Our Day At Walt Disney World

Last week, we had the privilege of going to Walt Disney World because of the kindness of Walt Disney World. We were given two adult park-hopper tickets by Walt Disney World. We did purchase our kids’ park hopper tickets. We LOVED spending our day at Walt Disney World!!! We have been to Walt Disney World before; our oldest two were under the age of two when we went, so they don’t really remember it. This trip, however, they will probably always remember as their “first” trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth. You can read about how we prepared for our trip to Walt Disney World here.

We started the day at Magic Kingdom waiting at the castle for Mickey Mouse to officially open Walt Disney World for the day. We concluded the day at Hollywood Studios watching the Star Wars Fireworks Show. We clocked in 13 hours at the Walt Disney World Parks and we estimated we walked 10 miles, but we had the best time. In fact, our kids have already started talking about our next trip to Walt Disney World! I don’t blame them – it’s such a fun place!

Magic Kingdom 

Seeing the princesses was a top priority for us. My daughter is obsessed with the Disney Princesses. She loves ALL the princesses. Being able to introduce her to 6(!!!) princesses was well worth it.

We also saw Alice in Wonderland. My daughter told Alice, “We’ve read the book you were in.” Alice was impressed by this.

Riding the Buzz Light Year ride: We were able to ride this ride as a family. We love Toy Story, so we LOVED riding this ride.
Riding the Teacups: I’m not sure who was more excited about this ride – me or my daughter! This was another ride we rode as a family and we had the best time.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Ride: my oldest and my husband rode several roller coasters while we met with princesses.


Pecos Bill – for lunch, we ate at Pecos Bill. Our kids enjoyed macaroni and cheese with an applesauce pouch and carrots. I enjoyed the fajita bowl and my husband had nachos. We loved the air conditioning!

Animal Kingdom:

Pandora/Avatar Boat Ride: Even though the wait was FOREVER, this new Pandora Section of Animal Kingdom was well worth the wait. The entire new Pandora area is amazing. I seriously felt like I was IN the Avatar movie scenes.


My husband and son rode Expedition Everest while my youngest two and I walked around Animal Kingdom in search of Dole Whip. We found Dole Whip and found a back corner in the Tamu Tamu Restaurant outdoor seating.

This alcove gave us space for my youngest to nap, my phone to charge and it gave my daughter and I an opportunity to share that delicious Dole Whip. My husband surprised me and bought us an Elephant Ear Pastry to share. There was enough for us to divide that one pastry between ALL FIVE of us! It was so good.

Hollywood Studios

In our search for our daughter to see all the princesses, we decided heading to Hollywood Studios to see the Frozen Sing-a-long Celebration performance would be worth it. Spoiler: IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT. This performance was 35 minutes long. It was a great way for families to enjoy the coolness of air conditioning. But, if you have a kid who was strong on the Frozen bandwagon, this is something you can’t miss!


Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bars was our dinner. I know, I know, not healthy. but it was an iconic treat and SO YUMMY. Word to the wise: it is messy, so eat it armed with a LOT of napkins!


Tower of Terror: My husband and son rode this ride together. I am still so impressed with my son’s love for roller coasters. He is fearless and loved every single second of every ride. I think we have an adrenaline junkie on our hands.


Every single Cast Member we spoke to at Hollywood Studios urged us not to miss the Fantasmic performance. It’s held at the outdoor amphitheater in Hollywood Studios. This incredible performance had a wide, wide cast of characters. This performance used pyrotechnics and water and it was breathtaking.

We also stayed for the Star Wars fireworks at Hollywood Studios. I love the picture of my son having a light saber battle with a total stranger. Just shows that the magic of Disney brings out the kid in all of us! Two of our kids slept through the entire thing! I couldn’t believe they slept through it! Watching those fireworks was definitely a perfect way to end such a fun packed day.

