5 Tips for Having a Great Road Trip Experience

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #WhenImHungry #CollectiveBias
5 Tips for Having a Great Road Trip #ad #WhenImHungry #CollectiveBias

When I tell people about our long car trips, the number one question is usually “How do you do it with two young kids?” or “How do you not lose your mind, my kids would never sit still that long”. The answer really isn’t a simple one and the truth be told, sometimes we do lose our minds. Trying to keep everyone happy on a long car trip, some that even last for several days, is impossible. Don’t set your standards that high. However, there are a few things that we do in order to make our road trips more manageable and even mostly enjoyable.

1. Keep the Car Clean.

I made this my #1 because in my book it is most important. When the car is a mess, the things that we need to stay busy and the snacks that we want to munch on get harder to find. Plus, being that we are already stuck in a small car, when we add a mess to the mix it only becomes that much more smaller. I’ve found that when the car is a mess, everyone feels just a bit more cranky. To solve this problem, I like to give our car a really good cleaning before we leave on a road trip and also maintain the clean throughout the trip by throwing away all collected garbage at every gas station stop. It also helps to designate a small bag for garbage to make these stop quicker and easier.

2. Pack Snacks.

When I am hungry I can’t think. I say things that I don’t mean and I fail to enjoy what I normally enjoy, like watching the buildings, fields and tree’s gracefully float past me out the window and dance in the sunlight. When I am hungry, I am just not myself and that’s not who I want to be. One way that we combat hunger crankiness is by packing snacks. Each member in our family packs their own snack bag with what they like best and with what will keep them fulfilled until our next meal stop. To give you an idea, my bag usually looks something like this.

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3. Take the Road Less Traveled.

When we road trip we like to take the road less traveled. This means getting off the expressway when we can and driving along the back roads. Yes, this can add mileage and time to our trip, but we have found so many lovely things by doing this and have been able to visit several famous American roadside attractions. It is definitely worth the little added time.

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4. Plan Ahead.

Having a loose plan in mind before we set out on the road helps to keep things running smoothly and cuts down on pressured decision making, which can cause me a lot of tension. Here are a few way I plan ahead for a road trip.

– Have Change Handy. I can’t tell you how many times we have wandered our way onto a road or a bridge with a toll. Not having change handy means that we would have to find another route or go look for a place to get change. Now when we travel I make sure to have a jar of coins ready before hand.

– Invest in Comfort. Before our last road trip I bought everyone small neck pillows. Best decision ever! Having this small neck pillow made me feel so much more comfortable and kept me from getting my normal kink in the neck while riding. No kinked neck = happier momma. We also bought a small travel potty for the kids in case we found ourselves somewhere without bathrooms for miles.

– Research fun stop and attractions ahead of time. We like to make a list of all the places we would to see along the trip. While we don’t expect to stop at everything, this list gives us an idea of what is around us when we are needing a stop. Plus, it helps to break up the trip into smaller sections by giving us destination points that are within an attainable time frame. “Only one more hour until we get to see the giant pencil!”. It helps.

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5. Be Flexible.

Flexibility is a must have when deciding to take a road trip. When driving in a car, not everything is on a strict schedule like it is when traveling by plane. There is traffic congestion, detours, bathroom breaks and unexpected mishaps. Sometimes we have to be flexible to skip a planned stop or stop somewhere unplanned. We have also found that it is super important to know when to call it a day and stop for the night. There is nothing worse than pushing yourself too far when you are tired. Call it a day, find a place to stay and pick it back up in the morning.

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Do you love to take road trips? What is your best trick to staying happy along the drive?

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Find the Beauty in the Mess Challenge : Plus a GIVEAWAY #SweepTheMess

 This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SweepTheMess #CollectiveBias
 #SweepTheMess #Ad #Cbias
The kids woke me up early this morning. It was the weekend and we had nowhere to be, but they still wanted to get up. Silly kids. We wandered our way out into the kitchen past the toys that were left from the night before. The bright overhead lights hurt my squinting eyes. I will never understand what the rush is to be up before the sun on the weekends, but part of me know’s that someday I will miss this. I looked around the house and made a mental list of all the chores that needed to be accomplished today. The dishes needed to be done, the floors needed swept, the laundry still needed to be finished from our road trip last week. Beating me into the kitchen were two bright eyed little sweetpea’s who waited patiently to see what my first move was going to be so that they could make the opposite. If there is one thing my kids have learned over the years, it’s how to disappear on house cleaning day. I looked around the house and then brought my attention back to them. “How about some cinnamon rolls?” I asked. They both burst into excitement. Inside I told myself that I didn’t have time for this, but in reality, it was the weekend, we had nowhere to be and I did.  

 #SweepTheMess #Ad There's Beauty in the Mess
I watched as both of my kids quickly put on their aprons and found their way up to the counter. They love helping me bake and I love having the in the kitchen with me. It is one of those special moments that I wish we had time for more often. 
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As they took turns measuring out the flour, I watched as big clumps of it hit the counter and then fell quietly onto the floor. It bothered me, but I remained quiet and let them continue on with preparing the cinnamon rolls because quite frankly, they were doing a marvelous job.

