Summer Road Trip

We did our very first summer road trip across several states as a family this summer. We started planning this because we wanted to visit my family in NC, but also Dan’s family in PA and this was a way that we could do both, and break up the trip so that it was do-able with the kids.Summer Road Trip Long car rides are hard on everyone, but with little kids, it can involve big emotions, and feelings of exhaustion. It’s hard to have much sympathy though considering when Dan and I were kids, all we had was a window to stare out of, a sibling to annoy, and if we were lucky, some books to look at. Kids these days have toys, iPads, in-vehicle entertainment with screens that play DVDs. They have so much more to keep themselves occupied. They were a few times that they all fell asleep together, and those times were gifts from God.

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We started our trip picking the boys up from their week long Stonecreek Kidzu Adventure camp at church, and went straight to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. They live on a farm by Lake Hartwell and raise black angus cattle. They are truly amazing Godly people and I absolutely love every bit of time we get to spend with them. We enjoyed a delicious dinner, and Grandpa took them around the farm on his big tractor, and we got to watch Grandpa feed the cattle. The kids loved it! I wish we could spend more time there, but we were heading up to Wilmington the next day and we needed to get a head start on the trip, so we stayed overnight in Anderson, SC after our visit at the farm.

Number 1 on the Map:

 

On our second stop, we visited Dad, Rennie, and brother Christopher in Wilmington, NC. We met downtown at Slice of Life, my favorite pizza place, and then we headed over to the Serpentarium to see the crazy amount of poisonous snakes and reptiles. It was pretty  neat, but I didn’t get a lot of pictures from the Serpentarium, but the kids had a great time. We got there just in time for the feeding. It was fun, but let’s just say the staff wasn’t exactly kid-friendly. At one point, they were feeding an enormous boa constrictor large rabbits, and calling them the Easter bunny. Not Cool. Nevertheless, the kids still loved it. Parker in particular really enjoyed it.


The next day, we geared up for the beach. Dad really wanted to take the boys fishing. So, we went back to our old neighborhood, caught some pin fish to bait a crab trap, and then headed to Surf City’s Soundside Park on Topsail Island where we had lunch and went fishing.

Number 3 on the Map:

Parker, Dan, Christopher and Dad stayed at Soundside Park and fished some more, and Rennie, Sienna, Mason and myself went to the beach to catch some waves. Dan and Parker met us there a little later. It was so nice to hang at the beach that I grew up going to. So fun!

Rennie and Dad were very hospitable during our stay, and Dad made us special dinner of Beef  Stroganoff our first night, and took us out to a delicious Italian dinner our second night. We were so well taken care of during our stay, and we’re looking forward to our next visit to see them in the years to come!

From Wilmington, we made our way to Ocean City, Maryland. Dan had vacationed here with his family when he was younger, and could vouch for how fun it was. It didn’t disappoint.  Dan had saved up his hilton points from all of his business travels, and we used points to stay at the Hilton Suites in Ocean City. It was perfect. They had a fabulous outdoor swim-up bar, kids slides and kiddie pool. It was so fun. The hotel is within walking distance of the beginning of the boardwalk, so we loved how close it was. We took advantage of the tram, but didn’t get a chance to use the bikes. Apparently, you have to get up at the crack of dawn to get down to get your bike! Lesson learned. Hopefully next year we can do a family bike ride on the boardwalk. The kids loved the carnival rides, prizes, the street performers, etc. Lots of fun for two days!

Number 4 on the Map:

 

Our next stop was to visit Dan’s family and longtime friend that live in Pennsylvania. We were staying in Doylestown to be exact, a cute quaint superb suburb of Philly. Ha! My auto-correct changed suburb to superb, so there you go! It was indeed superb!

Dan’s best friend Jim was his best man in our wedding, and they’ve been friends for almost thirty years. Jim is married to Jess, and together they have  two daughters aged 7 and 5. They welcomed us into their home to stay with them, and they were wonderful hostesses to our family. I know it’s not easy hosting a family of five, where some of us are sleep deprived and possibly not our best behaved, but they were welcoming none the less! We used their washer and dryer, and Jess folded all our clothes when we left to visit Dan’s family. Now that’s a fantastic hostess! Jim was also very welcoming to our kids, and was such a great sport when the kids wanted to play hairdresser and give him a cut an style! So fun.