We can’t wait to go back to Walt Disney World. It’s always such a blast and each visit gives us new and precious memories as a family. I especially love going to Walt Disney World because my kids get SO excited about seeing their favorite movie/TV show characters in real life.  I love that Walt Disney said, “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” Don’t worry, Walt, Mickey Mouse is leading the way to make sure kids and families have a wonderful, wonderful time.

Our Legoland Day!

Last week, we had the pleasure of spending a full day at Legoland Florida. We were graciously given tickets by Legoland. You can read my blog post about the ways we prepared for our visit by going here.

My husband and I spent a lot of time of time planning out our visit. We decided we wanted to try to go to every area of the park during our visit. We were pleasantly surprised that we almost reached our goal (thunderstorms prevented us from going to the Waterpark).

The park is typically open from 10am to 7pm. We arrived at 9:30 am which gave us time to take pictures in front of the park, but still get a great spot in line for when the park opened. We soon found that at any place in Legoland where there was a line, there was also a huge bucket of legos for the kids.

Here are a couple of our favorite highlights from our trip. Although, truly, we loved every second.

The Carasousel: This double-decker carasousel was incredible! Each of the horses looked like Lego figurines and it was a great first ride stop for our family.

Ford Driving School : my son LOVED participating in the Ford Driving School. Afterwards, he was given a “driver’s license”. He proudly carried that around the entire park.

Ninjago: the newest section of Legoland Florida is Ninjago. This Ninja themed section is based off the popular Lego TV Show, Ninjago. In the themed park Ninjago, kids can climb a rock well, attempt to “defeat lightening”, balance, and the entire family can ride the 3D interactive ride. The Ninjago ride ended up being our favorite whole family ride.

Duplo Valley: This amazing toddler area has a splash pad, covered age-appropriate play set, as well as several great rides. My toddler loved the rides in Duplo Valley so much, we rode them several times! They also had a wonderful baby-toddler area. It was indoors. It had an incredible indoor play area, places for parents to sit, and a private baby center that included space for nursing moms.

Lego builders displays: Throughout the park, Legoland had incredible works of art made entirely out of legos. This was probably the most expected part of the trip, but each display defied expectations. With dinosaurs, dragons, the Daytona 500 and Las Vegas built out of legos, you couldn’t help but stop and admire. The hours the Lego Builders Group spend making these displays is truly impressive.

Pirates’ Cove performance: My pirate-loving son insisted that we go to the Pirates’ Cove performance. I’m so glad we made it a priority! It was a water performance that was fun and interactive for kids. We were SO impressed by the skills and performance of the Pirates’ Cove performers. The main character, Salty, greeted guests at the entrance of Legoland when the park opened. I think kids loved seeing a character (Salty) reemerge from the start of the day.

Imagination Zone: When the thunderstorm brought a downpour of rain, we headed to the Imagination Zone. The building contained SO MANY FUN ways to encourage kids to build and create with Legos. There was a section for racing cars. My son loved building his car and then racing it against the other kids. My daughter loved building a platform and then watching it “fly” through the air. There was a spot with duplo blocks that was interactive and we discovered our toddler especially LOVES building with Legos. (We bought him a box of Legos while there!)

For lunch, we enjoyed hamburgers and fries at the Lego City Burger Kitchen .The outdoor picnic areas were well covered, so we loved eating outside. Not to mention, Legoland had two resident cats that my kids loved feeding!

For a mid-afternoon snack, we stopped by the Firehouse Ice Cream shop to cool off. SO good! We tried the ice cream and the Coca-Cola ice cream floats. Both were so delicious.

At Legoland, the employees are called, “Model Citizens”. Every Model Citizen we met was truly a model citizen. They were kind, friendly, fun, interacted with the kids, and very helpful. At Pirates’ Cove, the Pirate’s Cove Performers and Model Citizens answered all my kids questions and allowed my kids (and the other children there too!) to spray them with water. At the Train at Duplo Area for Toddlers, the Model Citizen had my son laughing with his silly dance. At Tractor ride at the Duplo Area for Toddlers, the Model Citizen made sure every seat on the ride was dry after the rain had stopped. At the Imagination Zone, I watched Model Citizens pick up legos off the floor time and time again. No grumbling! Truly, at every turn, we were met with amazing examples of “Model Citizens” at Legoland.

