REVIEW: EGO Power+ Electric Lawn Mower
» Kindergarten Countdown
» 2017 Mother’s Day Gift Guide
» REVIEW: Pact Organic
» REVIEW: Ninja Coffee Bar System
Easter baskets during the year of less
» REVIEW: Monster ClarityHD On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones
» DIY: Our Kitchen Renovation
» Zoom-Zoom in the 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD
» Chattanooga: 3-Day Family Vacation

REVIEW: EGO Power+ Electric Lawn Mower

Electric lawn mowers aren’t a new thing for our family. In fact, we’ve had one for many years, my tree-hugging husband insisted on it. But ours is pretty ridiculous, you literally plug the mower into a 100-foot extension cord connected to an outlet and mow away. It’s tedious and I’ve almost run over the cord more times than I can count. The picture below (not me) features this interesting contraption I’ve used to mow for years.

Is she cutting the grass or vacuuming the grass? Even I’m not sure. Men in big trucks have had quite a few laughs at my expense as they drove by, some pulling commercial mowers behind them. My husband didn’t see any problem with this method of grass-cutting but he’s not the only one who mows the grass, I was fed up.

Finally, a mower we can both agree on.

We’ve been using the EGO Power+ lawn mower for a couple of months now and absolutely love it. Actually. I adore it. The EGO Power+ mower is powerful with the torque of gas, but doesn’t require gas or a silly extension cord. There are  a few different types of EGO Power+ Lawn mowers but we received the Power+ 21 inch with 5.0Ah battery. The 45-minute run time was more than enough for our 1/3 acre. Here are some of my favorite things about it so far:

Battery charges in 30 minutes flat: I never open my calendar app and schedule grass cutting time. Instead I usually realize it’s about to rain and quickly run out to take care of the lawn. With EGO’s rapid charger, I only need to plan 30 minutes in advance to get a full charge.

Ease of use: No more cranking the motor over and over again and pulling a muscle in my mom-bicep. With the push of a button, the mower starts up every time. Electric mowers are also much lighter so they are easier to push through the grass. My arms and legs appreciate it. Even our nine year old can expect to add cutting the grass to his summer chore list.

Noise level: I can listen to a great Spotify playlist while mowing without having to buy a pair of $300 headphones to actually enjoy it. I’ve always hated the loud noise, and smell, that gas mowers produce.

Folds up: With two cars in the garage, it doesn’t leave much room for lawn equipment. The EGO mower folds up nicely for storage purposes. If needed (for those friend favors), I can quickly load it up in the van, too.

EGO is not just a mower: EGO has a ton of other tools including blowers, trimmers, and chainsaws. The best part, they all use the same battery and battery chargers. This allows you to charge one (or more batteries) while using other batteries for the tools you need immediately.



We have used electric outdoor equipment for a long time but always being tied to a cord is getting really old. Time with family has become more and more valuable to us and EGO has allowed us to get the job done quickly without the awful fumes of gas. If you are looking to start with one unit, an EGO mower is a great foundation to build upon. We will continue to add tools from the EGO platform to our garage.

POWER UP YOUR SUMMER: From May 18th – June 4th, online or in-store at The Home Depot, you can get $50 off handheld kits (while supplies last).

EGO Power+ website

buy EGO on Amazon

EGO 21 in. Push Mower Specifications:

  • Up to 45 Minute Run-Time with 5.0Ah 56 Volt ARC Lithium Battery
  • Rapid Charger : Charges the 5.0Ah Battery (included) in only 40 Minutes
  • 21” Deck
  • Push Button Start
  • Compact Storage
  • Weather Resistant Construction
  • LED Headlights
  • 3-IN-1 Function: Mulching, Bagging, Side Discharge
  • 3 Position Handle Heights
  • One Handed Height Adjustment
  • Maximum Cutting Height: 4 inches
  • Minimum Cutting Height: 1 ½ inches
  • Grass Bag Capacity: 2 Bushels
  • Rear Wheel Size: 9 inches
  • 5 Year Warranty

» Kindergarten Countdown

I sent my first child off to kindergarten 4 years ago. I watched many mommas say goodbye with tears and lamenting Facebook posts. I, on the other hand, said goodbye with a pep in my step. I knew Elliott was ready and I knew he was going to have a great time. I also had two in preschool and one on the way home from China. My plate was full. I’m also a work outside the home momma and did not have to return home to an empty house.

