Spring Book List: What I’m Reading

Spring Book List: What I’m Reading

This page contains affiliate links. Spring Book List: What I’m Reading

Spring Book List

We’re leaving the country in a few days with the entire family, and I’m in complete list-making, near panic mode. This, and the kids being home all the time made me a little behind this week. So, this post is a fun one, just a book list of what I’ve read and enjoyed lately. I love to read, and I always have. Our basement is lined with bookshelves of all sorts of things I cannot bear to give away. Are you the same? What sorts of books do you like to read? I enjoy a variety of genres, but most of what I read leads back to history or culture even if that culture is imagined or unknown.

Unfortunately, lately I haven’t had as much time as I would have liked to devote to this pastime, but I managed some good ones in March and April I’d like to share! So without further ado…

Here’s my spring book list, or what I’m reading

A Gentleman in Moscow

by Amor Towles

Count Alexander Rostov is found guilty of being an aristocrat in Moscow, post-Russian Revolution. The only reason he’s not sentenced to death is a poem he published seeming to support the cause of the common man. Therefore, he is not shot but given life in the Metropol Hotel across from the Kremlin. He is on house arrest and not allowed to leave the hotel.

This is a remarkable story about a man and his interactions with the people who come and go in the Metropol Hotel. The book brilliantly transitions through years of his life and the people who come and go in a fascinating story. The author pulls you in and creates a likable character with interesting relationships in a difficult time. Mr. Towles shows great talent weaving the story in the limited setting. Truly, this is a book I could not put down and enjoyed immensely.

On a scale from 1 – 5 stars I give it a 5-star rating.

***** Go pick it up today or order from Amazon here!

We Were the Lucky Ones

by Georgia Hunter

This is the story of a Polish Jewish family during World War II. From the different points of view of the family members and they’re spread all over Europe and the world, you get an amazing perspective of what it was like for them during that time period. One brother is in France and at the beginning of the war and can’t get home to Poland. Another brother and his wife are sent to work in Siberia. The parents and sisters stay in Poland and go through the unbelievable with an amazing sense of optimism and determination for their family to be together again.

This is a powerful book and better than any history book on the experience of Jewish people during World War II. What makes it all the more amazing and makes a huge impact is the fact it’s based on a true story. The author of the book has researched, spoken to family members, been to these locations, and created an amazing piece of work in taking down her family story. The writing takes you back to that time and almost makes it feel like you are there with them.

This is one of the best books I’ve read in years and one that stays with you. It may not be a beach read, but I highly recommend reading it for your own education.

On a scale from 1 – 5 stars I give it a 5-star rating.

***** I would give it more if I could. See it here.

How to Make YOU Time in Your Mom Calendar

Do you love reading but have trouble finding the time? Those Mom demands can be pretty intense!
Read about it here!

The Wise Man’s Fear

by Patrick Rothfuss

This is the second book in what is supposed to be a three-part trilogy entitled The Kingkiller Chronicles. In the first book, The Name of the Wind, we are introduced to Kvothe. He is a hero, a villain, we are unsure what stories we can trust. The first book gives us his upbringing, the story of his family, him living as a wild child on the streets, and his entrance into the University. We hear about this as he tells his story to Chronicler, the king’s scribe.

In The Wise Man’s Fear, Kvothe continues to tell his tale to Chronicler. This time we get part of his University story, violent feud with another student named Ambrose, and his time away from University life. He trains, becomes a warrior, a man, and makes some dangerous connections.

If you’re a Sci-Fi Fantasy fan this may be the series for you. In fact, you’ve probably already read it. I love Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time and most anything written by Brandon Sanderson. Because of those interests, my brother and several other friends (all male) recommended this series to me as an amazing must-read. The writing is good, great descriptions and world building. It took me awhile, but once I go into The Wise Man’s Fear I really felt for Kvothe and felt invested in his life, friends, and world. I dove into the second book but had a lot of distractions along the way with kids and busy schedules, etc. I had a hard time staying interested as I had in the first, but that could be due to many things.

Most Sci-Fi Fantasy fans I know who’ve read it give it 5 stars hands down.

On a scale from 1 – 5 stars I give it a 4-star rating.

**** See it here. Or The Name of the Wind here.

Sanditon: Jane Austen’s Last Novel Completed

by Jane Austen and Another Lady

Sanditon is the last unfinished novel by Jane Austen, 12 chapters written the year of her death, 1817. It gives us a delightful and sensible heroine, Charlotte Heywood, and takes our setting to the seaside of what the locals hope to be an up and coming resort town. All of our normal story points are in place for a Jane Austen novel, displaying people’s character traits and flaws to the extreme. Charlotte meets and interacts with the circle in the town of Sanditon: the beautiful Miss Brereton, the pedantic and inaccurate ridiculous Sir Edward, Mr. Parker, the hypochondriac Parker sisters, the witty and wealthy eligible Sidney Parker, and a whole cast more.

