have to be honest, I really just love it because it’s another fun holiday to celebrate with the hubby and girls. Annnnd an excuse to make heart-shaped pink pancakes. I never really liked Valentine’s Day growing up because it was always a holiday where most of my friends received flowers or chocolates from their boyfriends, while I, boy-friendless, got a nice Valentine from my mom. p.s. Thanks mom for all the Valentines growing up!

So now, married with children, I have really grown to love it. I guess though I still think of the girls, like myself who may dread this holiday, or those who are widowed, single, or going through a break-up. I try to make an effort this month, to reach out to anyone that I know may be feeling lonely or need a “little extra love”. Isn’t it funny that a holiday celebrated can make people feel excluded or sad?!? I hope that Valentines Day can slowly become a holiday where everyone is included and that it can just be a way to show love or random acts of kindness to someone in your life that may need it the most this month.

My grandma recently shared with my that she attended “Senior Prom” this month, that her church put on for her. As she was describing all the details, I asked her if they took her photo so I could see her all dressed up. At that instant, her eyes filled with tears and with a smile she said, “yes, they took my photo, but I was missing your granddad terribly at that moment”. A holiday that can be filled with such love, sorrow, anger, or disappoint. More than anything I hope to encourage you to reach out to someone this month that may need some encouragement or just a simple act of love. “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one come to you without leaving happier” -Mother Teresa

Since today is Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be fun to share a little “love themed” photo shoot I did for a few companies and their upcoming spring lines! The girls had a lot of fun taking these because balloons were involved and music. You can see Emery busting a move in a couple of these photos!

Clothing: Peyper Kids (spring release March 1st)

Bows: Free Babes (spring release February 27th)

Shoes: Zimmerman Shoes

Photos were taken by Liz Osban Photography.

I hope you all have a VERY happy Valentine’s Day!

Strawberry Heart Pastries

I think one of the best parts about the upcoming holiday is all the creative heart-shaped breakfasts. Pancakes, waffles, egg in heat-shaped toast–it’s all so fun! What’s even more fun is making it for two very excited little girls who love anything to do with hearts (and the color pink). This past weekend I made pink heart-shaped pancakes with sprinkles, and when I put the plate in front of Adelyn she literally let out a squeal. And I pretty much blew her mind when I finished with a dollop of whip cream on top. The holidays are so much fun with children, and each year just gets even better.

To beat our Monday blues, I decided to try out a new recipe with the girls to help carry on the excitement of the upcoming holiday. They had a ton of fun helping me make them, especially Emery who loved being the taste tester. (see below)

I’m not going to lie though, it took me about 5 cups of coffee to power through cleaning the mess of the kitchen when we finished breakfast. Somehow the mess of cooking seems to almost triple when including kids. However, I do love having two cute helpers in the kitchen and looked forward to many, many more years of baking with them.

I considered making heart-shaped pop-tarts this year, but then I came across this recipe to make pastries and thought it would be fun to try! I would definitely recommend these for your upcoming Valentine’s day breakfast or really any breakfast throughout the year because they were SO good!

Enjoy!

Strawberry Heart Pastries

Ingredients

1 sheet puff pastry
2 oz (1/4 cup) strawberry cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 Tbsp strawberry jam
2/3 cup very small diced strawberries
1 large egg whisked with 1 Tbsp water
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix together cream cheese & jam
  3. Cut pastry into heart shapes using a 3-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter. Transfer hearts to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing 1 1/2-inches apart.
  4. Using a toothpick or pairing knife, lightly score a heart inside of each cut-out heart coming about 1/3-inch from the edge, without cutting entirely through bottom of the dough.
  5. Add 1 tsp of the cream cheese mixture to center of each heart then spread outward without covering the 1/3-inch edge.
  6. Add strawberries over cream cheese layer.
  7. Using your fingertip brush the 1/3-inch edge with egg/water mixture.
  8. Bake for 14 – 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack then dust with powdered sugar.

recipe adapted from Cooking Classy 

 

Our Snowy Getaway

Last weekend, we took the girls up to a cabin in the mountains that some my husband’s family owns. We had such a fun time as a family and can’t wait to go back. It helps that girls absolutely love the snow, especially Adelyn. She keeps asking when we can go back! It was a weekend that was good for the soul with little reception, good food, a few movies, putting together puzzles, and lots of playing in the snow.