A short 4 years later all my babies are home and in various grades at school. Our youngest is finishing up preschool and kindergarten is just months away for him. And I’m a bit of a mess over it. No one warns you what it’s like to let the baby go to real school. Sure, he’s been in preschool for some time now. But it’s sweet and small and special. He plays a lot and get smiley faces. Real school is big time. It means the baby is gone. It also means I have to grow up too. No more he’s the baby passes. I admit… it’s probably awesome being the youngest. I didn’t experience it myself but I do recognize the special treatment one receives as the last one with a little baby in them. Not special in a way that lets him out of consequences, but special in a way that gets extra drinks of water at bed time or more snuggle time. Because man… that kind of stuff just won’t last forever.

Letting go is an art I need to learn. And motherhood is teaching me. Girls, this is way more than I ever expected! My kids are growing fast, they are moody, they are needy and they are so unique and wonderful. I’m never ready for the next stage to start because what we are in is so good! This day, this month and this year will never happen again. And while, at times, I want to beg time to slow down I also can’t wait to experience all the other stages of mothering my kids. It’s a tug of war. Torn between anticipation of who they will be and the desire to rock them to sleep until they are 15.

I might if they will let me.

As our family approaches our last preschool graduation and kindergarten…. I have some thoughts for you, Liam. Thoughts that will also be written on paper for that special box I keep for each of you.

Buddy I remember where I was when I got a call about you. We had been waiting a couple years to know who you were. We were praying too. I was really, really ready to know you. And when I wasn’t expecting it my phone rang on a regular morning while I was playing with Elliott and Charlotte. They were so little at the time, just babies. Our family coordinator was on the phone and she told me that she wanted to tell me about a baby boy. I was so surprised because you were so little! We had given away many of our baby things because we thought you might be 2 or 3 year old… but no… when we got the call you were just 3 months old. I stared at your picture and printed a dozen copies for our home. We began to plan for you and anticipate meeting you for the first time. The next time I got a call I happened to be in Haiti. We didn’t expect to travel so quickly! I had to fly home and get to Ethiopia as fast as I could. Daddy and I were so excited… the long flight seemed even longer than usual!

We had to leave after just a week with you. We didn’t know when we would get to bring you home. The wait was so much harder after we held you. After we saw your eyes light up when we tickled your tummy. You were so completely our son and we were so completely your parents. God gives many good gifts in life and you are one of our greatest. Thankfully, as you know, Nana and I got to bring you home just 8 weeks later. You were pretty sick, very sick actually, and I petitioned a lot of important people to help us get you home quickly. We didn’t sleep much that week, in Ethiopia, I was worried and you needed a lot of care. The plane ride home was very scary but very joyful once we arrived home and knew things were going to be okay.

Liam, how we came together as a family sounds pretty adventurous at times. And you, my son, are definitely an adventure. You keep us on our toes. I don’t think anyone moves or dances as much as you do. But adventure isn’t our glue. It’s not what makes us a family. We are a family because we work hard every day, together. God gave us to each other and we honor him by doing our best. Buddy, every single day I wonder what I can do to help you be your best. And every day you show me the biggest, fullest love. I know life will give you a lot of questions down the road. I know everything in your life doesn’t make sense. And with every big step forward, like starting school, there will be more that we need to talk about. But we are ready for all the big and hard. There is beauty and there is brokenness… and those things make life what it is. I’m ready to walk all of those roads with you. It’s such an honor to be your mom. I know God made me just the way I am to be just the mom you need. It makes me confident that all of our pieces will fit together even if the puzzle is a bit difficult to work at times.

We have a few more months to get ready for the big K and it’s going to be so much fun. I know you’ll be ready. And I know this will be my hardest send off yet.But you’ll always be the baby. The one who changed my heart and shaped it to love in new ways.