We loved spending the day at Legoland. We had a blast riding rides, explores the different world and embracing such a day of fun. Thank you, Legoland for giving us such a wonderful, wonderful day.

Screen-Free Traveling With Kids

It may surprise you to know that even though we have three kids under 5 years of age, we take our road trips screen-free. We’ve been doing this for years. It always surprises me when I see people looking for portable DVD players for road trips. I’m not criticizing people who do use screens to travel; it’s just a reminder that we do things differently. I thought I would share what we do to travel screen-free. Maybe it will encourage you to try out a screen-free trip too!

When we travel, I make sure we have lots of things to keep them occupied. We pack bags of books, coloring books, and their favorite toys (dolls and cars work great for our crew). This helps with keeping them entertained as we travel down the road.

Here are our tips:

1. Each child brings 2-3 toys. My boys are really into the Cars 3 characters, so we have a collection of matchbox cars. My daughter carries her favorite blanket and a few of her favorite items (usually a princess crown and a doll).

2. We bring LOTS of books. The books are usually themed to the trip we are taking. If we are headed to the beach, I pack up all our beach themed books for us to take.

From Left to Right:

– Paddle-to-the-Sea

– 1,2,3…By the Sea (this is an Usborne Books & More book)

Max and His Big Imagination at the Beach (see my book review)

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

– If You Ever Want To Bring A Piano to the Beach, DON’T!

– Under the Sea (this is an Usborne Books & More book)

– The Seashore Book

– Llama, Llama Sand and Sun

Seashore Life (see my book review)

 

3. Coloring books and crayons. The coloring books vary; I usually grab a few from the Target Dollar Section or from the Dollar Tree, but this time I had the cat coloring books, so I knew those would be a hit with my animal-loving kids.

4. Audiobooks. Of course, we always travel with audiobooks. I always grab 2-3 new audiobooks to listen too. You can find out the audiobooks we’ve loved by clicking here and here. My husband likes to keep radio going by switching between the news, sports and music, so I choose audiobooks that are less than 3 hours in length. This ensures that we can finish the books on the trips! It also means if we listen an hour at a time, we still make progress.

We do travel with snacks like granola bars, apples, animal crackers and fruit snacks. That helps to keep our kids occupied during our trip.

Once we have rotated through the books, audiobooks, coloring books, snacks and toys, my kids love to sing along to the music on the radio, or point out traffic issues to my husband. Gotta love a vehicle full of backseat drivers!

I won’t lie to you, there are numerous potty breaks and occasionally, a screaming child who is tired of being confined to a car seat, but overall, we have a great time. We’ve found traveling screen-free to be a great way to really enjoy the trip as a family.

I would love to know; what screen-free activities do you incorporate into your family road trips? Share below!

*This Post contains affiliate links. This does not cost my readers, but does help support my blog! Thank you!*

Preparing for Legoland: Book Style

If you follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook, you have seen our Legoland pictures! Before I share our favorite parts of Legoland, I wanted to share our preparation for Legoland. When we were graciously gifted tickets by Legoland, I immediately began our “prep work”. I was too excited to wait. Since we are #raisingreaders, I’m always looking for any opportunities to incorporate books into our lives. And while you may not think you can initially combine books with Legos, YOU CAN! In fact, it is a great collaboration. I wanted to share what we did to get ready for our day at Legoland!