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I watched as they continued adding the ingredients one by one. The sugar. The salt. The yeast. I became sad. My babies were getting so old. Yes, I was happy that they were becoming comfortable in the kitchen and learning skills to take them into adulthood, but did this whole baby thing have to be over so soon? I mean, just look at these toes. Those used to be the itty bitty baby toes that I would kiss and nibble. I wanted to cry and hug them and never let them go but instead we made cinnamon rolls.

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As we finished spreading out the cinnamon and sugar and rolled the pastries up to cut, I looked around at the big mess we had made together. And let me tell you, it was a very BIG mess. 
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Yes, that’s right. Right now our house is a bit of a mess, but it is a beautiful mess. Each toy laying out on the floor from the night before represents the fun that I remember we had. The pile of clothing in the laundry room represents the trip that we just took together and the messy kitchen before me represents this time that we just shared growing and learning. Please don’t get me wrong, I will be the first to admit that I like a clean house and sometimes stress too much about keeping it that way. Ok, I ALWAYS stress about keeping it that way. But this morning, right now, I am going to enjoy it because in this moment I want to hold on to THIS mess forever.

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As the cinnamon rolls baked in the oven, the kids ran off to play and I decided that forever was too long to have a dirty kitchen. 🙂 Besides, it’s the memories made from the mess not the ACTUAL mess that’s important, right?

You see, a few days ago I was challenged by O-Cedar to find the beauty in the mess somewhere in my life. I struggled with this idea because I didn’t know how I could turn something that I saw as ugly into something beautiful. Then I realized that it wasn’t about changing the mess into something beautiful, it was about changing the way I looked at it. These messes aren’t just another chore added to my list, but they are memories to be cherished. I am thankful to have been given this challenge because far too often I rush through life, getting things done and trying to contain the mess instead of sometimes just letting it happen. Today was fun.

Do you need to take a moment to see the beauty in the mess in your life today? Here is a fun video on how O-Cedar does it.

Enter to WIN:

Come here for the cinnamon rolls? Check out our tasty made from scratch recipe below.

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* Correction- the egg needs to be mixed in with the flour,sugar mixture as the liquids are added. 
Look around you. What’s the most beautiful mess you see right now? Can’t find the beauty? You may have to look deeper. 

How to Prepare for Travel with Kids #ImagineSpring

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for OshKosh B’Gosh. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation. #ImagineSpring
#ad #ImagineSpring How to Prepare for Travel with Kids
I remember when preparing for travel was easy. I used to put little thought into my trips or what I needed to bring. Sometimes I wouldn’t even be completely sure where I was going, I was just happy to be along for the ride. Then when I had kids, things changed for me. I would get easily overwhelmed at the simple thought of preparing for travel. I would over pack and worry for weeks about what I needed to do and bring. Over the years as my kids and I started to become accustomed to traveling together, we’ve learned to created our own rhythm of preparation. Being prepared ahead of time has helped everyone (especially me) relax and enjoy the process of travel even more. 
Below are a few of the things that we do to prepare as a family for traveling. 

1. Shop Early – Find the best deals.

Preparing for travel, especially spring travels after the long winter, usually means that new clothing is needed for the kids. At their age, they tend to sprout through sizes quickly and we often find that last years clothing doesn’t fit when we bring it back out of winter storage. Waiting until the last minute to find clothing to pack is just an added hassle. I like to watch ahead of time for spring sales to pop up and take my time to find clothes that my kids actually like and will wear again after the trip. Plus, shopping the sales ahead of time helps me save a lot of money, which is welcomed with the cost of traveling itself. 

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One of my favorite places to shop spring break fashions for my kids is OshKosh B’Gosh. I’ve found their clothes are comfortable for my kids, which is important if you’ve ever listened to a child scream hysterically in the back seat of a car because their shirt is itching them. We also love OshKosh B’Gosh because their clothing is fashionable, cheery and bright colored; perfect for a fun day in the sun. Plus, right now OshKosh B’Gosh has some amazing deals going! Just be sure to print this coupon and take it with you to your local OshKosh B’Gosh store to get extra savings on top of their already great spring break deals! 
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2. Don’t procrastinate packing.

It goes without saying that waiting until the last minute to pack means taking the chance of forgetting something important, like a favorite stuffed sleeping buddy. I like to start early on preparing to pack by setting aside things I know we want to take or making a list of everyone’s must have’s. By making a checklist I can cross things off as they enter the suitcase or car. Also by doing this I am able to enjoy heading out on our trip instead of mentally going through everything I “think” we forgot to pack. 

