Family fun

60 posts

Oconauftee Visitor Center | Great Smoky Mountains

Hands-On Learning in Cherokee!

The Oconauftee Visitor Center

If you are traveling through The Great Smoky Mountains, do yourself a favor and stop by the Oconauftee Visitor Center. This cute little visitor center is full service, and “green”. (Read all about the “green” features here!)

The beautiful visitor center, and clean restrooms aren’t the only perks of stopping here on your way through the Great Smoky Mountains. This visitor center for also be a destination for an educational experience. In my opinion, meaningful learning experiences are crucial for children to thrive in school. The Oconauftee visitor center was such a highlight of our North Carolina vacation, because of the face-to-face experience with history.

Things to Do at the Visitor Center

Outside of the visitor center, you can take a short walk to an open-air museum featuring a barn and other buildings that have been taken from the mountains and preserved for guests to see. The museam is set up to give guests an idea of how people would have lived 100 years ago in the mountains.

In addition to the village, there are indoor exhibits featuring images, artifacts and other information life in the Great Smoky Mountains. My girls enjoyed seeing how butter was churned. There is also a 20-minute informational video and a paved walking trail to enjoy.

The visitor center is open every day (except Christmas) at 8:00 a.m., and the closing time varies between 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. depending on the time of year. You can find hours and contact information on this website.

In addition to the educational component this particular visitor provides, there are stunning views of the mountains and if you are driving through early in the morning you might catch a glimpse at some Elk grazing in the field.

We loved all the stunning mountain views and couldn’t resist a family photo or two. Before you leave, make sure you pop into the visitor center and get a stamp for your national parks passport.

The Street Address

1194 Newfound Gap Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719

Sharing is Caring

If you found this post helpful for planning your trip, I hope you’d do me the honor of sharing.

More Fun Things Nearby

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HVcVeD7QEM

*This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for you support of StorybookErin.com

Travel The Road to Nowhere, Bryson City N.C.

Travel The Road to Nowhere

Just beyond Swain County high school in Bryson City, North Carolina, you will find “The Road to Nowhere”. To locals, it is a memory of broken promises dating back to World War II. To my family, it has become a must-do on each trip to Western North Carolina.

Shortly after we were married, we took this epic photo (which is printed on a canvas in our bedroom).

On our most recent trip to Bryson City, we recreated the photo and included our girls.

History of The Road to Nowhere

The best information I’ve found about the history of the Road to Nowhere can be found on this website.   In short, back in the 1930’s and 40’s some of Swain County’s private land was given to the Federal Government. During World War II hundreds of people in these communities were forced out of their homes and Old Highway 288 became buried under Fontana Lake.

The government was to replace the road and stretch from Bryson City to Fontana. However, when an environmental issue arose all construction stopped and the citizens named the road “The Road to Nowhere”

In 2010 a legal settlement was reached in regards to The Road to Nowhere.

It’s a really interesting read, so I’d be sure to check out the history on the Bryson City Website. 

Directions

From Bryson City, take Everet street until it turns into Lakeshore Drive and ends. There is a small parking section just outside the tunnel.

Things to Do in the Road to Nowhere

The Road to Nowhere can be an all-day adventure or just an hour or two. It’s really up to you, and what you want to do. Please be aware, if you are traveling with your family there can be some inappropriate graffiti on the walls. If you just shine your light down at your feet and not at the walls, you won’t even notice it.

Walk through the Tunnel

During your visit, you can simply walk from one end of the tunnel to the other. It will take you less than an hour, you can snap a few fun photos and be on your way.

Go Hiking

There are a few trails just beyond the Road to Nowhere. The Gold Mine Loop is only 1.2 miles. However, my Apple Watch claimed we hiked closer to 4 miles. Either way, the hike was awesome. Even with our young girls, we enjoyed this hike.

We had the privilege of having a Bryson City local join us, so we got to learn the history. See some things we might not have. He also escorted us to Fontana Lake. Just off the trail a bit, you can actually walk down to Fontana Lake, which was such a neat experience. We even got to see some bear tracks while we were down there.  If you are going to hike The Road to Nowhere, don’t forget your snacks. #momfail I left all the snacks in the car and only took some water with us.

Tips for Hiking with Toddlers

When hiking with toddlers, safety is the #1 concern. We want our children to explore and enjoy the hike but we also want them to be safe. Here are a couple recommendations for hiking with your children.

  • Use a Baby Carrier

If your toddlers are young enough or small enough to fit in a baby carrier, bring it along. Our girls (4,3 & 2) all took a turn or two in the baby carrier for this hike. This is my favorite one*

  • Buddy System

We made sure at least one adult was with each of the girls during the entirety of the hike. Helping climb up and down the mountain and give the opportunity to take a rest break throughout the hike.

Have a Picnic

The Road to Nowhere is a great spot for a picnic. Either on the other side of the tunnel or somewhere on the trail. The Road to Nowhere is a beautiful destination for a quiet picnic.

Photo Shoot

Have you considered family photos at the Road to Nowhere? Either with the beautiful foliage or the tunnel, this could be the next location for your family photo.

Exploring the Road to Nowhere

There are many things to do on The Road to Nowhere if you’ve been – leave a comment below! Let me know what you think!

If you found this post helpful, would you do me the honor of sharing on your favorite social media platform?

 

Visiting Savannah on a Budget

Savannah Georgia

Savannah was established in 1733 and is the oldest city in Georgia. Back in the 1700’s downtown Savannah had 4 squares with communities surrounding them. Today, there are 22-squares. Each square is named in memory of a person or historical event.

Just walk the cobbled streets and you can’t help but want to explore the history of this city.

Getting Around Savannah

Downtown is a very walkable city. With plenty of sidewalks and public transportation, you can get to wherever you want to go fairly easily. My recommendation is to park your car and walk. (Grab a parking pass here!) If you are going to spend more than a day in Savannah, I’d recommend the hop-on-hop-off trolly. We’ve done a similar tour in St. Augustine, and it was completely worth it. Grab a Groupon for the Savannah Tour here*

If you are traveling with young children, I would ditch the stroller and grab a baby-carrier* and a backpack for your day. Here’s my all-time FAVORITE baby carrier! I’ve used this carrier for the last 3 years, and it still looks fairly new – I love it!

Savannah on a Budget

If you are sticking to a budget and don’t mind skipping the guided tour approach to Savannah. I’d recommend the DOT. Since we were only there for a couple of hours, we opted for this approach.  This fare-free transportation will take you all over downtown. You can also board the water ferry and visit “Waving Girl”, City Hall and Hutchinson Island! Check out the DOT website for current hours.

 

Budget-Friendly Savannah Accommodations

For our trip, we booked an Airbnb in Beaufort, SC.* We saved a lot of money by booking outside of Savannah and were able to cook our own meals and relax before exploring the city. If you’ve never booked an Airbnb, you might want to check it out – there are lots of great properties in the area! Use this code for $40.00 off your first booking! *

Saving Money on Attractions

It’s no secret, I love to search through Groupon* when visiting a new city. It’s a great way to save a bit of money, and have an experience I might not have booked. The official Savannah Website also has a section dedicated to coupons, so be sure to check that out before your trip.

Eating in Savannah

We didn’t actually eat any meals during our visit. We had a big breakfast in a nearby cracker barrel and then some ice cream at River Street Sweets. River Street Sweets is located on East River Street and the perfect destination for something sweet during your visit. They have World Famous Pralines, Home-made candies, treats and ice cream available for purchase. It was absolutely delicious and we even brought home some of the pralines to share with friends and family.

If you are a big Paula Deen fan, you might want to check out Lady and Sons. 

If you want to keep on exploring the city or eat like a local. I’d recommend walking to the nearby Kroger and purchasing some picnic supplies. Here is the address: 311 E Gwinnett St. Savannah, GA 31401

There are plenty of yummy places to eat depending on your budget.

Family Fun

This city was a beautiful location for a family adventure. It is home of SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) so you will see several college students out and about working on projects. You will also see the playgrounds filled with families and children.

You will find gardens to explore, old city streets and history wherever you look. We only had a few hours in this city, but it could definitely be a destination for a longer family vacation.  Check our Savannah Vlog to see all the fun we had! 

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s go visit Savannah!

The question of the Day: Have you ever been to Savannah? What’s your top thing to do?

 

Share Me💕

If you find this post helpful, would you do me the honor of sharing on your favorite social media platform?

 

Visiting National Parks – Big Cypress National Preserve

National Parks

I believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children in the years before they begin school is a solid foundation of experiences. It is those experiences that help them to make meaningful connections in the classroom.

National Parks are an amazing place to create those experiences.

Big Cypress National Preserve

We recently took a quick trip through the Big Cypress National Preserve. It was such a fun trip, one we’ve taken many times over the years but this time was different. This time we decided to pack a picnic to explore the Big Cypress.

Watch the vlog here on our Youtube Channel.

About Big Cypress National Preserve

On October 11th, 1974 Big Cypress was established as America’s first national preserve. (Happy Birthday, Big Cypress!).  There are two welcome centers in the preserve, and there are many things to do. You can go camping, hiking, or just take a drive through it and have a picnic.

With its diverse landscape and the largest habitat for the Florida Panther, it is certainly something to go on your Bucket List.  – Find out more about Big Cypress Here.

Visiting the National Parks with Kids

When visiting the National Parks with children, you will want to stop in all the welcome centers. It’s a great opportunity for them to speak with a park ranger and collect a free stamp. My girls love to ask for a map at each park.

Picnics are also a great idea when traveling through a national park with kids. I also recently introduced our girls to leaf rubbings, this can be a great craft for your family. It’s as easy as collecting a few leaves together and using some copy paper and a crayon to make an art piece. There are many things to do with your family inside a national park.

What are your favorites?

 

Love National Parks? Share the love on Pinterest!

 

Fall Activities for your Preschooler

Preschoolers

Preschool is the most magical age, I’m convinced. I always knew deep down in my heart that I loved this age. It’s primarily the reason I studied Early Childhood Education in college. Now that I am the mom three girls ages 2, 3 and 4 – I am convinced there is something magical about this age. You can find me holding onto every last ounce of the magic.

In an effort to soak in all the memories while my girls are still young, I’ve put together a list of all the fun things we are planning to do this Fall. I hope you will subscribe to our Youtube Channel to catch the Vlogs. 

Fall activities for your Preschoolers

As soon as the kids go back to school, there seems to be a hint of Pumpkin Spiced Lattes filling the air. I’m not a fan of PSL, but I do love Fall. I believe it was L.M. Montgomery who said in her popular book Anne of Green Gables who said

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers”

October is a beautiful month, one to fill with many happy memories.

Read Fall Themed Books

Reading is one of the most important things you can do with your young children. It is never too early (or too late) to read to your children. Here are a couple of my favorite authors and their Halloween-inspired books!

I have a whole post with more research on the importance of reading, and some recommendations for Thanksgiving themed books on this post if you want to extend your Fall festivities into November.

Pumpkin Patch Photos

It is our yearly tradition to head to a local pumpkin patch and take photos. I love seeing the big changes in the girls from year-to-year. Check Facebook Events for local pumpkin patches. We’ve found so many great events through Facebook!

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by E R I N collector of stories (@storybookerin) on

Pumpkin Painting

My friend Michelle and Little Man painted the cutest pumpkins for Halloween. I can’t wait to see what designs my girls come up with! P.s. Go give her channel a subscribe – you won’t be sorry! 

 

Apple Picking

This fall our family will be traveling to North Carolina. While we are there, we will be going to an Orchard to pick apples! I am so excited about this. I’ve never picked apples before, and we’ve found the cutest place to go. I can’t wait to share more with you soon!

Bake some Spooky Treats

One of the best parts about the holiday season is all the fun treats you get to create. My friend Keri from Flipflopweekend.com has put together 10 fun Disney inspired treats you can create with your family!

 

Dress-up!

It wouldn’t be a Halloween bucket list if I didn’t add playing dress-up. My daughter is absolutely in love with Halloween. I asked her why she loved it so much, and she told me it was because EVERYONE dresses up. This is the perfect age for group costumes. The kids love it, and I’m sure you’ll love it too!

There are so many churches, malls, libraries and parks that have Thanksgiving festivities. Be sure to find one or two and go as a family for some fun!


 

What are your favorite October traditions?

*This post contains affiliate links. It will cost nothing extra if you decide to purchase, but we appreciate your support of StorybookErin.com

5 Thanksgiving Books to Read with your Preschooler

The Importance of Reading

Around the age of 5 years old, children will begin to read. It’s an exciting time in the life of a child. One of pride and accomplishment, another step in the direction of independence. The road to reading begins LONG before your child reads or even says their first words. Research even recently proved that reading aloud to children actually changes their brains. – Read about the study here. 

When should I start Reading aloud to my children?

Now. Right Now.

I believe that no time is too soon to start reading aloud to your children.

Even when your baby is still in the womb, reading to your children will create such a special bond. Your baby will start to become familiar with your voice. I remember when my first daughter was born. Even in her earliest days she knew our voices and would love to listen to her dad read stories to her.

Preparing Our Hearts for Thanksgiving

Happy First Week of Fall!

It doesn’t feel like Fall here in South, Florida with temperatures still in the 90’s. However, since Pumpkin Spiced lattes have arrived, it must be time to start preparing our hearts for Thanksgiving. Last year during the month of November we worked on memorizing a bible verse together and created a little bucket list of things to do together.

This year we have been reading through several books to help prepare our hearts for the season. Also, since the girls are a little bit older (4,3 & 2) they are able to understand more about the first Thanksgiving.

Top 5 Thanksgiving Themed Books for Preschoolers

These books are not ranked in any particular order. These are just five of the many Thanksgiving themed books we have been enjoying this season. This post does contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase it won’t cost anything extra for you, but our family will receive a small commission. I thank you for your consideration and support.

‘Twas the Night Before THANKSGIVING

Written and Illustrated by Dav Pilkey.

This story is about eight students who ventured off onto a field trip to see Farmer Mack Nuggett and his 8 tiny turkeys. During the field trip, the students learn about the farm and befriend the turkeys and you won’t believe how the story ends…

My girls loved the rhyming and adorable watercolor styled images in this story.

Balloons over Broadway

Written by Melissa Sweet, A Caldecott Honor Winner

A Thanksgiving tradition for our family is to participate in a turkey trot.  However, for many families, it might be to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Balloons over Broadway is a whimsically written story based on the history of the Macy’s Day Parade.

In this book, you will learn all about how Tony Sarg began his work for Macy’s by designing the window decor, and eventually started the famous balloons we watch each year on Thanksgiving morning. This book was also awarded The Robert F. Sibert Medal.

 

The Thanksgiving Story

Written by Alice Dalgliesh and Illustrated by Helen Sewell

This book is a great way to introduce your preschoolers to chapter books. There are limited images in this book, but with 5 short chapters (2-3 pages) this book is a great tool for 1) teaching your child about Thanksgiving and 2) reading comprehension and recall. This book also received the Caldecott Honor.

 

Turkey Trouble

Written by Wendi Silvano and Illustrated by Lee Harper. 

Follow along as one turkey discovers he’s in trouble. This cute little story is a quick and easy read for your family. One that’s sure to make you laugh.

Bear Says Thanks

Written by Karma Wilson and Illustrated by Jane Chapman 

The “Bear Books” are a popular series of stories written by Karma Wilson. Each story teaches an important lesson for toddlers and preschoolers. Bear Says Thanks is no different.