We enjoyed a fun visit to Central Park (the kids call it Castle Park, because of the huge wooden “castle”playground), and we drove up to Hershey, Pennsylvania our last day of our visit to enjoy the many rides at the amusement park Hershey Park. The kids had a blast. The super duper looper and the water park was a big hit with our family!

Number 5 on the map:

Our second day in Pennsylvania, we ventured closer into the city to visit with some of Dan’s family. I had been friends with Dan’s Aunt Denise on facebook, and seen a lot of her, but I had never met her in person before. I met Dan’s Uncle Bill, Aunt Peanut, and Uncle Brian as well. They were all so sweet, and welcoming. The kids loved meeting them as well as spending time with them and their sweet dog Erica. They brought over the best philly cheesesteaks in the area, and we had a great time visiting with them!

After  our time in Pennsylvania, we started our decent south and stayed overnight in a small town in Maryland. In the morning, we headed to Asheville, NC for one night. We drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was such an incredible drive. I had never been on an interstate with so many winding turns, hills, and beautiful mountainous views in every direction. It was by far the prettiest drive of the trip. All three fell asleep and took a good nap on the way there, which was great and we got in Asheville just in time to get settled and head in town for dinner.

Our hotel was about 20mins outside of Asheville, so when we asked the front desk if he could give us some recommendations for a good family restaurant, he said he didn’t venture into the city often. Hmm.. So we were left to our own devices, and how hard could it be to find a good restaurant? Well, apparently pretty difficult, as we found out. We  parked near the college, and walked several blocks, and things were either too pricey/fancy, or not appropriate for kids (vaping/loud music, etc) and then all of a sudden, we turned a corner, and found Lexington Avenue BreweryIt was perfect. Despite the fact that it was a brewery, it had many families in there, and a fun atmosphere and best of all, great food.

The next day, we went to one of our favorite things to do as a family in Asheville; visit the Western North Carolina Nature Center. They have a great selection of animals that are native to the area, and the kids had such a great time! In addition to seeing the neat animals, and learning about them, they also had little stations that allowed you to build your own fort with sticks, put on your own puppet show, climb your own spider web, etc. This was a fun way to conclude our summer road trip.

 

It was overall a great trip. It was long, and trying at times, but it was the best way to mix a summer vacation with visiting family and friends. I think the kids enjoyed spending time with family, learning about new places, and making memories that they will cherish for many years to come.

Mother’s Day-Our First Family Camping Trip

We did our first family camping trip over Mother’s day weekend. We were very last minute with the planning, but it turned out just fine even without being 100% prepared. I got the idea because I originally just wanted to do a trail hike for Mother’s Day weekend. The weather was looking great, so I thought maybe it would be more fun to try to tent camp while we were at it.

I contacted a friend who has gone camping in the area before and asked for her recommendation. We wanted to camp by Lake Lanier because it’s close, but there are several campgrounds on Lake Lanier, and I wasn’t sure which one was more suitable with kids.  She said Shady Grove Campground is their favorite, so I decided to check out the website.

The website is very promising, boasting lake views, bathroom and shower facilities, two playground areas, wooded hiking trails, and a lake “beach” area close to the campsites. This all sounded wonderful to us, so we decided to go for it!

We absolutely loved the campground. The walking paths in the woods were great, the playground for the kids and the beach was wonderful. The bathroom facilities were close to the campsite and clean and exactly what we needed with three little ones and our first camping experience. We got a six person tent, and we arrived around noon after lunch and began unpacking the car and getting acquainted with our campsite. There were campsites closer to Lake Lanier with views, but this one was perfect because of how close it was to the beach, bathrooms, and playground.  It was also very shady and flat, which was great. The car was filled to the brim with camping supplies. I forgot how many things you actually need when you camp. Pretty much everything!

We cheated a little bit and did simple meals on paper plates, disposable plasticware and juice boxes. Next time we will be more eco-friendly and just use reusable cups. The typical camping staple- hot dog over an open flame of course, and we made simple mac and cheese, smores, sandwiches, etc. We brought the Cusinart Griddler with us and made pancakes for the morning (yum) but forgot syrup, so Dan ran out that morning and grabbed some. One great thing about camping at this location is that t’s not too far from civilization!