{Adelyn’s boots, Emery’s boots – sold out similar here}

The last time we took our snowmobiles out together was before we had kids– almost 5 years ago! It was so fun to do something together and feel like kids again!

{emery’s snow suit – sold out, similar here}

Adelyn loved the snow so much and we had to beg her to come inside. Sledding, building miniature snowmen, climbing snow mounds, snow angels, a short ride on the snowmobile, and even a snow ball fight — she couldn’t get enough.

However, my Emmy Jane was really okay just parking it in the snow and eating it. I think that this marshmallow snowsuit is partly to blame because she could hardly move.

We checked a few things off our winter bucket list (you can see our bucket list here) and loved watching the girls play in the snow.  I’m not going to lie, I feel like I got my “snow fix” this weekend and I am ready for some fun in the sun. A beach somewhere is calling my name for our next family trip.

{children’s} inspiring reads

For Christmas I got the girls a few new books and thought it would be fun to do another inspiring reads post to share a few that we are loving lately. (You can see my other ‘inspiring reads’ blog post here.) I hope you are able to find some new favorites to add to your bookshelves! A few that I would HIGHLY recommend are: Today by Julie Morstad – the illustrations are stunning and it is such a fun book to read, Amelia Earhart – one of Adelyn’s favorites because she is currently obsessed with airplanes and the message is wonderful, and last, Pancakes: an interactive cookbook – we have already used this book a couple times to make pancakes– not only is the book fun, but the pancakes taste great!

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6

7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 /12

13 / 14 /15 /16/ 17 / 18

You can also find all of the ‘inspiring reads’ that I am pinning over here as well!

What are some of your current favorite children’s books?

 

 

Winter Bucket List

We are a week into the winter season, however the temps where we live have been below 30 for the last month, so it has been feeling like winter here for a while. I am so excited to share that I was a guest blogger over at Fin & Vince. Make sure to head over there to read more about a winter bucket list I created for our family.

stork dress

 I still am in disbelief of how quickly fall has come and gone. Fall is definitely my favorite season, but we are excited for the upcoming winter months and all the different traditions and fun we will create as a family. So as we say “goodbye” to fall, here are just a few fall captures of the girls and our winter bucket list.

linen top//charcoal skirt

I honestly could have added so many more things to our list, but I figure by the time we check everything off; it will be just in time to create a spring/summer checklist.

I also created a little winter inspiration board for you over on my Pinterest if you would like to see ideas that I will be pinning in the coming months.

Happy sledding, snowman-making, and hot-cocoa-drinking days ahead to you!

Christmasy Photos & Friday Favs

Last weekend, at the last minute, I texted my friend Liz from Liz Osban Photography and asked her to meet me and the girls at a Christmas tree nursery for a few photos. I found this nursery a couple miles from our home and it truly is a little gem. I can’t wait to go back this summer when it is filled with flowers.

My sister also arrived for Christmas the day these were taken, so I pleaded for her to come take a nice photo with the girls and I. My sister is my best friend and I hate that she lives so far away, so a photo of us was in order! Love you Natalie!

Here are a few Friday Favorites as well!

I have been getting excited about hosting our annual New Year’s party next weekend and I found these fun after dinner fortunes. We always do Chinese food, so these will be a fun addition to the party. Also, if you haven’t stopped by Target’s $1 spot for other fun New Year’s goodies, you need to! I found the cutest tiaras for the girls!

There were a few fun things that I recently purchased with all the amazing before Christmas sales. I have been drooling over the rose gold flatware from Anthropologie but couldn’t justify $98 for one set, so I found these similar ones at Target that are just $19.99 and I got them on sale too!