This story recreates the first Thanksgiving, and Bear learns to be grateful. With large beautiful images and limited text per page. this Story is perfect for your toddlers and preschoolers. It is also an option for beginning readers.

These are just five of the books we’ve been reading to our family. There are so many more available. Comment below, what are your favorite stories to read to your family during Thanksgiving?


Looking for more fun things to do with your Preschooler for Thanksgiving? Check out this Pinterest board

Cycle through Zoo Miami

Zoo Miami

Zoo Miami is the oldest and largest zoo in Florida. It spans over 750 acres and has many different opportunities to have up-close experiences with the animals. In the brand-new Everglades exhibit, guests can crawl through a passageway leading directly through an alligator tank, slide through an otter slide and explore an exhibit for an American Bear!

WATCH ELLIE’s HATCH DAY CELEBRATION HERE!

Zoo Miami was recently included in the USA TODAY 10 Best Zoos in the country! 

Fastest Way to See Zoo Miami

If you only have a few hours to visit Zoo Miami, I highly recommend renting the family cycle. Safari Cycles can be rented hourly for for the entire day. We found we were able to see most of the zoo in about 2 hours with limited stopping. If you wanted to experience the zoo a little more thoroughly, i’d recommend the full day.

Find out current rates here.

Our family rented the large cycle, and fit quite comfortably. It did rain while we were cycling through the zoo, so we couldn’t put our bags on the roof.

Benefits of the Safari Cycle

Everyone is together

If you are visiting Zoo Miami with your family of friends and want to have a conversation, the safari cycle is a must. We were able to have an enjoyable visit and conversation with my parents during our trip to the zoo. When one is pushing a stroller and another is chasing a toddler around the exhibits meaningful conversations can be a struggle.

Children can better see into the Exhibits

Since the exhibits have fairly high fences, it can be difficult for younger children to see into the exhibit. With the safari cycle, your children will be above the fence line.

Shade from the Sun

There are lots of trees and foliage around Zoo Miami, but the build in shade of the Safari Cycle is AWESOME!

See the Whole Zoo in less than a day

Zoo Miami is the largest Zoo in Florida, and with small children it is very difficult to see the whole zoo in one day. The Safari Cycle helps guests to move quickly from exhibit to exhibit and make the most of their day!

Make an Unforgettable Memory

There is something magical about experiencing something new. Cycling with your entire family through a beautiful zoo is a memory that will last forever.

Zoo Miami

Zoo Miami is one of my favorite places. Our family visits regularly and has an amazing time during each visit. I hope you will check out Zoo Miami next time you are in the South Florida area!  Be sure to check Groupon for any deals before purchasing your tickets.  You can also run through the zoo this October! 

Find great deals at Groupon.com!

 

If you found this helpful, would you consider sharing?

The BEST time to Meet Characters in Toy Story Land

If you are heading to Toy Story Land for the first time, I encourage you to check out my round-up of tips from bloggers, vloggers, and Moms.

Who can I Meet in Toy Story Land

Inside Toy Story Land you can meet:

  1. Buzz Lightyear
  2. Woody
  3. Jessie
  4. Green Army Men

We traveled to Toy Story Land in August of 2018, and here is where we found each of the characters.

Character: Buzz Lightyear

As you enter Toy Story Land you will be greeted by Woody with a large “Toy Story Land” sign. Directly after the welcome sign, the line forms to meet Buzz Lightyear. If you are coming to the land in the evening, he is in the same area just a little more into the land as there is better lighting for photos.

Our favorite Space Ranger, Buzz Lightyear is available for photos from park open to park close (weather permitting). We found that the best time to meet Buzz was right at the park opened. Many people rush to the rides and miss the opportunity for character interaction.

Characters: Woody and Jessie

Woody and Jessie can be found just a few steps beyond the new entrance to Midway Mania. The absolute best time to meet them is right as you enter into Toy Story Land. During the morning Extra Magic Hour, the line for Woody and Jessie was only about 15-20 minutes.

Watch our Meet and Greet with Woody and Jessie

Catch our latest Disney Vlog to see the amazing character interaction and hear my tips for meeting the characters with your toddlers.

Characters: Green Army Men (Green Army Brigade)

Walking around throughout Toy Story Land and interacting with guests you will find the Green Army Men. With the opening of Toy Story Land, they changed the name to Green Army Brigade in order to include women.  There are also opportunities for toys (guests) young and old to play games with them. As long as the Army Men aren’t participating in an activity, you can approach them for a photo and autograph. The Army Men were one of the most fun parts of the atmosphere of Toy Story Land, simply because it’s not a common occurrence for characters to walk around freely among the toys (guests). I loved it!

Best Autograph Books and Alternatives

For our visit to Toy Story Land, we opted to use a Canvas panel to collect signatures. This was so that we would be able to use the signatures as artwork in our children room. My blogger pal Keri, as a whole post of ideas on autograph books, if you are looking for more creative approaches to gathering signatures.

Shop for Autograph Supplies

This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase it does not cost anything additional for you, but my family does receive a small commission off of your purchase. Thank you for your support of the Storybook Erin family.

If you found this helpful, would you consider sharing?

Love Disney, Planning a Trip?

You are invited to join my FREE Facebook Group! This group is perfect for Disney Fans, guests planning a trip to Disney and Disney Bloggers!

Join our Disney Ohana!

The Umbrella Sky Project, Coral Gables FL

About the Umbrella Sky

Located in the heart of downtown Gables, Florida the Umbrella sky is certain to delight visitors of all ages. Created by the Sextafiera company in Portugal, the Umbrella Sky project began in 2012 and has been installed all over the world.  Coral Gables, Florida is one of only three cities in the United States to host this project.  (The exhibit was in Pensacola, FL in January of 2018).

According to the Facebook Page, the mission of this project is “Coloring Life and Making People Smile”. Mission Accomplished, this exhibit is adorable. You can’t help but see the connection with Mary Poppins in this exhibit, which brings such a fun Disney-inspired experience to South Florida.

One you won’t want to miss – and you better hurry. This exhibit leaves Coral Gables in September of 2018.

If you are interested in finding out about similar projects, check out their website. My favorite was the all pink umbrellas!

Where to Find The Umbrella Sky Project

Address

2349-2301 Salzedo St, Coral Gables, FL 33134

Parking

There is plenty of metered parking and garages throughout downtown Coral Gables. Just make sure to bring some change. We parked around the corner from the exhibit and parking was about 2.50 per hour.

How long did you stay? 

I went to the exhibit with my sister-in-law and a friend and we stayed about 1 hour inside the exhibit. We took our time taking tons of photos and really enjoying the atmosphere. You could definitely make this into a half-day or longer trip if you opted to eat in one of the many cafe’s under the umbrella sky.

My Philosophy on Encouraging Art Appreciation

As a mom of three young children with completely different personalities. I make every effort to expose my children to multiple experiences. I want my children to be well-rounded adults with an appreciation for the arts, nature and academics. Opportunities to get outside and experience beautiful art exhibits are the perfect way to show the beauty of art in a way that’s exciting for young children and toddlers.

So, if you want to encourage your children to love art, expose them to age-appropriate art exhibits from a young age. Encourage and foster the love for creativity!

Comment below: What are some art exhibits in your area, we love to travel!

Whimsical Photo Opportunities

The Umbrella Sky makes for some of the most beautiful and whimsical photos. Perfect for couples, families and children. We brought a blanket with us and snapped lots of fun photos with the girls. If you want to capture photos without too many people in the background, I recommend going around 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning. This is before the cafe’s open so there will be less traffic in the area.

What to Bring to the Umbrella Sky

If traveling with young toddlers or babies. Bring a snack and water. Under the umbrellas it does get a little warm, especially with the summer heat. I forgot our water bottles in the car, and my girls were quite thirsty.

You might also want to bring a blanket or any props you might want for your photos. We saw lots of people with brightly colored umbrellas. I went with the Mary Poppins inspired Disney Bound with my dress (found on Amazon).

Hurry, this exhibit leaves South Florida Soon!

This exhibit is set to leave Coral Gables in September. So don’t delay! Make plans to visit soon!

This is perfect for a Mom’s Day Out, Girls Brunch, Family Day, Date… Perfect for a fun outing! A Must-See in Coral Gables, Florida! Be sure to tag your photos with #umbrellaSky on social media and join the conversation!

The Meg – Movie Review (NO SPOILERS!)

The Meg

The Meg releases to the public on Friday, August 10th, 2018. My husband and I were given the unique opportunity to watch the movie this evening before it is released to the public. Here are my (spoiler-free) thoughts on the new movie The Meg. (This is not a sponsored post, all opinions are my own).

About the Movie

The movie begins with an intense scene involving a rescue mission. This is where the film introduces Jonas Taylor, one of the main characters in the film.  The film then cuts to 5-years later and a research facility has found themselves in a situation where they need assistance from Jonas Taylor once again.

Throughout the film, there are several heart-warming moments, awkward tensions and of course a giant pre-historic shark to keep you entertained. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I shed a tear during one of the early introductions of the mother-daughter characters. My oldest daughter has recently been very interested in learning about sharks, so I felt a little connection with them.

The film moves rather quickly from start to finish and provided a fun evening out with my husband.

Is this Movie Family-Friendly?

Although there was only mild language and no nudity. There are parts of the film that are pretty intense and could be frighting for younger crowds. I wouldn’t classify this movie as a “horror” film, it just wasn’t that scary in my opinion. However, I wouldn’t bring young children to the movie theater to see this movie.

This movie should be considered the Jaws of our generation. There are plenty of thrills, relatable and lovable characters and enough humor to keep you entertained from start to finish.

You can read more about the film on their website (here).

Watch the Vlog

 

Final Thoughts

If you are a fan of Jaws or not-so-scary horror films, this movie is for you. If you really don’t enjoy this type of unbelievable aquatic life films, i’d saw skip it and wait for it to come out on DVD. I personally enjoyed the film, and was thankful for an evening out with my husband to see it before it releases to the public.

Preparing for your first visit to Toy Story Land

About Toy Story Land

Today Story Land is the newest addition to the Walt Disney World Parks in Florida. It opened on Saturday, June 30th, 2018. With the opening of Toy Story Land, there are two NEW rides for guests to enjoy. Both of these rides have height requirements, so that is something to keep in mind if traveling with young children. My friend Meg, had the opportunity to interview some of the Imagineers as well as the Entertainment Director for Hollywood Studios and has lots of great information on her blog. 

Toy Story Land Opening Day (Vlogs)

Grant and Jayme’s Perspective: Flying Elephant Apparel on YOUTUBE

Missy, Casey & Elijah’s Perspective: The Wayts World 

Stephanie and Corey’s Perspective: Cory Meets World 

Preparing to Go to Toy Story Land

My husband and I will be taking our oldest daughter to Toy Story Land in August. She will be going to Preschool towards the end of the month, and so we wanted to take her on a special trip. Toy Story Land was the perfect destination for our trip. The Toy Story movies really sink into your heartstrings with reminders to play, to create and to dream. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, if it is your first time or one-hundredth time seeing the Toy Story Movies, the story is relatable to all generations. It’s that relatability that is the number one reason I believe the Toy Story Land was so heavily anticipated and has been loved by everyone who has gone.

I am so ready to PLAY BIG this summer at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I have been soaking in as much as I can to prepare myself for the trip and I wanted to share all my knowledge with you!

Tips from people who have gone to Toy Story Land

Protect yourself from the Sun

In Toy Story Land everything is large, this gives the illusion that YOU are one of the toys in Andy’s backyard. Due to this design, there is limited shade. As we know, the sun is the most intense between the hours of 11a and about 2p. It is crucial for guests to protect themselves from the sun.

Ways to Protect yourself from the Sun

This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through my link does not cost anything extra for you but a small percentage of the sale supports our family. We appreciate your support. 💕

Drink Water

FYI – Disney does provide cups of water to guests free of charge at most quick service locations. All you have to do is ask.😉  We like to take a water bottle and ask for ice – As it melts we have nice cold water to enjoy.

Sunscreen

My absolute FAVORITE sunscreen is Babyganics. I have used this sunscreen on myself and my three children exclusively for the last four years and we have not gotten a burn. Prior to finding this sunscreen, I’d typically get burned regularly during the summer.😱 I like to buy this at my local CVS using my 30% off coupon and extra bucks. It’s a little money saving tip for my Mama’s on a budget.

Fans

Taking a small hand fan or a necklace fan like my friend Jen talks about in this video can help so much! In the video, Jen brought up an excellent point, and that is that when standing in long lines it can be a little stuffy. A small hand fan or necklace fan (like this one) can really help keep you cool as you wait for rides in the parks.  We picked ours up from our local CVS Store, but you can definitely order them on Amazon. Be sure to order some extra batteries though. ☺

The *NEW* Rides!

There are two new rides in Toy Story Land. Both of these attractions have height requirements, so you will want to be sure to get an accurate measurement of your little Mouseketeers before traveling.

Slinky Dog Dash

Undoubtedly the most anticipated ride, slinky dog dash looks like an incredible experience. In order to ride this ride, you must be at least 38 inches. This is the same for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in the Magic Kingdom. So, if your toddler is able to ride this ride, they should be good to go for the NEW SLINKY DOG DASH.  

I have read several reports that claim this ride is much longer than you expect and April from Pixie Dust Savings gave this ride a thumbs up for plus-sized guests as well.  From everything I’m seeing, this ride is your number one choice for a Toy Story Land Fast Pass reservation.

If you aren’t able to score a Fast Pass for this attraction, my friend Jen (from Jen Lafforge on Youtube) said in her review of Toy Story Land that the lines went significantly down in the evening. Just a quick reminder, if you are IN LINE before the park closes, you will be able to ride the ride. Watch her review here. 

Alien Swirling Saucers

Our family has a Fast Pass for this ride when we go in August. However, many reports are saying  Fast Pass isn’t worth it. According to a few Disney Fans I follow on Instagram, this ride is a lot of fun it just goes too quickly. Since the ride is relatively short, the line moves fairly quickly. They recommend using your Fast Pass reservation for something else.

There is a height requirement for this ride of 32 inches.  Goofy’s Barn Stormer in the Magic Kingdom is 35 inches, so if your toddler can ride this ride. You are all set!

Instagram Worthy Walls

There are lots of “Instagram Worthy Walls” throughout the Disney Parks. Toy Story Land is no different. For detailed information on where to find the walls in Toy Story Land, check out Heather’s Blog.

Here are a couple fun photos of some of my friends in my Disney Fans Facebook Group! 

A post shared by M E G (@meg.for.it) on

Final Thoughts

From everything I’ve read, Toy Story Land is incredible. Walt Disney World captured the hearts of Toy Story fans young and old and I simply can’t wait to go PLAY BIG this summer with my daughter!

If you found this post helpful, I hope you’ll give it a share! – Thank you! 😍

 

Preparing to Tent-Camp at Walt Disney World

Let’s go Camping!

Camping isn’t for everyone, but I can assure you camping at Disney just might one of the most fun experiences you can have. I grew up in girl scouts, and we would always camp at Walt Disney World at least one time a year. I have very fond memories of setting up tents, playing on the beach and just exploring.

5 Things I googled before our camping trip

Is “googled” a word? Regardless. I am no stranger to camping. I’ve camped at Disney, I’ve camped in the mountains of North Carolina and throughout Florida and Georgia for much of my childhood.  However, once you have children, it seems to be a whole new world of questions and preparations that need to happen.