Parker got his first pocket swiss army knife and he had a great time using it to practice sharpening sticks and cutting the bark off of them. Mason and Sienna loved helping with the fire and gathering sticks. They were all great helpers on the campsite. They were just excited about the whole experience! One of their favorite things was going on the wooded walking trail to the playground. The playground there was amazing. They spared no expense. It had rock walls, several slides, cool wobbly platforms they could toddle between. They had so much fun, and will be able to play on it for many years, as it’s spans several age groups.

Before bedtime, Dan and I took turns taking the boys out on night time nature walks with their head lamps. Those headlamps are worth every penny. We had so much fun with them! The boys just loved being out past dark, and enjoyed just being in nature, wondering what creatures they would find and listening to the night birds, frogs, and creatures make noise.

The evening was a bit more challenging as the night went on. Sienna went to bed around eight without an issue. She’s a great sleeper and can sleep pretty much anywhere. However, once it was time for the rest of us to go to sleep, we realized that our fellow camping neighbors were playing a serious game of corn hole. Finally after about 15 minutes into the quite time (Campsite guidelines say after 10pm is quite time) we had to go and give a gentle reminder about the park rules, and that we were having a hard time getting the kids to sleep. They were apologetic and immediately stopped their game and cheering, but I felt like such a kill-joy having to do that.  It’s just very frustrating when you’re left with little kids who can’t sleep, and are over tired. Other than that, no issues with neighbor noise, but Mason was a little weary of sleeping with all the evening nature noises, but eventually crashed. The next day he said he loved camping, so I don’t think he was scarred too much from all the unfamiliar sounds.

We also found out quickly that the tent (slated to hold six people) wasn’t really a great fit for us. It indeed could probably fit six, but with two queen air mattresses, it’s pretty much one adult one kid on one, and one adult two kids on another (I’ll let you guess who had the privilege of the ladder, Ha!) but we really needed an extra twin bed for one of the kids. It’s just too cramped on the queen bed with the sleeping bags for more than that. So, we returned it. Lesson learned. It wasn’t terrible but could’ve been better.

There was also a fun beach area that we explored the first day. The water felt like it had ice cubes in it. Super cold, but the kids still liked it for a short time. We’ll have to hit up the beach for longer once again when it’s warmer.

It was such a fun experience, a wonderful Mother’s Day, and we can’t wait to do it again!


Legoland and Ft. Lauderdale Beach

This is the first time in as long as I can remember that we’ve gone out of town over spring break. We typically avoid traveling on this common week like the plague, but since Parker is elementary school this year, we have to abide by the dreaded school schedule.

It actually didn’t turn out to be bad at all in the way of crowds and traffic. We wanted to go somewhere nice and warm, but we didn’t want to drive an entire day to get there either. So, we decided to make an overnight stop in Orlando, stay two nights, and drive on to Ft. Lauderdale where it was nice and warm for the beach, and then stop again in Orlando on the return home.  We love Destin, but this time of year can be hit or miss on the weather, and if we’re doing all that driving and spending money, we want to make sure that we’ll at least have a few warm days.

Since we decided to make a pit stop in Orlando, we thought it would be nice to do Legoland for one day. Dan and the boys went to Legoland last fall break and loved it while Sienna and I went to Disney for the day. So, we thought it would be nice to go as a family and also meet Dan’s Parents down there during our visit.  It is only a short drive from their Florida home, and the kids loved getting to see and visit with them, as did they. The kids all had a great time and I loved that they had short lines and lots of rides for the little kids. There were lots of fun roller coasters that all three kids could ride!

 

I failed to mention at the start of this post that we invited my sister Amanda to join us on the trip. She. Is. Wonderful. She was not only a big help, but it was so nice to have her along and connect with her that week since we rarely get to see each other. She is a senior this year, and will be off to college in the fall and we will probably see even less of her. So, she braved the craziness that is our family, and agreed to join us for a week of family (mostly) fun.

