Travel

Oklahoma Travel: Science Museum Oklahoma

Every summer, our church runs a program called Tuesdays Out, which is similar to a Mother’s Day Out. The children (elementary-aged) are dropped off and they do a variety of activities or go on a field trip. The last Tuesday Out of each summer is usually an out-of-town day trip. This year, we went to Science Museum Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma Science Museum is one of our favorite places to go in our capital city. My mom traveled with us this year and we had a great day of fun and exploration! There are tons of interactive exhibits, play areas, a planetarium, and live science demonstrations. Check out our photos to see what we love to do at this wonderful place.

 

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We take this shot every time we go!
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Fun water play section
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The tornado simulator.  As you can see, my youngest loves it.  Haha
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This area is all about movement.  There are gymnastic beams and mats, a little climbing wall, and a track for the kids to race.
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Checking out the pilot’s seat
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A fun tilting marble maze
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Walking the tightrope–he was so good at it!
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This slingshot game is one of the boys’ favorite attractions.

 

Science Museum Oklahoma is located right next to the Oklahoma City Zoo, which we also love to visit.  If you were planning on visiting both on the same day, I would suggest hitting the zoo in the morning for 3 hours or so and then heading over to the science museum for lunch and to play for the rest of the afternoon.

For prices and hours of operations, visit https://www.sciencemuseumok.org/.

 

 

Life

4 Things I Do to Pamper Myself (on a Budget)

As a working mom of three extremely active kids, its hard for me to make time for myself.  Every mom I know puts in a full “work”day, either at home or outside of the home and then spends the afternoon/evenings cooking, cleaning, and running children to practices or lessons. Many moms put themselves last (if at all) on their lists of priorities.  I have found over the years that when I make an effort to care for myself, I am generally happier and tend to be more patient with my children and my husband.  However, my husband and I are both educators, so I have to be financially smart about how I do this.

I have narrowed down the top 4 things I do to make myself a priority WITHOUT breaking the bank.

  1. I subscribe to Birchbox and receive a customized beauty box every month.  This service is $10 per month and absolutely worth it.  Subscribers receive at least 5 deluxe samples of high-end products which may include makeup, perfume, hair care, or skincare.  I usually do not spend much on these items so it is luxurious to get to try out the expensive brands without having the buy the full-sized item.  However, if you find that you love your sample(s), you usually get a discount on the regular size.img_4788
  2. I exercise several days of the week.  Group exercise classes are my jam and I miss them, but it isn’t practical for me to have a gym membership right now because I would never go.  I know this because I paid for it for four years and hardly ever went.  For now, I run or walk with friends when my schedule allows or I work out at home with Beachbody on Demand.  This service DOES cost ($38.87 every three months), but is totally worth it for me.  All of the Beachbody workouts, meal plans, and exercise calendars are on there and it is extremely convenient for me to stream the workouts on my phone, computer, or television.  There are short workouts and long workouts and they work for beginners or advanced exercisers.  There is also an app (My Challenge) where you can log your workout, weight, and measurements if you need some extra motivation.beachbody
  3. I try really hard to eat clean.  In April of 2015, I did my first Whole30 after realizing that not only had I kept on about 20 pounds from my last pregnancy, but I had gained about 15 more.  A high school student was doing it and was having success.  She encouraged me to try it and I was hooked.  Not only did I lose weight, I felt better physically and emotionally than I had in years.  I do a few rounds of the Whole30 each year, but even when we aren’t doing a round, we eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and lean protein.  I also drink a lot of water, which seems to help my skin and energy level.IMG_3653
  4. I pick one night a week to do something “spa-like” for myself.  I usually do it on Sunday because we don’t have any activities that evening and I’m mostly caught up on housework.  I either put on a face mask, take a hot bath, or give myself a mani/pedi–sometimes all 3.  These are all really simple acts that don’t take much time, but make me feel nice and put-together for the week ahead.

 

What do you all do to pamper yourselves? Let me know in the comments!