I will not give away the ending; however, I thoroughly enjoyed the story development, elaboration, and ending completed by “Another Lady”. The transition between writers is quite seamless and is a great read for those craving more Jane Austen. Moreover, this paperback edition, again I will say finished quite agreeably by “Another Lady”, is one of my favorites to read just as summer approaches. It is light-hearted, funny, and a fun study of character.

Sanditon makes me laugh, cry, and cheer for our heroine. I read it almost once a year. Therefore:

On a scale from 1 – 5 stars it gets a 5-star rating.

***** Buy it on Amazon here!

That’s what I’m reading, now what are you reading?

So, there you go! These are the books I’ve read lately, actually some of the best I’ve read in a long time. Pick one out that appeals to you and escape with it for a little while. My schedule is so crazy I have to practically mark time on my calendar to get reading in, or often it just cuts into sleeping time. But it’s necessary! Learn new things and embrace new stories and characters. It’s worth a book-hangover now and then.

What books are you reading? I’m getting a list ready for summer, and I’d love to look at your ideas. In the comments please let me know your summer reading favorites or suggestions! Have fun!

Educational Gifts For Kids: Green Kid Crafts

Educational Gifts For Kids: Green Kid Crafts

This post contains affiliate links. Educational Gifts For Kids: Green Kid Crafts.

Green kid crafts pin

Are you struggling to find fun, original, educational gifts for the kid in your life? We just had our first experience with Green Kid Crafts, and it already has my kids begging for more. There is so much packed into the little green box it’s a great choice for any child.

Review of Green Kid Crafts

First of all, let me be clear, in no way shape or form am I a science mom or have ever had much interest in science. I studied history, geography, French, international studies, etc. in college. I believe took astronomy and geology for my two required college science courses because they looked the most interesting.

However, I think this is part of the reason why I love Green Kid Crafts. First, there is a ton to learn about and explore. These are activities my kids love (especially my son) I would never have put together on my own. Also, it was so nice to have everything required for the experiment or activity right there on hand with clear directions, multiple options, and great thought-provoking questions for the kids to consider.

As a disclosure, we were sent a free sample box to review to be an affiliate for Green Kid Crafts. Now, you can choose to be an affiliate for so many things out there. There are certainly many options for monthly subscription kid themes. I have to say this is my favorite of all the monthly subscription boxes out there we’ve received. Why? Because there is simply so much to do. In addition, both the 4-year-old and the 8-year-old thought it was awesome!

If you’re in need of a creative and fun educational gift for a child, try out Green Kid Crafts and share an experience. It’s not just a toy to sit in the corner and gather dust.

What is Green Kid Crafts?

Green Kid Crafts is a monthly subscription for discovery boxes for kids 3-10 years old. They focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), providing opportunities to spark the imagination and trigger those higher thinking questions and skills. Each box has a different theme; the one we were sent is titled “Outer Space”.

Firstly, as stated, the kits are geared toward kids 3-10 years of age. The younger ones will need more help and guidance in reading the directions and doing the activity than the older ones. Actually, I found I had to almost work with the older child more to get her to slow down, do things in order, and make observations. A lot depends on the personality of your child!

Alien with Green Kid Crafts preview

From their own website, Green Kid Crafts describes their product as:

Developed by teachers, crafty moms and STEAM experts (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) to support key developmental skills for kids ages 3-10, our products celebrate creativity with craft projects and activate thinking, questioning, inquiring, and original creation as we guide children through fun science experiments.

Who would enjoy Green Kid Crafts as a fun, educational gift?

Firstly, as stated, the kits are geared toward kids 3-10 years of age. The younger ones will need more help and guidance in reading the directions and doing the activity than the older ones. Actually, I found I had to almost work with the older child more to get her to slow down, do things in order, and make observations. A lot depends on the personality of your child!

Green kid crafts balloon experiment

These are fun and accessible for any kid. However, I think those who would especially enjoy it would be those who may already have an interest in science, discovery, and a patience and determination to figure out how things work. You know those kids who at age 2 were trying take apart the door knob, turning it back and forth, and testing the locks? You can practically see the gears in their heads working as they try to figure out the why does it do this? My son and my brother were both this way at a young age, and my brother ended up an engineer so there you go!

