Prepping for a Girls Trip

Most will agree, as we get older our lives become more complicated. With work, children, relationships and other life obligations finding time to spend with friends can be difficult. It can be near impossible when your best friends live all over the country. However, I strongly believe the  best way to reconnect to your true self and therefore being the best version of yourself is to make time to see those who know you at your core. For me, this is my friends. I have a small group of friends from growing up, college and now living in Dallas. I treasure these relationships and do not take them for granted. I may not talk to them every day but they are "my people".

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My college friends and I have started a tradition, no matter what is going on in our lives we get together every other year. This sounds like nothing but it is very hard for all of us to leave our families and or jobs. Narrowing down a date is the first step in a long planning process. Once we FINALLY do that (the hardest part), location is next. 

For me, the hardest part is still to come. Prepping my husband to watch our three kids for 2 nights. He is a great dad, but I definitely do the most with the kids, so I have to pass along all my expertise to him. Basically I tell him to have a great time waking up 5 times every night :) 

Next, the fun part- packing! I love packing cute outfits that don't have to be kid friendly! I get to break out the small purses (no diapers!) and fun tops that won't have runny noses wiped all over them and cute dresses that won't be tugged on! Check out some of the fun things I am bringing! 

Shop the post below!

I compiled some simple, outfits that I tend to shy away from when hanging with my kids! 

I compiled some simple, outfits that I tend to shy away from when hanging with my kids! 

This is a denim jumpsuit from Target's Who What Wear collection (similar), my go to packable J Crew hat and my favorite small Tory Burch bag (this color combo is sold out, similar here)

This is a denim jumpsuit from Target's Who What Wear collection (similar), my go to packable J Crew hat and my favorite small Tory Burch bag (this color combo is sold out, similar here)

Cutest Target dress! And Target straw clutch (similar)

Cutest Target dress! And Target straw clutch (similar)

I shy away from white shirts that need to be dry-cleaned when with my kids, so it's time to break it out of my closet! This is J Crew holiday, but a cute option is here. This Rebecca Minkoff bag is great- it can be worn as a clutch or cross body. The Kate Spade card holder works as the perfect sized wallet. 

I shy away from white shirts that need to be dry-cleaned when with my kids, so it's time to break it out of my closet! This is J Crew holiday, but a cute option is here. This Rebecca Minkoff bag is great- it can be worn as a clutch or cross body. The Kate Spade card holder works as the perfect sized wallet. 

Daily Life

As I sit down to write this post, it will not be a breakdown of my daily calendar but instead focus on figuring out a decent daily routine that makes sense for both my family and me. 

I am living in Dallas. I want to be living in California, but that is not in cards right now. However, I must admit Dallas has been pretty good to me. Amazing people, schools, lifestyle and most importantly the best friends I could ask for. One thing it does not offer me, is my career back. It has been a huge struggle to find a balance of life as a stay at home mom and the person I used to be. I have come to terms with the fact I will not be going back to work until we move back to California but what do I do in the meantime? 

Well, that is where this blog comes into play. I love writing, I love all things related to fashion, lifestyle and travel. So I decided that instead of reading about other people's adventures, I would write about my own. I am treating this blog as a full time commitment because it encourages me to think outside the box and try new things. So basically I am a full time blogger not making a penny :) I have a few kind strangers who follow me on social media, but mostly my biggest fans are still friends and family. I do it for myself, and hope others enjoy!

So, I write. I write in-between naps, fights, meltdowns, and mealtimes. I am learning more and more everyday and I love getting creative juices flowing again! 

I am old school. I write everything down. Notes, calendar, everything! Rifle Paper Co makes the cutes stuff! 

I am old school. I write everything down. Notes, calendar, everything! Rifle Paper Co makes the cutes stuff! 

This sums up daily life as well. Try and get ANYTHING done with this little guy, I dare you. 

This sums up daily life as well. Try and get ANYTHING done with this little guy, I dare you. 

Summer Travel with Kids, a Surviver's Guide

The promise of this view is what will get me through that long flight! 

The promise of this view is what will get me through that long flight! 

I want to start by saying that I am so excited for my family's upcoming European summer vacation. We are headed to Ireland where we will meet Dan's parents and stay at their family farm house. It is such a special place and I am so grateful for the experience. However, the best part will be leaving our kids with his parents for one week while we jet off to Italy! Now, here is the inevitable bad news- you can't drive to Europe. In fact to get there you must take a brutal 10 hour flight. It is made even more brutal because we will have three kids, aged 5 and younger tagging along :) Below I highlight some of the items that helped the last time we tackled this trip, I hope they help. And yes, one is a fanny pack...