We headed down to an amazing house near Ft. Lauderdale after our stay in Orlando. Dan found an amazing place on VRBO again called Waterfront Tropical Oasis. Yes, it is as amazing as it sounds, and I gave it a glowing review after our trip. It was absolutely perfect! This was the first time we didn’t stay on or very close to the beach, but it was still just perfect. Only a few miles from the beach, and so much to do right at the house!  They had kayaks for the waterway right in the back yard, a pool for the kids, floats, grill, tons of seating. They even had bikes if we all wanted to ride, but we didn’t get around to doing that.

This was the first time we had been to Ft. Lauderdale as a family, so there was a bit of a learning curve as to where things are, what is great to do, etc.  We went the first day into town to do a duck tour. We thought it would be a great way to get acquainted with the area. Although their website says nothing of the fact, turns out they closed their Ft. Lauderdale office months ago. So, we wandered the beach instead even though it was super windy and overcast. Then we decided we’d just stay a bit afterall and enjoy the beach and sunshine.

One thing that we didn’t know about Ft. Lauderdale, is how close it is to the florida everglades.  Supposedly, it is a major attraction for the area to go on the air boats in search for alligators. Since we had never done this before, the adventure sounded intriguing. When in Rome, right? So, we found a tour that takes you down there, and organizes the trip on the boat. We had a great time! I can’t lie though, I was a bit scared once we were out there and realized there was only about a foot of metal edge between me and the water where the alligators are. It turned out to be fine, but I was a little on edge in the beginning. Then, before I knew it, the tour was over, and I almost left feeling like it wasn’t long enough. Maybe it was because I was too much in worry-mode to actually enjoy it. Nevertheless, it was a fun experience and one we’ll always remember!

We were so thankful that Amanda graciously watched the kids so that we could have a date night, too.  The last time we did a date night on vacation, it was an absolute disaster. We’re so glad that the kids had someone they knew and loved watch them so that Dan and I could escape our loud super sweet kids and enjoy some time alone.  We went to a fun place called Coconuts, and it was a big hit. I definitely recommend this place if you’re going to the Ft. Lauderdale area. Make sure to order the Scoobies!! They’re known for them. So delish!img_1500

We also just enjoyed time at the house. One night we all at boxed ice cream from the freezer while we warmed our feet in the outside hot tub.  One morning, the kids woke up and immediately got their suits on and swam all morning, and we headed to the beach after that.  I tell you what, it’s been so much easier this trip knowing that we have two boys that can swim rather well. They’re also tall enough to reach the shallow end too, so if they get tired, they don’t need to swim the entire time.  We made lots of great memories just hanging out there, enjoying the pool!

Our last day in Ft. Lauderdale, we discovered Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. After we got there, we were kicking ourselves for not discovering it earlier in our trip. We had just set our directions to take us to Ft. Lauderdale, so it took us further south. This particular area was closer to where we were, and super quaint with stores, lots of seating, very dog friendly, live music, areas for kids to play games, a fishing pier to walk on and soak in the amazing views. It was just an overall fantastic place. We also discovered an amazing ice-cream place called Sloans. Super eclectic and it was fantastic. Exactly what we needed to put the ‘cherry on top’ of our vacation in Ft. Lauderdale!

On our way back to Orlando, we visited with a new addition to the family, Summer Grace Hopkins. My cousin Alisun and a sweet baby girl that we were able to hold and visit with.  We also got a chance to enjoy a nice lunch with Norris and Liane. It was so nice to get to see everyone! What a blessing sweet Summer is!

 

I also snap chatted through our trip. Here are a few snaps that I saved. If you’d like to follow some of my silly-nonsignificant snaps, look me up at schristiansen1

  

Overall, it was a great vacation. There was lots of time to connect with family, and just take it easy and forget the hustle of life. I hope the kids look back on the trip and remember good memories of a fun time together as a family.

11 Years!

It’s hard to believe that we have been married eleven years! When we talk about our early years of marriage it’s such a different life than what we have now.

It’s funny because we’ve been talking to the kids more about some of our travels we did before they were born. Parker was asking about the Eiffel tower and if I had ever been.  Then we got on the subject of scuba diving, and we talked about submarines and helicopter rides that we did in Hawaii many moons ago. Things have changed over the years for sure!

We’ve definitely had some adventures, but have had some hardships as well. One thing remains true. Dan makes me a better person, and I love him more every year that we’re together.