» 2017 Mother’s Day Gift Guide

I realize we’ve committed to a year of less… but I have to interrupt for just a moment because I know some of you are desperately looking for Mother’s Day ideas. So in spite of promoting less I’ve rounded up a few ideas for mom that I would be happy to receive. Although… I won’t be this year. I’ve tried to bring a variety of things you may have never seen or thought of.

1. Clay Mug from Haiti

Clay cookies are a known “food” in Haiti. Feed My Starving Children has created a market for artisans from Port-Au-Prince to use the same process to make mugs instead. These coffee mug purchases enable these Haitians to sculpt their way out of poverty and support their families! I cannot think of a more meaningful gift for mom. Check out Feed My Starving Children’s other items, too. You’ll fall in love quickly.

Feed My Starving Children website


2. Magnolia Journal Magazine Subscription

I love a gift that keeps on giving. And I LOVE Fixer Upper. Magnolia Journal comes out four times per year and is full of all the shiplap and chippy paint that mom craves. Additionally, make sure that you serve up some quiet time and coffee when that magazine arrives.

buy on Amazon


3. Ninja Coffee Bar System

A coffee system complete with a variety of brew types and sizes (single cup to whole pot), a built-in frother, and tons of specialty (hot and iced) coffee recipes — Caramel Macchiato, Iced Mocha Latte, and a Vanilla Flat White just to name a few — you can create and enjoy at home. Read our full review here.

Ninja Kitchen website

buy Ninja Coffee Bar System on Amazon


4. Netatmo Smart Home

You know how much I love smart home products. Netatmo makes some beautiful products that compliment your home interior rather than cause a huge distraction. Now that our kids are getting older and more independent, the Welcome camera has helped me keep tabs on everyone. Face recognition technology has been really accurate so far so I know who’s inside (or outside) the house at all times. If that wasn’t enough, the unit also listens for alarms—whether it be a smoke alarm, CO alarm, security alarm or siren—it will send a notification and record a video. For the health-conscious moms, the Healthy Home Coach monitors the air quality level (CO2 levels) to make sure the home environment is healthy. I particularly love monitoring humidity levels for my son, who deals with asthma. The Healthy Home Coach measures what matters, notifies you (via phone app) of potential problems, and gives suggestions on how to fix them. I wish I had one of these years ago for an infant’s room.

Netatmo website

buy Netatmo on Amazon


5. Kitchen IQ

I love high-quality kitchen items that don’t need replacing every year. I finally tried Kitchen IQ’s knife sharpener after feeling the urge to replace an “old” set of knives. I also love their flexible cutting boards, kitchen scales, and graters.

Kitchen IQ website

buy on Amazon



» REVIEW: Pact Organic

We have really made an effort to understand where our clothing comes from over the past few years. When possible we like to choose clothing that is ethically made. PACT Organic fits this criteria. They use organic cotton to minimize their environmental impact and ensure that their factories are safe, hygienic and free of child labor. Workers are also paid a living wage. As they say at PACT… change begins with your underwear.

PACT has great packaging. In addition to enjoying the clothing myself I feel that there is clear communication of their company’s goals that makes PACT products a great gift item as well. The leggings were soft and sturdy and had a slightly raised waist that makes them smooth and easy to wear under dresses and long t-shirts. I cannot get over how soft PACT clothing is! You can truly feel the quality of the organic cotton.

The premium hoodie has become a staple in my wardrobe. It’s soft and thick, yet still lightweight. Great for walking Wrigs when the night cools off a bit. The thumb holes are a fun and comfy detail.

Quick Facts about PACT Organic
-All clothing is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
certified, Organic Content Standard (OCS) certified, and Fair Trade
-All clothes are super soft and are made with organic cotton that gives
you just enough stretch for the perfect fit.
-I felt that each piece was just the right thickness. Nothing was see-through or thin. This is clothing you can feel good about buying for many reasons!
Trust me, you need some PACT in your life. For a limited time you can use a special discount code to get 25% off your order. Just enter Goodbye25 at check out! Click here to hop over and check out the selection of super soft organic, Fair Trade clothing.

I was selected to review PACT clothing as a part of the Mom’s Meet community of bloggers. All opinions are my own.

