Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Ice Skating Delights at Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Adventures Christmas

Being a Dollywood Insider has already given me so many incredible opportunities. Just last week, I got a behind the scenes look at Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Adventures Christmas show. As a special bonus, I got to speak with the fabulous and talented ice skaters. You can read about my whole adventure- and how they taught me a few things on the ice despite my penchant for clumsiness (I told you they were talented!). Check it out on the Dollywood Insiders page!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Organize Your Life with Baby Wipes Containers

If you buy baby wipes, you undoubtedly end up with a dozen reusable wipes containers haphazardly stacked and frequently knocked over by mischievous little hands. They seem like they'd be super useful, but you only keep wipes in so many places. So what purpose can you give these wipes containers? Here are a few ideas to clear the clutter and simplify your life with stuff you already have.

  1. Backup Clothes: Although my kids are 2 and 4, occasionally leaks, spills, and accidents happen. I like to be prepared, but I hate clutter in the car.

  2. Art supplies: So many supplies. Glue, markers, crayons, special paper only markers, stickers, construction paper, special paper booklets. Wrangle that chaos with wipes containers. Organize the supplies by type, slap a cute label on it, and voila- less mess! When your kid wants to color/paint/etc, just grab the needed box and leave the rest behind.

  3. Blessing Box: Sometimes a mama needs some uplifting. Especially early days with a newborn can be isolating and exhausting. When I have an expecting friend, or a drive to donate to moms in need, I make a blessing box. I put in a letter full of kind words, and then strips of paper with Bible verses, jokes, funny parenting truths, and just encouragement on them. When a mom is feeling down, she can go to the box, pull out a slip of paper, and feel encouraged. This could work for kids with reading abilities too!
  4. Snack Wrangler: My bag used to be a sea of dead goldfish and headless animal crackers. Not anymore! I keep all of their snack cups in a wipes container. It keeps all the snacks in one place, so they're easy to find, and it contains the mess without adding to the weight of my bag.

  5. Travel Medicine Case: We recently went on a 12-hour each way road trip. With changing temperatures and climates, I didn't know if we would have any allergies or small illnesses. So I packed a variety of medicines, from allergy medicine to cold medicine to daily medicines to vitamins, and arranged it all in a wipes container. I put it on top in the suitcase, so I could easily get to it at any point. It made last minute stopping for the night more convenient, and my kids were totally uninterested in it because it looks like a wipes container. I could stash it out of their reach, and they didn't try to climb to get to it.

What's your favorite use for reusable wipes containers?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

New Dollywood Insiders Post

Hey, friends! Did you know I'm also writing over on the Dollywood Insider's page? My first post is up, and you can read it here. I love all the positive ways Dollywood impacts my community- read the post to find out how! You can even participate, by running or walking in the Light the Way 5K this November. You'll get to enjoy the glorious Christmas lights at Dollywood, get some exercise in, and benefit the local community. Check it out! I hope you like it!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Baking the Semi-Homemade Way

Hey, friends! You can check out my latest post with the Knoxville Mom's Blog here. Learn how to bake with your kids- without the time-suck and huge mess!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Feeling like Fall at Dollywood

Y'all, it is hot in Tennessee. Our August was cool and mild, but September and so far October have been hot, humid, and muggy. Ugh. Not cool for fall (pun intended). It's been hard to get in the autumnal spirit when I'm still wearing shorts and tank tops. Thankfully Dollywood invited the Insiders out for a day at the park to try out the Harvest Festival fun.

We drove in from a different direction, and had a generally leisurely attitude about the day. It was nice to go in without rushing and just enjoy the experience of the drive and the Harvest Festival.

The park is all dressed up and looking beautiful. Hay bales, pumpkins, and fall colors are in full bloom. The temperature may have been in the high 80s, but we still felt fall in the air at Dollywood.

The fall accents compliment the typical Dollywood experience that includes delicious food, fun rides, and plenty of memory making moments. The combined effects of no college game, fall break, and higher temperatures meant the crowds were out in full force. But we still had a blast with the kids riding their favorite rides.

The Great Pumpkin LumiNights are glowing after dark, with fun fall and Halloween decorations placed throughout the park. Bats with pumpkin heads fly high overhead, while intricately carved pumpkins populate the landscape. There's such beauty to be seen.

With Halloween around the corner, there are plenty of spooky-but-not-scary decorations for a less frightful way to celebrate the season. With rides and buildings lit up in red, purple, and green, the thrill of Halloween and the exciting rides at Dollywood combine for a delightful experience.