For parents, this is a quick and easy way to enjoy active learning with your children. You get to participate and see them discover and get excited learning about the world around them. I personally love the fact I didn’t have to go figure out a bunch of experiments and activities and gather all the supplies!

Need more fun activities to do with kids?

Many of these awesome ideas are great for any season!
Read it here!

What I like about Green Kid Crafts

  • The kits are pre-packaged and ready to go with nearly everything you need. The only things we needed for our “Outer Space” kit were a little cooking oil and dishwashing liquid.
  • Plenty of supplies. We were able to do the experiments multiple times for both my son and daughter. (You can also order extra in your kits for siblings)
  • A variety of activities. We learned not just about one topic but many. Included in our box we had a Planetarium Kit, Space Sand Kit, and a Rocket Balloon Kit.
  • Each kit of the three we received in our box has multiple experiments and discovery opportunities.
  • Excellent directions and thought-provoking questions to help kids explore.
  • The different kits take a good amount of time to complete. I would not recommend doing them all at once but space them out during the month for kids to really enjoy and think about.
  • STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) focused. Great for getting kids exciting about learning and experimenting outside of school.
  • Promotes key developmental skills.
  • Educational and fun for adults helping kids as well. Granted, I’m not a scientist, but the space sand was fascinating to learn about!
  • New learning theme each month.
  • Earth-friendly materials are used. The supplies chosen can be composted, recycled and/or reused whenever possible.

Practical details and how to get it

There are several options for boxes and subscriptions. You can order a one-time box and renew it every month or get a 3, 6, or 12-month subscription, which is totally awesome, and I wouldn’t mind being given to me as a gift myself! See this link for current prices and options: Give the gift of creativity with Green Kid Crafts!

The child in your life will get their own exciting package in the mail every month with endless opportunities for discovery, imagination, and fun. What kid does not like to get something in the mail? They fight over just holding it on the way home from the mailbox at our house!

In conclusion and my opinion

I’ve said a lot of good things about this product and company, and our experiences so far are very favorable. I really like the idea of encouraging the growth of the “whole child” and the focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math). Moreover, as a person who has never really had much interest in science for myself, I found myself getting excited about the experiments with the kids. The only con I can think of to mention was that the air pump for the balloons didn’t work as well as I would have liked, and that was not a problem as I could blow them up myself.

With my own eyes, I saw them learning new things about materials, jet propulsion, and the night sky. Their faces lit up with excitement and enthusiasm for learning with very little effort on my part. This would make a wonderful gift from any grandparent, friend, relative, or whoever.

What are your favorite science experiments you remember doing as a child? Post them in the comments!

I think my most memorable was when my science teacher had us do a bug collection with 25 different species. I felt like I was collecting bugs forever! A close second most memorable was when the squid ink exploded all over me during a dissection…ack! I still can picture that table and middle school classroom!

30 Nut-Free Snacks For A Long-Haul Flight

30 Nut-Free Snacks For A Long-Haul Flight

This post contains affiliate links. 30 Nut-Free Snacks For A Long-Haul Flight.

Nut-free snacks for a long-haul flight

My family, including our 4-year-old and 8-year-old, is preparing for some intense travel this summer. I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m a planner so even though it’s a few weeks away I’m in full panic list-making mode. My current focus is food and snacks, yes snacks. When you have three long flights, including two lengthy layovers one-way, and a child with a serious allergy, snacks are a major issue. Therefore, I’ve been collecting ideas and possibilities and came up with this list of 30 nut-free snacks for a long-haul flight.

Where are you going that requires over 24 hours of travel time each way?

We’ll be traveling to the beautiful country of Georgia and landing in the capital of Tbilisi. My husband is from a town just a couple hours west of Tbilisi so we’ll be visiting family and acting the tourist as we head to Batumi, a rather fabulous city on the Black Sea. If you’re ready for some amazing food, wine, beaches, culture, and welcoming people, this is the place for you.

Comments from the children about Batumi:

“Mommy, what is a dolphinarium? They have one. I want to go there.”

“So Mommy. Do I have to get in the water? I don’t want to swim in the sea, but I can make a sand castle, right?”

“Do you think we’ll see some jellyfish?”

Yes, traveling with kids is always an adventure and an education. I love being there when they experience new things for the first time and see their eyes widen in excitement before they start bouncing up and down. However, for Mom, safety is always one of my major worries on any trip.  You know, right up there on the top of the list is food safety when traveling abroad, especially when a child has a major food allergy.