3. Create a mini first aid kit.

One of the reasons preparing for traveling with kids scared me in the past was because I feared being away from home and having one of my kids get sick or hurt. What would I do? While no one can prevent kids from getting sick or hurt during travel, I can help ease my own worry by preparing ahead of time in case something does happens. To do this I have created a small first aid kit that I bring with me on every trip. The kit includes things such as bandages, antibacterial ointments, over the counter medicines and past medicines prescribed by their doctors for re-occurring issues. It’s funny how now when people get a small cut on a trip, they come to me because they know that I will be prepared.

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Boys Clothing from OshKosh B’Gosh Spring Line. 

4. Let the kids help. 

Involving the kids in travel preparation has become liberating for me. While before I would spend my time negotiating with my kids about what they could and could not bring (which if they had their choice would be everything they owned because they NEED it all), now I give each child their own bag and allow them to take responsibility for what they want to take on the trip. They are only allowed to bring what will fit into their bags, so I have found that they make more conscious decisions about what they really want with them and what can stay at home. Plus, my kids enjoy having their own bags to carry and finding things to pack in it keeps them busy for awhile as I make sure other things are ready to go. 

5. Find destination books.

This is a cute new idea that we are starting to adopt for our trips. Ahead of time, when we decide upon a travel destination, I like to search for kids books that include that destination. It could be an educational book about the particular location or a book with a story set in the same location as we are going. Reading it to the kids before we leave helps to create a sense of familiarity and excitement about our travels. 

6. Set a spending limit before leaving. 

Being prepared for souvenir buying ahead of time has helped my family create a reasonable spending budget for our trips. Plus, especially with my young children, they seem to want to buy something at every stop we make. Since running into an issue with this we have adopted the idea of giving each child a small amount of money which they can use to buy their own souvenir’s during our travels. Once the money is gone, it’s gone. This has helped them make better choices about what they really like and has cut down on the cases of “I want’s” during our trip. 

#ad #ImagineSpring Girls Spring Clothing Line from OshKosh B'Gosh
Girls Clothing from OshKosh B’Gosh Spring Line
7. Research ahead of time. 

There are several things to consider about a destination before traveling there with kids. If it is a specific attraction we are traveling to, do they allow outside food and beverage? Will I need a stroller for the younger child? When making a road trip, can I find fun stops to make along the way? Are there attractions nearby that are educational or fun? Being prepared to know the area ahead of time has helped me pack appropriately and saved us from wasting time searching for options in the hotel room. 

8. Preparing for home. 

While it is never fun to come home, being prepared ahead of time for all of the dirty laundry can help. One of my favorite road trip travel hacks is to purchase a cheap pop up hamper ahead of time and use it to store dirty laundry in at the hotel. This keeps the room less messy during our stay and separates the dirty clothes from the leftover clean clothes in our suitcases. Then I can simply pack the hamper in the car and it can go straight into the laundry when we get home. The rest of the suitcases can go back to our individual rooms for un-packing. 

Do you have a useful tip for preparing to travel with kids? We’d love to hear it! Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. 

Road Trip I-95 Michigan to Florida : Fun Places to Stop Along the Way

En route to Florida along I-95, a path trekked many times by frozen people looking to escape the cold, harsh northern winters and thaw under the bright sunshine and palm trees. Like these people, I have made this road trip many times. I know from experience that this trip is a long one, however, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a boring one. Step off the route by only a few miles and weird, fascinating and fun adventures await. 
In preparation for our last trip along I-95 we made a list of all of the places we’d like to stop and see along the way. Unfortunately we weren’t able to see everything on our list because frankly, there weren’t enough hours of daylight in our day’s. We were able to see a few of them and let me tell you, it was worth it! I mean, seriously, when else will you have a chance to see a giant pencil? Probably never. 

Giant Pencil

This 30 foot long pencil, found in Wytheville, Virginia, was constructed in the 1960’s by the original owner of Wytheville Office Supply. Over the years it has had a few face lifts to keep it in pristine condition and I feel is still worth the quick stop to see it today.  Plus, this roadside attraction is moderately easy to find and positioned well within a quaint, small town area. 

Giant LOVE Sign

This quick stop was a no brainer for us to stop and see because it can be easily found right off I-95 northbound at the Lambsburg Welcome Center and rest area in Lambsburg, Virginia. Not only did this rest area have a giant LOVE sign worth posing with, but it also had picnic tables, bathrooms and a tourism information area. Nice place to take a break and use the restrooms.

Giant Elephants

If this isn’t a cool photo op, I don’t know what is! These two elephants can be found directly off I-95 in Hardeeville, South Carolina standing tall in a fireworks store parking lot directly across the street from a gas station. Super quick stop, easy to find and a great place to fill up.

Other Places on our List (that we just didn’t have time to see, but look totally cool)

Field of Corn (Dublin, Ohio)
Worlds Largest Gavel (Columbus, Ohio)
Worlds Largest Fire Hydrant (Columbia, South Carolina)
Forsyth Park (Savannah, Georgia)
Find even more fun places to stop by using one of my favorite website, Roadtrippers. This site allows you to type in a starting point and destination and it gives you points of interest along your route. Love it!
Remember these idea’s later. Go ahead, PIN IT! 
Do you know of a fun roadside attraction along I-95? Which one of these stops would you most like to make, why? Share with us!