» REVIEW: Ninja Coffee Bar System

I once had three ways to make coffee in my house that took up all of the kitchen counter space. This consisted of a traditional coffee maker for large pots when company was over, a Keurig Coffee Maker for quick single cups, and my personal preference at the time, a French Press for most mornings. The Keurig lasted for a grand total of 7 days. The convenience was great but I kept worrying about the hot water running through that little plastic cup and the amount of trash it was creating over time. I loved the taste of the French Press but became frustrated after breaking our third glass carafe in about 1 1/2 years.

After the last French Press carafe broke, I began to look for a better option. Once the Keurig was gone, I loved having the counter space but missed the ability to make a quick cup of coffee. Enter the Ninja Coffee Bar System, a coffee system complete with a variety of brew types and sizes (single cup to whole pot), a built-in frother, and tons of specialty (hot and iced) coffee recipes — Caramel Macchiato, Iced Mocha Latte, and a Vanilla Flat White just to name a few — you can create and enjoy at home. Bonus: I was able to go from three kitchen pieces cluttering my counter to one.

Set up

The Ninja Coffee Bar System we received comes out of the box ready to use. First run one or two classic brew cycles with water only to prepare the machine for drinking use and you’re ready to start serving up everything from drip coffee to lattes. We keep the water reservoir full (similar to a Keurig) so the machine is ready to make a single cup or full pot at any time. The unit includes features of your regular coffee maker such as a clock with programming abilities along with a heat plate to keep your carafe hot. The best part, the Ninja Coffee Bar has a sensor that alerts you when it has mineral build up and needs to run a clean cycle. This is the first of any coffee machine I’ve owned that had this feature.

Ease of Use

The unit comes with a fun little recipe book that explains how to make many coffee drinks and also details how to use the different settings on the machine. The coffee grounds scoop has different sizes on each end so you can easily put the right amount of grounds in based on how much coffee you’re wanting to make. Simply follow the directions a few times and you’ll easily start making your own creations.

What I love about the Ninja is the versatility. There is a pull-down setting that allows you to make a single cup, a glass carafe for a full or half pot and even a pitcher for iced coffee. The built-in frother is powered by the same plug as the coffee maker so no need to deal with batteries.

Quality of Coffee

I enjoy a strong, flavorful cup of coffee. The Ninja has plenty of options to make sure I get exactly what I want. I’ve tried every setting on the Ninja and every single cup and pot has turned out full-bodied and flavorful. Our favorites have been the half carafe classic brew and the lattes. The kids have enjoyed creating decaffeinated iced coffees. With the Ninja Coffee Bar System you truly have all the tools to make pretty much any style coffee drink. It definitely makes us think twice before picking up a coffee at a shop.


We LOVE the Ninja Coffee Bar System for our house. It’s so much fun to use and the coffee quality is excellent. We have enjoyed so many fun mornings and evenings whipping up delicious coffee treats. It’s truly a staple in our home at this point and I especially love the ability to make a single cup or a whole pot without sacrificing quality.

Ninja Kitchen website

buy Ninja Coffee Bar System on Amazon

Easter baskets during the year of less

As I previously shared in this post, we chose to try out a year of less. A year with no physical gifts for birthdays, Christmas etc. Even though we have always been conservative with stuff it was still feeling out of control in our home. Here are a few ways we are planning to replace the traditional Easter Basket in our home this year.

For Elliott, our 9 year old:

A giftcard to a local arcade to spend some time with dad. We are also donating, in honor of his favorite sport, to provide soccer gear for kids who do not have equipment.

For Lola, our 9 year old:

A day pass for rock-climbing with mom, this is her favorite activity and she is so empowered when she’s climbing! We are also donating to provide food for a baby for a week through Samaritans Purse.

For Charlotte, our 7 year old:

A certificate for spa time. Nothing makes her happier than pretty pink nails. We will also donate in her name to provide baby chicks for a family in need. Also through Samaritans purse.

For Liam, our 5 year old:

A giftcard to the arcade for bonding time with Dad and big brother. In Liam’s honor we will donate to provide “comfort lambs to children. He is our babe who loves to have a stuffed animal tucked under his arm.