1. Snacks for kids. I know this is obvious, but I mean load up. Load up on "special" snacks. That means give them juice and candy. All the crap you normally say no to, give in. We had no issues with "sugar highs", they just thought it was so unbelievable they were being handed starbursts from their parents. We thought it was unbelievable that it entertained them for an hour. I do however pack healthy, sustaining foods as well. I like to pack the "boring" food in cute food pouches, so that it still feels like a treat.

2. Entertainment. The first time we traveled a long distance with the entire family, I packed everything AND the kitchen sink. Everything, no matter how I tried, got disorganized and we ended up using practically nothing. Less, is more in this category. A good set of headphones to watch movies is a must! My kids love binge watching on their favorite shows, so I load up the iPad with the favorites, and try to make sure they haven't seen the episodes previously. Next, my favorite is the ever so popular Water Wow's. They are genius, no ink, just water and loads of fun. This trip, I am going to give these plastic bubble blowers a try, they look so cool! The last item we bring is one new toy. I let each kid chose a toy from Target that must be saved for the airplane. The only rule it must be silent and small enough to fit in their backpacks

3. Hands Free. I can't stress this enough. I love Herschel backpacks, they are so cute and yet beyond practical. I have a large one that I can stuff all my carry on needs plus diapers, etc. The kids each have one as well. They put them under their seats for easy access to all previously mentioned entertainment items. Lastly, and I hope I don't lose you with this one, BUT I got a Herschel fanny pack and I LOVE it. I can stuff everyone's passports, and essential items that I might need at a moments notice. Don't judge, just embrace :)

Hope some of this helps! 

My New Favorite Etsy Store

Everyone loves Etsy, there are so many unique, one of a kind finds. I have been searching for a cute straw beach bag. I love the french market bag style, but couldn't find one I was in love with. I came across the Etsy store, French Baskets. I want every single one of the hand made Moroccan baskets. My problem right now is I can't decide which to get (help!) and I need to act fast since they ship from Morocco. I will definitely be taking advantage of the shop's Mother's day coupon code MDFR2017, 10% off on all baskets. Below are some of my favorites from the store, but you will want to check out their entire inventory- soo cute! 

I am learning towards this one ^ right above, so cute and simple but still very original. 

Casual Weekend Style (Mom Edition)

We had a nice weekend, Cinco de Mayo and The Kentucky Derby kept us busy with "parties". The word party sure means something different with three kids, but we had a great time with friends. It was SO beautiful in Dallas this weekend, so we took advantage with a quick picnic lunch. It is just a matter of time before the heat and mosquitos become unbearable! I try and keep things comfortable, simple and washable with everything I wear. It is definitely a balance to find things I want to wear but make sense for my lifestyle. One thing I will always have with me is a MZ Wallace bag. A must for everyday mom style! I will talk more about my obsession with their bags again :) 

I bought this J Crew hat, because you can pack it without ruining it, talk about practical! This Monrow tank is lightweight and goes with everything! Joie makes the best sandals, these are my go to! 

I bought this J Crew hat, because you can pack it without ruining it, talk about practical! This Monrow tank is lightweight and goes with everything! Joie makes the best sandals, these are my go to! 

This Michele watch is amazing! Super durable and causal but still so attractive! 

This Michele watch is amazing! Super durable and causal but still so attractive! 

I love this charm I added to my wrap bracelet (similar) - the initials of everyone in my family. 

I love this charm I added to my wrap bracelet (similar) - the initials of everyone in my family. 

This monogramed bag is a cooler (similar options)- perfect for summer and the pool! This Target skirt is sooo comfortable and the length is perfect! 

This monogramed bag is a cooler (similar options)- perfect for summer and the pool! This Target skirt is sooo comfortable and the length is perfect! 

MZ Wallace makes the best purses, casual, practical and gorgeous! 

MZ Wallace makes the best purses, casual, practical and gorgeous! 

I love my Mark and Graham initial bracelets. A bracelet with each kid's first initial. Accept for Nora, she has her whole name printed :) Love this red MZ Wallace bag, can be worn three ways. 

I love my Mark and Graham initial bracelets. A bracelet with each kid's first initial. Accept for Nora, she has her whole name printed :) Love this red MZ Wallace bag, can be worn three ways. 