 The Great Pumpkin LumiNights experience also includes a fun glow maze for kids. It isn't really a maze- there's one entrance and one exit and only one path in between, but the black lights, bright colors, and glow in the dark paint make for a grand adventure for little ones.

 Special shows are currently taking place at Dollywood's Harvest Festival, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee performances. The Pumpkin Boogie Dance Party is fun for all ages each evening. Seasonal food includes the Pumpkin Cupcakes (my personal favorite this season- they're just the right amount of pumpkin!), warm apple cider, Candy Corn Kettle Corn, Caramel Apple Sundae, Candied Apple Slices, and Candy Apple Cider. It's all delicious and the perfect way to make your sweet day at Dollywood's Harvest Festival even sweeter.

What else makes your day sweeter? Saving $5 per ticket! Buy your tickets online here, and enter the code DWInsiders5 when you check out. You'll print your tickets at home and take them to the park with you. This offer isn't available at the gate, so make sure to buy your tickets in advance and save! Then come back and share your favorite Dollywood Harvest Festival memories in the comments!

Monday, September 11, 2017

MyMagazine's #BabyYourBaby Campaign

I received free products to review for this post, but my opinions are my own.

If you're a frequent Kroger shopper, you've likely received their MyMagazine issue in the mail at some point. It contains fun articles, seasonal recipes, and sometimes even coupons! They recently sent me a package of baby items to review as part of their Baby your baby campaign.

I received:

  • Huggies Wipes and coupons
  • Enfamil formula sample
  • Gerber Coupons and baby food sample
  • Pampers Coupons
  • Beech Nut Melties sample
  • Enfalyte coupons
I love Huggies wipes. They're soft, hold up well, and stay moist. I've been using them for years, as I can buy them at Costco and only have to buy wipes once every couple of months. Huggies also has a rewards program, in which you upload a photo of your receipt with a Huggies purchase on it and earn points you can redeem for gift cards, sweepstakes, etc. I like this because I'm buying them anyway, and wipes get expensive, so at least I'm getting a little something back.

As a primary breastfeeding mama that just weened her baby two months ago, I don't have tons of use for the Enfamil sample and coupons so I'm sending them to a friend that just had her second baby. Even if you pump and breastfeed, it can be nice to have a little bit of formula on hand in case of emergencies. If you've pumped but have to evacuate due to an emergency (here's looking at you, hurricane season), or you're out and about and your sitter spills the breastmilk (gasp, the horror, oh no, that would be awful), it's good to have a backup plan.

I also made my own baby food and only used the packaged kind for travel, but it can be a nice thing to have. Gerber is pretty well established as having a good quality of products. I usually used the store brand, because I bought it irregularly and I tend towards frugal.

I'm sharing the Pampers coupons because I'm a Luvs mama through and through.

Beech Nut wasn't an established brand when my babies were small enough for melties. I'm sure they would still gobble them up, but since these are soy and dairy free I want to share them with a friend that has a dairy-free baby. 

Enfalyte is an electrolyte drink for babies that are ill and needing to replenish fluids. I'll use one coupon and share the rest, because school just started and now it's basically germ season.

What brands do you love for baby items?

The Paw Prints in the Sink Zazzle Shop

Hey friends! I'm excited to announce I've started selling some cute items on Zazzle. You can find my shop here.

I'm creating all sorts of fun and fun items, with aprons, tote bags, and more. From my goofy phrases (Put that in your pastry bag and pipe it) to the most appropriate adjectives used to describe the blog (Adorkable, anyone?), you'll find all sorts of interesting and exciting things on all manner of objects. Check it out!

New designs are added daily, so check it out!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Sweet Peach Tea Recipe

Here in Tennessee, it's already been feeling like fall. Rumor has it we had a cool August but Fall will be warmer than usual. Apparently this is good for fall foliage, which is great, but it leaves me hanging on to summer a bit more than usual.

Usually come September 1, I'm busting out the fall decor and baking all the pumpkin things. I'm not quite letting summer out of my grasp, as I'd love a few more pool days with my boys at this age. They're so fun to watch, darting around the pool in their puddle jumpers, and they aren't into rough play in the pool yet. I feel like next year the pool will be a battleground, as the indoor roughhousing is increasing daily, and it's only a matter of time before it extends outdoors.

Since I'm clinging to summer, I thought I'd share my favorite 2017 summer drink- Sweet Peach Tea. This tea reminds me a bit of the Bellini iced tea at Olive Garden, but it's better because I can have it whenever I want! I drink it chilled and iced, because #SummerLoveForever.

Sweet Peach Tea Recipe

Makes one gallon

1/2 gallon filtered water
3 family size cold-brew iced tea bags
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups white cran-peach juice

Can you tell Kroger is my preferred brand?