Each child will receive the gift of time and an experience with a parent and also know that another child will receive something that they need. We hope that these early experiences will foster a spirit of generosity and empathy for others.



» REVIEW: Monster ClarityHD On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones

Because my iPhone 7 doesn’t have a headphone jack (and I’ve already lost the lightning adapter), I began looking for a set of Bluetooth headphones that I can not only listen to music on but also take calls with. Monster is a trusted brand, which led me to their ClarityHD Bluetooth Headphones. I opted for the On-Ear style because I felt they would be more comfortable wearing for longer lengths of time. So far, I’m loving these things. I have tried a variety of music ranging from Ben Rector to some great workout playlists on Spotify and the sound has been great for all types of music.

Set up

Out of the box, the ClarityHD is ready to go. You may need to charge it, which takes two hours for a full charge of 20 hours of wireless playback time. The ClarityHD on-ears are ready to pair via Bluetooth as soon as they’re turned on. And I was right, after wearing these for a couple of hours, I didn’t feel they were putting too much pressure on my head at all.

Of course you can play, pause, control the volume on your iPhone or computer but you can also use the touchpad on the right-hand side of the headphones, just above the earcup. For example, turn volume up or down by swiping up and down. This touchpad feature is really easy and convenient to use — no fumbling with your phone or buttons. To play or pause, make one tap on the touch pad. It definitely feels awkward at first but after a week or so the controls became a lot more natural to me.


The ClarityHD On Ear Headphones are among the most comfortable and lightweight headphones I have tried, making them a great for everyday and travel use. I’m planning a trip to Uganda this summer and already know the compact folding design will come in handy (I do wish these came with a case). Having a 3.5 mm audio jack option if my battery dies is nice to have, too. For more daily work-from-home use, I’ve taken advantage of the built-in microphone for taking calls many times. They’re very comfortable, and the overall design is basic and discreet, which is a good thing.

Monster website

» DIY: Our Kitchen Renovation

Our home has been such a work in progress. When we moved in we knew we were going to change everything but would need to do it slowly and of course… cheaply. When I walked into our home with my realtor/friend I told her to put the offer in within just a few minutes. I could see huge potential and I could see this becoming our home. Forgive the poor quality of the before photos! I didn’t have my iPhone 7 back then, ya’ll!

Before the renovation the kitchen was cut off from the entire house. It was still a large kitchen but it isolated me or whoever was in there from the rest of the home. I dreamed of a large, open space that contained a dining, sitting and kitchen area. The structure of our home posed some issues here. We didn’t have a large budget to work with and the wall separating the dining and kitchen was load bearing and also had the weight of stairs mixed in. Removing that or opening it up would be thousands upon thousands. No thank you. Every day I looked at the kitchen from different angles. I even asked contractor friends. I still got the answer… you’re talking about a lot of money hereIf you look below you’ll see the kitchen on the day we moved in. Shiny black, but solid wood, cabinets, a space waiting for a fridge and decent quartz counter tops. Oh. And red walls. Which probably looked stellar with someone else’s decor… but not mine. AND that soffit above the cabinets. Dry wall and soffit as far as the eye can see. The wall on the right (where the fridge goes) is the wall that divided the kitchen from the next room, picture #2. This room was a den/living area with faux wood beams and fireplace and lots of track lighting. This room was so dark despite the two sets of French doors.


The wall before coming down


The den on the opposite side of the kitchen wall


The opposite side of the kitchen. This leads into the bonus room and the dining room. The dining is where you spy the bit of chair rail. This is now my office and sitting area with a nice big couch.

One day as I was standing in the kitchen, it hit me. Why fixate on the location of the dining room? We could take the wall down between the den and the kitchen and create the open area we wanted! This wall was not load bearing. Additionally, because I had no budget for an actual new kitchen… why not move and repurpose all the existing cabinets? They were in good shape and very solid. Of course all these ideas hit me AFTER I did my mini $250 renovation. Thankfully I only lost the tile on wall I was planning to take down. You can read about that little detour here.