I am beanie obsessed and Gigi Pip recently sent me one from their new line! I have been wearing it non-stop and wanted to share them with you! I’ve been eyeing this Bon Bon Pink one too! It’s just the perfect shade!

Another favorite find has been this Open Market Throw. We are making some changes in the new year to our master bedroom and this piece has me excited to start adding some different pieces in our room!

Last, I starting pining some fun ideas for New Year’s over on my Pinterest! Follow me over there if you are needing some fun inspiration!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

xoxo

New Years Resolutions: Switching to Natural Products

With New Year’s right around the corner, I have been thinking more about what my resolutions are going to be for the coming year. I am over losing weight goal because the last time I checked, my goal was 10 pounds and I still have 15 to go…So instead of trying to make unrealistic goals for 2017, I decided to make some changes that will have more a long-term affect on my family and myself.

Some of these changes include making healthier decisions when it comes to food in our house, trying to only eat out once a week, and being more conscious about the products that we use as a family. This includes items like toothpaste, lotions, shampoo/body wash, and deodorant – which is the reason I’m writing this blog post today, to share why I’ve decided to make the switch.

Over time, I have slowly started to make changes to the products we use. When I had Adelyn, I did lots of research on baby products and those that were natural or organic had some really scary ingredients and warnings. I know the products may cost more than those without natural ingredients but I feel good about spending more on product that I know will have a positive lifetime affect on my girls.

It was easy to decide to only buy natural ingredient products for my girls, so why was it so hard to make the switch for myself? To be honest I have tried some natural shampoos and conditioners and they didn’t always work the same on my hair as those that weren’t natural. So when it came to deodorant, I didn’t want to make the switch and end up smelling like body odor for the whole day because it didn’t work. However, I recently was sent Tom’s of Maine Long Lasting Natural Deodorant to try and I want to share with you my absolutely, completely honest opinion of why I am SO glad I made the switch.

Here are some reasons I was excited try TOM’s deodorant:

  • It contains no aluminum, petrochemicals, parabens or artificial fragrances or preservatives.
  • They have a rating of “1” on the Skin Deep Database
  • Tom’s deodorant offers 24 hour protection using natural odor-trapping zinc.
  • They give back 10% of their profits to helping people and the plane and the packaging is fully recyclable.
  • It’s also cruelty free.

I have been using Tom’s of Maine deodorant for about a month now and there are a few things that I absolutely love about it.

  • It does not leave any stains on my shirts or gross white residue like most deodorants.
  • It 100% lasts all day
  • Finally, I love the lavender scent deodorants. I tried all of them and this one by far is my favorite. It smells amazing!

I am so glad that I made the switch to natural deodorants and I hope this post persuades you to do the same! One tip I do have if you try it, give a good month of testing it out. Sometimes your body needs time to adjust!

To learn more about Tom’s of Maine deodorant formulations and scents you can find all of that information here.

What are some changes you are considering in the New Year?

This post was developed in partnership with Tom’s of Maine. All opinions are my own.

Stocking Stuffers

This year for Christmas, I had so much fun buying stocking stuffers for the girls. (I think more than their actual gifts!) Adelyn is at the age where she likes to play with so many more things and Emery is at the age (finally) where she’s not putting everything little thing in her mouth. So here are just a few fun things I found this year to fill the girl’s stockings.

1957 Corvette toy car || tooth fairy mouse || grow dinos || The Swing || cat purse || kaleidoscope || hi-bounce pinky ball || animal nesting dolls || wind-up scooter || animal tattoos || stuffed sloth || stuffed puppy || etch a sketch || wind-up school bus || chunks paint sticks || old maid || slinky || owl lip gloss || star wand || magic jellyfish || rubber duckies || bubble wands

You can find the stockings shown above here! And if you follow me on Instagram, I posted a photo of our advent calendar so you can find it over here! Happy Shopping!