Tuesday, June 21, 2016

St Maarten

St. Maarten is an island in the caribbean that is divided between the Dutch and the French.  We visited the island while on our Disney Cruise.  I've been to numerous caribbean locales and this was my least favorite of all of them.  The caribbean is known to be mostly poor, but incredibly beautiful and most of the countries I have felt completely safe in, this was not the case here.
St Maartin, the only photo I took

We spent just a day here, and after looking over our options with the Disney Cruise, there was not much the younger kids could do.  Our family decided to stay together, and just sit on the beach and do some shopping.  The water was incredibly beautiful, I cannot deny that, but that was the only perk for me.  My parents have been before, and visited Maho Beach, and said it was basically the same.  Personally, I would have rather gone to Maho to see the planes landing, my kids would have loved that.

Landing United Airlines Plane Over Maho Beach by Richie

We rented some chairs from some locals, and plopped down on the beach.  The entire time we were there, we were hounded to have our hair braided and buy items.  Neither of which we were interested in doing.  My husband and brother finally caved and rented some jet skis, and took the older girls out for a ride.  My dad kept the younger kids, while the women decided to shop. 

The shopping was decent, but we were hounded by the store clerks the entire time.  We were cat called at, I felt like we were in a meat market.  We didn't last long before deciding that we were done, and ready to head back to the ship. My mom did hit up the Tiffany's there though, and found herself some items.  

Personally, I wouldn't recommend going there on vacation, I am hoping that it was like St. Thomas and I just had a bad first experience.  

God bless,


Friday, May 6, 2016

Disney Cruise Part 1

Supporting TCU in St. Thomas
Are you thinking about taking a Disney Cruise, grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine because this is going to be a long winded one.  As I have said before, I love Disney, like so much so I could go yearly or more, too bad we cannot afford that.  I've also said before it is the most exhausting vacation, worth it to see your kids' faces light up, but still completely draining.

You've got a couple options when it comes to a more relaxing Disney experience, Aulani in Hawaii, Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort, or a Disney Cruise.  I have not been to Aulani, but it looks stunning, and we have had friends stay there and they loved it.  I also haven't stayed at the HHI resort, but I have ridden through it and it is beautiful.  We, however, have done a Disney Cruise.  
St. Maartin

A year and a half ago we went on the Disney Magic, leaving from Port Canaveral and stopping in St. Maartin, St. Thomas, and Castaway Cay.  This was considered a seven night, Eastern Caribbean cruise.  I've done numerous cruises, mostly Carnival or Royal Caribbean.  My parents have been on a Princess and Norwegian, the Princess cruise broke down, and the Norwegian was so bad they got off early.  Honestly, we really liked the Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruises, but I will say that my kids loved the Disney Cruise.  

Disney cruises are not cheap, we went the cheapest week I could find in a year for an Eastern Caribbean, it still cost an arm and two legs, I kid you not.  Here is the pro's of the cost though, it really is a germaphobs haven (my husband is a certified germaphob and he did well), they went above and beyond on providing my celiac daughter food options, there were no trashy drunks on deck, and the rooms were large in comparison to any other ship.  There are a few cons too that I will discuss, that way you can make the most informed decision for your family.
Pirate night, I had made them all matching dresses

If you are a germaphobe, a cruise can be a bit of a nightmare.  There are buffets everywhere, and the lack of people that wash their hands these days can be a bit traumatic.  Disney has really gone above and beyond in hygiene on their ships.  There are hand sanitizing stations all over the ship.  They have provided wipes to use at the buffets so no one is touching the tongs, and while it is difficult to hold a tong with a wipe, it is a must.  It is also required to wipe your hands when you get into line, praise Jesus because people are gross!  The kids area is phenomenal when it comes to hand washing, they have hand washing stations. You simply put your kids hands in them, it washes and dries them, they have to do it upon entering and leaving.  Honestly, my kids didn't pick up one thing on the cruise, I attribute it to how clean it was kept.
Highlight of the trip, a visit with Elsa & Anna