So here’s what we did in a nutshell. And yes, we did call in some professionals as well as doing a lot ourselves. There were some shady things going on with the electrical before we called in the professionals. It’s always lovely when you find out that the contractors that did the upstairs bathrooms renovations (before we bought the house) cut through the floor beams and just left them. PTL we didn’t end up with a shower or bathtub in the middle of our kitchen! We had our fair share of HGTV phone call moments and things to fix that cost more than we were expecting. Lesson #1 in home remodeling… always over-budget because you will uncover crazy things when the walls start coming down.

What we did:

– Removed wall separating den and kitchen, created column to encase plumbing pipes after wall removal, added hardwood floor where wall stood previously,

– Added additional can lighting to replace track lighting in den, removed gross faux beams

– Painted red brick on fire place, painted EVERYTHING

– Removed and rearranged cabinets, make an island from a portion of the cabinets, found contrasting granite at scrap granite yard

– Refinished ALL wood floors in house (they were a different color in each room),

– Painted cabinets, installed backsplash, converted electric range to gas. We also added extra moulding to the top of the cabinets. They looked strange after removing the soffit and that really helped dress them up.

– Removed soffit above cabinets, repaired drywall 1,000 times

– Added cabinetry for microwave area


And here we are today. The column marks where the wall once was. We opted to encase the plumbing with a column rather than spending thousands and thousands trying to move it. It was a budget win, and I like the detail. We also added a light switch and outlets which is very handy with the island. We added bead board to an existing cabinet, pulled from the old wall, and the island with seating for 5-6 was born. Someday, the black ovens will completely die and I’ll get new stainless ones… but not today.

Here is another angle from this perspective. I love the clean lines of sight. I love that we can gather here. I love that a painting from Ethiopia and baskets from Uganda all found their way into a space that boasts Farm House above the door. I love that those stools were $40 at Home Goods as well. LOVE a bargain. Ya’ll do too right??

Now here we are, looking from the opposite end. I didn’t remove my fridge crap for you guys. Wanted to be mostly real. Although there is usually a bit more crumbs and dog toys or whatever to be found on the floor. What I love about this view is the budget chair and table. The distressed(ish) blue chairs are leftover from a previous table set. The upholstered chairs were $60 each on World Market’s end of year sale. The farm house table with metal top was a shocking $175 at World Market’s end of year sale. I am cheap to the core, so I pick up things and build my style over time. I sometimes pick something up and don’t figure out how to use it for a good two years.

There is a lot of walking (or running) space in this room. It’s really airy and now that it’s not brown you can really feel all the natural light. I painted the fireplace in this room because the original brick was not a pretty red. Otherwise I would have kept it original. The shelving unit was brownish mustard poop and now it has a shiplap treatment and is a nice, snowy white. And it houses little treasures from Africa, Haiti, China, South Carolina and wherever else we’ve ended up.

This view highlights the working room I have in the kitchen. I can now have lots of people (kids) busting around in here with me. No problem. The open cabinetry area holds a microwave… and currently all of our water bottles. I try not to fuss with stuff like that and just give easy access for the kids to make their water bottle each day for school and sports. The rugs are simple and can be thrown in the wash on a weekly basis.

Here you can catch a glimpse of the bonus room, which we recently finished with a shiplap treatment. It took me awhile to agree to this… but man, I just love it so much. There is also a sliding door that divides the rooms, it’s featured in this post. I told you I wanted to keep it real, do you like the mad stack of water bottle mess down there? And oh man, that black stove hood and double oven. Not pleasing to the eye… but they work right? Someday…

There you have it! We went from this:

To this:

And we did it without incurring any additional debt. We saved a bit, we made decent choices and reused a lot of what we had. Why spend a ton of money on a renovation when in 10 years someone is going to move into this house and blog about how they had to paint over all my light grey and add a wall because why would someone ever want such an open house (lol). It’s all relative friends. Enjoy your home, make it yours… and don’t break the bank.

» Zoom-Zoom in the 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

Another work trip to D.C. means another opportunity I get to drive something other than the mom minivan. The 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD is a crossover vehicle with great handling that provides a smooth and quiet ride that also allows the driver to seamlessly control the extras while driving. Everything inside is thought out and nicely within reach or a voice command away. In fact, one of the most used feature for me was the voice command that allowed me to call my family as we are out and about. In addition, the CX-3 Grand Touring comes equipped with a Bose Surround Sound system which made any conversation sound good. With seven speakers and a lot of kick, music lovers will also rejoice.