Why should I be concerned if my snacks have peanuts in them on the airplane?

First of all, my child does not have a peanut allergy, but she does have another allergy that can be equally as deadly. Personally, I do not understand how anyone can justify bringing peanuts or any nuts on an enclosed airplane. One would hope the airlines and anyone who feels their need for a bag of peanuts on an airplane is no problem has never had close contact with someone with a life-threatening allergy.

It’s sort of like me saying, “Here is some iocane powder I’ve instantly dissolved into our drinking water. It is odorless, tasteless, and one of the more deadly poisons known to man. I’m not affected by it because I’ve ingested it in small amounts and have built up an immunity to it. I like the idea of it. Therefore, it is my right to put it in our water supply. Anyone who is poisoned by it will just have to deal with it or go live in another town.”

Does this make sense in any way, shape, or form? No, of course not, but for some reason, the idea of eating a bunch of nuts on an airplane and breathing them on your neighbor and the rest of the occupants of the plane as the air moves around the cabin does not even cross most minds. It is not as if you can turn a life-threatening allergy on or off with the flip of a switch. Moreover, the insensitivity, ignorance, or insistence of those not affected is simply a dangerous form of discrimination. I could go on and on with this topic, but we’d better stop there and look at some nut-free snack choices.

Have you prepped your home for while you're on vacation?

Read through my homeowner’s travel prep checklist to make sure you’ve covered it all!
Read it here!

30 Nut-Free Snacks For A Long-Haul Flight

This is a good list including many of the options we like to use for snacks. These are nut-free options great for aiplanes, school snacks, or any child with a nut allergy. However, please, please, PLEASE double-check labels before eating if there is an allergy present. Sometimes company do change procedures and they can then produce items on the same equipment or in the same facility as nuts. I hope you try some new ones out. The pink titles and pictures of the items link to Amazon in case you want more information. Enjoy!

 

  1. Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks. My kids love most Annie’s snacks, but not all are nut-free or not made in a facility with other nuts. Be sure to check your labels! 
  2. Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. Always a classic and sure to distract kids for a few minutes.
  3. Enjoy Life Not Nuts! Mountain Mambo Seed and Fruit Mix, Gluten, Dairy, Nut & Soy Free. I absolutely love this brand. Not only do the snacks taste good, but they are marketed as gluten, dairy, nut, and soy free. These are perfect nut-free snacks for a long-haul flight, and healthy too! 
  4. Enjoy Life Not Nuts! Beach Bash Nut Free Seed and Fruit Mix, Gluten, Dairy, Nut & Soy Free. Bonus! Another flavor! 
  5. Don’t Go Nuts Nut-Free Organic Snack Bars, Whitewater Chomp. Try the Blueberry Blast and Boogie Board Bash flavors as well! 
  6. Enjoy Life Baked Chewy 1 Ounce Bars, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free & Soy Free. Again, try out the different flavors to find your favorites.
  7. Newtons Fruit Chewy Cookies, Fig. 
  8. Nature’s Bakery Whole Wheat Fig Bar, Raspberry. These are so good! I love to eat these as an afternoon snack. 
  9. Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars. 
  10. Black Forest Organic Gummy Bears Candy. Try the Black Forest Organic Fruit Snacks too
  11. Annie’s Organic Variety Pack, Cheddar Bunnies and Bunny Graham Crackers Snack Packs. 
  12. GoGo squeeZ Applesauce On The Go, Apple Berry, 3.2 Ounce Pouches. These are great because they’re healthy fruit and at 3.2 ounces just under your 3.4-ounce airport limit.
  13. Little Duck Organics Tiny Fruits + Veggie.
  14. Triscuit Crackers, Original. 
  15. Nature Valley Cinnamon Granola Crunch. My husband loves Nature Valley granola bars, but the usually have peanuts and other nuts listed in the allergen information. We recently found this granola crunch with the only warning being for soy and love it. It’s a great snack or fun to put on yogurt for breakfast. 
  16. Trader Joe’s Jumbo Raisin Medley. Raisins are a great snack on the go! I have found some of the major brands producing the individual serving boxes are produced in the same facility or on shared equipment with nuts. So, check your labels carefully! This is why I usually end up buying the store brand of raisins, and as an added bonus they’re cheaper! Now, this jumbo raisin medley is something different and just rather yummy so that’s why it’s made the list.
  17. Brothers-ALL-Natural Fruit Crisps.
  18. Made in Nature Organic and Unsulfured Tree Ripened Dried Apricots. Apricots can be tricky! When you buy a bag be sure they’re not packaged in a facility with peanuts or tree nuts.
  19. Oreo Sandwich Cookies Variety Pack.
  20. Rold Gold Tiny Twists Pretzels.
  21. Enjoy Life Plentils Single-Serve Variety Pack.
  22. MySuperCookies Organic Whole Grain Cookies. 
  23. Plum Kids Organic Fruit Mashups, Mixed Berry.
  24. Mott’s Unsweetened Strawberry Applesauce. 
  25. Skeeter Nut Free Mini Cookies, Variety Pack.
  26. Made Good Granola Minis Chocolate Chip.
  27. Cascadian Farm Organic Granola Bars, Chocolate Chip Chewy Granola Bars.
  28. Stretch Island Fruit Leather.
  29. CLIF KID ZFRUIT – Organic Fruit Snack – Strawberry.
  30. SunRype Apple Blueberry Pomegranate Fruitsource 100% Fruit Bar. 