My daughter was diagnosed with Celiacs a few years ago, it makes traveling tough at times. Road trips are tough because a lot of fast food places do not cater.  Or restaurants will tell you they have a GF menu only to find out it is not truly GF, which is okay for someone who is avoiding gluten, not okay for her.  She will start vomiting exorcism style if she has it, not fun on a vacation away from home.  Disney did a superb job providing her food options, they even sent us back to our room with donuts for days that we had early departures, or if she just needed a snack.  They also would send out the chef to tell us what she could and couldn't have at the different restaurants.  She ate very well on that trip, probably better than she does at home.  I cannot give enough kudos to Disney for this, any GF families out there can have their minds put to rest.  
Castaway Cay

Another perk for me was the fact that there were no drunks on board.  I know that Carnival is know as the fun ship, and it is, but I hate seeing drunks on deck doing God knows what, especially when my kids are around.  My husband commented on the fact that it was nice to sit around the pools because everyone kept it classy.  Sometimes paying a little more is worth it.
It was cool and raining the day we left, my daughter with her cousin

The rooms for families are huge in comparison to other cruise lines.  We loved the two bathrooms, it made dinner a whole lot easier for us.  My husband would just use the small bathroom, while us girls took over the large one.  We also loved the privacy curtain so we could put the kids to bed at a decent time and stay up and watch television or sit on the balcony and read.  They also had a lot of storage, which can be hard to come by on the ships.  We were able to put all of our stuff away, and slide the suitcases under the bed out of the way.
My celiacs child enjoying breakfast near the ocean

On to the cons, first of all let me preface this with saying I am the cheapest person!  My family makes fun of me for being so incredibly cheap, but we are also debt free (thanks to Dave Ramsey) and still enjoy all of our trips.  So my biggest problem was the cost, it was hard to fork over that much money for a vacation.  I've looked at European cruises that are ten days long on other cruise lines that would cost less than our seven day Eastern Caribbean did.  This is a huge con in my book because if it was cheaper we could have done more activities than we did.
The star of the show

The fam in front of the ship in St. Maartin

Another con for me was the fact that the characters would not be as present as I thought they should have been.  We waited for Elsa and Anna, Mickey and Minnie, and a few others, which my kids loved.  My biggest gripe was that Santa was only available at terrible times, maybe some parents have no issues with a 9pm-10 pm visit with Santa, but it wasn't working for us.   One night we were walking on the track and we saw the Sorcer Mickey, my kids went running after him (he was maybe 10' away) and a team member grabbed him and opened a door and he was gone.  There were no other children near us, so it wasn't like there was a mob of children, and I get they need a break too, my kids just wanted to say hey for a second and we would have moved on.  Be mindful of the character meet and greets, you probably won't see them the rest of the trip anywhere else.  
They lived on the waterslides

Lastly, I had a love hate relationship with the children's area.  I loved the fact that I could drop them off and know that they were safe.  I hated the limited hours, which we are not the type to pawn our kids off on anyone else, but the hours weren't great to us.  It was also extremely safe, your kids are tracked every second on the ship and when you pick them up, they say your kid is located here.  And sure enough they always were.  But I felt that it was geared towards either a lot older kids (mine were 7, 5, and 4 at the time) or a lot younger.  My youngest two loved it, and played in the Toy Story area a lot.  My oldest had fun, but they propped them in front of a computer, and would occasionally have a dance party or character meet and greets, but mostly I found her in front of a computer.  I felt like that was a colossal waste of money and time, so they spent most of the time at the pool, which they loved anyway.
Toy Story Playroom

In the end, we would probably fork over the money again just to ensure that my youngest was fed well.  The pool and splash pad area was a lot of fun for my kiddos, the first run movies was an added bonus, and the shows were the best cruise shows I have seen.  All of that made it worth it!  I'll be posting about our stops coming up very soon.  If you have any questions ask, I will answer them to the best of my ability.
Did I mention they do fireworks off of the ship?

Castaway Cay as we were pulling in!

God bless,


Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Well once again, I am apologizing for the long interim period between posts.  Can you tell I am busy, busy?  Between all of our activities, we have been traveling a lot lately, and I cannot wait to share all of our fun times with you.