And, the ultimate action shot! Nora going for the nose and not pictured is Jack with a huge stick I a grabbing for...

And, the ultimate action shot! Nora going for the nose and not pictured is Jack with a huge stick I a grabbing for...

The Poor Man's Madewell

$14!!!!!!!

$14!!!!!!!

I love shopping at Madewell. It wasn't until recently that I fully discovered the store and now I pretty much want everything in it. The simplistic quality of their clothes is what I want to live in. Being a stay at home mom I want cute and casual. That being said, the store is not cheap and to buy everything I want would be a bit excessive. 

I have a fun Facebook page, Amazon Finds where I post good deals, or products I love. I thought it would be fun to put an Amazon list of Madewell inspired clothes for a fraction of the cost. Nothing in the store is more than $100. Through this fun project I discover the brand, James and Erin- it is legit! Inexpensive, and quality material.

If you love Madewell, or just love cute everyday clothes, have fun checking this out!

Amazon Finds Madewell Cheat Store

Also, a link to some of may favorites from Madewell (you can see the similarities!)

Decorating A Rental on a Budget

I finally feel like I have some free time to start writing again. We just finished up moving into a new rental. Jack is going to kindergarten next year and the new house is in the school district we want him to attend.

Finding a rental this time was not as simple as it was before, mostly because we had strict boundaries. We live in Lakewood, a very cute section of Dallas but rentals can be too expensive, too old, or just way too small. I found a rental with a great location, surrounded by beautiful houses, walking distance to the school but the house itself was not well maintained.

I decided I was up for the challenge in making the same livable. After all it is just a rental, and the location is great and the house is affordable. Below are some tips I found useful for making the house look cute. I stayed to a relatively small budget, and made some real improvements.

Before moving in we didn't negotiate monthly rent but the condition of the house. We agreed to pay what they were asking if they fixed up the house. We wanted the entire house (inside and out) painted, a window replaced, a deep cleaning, remove a built in kitchen table and a few other small jobs. The landlord agreed to all requests. Not all landlords will, but it is worth asking.

This house is about 1000 square feet bigger than our first rental, so I need some furniture and decor items- pretty much my favorite things to shop for (besides shoes). However, I was not free to buy whatever I wanted. I needed to stay on a budget for two main reasons: 1. This is a rental and 2. When we move to a more permanent place most of this stuff will probably not come with us.

Here is how I stayed on a budget:

- I used Facebook yard sale groups for buying furniture. I bought a Ballard Design bench, Crate and Barrel tables and Land of Nod toy storage bins for a fraction, and I mean fraction of the cost.

- Target, of course Target. They have such cute and simple decor items (many listed below) I bought a lot on Target.com- I find there is more of a selection online, great sales and a lesser chance people will walk into my house and feel like they are in aisle 7 of the store.

- Plants! Plants are such a great way to decorate; they take up space, cover walls and can be super cheap. I didn’t buy some of my favorite plants, or the most amazing indoor trees. They were way too pricey and I did not want to invest in them. Instead, I went to Home Depot and bought what was on sale. The double benefit of loading up on plants is their ability to purify the air. This old house needed that.

- For pictures I bought mostly from Target, or found digital downloads on Etsy and bought cheap frames

Overall, I am happy with the outcome. It is not my forever home, but it works for now!

The first set of pictures are the before (thankfully)

 

Below are my updates:


       

Becoming an Iron Chef

The awesome set up by Sprouts at Tre Wilcox Cooking Concepts ( photo credit: Allison Jordan)

The awesome set up by Sprouts at Tre Wilcox Cooking Concepts ( photo credit: Allison Jordan)

It has been awhile since I last wrote, and it feels good to be back. For the last couple of months I have taken on a position as contributing writer to the Dallas Mom's Blog (DMB). It has a very strong following here in Dallas and I am really enjoying writing for them and getting to know the other contributors.

A recent opportunity that came up, which I was lucky enough to attend was a cooking night with celebrity chef Tre Wilcox. He is such a fantastic guy with a resume to impress! He was on Top Chef, Top Chef All Stars and Iron Chef just to name a few- I mean, I have lived on those shows, along with many of my friends reading this :) He now owns Tre Wilcox Cooking Concepts, which caters events, hosts cooking classes, and leads team building events. The night played out like an episode of Iron Chef. I was pumped, clueless, but pumped! We had 45 minutes, and a set list of ingredients that must be incorporated into two meals. I felt like I should run around the kitchen screaming at people about what to do next, but that didn't quite happen--much to my dismay. I realized that I am clueless in the kitchen. I lack creativity but I do not lack motivation! One of the "must use" ingredients was balsamic vinegar. After getting advice AND directions from my awesome team, I was appointed the person in charge of making a balsamic reduction. FYI, I make a killer reduction now that I know what it is!