I have such fond memories of spending hours and hours playing with Legos with my brothers and sisters. We built entire communities (and even people!) with Legos. With buckets of Legos at our disposal, my brothers and sisters and I would crowd around to create buildings, vehicles, and even people! Now that my kids can safely play with Legos without swallowing them, giving them legos to see what they decide to create was just the tip-of-the-iceberg for me.  My kids are also well-acquainted with the Lego movies, and we have loved watching those films as a family. But, with our Legoland trip in mind, I knew it was time to do more.

Legoland is all about riding rides and seeing characters from the Lego Movies and shows. But, long before there were hilarious movies and TV shows or fun rides, Legos were multicolored blocks that inspire kids to be innovative builders, designers and architects. So, of course, that is how we prepared for Legoland.

When I’m introducing a new idea to my kids, I gather the books and then we hunker down. I never say, “Hey Kids! Let’s learn about architecture!” We just read the books. I’m always amazed by how much they soak in.

Frank Lloyd Wright for Kids was really a book we just flipped through it. It was a little over their heads age-wise, so we just looked at the pictures.

Roberto the Insect Architect is a fabulous book about a termite who has the dream to build incredible buildings. He is heavily criticized for his dreams, but he never gives up. My kids loved reading this one. I mean, who wouldn’t? It has bugs!

How to Build a Museum tells all about the planning, building, and design of the Smithsonians’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. What an INCREDIBLE BOOK. There was such much information and detail. I was ready to pack up and go to Washington DC just to visit the Museum!

Iggy Peck, Architect is one of the best books we’ve ever read. I LOVE how to Andrea Beaty weaves in rhythm, science, and the never give up attitude.

Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site is the perfect bedtime story for sharing a construction themed book. If your kid loves tractors, Good Night, Good Night Construction Site is AMAZING.

After we read those books, we grabbed some graph paper and markers and designed on paper what we wanted to build with Legos. My son especially impressed me with building a jet ski, a floating device and a fidget spinner.

I loved seeing my kids get excited and explore with building and design. This is why Legoland is perfect for families who are raising readers. We spur on activities, fun, and engagement of new adventures through the power of books. Then, we take it a step further by bringing our kids to fun places like Legoland that show them the depth of possibilities. At Legoland, they really get to see the vast possibilities and they see it all through play!

*This post contains affiliate links. This is at no cost to my readers, but it does help support my blog. THANK YOU!*

 

Blue Man Group Making Waves Exhibit

We spent the morning at the Blue Man Group Making Waves Exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta. I’m so thankful for the invitation to take my kids and explore this incredible exhibit. We all (my three kids and I) had the best time ever! My kids played nonstop for over 2 hours. And as soon as we left, they were asking when we were going to go back to the “Kids’ Museum”.

This brand new exhibit is called Making Waves and is inspired and designed by the popular Blue Man Group. This is a short-term exhibit and will only be at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta from June 10, 2017 to September 4, 2017. Make sure you take your kids! They will love it! The Making Waves exhibit uses musical techniques used by the Blue Man Group to encourage kids to make music. Using items like PVC pipes, drums, and sound waves, kids will have a blast engaging in a musical activity that is unique and completely open to interpretation as well!

My kids had a blast at Making Waves exhibit. They kept bouncing from one station to another. The neon lights keeps the energy level high and matches kids (and adults!) excitement to engage with the musical instruments.

I loved this trio of PVC pipe instruments. Each of the pipes were color-coded and had a different sound (kind of like techno music with organ-looking pipes). Kids can uses rubber paddles to hit the pipes and create amazing music. I especially liked that each instrument had a simple music book that had songs kids could play but following the color coded notes (the “musical notes” matched the different colored PVC pipes).

The drum section was SO FUN. Each drum provide different entertainment. The one my daughter is at showed the vibrations a drum makes with sound. This was demonstrated using sand. My sons loved pounding away at the other drums as they were able to observe how loud or how soft the drum sounds were based on the intensity of their drumming motion.

This station had PVC pipes and large push buttons. As you pushed on the buttons, sounds would come through the pipes. My kids got a kick out of how this station worked. I also loved how the staff of The Children’s Museum were readily available to teach kids how to get the most out of the station they were at. Every staff member we encountered was extremely kind and so friendly towards the kids.

After kids are finished playing with the various musical instruments, they will get to explore how to make and change sound waves. This was SO FUN! Giving kids space and permission to make their own sounds (AKA loud voices!) and then experiment with the sound waves creates a whole new dimension of musical exploration and fun. My kids got a kick out of playing at this station. It was so engaging and fun for them to play and explore.

We loved the Making Waves exhibit because it furthered our understanding of music in a way that was incredibly fun. As a family, we listen to the radio and we sing songs we’ve learned from movies, but I wouldn’t say we are music enthusiasts. The Making Waves exhibit was great for exploring music in a whole new way. I LOVED seeing my kids so engaged with not just making music, but how sound waves work. It was as much an educational experience for me, as it was my kids. That makes the Making Waves exhibit something the whole family can enjoy. You can take your kids to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, enjoy this specialty exhibit and walk away with a wonderful and wholesome family outing that is full of great memories.

To purchase your tickets to go to the Making Waves exhibit + enjoy the rest of the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, go to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta website!

 

School Gives Away 2000 books!

If you remember last week I shared the vision and goal of Riverbend Elementary to give each of their 400 students five physical books by the end of the summer. You can read my post here.

Well, so much happened in a week!

Fox5 Atlanta picked up the story of Principal Donna Wiggins and her staff collecting books to give to their students for the summer. You can read the article here.

What I didn’t know when I shared last week is that Riverbend Elementary didn’t just give kids a couple of books in a Walmart plastic shopping bag, the Riverbend Elementary staff  prepared an extensive READING KIT for each student to take home for the summer. I get emotional when I think about the Reading Kits because it is truly an act of love and example of the passion educators have for their kids and the importance of getting books into the hands of kids and their families during the summer months.

Earlier this week, I stopped by Riverbend Elementary. My kids and I showed up unannounced to donate books. Principal Wiggins graciously gave us a great tour of how her hardworking staff were packing these Reading Kits. Keep in mind, these dedicated teachers were doing this on top of the end of the year parties, Kindergarten graduations, and Award ceremonies. I saw them hustling to pack books for each individual student. They carefully selected books that were age-appropriate for the children to read.

Riverbend Elementary staff were SO VERY KIND to me and my children. As you all know, I have three children under 5 years old. It’s nothing short of an adventure when we go anywhere. But, the Riverbend Elementary staff were so kind to us. When we showed up, we had no idea the Kindergarten Graduation was going on. Nevertheless, From the front office to the teachers we met, we were warmly greeted. This is a staff who LOVES kids and it shows. Even the exhaustion of the end of the school year could not dampen the excitement these educators had for their students.

The Summer Reading Kits were so impressive. Each student was given a beautiful and hardy bag. Inside the bag were a stack of FIVE age-appropriate books for each student and a folder. The folder held information about the Get Georgia Reading Program (the digital reading program), several reading logs, a reading related bucked list, a letter to the parents from Principal Wiggins, and information for participating in our local county’s library summer reading program. This bag was a treasure trove for reading! If you remember, Principal Wiggins had a goal of 5 books for each student. Well, they collected and distributed 2000 books! WHAT AN INCREDIBLE ACCOMPLISHMENT!

Riverbend Elementary created Reading Kits that would set up their students for success during summer break. Not only that, these Reading Kits have set the parents up for success too. Even if the kids and families don’t go to the library or utilize the digital reading program (which I hope they do it ALL!); if they just read those 5 books, that’s FIVE solid books kids and families are reading together. The Reading Kits could be the key that opens up a world of reading for children and their family. That bag full of reading goodies introduces families to a wonderful screen-free activity that not only enhances their family time, but also sets their kids up for success in the upcoming school year.  Reading is so powerful and life changing!

When Principal Wiggins gave me a tour, she mentioned how she had just come out of the Kindergarten Graduation. In the graduation, when she told the parents what they were doing with the Reading Kits, the parents and families cheered. Hearing that, showed me that parents are excited about what Principal Wiggins and her staff have created. They’ve thrown open the door to possibility of reading in a very tangible way and the students and families are excited!!

As we walked around, I noticed my kids were getting so excited. The stacks of books and the reading logs were drawing my kids in. It was like the Pied Piper; they couldn’t help but gravitate towards all the books! Principal Wiggins graciously gave us reading logs and we will be utilizing them this summer!

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the numerous book donations Riverbend Elementary received. Principal Wiggins showed me her office which was PACKED and overflowing with books they had collected for their students. If you donated books to Riverbend Elementary, THANK YOU SO MUCH. You helped make these Reading Kits possible. Thank you for investing and believing in the importance getting kids reading!

Every time I think about Riverbend Elementary and what they accomplished in providing summer Reading Kits to their students, I can’t help by grin from ear to ear. I also can’t help but get weepy too. The vision for these Reading Kits, combined with the hard work of the staff to pack them speaks so highly of the Riverbend Elementary School Educators. I’m so thankful to have met Principal Donna Wiggins. She and her staff are a treasure and our school district is so fortunate to have them investing in our children.

 

Thunderstorms and Cake

Spring has finally settled into Georgia and with it comes spring showers. The ominous clouds roll in and as we watch the change in weather for possible tornadoes, I see my kids get nervous. I don’t blame them; the violent crash of thunder, the strong winds that bring the rain, the angry flashes of lightning can be overwhelming and scary.

Thankfully, there is a book for that. Thundercake by Patricia Polacco is the story of one little girl’s apprehension to an incoming storm, and the sweet solution from her grandmother. It’s a beautiful tale of overcoming fears, courage, and the precious relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter.

The illustrations are rich; I loved how the words and pictures matched each other perfectly. So when the granddaughter was nervous, the art helped the reader feel the nerves.

As the title says, cake is involved, so when the first hint of storm clouds appeared last week, my kids and I grabbed Thundercake and set off to make cake (There is a recipe in the back of the book, but we didn’t have all the ingredients for that one).

When cake is involved, somehow, thunderstorms aren’t quite as intimidating. What a sweet way to make the Thundercake book come alive. But even more important, what a fun way to talk about having courage.

Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook has never steered me wrong, so I used the chocolate cake recipe from that cookbook:

Chocolate Cake

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup butter
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups milk

DIRECTIONS

Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly grease bottoms of two 8x8x2-inch square or 9×1-1/2-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with parchment or waxed paper. Grease and lightly flour bottoms and sides of pans. Or, grease one 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Set pan(s) aside. In a medium bowl stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder; and salt; set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed until well combined (3 to 4 minutes). Scrape sides of bowl; continue beating on medium speed for 2 minutes more. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition (about 1 minute total). Beat in vanilla.
Alternately add flour mixture and milk to butter mixture, beating on low speed just until combined after each addition. Beat on medium to high speed for 20 seconds more. Spread batter into the prepared pan(s).
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes for 8-inch pans and 13x9x2-inch pan, 30 to 35 minutes for 9-inch pans, or until a wooden toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool cake layers in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove cake layers from pans. Peel off paper. Cool thoroughly on racks. Or, place 13x9x2-inch cake in pan on a wire rack; cool thoroughly. Frost with desired frosting.
Makes 12 to 16 servings.

For the Chocolate Ganache, we used a recipe similar to this recipe and poured it over the top of the cake.


Dragons Love Tacos Party

Dragons Love Tacos By Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri is one of my favorite picture books. It’s the book that got my kids to eat tacos. It’s the book that I couldn’t stop talking about. So much so, I started a book blog. If someone asks for a good picture book recommendation, I always quick to recommend Dragons Love Tacos.