Favorites

A Late Look at What I Loved Last Month

July was a long month for us, filled with some sickness, travel, career obligations, and scary health tests for a family member.

All of that combined with my impending back-to-work date threw me off and I took a break from many “extras” in my life, including working on my new blog.

Therefore, my July favorites are a bit late! I still want to share my mid-summer loves, so here goes…

  1. The First5 app–I’ve written about this devotional before, but I developed a deeper appreciation for it this month. I just finished the study on Ruth, Esther, and the Song of Songs. It was excellent. If you don’t have this free app yet, I strongly encourage you to try it!  If you are unable to get the app, you can read online here.img_4618
  2. My new planner–I know we live in a digital age, but I can’t give up my paper planners. I’ve wanted one of the really popular, expensive ones for a couple of years, but can’t logically spend that kind of money on a calendar. However, I found this beautiful Create 365 planner (this is the flamingo one) and I feel like it’s close to the pricey ones. I love it so far and can’t wait to get all my dates put in and decorate the pages. #nerd img_4617
  3. Our anniversary getaway to Dallas–It was much-needed. We ate great food and relaxed. You can read about it here.
  4. The Nordstrom Sale–This is the first year I got to shop early and it was worth it. I didn’t buy a ton, but I scored some cute jeans, some Zella leggings, and a few Kendra Scott items for Christmas gifts
  5. This microneedler (affiliate link)–I recently read about all of the benefits of microneedling and thought I’d give it a try. I only do it a few times a week, but I feel like it is working. My skin feels a little sensitive after using it, but the next morning, it seems smoother and a bit brighter. Microneedling is supposed to help your skin soak up all of the serums/moisturizers you put on it. I’m anxious to see my results after a few months and will share them.micro

What are you loving lately?  Any new products I should try?

Travel

Universal Studios: A Rookie’s Opinion

My family has been visiting Orlando for over twenty years. We are definitely Disney people, but branched out this year and tried Universal Studios (Harry Potter, of course!). I hadn’t been to a Universal park since before having kids so I was excited to see the changes and approach it as a true rookie.

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We arrived at the park prior to opening so I could purchase tickets.  Ticket prices for the parks were basically the same as Disney (I paid $124 each for myself and 2 kids and $119 for my youngest). Both parks charge adult prices for kids 10 and up. We only did single-day tickets, but I know they both offer discounts for multiple parks/days.  The nice woman at the ticket office offered me the opportunity to purchase the Universal Express Pass ($60) or the Express Unlimited Pass ($75) so I wouldn’t have to wait in line at most of the rides.  I know there are many people that take advantage of this, but I already spent $500 to enter the gates of the park, I darn sure wasn’t going to spend $240-$300 more. We did, however, purchase a Coca-Cola Freestyle Souvenir Cup (about $15) so we could get unlimited refills of soda, water, and ICEEs while we were there.  We aren’t huge soda drinkers, but I didn’t pack much water so I knew we would use it.

After leaving the ticket counter, we were able to enter the park and we headed straight to Diagon Alley! I read several Universal plans before we went and about half said to go to Diagon Alley first and the other half said to wait.  Haha!  That was our main reason for attending the park, so we just decided to go there and see about the crowds.

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We made it back there after taking a few pictures and immediately went to get in line for Escape from Gringotts.  I saw people putting their things in lockers and I knew we would have to do that also.  I had read about the locker system at Universal and was really apprehensive about how much of a hassle it would be to do this at every ride.  I have to say–it was awesome.  The lockers are free (they use your fingerprint to open/close the lockers) and there are so many that we didn’t have to wait at all to get to a kiosk to get one assigned to us.  They are roomy and held our bag/hats/phones/etc.  I felt comfortable leaving my things and just enjoying the rides.

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We got in line and waited about twenty minutes before we were able to ride.  The building you walk through is really cool and there were lots of things to look at so the wait didn’t seem long.  The ride was awesome and well worth the short wait.  We got our things and went to Ollivander’s to get a wand.