So, here are five things I searched on google before packing for my camping trip to Walt Disney World.

1) Is Parking Free at Fort Wildness Campground?

Ever since WDW announced they were going to start charging all overnight guests parking, there has been a lot of uncertainty about fees and such online. I wanted to be sure we budgeted appropriately for our trip, so I checked it out.

The answer is Yes. 

Standard parking is still complimentary at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campgrounds. If you want more information on the parking fees, you can check out this website.

2) Do I need to bring a Towel?

The answer is Yes.

Many of the resorts at Walt Disney World have complimentary towels at their pools. Additionally, if you are staying in a resort there are towels inside your room. Tent-Camping at Walt Disney World, however, you will need to bring your own towel.  Read more about it from the Disney Parks Mom’s Panel. 

3) What if a Hurricane Comes when I’m camping?

Read the Disney Hurricane Policy Here.

I’m scheduled to camp during the month of August. As a Florida native, I am all too familiar with the possibility of hurricanes. I am thankful that Disney does have a full policy to help their guests have the most magical experience possible. Just be sure to keep your eye on the weather during Hurricane Season.

4) Can I cook and clean my dishes at my campsite?

Yes. Each campsite has its own grill and water. You will want to bring your own supplies and dishpan though.

Find out more about the accommodations here.

5) Can I come earlier than 3:00 p.m. to the campground?

Yes.

Your campsite might not be ready. However, there is a parking lot available so you can park your car and then use Disney transportation to explore the property.

What other questions do you have about camping at Fort Wilderness, am I missing anything? 

If you want to check our Fort Wilderness but aren’t sure tent-camping is for you, try renting a cabin. These are perfect for families. You can also visit the resort and join in on some of the festivities such as the evening campfire, learn more about it here.

Disney Fan or Planning a Trip?

I invite you to join my Disney Fan’s facebook group.  This group is co-admined by my friend Keri from www.flipflopweekend.com in this group there are lots of opportunities to ask questions, share stories and just talk Disney. We’d love to have you join us! 

CLICK HERE TO JOIN!

Our Favorite Camping Gear

Our family has a few camping items, and continue to build our collection after each trip. (Read about our first camping trip here) Here are a couple of my favorites. These links are affiliate links if you decide to purchase it will cost nothing additional for you, but your support helps keep StorybookErin.com going.  I appreciate your consideration and support.

If you found this helpful, would you mind giving it a share? ⭐

10 Things to Love about Zoo Tampa

Zoo Tampa History

When I was growing up, my mom was quite active with various mom-groups and educational groups. As a result, we went on a lot of trips to the Zoo. Zoo Tampa (formerly Lowry Park Zoo) has been around since the 1930’s and has continued to grow ever since. Opening up new sections of the zoo, and providing more opportunities for education. You can read a full history on their website.  The newest section of Zoo Tampa, Roaring Springs recently opened and we had the opportunity to explore the section before it opened to the public. Take a look at what it has to offer (including a new ride) on this post.

Zoo Tampa, Exhibits

There are 8 sections in Zoo Tampa with enough activities for your family to spend several hours or even a couple of days exploring!

  1. Main Entrance
  2. Florida Wildlife
  3. Asian Gardens
  4. Primate World
  5. Carousel Circle
  6. Wallaroo Station
  7. Safari Africa
  8. NEW Roaring Springs  – Read all about it here! 

Our family walked most of the zoo but were not able to see everything Zoo Tampa had to offer.

10 Things to Love about Zoo Tampa

Educational

You knew that was coming right? As a mom with a background in Early Childhood Education, I like to ensure my children are having positive educational experiences. I want them to have a love of learning from an early age. One way I like to instill that love for learning in them is by fun activities such as the Zoo!

Theme Park Vibes

Zoo Tampa totally gives me “Theme Park Vibes”  when I walk through. Perhaps it is that all the rides are included with your park admission (yes, even the new Roaring Springs Water Coaster). Perhaps it’s the signage throughout the park. The reality is, when I walk through Zoo Tampa I feel as though it is an extension of Busch Gardens. It is worth the cost of admission to visit Zoo Tampa!

Be sure to check Groupon* for discounts on tickets!

Splash Pad

If you are an outdoor facility in Florida, it’s almost expected that you have a Splash pad. The one thing I loved about the Splash Pad at Zoo Tampa, was that during the majority of the day there is an employee sitting at the splash pad helping keep kids and families safe.

Instagram-able Walls

Zoo Tampa had so many adorable walls. All of them worthy and perfect for your next family photo or selfie!

Quality Customer Service

While visiting Zoo Tampa we spoke with so many employees, each of them was so helpful and kind. Any question I had was answered. We even reported an issue of safety concern in the new Roaring Springs section, and it was handled immediately!

Security

Before entering the cue to purchase your tickets, you must go through a bag check. I love this! I understand it can be a hassle when you have several bags and a stroller, but the added level of security is worth every ounce of hassle.

Churro Ice Cream Sandwiches

Let’s be real for a second. Churro’s are amazing – but when you add a heaping scoop of Vanilla Ice cream between two churros… DELICIOUS!

Family Rest-Zone

Inside the Children’s Zoo is a little area for parents to take small children from out of the crowds. On the wall is some yoga poses you can do with your children, and there is enough privacy to nurse your baby.

Plenty of Picnic Tables

Bring a lunch and plenty of snacks. There are lots of places to take a little rest and eat!

Free Rides

I know I mentioned this, but all the rides are included with the price of your admission. We could hardly get our girls out of the children’s section of the zoo. It was worth every penny to see them ride the rides over and over again, and listen to the giggles as they enjoyed the ride!

Admission

There are a lot of options when buying admission into Zoo Tampa. 

You can also check Groupon* for deals on admission. 

PIN FOR LATER

 

*Affiliate Link.

 

The Florida Aquarium, Tampa FL

What to Expect at The Florida Aquarium

Florida Aquarium - Tips for your visit

Opening in 1995, the Florida Aquarium has been fulfilling their mission by educating and inspiring guests to be good stewards of the natural environment. I first visited the Florida Aquarium in my middle school days and have fond memories of the facility. My sister and her family are members of the aquarium and were kind enough to show our family around.

* This post may contain affiliate links, I appreciate your support of StorybookErin.com *

 Pricing

Children 0-2 years old can enter the aquarium free of charge.

Individual Tickets can be purchased through Groupon* online for 24.95

Memberships are available starting at $70.00 – $225.00 for one to eight guests.

Location and Parking

The Florida Aquarium
701 Channelside Drive
Tampa, Florida 33602

Parking for non-members is $6.00. If you are a member of the Aquarium, your parking is included.

Can I bring in Food and Snacks?

The aquarium does not allow guest to bring lunch inside. The only exception is food for infants or guests with food allergies or other needs. The full policy can be read on this page of their website. 

Know before you go…

The parking for the facility is actually quite a distance to the front door. You will want to plan accordingly and make sure everything you need before entering the aquarium. We forgot to bring our girls swimsuits when we arrived, and my husband had to walk back out to the car to grab them.

Even though the walk is quite far, once inside the stroller became cumbersome and I wished I’d opted for just a baby carrier instead.  The Lille baby airflow is my favorite baby carrier for!

The Splash pad at The Florida Aquarium is the best I’d ever seen. Included with the cost of your ticket is access to the Splash Pad. There is plenty of seating areas around for parents to keep an eye on their family. The splash pad does have some shade, but most of the shade covered the playground.

The ground was a very soft and squishy material and almost felt as though it had cooling elements included. Overall, we loved this splash pad and were quite disappointed when the thunderstorm closed the attraction.

Best Splash pad in Tampa

Take some time to look around and see what offerings the aquarium has while you are there. We got to participate in a ladybug release and play with the river otters before their feeding.

STORYBOOKERIN - The Florida Aquarium Attractions

There are lots of things to do in Tampa. Including Zoo Tampa and the newest section of the zoo, Roaring Springs. Click here for a full review and video of the new attraction! 

The question of the day: What is your favorite sea creature?

PIN FOR LATER!

Sneak Peak of the NEW Roaring Springs at Zoo Tampa

Roaring Springs at Zoo Tampa

The Roaring Springs Boat ride is scheduled to open on Saturday, June 9th and thanks to Zoo Member preview, I got a chance to ride it! Here are a few things to keep in mind and expect as you plan your day at Zoo Tampa.

What is Roaring Springs

Roaring Springs is the newest section of Zoo Tampa. Located just to the left of the Carousel is Roaring Springs. As you walk in you can see the new water coaster and plenty of activities for families. There is a small schoolhouse with desks and a wooden house with swings and rocking chairs for children to play with. You can also quench your thirst with both spirited and non-spirited beverages and grab a snack at one of the food trucks.

Roaring Springs makes you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time to a simple time. We didn’t take the time to shop, but there was an adorable general store with several items to purchase.

My favorite instagram worthy wall is located just beside the food truck. The phrase “Hey Y’all” is perfect for the vibes this section of the zoo gives.

Roaring Springs Ride Restrictions

The boat ride is fast moving and sure to cool guests off in a hurry – perfect for a summer day! Guests must be at least 36 inches to ride this ride. Guests between 36 and 42 inches must be accompanied by an adult. Although this is a water attraction you will need to wear a shirt and shoes.

Things to Consider about the Roaring Springs attraction

Will guests get wet? 

Yes.

Can I watch my family on the ride?

Yes.

If you want to get wet, you can watch from Lookout Landing.

In order to stay dry, you can watch from either the stairs or right next to the exit of the ride has excellent viewing area.

Where can I store my phone or other items I want to keep dry? 

There are lockers and also small cubbies at the exit of the ride, ask an employee for assistance.

Roaring Springs, Food Recommendations

There are a couple of options for food inside the newly opened Roaring Springs. My personal favorite was the fish tacos and the Churro Ice Cream Sandwich!

The Fish Tacos were quite flavorful and I loved the crunch of the coleslaw.

The Churro ice cream sandwich was so good, we actually had to order a second for our family to share!

View the Ride on our Youtube Channel

PIN ME!

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival with Kids!

The Epcot Flower and Garden Festival is perfect for young families. Today I am going to share our top three favorite activities to do during the Festival.

Flower and Garden Festival with Kids

This post contains affiliate links.

About Flower and Garden Festival

This year is the 25th anniversary of the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival. It began on February 28th, 2018 and ends on May 28th, 2018. Each Spring Epcot is filled with beautifully cultivated topiaries, gardens and pop-up venues to try fresh and unique menu options. There is so much to see and do at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, you might want to plan a few days during your visit so that you can see it all.  Since the Festival is held at the Epcot park, you will need to purchase a park ticket.

Shop before you go!

Imagination Play Garden

The imagination play garden is located on the walkway to the world showcase near the Figment ride. This play area is perfect for children of all ages and with plenty of chairs in the shade, you won’t want to skip it. The garden is only open until dusk, so don’t wait until the end of the day, because it will be closed.

Inside the Imagination Play Garden, you will find several xylophones, and materials to create music. You will also find chairs under the shade, this is a great spot to take a break!

Road to Florida 500

If you have a Disney / Pixar Cars fan in your life, you will not want to miss this little play area. Just outside this section, you will find Topiaries for Lightning Mcqueen, Mater and Cruz Ramirez. Cruz Ramirez was introduced to us during the Cars 3 movie. You will have to go watch the movie to find out all about her story.

This play area is much smaller than the imagination garden, but there are plenty of nice shaded seats for parents to watch their children play.  My girls enjoyed racing around the track, and playing in the tires!

StorybookErin - Flower and Garden Festival

The Goodness Garden Butterfly House

Our third favorite must-see activity for kids during the Flower and Garden Festival is the butterfly house presented by Gogo Squeeze.   Located on the other side of Starbucks this little house is both beautiful and educational. Your family will have the opportunity to see hundreds of butterflies fluttering around the house. There are many educational posters to learn about the lifecycle of a butterfly.

This is a walk-through experience and no seating is available. You are permitted to take your stroller inside.  However, I found it to be a little cumbersome to navigate through the exhibit. I ended up taking the youngest to have a snack while my husband and our older girls continued to observe the butterflies.

As mentioned before, there are so many things to do in the Flower and Garden Festival, so be sure to allow plenty of time to explore the park during your visit.

Looking for the most frugal way to get to Orlando? Check out this post from my friend Keri over at Flip Flop Weekend.

Share on Pinterest!

StorybookErin - Flower and Garden Festival

 

Toddler Activities Featuring Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is one of my favorite stories. I first discovered it when I was doing my student teaching internship, and fell in love! There are so many activities to do with this book and can be modified to encourage learning at any age. I’ve been using this book for the last couple of months, and today I wanted to share some of the fun activities we have been doing.

About Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

The book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom was written by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, and is a number one best seller on Amazon.com This simple story helps children identify all 26 letters of the alphabet in a fun and rhythmic way. The beginning starts with a challenge from the Letter A to the Letter B, claiming that they will beat them to the top of the coconut tree, as you can imagine, the dare trickles down the alphabet and to find out what happens, you’ll have to read the story.

Here are a couple of my favorite ways to use this story to encourage higher learning with my toddlers and preschooler.

Music: Chicka-Chicka Boom Boom

Did you know this book has also been translated into a song? This adorable song has helped my 2 and 1-year-old learn their alphabet. It is absolutely adorable to hear the voice of my sweet little 1 year old try to sing her alphabet to the tune of the song.

You can find the song by searching Chicka Chicka Boom Boom on Youtube or purchase it from Amazon Music*.

 

Art: Draw the Coconut Tree

An activity for all ages is to actually draw the coconut tree. I purchased some large drawing paper and crayons from my local Dollar Tree.

Reading: Letter Recognition

Since the entire story is about the alphabet, this story is great for helping children identify their letters. To help me understand exactly what my girls are understanding and how much they know about the letters, I developed a quick little Letter Quiz.

The front cover of our book as the enter alphabet, both upper and lower case letters. Before reading the story to my girls we would open the book and I’d point to a letter and quiz the girls on them. This is especially important because it’s easy to memorize the letters and what comes next, but are they really understanding the shapes of the letters? When you quiz them in this fun and casual environment, you can really see what they are understanding!

Reading: Book Knowlege

Perhaps it is the teacher in me or the fact that my husband is a librarian – who knows. But, we always take our time to go over the parts of the book with our girls before reading. This simple task will increase your child’s vocabulary, and assist in school readiness.

Build Vocabulary with your Children

Math: Counting

Confession time, Math is not my strongest skill. I’m actually a little terrified for when my kids start school because I’m pretty sure their math homework is going to intimidate me a bit. Even though I am terrible at Math, I try very hard to incorporate math into daily routines, even with simple things like reading a story.

Ways to encourage Math with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

  • How many pages?
  • Count the Letters of the Alphabet.
  • Can you count the letters on the coconut tree?

As you can see, this book can be used in so many ways to encourage learning with your toddler and preschooler.

The question of the Day: What is your favorite children’s book? 

 

Storybook Erin is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

 

 

Why every Toddler Needs Kinetic Sand!

I was first introduced to Kinetic Sand while studying for my undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education. I remember a professor talking about how she’d used in a classroom with students to have them practice their letters in a way that children who are more tactile or hands-on learners – now that I have three toddlers of my own, I have a new appreciation for just how incredible this product is and why I think every mom needs to have some of this stuff in their closet of toddler friendly activities!