One way we love to connect is travel. We love our kids, and we really enjoy going on trips with them, but there’s something about getting away without the kids that brings us right back to where we were early in our marriage. A time when we were more intentional with our time together, without the interruption of little ones needing our time and attention. This is what we did when we decided to go to Blue Ridge to stay for a few nights.

It was such a great getaway! Dan found this cute little log cabin (another reason why my husband is amazing) that was just perfect. Honestly, if you’re looking for a nice, affordable place to stay near downtown Blue Ridge, this is such a great place. It is a two bedroom overlooking a valley with a view (in the early spring at least), quiet and peaceful, with a great outdoor hot tub.  We were really impressed with the town of Blue Ridge. I had not been there in years, but the shopping was great there. We were very disappointed with downtown Helen last year, even though the place we stayed (Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn and Spa) was nice, the town itself left more to be desired. It was also nice not to have to rush in the morning to get to breakfast. We’ve felt the need to do this at previous B&B’s so we didn’t miss out on the food. With this cabin, we didn’t rush at all. We woke up slow and got to sleep in and it was heavenly! We’d definitely stay there again!

We found a fun trail on our way to Blue Ridge just outside the falls called Fall Creek Falls. It was absolutely beautiful and it had a rocky, mossy enchanted forest feel heading up to the falls. One nice bonus, the path was super quick and easy for a hiker of any skill level. We didn’t want a super long trail because we wanted to get to the cabin and clean up and head to town.

In town, we ate at several Restaurants. All of them were delicious!  My favorite was Harvest on Main. We got a table on their front porch during the day on Saturday for lunch, and they had great food! They menu was different without being too weird. I like weird, but Dan likes familiar! We actually ran into some good friends of ours as we were leaving the restaurant.  It was so fun to be in the exact same place at the same time so far from home! We welcomed the hello from them, and then enjoyed some nice shopping after.  I found myself some super comfortable italian leather shoes from a company called FLEXX and Dan found  a knife store, and git a survival-type collection that had been discontinued, so we were both happy campers. We really enjoyed each other’s company the entire day. It brought me back to being a newlywed!

 We also ate at Blue Ridge Brewery which was also nice, but we didn’t drink their beer, so we can’t really give a full review, although the food we got was tasty. Dan loved their pretzel. I got a blackened trout that was D-lish! We ate breakfast twice at Serenity Garden Cafe. Their food was good, but never had any fresh fruit, which I found pretty odd. I was doing the whole 30 at the time, and really wanted a fruit option. Their food wasn’t bad, the atmosphere could’ve been better, but not bad for a breakfast place.

For our Anniversary evening, we went to Cucina Rustica. It was a little outside of town, but a very nice upscale Italian Restaurant.  How we came to eat at this restaurant is kind-of a neat story. We met an elderly  couple on the streets of downtown Blue Ridge.  They were coming out of a restaurant and we were asking them about good places to eat around the area. We got to talking and come to find out he was Tom Ledford, the town’s county commissioner, and the person who helped get alcohol into the restaurants in Blue Ridge. It was a dry town for a long time! I had no idea that even existed, I mean, sure everywhere was dry back in the day, but this was recently, like within the last ten years. They said you were allowed to “brown bag” wine and bring into restaurants, but the restaurants couldn’t sell it.  So, he recommended his buddy’s place who helped him get elected to the board, and they were ultimately able to pass beer and wine.  I’m glad they recommended the place too, because it was very nice and the food was delicious. I got an appetizer of bacon wrapped lamb and a salad, Dan got a ravioli dish.  I indulged in wine and dessert since it was our anniversary and it was heavenly after over two and a half weeks of being good on the Whole 30! Dan also gave me the sweetest necklace for our anniversary. No hints at all, he picked this out on his own. I will certainly treasure it all the days!

Overall, it was such a nice time of bonding with my sweetie. I truly value our marriage, and I am so glad that God brought us together. He makes me so happy.