My daughter read all of the Harry Potter books this school year and was so hopeful that she would be picked for the wand selection process.  We went in a room with about 30 other people and…she was selected!  They went through a fun little “show” of getting her the right wand and then we all were lead into the store, which is TINY.  We purchased the wand (they are expensive, but interactive in the park) and went to go try a spell or two before letting the boys pick somewhere to go.

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My guys had enough of Harry Potter for the time being and wanted to go to the Simpsons area.  We went that direction, rode both rides (that simulated coaster ride was kind of harsh–haha), played a carnival game, and took pics with the family.  We then went over to ride the Men in Black ride (fun!) and headed back to Diagon Alley.  The kids wanted to buy some candy and I wanted to try a frozen Butterbeer.  We took care of that and rushed to Universal CityWalk to meet the rest of our family at Margaritaville for lunch.

As you may know, my husband was ill for our entire trip, but he did make it to lunch.  We brought him a Butterbeer and had some great food.  The kids and I felt rested and ready to go back to tackle more of the park!  We did Shrek 4D (they LOVED it), Return of the Mummy (they HATED it–haha), and went to the Spongebob store.  My boys adore Spongebob and were so happy to shop around and take pictures.  I let them play for a bit at the Curious George water play area and we rode the kiddie Woody Woodpecker roller coaster.  Then…we went back to Diagon Alley.  We went in some more shops and my girl tried her wand a few more times.  At this point, we were all tired and ready to head back to the hotel pool.

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Overall, it was a good day at an unfamiliar park.  We didn’t go in with much of a plan–I wanted it to be relaxing and fun…and it was.  We rode everything we wanted to ride except for the Minion Mayhem ride because the line was long all day.  I am really glad we didn’t buy the express passes as we did not need them.  There didn’t seem to be much of a crowd at all on the day we were there.

Things we loved:

  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is hard to beat if you are a fan.  The Butterbeer was excellent and the atmosphere was amazing.  The interactive wand is a fun purchase and can be shared by all of your kids while you are there.
  • The Coca-Cola cup…seriously.  This was a smart purchase and we definitely got our money’s worth.  We kept it filled up all day with all types of drinks (including water) so we were never thirsty.
  • The non-Disney characters–we saw the Simpsons, Spongebob, Patrick, Gru, and a couple of minions.  My kids liked the change from what we normally see at theme parks.
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  • The proximity to Universal CityWalk–lots of dining options that seem tastier and fancier than “park” food.

Things we did NOT love:

  • No free fast passes.  I don’t like the extra charge for the express passes.  It isn’t budget-friendly and people have already spent hundreds of dollars to be in the park.
  • The app–I didn’t hate it, but the Disney app is more user-friendly.

 

I don’t know if Universal Orlando will be in our regular park rotation, but we will definitely visit again.

What did we miss?  Any tips for next time?

Disney · Faith · Travel

4 Things I Should Have Done Differently at Disney

We have been to Disney World several times in the past twenty-one years that my in-laws have been Disney Vacation Club members. I don’t consider myself an expert, but I’m definitely not a novice either. However, I made some mistakes this year. Here are the 4 things I should have done differently at Disney this year:

  1. I didn’t plan ANYTHING in advance–I went in pretty confident, but really unorganized. With the hustle and bustle of school, sports, Vacation Bible School, and church camp, I just didn’t make planning a priority. I didn’t even buy my tickets until we got there. So…we didn’t have much choice when it came to FastPass or dining reservations. Luckily, we can be pretty flexible and we still made it work for us, but I’ll know better next time.  Really, I knew better this time, but I still didn’t do it.  Oops.
  2. I didn’t show up with a customized tee–there were so many cute tshirts when we went to Magic Kingdom! Families had matching ones made to commemorate their trip, there were monogrammed tees, and lots of funny ones.  You can find some cute ones here, here, and here, but there are also a ton on etsy.  If you need something fast, try the men’s section at Target–they have many cute tshirts as well.
  3. I didn’t pack enough snacks. You may know from previous posts that I’m frugal, but feel like living it up (sort of) on vacation. It seemed to me that food prices went up quite a bit since we were there last and we ended up spending way more than I wanted to on meals and snacks. Disney allows backpacks, so make sure you pack lots of snacks for your family, preferably things that won’t be squished in your bag (granola bars, fruit snacks, peanut butter or cheese crackers, etc).  You can also take in bottled water and refill at the water fountains.
  4. I didn’t take enough pictures.  Don’t get me wrong…I took several, but I was so intent on getting my kids to rides that I didn’t pause and get any great photos.  We didn’t take one picture with a character.  Not one.  Luckily, my kids don’t really care about that, but it would have been nice just to have one or two for the photo book I like to make after our trips.IMG_4027

BUT….here are 4 things I did RIGHT at Disney.

  1. I relaxed and let the kids (and the app) guide us.  I’ve mentioned before that I know we can’t fit every single thing in at Magic Kingdom so I make sure my kids each get to ride the one thing they’ve been waiting for all year.  One chose the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, one chose Splash Mountain, and one chose Space Mountain.  We did all of those (and many more) so I call that a success!IMG_3811
  2. I got a Dole Whip!  I almost didn’t.  It was late and the kids wanted to ride Buzz Lightyear.  My husband knew I was torn (haha) so he sent me for the treat while they all rode the ride and I met up with them after.  If you have never had one of these, you have got to try one.  It was perfect.IMG_4061
  3. I took a long mid-day break.  We left the park around 3 and didn’t go back until around 6, so we got a good rest period in there before we returned to shut it down.  If you are staying on-property, I highly encourage you to stop in the middle of the day and let your kids nap or swim for a bit.
  4. I counted my blessings.  Every time we go to Disney, I remind my kids how lucky we are to get to be on these trips.  Not every family gets the opportunity to go as often as we do or even ever.  The only reason we are able to go is because my in-laws are members of DVC. I want my kids to be grateful for our experiences at Disney and they truly are.

Have any advice for Disney newbies?  Have any weird Disney experiences you want to share?  Post in the comments!

Travel

Our anniversary getaway

If you have read my posts here and here, you know that my family visited Disney and Pensacola Beach in June…and my husband was sick the entire trip.

Our sixteenth anniversary was last Friday so we decided to spend a couple of nights relaxing in Dallas, Texas. I just love Texas and all it has to offer so I was super excited about going.

We booked our hotel through Priceline and ended up at the Hyatt Regency Dallas.

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The hotel was really nice and clean, with a cool bar area and a few restaurants.

By the time we arrived, it was almost time for dinner so we freshened up and headed to Deep Ellum. We used an Uber for the first time ever (yes, we just emerged from the dark ages) and ended up at the Twisted Root Burger Company. We ordered the Kevin Bacon and Spicy Western burgers and some fries and chips to share. The food was so good. The burgers were cooked perfectly and the toppings were tasty. I loved the atmosphere at this place–very cool and laid back.

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I wasn’t able to finish my burger because I wanted one of their signature shakes! We got a Fat Elvis (peanut butter, banana) and it was awesome! No pics because we ate everything before I thought to photograph it. We walked around Deep Ellum for a bit and then headed back to the hotel. Football started back up this week so my husband was pretty tired.

The next morning, we slept in (yay!!) and got around in time to hit up Pecan Lodge for lunch. We drove this time because we knew we wanted to run around after eating. My husband loves the Pecan Lodge and has wanted to take me for a while. To be honest, I don’t love barbecue, but I know how much he likes it, so I went along with the idea.

When we arrived, the line was long inside the restaurant, but I’m told that it often is wrapped around outside, so I guess we were lucky! We didn’t end up waiting very long. I let him order because he always knows what is good. We got some brisket, sausage, okra, and macaroni and cheese…with bacon on it. I’ve been missing out–this food was amazing! Hands-down the best barbecue I’ve ever had. 