Spring Break is Not Just for the Kids: Carousel Comes to the Lyric Opera of Chicago {April 11- May 3} + GIVEAWAY

Disclosure: Ticket Giveaway provided by the Lyric Opera of Chicago. All opinions are my own. 

A few months ago I had the pleasure of taking in a performance by the Lyric Opera with my six year old daughter at the Civic Opera House in Chicago. We went to see The Sound of Music and decided to make a “girls weekend” out of the show. We booked a room at a local hotel and headed out towards Chicago from Michigan with a little extra time before the production started so we would have time to explore the city. Luckily, we found several fun things to do within our short 24 hour stay. Read more about our past Chicago trip here: 24 Hours in Chicago

That short weekend together was such a great little getaway for the two of us and an evening at the Civic Opera House was the icing on the cake! The Civic Opera house is a beautiful historic building with tall ceilings, ornate details and an upscale feeling. Plus, the Lyric Opera puts on amazing performances with all-star casts. I would love to make another trip into Chicago to enjoy even more performances from the Lyric Opera soon and definitely plan to add it to my “date night” adventures list.

Rodger & Hammerstein’s CAROUSEL {APRIL 11-MAY 3}

Are you planning to take a weekend getaway to Chicago or would you like to take in a show at the Civic Opera House with someone you care about? Now is your chance! The Lyric Opera of Chicago has offered to give one of my readers two FREE adult tickets to see Rodger and Hammerstein’s CAROUSEL for their preview performance on April 10th. You’ll get to see it before the public! (Transportation, lodging and food are not included.) Enter below!

CAROUSEL is a musical about love and loss and features recognizable songs such as “If I Loved You,” “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. The production stars Steven Pasquale (CBS’s The Good Wifeas carousel barker Billy Bigelow and two-time Tony Award nominee Laura Osnes as his true love. It’s a great date night type of story! I mean, who ever said spring break had to be just for the kids?

CAROUSEL ACTORS / Photo Credit: Lyric Opera
Find more information about this performance as well as other performances from the Lyric Opera of Chicago by visiting http://lyricopera.org/carousel

Enter to Win! Good Luck!

Cool Places to Visit Near Orlando, Florida

Cool Places to Visit near #Orlando #Florida #travel
For the last week and a half my family and I have been traveling around Florida on a ten day road trip. While we were in the area we spent most of our time wandering around Orlando and it’s neighboring areas in search of adventure. Even though Orlando in itself offers quite a bit of entertainment between Disney, Universal and SeaWorld, the neighboring cities also have a lot to offer and can provide a bit of respite from the bustling Orlando lifestyle.   
Below are some of the amazing places we found while feeding our wanderlust gene in the beautiful state of Florida. 

Melbourne Beach {Melbourne Beach, Florida}
Melbourne Beach Sunrise
A Florida sunrise from the back porch of my Melbourne Beach rental home.

Found about 76 miles southeast of Orlando is a quiet and relaxing beach town known as Melbourne Beach. This place is a hidden gem with clean, un-crowded beaches, nice restaurants, affordable rental homes or hotels and plenty of sunshine. We spent quite a bit of our time here and loved going to sleep at night to the sound of crashing waves and waking up each morning to the sight of the most beautiful sunrises we’ve ever seen.

My babies playing in the sand on Melbourne Beach. 

Barrier Island : Sea Turtle Conservancy {Melbourne Beach, Florida}

Also within the Melbourne Beach area, we happened across this interesting looking building with a huge turtle painted on the side of it.

Barrier Island Sea Turtle Conservancy #travel #Florida

The Barrier Island: Sea Turtle Conservatory is a great place to stop and learn about ways you can help to save the sea turtles. Inside their building we walked around a small museum like area, read about the species, habitats and then watched a short movie.

Out back, on their observation deck, we were able to walk through natural vegetation paths and view the ocean beachfront. There was also this sign, which I loved.

Travel Florida

Brevard Zoo {Melbourne, Florida}

In Melbourne, just across the bridge from Melbourne Beach and only 60 miles from Orlando, we went back to visit one of my all time favorite zoo’s.

Brevard Zoo #travel #florida

The thing that makes this zoo so amazing is their open habitat design. The Brevard Zoo makes wildlife education hands on and interactive. For instance, we were able to take a train ride through the animal habitats, like a safari. The animals were free to walk up to us and we were able to see how amazing and majestic they really are up close.

This parrot happened to be my favorite. Isn’t he beautiful?  Read more about my zoo adventures here.

Red Parrot

Botanical Gardens : Florida Institute of Technology {Melbourne, Florida}

Also, while in Melbourne, we decided to check out the botanical gardens on the campus of the Florida Institute of Technology. This self guided tour is free and also comes with free visitors parking.