Before I get into my favorite benefits of Kinetic Sand, let me answer the question you are all asking.

What is Kinetic Sand?

Kinetic Sand is a product that can be molded without easily losing its shape. It has the texture of wet sand but is not messy and is non-toxic.  Since it is non-toxic it is great for children, but adult supervision is strongly recommended.

What’s so AMAZING about Kinetic Sand? 

Relaxing Texture 

Imagine you are playing with a sand-filled stress ball. This same sense of calm you receive while playing with the stress ball applies when playing with kinetic sand. This semi-mess-free activity will give your toddlers hours of quiet playtime. Just be sure to supervise your children while playing in the sand, because it definitely can get messy if you are not actively playing with your children.

Imaginative Play

Due to its moldability, Kinetic Sand is the perfect product for multiple role-playing experiences.

Does your child love trucks? Create a big sand pit for him or her to drive the trucks through.

Does your child love water? Check out this floating kinetic sand, it’s perfect for the water-loving toddler in your life.

Learning Letters? Practice writing your name in the sand.

Truly the possibilities are endless!

Fine Motor Skill Development

One of the things I love about Kinetic Sand is that your children will be learning and also strengthen skills without even knowing it. As your children mold and shape the sand they will be developing hand strength. You can also have your children create shapes, or practice scooping and pouring the sand, all these activities help them develop!

What are you waiting for? Go get some Kinetic Sand!

 

The Florida Everglades for Kids!

The Florida Everglades for Kids

As a family with three young children, we are always looking to create meaningful experiences for our children. That’s why in May of 2017 we decided to purchase an annual pass to the Florida Everglades National Parks. We have been having such a great time exploring the Everglades with our kids.

Today I am going to share two perfect trails to take your family on while you are out exploring the Florida Everglades if you want to explore more than two trails here are some additional recommendations that are perfect for families of all ages. 

The Ernest F. Coe visitor center is located all the way down in Florida City and can be accessed by taking the Florida Turnpike south until it merges with US 1. Once it merges with US 1 turn right onto Palm Drive (344th street) and follow the signs to the park.

Address:
40001 State Road 9336, Homestead FL, 33034 
Contact Number: 305-242-7700 

Park Website. 

Pinelands Trail 

Located roughly 7-miles from the visitor center, this trail was our first stop during our most recent visit to the Everglades. The trail is a little less than one mile long and will loop you through a path of pine trees, palmetto trees, and lovely wildflowers.

In 1992 when Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida, it left a large impact on the Pinelands. Many trees were bent and snapped, but many remained, this is because of their ability to bend.

Our girls enjoyed exploring this trail, and I appreciated the fact that it was short enough that our girls could easily navigate through it. I think if you really wanted too, you could take a stroller through this trail, but we opted to use the baby carrier

Mahogany Hammock Trail 

At roughly 20 miles into the park from the visitor center, this trail is quite the trek but certainly one you won’t want to miss.

This trail was so beautiful and the location of the largest living Mahogany tree in the United States, so be on the lookout.  At about a half of a mile, this trail is ideal for all ages and since it has a nice boardwalk, it is very stroller-friendly. We opted to take the baby carriers for this trail, but it is possible to use a stroller.

We also noticed several beautiful birds and plenty of photographers capturing stunning images.
It is important to note that there were no restrooms available at these two trails, so be sure to use the restroom either at the Gumbo Limbo trail or the visitor center.
We also like to pack plenty of water and snacks as food isn’t available for purchase in the park and hiking and exploring can build an appetite, especially in the littlest of explorers. – Looking for ideas on what to pack? Check out my lunch box essentials 
The Florida Everglades covers 1.5 million acres of land across three counties and there is so much to explore, I highly recommend a trip to the Florida Everglades with your family, you won’t regret it!

 

 

Looking for more things to do in Homestead, Florida?

 Here are three recommendations! 

  1. BEST MILKSHAKES EVER, at Robert is Here! 
  2. Visit an Animal Rescue Facility
  3. Just North of Homestead, you can visit the Everglades Exhibit inside Zoo Miami! 

Now go have an Adventure! 

 

*this post contains affiliate links*

PIN FOR LATER

Matheson Hammock Park, Coral Gables Florida

This post contains affiliate links. 

 

I have lived in Florida all of my life, and even though I enjoy a day at the beach I hardly ever go – especially now that I have three beautiful toddlers in my life. For the past two years one of the awesome Mom’s in my tribe has been telling us to take the kids to Matheson Hammock Park to play in the ocean, and since my sister was going to be in town I finally said YES, and we had the BEST time!

Matheson Hammock Park
 is absolutely perfect for young families!  

About Matheson Hammock Park: 

“In 1930, William J. Matheson and his son Hugh donated approximately 85 acres of tropical hardwood hammock forest off Old Cutler Road to Dade County, to be used and maintained as a botanical garden. Referred as “Matheson Botanical Hammock”, it was the original extent of Matheson Hammock Park, which was also the first public park to be established in Dade County. 

In 1934-35, Dade County purchased an additional 420 acres of lands adjacent to Matheson Hammock Park, increasing its size to over 500 acres. Matheson Hammock opened in 1930 by the county’s first director of public parks, A. D. Barnes, and designed by landscape architect William Lyman Phillip; today it is owned and managed by Miami-Dade County.” – directly from this website  

 

Address 
9610 Old Cutler Road
Coral Gables, FL 33156

What to Expect:

Located in beautiful Coral Gables Florida, Matheson Hammocks Park has a fully functional marina, kite-boarding, and sailing assessability and what makes it so perfect for young families or new swimmers is the man-made atoll pool. This style of pool is filled naturally by Biscayne Bay and is very shallow, warm and the best part – no waves to knock little ones down.

There was a lifeguard on duty while we were there, which made this momma of three feel a little extra safe while swimming. At one time there was a nice restaurant but after some hurricane damage the restaurant is currently closed, that being said you will need to bring plenty of food and water.  

With stunning views of the Miami Beach skyline, you and your family will love having a picnic under the palm trees. Get ideas on what to pack in your lunchbox here.  

Be sure to bring $5.00 cash with you if you are coming on a weekday of $7.00 if visiting on a holiday or during the weekend, and have an AMAZING day soaking up some vitamin D.

Tips for a perfect day at the beach! 

  • Bring a Wagon to carry all your belongings, we have this collapsible one that is perfect for the beach and will fit into most vehicles with no problem!
  • Bring a water bottle that squirts water to wash off your hands before eating.
  • Wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen, we LOVE Babyganics mineral-based sunscreen.

 

 

If the Ocean is calling you, but the large crowds of south beach are not, 

 

 you will definitely want to check out Matheson Hammock Park. 
 
PIN FOR LATER 

Visiting the Everglades Outpost Rescue Center in Homestead Florida

This post contains affiliate links. 
 
For Christmas this year we asked that people limit the number of toys given to our children, and try to find ways to create memories with them, we even opted not to give our children a Christmas gift, but to allow them to buy a gift for each other.  It was such a fun Christmas, and we are still going through some of the experiences we were gifted.

One of them was a Groupon for The Everglades Outpost in Homestead Florida.

About The Everglades Outpost
 
In 1991 Bob Freer and his wife Barbara opened their home as a rescue for wild animals. This non-profit rescue center is available for Florida-native and non-native animals.  The outpost believes in the dignity of every animal, and that is why they work hard to support and care for the animals.

If possible, the animals are released back into the wild, but if not they are loved and cared for at The Outpost. – Read more Here.

Address
35601 SW 192 Ave
Homestead, FL 33034
305-247-8000

The Outpost is open from 10AM – 6 PM on Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Appointments can be scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday. 


Membership Pricing
One-Day: $15.00 for adults; $10;00 for children and 5 years and younger are FREE

Check Groupon for tickets, at one time there were some available for 38% off

 

What to Expect at the Everglades Outpost
You can expect to meet friendly volunteers eager to share their love for the animals with all the visitors. You can expect to see a whole bunch of Alligators, some wolves, tigers and a cute little zebra.

This attraction is not a zoo, as the animals have mostly been rescued or have been found injured. Around 12:00 p.m. on weekends, there is an informational session and show with the Alligators.

There are also a few picnic tables around the facilities and guests are allowed to bring snacks – just remember, please do not to feed the animals.  

After our visit to the Everglades Outpost, we went across the street to Robert is Here for a Milkshake!

If you are looking for more things to do in the area, I suggest you check out Robert is Here for the most delicious milkshake you’ve ever tasted and perhaps some hiking on the trails in the Everglades National Park – here are some of our favorite trails to explore!  

Now go live an Adventurous Story! 

Our Pinkalicious Birthday Party on a Budget!

PINK, PINK, PINK!

I’m not going to lie when my daughter told me she wanted a Pinkalicious party I was ecstatic! I fell in love with the story Pinkalicious when I was in college, and actually hosted a pink-themed tea party! This year we decided that instead of a BIG party with all her friends, we would have a simple celebration at the zoo with our friends, and then have a special Disney day with her cousin.

Thanks to some bargain shopping at our local Walmart, and an unused tablecloth from her  Tangled party we put together the decorations for the party for less than $10.00!

To add to the theme, we included some of the stories around the food table.

Our daughter picked a menu of hot dogs, fries,  macaroni and cheese and of course
PINK CUPCAKES!
FRUGAL TIP: Bake your own cupcakes! 

 If you can’t get enough Pinkalicious, be sure to check out the 
PBS Kids App for the new TV Series that 
just released and our girls LOVE it!

PIN FOR LATER!


Is Robert is Here really the Disney World of Fruit Stands?

After your visit to the Everglades National Park in Homestead, you are not going to want to miss Robert is Here.  Located not too far from the entrance to the park you will find a pretty hoppin’ fruit stand.

Yes, you read that right. A “hoppin’ fruit stand”. The Palm Beach Post refers to this fruit stand as “The Disney World of fruit stands” and after spending a few hours there with my family, I have to say I completely agree!

A Brief History of Robert is Here
Robert is Here is a family-owned fruit stand that has been around for over 50 years. In the early days, it was a young man with a desire to sell a few fruits and vegetables that has grown into a premier destination in South Florida.

A destination perfect for families, couples, or friends. You can read more about the history of Robert and his family in his biography, it is certainly going on my list of books to read!

Location and Operating Hours 

8:00a – 7:00p
Closed: Thanksgiving and Christmas Day
Easter Sunday 1p-7p

19200 SW 344 Street
Homestead, FL 33034

So what makes this place so MAGICAL and why should I take a trip to Homestead to check it out?


I visited Robert is here with my family on a Saturday evening, about 5 o’clock, and here are some things I experienced, and memories made… 
There were cars parked everywhere.
Live Music blasting. 
Families laughing.
Children playing. 
Robert serving guests, answering questions. 
An entire fruit stand of strangers singing happy birthday, because Robert asked us too. 
There were smiles and giggles, and memories being made all around me. 
Photos lined the walls of the fruit stand. 
The best and most unique milkshakes I’d ever tasted being served. 
Fresh Fruit.
Fresh Vegetables. 
A Splash Pad.
Play area.
Picnic Tables. 
Petting Zoo. 
There were people collecting Memories, 
not things and it was beautiful. 
The Palm Beach post got it right when they compared this place to the Happiest Place on Earth. The next time you visit South Florida, take a trip down to Homestead and have a milkshake with Robert and his family, you won’t be sorry. 
SHARE THIS ON PINTEREST 🙂

What to do in the Everglades with Children

Well, we survived our first Camping trip with the girls

After a cup of coffee and some lunch at a nearby Burger King, we headed home. 
We’d been home for roughly 5-minutes before my husband announces that 
we are going to the Everglades! 
So, we packed a lunch box, grabbed some water and headed over to the Everglades National Park. Back in May, when we visited Shark Valley, we became pass holders for the Everglades National Park, but due to Hurricane Irma, we hadn’t had an opportunity to go visit. 
The Ernest F. Coe visitor center is located all the way down in Florida City, and can be accessed by taking the Florida Turnpike south until it merges with US 1. Once it merges with US 1 turn right onto Palm Drive (344th street) and follow the signs to the park.  
Address:40001 State Road 9336, Homestead FL, 33034 
Contact Number: 305-242-7700 
Once you arrive at the Visitor Center, be sure to take your time walking through the exhibits as there are special collections that rotate and other educational opportunities! You will also want to get your Visitor Center Stamp and talk to the Park Ranger about becoming a Jr. Ranger
We asked the Park Ranger to recommend a couple of trails for our family to explore, and then headed out for an adventure! 
Since we were arriving at the park in the late afternoon, the park ranger recommended two trails for our family to explore, both trails were paved and had plenty of animals for the girls to see. 
The first trail we explore was the Gumbo Limbo  Trail. This trail was a little less than a mile and completely paved, perfect for even the smallest of travelers. We didn’t see very many animals on this trail, but it was full of beautiful trees, and the girls really enjoyed it! 
What is a Gumbo Limbo? 
A tree! 
Native to South Florida, this tree is known as the “tourist” tree because of its red bark that can appear to look like peeled sun-burned skin. 
The second trail we explored was the Anhinga Trail.  Located right next to the Gumbo Limbo Trail, this short trail was a combination of both boardwalk and pavement. While exploring this trail, we got face-to-face with an Alligator and even got the chance to see some baby gators. 
Another fun thing to do is the FREE trolley ride, every weekend until April 29 in 2018 you can ride a trolley. The city of Homestead has created a program to offer free public transportation to Everglades and Biscayne national parks with its “Gateway to Everglades and Biscayne National Parks”.  This is the first of it’s kind, and a great way to see National parks in one day! 
For More Information Call: (305)224-4457
Food is limited in the Everglades National Park, and guests are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch, and if your kids are anything like mine, they are going to build up a pretty big appetite so you might want to pack some extra snacks.  😉  
Add caption
The Florida Everglades covers over 1.5 million acres of land and stretches over 3 counties. These parks are certainly ones you will want to explore again and again! 

PIN FOR LATER

Camping with Toddlers, Mistakes made and Lessons Learned!

“Let’s take the girls camping!”
I announced one evening in mid-December, my husband looked a little stunned and said: 
“Okay, where should we go?” 

We decided to take the girls camping for only one night, at a semi-local campground. That way, if anything went wrong, we would be able to get home pretty easily.
Location, Location, Location! 

At Larry and Penny Thompson Park, you can camp for only 16.95 per night, and the campground is located very close to playgrounds, the Zoo, and a Grocery Store. 
Hours of Operation
Sunrise to Sunset

Office Hours

9 a.m. – 5 p.m., daily
Park Office
305-232-1049  

Since we wanted to camp on the Friday before New Year’s Eve, I called the office a week prior and tried to make a reservation. I was told that there was no need to make a reservation for tent camping and that we would have no problem. 
Mistake: I had additional questions and concerns about it being a busy season, but I didn’t voice them. 
So, when we arrived at the campground there were no sites available and our only option was to try and find another campground or wait until 4:00 p.m. to see if anyone who had paid the deposit didn’t show. 
Lesson Learned: Always ask questions, it turns out that I could have driven to the campground and given a small deposit to secure our campsite. Additionally, I could have driven down to the campground at 11:00 a.m. to claim the site, and then gone back when my husband got out of work at 2:00 p.m. 
We hung around the campground office and I called every single campground in South Florida looking for a way to take our girls camping that night. 
At 4:00 p.m., we were able to secure a campsite at Larry and Penny, but it was a stressful hour waiting to see if we would get to camp or not. 
The campsites at Larry and Penny are unlike anything I’ve ever seen, instead of there being assigned lots for each tent, it was an open field. Guests were able to put their tent anywhere they wanted, as long as they didn’t block a road.  This was pretty neat, we were able to pick a spot close to a tree and a picnic table! 
Tent Camping Area
So, as soon as we arrived. I started to get to work on Dinner while Chris and the girls set up the tent. 
Cooking Hot Dogs & Beans 
My Sus Chef! 