What can I do with 30 nut-free snacks for a long-haul flight?

Pick out a few of these nut-free snacks for a long-haul flight and pop them in a Ziploc bag with each family member’s name for their carry-on. This will divide the load, and you can decide exactly how much you’ll need. My examples in the pictures may look excessive, but when your travel time is over 24 hours without any certainty of nut-free options, a mom likes to play it safe.

Happy Travels!

I hope your travels lead you to exotic, educational, and enjoyable locales! Take some time away and come back to daily life refreshed and a better person. But above all please don’t forget to be kind! Think about the lives of those around you on the airplane, at the beach, and serving you at the restaurant. Be thoughtful and respectful of the locals of the places you visit and the other people around you, and make no mistake, your kids will take note. They will copy what you do, and the world will be a better place because of it.

Where are you vacationing this summer? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Give me some good places to start imagining future travels!

*Iocane powder is not a real poison. It is a reference from the film ‘The Princess Bride.’

Kid-Prepared Mother’s Day Brunch Menu

Kid-Prepared Mother’s Day Brunch Menu

This page contains affiliate links. Mother’s Day brunch menu.

Do you need a Mother’s Day brunch menu for the kids in your life to make a memorable impression for Mom or Grandma? This is my go to quick brunch for women’s events like baby showers, a ladies get together, a book club, or any fun gathering. It is a proven formula, and I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t enjoyed it. So for some pampering and a show of appreciation for all Mom does in our lives, give her a rest and make something she will love.

Test your patience Mom day

Today was one of those mornings for me. The 4-year-old was happy and looking forward to “Z” day at school and then bam! We forget the backpack. Now, do you really need a backpack for a 2 and a half hour preschool class? Not really, but it’s a fun thing to carry around and put our “jobs” in before going home. The child completely lost it and would not go in the building without his backpack. Did I have a million things to do while he was in preschool? Yes.

We had a talk next to the car trying to be reasonable and explain how he wouldn’t need it, and Mommy would bring it at the end of school. No luck, and the kid is stubborn. So amid the screams, running back to the car multiple times, I admit to myself. It’s a test your patience Mom day. We all have them. So people! Plan something nice for the Mom in your life and show some gratitude to the person who navigated you or others through the childhood fits, trials, stubbornness, and growth.

Why should kids prepare a Mother’s Day brunch menu?

Mother’s Day is an awesome opportunity to do something nice for some of the most important people in kids’ young lives. Instead of buying something and wrapping it up and telling the kids what Mom or Grandma is getting, give them a part. Make them invest some of themselves in the effort. Yes, it will take more time, patience, and clean-up, but the smiles of pride and joy as they present Mom with a homemade breakfast or brunch on a tray or at a family party is well worth it.

My kids love to be involved in cooking and preparing gifts for others. Their faces light up, and of course the four-year-old states, “Yes! I can do it myself for Grandma!”

Mother's Day brunch menu

This year use a Mother’s Day brunch menu for kids to treat Mom, Grandma, or that special person in their lives to a little luxury and pampering.

Make Mom a Fresh Carrot Orange Mango Smoothie!

Carrot smoothies

Get the recipe here!

Mother’s Day brunch menu

Kid-prepared Mother’s Day brunch menu

Yogurt, fruit, and granola parfaits

Yogurt parfait side view

To begin, our menu includes some simple, healthy, pretty, and oh so tasty ingredients to give Mom some energy for the day. Presentation is a huge part of making food enjoyable so embrace the aesthetics while choosing the best foods at the same time. Who can resist a beautiful yogurt parfait with fresh fruit and granola?