The adaptive front lighting system is very useful for nighttime. I’m having a harder time seeing at night when driving so having a vehicle that properly illuminates the road is a necessity. The LED adaptive front lighting system means the lights on the vehicle turn with you as you turn through corners and curves allowing you to better see what lies before you. This is such a great feature to have whether you live in the big city or the country.


Overall, the Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring is a great sporty subcompact crossover that is comfortable with an interior that has a nice layout.  It’s a good looking vehicle that has strong performance with Sport Mode and great fuel economy rated at 34 HW MPG. Plus, I prefer hatchback vehicles since they typically allow more options to store oversized items.






Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD. As always, these opinions are my own.

» Chattanooga: 3-Day Family Vacation

Spring Break is the most common topic in our home right now and I’m sure it’s making the rounds in your house as well! One of our favorite Spring Break destinations is Chattanooga, Tennessee.  In fact, Chattanooga made the list on Thrillist.com of America’s 8 Most Overlooked Small Cities.

Chattanooga is a short two-hour drive from the Nashville area. The perfect distance for a weekend getaway or a Spring Break adventure. There is plenty to do for adults and kids alike so it’s always an easy choice for us. Additionally, Chattanooga never seems to be overcrowded and that’s a huge plus for us as we navigate a city with kids in tow.

Day 1, Afternoon

The Chattanoogan Hotel

The Chattanoogan Hotel has some great Spring Break packages that you need to check out here. The location is ideal; within walking distance of many local restaurants and shops, as well as the free shuttle that will take you to the main downtown attractions. Upon arrival, Elliott and I hopped out to check in and gather our room keys. We were immediately greeted by friendly staff and a warm fire as we entered the spacious lobby. After check-in we explored the hotel a bit and then headed up to our guest rooms. We noticed the local art in the hallways along the way and appreciated the non-standard decor. The kids appreciated the presence of Pokemon as they were allowed a bit of time to catch them all.

Our room was spacious and clean. I always appreciate coffee in the room but especially love that the Chattanoogan provides a Keurig and a few k-cups. This ensures that I can have a quality cup of coffee the moment the kids wake up. The beds are also very comfortable at the Chattanoogan. The double rooms provide two queen beds rather than two full beds. This is something I no longer take for granted after a few recent stays at other hotels.

After settling in we immediately headed to the indoor pool for a quick swim. We love the pool at the Chattanoogan because it’s just the right depth for a slew of young kids. It makes it so much easier to keep them safe. The view of the mountains from the pool area is a nice addition as well! There is plenty of room to sit inside the pool area and there is an additional outdoor veranda with tables for warm evenings.

There is a hot tub and sauna for mom and dad as well!

Day 1, Night

One of our favorite things about Chattanooga is the Shuttle! The Shuttle is free, clean and easy to catch. It’s also a great way to give our suburban kids a taste of public transportation. On our first night we took the shuttle across the bridge to eat at Good DogAnd we are so glad we did!

Good Dog serves hot dogs (including meatless varieties) in countless, delicious ways.  Additionally they provide stacks of books, games and fun coloring utensils. The kids really enjoyed their meal and not a crumb was left over. Once our meal was complete we took the walking bridge back over to the downtown area. After the walk the kids had enough room to enjoy some Rita’s frozen custard and Italian Ice.  We enjoyed walking around a bit more as we finished off our treats and headed back to the hotel for a bit more swimming.

Day 2, Morning

We started our day with the breakfast buffet at Broad Street Grill, inside the The Chattanoogan. There was plenty of fresh fruit and hot breakfast items for the kids to choose from. They also had a nice assortment of Greek yogurts and cereals. Calvin and I each enjoyed egg-white omelets made-to-order from the chef as well. We noticed that several other families were dining in the large restaurant area and felt right at home. The service here is also amazing and reflective of the hotel in general. Lola smashed a strawberry into her shirt and our kind waiter brought soda water to fight the stain within a moment. Extra touches like this make dining with kids so much easier!