In March, my husband had a long layover in Chattanooga, TN.  We were headed to Atlanta for Easter, and he suggested we stop over for the day in Chattanooga.  Honestly, in all the years I have lived in Tennessee, I have never stopped in Chattanooga, only driven through.  I had heard that it is a great city, with lots to do, and it is stunningly beautiful there.  I happily obliged, and I am so glad that we did.

We only had time to do one activity, and being that it was still a bit chilly, we decided to do the Tennessee Aquarium.  I have been to several aquariums in the US, my favorite still is Monterey Bay, but I have to say the Tennessee Aquarium is a very close second.  They have done a wonderful job being that it is nowhere near the ocean.

Our favorite exhibits were the butterfly garden, seahorse exhibit, jellyfish exhibit, the Smoky Mountain exhibit, and of course the penguins.  In the butterfly garden, kids grabbed a guide and we immediately started searching for the different types of butterflies.  My middle daughter immediately started to recognize the different types too.  The seahorse and jelly fish exhibits were incredible, I had never seen so many in my life.  They loved looking in each of the different tanks at all the different types.  The tribute to the Smoky Mountains was done so well that you felt that you were actually in the mountains.  They had waterfalls and rocks, it even smelled like the fresh mountain air, quite impressive.  The penguins is what the Tennessee Aquarium is known for, the girls loved watching them interact with each other.  They also really enjoyed the educational talks that the employees gave, we had to pull them away from one as we were running out of time.

Right before we went into the aquarium, we stopped and ate lunch at Puckett's, which is right next door.  We love looking for local places to eat, they had delicious BBQ.  I meant to go back and buy some BBQ sauce, and completely forgot.  If you are in town, check out Puckett's and the aquarium.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Getaway From the Cold to St. Thomas

Our stunning view
Are you ready for some warm, tropical weather?  Me too! In November of 2014, our family went on a Disney Cruise to the Eastern Caribbean.  I will blog about my thoughts on the cruise later, but today I will be discussing one of my favorite ports-St. Thomas!  This was my second time to St. Thomas, and I surely hope to visit there again soon.

St. Thomas, is located in the USVI, right next to beautiful St. John.  While we have never been to St. John, I have heard that it is a notch above St. Thomas.  We have been on two different cruises that have docked in St. Thomas, neither afforded us enough time to be able to go to St. John.  Personally, I think an independent trip is a must do.
Magen's Bay by Jackie

Our first trip to St. Thomas, I was not impressed, in fact I was incredibly disappointed we'd be stopping there on our cruise.  However, this trip, I fell in love with the island, and the people.  Our first trip we headed to Magen's Bay, and took the sky ride that was near the port.  Personally, both were a bit touristy and pricey in my book.  Magen's Bay was pretty, but it was incredibly busy and the beach wasn't that clean, in my opinion.  The sky ride was overpriced, around $20 a person if I remember correctly, and while the views were stunning, you can see them on a van ride to the beach.
Skyride to Paradise Point by Prayitno

This trip, we were hoping to do an excursion with all of the kids, ranging in age from 4-7; however, Disney does not allow younger children to participate in any of the beach excursions we were interested in doing.  My older children accompanied my husband, dad, and brother on a sea turtle tour, which they loved doing.  While the women took the younger ones to the beach.

We found a wonderful local cab driver, who was full of advice.  She suggested we go to Coki Beach, as it wasn't as touristy in the mornings, and was smaller for the kiddos.  I would be lying if when we pulled up, my mom, sister-in-law, and myself looked at each other with nervous eyes.  Off to the right was a tiny beach with dinghy's, and off to the left a small shopping center.  She said, "Don't worry, you will be fine, just go up those steps."  She led us to the steps, and as we crested the top of them, we were surrounded by the most beautiful place I've ever been too.  We paid for some chairs, and pretty much had the beach to ourselves, besides the locales.  We stayed for a few hours, until an excursion that had visited the aquarium next door, showed up.  Coki Beach, has stunning views, clear water, and clean restrooms; all things necessary, when you're traveling with little ones.