Botanical Gardens Florida Institute of Technology
To get to the gardens from the parking lot, we first had to cross through this long bridge. I didn’t mind, however. In fact, this bridge quickly became one of my favorite parts about the visit. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the gardens did not disappoint either! 
I would think of these gardens as a look into retro Florida. All of the vegetation here is natural to the area so taking a trip here allows visitors to see the real, old school Florida in all of it’s beauty. 

Exploration Tower {Port Canaveral, Florida}

Only 25 miles away from Melbourne (and 50 miles from Orlando) is a port city called Port Canaveral. This port city is where people go to board a ship for a cruise. In fact, we were able to see a couple of cruise ships either boarding or un-boarding while we were there. I couldn’t believe how large they are up close! 
While we were in the bay we came across this weird looking building. Apparently this is an exploration tower that hosts museum like artifacts and offers visitors an overlook of the area from a rooftop observation deck. We didn’t have time to go up, but it definitely looked amazing from the outside!!
Port Canaveral Exploration Tower

Parker Brothers Concepts {Port Canaveral, Florida}

One place we did visit in Port Canaveral was the Parker Brothers Concept studios. These innovators are the minds behind the cars, trucks, motorcycles and machines you often see in popular movies and television shows. They are also the people behind the reality show Dream Machines which airs on the SyFy Network. Here in Port Canaveral they create new concepts and display past builds for interested car enthusiasts like the members of my family.

Parker Brothers Concepts tour

Outside the building we found the Ghost Busters car. . but inside we found cars and trucks from the movies Transformers and Battleship among others.

However, the coolest thing in this shop to both my husband and my son was the bat mobile! They were like kids in a candy store. Seriously, giddy with excitement.

While none of the cars can be touched just admired, the amazing staff did let us take a quick seat in the bat mobile to which my son proclaimed “My butt touched where Batman’s butt touched!” He’s only four, so it’s cute.

Daytona Beach {Daytona, Florida}

If you’re headed north from Orlando, Daytona is also a fun place to stop. Only about 55 miles from the city is this cheery, hoping fun place where the beaches are long and the shopping is plentiful.

Daytona Beach #travel

Fort Matanzas {St. Augustine, Florida} 

Furthest from Orlando, but well worth the drive, is Saint Augustine, Florida. This Spanish inspired area is full of beauty and culture. It is also home to one of the U.S National Monuments, Fort Matanzas.

St. Augustine Fort Matanzas

Fort Matanzas played a large role in guarding St. Augustine’s southern river approach as European nations fought for control in the New World. This fort, which is only accessible by boat depicts what life would have been like back then for a soldier protecting these grounds. 

Fort Matanzas

We were excited to be able to go up into the towers and onto the roof to get a view of the entire area. We could actually see a pretty long way from the top! Sort of scary and exhilarating all at the same time.

Helpful Tip: Visits to the fort are free, but tickets are available on a first come first saved basis and only a limited amount of tickets are given out per time slot. Boats tour the area every hour.

Walt Disney World {Orlando, Florida}

Last but not least, while we were in Orlando we enjoyed showing our Disney Side in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. This place is beaming with joy, possibilities.. . and also princesses.

Walt Disney World #Orlando
Entering into Walk Disney World, Orlando
“Where should I go?” -Alice. “That depends on where you want to end up.” – The Cheshire Cat.” 

Where do YOU want to go? Have a favorite place to visit in Florida? Tell us about it. 

Go ahead, PIN IT for later.

Brevard Zoo: Melbourne, Florida

Disclosure: All or part of this trip was provided for free or at a reduced cost for review purposes. But the opinions are only that of the writer and cannot be bought.
#ad #BrevardZoo #Florida

A few years back I stumbled upon a zoo while traveling with my kids through Melbourne, Florida on a family road trip. As we drove up to the entrance we weren’t sure what to expect since we hadn’t heard of this place before, however after entering through the gates we couldn’t believe how amazing this zoo was. The amount of interaction with the animals and with the staff was beyond that which we had seen before. Today, fast forward three years and have found ourselves back in the same area. Can you guess what the first place on my list to visit again is? Yep! The Brevard Zoo.

Yesterday we headed into Brevard County, Florida which is only about a 51 minute drive from Orlando to visit our friends at the Brevard Zoo. It is an easy drive over and one that was a definite decision for my family after our last visit many years ago. There are so many things that we loved about this zoo, but one of the most memorable points is the zoo’s open air design. Most of the animals  in this zoo are not placed behind cages but able to roam wild within their designated areas, which are conditioned as closely as possible to their natural habitats.

#ad #BrevardZoo #Travel #Florida Grounds
The walk through the zoo is tropical and beautiful. 

At the Brevard Zoo you wont find a polar bear or penguins, but what you will find is an array of exotic and indigenous animals which thrive in the warm weather climates presented here in Florida.

Throughout the zoo we were able to come in close contact with beautiful birds of all kinds, like this beauty. He even squawked to me as I walked up as if to say “Hello, Welcome!”.