  1. Fill a 1 gallon pitcher halfway up with water (don't worry, you'll want all of this tea! It's delicious.)
  2. Steep tea bags in water for at least 10 minutes. (I'm basically sacrilege to tea lovers- I don't time my steeping, I use cold water tea bags, sometimes I even let it steep overnight because I'm daring like that and I like my tea like I like my men- strong and able to sweep me off my feet.)
  3. Remove tea bags and stir in 1/2 cup sugar until dissolved.
  4. Add white cran-peach juice, stir. 
  5. Serve chilled and over ice, preferably on a porch with the butterflies flitting about and the promise of an Indian summer in the air.

What's your favorite summer beverage?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Dollywood Insiders and the Dollywood DreamMore Resort and Spa Review

Hey friends! I'm excited to announce I've been selected to be a Dollywood Insider. This means I'll be bringing you behind the scenes, giving tips and tricks, and writing here and over at the Dollywood Insiders page. I'll still be sharing my adventures here and on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

I'm honored to have been chosen as a Dollywood Insider, and began my tenure with a stay this past weekend at Dollywood's DreamMore Resort and Spa. My family got to play at the hotel and Dollywood's Splash Country, and there was so much to do!

We began at the resort on Friday evening. We arrived shortly before 8 p.m., and stepping into the lobby took my breath away. I was greeted with a gorgeous view of the pool, playground, and barn, with the glorious Smoky Mountains residing in the background. Sunset was just beginning to tinge the sky with cotton candy colors. To top it all off, a piano player was serenading the lobby with a variety of music. Even my two little wild ones stopped to stare in wonder at his lovely voice paired with the beautiful sight beyond the windows.

Check in was a breeze, and we headed to our room to get settled before exploring.

Our room faced the road, but still offered a beautiful view. The sunset on the mountains is not something you want to miss! Our room was designed for a family, with two bunk beds for the kids and a king bed for the hubs and myself. Confession: I now want a king bed. Preferably the incredibly comfortable one I slept on at the resort! It was amazing. Little Brother woke up an hour after falling asleep, because #MomFail brought a new sippy cup that apparently leaks. He woke up with a wet shirt, and I was so tired after trying to do everything all the time that I cleaned him up and pulled him up into the king bed with us. The best part is that he didn't bother me or the hubs all night long! The bed was so big neither of us suffered his back-breaking nighttime dance routine that leads to sore backs and necks the following day whenever he sneaks into bed with us at home.

The bunk beds were such a huge hit with Big Brother that he claims he'll be asking Santa for one come Christmas. He loved the ladder, and was especially pleased with the sleeping bags attached to the bed. I was comforted by this added feature as well. Though the bunk beds had a railing, since it was his first time ever in one I was a tad nervous. The sleeping bag zipper, attached to the mattress, gave me comfort in knowing it would be even harder for him to accidentally roll off. He slept in that bed all night long, and referred to the resort as 'our new home' because he didn't want to leave the bunk bed! (Or the playground, pool, fire pit, indoor pool, game room...the list goes on!)

After we tore the boys away from the coolest room they'd ever seen, we toured the resort. We walked around the pool, the boys played on the playground, and we joined story time in the barn at 8:30 for bedtime stories. We bumped into the story reading host on our way back to our room later, and she informed us that we could check out a book to read in our room to the kids and then return it to the front desk in the morning. *Tangent*: I love how much Dolly Parton has done for childhood literacy. From the Imagination Library, that will mail your kids ages 0-5 books for free, to even having a little lending library at her resort, I just love how accessible she makes books for kids. Thank you, Dolly. *End Tangent*

When story time was over, the boys wanted to enjoy the playground some more. My husband and I only lasted so long before we were dying to see more of the resort, but we were able to entice them with checking out the fire pits. Since it's just beginning to cool down here in the evenings (yay, fall!), it was the perfect weather to sit around the fire and chat with other guests. A fireside host was selling s'mores materials, and parents and kids alike were partaking and feeling like kids again regardless of age. No one feels old while eating a s'more!

One of the many things we loved about the resort was that although it was expansive, there were little pockets of intimacy everywhere. From the chairs around the multiple fire pits, to secluded benches, to a tucked away arbor, there was plenty of space to sit quietly and chat with your loved ones without feeling like you were surrounded by strangers.

We stumbled upon a beautiful flower garden, aptly shaped like a butterfly, with an inspirational sign:

Scattered throughout the resort were framed images of Dolly with positive, inspirational quotes. Exiting the elevator onto our floor had a grouping of 4, of her encouraging us to chase our dreams. 