Chattanooga Day Trip

We made a last-minute decision to take a day trip up to Chattanooga’s Rock City. We have a season pass that will expire soon, so we decided to take advantage. The kids loved the trails, and we just enjoyed having fun at a new place to change up the scenery! The weather was beautiful, and the views from the mountain are always gorgeous! I am loving the new cooler weather, and I can’t wait for the leaves to change, and for fall to be here! We finished off our trip with a little visit to Cabela’s, an Outdoor store that has fun animals and a fish tank that the kids love. Overall a fun way to enjoy Labor Day weekend.

Memorial Day- Amicalola falls

We enjoyed a fun Memorial day weekend, and having more time home as a family.  We thought it would be fun to go up to Amicalola falls, which is about an hour drive from us.  It is always such a beautiful walk to the falls, and we enjoyed visiting the Inn at the top of the mountain for lunch.  The kids had a great time enjoying nature and it was nice to get out of the house and get outdoors!

Destin Family Vaca 2015

Lots of fun memories made in Destin this year! We stayed at probably one of our favorite places. We stayed at Crystal Dunes on the ground level with a walk out straight to the beach! We try to stay on the water each year, and even though it’s more expensive, it’s just a life saver when you have small kids who whine about having to hold a towel on the way to the beach.  This place wasn’t super luxury, but it was close to everything  and had a decent outdoor pool and hot tub.  We love the larger high rise condos, and mega pools with zero entry but they’re always set pretty far back from the water. This one was nice because even though it didn’t have fancy amenities, it was so nice to be close to the water and just open the sliding door and hear the waves morning, noon and night!


We skipped the last week of school, missing field day and a few other fun events in order to beat the rush, and save money in the process.  The prices skyrocket the following week.  This is the last year we’ll be able to miss school since Parker will be in Kindergarten next year, so we took advantage of it!  The only downside is that with the smaller crowds, sometimes they don’t offer as many boat tours as they do with the larger groups.  So this time instead of doing a snorkel cruise and shelling tour, like we’ve done in years past, we opted to do a pirate cruise since it was offered at a time that worked better for our schedule.  That was really our only scheduled thing that happened during our trip.  That and the date night… and we’ll get to that later.  So, other than the pirate cruise, we just did went to the beach, pool, visited Destin Commons, etc. We asked the kids if they wanted to do the Aquarium, and they didn’t want to. So… we didn’t force it. We just took our time and relaxed at the condo between our beaching, eating, pooling, going to dinner, waking up and repeating…  It was amazing!


As for pictures during our trip… I started to use my DSLR, but then I didn’t want to lug it around, so I mainly used my iPhone 6.  I just didn’t want to risk getting a bunch of sand in it, or not being able to enjoy my time in the water, for fear that it was going to get stolen. So, I left it behind and brought my phone that was more portable and easier to conceal.  I’m also three weeks late in posting this, so I have not edited my photos, but that’s okay!  It’s either I post my unedited photos in all their imperfections, or my posts don’t get done.

One of my very favorite  days of our trip was Mother’s Day.  For obvious reasons, because I felt a little more celebrated and appreciated, but one of the things I really loved was visiting Baytowne Warf.  We found a fun restaurant overlooking the bay, and they had live music. They played some of my favorite beach tunes and the kids were laughing and dancing. It was the best!

The kids really loved the Buccaneer pirate cruise.  We would’ve loved to have done the snorkle cruise where we go shelling, go down to the jetties and ride the kayak, but their timing just wasn’t good during our trip. The pirate cruise was definitely the highlight of the trip in the eyes of the kids. They loved it!  It wasn’t too bad for the parents either since we got to enjoy some adult beverages and just let the kids have fun with several planned activities they had on the boat with the pirates!

We made some great memories during our trip!  The kids did have a few moments of grumpiness that I would credit to the lack of sleep and excitement of the vaca and the expectations that came along with it.  We found a sitter one night to go out to dinner (thanks to a referral from a neighbor who used to live in the area), and Dan and I enjoyed a fun evening alone without the kids in Destin.  We went to McGuire’s Irish pub and ate dinner, had drinks, and then enjoyed a nice walk in Harbor Walk where we had a funny character drawn of us.  When we got home, we found out that the kids were less than well behaved with the sitter.  We were so embarrassed that they didn’t behave.  We of course disciplined them by removing privileges, but we were just really bummed and disappointed that they represented our family in such a bad way.  It’s just a reminder that even when you do the best you can to teach and raise your kids the right way, they’re still just kids, and they are full of sin and mistakes sometimes. So we didn’t dwell on it, we dealt with it and moved on, but it may be the last time we do a sitter on vacation. Especially one that our kids don’t know.