#ad Brevard Zoo Parrot

Throughout the center of the zoo is a large flamingo play area.

#ad Brevard Zoo Flamingo Photo

There were even places where we could buy nectar and feed the birds right out of our hands!

#ad Brevard Zoo Bird Feeding

I loved being able to get an up close look at the bright and stunning colors of the birds. They were also quite friendly, but did scare my kids when they landed on their hands because of the feeling of their feet. They much rather wanted to look at them as we fed them instead of feed them themselves.

#ad Brevard Zoo Bird

After feeding the birds, we were able to try a hand at feeding something just a little bit bigger.

#ad Giraffe at Brevard Zoo

This beauty was the most graceful animal as she moved. When we stuck out a cracker she would gently use her tongue and lift the cracker back into her mouth and then wait patiently to see if we had any more.

#ad #BrevardZoo Giraffe
After feeding all of the other animals, my animals needed some feeding too so we grabbed lunch at the outdoor cafe and some Dippin Dots for dessert to cool us down. After all, just two days ago we were in 20 degree weather. This 88 degrees is wonderful but extremely hot to us. 
#ad Brevard Zoo Dippin Dots

Right behind the cafe area is a small train that we couldn’t wait to take a ride on. This train, which can be included in the price of your entrance ticket for a small additional amount, took us on a ride behind the scenes of the camel, ostrich, and a few other animal exhibits. At times the animals would walk right up to the train or over the path causing the train to stop and wait.

Brevard Zoo Train Ride #ad

This buddy watched me as I rode by him. Not moving, just starring.

#BrevardZoo #ad

Some other great features at the zoo are the keeper talks, the high ropes courses and the ziplines.

#ad Keeper Talk at the Brevard Zoo

I didn’t get a chance to do the high ropes courses over the zoo this time, but it is definitely on my to do list for when the kids get a little big bigger. At one point in this journey, you get to zip line over the alligator swamp! How awesome is that?

#ad Brevard Zoo High Ropes Course

The Paws On section of the zoo is all about interaction and play. If you plan ahead, there is a small kids wade pool in this section where little ones can cool off from the warm Florida heat. We didn’t get a chance to enjoy it, but it looked amazing! There were little waterfalls to splash under and a docked boat to play on.

#ad Brevard Zoo Paws On Exploration

Even though we didn’t get to play in the splash pad, my kids were enthralled with the small touch pool area where they were able to cool their hands and feel some underwater creatures.

#ad Brevard Zoo Touch Pool

For some dry fun, there is also a large sandbox area and a large tunnel play system. I have to admit, I got right in there and played with these things too.

#ad Brevard Zoo Sand Box

A few helpful tips when visiting the Brevard Zoo:

– Plan to buy your food and drink within the zoo. No outside food or beverage is allowed.
– Bring sunscreen and comfortable shoes. It took us about five hours to visit everything.
– As ahead of time about tickets for the train ride or the feed the animals, they have a package deal available which will save you money if you plan to do it all.

For more information, visit the Brevard Zoo on their website at https://brevardzoo.org/

#ad Alligators Brevard Zoo
Sunbathing Beauties

Watch as we feed the Giraffe!

Sharing My #DisneySide

Disclosure: I received free products in order to host a Disney Side @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed here are my own. 
#ad #DisneySide Party

It doesn’t matter if you’ve ever stepped foot into one of the parks or not, you probably have a memory or a special place in your heart for Disney. For me, Disney movies were the first films I fell in love with as a child. They taught me to dream, to be confident in who I was and to view the world as a magical place.

When I was a little girl The Little Mermaid was like Frozen is today. I knew every song and would drive my mother crazy singing the entire movie out to her in perfect memory. I even had a Little Mermaid sweatshirt that I would proudly wear to school as often as my mother could get it clean. After school I would invite all of my friends over to watch the film on our little box set in the living room and we would all sing the melodies together at the top of our lungs. Back then this was one of the things that bonded us together and gave us all common ground. I believe that these memories became a piece in the puzzle that made us who we are today.

Throwing a Disney themed Party #ad #DisneySide

It is super fun now that I am a mom and I am able to share my Disney side with my kids and help them create their own memories. When they get excited about something, it brings back my own memories and reminds me to look at the world again as I once saw it.

Soon we will be taking our kids, along with a few other families and their kids, to the Disney Parks in Florida and I simply can not wait to share this experience with everybody. Since I already know how much fun it is to show my Disney side with my kids, I decided to put together a fun little family party and help everyone else find their Disney Side (or remember the one they have) before we hit the road.

Duff Tie Dye Cake Mix #ad #DisneySide

When I think of Disney, I think of vibrant colors and tons of fun. So the obvious choice when putting together a fun dessert for the party was this tie dye cake mix from Duff. Just check out all of these bright, fun cake batter colors! (Ok, I’ll admit, I seriously loved this.)