Everywhere you went, it was as though you were being invited to sit and relax. The flower garden held butterfly shaped benches, the porches were full of white rocking chairs, the pool was surrounded by lounge chairs and dining sets, and the fire pits offered multiple seating options as well. Everything about the resort makes you want to sit back, relax, and make yourself at home. Everything is family friendly, from the game room to the kid-sized rocking chairs to those books I won't stop talking about. (I'd love to share adorable photos of my kids in the rocking chairs, but they were a little too into the rocking and all the photos turned out blurry.)

Once we were all tired from our explorations, we headed back to the room to get into pj's and tuck in for the night. Even Little Brother loved his lower bunk bed, and I've never seen him look so sweet at bedtime.

We woke up well rested and ready to enjoy the hotel and parks. We grabbed breakfast and Starbucks coffee at the Pantry. My husband and kids spent the morning playing on the playground and at the pool while I attended my Dollywood Insiders meeting, and then we all met up at Splash Country. We spent the day at the water park, covering all 35 acres. We hit all the kid areas, and Big Brother even got to ride some of the big rides. Little Brother is an inch too short to ride the family rides, but he loved all the kid areas. He even fell asleep for his nap on my lap on the Downbound Float Trip. You haven't felt the fear of moving a sleeping baby until you've moved a sleeping baby while floating down a river.

At 4.5 and 2 years old, there's so much for these boys to do at the water park. Big Brother especially loves the Cascades area. He's a big fan of the 'sinking' boat, and has played half the day there each time we've been.

One of my favorite things about visiting any of the Dollywood properties is how I get to be a kid, with my kids. We all get to relax and have fun together. There are even several water slides we can ride together. Bonus: it always puts my kids to sleep. Little Brother took an extra long nap and still went to bed on time, and Big Brother fell asleep on the drive home and slept for 14 hours. #Winning!

All in all, it was one of the best weekends we've had as a family. It's so fun to make memories with your family that you know you'll always cherish. Staying at the resort simplified our trip, allowing us to utilize the trolley and pick up any last minute items there (like when your toddler conveniently unpacks your hairbrush and you need to buy a comb). The 3 on-site restaurants allow you to choose what kind of meal you want. Plus, Starbucks in the morning! Yes, please. 

I definitely recommend combining your visit to Dollywood with a stay at the resort. It'll save you on tickets, simplify your trip, and give you benefits like free parking and a free TimeSaver pass for each member of your family.

Have you been to a Dollywood park or resort? What did you think?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Over the summer, my eldest son began a Mother's Day Out program and suddenly adorable crafts were coming my way twice a week. When little brother began pulling them off of the fridge, which was truly overrun with schedules, invitations, and artwork, I knew I needed a better place to display my budding artist's creations. Since I have neither the time nor money nor willingness to go store to store searching for something that would work, I got creative. Look around, see what you have to work with, and see if you could arrange something similar to fill your needs!

Here's what I used, based off of what I had on hand.

1 large square of manufactured wood I had leftover from a previous project
A small amount of white chalk paint
Clothes pins
Colorful paint (I used acrylic craft paint)

First, I painted the wood white. Then, I painted the clothes pins rainbow colors, because my son had been singing the rainbow song from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for three days and it was, clearly, on my mind. I used a box, clamped the clothes pins around the edge, and got to painting. I painted over the springs because I'm lazy and I had no idea how you'd get pretty clothes pins without painting them.

Once all the paint was dry, I situated the clothes pins how I wanted them. I rearranged them a couple of times, and visualized where I wanted my descriptive word to go. I went with 'Gallery', but I saw dozens of cute ideas on Pinterest, from artistic quotes to Kid's Art Corner to the child's name with the word gallery following. Super cute ideas, but I figured Gallery was pretty versatile and would grow with the kids. I can also use it to display Christmas cards, party invitations, and pretty much anything.

I lightly traced a pencil line with a ruler under where my word would go, then outlined it lightly in pencil as well. I went over that with my Sharpie. If I were to do this again, I'd definitely use a paint pen instead of a Sharpie.

After labeling my board, I heated up my glue gun, situated my clothes pins, and used hot glue to glue them in place.

When everything was dry, I grabbed two screws and an electric screwdriver and hung it up!

I love that I have somewhere handy, and out of baby's reach, that I can hang up my son's artwork and projects. The seasonal creations give a festive air to the kitchen and dining area, and he feels proud to have his work displayed.

By using materials I already had, I limited waste and utilized materials that weren't being used. My handwriting isn't great, but I'm pleased overall with how it came out.

How do you display your child's artwork and crafts?