This is probably our last trip to Destin for a while.  We will have a kindergartener next year who will have to abide by ‘normal school’ scheduling.  It’s just so expensive during the summer peak times, so we’re not sure if we’ll be able to swing it for a while. We plan to go to NC and PA next year to visit family and get our beach fix that way, although we know it won’t be the same. We really enjoyed the beach time we had on the Emerald coast. Until we meet again!

Girls Trip to NC

Jess and I didn’t go on a girls trip last year, so we wanted to try to get together this year to hang out and get some time away. We decided it would be fun to go to Wilmington (Jess lives in Charleston) since we haven’t been there since our high school reunion back in 2010. We thought it would be fun to hit up some of our old stomping grounds that we used to frequent as well as relax at Jess’ beach house in the nearby Oak Island. Jess couldn’t get off work as early as she had originally planned to so I ended up meeting up with Rennie, Dad and Christopher for a visit. It worked out perfectly since it had been some time since we saw each other last. Dad made his amazing Louisiana style cajun jumbalaya and it was delicious!

I planned to meet up with Jess later that morning, so I decided it would be fun to catch up with an old friend I have known since elementary school that I went to church with!  My friend Sara go way back and it has been at least 13 years since we’ve seen each other last.  We’ve reconnected on Facebook of course, but due to my tight schedule while I was in town, I was never able to pay her a visit.  Until now!  We enjoyed a delicious breakfast and it was so nice laughing and catching up just like old times again!  Our lives have changed dramatically, however in some ways, we are the still same girls we were from the same ‘ol beach town. IMG_4952Jess and I met up later that morning and we enjoyed catching up downtown walking through stores an grabbing a bite to eat for lunch. One fun fact… We wanted to go to our favorite pizza joint “Slice of Life” and we were so bummed when we arrived to it’s usual spot and saw that it was no longer there and had turned into something different.  How could that be? We asked each other.  It was a favorite throughout the town and certainly our favorite place.  We begrudgingly ate there anyway.  I got a salmon sandwich and Jess got a salad. Not the same as the yummy pizza we had set our minds to, but it would have to do. We left the restaurant with full bellies only to realize that directly across the street from where we were standing was in fact… you guessed it. “Slice of Life”. Ugh. Really? Of course they didn’t close! They just expanded to a bigger building! So… we must partake in the delicious pizza another time but at least we know now that our beloved pizza place hadn’t gone under. We met up with Jess’ Mom and her boyfriend for a delicious dinner that evening.  They suggested Oceanic and I wasn’t going to complain since it was arguably one of the best restaurant in Wrightsville Beach.  We had a tasty dinner with beautiful views and great conversation.  It has been many years since I had seen Jess’ Mom and I really enjoyed talking with her. After Dinner we picked up my brother Chris for a night out.  We had so much fun taking shots, playing pool, bar hopping, dancing, doing some Karaoke.  So much fun! Chris recently turned 21 in February (so crazy how time flies) and it was our first time out on the town together!  He was so fun to have along with us and I’m not sure we’d have as fun of a time without him!

After a late night out, we decided to take it easy the next day, and then drive up to Jess’ beach house in Oak Island.  We were pretty beat so we did a lot of lounging around. I rented a movie from red box, the Nicole Kidman flick “Before I Go To Sleep”.  It was really good. It is very suspenseful and keeps your interest.  After that, we enjoyed a walk on the beach with her sweet dog Ruby and then met up with Jess’ Mom again for dinner in South Port which is pretty close to Oak Island. The next day we decided to go paddle boarding in Davis Creek, a nearby inlet that funnels to the waterway. There were rumors of alligators there, so I was a bit nervous but everything ended up just fine and it was a nice relaxing time in nature.  Just what the doctor ordered! We ended with some shopping in South port in some of their cute shops that had clothing stores, antiques, a lunch by the water and ice cream! Even though sometimes people change and they end up not being who you think they are, it was still a fun trip and can’t wait until I can make it back up to Wilmington again.