This is a fun thing for kids to prepare. First, gather the ingredients. You’ll, of course, need yogurt in one or more flavors. We like vanilla when adding fruit to it, but if Mom likes blueberry or coconut Greek yogurt, go with her preference! Also, cut up your fresh fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, bananas, mangos, or whatever you want. Next, take a bag of a favorite granola and begin layering. Start with a layer of granola, then fruit, then yogurt. Depending on the size of your glasses you can repeat this process 2, 3, 4 or more times! Lastly, top with a sprinkling of granola and the main fruits in the parfait.

Yogurt parfait close-up

Scones (home-made or store-bought)

Along with the parfait, you can include a little indulgence. I absolutely love fruit scones but rarely make them. Choose whatever flavor Mom or Grandma love, and if you have time help the kids make them from scratch. However, you don’t have time, buy some at the store but have the little ones take them out of the package and place them just right on pretty plates.

Order a scone recipe book from Amazon here: Scones: The Ultimate Recipe Guide

Quiche

Then, add a little savory to the menu with a dainty Quiche Lorraine or whatever flavor Mom likes. Quiche is not really that difficult to do, and if you buy a pre-made crust in the pan it’s a simple matter of whisking together 5 eggs, 3/4 cup cream (or milk), and 2 cups flavoring ingredients (such as spinach and gruyère cheese or ham and cheddar cheese), then pouring it into the shell to bake for 45-50 min. For a good printable recipe click on the link here.


Does anyone else have trouble letting yourself allow the child to crack the eggs? Arg. All that salmonella (maybe?)! I’ve had to make a choice to let that anxiety go, she can do it! Moreover, if we get a dropped egg on the floor, a smashed eggshell in the egg mixture, or raw egg all over our hands it can all be fixed, cleaned up, sterilized, or whatever. Sigh. Let it go, let it go…

Mimosas or Orange Juice

Orange juice

Next, we have our Mimosas (mmmm!), simple orange juice, or possibly an Orangina? Decide if you want an adult to take care of the adult beverage portion or have the kids take care of everything with an attractive glass of bright orange juice.

 Coffee or Tea

St. Patrick's Day tea

At a morning brunch, I find coffee a necessary piece of the puzzle for my true enjoyment, but provide tea or coffee or even hot cocoa depending on the tastes of your VIPs.

Mom’s favorite flower in vase

First, don’t eat the flower! Nearing the finishing touches, place a cheerful single or a whole bouquet of flowers in a vase for Grandma or Mom in her favorite flower and color.

Child’s hand-drawn card

Last but certainly not least, don’t forget the kids’ hand-drawn Mother’s Day cards with hand-prints, flowers, squid, bison, or whatever the child is moved to share with Mom. They will be cherished.

Mother and daughter

In closing

To all my hard-working moms out there, I get it! Don’t forget to take a moment out and pamper yourselves! You are amazing and soooo important to those kids and their futures.

So today, the same day we had the meltdown in front of all the other preschool parents in the parking lot, we also had the end of the year program. The child took an interest, got himself dressed in a “church shirt” with suspenders and tie, and actively participated in singing, dancing, and doing motions in a 17 song/rhyme program. Every song he looked at Mom proudly with a big, beautiful smile from ear to ear. Love on your littles while you can and appreciate every day.

The Ultimate Homeowner’s Travel Prep Checklist

The Ultimate Homeowner’s Travel Prep Checklist

This post contains affiliate links. Homeowner’s Travel Prep Checklist

Homeowner's Travel checklist

So you did it! You booked that big vacation for the entire family to go to Provence, to London, or to Florida for three weeks this summer. Of course, you have your itinerary, ideas about where to eat, what to do, where to stay, and all that jazz. You may even already have your suitcases and carry-ons planned. However, have you thought about your house, your home and all that will go on there while you are away?

Use this ultimate homeowner’s travel prep checklist to safeguard your home while you are away.

We all love to prepare for a vacation but can often forget about what will go on at home while we’re gone. Make a thorough plan for while you are gone so you can enjoy your vacation with the peace of mind everything’s been taken care of for you back home.

Homeowner checklist preview

Don’t be surprised or caught in the last minute panic. Of course, I will be in a panic about something, but let’s limit it as much as possible, right? Just enter your email below, and the document will be sent to you to download. Then come along with us as we continue to prep for summer travel!

Need a journal for kids to reflect on your travels?

Get your free kids’ travel journal from Explorer Momma.
Read it here!

Here is my ultimate homeowner’s travel prep checklist

Homeowner's travel prep checklist

When you leave town do you take care of your home necessities?

  1. Stop your mail.
  2. Put a hold on any newspapers.
  3. Find a pet sitter or reserve a pet care location.
  4. Find someone to water plants inside and outside the house.
  5. Give your contact info to a trusted neighbor who can keep an eye on things as they come and go or have a friend or relative check on the house every few days.
  6. Find a house-sitter if necessary.
  7. Make sure the sprinkler system is set.
  8. Change your thermostat settings so your heater/air conditioner isn’t constantly running while no one’s home.
  9. Turn off and/or unplug computers, coffee pots, blenders, or other electronics.
  10. Contact your home security company if you have one to let them know when you’ll be gone.
  11. Schedule or reschedule any lawn care and the bug or pest control as needed.
  12. In winter plan for someone to complete necessary snow-removal.
  13. Cancel dairy or food home deliveries while you’re gone.
  14. Pay all bills due while you’re gone or set them to pay at the appropriate time.
  15. Set timers on outdoor and indoor lights used consistently in the evenings.
  16. Straighten the house and make beds, wash dishes, and unload the dishwasher before you leave so you come home to a calming and welcoming space.
  17. Call credit card companies to let them know where and when you’ll be traveling.
  18. Leave copies of passports and other important documents where someone can locate them for you in an emergency.

Click on the pictures to compare outlet timers and wifi smart plug outlets on Amazon:

There is so much to think about when you’re traveling, especially with kids. As a homeowner, we have to think of all the things we’re leaving behind and still have to take care of while we’re away. Make that house a home for your family and make a plan! Use my homeowner’s travel prep checklist, and limit your risk of utter and complete Home Alone panic while you’re on that airplane to Paris.

Enjoy your travels this summer to the fullest!

Also, I’d love to hear where all you’re traveling! Put a comment in below and let’s get excited about those plans to explore!

A Baby Giraffe and 10 Tips for the Perfect Denver Zoo Visit

A Baby Giraffe and 10 Tips for the Perfect Denver Zoo Visit

This post contains affiliate links. A Baby Giraffe at the Denver Zoo.

Denver Zoo pin

Are you planning a trip to the Denver Zoo or any other zoo for that matter? Is your little one begging to see that adorable new baby giraffe? My family loves the Denver Zoo, but it can get extremely crowded or overwhelming if you don’t make a plan. Before you go keep in mind my tips for a perfect zoo visit.

1. Meet Dobby, the baby giraffe!

First of all, oh my cuteness! When you arrive at the Denver Zoo, grab your map and head in the direction of the giraffes. Amid the cries of, “So cute!”, “Awww!”, and “The sweetest ever!” you will see the most adorable baby giraffe named Dobby. Yes, Dobby – isn’t that just the perfect name? I may be gushing a bit, but Dobby was a huge highlight in our recent visit to the zoo. I didn’t have the giant-lensed camera like the gentleman just down a bit from us, but we still got some good pictures of the little guy.

Dobby, the baby giraffe Denver Zoo giraffe family

Dobby was born February 28, 2017, and we saw him April 18. He seemed comfortable in front of our small group and walked around by himself and amongst the other giraffes. Furthermore, I am certain that with a glint in his eye he winked and smiled just as we turned to walk away. Surprisingly, some of my own family do not believe this assertion! Therefore, I strongly suggest you go to the Denver Zoo and see for yourself!

2. Get a membership

Going to the zoo, the natural history museum, the aquarium, and others can be costly for a family. We absolutely love the zoo so even though we don’t live in Denver I purchased a zoo membership. I ended up getting the individual and guest membership, but there are family memberships as well as several other different kinds. Compare the membership options here: Denver Zoo Memberships. 

What do I like about a membership? For one, it saves me money. If we go to the zoo more than 2 times this year it pays for itself, and anything after that is a bonus. I have the satisfaction of suggesting going to Denver and visiting the zoo at little cost other than gas. Most memberships include 1 or more additional free guest passes, tickets to ride the train and carousel, and a discount on food and other purchases. Be sure to include to tally these in your comparisons if you’re considering it.

Another thing I like is that this is an outdoor, educational activity for kids. If you’ve read much from me you’ll know my son absolutely loves animals, and he is fascinated by their different ways of survival. The Denver Zoo is a huge place, and there is always a new animal for him to discover and learn some amazing fact about. He loves to tell me and other family members all about what he’s learned. Of course, as a mom, this is a huge win for me too!