We’ve read it a thousand times and I could read it a billion more times and never grow tired of it. What’s even better, my kids love Dragons Love Tacos. They crack up at the illustrations and the story is hilarious. They talk about Dragons and Tacos and Spicy Salsa. For my youngest’s  first Halloween, I dressed him up as a Dragon with a taco. When Target did a limited time release of Dragons Love Tacos t-shirts in 2016, I bought them all…in every size. Because when you are a fan, you do things that make you seem a little extreme. It’s safe to say our (ahem. MY) love for this book runs deep.

You can only imagine my reaction when I discovered that Dragons Love Tacos 2: THE SEQUEL was coming. Let me tell you how I responded: I was totally cool. Kidding! It was 4am in the morning and I was wide awake. I was scrolling the interwebs when I saw it. I saw the cover of Dragons Love Tacos 2. I did a silent scream and promptly pre-ordered it. And then I shared it everywhere. Sharing is caring, ya’ll. I was only looking out for folks. Spreading that Dragon and Taco love everywhere is my mission. And since it is my mission, if you haven’t read Dragons Love Tacos, what are you waiting for? Both books are so fun to read aloud. The one liners are hilarious (I mean, “pantsload of tacos” is hysterical). In my mind, Dragons Love Tacos and The Sequel are instant classics. If you love Dragons, you will love it. If you love Tacos, you will love it. And if you like both, well, that is a perfect match!

Of course, waiting for the Dragons Love Tacos 2 book release was excruciating. It did give me a lot of time to plan out our Taco Party. If you know me, you know I love ANY reason to throw a party or have a celebration. So, book release day for a good book? PARTY TIME!

Here is my confession: our party? It was really just dinner. But, you know what? That dinner was incredibly special. It gave us, as a family, a reason to take dinner up a notch. It gave us a reason to celebrate. It was incredibly special to laugh together as we crunched on tacos.

For dinner, we had ground beef tacos with cheese, sour cream and mild taco sauce. For dessert, we had Choco Tacos (which we had to hunt down after going to 3 stores and calling 2 other stores). While we ate, we read Dragons Love Tacos 2: THE SEQUEL. It was such a blast.

Spending time together as a family is so precious to me. Connecting over good food and a long anticipated book is even more dear to me. I hope my kids cherish these memories. I know I do already!

Golden Guide Nature Books

Several weeks ago, I was listening to the Read Aloud Revival Podcast with guest Greta Eskridge from MaandPaModern blog. One of the many books mentioned were the Golden Guide Nature Books. I was so intrigued by Greta’s description of these nature guides, I immediately bought one. Since then, I’ve been buying one every few weeks. My kids have completely surprised me by how much they enjoy them, and I had to share them with you in a longer post than an Instagram picture square.

My kids LOVE them. These compact little books are overflowing with amazing tidbits, colorful illustrations and geographical maps. We will break the books down, but before we do that, I want to say that there has been a resurgence of interest in the Golden Guide books so they are actually being republished. The content is the same and the price is too, but the covers aren’t as worn as the older ones. We have both; I’ve been so impressed with how the older editions are holding up despite their age, and my kids’ desire to tote them around.

Measuring at about 8 inches tall, the Golden Guide Nature Books are perfect for kids who love to romp around outside and explore. We currently have Zoology, Seashore Life, Birds, and Insects. We are anticipating adding to our collection: Trees, Flowers, Stars, Reptiles and Amphibians, Weather, Mammals, Fishes, Rocks and Minerals, Gamebirds, Fossils, Pond Life, Butterflies and Moths, Dinosaurs, Snakes, Weeds, Herb Spices, and Seashells of the World.  There are SO MANY to choose from! Sometimes, it’s hard to choose what to get next. We especially love watching birds in our backyard, so it’s nice to finally begin to identify the birds we aren’t familiar with. My kids have used the Golden Guides books to search out insects. When we go to the beach this summer, we will take the Seashore Life book to identify shells and ocean creatures we see. As we add to our collection, I’m loving the conversations the Golden Guide Nature books are creating. I also love how they are encouraging my kids to explore the outdoors even more.