Duff Tie Dye Cake Mix #ad #DisneySide

The cake mix called for making one large cake, but what I really wanted was cupcakes so I followed the same directions, but instead of pouring all of the colors in one large dish, I repeated the process in small increments over several cupcake liners. I baked them at 350 degrees for 12-17 minutes and they turned out beautifully!

Tie Dye Cupcakes Made from Duff Cake Mix #ad #DisneySide

For the party I set up a little table with snacks and desserts, but left the cupcakes plain so the kids could decorate their own. I also re-used some Disney valentines pretzel packs that I picked up after the season on sale. 🙂 Nobody minded (save money when you can!)

#ad #DisneySide Party
#ad #DisneySide Party Pictures

After dinner the kids each got a cupcake and I set out the sprinkles on the table for them. They all had a great time adding color and decorating their own cupcakes before biting into them. Once they bit into them, the squeals of excitement over the colors on the inside was contagious. So were the smiles.

#ad #DisneySide
#ad #DisneySide cupcake decorating
Tie Dye Cupcakes #ad #DisneySide
Everyone agreed that the cupcakes tasted just as good as they looked! But we weren’t done yet! Next up, to keep with the creative and fun environment, I set out white t-shirts and fabric markers so everyone could design their own Disney t-shirt to wear on the trip. This helped everyone to think about the trip ahead and to talk about what we might experience while we are there. It also helped everyone get excited and share past memories. 
Decorating Tshirts #ad #DisneySide
Crayola Fabric Markers #ad #DisneySide

After the party was over we sent each guest home with a bag of goodies to keep them busy on their travels. Nothing extravagant, just some word puzzles, Disney trivia, coloring books and crayons.

ABC Family Goody Bags #ad #DisneySide

I think that Disney has a way of creating excitement, bringing people together and reminding us to see the world through a child’s eyes. Even though right now we are all excited about heading out on our trip, I think that the child like wonder and excitement that we are experiencing right now should be an “all the time” thing. Why shouldn’t it last?

Do you have a favorite Disney memory from your child hood? Maybe a favorite movie or a trip you took with your family? Share your favorite memories with us in the comments and share a smile. 

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#ad #DisneySide Party Ideas

Blueberry Cream Bars #LoveDoveFruits

 This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #LoveDoveFruits #CollectiveBias
#ad Blueberry Cream Bars with Dove Fruit #LoveDoveFruit #cbias
Spring is near, I can feel it; only on the inside of course because on the outside my body is still shivering from the near negative temperatures and the cold touch of snow as it falls on my face each and every time I walk outdoors. In my heart I can tell that spring is only a few days away, in reality? Eh, this winter might just go on lasting forever. I guess it is a good thing that I typically tend to lead with my heart then, right? Speaking of leading with my heart, my favorite non-guilty snack is now being carried locally by Walmart and it looks like they’ve expanded with new flavors! Eek, love them! If you haven’t yet tried these DOVE® Fruit – chocolate dipped real fruit bites you don’t know what you’re missing! They definitely put the “spring” in my step if you know what I mean (too corny?).

#ad #LoveDoveFruit #cbias

I actually heard that these DOVE® Fruit were now available at Walmart and purposefully went looking for them. I had an idea in my head for a new light and fruity dessert that I wanted to try out before Easter and these seemed like they would add the perfect “wow factor” to the dish. You know the one that makes your party guests go “Mmm. What is that pop of flavor?”. Let me warn you though, these DOVE® Fruit are not where you would think to find them in the store, or at least not where I thought they would be, which was in the snack food aisle. Nope! If you want to find these DOVE® Fruit in a Walmart near you, try looking in the candy aisle. After quite a bit of searching, I found them at the end of the bagged candy aisle on an end cap display. Well worth the hunt.

#ad #LoveDoveFruits at Walmart #cbias

I was specifically searching after the blueberry ones but decided to pick up the cherries and cranberries as well for “research” (I will be researching them as I drive to Florida on my next road trip). No matter the reasons, all three flavors went home with me and today I am going to show you how I used the blueberry DOVE® Fruit to add a pop of flavor to my Easter dessert trial run.

Blueberry Cream Bars

You’ve probably heard of “dream bars” right? Well, these bars are my dream, but made with a sugar cookie base, cream cheese frosting and blueberry and chocolate topping. Mmmm….is this now your dream too? It’s ok, we can share it.

#ad #LoveDoveFruits

To begin making the bars, I used my mom’s sugar cookie recipe. If you wanted to cut back on steps, a tube of refrigerated cookie dough would work just as well.

Mom’s Famous Sugar Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 cup milk

Cream together shortening and sugar in a large mixer. Once combined, add in egg to the mixture and continue to beat on medium speed. Next, add in the milk and extracts. Continue to beat. In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients and then slowly add the dry ingredient mixture into the first mixture. Mix until combined.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and pour the sugar cookie mixture into a greased 8×8 glass dish. Press the mixture flat into the bottom of the dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Cream Cheese Topping

1- 8oz cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tablespoons white sugar

Combine all three ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat for about 2-3 minutes or until creamy.