Mistake:  Know how to use your camping equipment. This may seem obvious to most people, and It should have been obvious to me, but I didn’t realize we’d need a flame of some sort to start our little Coleman grill.

Thankfully, there was another family right near us so we asked to borrow a lighter to get dinner going.  So awkward…
Lesson Learned:    Ask your husband what we need to cook the food. 😉

Love Bug helping Dad with the tent!

After dinner, we put some bug repellent on the girls and have some playtime before the sun went down. I bought lots of bubbles with us, but I should have brought a couple of soccer balls for the girls to play with. There was a lot of room to run and play, and a soccer ball would have been perfect! – Just another Lesson Learned.

The campground was dark by around 6:30 p.m. and the girls were ready to go to sleep. Unfortunately, one of my girls started to feel homesick and couldn’t relax and the baby was exhausted and trying to sleep. So, I took the big girls for a walk around the campground while my husband tried to get the youngest down for the night. 

While on our walk we discovered a laundry facility and a large community bathroom.

Bathroom Selfie! 
Coin Laundry
 Eventually, all the girls fell asleep and my husband and I stayed up laughing at the crazy adventure we’d already had while enjoyed “raw s’mores”.  
The girls slept great, I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that we literally took their pillows and bedding off their bed and brought it with us. A little piece of home can go a long way. 
As per usual, the girls got up at first sunlight, and couldn’t wait to go outside and play. We had a lovely breakfast of marshmallows, and granola bars before beginning to pack everything up to head to the playground. 

Additional Thoughts and Information

Larry and Penny is a great location to go test the waters of camping with your young family, especially if you live in the Miami-Dade area. With a cost of less than 20.00 per night, it also makes a very frugal friendly camping option.

It took me some time to find the water to wash our dishes, but I did eventually find it. We brought water with us for cooking and drinking, but there was a source of water in the tent camping area.

This park also has beach access, a swimming pool, and water slide. We did not visit any of these amenities because of the cool weather, but for a small fee, they are available for guests.
See current pricing here. 

Overall we had a terrific time camping with our girls, and would like to try it again and perhaps stay for a couple of nights!

Camping with toddlers can seem very overwhelming, but I encourage you to do it! Build the memories with your family, our girls were so excited about their big camping trip, and have been playing “camping” ever since!

Happy Camping Friends!


Don’t Forget to Print your Bucket List

Family Goals for 2018

Happy New Year!

Back in October, I started thinking about all the things I wanted to accomplish in 2018, I started making an amazing worksheet and had big plans. Sadly, the worksheet never came together and I decided I’d just think about all the things that will happen because let’s face it – who has time for goals? Let’s LIVE in the MOMENT for  2018!

Our Family 

New Years 2018 Camping Trip

In 2018 our family will give each other countless hugs, explore new parks, try new foods, have a meltdown or two, take a really BIG trip to Walt Disney World and go to sleep every night knowing how loved we are.

Chris and Erin 
Everglades National Park 

In 2018 we will celebrate 10 years of marriage, we will stay up way too late soaking in the silence once all three girls finally go to sleep for the night. We will dream big, make mistakes, kiss each other goodnight, and thank God every day for the gifts of our sweet girls. 
Little Lady
Little Lady will continue to grow, and experience new things. She will find her way as she transitions from being home with mom and sisters to a big PRESCHOOLER. She will make me cry when she puts on her backpack for her first day of school, and she will probably continue to ask for far too many glasses of Chocolate Milk per day. 
Love Bug 
In 2018, the love bug will continue to be the most passionate of my three girls. She will test me as we practice using the toilet, and probably cause me to lose a little bit of my hair. She will continue to make me laugh so hard I snort with her sense of humor, and continue to blaze a new trail in fashion. 
Lady Bug 
In 2018 this sweet girl will continue to flourish and find her voice as the third of three sisters. She will keep us on the edge of our seat, and probably give me a few grey hairs with her fearless style of living. She will transition from a crib to a big girl bed, and from a bottle to a sippy cup. She will begin to have meaningful conversations with us and be a constant reminder to me of how God can work in a life.  God has used her mightily in my life, and I am forever thankful for my littlest love. 
What will happen in your life for 2018? 

Gift Ideas for the BIG SISTER or BIG BROTHER to be!

Being a Big Sister (or Brother) is a pretty exciting new chapter in a person’s life. I remember when we welcomed my little sister into the world, it was a big deal. Of course, I was 5 years old so I have more memories of the time than I think my 2 and 1 year old will have, but nevertheless, I think it’s important to honor them as their place in the family shifts.

Since I was induced for all of my pregnancies, I made sure to pack lots of items to keep the big sisters occupied while they waited for their baby sister to arrive!

Coloring Books! 

I packed the girls gifts in a small backpack, I used one found at the Target Dollar Spot, but something like this would probably be better quality. 
Inside the backpack we had the following:
  • New Pajama’s 
  • Books
  • A new outfit
  • Bubbles
  • Coloring Books and Crayons!
  • Big Sister Button 

My girls were so excited to receive their gifts and absolutely adore their baby sister!

Question of the day: What would you include in a gift bag for a big sister or brother?

What’s in my Lunchbox? Family of 5

Need some lunchbox inspiration? Look no further! Here are the items that I pack for an afternoon at the Zoo, Park or Theme Park with my family!

  • Sandwiches 
    • Peanut Butter only for the girls, cut into fun shapes!
    • Peanut Butter and Jelly for my husband and I
  • Nuts (for mom and Dad)
    • Almonds have been my favorite right now 
  • Fruit (pick 2)
    • Apples
    • Grapes
    • Clementines
    • Strawberries
    • Blueberries
  • Veggies (1 or 2)
    • Grape Tomatoes
    • Carrots
    • Cucumbers
    • Peppers
  • Cheese
    • Cubed
    • Cheese Stick
  • Yogurt
    • I like to freeze them, they are the perfect temperature by the time we eat lunch 
  • Something Crunchy (1 or 2)
    • Granola Bars
    • Puffs
    • Cereal
    • Pretzels
My current favorite lunch box is one that I purchased from my friend Deanna who is a Thirty-One consultant. 
The Around the Clock Thermal is perfect for packing lots of snacks for your day at a theme park, the local park or zoo. Some of my favorite features include a long strap for cross body carrying, front zipper to carry hand sanitizer and a small trash bag. 
Current Price: $30.00
Get yours from your local thirty-one representative or from my friend Deanna
Let’s support as many small shops and small businesses as we can this Holiday Season. Let me know in the comments below, what are some of your favorite small businesses? 

SHARE ME ON PINTEREST! 

    5 Reasons to be a member of the Zoo!

    When is the last time you went to the Zoo?

    As a mom young children, I am always looking for educational and fun experiences for my family. While I was studying for my bachelors in Early Childhood Education, I specifically remember the remarkable rate in which the brain develops in the first three years of life.

    85% of the brain development 

    happens in the first 3 years! 

    5 Reasons to purchase a pass to the zoo
     
    As a mom of three children ages three and under, I feel it is crucial to their academic success to fill their days with meaningful experiences. Which is why I asked for an annual pass to the Zoo last Christmas, and it has been the most fun year with the girls yet!
    Here are my five Reasons why I think you should consider an annual pass to the local zoo! 

    1.  Meaningful Experiences

    There are so many opportunities to learn at the zoo. Some of our favorites include; animal shows, talking with a zoo-keeper and feeding the animals. 
    StorybookErin - 5 reasons to buy a Zoo Pass
    StorybookErin - 5 reasons to buy a Zoo pass

    2. Encourage Physical Activity

    The Zoo is often quite large and filled with playgrounds and splash pads. These are great places to let your kid out of the stroller and burn some energy.   The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity a day for children. It’s easy to encourage an extended time of play at the zoo, and as an added bonus your kids will sleep better at night.
    Storybookerin - 5 reasons to buy a zoo pass

    3. Splash Pads!

    Our local Zoo has five splash pad’s throughout the zoo and they are all free for visitors to the zoo! This is especially great during the summer months! Not all zoo’s offer free splash pads, for example, when we visited the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans there was an extra charge for the water area.  My experience in Florida is that there will be a free water area for kids!

    4. Special Events! 

    Are you are looking for an Easter Egg hunt or a place to take your family trick-or-treating? Check out your local Zoo! Each year we have taken our girls to these special events for FREE. Thanks to our membership!
    StorybookErin - 5 reasons to purchase an annual pass to the zoo
    StorybookErin - 5 reasons to purchase an annual pass to the zoo

    5.  Increase Conversation and Communication 

    When we go to the zoo just as a family, we will often pick a nice shady park bench and have a snack. We like to sit near a large animal such as an Elephant or Giraffe this. During snack time, our girls seem to really open up and ask questions about the animals. Our most recent trip resulted in a 20-minute conversation about Elephants, and how they use their trunks to eat.  Toddlers have growing minds and lots of questions, let’s give them opportunities to ask questions and explore their world!
    StorybookErin - 5 reasons to purchase an annual pass to the zoo
     

    See you at the Zoo! 

    Here are a few other zoo’s our family has explored!

    Santa Fe Teaching Zoo, Gainesville FL

    Jacksonville, Florida

    StorybookErin - 5 reasons to purchase an annual pass to the zoo
    Share me on Pinterest. 
     
     

    Evelyn Greer Park, Pinecrest FL

    Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the childhood obesity rate as more than doubled since the 1970’s and that 1 in 6 children from the ages of 6-19 is considered to be obese?

    The CDC recommends at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity for school-aged children, living in a small condo this isn’t always the easiest for us to accomplish that at home, so we love to explore all the beautiful parks in our area. We typically spend about 45 minutes to an hour at the park, and that includes our picnic time.

    One of the parks we recently visited a park located in Pinecrest, Florida and fell in love with all that it had to offer.

    Evelyn Greer Park is absolutely BEAUTIFUL! As we approached the park, I couldn’t help but notice the beautifully manicured park, and the fence around the playground. As a mom with multiple children, the fence is a huge perk!

    This park has several soccer fields, a batting cage as well as a fitness and walking trail that is a little longer than a quarter mile – great for the mom or dad who wants to get a little walk in before playing on the playgrounds with your family.

    Prior to Hurricane Irma this park had a large canopy over the playground, hopefully, this will be back up soon because there wasn’t much shade on the playground itself – but the walking trail was quite shady.

    Another thing I loved about this park was the large clean restrooms. When you have a potty trained and potty training toddler, clean restrooms are a must and this park provided!

    I can’t say enough positive things about this park, we had such a lovely time. If you’d like to see more of what this park has to offer, please take a moment to watch our Youtube Video and give us a subscribe. 😉

    DIY Turkey Shirts

    Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and we have been having a BLAST getting ready! My girls and I are memorizing a bible verse together and talking about the things we are grateful for each day.  I even have an entire Pinterest Board dedicated to creating a memorable and magical Thanksgiving with my girls! You can read all about the activities we are doing, in this post.

    In 2012 my husband and I decided to make the commitment to complete our local Turkey Trot every year, no matter what. At the time, we didn’t have any children and were very new to running and our weight loss journey’s so the commitment was made.

    By 2013 I was expecting our first daughter (in January), but I held my commitment and completed the Turkey trot

    In 2015 my husband and I woke up to POURING rain, so we left the girls with their grandparents and ran the Turkey Trot, just the two of us. 
    2016 I started the tradition of dressing up in festive Turkey Apparel, and since it was really last minute I opted to dress as a “burnt turkey” – Let’s be real if I attempted to cook a turkey, it’d either be raw or burnt.  
    This year I decided I wanted to dress the whole family up like a flock of turkeys for the event, so off to the internet, I went. While scrolling through Amazon, I found an adorable shirt that would be SO easy to make. So, I did and the whole project cost less than 10.00! 
    Here is the breakdown of cost from Walmart
    Shirts: FREE* I recycled shirts from other projects
    Rit Dye: 2.97
    Googley Eyes: 4.97
    Felt: Free* I already had these items on hand in my crafting supplies
    Felt at Walmart is about .97 a square 
    Hot Glue Gun / Glue: Free* this is another item I had in my crafting supplies 

    Total Spent: 7.94 + tax
    My Inspiration
    As you will see in the video, this project was as simple as cutting and gluing the shapes onto my shirts. This craft can easily be done as a family project too! I opted to complete it when my older two children were asleep, but I know they would have been able to handle this with no problem. Just be sure to be mindful of the hot glue. 
    If you liked this video, and want to see more quick and easy budget-friendly DIY’s be sure to subscribe to my channel and leave a comment. Your support of StorybookErin is greatly appreciated. 
    PIN FOR LATER.
    This post contains affiliate links

    Creating Positive Thanksgiving Memories with your Family!

    Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, and here in our home, we have a whole month of fun activities planned! My goal during the baby and toddler years is to create magical memories and build an atmosphere of love and support. I believe it is my responsibility to create real tangible experiences that help my children develop a love of learning and help keep their imagination and their dreams growing.

    During the month of November, our family will be memorizing Psalm 107:1. Each morning in November I will practice this portion of scripture with the girls, and then in the evening around the dinner table, we will be discussing and documenting the things we are thankful for. Even though my girls are only 3, 2 and 1, I feel it’s important to encourage an attitude of gratitude. I’d like to make this a family tradition where we can pull the journal out each November and see how things change, or maybe some things stay the same?

    Want to join us? Get the conversation going during your next family gathering. 


    I’ve also created a Thanksgiving Pinterest board where I’ve been collecting lots of age-appropriate activities to do with the girls!

    I’d love to have you be part of my little community on Pinterest, so be sure to give me a follow!

    Budget Friendly Beauty and the Beast Party!

    Beauty and the Beast has such a special place in my heart. When it was released in 1991, I remember going to the movie theater with my neighbor to see it. It was such a big moment for me because it’s one of my first memories of going somewhere without my parents or sisters.

    For my birthday that year I got some Beauty and the Beast Sheets, that I still have and use. So, to say I’m fan of beauty and the beast might be an understatement.

    I tried not to host a Beauty and the Beast (BatB) party for our daughters first birthday, in fact I really wanted to host a Fiesta and serve tacos and play Uno. However, my husband was completely not on board with the idea so we went with BatB.

    Her name does have Belle in it… so it was the obvious choice!

    If you are looking for specifics on how to save money on hosting a Disney inspired party, check out my Rapunzel party post, it’s got lots of great tips and ideas. This post applies the same concepts, and will hopefully give you some inspiration for your upcoming celebration.

    Menu

    As you can see, we kept the menu quite simple with a few uniquely themed items. Everyone enjoyed themselves, and since we kept the menu very basic all the kids ate very well too!

    Try these at home! 
    In keeping with the rose theme, I attempted to arrange the meat and cheese like a flower.