The information in the guide is easy to read aloud. Each creature listed includes a carefully research paragraph describing the creature and a colored illustration of the creature. This paragraph is FULL of facts and identification notes about the creature. The Insect book also shows larva, so we have been able to identify ladybug larvae. My daughter especially loved seeeing all the different types of butterflies and it’s been very empowering for her to know the names and markings of the individual butterflies. Understanding the animals and creatures of our area provides my kids with a larger understanding of the roles the bugs and creatures play in the “circle of life” (to quote Lion King) in our backyard.

I especially loved how there are geographical maps to show where each insect and bird call home. This has been especially helpful so we can be on the look out for child life that is local to us, but to also know what is in different regions of the USA/Canada/South America.

Each time we get a new Golden Guide book, I fall more in love with this series. The illustrations are so incredible. Full-color illustrations with such great details. With the Bird Book,  you see the layers of feathers, the number of toes, etc. The Zoology book contains facts of the animal kingdom. So if kids have questions about sweat glands, waste removal, survival tactics, flightless birds, identifying mammals, how a turkey hears vs. how a grasshopper hears, it’s all in the Zoology book. The Insects Book actually makes insects look…less creepy.

These aren’t the types of books you would sit down and read aloud, but they are the types of books you would use on nature hikes, or if you want your kids to appreciate looking up answers to their questions in books versus the Internet.


Book Review: The Big Adventures of Tiny House

When my husband and I got married, we lived in a RV for the first two months of our marriage. I like to say that we did the “tiny house” trend, before it was cool. We faced many obstacles in that RV – in particular,  no running water (it froze) and no heat (it was the middle of the winter). It did show us that we were up for an adventure as long as we are together. Furthermore, that dysfunctional RV was finally the nudge I needed to start blogging. Being newly married living in a RV without running water gave me plenty to blog about! With that beginning in mind, when I was approached to review a book about a tiny house, I had to say yes! I couldn’t think of a better way to show my kids, “Hey! We lived in a RV!” than a book about tiny house living. (Although, today’s tiny houses are MUCH cooler looking and better functioning than the one we lived in!)

The Big Adventures of Tiny House by Susan Schafer Bernardo comes out April 25. You can pre-order it now by going to the Once Upon A Time indie bookstore website.

The Big Adventures of Tiny House follows the story of a little house who is recycled from materials of a traditional house. Once Tiny House is given a fresh look and a set of wheels, Tiny House is off! When the title says, “BIG ADVENTURES” that is not an understatement. Tiny House travels all over the United States of America on an epic road trip.

Let’s count the ways I loved this book:

1. All families will enjoy this book. Whether you are planning a road trip, use an RV for a weekend trip, road trip full time, or you just curious about tiny house living, this is the book to read!

2. You could EASILY use The Big Adventures of Tiny House as a road map to take an epic road trip across the USA.

3. There are SO MANY different homes shared. The variety of tiny homes are celebrated. This tiny house movement is BIG on options – house boat, traditional RV, vintage RV, a BUS, and different Tiny House models. They are ALL celebrated in this book.

4. This is a fun read aloud book. It’s engaging and your kids will crowd around as you read it.

The illustrations are beautiful! I love how illustrator Courtenay Fletcher seamlessly combined muted tones with bright colors thoroughout the book. That is immensely talented. I also love the art matches the story’s enthusiasm; when Tiny House visits New Orleans, it looks like a postcard. When he visits The Grand Canyon, you SEE the grandeur of the of such a national treasure.

Be sure to pre-order your copy of The Big Adventures of Tiny House. You will love it! You can also print off fun coloring pages!

Be sure to follow author Susan Schafer Bernardo and illustrator Courtenay Fletcher.