#ad Cream Cheese Topping for Blueberry Cream Bars #Cbias #LoveDoveFruits

Once the sugar cookies cooled, I spread a thin layer of the cream cheese topping over the bars and sprinkled it with a mixture of DOVE® Fruit blueberries and fresh blueberries. The bars were ready to be served immediately (or refrigerated until serving time).

#ad Blueberry Cream Bar recipe #cbias #LoveDoveFruits

As I made my first cut into the bars, every member of my family quickly stepped up to help me taste test them. (It’s funny how they always know when it’s time to eat, isn’t it? Yet somehow when mom is, say cleaning or preparing the food, no one is able to be found. Strange.)

#ad #LoveDoveFruits #cbias

The verdict was a good one! Everyone loved them. They were sweet, but not too sweet. They were light, creamy and that pop of chocolate covered blueberry rose to the occasion like I had hoped it would! The flavor of the DOVE® chocolate combined with the fresh blueberry alone is a great snack, but this recipe takes it to a whole new level! I cannot wait to share this with my friends and family at our Easter day brunch.

#ad #LoveDoveFruits

Have you tried these new DOVE® Fruit yet? Which flavor is your favorite? Share with us in the comments. 
Haven’t tried them yet? Check out this coupon made especially for Raising Dick and Jane readers and save $1.00 off your purchase! 

See more great DOVE® Fruit recipe ideas on the DOVE® Fruit social hub

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Autorama Returns to Detroit: A Show for Vintage Car Lovers

Autorama Returns to Detroit: A show for vintage car lovers

This weekend one of my favorite car show’s is coming to Detroit! Beginning Thursday, vintage hot rods from all over south eastern Michigan and beyond will make their way into the heart of Detroit to set up display at the 63rd annual Autorama car show at Cobo hall, which is open to the public on Friday – Sunday. However, devastatingly to my husband, after over seven years of attendance and submitting our cars to be displayed we will not be in attendance this year. We will be on a beach (I guess that is just as good, right?).

Let me tell you though, this is an awesome show, one that we definitely are bummed about missing. I have so many great memories from this show, like the time I walked the entire thing at 6 months pregnant. Eek, that was a rough one, but I still didn’t miss the show!

Since I can’t be there this year to cover the story (and I am still not sure that my husband has gotten over it), I thought that I would share with you my memories from the show last year and give you a little heads up about what you might expect to find in case you wanted to make your way over and check it out.

Autorama car Show Detroit MI

Unlike the other car shows that come through the area, this car show is dedicated to hot rods, customs and even a few motorcycles (which is what makes this show so awesome). On the top level of Cobo all of the “show cars” and the cars competing for awards are proudly displayed, along with the food vendors, toy vendors and most of the special shows and appearances. The cars on this level are breathtaking and spared no expense to make them perfect. Each inch of their chrome is perfectly polished and they even sometimes sparkle in the bright overhead lights. I love attending this show because there aren’t many other places where you can find this many pristine vintage cars all in one place. Plus, it always feels like a good distraction from the never ending winter here in Michigan and this show comes around just as we are starting to get impatient for spring.

Autorama Detroit, MI

The lower level of Cobo is also full of cars and has widely become known as “Autorama Extreme”. Displayed on this level are the cars known as traditional hot rods. These cars are what you would have typically seen driving around in the 30’s – 60’s had you been alive during that era. The awesome thing about these cars is that some of them have been dug out from barns and restored, some have been left original to this date and some have been passed down from generation to generation. Each car here has a story and it’s usually a pretty good one.

Michigan Vintage Cars

On this level you will also find a few custom cars, motorcycles and several car club displays. Also, if you have ever wondered what it would be like to see a pin up contest, join in a sock hop or shop for hard to find hot rod clothing and handcrafted metal signs, you’ve come to the right place. This level always seems to have something fun going on and it is usually where I find myself spending most of my time.

Autorama Extreme

Like every other year, the show this year also comes with a few celebrity appearances and it is not uncommon to see a film crew following local television stars through the venue as well. In fact, last year I almost ran into and knocked over a film crew who was walking backwards to get a good shot of the boys from the show “Pawn Stars”. After that I quickly learned to keep my head up and watch where I was going at all times. This car show can get pretty crowded, especially around mid-day, which is why I normally book a room next door at the Crown Plaza hotel so I can take a break from the show, have lunch and rest before heading back to show once things calm down a little bit.

Autorama at Cobo Hall Detroit, MI
Detroit, MI cityline in Winter

There is so much to see and do at this event, we’ve found that we have no problem filling up our time at the show. Plus, if we ever do get bored, we are in the middle of downtown Detroit and there are plenty of amazing things to go see and do in the city. Next year I will be more careful with my planning so we don’t have to miss it again. This show is definitely one NOT to be missed.

Have you ever been to the Autorama car show in Detroit or another city? What city did you attend and what was your favorite part? 

If you want more information on ticket sales, celebrity appearances and times, be sure to check out the Autorama website for details.