My nephew and daughter played freely in the shallow waters
After we left, we hit up the local shopping district.  My sister-in-law and myself ended up taking the kids back to nap, but my mom stayed out shopping for quite awhile, and felt completely safe.  If you are looking for a beach getaway this winter, St. Thomas is at the top of my list.

Coki Beach, much cleaner than Magen's
God bless,


Friday, January 15, 2016

Dallas, TX

It's January, which means that it is cold outside, dreary, and germs are everywhere.  I've had a sick kid since Christmas, I thought I had gotten them all well, only to fly to Dallas for the weekend and come home to three sick kids!  As luck would have it, I had a passenger on my flight hacking their lungs up on me the entire flight.  Sure enough two days later, I had come down with it.  Thanks a lot lady, why can we not be like all of the Asian countries?  It was worth the sickness though to fly to Dallas, one of my favorite cities, I could be partial though because my family lives there.  Dallas has something for everyone.  They have top notch shopping, museums, parks.

Whenever, I fly into town my mom and I go shopping.  I happen to really love the Paragon Outlets in Grand Prairie.  They also have a Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack, which are two of my favorite stores too.  If you have kids hit up the Galleria Mall, there is an ice skating rink, and an American Girl!  If you like high end shopping my favorite shopping center happens to be an outdoor shopping area called Southlake Town Square.  They have a Kendra Scott (I just discovered her stuff, it is adorable), Lily Pulitzer, Janie & Jack, Anthropologie, amongst many other stores.  They have great food choices and a Hilton!  The North Park mall is another great high end shopping mall, there you can find Louis Vuitton.
Galleria Mall by Kumar Gauraw

My youngest at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
My children beg to go to Dallas, I am not sure if it is so they can hang out with Noni & Papa or if they want to hit up the museums.  They have been to almost all of the museums in the area, along with the Fort Worth and Dallas Zoos.  Their favorite museum when they were really little was the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.  They don't change their exhibits that often, my kids got bored with it, but if you have never been and have younger kids they will love it.  My kids have moved onto bigger and better museums, they now have a new favorite-The Perot Museum.  The Perot was named in honor of Ross Perot.  This museum is incredible, they have several floors, and the kids cannot get enough, they could stay there all day and still not see everything.  My kids love all the hands on exhibits.  The kids can learn about the human body, gems and mineral, birds, energy, the earth, amongst other things.  My kids love the earthquake simulator!  For adults, I highly recommend the John F. Kennedy museum, where you can learn about his death.
Perot Museum

Dallas/Fort Worth has a lot of parks.  My favorite happens to be the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens, the kids can see all types of flora and study etymology here.  Fair Park is the site of the famous State Fair of Texas, even when it is not fair season you can still see Big Tex, there is an Aquarium here, and you can ride the paddle boats.  There are too many parks to hit on in the area, but you are sure to find one close to you anywhere you stay.

My kids at one of the many parks

If in town, take your kids to downtown Fort Worth, there you will find a train called the Tarantula, your kids can see the long horn cows run through the street daily, amongst other fun things to do.  The other place my girls really enjoy is the Fort Worth Zoo, it is located in downtown Fort Worth, and is nicely shaded.  They usually go a few times when my dad has them.  If you do go, check out a locally owned ice cream shop right down the road, called Melt, you can thank me later!
A Genuine Long Horn Cow! by Bonita de Boer

Dallas/Fort Worth has a plethora of things for adults and kids alike.  I only hit on a couple that we enjoy, there are so many things to do there.  You will never run out of ideas.  Dallas is only 1.5-2 hours from Waco, check out Joanna Gaines or the Czech store.  A 5 or so hour drive from San Antonio, check out the Riverwalk or Alamo. Roughly, 4 hour drive from Austin, which has a lot to do too for the artsy person.