Tre Wilcox doing his thing! ( photo credit: Allison Jordan)

Tre Wilcox doing his thing! ( photo credit: Allison Jordan)

We had a fantastic night, my team did not win the competition but we went down with a fight. I met some fantastic women that night who motivated me to learn to cook. I think I will have to return to the Tre Wilcox Cooking Concepts and feed this new passion- no pun intended. I will also start doing my grocery shopping at Sprouts. They sponsored and supplied all the cooking ingredients for the night. Not only was that incredibly generous, but the food was incredibly fresh. Has anyone shopped at Sprouts? I have many friends that do, and rave about it, I can't wait to start!

The last highlight of the night (besides the amazing meal and dessert provided) was a very interesting presentation by Robin Plotkin a registered dietician and contributing blogger for The Dallas Morning News. She spoke about the importance of hydration. This is a topic incredibly important in my life right now. I am nine months pregnant living in Dallas in the middle of summer. I need to stay hydrated, for myself and for my baby- dehydration can bring on preterm labor- no thank you! Robin gave some really great examples of how to jazz up water, and infuse it with not only fruit, but vegetables and herbs. Did you know avocados are high in water?? I didn't think so.

Robin setting up her fantastic presentation on the importance of staying hydrated. ( photo credit: Allison Jordan)

Robin setting up her fantastic presentation on the importance of staying hydrated. ( photo credit: Allison Jordan)

I Cheated...

I am cheating; my husband knows and in fact encouraged it.  I am pregnant with my third child, and although this pregnancy was planned, it feels really different. It feels like I am cheating on the two little people that I love more than life, my son and daughter. I have a healthy boy and girl, why do I need another? Well, because I want one.

My desire to have a large family has existed since day one. I grew up as an only child and always wondered what a large family would feel like—and now I will know.  I sometimes feel the need to defend my decision to expand my family. People tend to automatically accept a third child when your first two are of the same gender—clearly you must be trying for your first boy/girl. Then what is my excuse? Well, I don’t need one and don’t have one. That being said, I still wonder how I will handle the change of having two of the same gender. I can no longer say, “ You are my favorite little boy/girl in the world”. Now someone will be one of my favorites. That is a small but daunting change coming my way and while it seems insignificant the idea has blown my mind.

It is harder for me to get excited about the birth of my third child in the way I did with my first and second. I don’t need any cute baby clothes, strollers, accessories-- nothing. I have it all, and then some. This time around, to add some variety my husband and I decided not to find out the gender. That is the hardest thing in the world for this girl who used to secretly unwarp Christmas presents to ruin the surprise. It drives my friends and family nuts, but I refuse to change my mind. I have people guessing the gender based on every old wives tale in the book, however my doctor swears to me they hold no truth. For those wondering this baby’s heart rate comes in in the high 160’s, but as my doctor says, “tell those people certain you are having a girl they have a 50% chance of being right.“

All I know is life will be crazy with three kids, I have no idea how I will handle it. When I think about it for too long I get very overwhelmed but I remind myself I felt this way before my daughter and son were born. Life is always crazy, no matter your circumstances so I just know that we will make it work. We will stop at three kids, so this will be my last baby. There is a level of sadness and excitement that follows that reality. I very much look forward to meeting this baby and receiving the surprise of a lifetime in the delivery room, giving this baby a birth story that can rival not even that of my firstborn.

 

Holiday Cards from Tiny Prints

I am not the person who sends out holiday cards, in fact I have only done it twice. The first time was my first holiday as a married couple and the second was Jack's first Christmas. Other than that... nada. This does not make my friends and family very happy with me. They always send the best cards, and they get nothing from me. NOT THIS YEAR! I have searched the web, and found the best looking holiday cards around. I strongly recommend Tiny Prints. All of their cards are unique and very good quality. Below are some of my favorite cards to choose from, including a sneak peak at my own card that I just ordered!

Currently Tiny Prints is offering up to 40% ( ends 11/22) off and free shipping on their holiday cards-- so get to it! However, if you miss this deal there will be a great Black Friday deal where EVERYTHING will be 40% off-- and they have amazing gifts as well!

I recommend spending some time checking out the Tiny Prints website. They sell so much more than just paper goods. There are many cool gifts to find-- we all know personalized gifts are perfect for grandparents-- hello picture books-- at 50% off! Something that I would love to receive as a gift this year is personalized stationery... not sure if this makes me old, but I think it would be pretty cool... it would make me feel fancy.

Here is the card I went with this year. Now, before anyone accuses me for favoring one child over the other, I should mention these were the ONLY decent photos I had of the kids, and Nora's looked best on the front :)

 

Some other favorites...

 

An Etsy Gift Guide

It's that time of year again... everywhere you look there is a gift guide!  I love giving gifts, and I take it pretty seriously. I comprised my list solely of items you can buy on Etsy. I love Etsy; most everything is one of a kind and shows the thought you put into finding a unique gift.

Here is a breakdown of some of my favorite things, nothing is too expensive and everything I listed are gifts that I will give to others, or things I want to buy for myself :) If anything catches your eye, just click on the picture and you will be directed the Etsy store!

For Kids

For the ladies

For the fellas

other fun stuff

For Teachers and Friends!

 

Affordable Art

I love art, I mean, who doesn’t? I know what I like, and of course most of what I like is almost always way out of my budget.  However, being out of budget is rarely a roadblock for me—I love the challenge of getting what I want for a fraction of the price. You have to be creative, and open-minded but usually you can come close to the exact item you want.

Below are a few examples of what I am talking about…

I love Gray Malin; he is a fantastic photographer that I have mentioned before. He takes the most basic of backgrounds and completely changes them with his brilliant creativity. The picture that I am basically obsessed with is from his Prada Marfa series. The print of I want is out of my budget, so I was on a mission to recreate it the best I could on a budget. I was very lucky to have a friend visit Marfa, Texas and snap a picture of the mock Prada store that stands alone in the desert. I had my friend send me a high resolution copy of the picture, sent it to Walgreens, printed a 11X14 print for $10, bought a $20 frame from target and voilà fantastic art—close to what I originally wanted for a fraction of the cost.

My advice to you is take pictures on your own, or have friends take pictures when they travel and ask for the prints. It is a fantastic way to have one of a kind art that once framed looks like a million bucks.

My kids love to paint (this is good paper and paint), when I am up for it, I will let them! However, they are always painting at school. Some of the things they bring home go straight into the recycling (don’t tell) but some are perfect for framing… and there you have it… free modern art! I keep some of my favorite art pieces from my kids, find a nice frame and instantly you have what appears to be “real art”. FYI- this is also a fantastic gift for grandparents.

 

I also recommend checking out Etsy. There are tons of fantastic art pieces that you can download and print yourself—that cost usually around $10-$20. Then all you do is frame, and you have again found a way to save a few bucks.

My last piece of advice is look through old art of your parents, friends, thrift shops, etc. and if you somewhat like them, take them/ buy them for cheap and reframe them yourself. It is amazing the difference a decent frame and can do.

I will splurge for beautiful art pieces eventually, but I am not there yet. Until then I will keep finding ways to make my own!


Some Things to Explore...

I wanted to pass along some of things that I think are worth exploring...

Into Thin AirThis is a book by Jon Krakauer about climbing Everest and the devestaion that occurred during his climbing experience back in 1996. The moving Everest is loosely based on his book, although he would disagree that the movie did not accurately portray the event. Dan and I recent saw the movie, and those who know me, know I love a good adventure film. The story facisntes me. I strongly recommend reading Into Thin Air. Actually, I recommend anything by Krakauer, but inparticalur check out this unbelievable story about tragedy and survival. 

Check out this super cute, rustic feeling home store. This "General Store" even sells cute cleaning items, like scrubbing brushes and dust pans-- you would almost want to display them... as backwards as that feels! 

I have really enjoyed discovery the blog, Cup of Jo. the creator, Joanna Goddard is a mom of two boys living in Brooklyn, and her blog covers everything forms kid stuff, style, design, and food. I get lost reading this blog, I feel like it relates to my life almost entirely-- accept that I am extremely jealous that she gets to live in NYC. This article about deciding to have a third child, or not, was especially interesting to me. A warning: Do not read this before bed, I always end up going to bed two hours later than planned because I lose track of time :)

My good friend Alice just took a weekend trip to Marfa, Texas. For those of you who do not know Marfa (which is most people) it is an out of the way artist haven in the middle of nowhere Texas. It is truly a facisnating place, read about it here. I am obsessed with Gray Malin's Prada Marfa series, but the prints are definitely pricy. Alice saved the day! She took fantastic pictures of exactly what I wanted! I think the below photo ( by Alice) sums up Texas perfectly, I can not wait to frame it and proudly display it! 


For My Small Footed Friends

I hope this post serves you well, my small feet buddies! I feel like I stubbled upon the jackpot... some may have already known about this, but I JUST learned about adults buying kid shoes. I am not talking about running around with a picture of Thomas the Train on my tennis shoes, I mean saving real money on legit labels! 

The basics ( as explained to me by the Nordstrom KIDS shoe sales associate) if you wear a women's size 6, you can wear a big kid size 4 ( which isn't even the biggest size) if you wear a women's 7 or supposedly 8, you can get a children's 5. I have my doubts that all women 8's would fit in kids shoes, but in rain boots, I bet there is a good chance! Below is some research I did for kid shoes I would be proud to wear, especially because they are basically HALF the cost of almost the same women's shoe.. Just click on the link to be taken to the shoe. P.S. I bought Navy Hunter Rain Boots in a kid's size 4, and they fit perfectly-- the height is great too :) So, if you wear a women's 6 or 7, check out the kids department (without shame) and save some money!




My Art Closet

Mom guilt is a real thing, anyone can tell you and it can sneak up in the most unexpected ways.  Mine is in the form of art supplies… let me explain…

Nora loves art, her teachers tell me, I see it at home and she will scream bloody murder being pushed down the art supply aisle in Target when she cant touch everything. Loving art is great, what isn’t so great? Drawing on the walls, floors and clothes. As you can guess, this is what Nora does… all the time. It is such a problem, that I can no longer keep any art supply out without careful monitoring. This is a huge pain; I am at the point of locking everything up until I have the energy/desire to take it out for a supervised coloring time. I feel terrible and guilty about this, because I want her to do what she loves, and I want her to learn how to use everything appropriately.

Currently I have everything jammed in a cabinet, and it takes forever to find everything we need. The crayons are mixed with markers and paint. Part of the reason I never want to take the time to get everything ready is because it is such a process to find everything.

So… mom guilt won (like always) and I cleaned out the art cabinet. Now things are easy and convenient to grab, which makes my life easier and Nora’s chances of coloring a million times more likely.

Some recommendations I have after going through this tedious process:

  1. Invest in crayons that don’t break easily, like these or these. I found so many pieces of crayon that are too small to hold and of course just end of in Nora’s mouth
  2. If you use play-doh, get the tiny travel size ones (they are also great for taking to restaurants!). This way when tops aren’t on properly, you aren’t losing that much
  3. Watercolors and toddlers are not that bad! They clean up easily, and it’s a good way to start learning about color mixing. However, only paint on THICK paper!!!
  4. Find containers for all of your supplies, and only get supplies you will use. The more organized and easy to grab, the more likely you will use them. I used an old utensil holder that I had in the garage... it works perfectly to hold all the crayons, pencils and markers. 

Now that I am all organized, I promised myself that I will take the time to color with both kids at least a few times a week. Hopefully soon I can let Nora do it on her own… because shockingly, coloring is not always my idea of a good time, and coloring is supposed to be a prefect quiet INDEPENDENT activity :) 

My Memberships...

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Until I moved to Texas, I never held a membership to anywhere but a gym… and that rarely got any use. Now, I am basically a cardholder to all the major kid attractions in town. Not working, and dealing with pretty crappy weather year round makes you have to find every indoor place or heavily shaded outdoor venue that can entertain a kid with still allowing them to get their energy out. I have listed below all the places I hold memberships, and the details and thoughts about each one. I am only voicing my own opinions… I thought I should mention that, because I am going to be brutally honest. Before I go into the places I DO belong to, I will mention the two places I decided not join/never join again.

I did not join the Dallas Zoo. I am just not a zoo person… I really want to be, because I know kids love this kind of stuff, but I honestly cant stand it. To me zoos are hot, smelly and super annoying. I have close friends who feel the exact opposite and love the zoo and their memberships. If you are a “ zoo person” the Dallas zoo is fantastic, I think comparable to the San Diego Zoo, which is pretty fantastic—even I can admit that!

I will never join the Dallas Aquarium again. I am from Northern California and when you say, “let’s go to the aquarium” I think Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is amazing place. Truly majestic with fish and other sea life, and I now know that nothing compares. When I first moved here, it was January and freezing. I was desperate for something to do with Jack (Nora was not born yet) so we went to the aquarium. It was not impressive, and it was more like an aquarium/zoo/ bird conservatory… not my thing. However, it was inside and I thought I could suck it up and come often… for no other reason but to get out of the house (I was wrong, I went once.) The membership was pricey but entrance was too. An adult ticket is $20+tax and kids over 2 are $15+tax and a membership for an entire household is $150+tax… this will get two adults and all your kids in. All in all, not worth renewing for me, actually wasn’t worth ever joining, but hey… you live and learn

Ok… on to the places I did join and what I love about them!

Dallas Arboretum: This might be my favorite place in Dallas; it is beautiful all year. The grounds are meticulously cared for, and the beauty of the flowers, waterfalls with the backdrop of White Rock Lake make you feel like you have been whisked away to Hawaii for the day. There are plenty of open green fields that you can picnic on, bring food AND booze and just relax in the SHADE from all of the beautiful trees. We have picnicked and brought a football just let Jack entertain himself running around. The Arboretum transforms every season, right now there are thousands of pumpkins and fall entertainment, soon there will be holiday decorations, we just came out of summer, the time to buy tickets to the outside concerts on the lake.  All this greatness is just the main garden, not the amazing children’s area. The children’s area is second to none, especially in the summer. There is a fabulous shaded area for kids to play in water, sand and run around. It is so beautiful, never too crowded and the bathrooms for changing kids are SO clean and SO nice. I really can not say enough great things about the place. The only negative is the price. Without a membership this place can add up. Parking alone can cost up to $15 (if you buy online you can get a deal for $8).  It was a no brainer for me to buy a family membership, $175 for a one year family plus membership. This is not cheap, but you get a lot: free parking, all family members get free admission, up to 6 guests with every visit, discounted concert tickets and free entrance into the children’s garden (otherwise there is an additional fee). I will renew this membership until I leave Texas.

Nora playing in the Children's Garden

Nora playing in the Children's Garden

Flight Museum: If the Arboretum is my favorite outdoor place in Dallas, this is my favorite indoor place. Anyone who follows me on Instagram, knows I spend many days here. There is something about the flight museum that brings me back to my grandparents. It might be because the place is full of very cool WW11 airplanes, or because the volunteers all look like grandparents, but I feel at home when I come here… that might just because it has basically turned into a home! The museum is large, very clean and never too full. When we go, we have a routine. We start in the room with all the airplane memorabilia and huge airplanes/helicopters for viewing, then we head over to the play area which is a kids dream. There are airplanes to climb on, houses to play in, and lots of room to run. This play area has never been too crowded, unless you go on a Saturday afternoon (it is a popular birthday party venue) we go often after school, and sometimes we are the only ones there… fantastic! A family membership is $75 for a year. Which a great deal considering an adult ticket is $10.

Children's Aquarium at Fair Park: Again, this place is not comparable to the type of aquarium I am used to, but I love this place! It is tiny, and has a nice little selection of fish. There is a “Nemo Tank” which Jack loves watching all the “Nemos” swim around. I have never been when it is very crowded; I can let Jack and Nora run from fish tank to fish tank without worrying if I will lose them. I always bring a picnic lunch and sit outside by the water before going home. This is a great outing for needing to kill an hour or two. Membership for each individual adult is $20/year and kids over 3 are $15/year. SUCH a deal considering an adult day ticket is $8!!

Eating lunch outside the aquarium

Eating lunch outside the aquarium

Perot Museum: This is band new to me. I felt like we needed something new. I think this will be our Wednesday, after swim lesson venue. The Perot is a full blown, world renowned museum. It is huge; I think 5 levels. It is almost overwhelming to try and do it all in a day, especially with young kids. However, it is very pricey so you feel the pressure to see everything before going home. Parking alone is $8, when you are a member is still $3, but it’s better! An adult ticket is $17 and child over two is $11, so one visit cost us $36, and that was without Dan. I decided it was worth joining for $110/year, especially because the children’s section of the museum is fantastic! There is a well monitored, closed in, very clean 0-5 year old children’s museum that kids can just run free, color, check out lizards, play with water, I mean… its amazing. Having a membership means for me that I can go for an hour to the large museum or children’s area, and not feel like I have any pressure to see it all, and the kids can really take the time to enjoy… and learn!