Visit to Greenville and Thanksgiving

Playing Catch-up

We had been planning for a few years to visit my brother Spencer, sister-in- law Lisa, and two nephews Zane and Gavin in Greenville, but it just wasn’t easy to make plans with the little ones because there were always naps and the dread of extended time in the car.  However, now that the kids are older, we decided to go for it and make the trip in early November to visit with them and enjoy the weekend.

It was very low-key, and perfect. We visited downtown, had lunch, rolled down the grassy hill with the kids, laughed and talked. The weather was perfect and we had the best time catching up and enjoying time with one another. I look forward to the next time we can visit with them!

 

Thanksgiving this year was pretty typical of years past.  We enjoyed snuggling up with the family on the sofa and watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I made yummy mac and cheese that I got the recipe from here and also mashed potatoes.  We headed over to my Aunt Angie’s house for a family gathering and we had a nice time with the family! The mac and cheese bake was a big hit, so if anyone is looking for a recipe that is both yummy and EASY (I’m all about easy!) then this one comes highly recommended!

The evening of Thanksgiving Quackenshelf (a name Parker gave him when he first came to our home three years ago) arrived and brought the kids PJs. They loved  seeing their old pal, and reading the Elf on the Shelf book in their new jamies!

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It was the best way to start off the holiday season!

Fall Family Vaca in Chattanooga!

We are taking advantage of the kids being in preschool as long as we can and taking vacations during spring and fall instead of when the masses have a summer break. We love Chattanooga. Not only does it have a lot to offer in the way of activities for families, but it’s close. It’s only about 2.5 hours from our house, which makes it a big win in our book!

We had a bumpy start to our trip. Mason had a rash at school that was on his back, arms, and slightly on his legs. We thought it would be best to have him checked out by the doctor before leaving to go out of town in case it was something serious. He said it itched terribly and had a really difficult time resisting scratching it and was pretty uncomfortable. The doctor said she thought it was an allergic reaction to a virus, and asked us to keep him on around the clock benedryl. She said it was fine to resume our planned activities, and to use an over the counter topical steroid if it got too uncomfortable. That evening, it had gotten worse, and he was really bummed that he missed out on going to the pool with Sienna and Parker, but he was a trooper about it. He stayed back with Daddy and played legos together and all was good. However, his rash continued to get worse. We looked online and we read that allergic reactions can get worse, and Dan and I feared a terrible reaction, and had a difficult time sleeping that night. Not to mention that Sienna had a difficult time adjusting to being in a hotel. She DID NOT want to go to bed in her pack and play! After singing, begging, laying her down and patting her back, covering and re-covering… we just had to leave and let her cry for a little bit. We felt horrible, but she didn’t want to be held… she just wanted to run free and not go to sleep. Finally, after about an hour, and fearing that we were going to get kicked out of the hotel, she calmed down and started babbling, then put herself to sleep. Parker was in the room with her and I know he was glad to hear her be quiet! He didn’t complain once, which was great! That night we kept Mason in our room so we could keep a closer eye on him and his rash. We were all so tired anyway and it was just easier to have peace of mind.

The next morning we checked the weather, and there was a chance of rain, but the chance of rain was more over then next few days of our trip, so we decided to take a chance and head over to Rock City. We love Rock City’s Rocktober Fest, and really just all they have to offer. Such a fun attraction!

We were surprised that the trail was fairly kid friendly.  We remembered being there last November, and there were some areas that were just too hard for us with how little the kids were, but now that they’re older it’s a little easier.  Sienna was in the backpack carrier for part of the time, but there were several caves and paths that were just fine for her to roam around on. The area that made me the most nervous was where they had the little bridges with sides that only came up to my knees at best! Way too low for little ones!  One thing we thought was really fun was that the boys got little maps at the beginning, and they were told to get little stickers from certain stations on the map… one being a fun troll. Then they were to go on the Enchanted Trail and find the fairy and get a special surprise if they showed her the map with all the stickers. All three kids got a fun pinwheel! They just loved it.

We also saw a new area this time, Mother Goose’s Cave (not sure the official name), and it was a black-light themed storybook village with a fun little miniature area that the kids loved! We left out of a different area and completely missed that fun section last time we visited!