God bless,


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Birthday Travels

It is Travel Tuesday! Where do you want to go today?  My older girls are coming up on their birthday's.  My oldest, Miss Thing, is turning 9 (she has got to stop growing), and my middle one, Curly Cue, is turning 7.  For their special day they want to go on a vacation instead of a birthday party.  Sound the celebratory band, this mama hates parties with a passion!  I know go ahead and give me worst mom of the year award, I don't care.
Salt Lake City from airplane

So when Curly Cue said, "Mom for my birthday can we go somewhere?" I didn't even hesitate to tell her yes!  My oldest daughter's birthday happens to be two weeks later on Valentine's Day, she said she'd rather go someplace too-praise Jesus! Honestly, parties are so dang expensive, I'd rather spend money taking them somewhere.
My girls in girl heaven at AG in NYC

Curly Cue said she wanted to hit up NYC again and go to American Girl doll, which was fine, it is her birthday.  We just went to New York a couple weeks ago, I kindly suggested we do something else.  She suggested Bora Bora, while I'd love to go there, I almost fell out of my chair at what that little trip would cost us!  Not to mention we only have about a week if that, since my oldest daughter is on the youth symphony in our town.  I kindly suggested somewhere not quite so far.
Blue Lagoon by Moyan Brenn

They have been wanting to go someplace cold to learn how to ski, I have never been skiing in my life, but wouldn't mind to try it once.  I suggested, Salt Lake City, my husband suggested North Carolina.  My girls started googling around on the internet and are now torn between two very cool destinations: Iceland and Germany.

Castle Neuschwanstein by Steffan Dubois

I haven't been to Europe since I lived there in 2002, and I have never been to Iceland, only Greenland.  My oldest started googling around and found a hotel in Munich that looks beautiful, that also has ski lessons for the kids.  Munich is also a 1.5 hour train ride from Salzburg, and my girls happen to love the movie The Sound of Music, and are dying to see Salzburg too!  Iceland looks incredible!  My girls are obsessed with the movie The Polar Express and when they saw that you can see the Northern Lights they were sold, not to mention the Blue Lagoon looks like a piece of heaven on earth.  Both places look spectacular, we are completely torn!  Hopefully, my husband can get off a week when we are off for symphony to sneak away.  If you have been to either, I'd love to hear your opinions, especially if you have travelled with kiddos!
Do-Re-Mi by Nagesh Kamath 

God bless,


Friday, January 1, 2016

So, You Have Kids

Just because you have kids doesn't mean that you can only go on vacation to Disney.  Let me say that again, you do not have to go only to Disneyland or Disney World because you have kids!

Don't get me wrong, I love Disney!  I love the magic, the smells, Main Street, the rides, I love it all. Nowhere in the world can it snow while being 70 degrees, that takes some magic, only found at Disney. With that said, it is the most EXHAUSTING vacation.  By the time that we are finished, we all are ready to kill each other.  Don't even get me started on the germs (okay the cruise is a germaphobes dream, seriously wish they'd implement the sanitizing stations at WDW), my kids never get sick, but they get sick every. single. time at Disney!  While Disney is geared towards families, and they do a WONDERFUL job, you are not confined to only traveling there.  

My kids started flying when they were infants, when the TSA used to require you to take off their shoes too (try that one handed, while folding a stroller, and shoving a car seat onto the conveyor belt). They are pros now, because we did it so often.  Don't get me wrong, when the girls were young we had to take a lot more, but it can be done.  Now there are awesome baby carriers like the Tula, Ergo, and others that were not available when my kids were little.  I had a Bjorn and while it killed my back, it was perfect for travels.  They have also come out with portable carseats, my kids have a Bubble Bum, which I love.  I can fold it flat and carry in my carryon.  

So here are a couple of our favorite non Disney locations!

Tampa, FL: (Read about it here)
On the beach in Tampa

St. Thomas, USVI: (Read about it here)
Coki Beach, USVI

Seattle, WA: My youngest hasn't been yet, but I hope to take her up there this year.
View from Space Needle (2010)

Destin, FL: Can you tell we love the beach? 

Watercolor, FL (2012)

And my girls' favorite location, that they are already planning on going back to is, NYC!

Most of these are within driving distance for us East Coast people, and St. Thomas is just a plane ride away.  These are just some of our favorite locations.  London, England is a lot of fun, my kids have not gone yet, but I hope to take them soon.