    The Grey Stuff – It’s delicious!
    Try it at home! 
    “Snow” covered Fruit 
    Our little Belle, enjoying her muffin! 

    Activities

    Birthday parties for very young children have the potential of being a little overwhelming for the one being celebrated. In order to ease the awkwardness, we have started doing an activity for the adults. For this party, I created a trivia game and gave the guests 2 minutes to complete it.

    In addition to the trivia game, we made a slideshow of photos and had it playing on the T.V. This is a great budget-friendly way to share pictures from your child’s year without printing several copies of photos. 
    Costumes
    I purchased a few BatB patches from this etsy shop, and ironed them into white shirts for the girls to wear. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos because the girls refused to wear them.  The patches were nice quality and the shop owner was very friendly and easy to work with.
    For Belle, I purchased a blue shirt, white ribbon and felt. This created a Belle costume for less than 5.00 with supplies purchased from my local wal-mart. 

    I hope this post inspired you to think creatively when hosting a Disney inspired event. I love Disney events, be sure to tag me in your Disney inspired celebration on Instagram, @StorybookErin! 

    _ _ _
    PIN FOR LATER 

    How to Host a Tangled Party on a Tiny Budget! – Part 2

    I recently shared about our daughters Rapunzel party, and how I did the whole party on a TINY budget. I thought I’d take some time to go over the DIY’s we did, and how we saved some money during the process.

    DIY Sun Stencil

    When hosting a Tangled party it is impossible to skip over the detail of the sun. The image of the sun is painted throughout the movie, and I wanted it to be a part of our party. I thought about ordering a cookie cutter of the sun that we could use as a stencil and then make cookies. However, we decided to create a stencil by using a printed out image of the sun, glued it to card board and then used an exacto knife to cut it out.

    It worked out well and we made lots of different banners with our simple stencil.

    DIY Wanted Posters

    Another detail I wanted to incorporate into the party was the Wanted Posters.  For this, we simply purchased white and brown paint poster pant. We used a car seat box for the signs, and then set up a photo booth. It was a lot of fun to see all the photos at the end of the party.  

    DIY Hair
    We hosted the party in my in-laws beautiful back yard. Ever since the pergola was completed, I couldn’t wait to decorate it for a party! Rapunzel’s hair was the PERFECT thing to do just that.  
    Originally I thought I would purchase several yellow table cloths and braid them into a long piece of hair. However, the longer I thought about it, the more complicated that seemed to be. So, we purchased a large roll of yellow plastic table cloth and cut it into three strips. 
    TIPS FOR BRAIDING 100 FEET OF HAIR
    • Unroll the Table Cloth 
    • Cut into three strips
    • put a rubber band around one end 
      • have 1 person hold the end 
    • three people will then braid the hair loosely 
      • much like in the film 

    More Hair

    We also incorporated Rapunzel’s hair into the food and beverage table. At my local walmart, yellow yarn was only .50 a package, so I purchased several packages and made several braids, and wrapped the yarn around baskets and then I hot glued a three onto a picture frame as additional decoration.  


    Tsum Tsum’s

    I found several Rapunzel Tsum Tsum’s on clearance at a Disney outlet store a few months before the party, so I just pulled them out of the toy bin and placed them around the party for additional decoration. 
    Cake Topper
    My sister in law’s wedding theme was “Best Day Ever”, and she was kind enough to allow us to use her cake topper for the wedding – it was such a beautiful touch. Instead of ordering a speciality cake, we just picked up a simple cake with flowers from the grocery store. 
    As you can see, the party was put together with very simple materials but, in my opinion looked beautiful! 
    Happy party planning! I’d love to see photos of your party, be sure to tag me on instagram so that I can see them! 
    _ _ _
    Suggested Party Supplies*

    * affiliated Links 

    How to Host a Tangled Party on a TINY Budget.

    The Setting 
    It’s two weeks before your daughter’s third birthday, and you have spent months planning all the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse DIY’s you are going to do for your daughters birthday. The last thing to do is buy the supplies and your daughter a cute new dress.

    You log onto Amazon.com with your daughter to pick our a Minnie mouse dress and she asks “Where are the Rapunzel dresses for my Rapunzel party?”

    Um… What?

    Yes, that actually happened to me and I literally had 1 week to switch gears, and get my daughter’s Rapunzel party pulled together on a budget!

    Step 1: Set a Budget
    If you want to host an amazing party on a lower budget, it’s important to SET a budget with your spouse or co-party planner. It’s crucial to have open communication about the budget and keep track of your spending.

    Step 2: Head on over to Pinterest!
    I spent a few hours one-afternoon pinning ideas and writing out a shopping list.
    Check out our planning board here.

    Step 3: Know your DIY limitations
    I got really inspired on Pinterest and wanted to do so many things. However, we were on a budget and short on time so I really had to pick and choose. As much as I wanted to make lots of lanterns and hang them on the pergola, I knew I couldn’t get it done. So, I spent my time braiding yarn and making lots of banners with our stencil (made from cardboard).

    Step 4: Simplify.
    There are SO many wonderful and adorable ideas out there, you could host the same theme party every year until your child turns 18 and never have the same decorations. That’s the beauty of Disney, there are so many ways to create a beautiful party.

    Don’t get overwhelmed. Simplify your decorations, and only emphasize one or two things.  For our party, we emphasized Rapunzel’s hair and the color of her dress (purple).

    Step 5: Relax and Enjoy
    Don’t fuss over what could have been different or better. As soon as your child see’s the party all put together, I invite you to embrace the moment. Make the day special and beautiful for them. My daughter absolutely LOVED her party, and spoke about it for months after!

    Embrace the moment, capture the smiles and give the gift of your PRESENCE.

    Wishing you THE BEST DAY EVER as you celebrate the Tangled Fan in your life.

    If you are interested in the details of how we accomplished the DIY’s, I’d be happy to go into more detail! Just let me know. 

    Read PART TWO Here! 


    What to Do and How to Pack for your Visit to Shark Valley!

    One of my Bucket List items for 2017 was to explore my city. I moved to Miami in January of 2006, and had never actually been to the Everglades. Of course, I’d driven through it on our commutes between Miami and Fort Myers when we lived there for a year, but i’d never actually explored the Everglades. So, we planned a trip! 
    Over the last year, my husband has been biking to work and so he’s become quite handy with fixing bikes. So, we didn’t need to rent any when we arrived, but there are bikes available to rent if you don’t have a bike or a vehicle large enough to transport one. 
    Shark Valley is located just about as far west on calle ocho (8th Street) as you can go,  not too far beyond the famous “The Pit” Barbecue . At 25.00 per car for entrance into the park, i’d encourage you to make a family or friends trip out of it. 
    Here’s what you’d need for your day at Shark Valley.
    • Cash 
    • Bug Spray
    • Sunscreen
    • Hat / Sunglasses
    • Bike (optional)
    • Water 
    • Snacks 
    • Camera 
    What to do at Shark Valley

    • Ride the Tram 
      • There is a 2 hour guided tour of the park, where you will learn information about the alligators, everglades and wildlife seen on your journey. It’s a good option for guests who would prefer to enjoy the Everglades without biking through it. 
    • Learn from a Park Ranger
      • We attended the Ranger Talk while enjoying our lunch and learned about Birds of Prey. This is a neat experience for children, as the Ranger will pass around Bird Skulls, and Feet for people to hold. 
    • Guided Bird Walk 
    • Guided walk with a Park Ranger 
    • Explore the Welcome Center
    • Stamp your National Parks Passport! 
    • With so much to do, you might consider purchasing an annual pass for the parks! 
    Here’s a look at our first trip out to Shark Valley, I hope you enjoy and give us a thumbs up and subscribe for more fun videos! 
    Know of an interesting park or location we should explore?
     Let us know! 

    DIY Disney: Winnie the Pooh Party

    Bounce on over to the Hundred Acre Woods with me, as I share (far too many) photos and tips for hosting a BUDGET FRIENDLY Disney themed party!

    For the last few months our daughter has been in love with that silly ol’ bear we all know and love, Winnie the Pooh. So I put on my thinking cap, and headed over to Pinterest for some inspiration. With technology and accessibility of things such as Amazon Prime, it’s easy to burn through a huge amount of money on something like I party.

    It’s only natural to want the BEST party ever for your kid. You love and cherish them, why not throw the biggest, baddest, most pinterest worthy party ever?!!

    Friend, please if you click away from this post before reading until the end I beg you to please remember this.

    Build Memories with YOUR children,  not a pinterest board of activities never completed. 

    Time with our children goes so quickly, and especially in the toddler years, they LOVE to be with YOU. 


    Now that I’ve stepped down from my soap box, here’s my quick tips for hosting an AMAZING (Budget Friendly)  Disney Themed birthday party! 

    Set a Budget & Stick to It!
    It’s so hard, again with everything available at your finger tips, it’s so easy to add just one more quick thing. Resist the urge to over spend, stick to your budget!
    I actually was able to stretch our budget pretty far, thanks to all the Easter Sales. I shopped for the party the day after Easter, and got lots of carrot themed decorations, and yard games for the party. 
    If you have a theme, look around the sales and see if something can be inspired by the theme. 
    Get the Kids involved & DIY
    If you want to host a party your kids will love, and be excited about, get THEM involved. Hype the party up;
    • talk about costumes,
    • do some DIY’s together,
    • discuss who is coming
    My oldest got REALLY into the costuming for the Winnie the Pooh party, and declared that I would be Eeyore,  and daddy would be Christopher Robin.  So, of course I found a way to sneak in a little extra money to the budget so I could grab this shirt from Etsy. 
    Simplify Everything!
    Keep everything simple, and if someone offers to help. LET THEM! You want to be IN your pictures, and ENJOYING your kid right? If someone offers to help, let them! We kept our menu simple, and I had the grandparents make the sandwiches while I took a zillion pictures and experienced my toddler look around at all the decorations. 
    Thanks for joining me in Zuzu’s hundred Acre Woods, I hope you’ll take a moment to watch our Youtube video of photos from the party, and give us a thumbs up if you thought it was adorable! <3 

    Love the ears? Get the FREE printable here

    For the Cake Topper we used Little People, it doubled as a gift for our daughter. 

    Disney Nature: #BornInChina

    On Earth Day, 2017 Disney Nature will be releasing another film in their collection of nature films. Our family had the opportunity to see it before it was released to the general public, and if you want to hear our thoughts or find out if we felt it was a good idea to take our two oldest (3 & 2) to the movie, Stay tuned…

    About the Movie: 
    #BorninChina takes you into three animal families living in the wilds of China. In the short 1 hour and 16 minute film, you will have the opportunity to see a year in the life of some adorable Panda’s, Snow Leopards, Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey and a few others.

    The film is narrated by John Krasinki.
    Rating: G

    Thoughts: 
    The visuals in this movie were absolutely stunning! If you want to see the beauty of wild China where the animals roam, go see this movie you will not be disappointed. However, if you are more interested in learning facts about the habitats and survival skills it might not be the right fit for you. Yes, you will learn about how and where the animals live, but it isn’t exactly presented in the same more serious style of other nature documentaries available.

    My toddlers enjoyed the silly remarks and jokes spread throughout the film, and I enjoyed seeing their excitement about the animals.  So, although I felt it a little hard to connect with the stories, I did enjoy the visuals of the film.

    Was this film appropriate for young Toddlers? 
    Yes, the content of the film was appropriate for young children. At 1 hour and 16 minutes, it was difficult for the girls to sit still. However, the quick movement between animal stories and beautiful scenery helped keep them engaged.

    The movie does take you right into the habitats of the animals, and some images may be a little scary for younger audiences, but it provides an opportunity to talk with your children about animals and respecting them. There was one scene with the monkey’s that was a little intense and again with the leopard, but it wasn’t gruesome.

    Educational Opportunities: 
    Prior to seeing the movie, the girls and I talked about the different animals we would see. I also printed some Panda coloring pages for them to color while we chatted.

    Disney Nature has also created educational guides and activities, complete with a chart of common core standards. Perfect for Teachers or Parents to integrate into their classrooms or homes to continue the conversation with their children.

    Disney #BorninChina Educators Guide (72 Pages)
    Disney #BorninChina Activity Packet (24 Pages)

    *This is not a sponsored post, I won 4 tickets to see a preview of #borninchina from an online contest. All opinions are my own*

    DIY Disney: Tangled Tower

    Walt Disney World Wednesday

    This week I did a really simple and quick tangled inspired craft with my toddlers.  Here are 3 things to love about this craft!

    1. Hardly ANY supplies required
    2. Hardly ANY setup
    3. Great for developing those FINE MOTOR Skills!

    Here’s what you need for your Tangled inspired craft!

    Supplies:

    The Process:

    Put a bunch of holes in a piece of paper and have your children practice threading the yarn through the holes. This can be tricky for your toddlers, it’s important to guide them through the process so they have fun with it without getting frustrated.
    Once they’ve gotten the hang of threading the yarn through the holes, you can move on to the actual craft. Cut a tower out of construction paper and hole punch a few holes throughout the tower.
    Have your child thread the yarn around the tower to look much like Rapunzel’s hair when she lets it down for her mother to climb.
    Once the yarn has been threaded throughout the tower, glue or tape the tower onto a piece on green construction paper.
    My daughter then added some flowers with crayons and stickers for a little extra decoration.

    Teachable Moments:

    • Vocabulary
      •  talk with your toddler share new words with them such as and help them to say them clearly
    • Color identification
      • The colors of the flowers
      • The Hair
    • Fine Motor Skills
      • To make it a little easier, put some tape around the end of the yarn to help it thread through a little easier
    As a bonus, we watched Tangled together while we finished decorating our tower.  We hope you will give this quick and easy Tangled DIY a try and love it as much as we did!
    *this post contains affiliate links, it costs nothing extra for you but a small percentage of your purchase comes to us. 
    We appreciate your support! 

    Love this craft? Would you consider sharing it?

    Love Disney?

    Consider joining my facebook group for Disney Fans to network and share Disney Magic.

    CLICK HERE TO JOIN!

     

    DIY DISNEY: Recipe for Grey Stuff

    My three year old is really into crafting right now, and so when we ran across the recipe for “grey stuff” we knew we HAD to try it! Cooking and Crafting with your toddlers is such a fun and rewarding experience, one I highly recommend! 

    Ingredients*: 
    Instructions:
    1. Make Vanilla Pudding, as per the instructions
    2. Smash the Oreo Cookies into small pieces
    3. Mix cookies into the Vanilla pudding
    4. Add Cool Whip
    5.  Mix in 2-3 tablespoons of Chocolate pudding powder
    6. Chill before serving
    Optional:
    • Put onto brownies 
    This recipe was super easy and fun to make. I think if I were to make it again, I would just use cookies and cream pudding instead of mixing cookies into the vanilla pudding.  As far as making it with a toddler, this was great! It was great for my three year old to practice some skills. 

    Teachable Moments:
    • Discuss utensils used
    • Read together
    • Gross Motor Skills 
      • Mixing
      • Pouring
    PIN FOR LATER 

    More Disney DIY
    *this post contains affiliate links, it costs nothing extra to you but I do receive a small amount if you make a purchase.
    Here is the post where I originally found the recipe for “grey stuff”, check her channel out and give her some support. 


    DIY Disney: Moana Necklace

    I fear we are a little late on the whole Moana craze. To be honest, I didn’t know much about it, and we didn’t see it until we rented it a few days after it released on DVD. So please forgive me if the love of Moana is old news, but…we LOVED Moana! It’s so nice to have some great non-princess movies for our girls to like.

    Our oldest daughter has recently been really into crafting, and her younger sister wants to do anything and everything her big sister does. So, I’m always on the hunt for quick and easy crafts that both a 1 and 3 year old can do.

    Crafting with toddlers can feel overwhelming, but as a mom of three young ones I am here to tell you – it doesn’t have to be! This craft can be done in about 5-10 minutes and requires very few supplies, set up and clean up.

    Supplies

    • Green construction paper
    • markers (or crayons)
    • glitter glue
    • Ribbon 
    • scissors 
    The Process
    • Have your children draw several circles on the green paper
    • cut into the shape of “The Heart of Te Fiti”
    • add glitter
    • add ribbon
    My girls spent the rest of the afternoon pretending to be Moana together. So, the next time you need a quick easy craft that shows a little bit of your Disney Side, consider our heart of Te Fiti necklace!

    Zoo Miami, Florida: Mission Everglades

    Raise your hand if you LOVE the Zoo? 
    Our family LOVES the Zoo and has been members of the Zoo Miami off and on since the year 2009, and now we are sharing our love for the Zoo with our three children.

    At the Grand Opening! 

    In late 2016, Zoo Miami opened their newest exhibit Florida: Mission Everglades and it is stunning! This exhibit brings families as close as you can safely get to the animals and creates some of the most exciting experiences. Where else can you slide through an Otters tank, crawl under a crocodile and feel like you are inside a bear cave all in one exhibit? 

    Inside the Everglades Exhibit, there are a few must-do activities:
    • Slide down the otter slide!
    The Otters are so playful and fun, we’ve spent a lot of time going down the slide and playing with the otters. Sometimes they will even follow you back and forth along the glass so be sure to spend some time interacting with the Otters. 
    • Crawl through the Crocodile Tank
    • This is is SO much fun, we’ve gotten up close with the crocodile a few times with this activity! 

    • Go see the Bears 
    Go visit the Bears and crawl inside their habitat! Parents, don’t be afraid to crawl inside the little cave with your children, the roof slants up and adults can stand all the way up in the back corner and be with their children as the hunt for bears. 
    • Walk Across an Aligator Tank on a Rope
    • Ride an Airboat! 
      • For $5.00 per person, guests can ride an airboat through the exhibit. 
    • Play on the playground! 
    There are so many things to do in the Everglades Exhibit, you will want to budget a lot of time into exploring this Exhibit.  
    _ _ _

    In February 20017, Zoo Miami hosted a Grand Opening for the Florida: Mission Everglades exhibit and our family had the best time! At the event, we had a chance to meet the newest member of the Zoo Squad, Ellie the Crocodile.  We vlogged the experience, so be sure to check our Youtube Channel to see the event. 

    Best Christmas Lights in Miami

    It’s hard to believe that Christmas will be here next week. December is such a busy time of the year for us, and since we have very young children, it’s a time I like to fill with magical memories and tradition.

    One of my childhood traditions was to drive around the neighborhood and look at Christmas lights. Well, a lot has changed in the last 30 years and it seems to me that people just don’t decorate their homes outside like they used to, or do they?

    For the last three years we have enjoyed visiting Christmas Castle here in Miami. Right in the middle of a neighborhood you will find a home and neighborhood beautifully decorated, complete with music, and a mailbox to send a letter to Santa if you so desire.

    The light display is free to come too, but for the last 17 years they have been raising money for Autism Awareness. According to their website they have contributed about $8,500 to a local charity each year!

    If you are interested in going with small children or in a group, I recommend you go early. There is an opening show right at 6:00, and the crowds are relatively small at that time so you will be able to see all the great details and take snap some pictures with limited photo bombers.

    If you or your family is a little older, you might want to wait and go towards the end of the evening. I read on the website that they have a special farewell from Olaf at 10:00 p.m. 
    One of my favorite things about going to the Christmas Castle is hearing all the Disney music and seeing all the Disney decorations. It’s obviously not as magical as the real thing, but it does the trick for getting you into the Holiday Spirit! 
    So, if you’re looking for something fun to do one evening, head on over to the Christmas Castle! I hope you love it as much as we do! There is limited parking right at the home, but don’t be afraid to find a parking spot in the neighborhood and explore some of the other beautifully decorated homes. Just remember to be respectful, you are in a neighborhood after all. 
    See more pictures on our Youtube Channel!
    Christmas Castle
    12331 SW 109 Terrace
    Miami, FL 33186
    *all opinions are my own, I am in no way affiliated with Christmas Castle. 

    Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot – Race Recap, Family of 5!

    Last Thursday our family did as many did, we woke up extra early, ran a local 5k, watched the parade, stuffed our faces with delicious food and chatted about the Gilmore Girls over a slice of pie.

    It was a beautiful day, one I will always remember.

    My husband and I ran our 5th Turkey Trot together, and our first as a Family of FIVE! Weren’t we a sight to see. I with my #teamsparkle tutu and matching visor pushing a regular (non-running) stroller with our 2-month-old daughter tucked in, sleeping peacefully. Him in his running gear pushing a bulky double jogger, filled with two girls who would simply rather be anywhere but IN the stroller.

    We start the race with a light jog to keep with the flow of runners, and just as we got a stride, it rains!

    In a state of panic, I run to the side and throw my body across the stroller and shout to my husband to pass me the nursing cover so I could cover our precious baby and protect her from the cold rain.

    Of course, the rain stopped as soon as we got back to running.

    Did I mention the two toddlers begging to walk? Well, the stroller protest was just starting to get wild as we turned into a major road.

    Back in the park, we pull to the side once again to let the girls walk with us.

     “You’ve got a long way to go” I hear someone shout to their friends who were walking nearby.

    My sweet baby girl (19 months old) did a run/walk for about 3/4 of a mile. I was so proud of her, she was so proud of her.

    As she ran, anyone who was actually behind us cruised right on by, leaving us and a few other families behind.

    I offered to cut a corner in the race, horrified my husband said “no way!” So, on we went.

    We convinced her to take a ride in the stroller for the rest of the course. Weren’t we something… Jogging through the parking lot section of the course, dodging cars filled with families ready to leave and enjoy some Turkey.

    We thanked the volunteers and enjoyed ourselves as we entered the final section of the course.

    Then let the girls out once again to run across the finish line.

    It took us 1 hour to complete the 5k and you know what, I wish it was longer!

    Why? Because for the hour, our family of 5 was completely engaged in the same activity and my husband and I were showing our girls that being healthy and active can be fun!

    It’s easy to get wrapped up in PR’s and goals to improve our running, I’m totally guilty of it. Let’s take it easy on ourselves during the next festive race, and celebrate the finish line NOT the finish time.

    Until next time…



    DIY Turkey Hat and Toddler Hair Clips

    I see you, Mom. You’ve got a Thanksgiving Celebration tomorrow morning and a couple little girls who would look adorable with a special turkey hair clip!

    The only problem is, you are far too last minute to order from Etsy or Amazon and do you really want to invest in a hair clip your toddler may or may not wear? (Just me? – okay!)

    Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!
    These two crafts took about 10 minutes to complete and I did it with supplies I had on hand. 
    Turkey Visor

     I used a visor I already owned, cut some shapes and attached it to the visor and called it a day! 

    Hair Clips

    After my success at the DIY hat, I thought I’d try my luck at some clips for the girls. 

    For this one, I used a baby Tylonal bottle to trace a circle, used some eyeball stickers and made the rest of the shapes with construction paper. When I was all done, I hot glued it onto a couple of hair bows. 
    I was pretty excited with how they turned out and can’t wait to wear them for our upcoming Turkey Trot! 
    Question of the day: What is your favorite Thanksgiving tradition? 

    Our Visit to the Little Farm, Goulds, FL

    If you live in the South Florida area and have young children, I recommend filling a car with some friends and family and heading down to Goulds for some fun at “The Little Farm“.*

    The Little Farm, Goulds Florida
    As a mom of young children I’m always searching the web for fun (free or inexpensive) adventures for our family. It was on one of these searches that I found The Little Farm. 
    I was skeptical at first because it was 5.00 just to park the car, but… when you’ve been cooped up in your house with three kids for a few weeks you start to look for opportunities to get out. 
    At The Little Farm you will find lots of animals to look at, a cute photo opportunity ($12.00), pumpkins, petting zoo ($4.00), butterfly garden (free), horse and pony rides ($3.00), a play area and food for purchase. According to the website, proceeds from the food and pumpkin purchases during the pumpkin patch event are given to charity.

    First Family of 5 Picture! 
    Pumpkins! 

    Our family had a lovely afternoon playing on the farm. We decided not to go inside the petting zoo and opted to just look at them from outside. For our girls (2,1 and newborn) that was exciting for them, but if your kids are a little older i’d recommend purchasing the armband. The armband gives all day in and out access to pet the animals.  We also spent quite a bit of time in the play area and let our oldest daughter ride on the pony before heading home.

    Sisters in the Butterfly Garden
    Playing in the play area
    A few months ago she got to ride a long at the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds at Walt Disney World, and ever since has been asking to go ride a horse. We were excited to be able to give our daughter the experience of riding a pony again.

    Riding the Pony (3.00)
    Tire Swing
    The Pumpkin Patch event is going on for the rest of the month, so if you are looking for something fun to do with your family, go have an adventure at The Little Farm!

    Happy Fall Ya’ll!

     *This is not a sponsored post, all opinions are my very own.

    Top 3 Olympic Moments: Rio 2016

    Welcome Friends to my top 3 moments during the Olympic Games!

    Raise your hand if you stayed up way too late watching the Olympic games at some point in the last 2 weeks?

    *raises hand*

    I must admit, we didn’t watch too much of the games this year, but I when we did it was important to me that our children (2.5 and 15 months) be involved in learning about the sport that was on.

    So, without further ado, here are my top three favorite moments for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

    Number 3: During the opening ceremony. 
    During the opening ceremony my two year old sat on the couch mesmerized by the flags, the dancing, and the colors. I loved having the opportunity to talk to her about the many countries represented, and have her genuinely be interested!

    Number 2: While watching Cycling. 
    “That’s my daddy!”

    Yes, that really happened and I never want to forget the pride in my daughters voice as she thought my husband was actually IN the Olympics.

    My husband has been cycling to work, and as a result he spends some time working on his bike to keep it in tip top shape, and my two year old loves to help him.

    Number 1: The USA Chant.
    During the Olympics we taught our two year old to recognize the American flag, and how we can cheer for our team from home. It’s so special to hear her chant “USA, USA, USA” whenever she see’s the American flag now.

    I am thankful for our country and those who have given their lives in service to protect it.

    USA, USA, USA!

    What about you? What are your top moments from the Olympic games in Rio?

    My Daughter’s FIRST Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar!

    If you spend any time around Disney, chances are you’ve eaten something shaped like the beloved Mickey Mouse.  My favorite mouse shaped treat is the Premium ice cream bar! Smooth creamy vanilla ice cream shaped like Mickey Mouse with a thick coating of chocolate surrounding it.

    It always tastes best when eaten on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, but I’m sure that’s just because you are looking at the castle. You can purchase the treat at the resorts and each of the parks, I just prefer to eat it on Main Street before the parade (It’s tradition).

    Our “babymoon” 11/2013 
    Since having children I haven’t gotten many of them because I just didn’t want to share, but on a warm February day in 2016 I decided it was time to introduce my oldest daughter (2 years old) to the joys of a Premium Ice Cream Bar. 
    The verdict: She LOVED it! 

    How old were you when you enjoyed your first Mickey Ice Cream Bar? 

    First Premium Ice Cream Bar, 2-14-16 
    SHARING IS CARING

    Our Storybook Life – 2015 Review

    The year 2015 had a lot of big, exciting and scary changes for our family. I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the year, for each challenge I am thankful as it brought new things into our lives, and made us a better family.

    We are looking forward to the year 2016 ready for what God has planned for us.

    January. 

    February. 
    • Diagnosed with gestational diabetes (again)
    • Celebrated the marriage of my sister in law
    March.
    • Pulled everything out for the new baby and got it washed and ready! 
    • Husband interviewed in Southwest Florida
    • Started prepping the condo to sell 

    April.

    • Welcomed Baby Girl! 
    • My husband started a new job in Southwest Florida
    • Sold our condo! 

    May. 

    • Moved to Southwest Florida (Mother’s Day weekend…)
    • Started attending a new church 
    • Celebrated my husbands birthday! 


    June. 

    • Surprise visit from my husband’s family! 
    • Visit from our besties (who live way too far away); double date to the movies and dinner! 
    • Attempted to start running again. 
    • All clear results from blood work (no more gestational diabetes!)
    • Sold our car
    • Bought a new car

    July.  

    • Fourth of July in Miami
    • Visits to Central Florida to see family and friends

    August. 

    • Family visits us in Southwest Florida
    • Beach Days
    • Lots of visits to the park on Friday afternoons
    • Settling into life in Southwest Florida


    September. 

    • New Orleans Trip
    October. 
    • Pumpkin Patch
    • Babies First Halloween


    November.

    • Fort Myers Half Marathon 
    • Baby’s First Thanksgiving
    December. 
    • Celebrating my birthday!
    • New York
    • Celebrating our 7th Anniversary
    • Disney Annual Passholders!
    • Baby’s first Christmas 
    • Happy New Year!
    Thank you for being a part of our year, we look forward to 2016 and all the adventure it will bring! 

    Seen on my Run: Central Park

    Running through Central Park is beautiful, there is no question about it.

    Running through Central Park on your birthday… MAGICAL!  We left our hotel room around 7:30 and set out for a run around Central Park. We weren’t sure how far we would run, but we knew we wanted to see as much of the park as we could before we got too hungry.

    The perimeter of the park seems to be where most people run and there were LOTS of people out running. I wanted to see the inside of the park and explore some of the bridges so my hubby and I turned into the park and went exploring.

    We ran 3.70 miles and took lots of pictures. It wasn’t a run for time or anything, it was a run for FUN!

    Here are some pictures from our run.

    Enjoy!

    like my new baby hairs? 


    The question of the day: Do you run for fun when you are traveling in a new city?

    In case you missed it… 30 hours in New York. 

    30 hours in New York!

     I have started to type out the details of the most magical Birthday ever (and I’ve been spoiled by my husband a few times before), but I just couldn’t find the words. I am so thankful for my family and friends who made this trip possible. My in laws who sacrificed sleep to drive us to the airport and watch our babies, my parents who gave us gift cards to use for food and trinkets from our travels, and all the wonderful Facebook comments and text messages wishing me a Happy Birthday.  I am one loved girl!

    I picked a few pictures to show you the adventures we took during our 30 hours in New York!

    9/11 Memorial 

    Carousel in Central Park

    Central Park 
    Central Park 

    Niketown

    Niketown 

    Broadway
    Times Square Disney Store! 

    Ready to explore after the show

    Birthday Run

    Run

    I liked this tree… Central Park. 

    Central Park 

    Nike Store 

    Zoo Review: Audubon Zoo, New Orleans

    Our family recently road tripped to New Orleans to go visit the Audubon Zoo. We LOVE going to the zoo, mostly because animals are always fun to watch and you can guarantee that you will always have a unique experience at the zoo.

    Animals are just fun!

    After hubby and I took turns running through the city and breakfast at Starbucks, we set out for an adventure at the zoo!

    (His Run & My Run Recaps!)

    We arrived at the zoo right when it opened, and just enjoyed the beautiful fountain. Elephants are my favorite animal, so I didn’t mind spending time at the fountain.

    The zoo was a little on the small side, so It didn’t take the whole day to get through the exhibits. Honestly, when you have two young children and it’s almost 100 degrees outside, you tend to appreciate smaller zoos.

    A couple of the exhibits were not open (such as the elephants, sea lions and frogs) but of the exhibits that were open, our favorites were:

    • Primates
    • Giraffes
    • Louisiana Swamp
    • Reptile House
    • The white alligator

    Other non-exhibit things we enjoyed were:
    • The Elephant Fountain
    • Ice Cream Shop
    • The play ground
    • The beautiful trees

    Disappointments
    I was pretty disappointed that everything seemed to have an extra charge. The zoo itself was almost 20.00 per adult to get in, and then if you wanted to go to the water section, dinosaurs and train there was an additional fee. I understand the train and merry-go-rounds, but I was disappointed that we weren’t able to see the water section without paying an additional fee. 
    It seemed to be pretty cool based on what we saw on YouTube, but we didn’t experience the water section during this trip. Perhaps when the girls are older we will go again. 
    Question of the day: Would you prefer to have an all inclusive ticket or pay separately for sections of a zoo? 

    You might also like…
    The Jacksonville Zoo 
    Santa Fe Zoo 
    Central Florida Zoo
    Zoo Run Recap – 2013

    Packing Tips: Two under Two

    Our family recently went on a weekend trip to New Orleans. We loaded into the car at 2:00 a.m. and drove to New Orleans. We had a great trip, but a lot of planning went into the packing for that trip. There is a fine balance between being prepared and taking too much!

    One way I stay organized now that we are a family of 4 is with packing cubes. I first learned about packing cubes on Jen’s Youtube channel (Pretty Neat Living).  On her blog she has a whole section about travel and packing, you should check it out – I always get lots of inspiration from her! Upon first glance, packing cubes can be quite expensive. However, I use a site called ebates and buy from the ebags website.  if you use the referral link included you can get a 10.00 gift card and start earning money just for shopping online! The ebags website typically gives back 8-12% cash back for purchases!

    Go now, Free Money!!

    Anyway, back to how I pack for trips with two under two!

    Yes, you will be investing in the cubes, but i’ve found them to be so helpful. Especially because my oldest daughter loves to pick out her own outfits. With the packing cubes, I don’t have to worry about her picking a shirt she’s already worn, she only has the options still in the packing cubes!

    How do you pack.

    I put each persons items in a cube, all their socks and clothing must fit in a cube.
    Towels, burp cloths, blankets and *extras* go in a different cube.

    What happens when you get to your destination? 
    All clean clothing and items stay in the cube. Dirty items go in a pile (sometimes they make it into an empty bag) until it’s time to go home.

    Do you put dirty clothes in them to come home?
    I don’t. I feel like it adds extra work when I get home, so I typically ONLY put clean items into the cubes, so they are ready for our next trip when we get home.

    All the dirty clothes get stuffed into 1 bag, and the cubes, clean clothing, extra diapers and items go into the second bag.

    Don’t believe me? Here’s a list of items packed for the girls ALL in 1 bag! 

    Items for my four month old.

    • 2 pajamas
    • 5 pairs of socks
    • 2 dresses
    • 3 diaper covers
    • 2 shorts 
    • 1 pair of jeans 
    • 2 shirts
    • 1 hat
    • 1 swim shirt
    • 3 onesies

    Items for my 19 month old.

    • 1 pajama
    • 6 pairs of socks
    • 1 pair of jeans
    • 1 bathing suit
    • 1 hat
    • 2 dresses
    • 2 onesies
    • 3 shorts
    • 3 shirts
    • 3 swim diapers
    Extra’s packed
    • q-tips
    • powder
    • saline sprays
    • diaper rash cream
    • 2 bibs
    • 6 burp cloths
    • 1 sheet
    • 1 changing page
    • 100 wipes 
    • 38 Size 2 diapers
    • 32 Size 4 diapers
    All items above were packed into 1 large duffle bag, and by using the packing cube system, I felt very organized upon our arrival in New Orleans! 
    My husband and I also used packing cubes for our clothing and found it to be helpful when looking for our clothes. 
    An added benefit to using the packing cube system is that it forces you to really think about what you will need, and NOT over pack. 

    For fun I created a short video of me packing the girls items for our trip, I hope you’ll enjoy! Be sure to subscribe for more fun videos! 

    Question of the day: Have you ever used packing cubes or a similar system for travel?

    You might also enjoy…

    Scene on MY run – New Orleans Running
    Scene on HIS run – New Orleans Running
    All the (mugs) I mean Souvenirs we purchased in New Orleans

    Travel Souvenirs: New Orleans Edition

    Lately I’ve been really into watching “haul videos” on Youtube. I’m not sure why I’m so fascinated by them, but I am. I like to see what’s available and what people buy. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that our family tends to purchase the same types of things when we travel and I was curious if anyone else shares similar interest.

    So, here’s a list of the souvenirs we purchased on our recent trip to New Orleans.

    1. Hard Rock Cafe Pins.

    My husband and his best friend both collect pins from the Hard Rock. My husband displays them on his guitar strap, and it serves as kind of a reminder of the places we’ve been.

    2. Nike New Orleans Shirt.

    My husband and I both LOVE Nike Shirts, we like to lounge around in them and to be honest, 90% of my husbands shirts are nike shirts (the other 10% is star wars or mickey).  We happened to mention that it would be fun to go get a nike shirt, and when we looked up the nike store, we were actually only a few miles away! So, we went!

    3. Starbucks: You are Here Mug

    I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t like to drink coffee out of this mug. I use my Mickey Mug every day and I LOVE it, so why change? However, we do love to collect these mugs as little memories of the places we have been, and they are wonderful for eating Soup (or ice cream) out of!

    4. Books.

    Since our girls are growing SO fast, I feel like clothing is a total waste of money. So, we purchase a book about the area. This trip we purchased Hello, New Orleans and What Sleepy Animals Do.  both of them were purchased at the Audubon Zoo. I get a little nervous about over spending because, as you can see EVERYTHING can be found on Amazon, but the prices were the same with the exception of the Hello New Orleans book. We paid 1.00 more at the zoo than if we’d bought it online.  Since we purchased the zoo book AT the zoo, we scored a signed copy, so that was pretty exciting for the girls.

    Our girls really enjoyed both books, and Hello, New Orleans has become part of our bedtime routine.

    5. Coffee and Mug.

    If you go to New Orleans, GO TO CAFE DU MONDE! It opened in 1862, and you can get coffee and beignets 24 hours a day! The first time we went, it was almost sunset and the lines for both the take out window and the dine-in were ridiculously long. We actually waited in the take out line for almost an hour. Let me tell you, it was WORTH every second of the wait!

    We went back on our way out of town and I purchased a can of coffee to bring home and surprised my husband with a mug and a can of the coffee they serve. New Orleans is a city he has ALWAYS wanted to visit, and I wanted to surprise him with something he wouldn’t expect.

    Question of the day: Do you purchase souvenirs when you travel and what do you usually pick up?

    Family Vlog: Sanibel Beach

    In honor of #throwbackthursday I thought i’d share about a little adventure we had on Wednesday.

    My Aunt and Uncle are staying in a little cottage on a local beach, so my sister, husband and two girls went over yesterday morning to visit for a little bit and go to the beach.  It was a short visit, because my husband had to work that afternoon, but we had a lot of fun.

    Here’s a little sneak peak into our morning at the beach.

    Enjoy!

    Weekend Recap: National Geocaching Day!

    Happy Monday Friends!

    How was your weekend? Our family had a great visit with my parents, and spent a good portion of the day Geocaching!

    If you aren’t familiar with Geocaching, it’s basically a little treasure hunt with your GPS. I’ve been geocaching since 2006, when smart phones weren’t in the hands of every person from 8 to 80.  You enter some coordinates into your gps and search for a small log, once there you sign the paper and then go into your geocaching website and log it there too! Back in the day, you needed a real hand held GPS and a notebook to jot down clues and information found on the website before you left on your adventure. Now, you can download apps on your phone and be on your way without any planning.

    It goes up and down with popularity, and I even go through phases with it, BUT it’s a lot of fun! My husband and I love it because it’s something you can always do. If you have a day that you aren’t sure what you want to do, geocaching is an essentially FREE option. Essentially you are just paying for a little gas to drive from location to location and you’re good to go!

    More info can be found here!

    We’d planned an adventure with my parents for Saturday, and then while we were on our way geocaching I realized that it was actually National Geoaching Day! So, that was pretty exciting!

    Here’s a sneak-peak into our afternoon of Geocaching!

    After geocaching we went and had some soft serve ice cream at a local produce stand and headed home before the afternoon thunderstorms.

    How was your weekend? Have you ever been or heard of Geocaching?

    Jimenez Family Zoo Tour – Jacksonville Zoo

    All about that bump…
    34 weeks! 

    Our third and final Zoo for the tour was the Jacksonville Zoo. We woke up a little later than we wanted, BUT our little lady was SO exhausted so it was nice to get some extra sleep.

    When we arrived at the Jacksonville Zoo I was so excited, it was really big and organized, and pretty!   To be honest, it felt like we were standing in line to go to Busch Gardens.  It was also exciting to watch our Little Lady excitedly run into the zoo. By the time we made it to this zoo, she was a pro!

    She would run from exhibit to exhibit to and shout “Dadda, Dadda” and point. I LOVED it! Chris and I love to go to the zoo, we love to walk around and see the animals and just enjoy a relaxing day together. There is nothing more magical than seeing your daughter enjoy the same things that you love.

    “Dadda, Dadda!”
    Showing Dadda the ducks.
    Elephants!
    Mommy’s favorite exhibit at the Zoo.
    The Giraffe Exhibit
    Snack Break! 

    We spent about 7 hours at the zoo, and just barely made it through all the exhibits before the zoo closed. Thankfully the zoo was well organized with one main road through the center with several loops of animals to look at.

    Some of our favorite exhibits included:

    • Giraffes
    • Elephants
    • Aviary (not my favorite, because I’m scared of birds)
    • Leopard 
    • Zebra
    Planning our next stop! 
    Petting Zoo!

    She LOVED petting the “dogs” at the Zoo. 
    One tired little lady! 

      Our Honeymoon
      St. Augustine
      December 2008
      After Jacksonville we realized we were only about an hour from St. Augustine and… we had a rental car…so it wasn’t miles on our car…and Little Lady would LOVE the Fort… 
      Okay, really… she was asleep in the car and we really didn’t want to just go back to the hotel at 5 p.m., so we decided to go soak in some more vacation in St. Augustine. We went there on our Honeymoon and just love the city, so we decided to go enjoy the evening together. 

      The Gates of the City, St. Augustine
      #awkwardfamilyphoto

      It was great, we loved spending the evening together and with our daughter. I can hardly believe that that will be our last get-away adventure as a family of three before our love bug arrives! I’m excited for our family and looking forward to the arrival of our Love Bug in just a few weeks! 

      Question: What’s one of your favorite places to visit? 

      Jimenez Family Zoo Tour – Santa Fe Zoo

      Next up on our Zoo Tour was the Santa Fe Teaching Zoo in Gainesville, Florida. This Zoo is affiliated with Santa Fe College, and is a place for zoo students to get real life experience during school. It only took us a few hours to see the whole zoo (at a slow pace), and we really enjoyed being shaded by the lush trees, and intimate atmosphere.

      Some of our favorite exhibits included the Gibbons, the Ocelot and of course the Otters!

      There is no splash pad at this zoo, but there is a nice play ground for the kids to enjoy, and a large picnic area out side of the zoo.

      After the Zoo we went to visit my family for the afternoon.

      Jimenez Family Zoo Tour – Central Florida Zoo

      Family Vacation Day 1.

      We over slept. 
      Yes, completely slept through our alarms and woke up around 7 a.m.. By 8:00ish we were loaded into our rental car and on our way to the Central Florida Zoo
      We decided to stop at Starbucks for some coffee and breakfast (yum) but while we were there my daughters diaper leaked ALL over me (gross) and Starbucks doesn’t have any changing stations (what’s up with that Starbucks, aren’t moms your biggest consumer? – anyway!). Right next to the Starbucks was a Wal-Mart, SO… we went there to clean up the baby and buy me a new shirt to wear (I’d only packed 1 shirt per day of vacation). 
      On the way into Wal-Mart morning sickness got the best of me, AND… I threw up in the plants outside of Wal-Mart. 

      I went to the restroom, cleaned myself up now and headed to the ladies department looking for a new shirt. 
      Back on the road, my husband announces that at a certain location we are going to stop for gas. I was playing Frozen Free Fall on my phone. I had no idea I was supposed to watch for the exit (oops). So, we passed it. 
      Yep. 
      Our car had been telling us we had 0 miles to go until we were stuck on the side of the road, and our GPS was telling us it was 14 miles until the next gas station. 
      On a prayer (and fumes) we made it to the gas station. Thankfully little lady slept through the whole thing! 
      We got some gas, changed a diaper & gave our little lady a snack and headed to the zoo. 

      By the time we made it to the Zoo, we were exhausted. I still didn’t feel well, but we were determined to have a good time and build memories with our little lady. 

      My thoughts on the Zoo.

      Things I liked: 
      • Nice Playground near a snack bar
      • LARGE Splash pad for the kids (also next to a snack bar)
      • Animals were easy to see
      • The Giraffes were active
      • Big play zone outside the zoo (for older kids – ropes course)
      • The boardwalks and trails
      • Lots of parking
      Things I’d have like to see differently: 
      • Consider adding more boardwalk areas 
      • More shade around splash pad 
      • The bees around the splash pad should be re-located 
      • Add changing table to the regular bathroom (near splash zone) for guests not using the splash zone. 
      Question: What’s your favorite animal to see at the Zoo?

      Photographer Review: The LXA

      When I found out I was expecting, almost immediately I mentioned to my husband that I wanted real professional photos of our baby.  I mean, what mom wouldn’t want fabulous photos of their precious gift?

      About 2 months before my due date I reached out to a couple photographers, and ended up going with The LXA, and I’m so glad that I did!

      Things I loved about working with Vinny and LXA!

      1. Enthusiasm
        1. Vinny has a contagious enthusiastic personality. Prior to the session i’d only emailed Vinny, within 5 minutes I felt like we were besties just hanging out taking fabulous pics!
      2. Client Guided Shoot
        1. When we arrived he took the time to bond with Riley, and walk us through his ideas.
        2. The temperature was set very warm so that Riley would be comfortable during the shoot.
        3. Riley set the pace – we were not rushed (at all), if she was enjoying a set, we just kept shooting. If she didn’t like it, we moved on. 
      3. Previews and Online Gallery
        1. The turn-around time to see some photos was crazy fast! (Riley’s shoot)
        2. The on-line viewing made it easy for us to share the photos with friends and family
      4. Professionalism
        1. Working with Vinny is the perfect blend of working with a friend and professionalism. You get the professional and artistic images without the stuffy studio feeling (not that studios are bad) 
      I was completely pleased with my entire LXA experience! Vinny treated Riley, my husband and I like family. I would without hesitation recommend him to anyone looking for pictures!