Eagles

3. Visit the zoo on a weekday

This may be a no-brainer to some parents out there, but when should you visit the Denver Zoo? Well, before we went last week I double-checked their website to be sure it was not a free day or a special event day. For example, there were added advertised activities and shows for kids during Spring break. Did we go at that time? Accidentally, yes, but then we changed our plans and did something else because the crowds were so overwhelming.

If your family doesn’t mind crowds definitely attend some of the special events, but my 4-year old gets stressed with a lot of people around and immediately wants to leave. He loudly lets us know of his unease, and it’s not fun for anyone.

Conclusion? Visit the zoo on a weekday, maybe a Tuesday or Wednesday when there are no special holidays or events happening.

Denver Zoo camel

4. Pick the main things you want to see and plan out your route

The Denver Zoo is a huge place, and you will wear yourself out running back and forth to see the specific animals requested by the kids. “Mommy, I want to see the alligator, and the gorillas, then the elephants!”

These animals are far apart at the zoo so take a moment to look over your map and plan your basic route around. If the kids are worried about certain animals make a point to show them on the map and let them know when you’ll see them. Your feet will thank you.

Monkey hanging

5. Plan out the shows you want to see beforehand

This goes along with planning your route. If you want to see any of the shows take a look at the sign as you enter for the daily show times. It’s located just after the ticket taker or you can ask in the visitor center.

I highly recommend the sea lion show as it’s one of our favorites!

In summer there are more show times than other seasons so don’t assume times from past experience. If you don’t want a screaming kid who’s devastated they missed the elephant show, it’s always good to double-check. Planning is good.

Are you looking for more educational experiences in Denver for kids?

Read all about our awesome trip to the Denver Downtown Aquarium!
Read it here!

6. Denver Zoo activities

What can you do to make your visit more educational? My daughter especially likes to use a scavenger hunt page to find specific animals. Then it becomes a game to her and almost a race to find the animal with its new fun fact.

Another fun thing to do for older kids is to give them their own naturalist journal. Depending on your child you can give instructions or not. I tell my daughter to sketch and label the animals she sees and write one to three sentences describing interesting things about it. Possibilities include physical description, what the animal eats and how it gets it in the wild, how it moves around, how it protects itself, etc.

You can order a fun naturalist journal like one of these from Amazon. Click on the journal to take you to the Amazon site:

7. Make a search for new animals

Go see some of the lesser known animals. Tell your kids to imagine they are going to discover new animals and introduce that animal to the world! Next, you or one of the older kids can introduce the new-found animal to the group and give some facts about them.

For example, on our last trip I fell in love with the fossa. The fossa is a predator that lives in Madagascar, has the longest tail for grabbing onto trees, and a surprisingly small head. I was fascinated watching it walk around its habitat.

8. Take a stroller or wagon and bring your lunch

Even though my son doesn’t use his stroller much anymore I still brought it to the zoo. As I’ve stated, it’s a large place! If your child gets tired of walking they can ride in the stroller, and you have the added perk of a place to stow all your gear.

Also, to save money you can pack your lunch and stow it in the stroller with an ice pack. I like to pack a lunch and then just buy a snack for the kids later in the day as a treat. Or bring your own snacks too and with an already paid for membership you won’t have to spend a thing!

Monkey Island lunch view

9. Ride the train and carousel

Carousel sign

The train and carousel are must-dos for kids at the Denver Zoo. There are always huge smiles all around, and a nice variation in your zoo experience. I like to do these two rides in the later part of our visit when the kids are getting tired and need a change in activity.

Buy tickets or get the tickets from your membership at the little house in between the train and carousel beforehand. If it’s busy and you go directly to the carousel you will waste a lot of time in line and then have to go buy tickets anyway.

Tip: If you’ll be going often save time and money and buy a punch card. With the card you can go directly to the ride and not have to wait in line a the ticket house.

Zoo train

10. Check the weather report before you go

In summer it can get extremely hot so don’t forget hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and water for everyone. Conversely, if it’s going to be cold or rain part of the day you can still have a great zoo experience if you plan the right clothing, umbrellas, and focus on the warm houses such as Tropical Discover (lovingly called the reptile house by my family) and Bird World. Always, just follow the Boy Scout motto and be prepared!

Zoo carousel zebra

Exploring new places is always such fun, and often you don’t have to go far for a great experience. We are so lucky to have the Denver Zoo fairly close by, and whenever we travel with kids we check out the zoos and museums wherever we are. If you have a young, curious zoologist or two in tow you can have a fabulous time with a little preparation.

What are some of your favorite zoos or places to see wildlife? Please put some of your ideas in the comments. I’d love any suggestions for places to take the little ones!

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