We finished up at the restaurant (we took lots to go!) and went to two of our favorite places…Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Haha! We don’t have either of those in our hometown so anytime we are near either or both, we hit them up to drool over the meat/seafood counters or buy some fun treats.

After walking around those two places, we went back to the hotel to lounge by the pool. The Hyatt Regency pool is small, but it was perfect for us. We scored a cabana and laid around for a couple of hours. It was just what I needed!

We headed upstairs and got cleaned up for dinner. We had no idea what we wanted–we just knew we would end up in the Uptown area. We did some research and made the decision to try The Common Table.

 

common table
Photo from their website

 

The restaurant had a really relaxed vibe and the food was great. We were still pretty full from lunch so we split an appetizer (philly cheesesteak egg rolls) and a main dish (chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes). I didn’t eat much because I didn’t want to be uncomfortable all night, but everything tasted delicious!

We left there and walked less than half a mile to the Katy Trail Ice House. It is basically a huge patio space with a bunch of picnic tables and twinkle lights hanging off all of the trees. They do serve food, but we came just to hang out and have a drink. The people-watching was great. There were lots of people walking/running/biking the Katy Trail behind us and some pretty fun groups hanging out at the Ice House. Haha.

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We stayed for a few hours and just enjoyed talking to each other and giggling at the table next to us. It was so nice just to relax and not worry about what time it was or what else we should be doing.

After getting another Uber, we hit the sack and slept until  9 the next morning! We got ready and got on the road. We ate a quick lunch on the way home and returned to get our kids from the grandparents in the early afternoon.

This trip was exactly what we needed after the crazy year we have had.  Things are about to get really busy for us again so it was nice to have the time away, just the two of us.

Now…after all of the amazing food we ate this weekend, we have to restart the Whole30.  Haha!

Any suggestions of Dallas restaurants for us to hit up next time?

Coach's Cookin'

The Coach’s Cookin’: Jambalaya Eggrolls

When I started this blog, I assured you all that I would not be sharing any of my recipes here, and…I won’t!  I can definitely feed my family, but I’m not a great cook. My husband, however, is awesome at whipping up delicious meals.

One of the things he makes that our kids absolutely love is jambalaya egg rolls. They are as tasty and unhealthy as they sound. Haha. We don’t eat them often, but my youngest requested them for his half-birthday celebration last week so we indulged. Yes, we celebrate half-birthdays. There are no gifts or anything like that. We let the child pick whatever they want for dinner that we can make at home. It’s just something fun for our family to do.

Here’s how to make these easy crowd pleasers….

Ingredients:

  • 1 Box of Jambalaya Mix (we like Oak Grove and Zatarain’s)
  • Already cooked sausage or chicken…or both
  • 1 pkg. egg roll wrappers
  • Oil

Directions:
1. Make some boxed jambalaya mix, following the directions for that specific brand. You can use whatever is available at your local grocery.

2. Let the mixture cool a bit while you heat up your oil. We use the same Fry Daddy we got for a wedding gift, but you can use whatever device/cookware you normally use to fry things.

3. Once the jambalaya mixture is cool enough to work with, roll in the egg roll wrappers. Before rolling, use a brush or your hand to wipe the outside of the egg roll wrappers with water. We usually keep a small dish of water on the counter for this.


4. When all are rolled, fry those babies!


You can eat them just like this, but we like to add a little extra seasoning.


Frog Bone is our favorite, but any Cajun seasoning will do. Just sprinkle as much as you want on top.

To make these even better, serve with some remoulade–we use Arnaud’s.
These things are amazing! We have served them to family and friends many times and they are always impressed, which is pretty good considering this starts with a box mix!

If you need a fun new recipe to try this weekend, try these Jambalaya Eggrolls.  You won’t be sorry!