My suggestions for acquiring memberships are simple. Be sure you love the place, and it isn’t just a one hit wonder; be sure the drive isn’t too far from where you live. Much like a gym, if it is inconvenient you will not go! Lastly, check out if the place you are joining has any deals with other museums. Often a membership at one place will get you in free or discounted at another! Oh, and if you have any friends who are members, ask them to bring you along, many memberships include guest passes. This is a free way to check out the venue before joining!! And, free is always good… right Dan?



My New Finds

I am going to start with something we recently bought from Amazon, which has made a HUGE difference in the quality of life in the McDonough house. We just purchased a kid "alarm clock". The clock tells your kid when it is appropriate to get out of bed. When the clock is highlighted  blue, they "must" stay in bed. When the clock is highlighted yellow, it is time to get up. GAME CHANGER!   Jack has never been a great sleeper, we have to lay with him to go to sleep at night and he wakes in the middle of the night to come into bed with us. That was BEFORE... Now, he only gets out of bed when the clock says he can.  I must say that Jack loves rules, so this really helps when trying to get a kid to buy into this, but our bedtime routine has turned into a dream. I read him a book before bed, say goodnight and look at the sleeping bunny highlighted in blue on the clock and that is his cue to go to sleep and not get out of bed. I let him read a few books on his own in bed, but he never gets up. The best part is I am no longer  laying with him for an hour waiting for him to fall asleep and then quietly sneak out of his room, hoping not to make a sound. In addition, the middle of the night is no longer an issue. He wakes in the middle of the night, sees that the bunny is still sleeping and highlighted blue and then goes back to bed-- he DOES NOT come into our bed. We have the "sun" set to rise on the clock around 6am, so anytime after that he is free to get out of bed. I was not sure that this clock was worth the investment (almost $50) but it is worth every cent... even Dan agrees, which is almost unheard of...

My next finds are recent kid books I purchased. Not only am I sick of reading the same books over and over every night but many of our books are starting to be too young for Jack. I just bought Dragons Love Tacos, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, and The Wonderful Things You Will Be A warning that the last two books listed might bring a tear to your eye... not in a sad way, just really sweet books. I love The Wonderful Things You Will Be so much that I am reading it to Jack's class on my assigned reading day. I really recommend these books if you are looking to add anything to your home library!

Why not...

I have never had too many hobbies. Mostly because I never had that much time to dedicate to something besides work, family or friends. Now that is different, and I have found something I enjoy doing-- making candles!

Both kids go to "school" three days/week. This time is my golden time- I can get everything done without having to drag them along on boring errands. However, there is definite down time. I use the time to run errands, workout and recently I have started looking into volunteer opportunities at local schools, but have not solidified exactly what I want to do. In the meantime, I am filling my "down time" with candle making. I mentioned before that I love candles, and now I found out that I love making them. 

Every Sunday (to avoid football) I make a few candles. Candles have started adding up, so I decided to open an Etsy store and sell them... now, I don't expect to be on Shark Tank anytime soon, but it is a fun feeling seeing some possibility, and I feel productive with my new found time. I also have them up on my blog to buy as well-- Im such an entrepreneur :) Hope you enjoy checking them out, my friends and family can be pretty sure what they will be getting for holiday gifts this year...

PS. Let me know if you need a candle making lesson :)

Channeling my Inner Martha

This past weekend, I channeled my inner Martha Stewart. I decided that I wanted to have a go at making one of my favorite items...candles. Candles are one of my favorite gift items. I give them for housewarmings, teacher gifts, and pretty much everything else. I give them mostly because I love receiving them, but they are pricey and not something I usually buy for myself. My favorite candles are in the $50-$60 range. Sooo, I thought I would MAKE my own- save some money and have some fun!

The process was really easy. I watched a quick video on YouTube about making soy candles, and tried to follow it... wasn't perfect, but I really enjoyed it!

Here's what went down in my kitchen, all while my husband watched the UCLA game...

All my supplies were bought them at Michaels, which was convenient... but not cost efficient. Next time, I will buy in bulk online.

one pound of wax melting down. 

one pound of wax melting down. 

I bought lavender essential oil at the grocery store to add as fragrance. as you can see, i did not do a great job with keeping the wick straight. practice makes perfect, next time i will get it :)

I bought lavender essential oil at the grocery store to add as fragrance. as you can see, i did not do a great job with keeping the wick straight. practice makes perfect, next time i will get it :)

the final product. I printed lables at home

the final product. I printed lables at home

it works!

it works!

My Idea of News...