Day 2, Afternoon

Creative Discovery Museum

We have visited many many children’s museum’s over the years. And I’ve got to say even I was running around with wonder in the Creative Discovery Museum. They had everything from dinosaurs and fossils to painting and music rooms. And nothing was off-limits! The kids spent almost and hour building robots and sewing and hammering in the Make-it area. The staff was friendly and helpful, even teaching Charlotte how to knot the end of her thread.

There was also a neat outdoor area on the rooftop that displayed live bees (safely) and allowed the kids to use their muscles to push, pull, turn and move all kids of things. This was a great outlet for them and I think they just might have been a little tired after this adventure. We could have easily spent 5-6 hours here but we headed out after 4 hours.

After the long visit at the kids’ museum, we decided to walk a few blocks for Thai food at Thai Smile. The food was good but the service was a little too slow for us, especially with hungry kids. It turned out to be a beautiful day so we took the walking bridge to the Coolidge park area. Our kids enjoyed riding the $1 Carousel (yes you read that right!) and climbing all over the animals that make up the outdoor fountain.

We also brought a football and played catch while we soaked up the sun. It was a beautiful day. While this was going on I popped over to an antique store that backs up to Coolidge park. It’s so nice to have so many different things accessible in a small area. After eating lots of heavy food we also needed a little pick-me-up so I grabbed fresh juices for everyone at Pure Vida which was also easily accessible from the park and carousel area. After we had our fill of green juices and vitamin C we checked out the little stores in the area. This area is considered the art district so there was a lot of inspiration for our little artists.

Additional considerations: The park was busy with kids playing soccer and college students playing Spike Ball (no dogs allowed FYI). There are plenty of little shops around including the legendary Clumpies Ice Cream that overlooks the park area, make sure you pick up some treats there.

Day 2, Evening

We were all pretty worn out by the evening and pizza was sounding really good after being out all day so we decided to grab a bite at Mellow Mushroom, which is right next to the shuttle stop back to the hotel. You simply cannot go wrong with Mellow Mushroom! We love that we can choose two entirely different pizzas for each half of the pizza because I opt for vegetarian options and the rest of the family definitely does not. The service was great and the pizza was better! We also checked out High Point climbing gym, which was next door, and decided to return for a climb the next day.

Day 3, Morning

High Point Climbing

We visited the downtown location of High Point Climbing. It’s a beautiful facility that even allows you to climb on the outside of the building. There is 30,000 sq. feet of climbing surface to enjoy including a really fun kids zone. The staff was very friendly and encouraging to our kids who didn’t have a lot of climbing experience. They definitely instilled a love for climbing in them in just a short amount of time! As you all know, our daughter Lola is blind. But this didn’t stop her! We could barely get her off the wall to leave when it was time to go. We always enjoy allowing our kids to push forward and challenge themselves.

The kids zone was a great place to start for Elliott (9), Lola (9) and Charlotte (7) but they quickly advanced to the bouldering area and some of the intermediate level climbing areas in the main gym. Liam, who is 5, had plenty to challenge him in the kids zone and stayed there until the very end. He did do one beginner level wall in the main gym right before leaving and was quite proud of himself.

High point provided everything we needed to climb for the day and the day-pass price was very reasonable. They do discount the day pass for the last 2 hours in the day if you prefer to climb for a shorter amount of time and save a bit of money. Overall this was an incredibly fun and empowering addition to our Chattanooga vacation. The kids can’t wait to climb again!


We loved staying at The Chattanoogan Hotel and hope it won’t be our last time. It was a luxury hotel experience with friendly staff. We didn’t feel crazy trying to keep up with all of our kids in the pool due to the layout and shallow water. The focus on local foods and art made the experience uniquely personal and inviting. Lastly, the location enabled us to hit all the city hot-spots without ever getting in our car. We will continue to keep Chattanooga on our short list for long weekend. We can’t wait to visit again and experience even more Chattanooga attractions such as Rock City and Lake Winnie.







Disclaimer: The folks at The Chattanoogan Hotel, and Creative Discovery Museum kindly accommodated us for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal