Tag - Travel

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REVIEW: Lumberjack Feud (Pigeon Forge, TN)
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REVIEW: Chimney Rock (NC)
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Gear for the Great Outdoors!
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REVIEW: Just Porter – A Pack That Gives Back
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Chicago: Part 2 (Attractions)
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Chicago: Part 1 (Lodging, Transportation, Food)
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Camp Recipe Reviews
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REVIEW: Bledsoe State Park (TN)
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Outfitting your Camp Site at Dollar Tree
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REVIEW: Ogrill 1000 (Portable Grill)

REVIEW: Lumberjack Feud (Pigeon Forge, TN)

Disclaimer: The folks at Lumberjack Feud kindly allowed our family admission for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

Today is the first day of Fall Break so I thought it would be timely of us to share our experience at Lumberjack Feud. First of all, we love Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge because it’s a short 3 hour drive from the Nashville area, perfect for a true weekend getaway. There are so many attractions that you have the ability to choose to do something different every time. It has slowly become a tradition for our family to go for Elliott’s birthday in September. So in lieu of a “big gift” we decided to go again. The secret reason behind our September visits is actually the pricing. September is considered the off season, the Fall decor is out but it’s still warm and you miss the Fall crowds.  Many cabins and resorts offer lower pricing or specials during this time period.

Before the weekend, we surprised Elliott with the big news that Gatlinburg was in our future. We stayed at the Grand Getaway Cabin (2,000 square foot, 4-bedroom cabin, about one mile from Dollywood) for the very first time and loved it! The layout was fantastic for big families, four bedrooms and FOUR bathrooms. My favorite feature about the cabin was the full length table for ten. That’s actually fairly difficult to find in cabin offerings. Now on to Lumberjack Feud!

Pre-Show:

The Lumberjack Feud experience begins the moment you pull into the parking lot. The huge red barn picturing feuding lumberjacks set the tone and got my kids super excited for the event. The energy continues as the friendly staff ushers you in, taking pictures and greeting you in character. The kids were greeted upon sitting down and immediately invited to join the lumberjacks on stage for some clogging.

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Dinner:

Once the show was underway the lumberjack cooks began serving food in true lumberjack fashion. The soup is in a mug, no spoons. My young ones thought this was a very fun touch. The meal  includes a massive piece of chicken, a biscuit, potatoes, corn and an apple turnover. A huge starchy meal for our taste… but I’m sure Lumberjacks love it. The service was quick and drinks were refilled regularly. We noticed that there is also a concession stand. This is a nice option for those who buy show-only tickets.

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Main Show:

The main show was action-packed with an entertaining host, real lumberjack competitions, feuding families, smokey mountain history and audience participation. The Timer-dogs were especially endearing as they competed in water sports and retrieved items for their trainers. We loved knowing that several of the Timber-dogs were rescue dogs.

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Conclusion:

This is a great show for families with young and school-age children. My four sat, riveted, through the entire event. The meal is huge, so perhaps a plus for many people. We were pleased to see that there was a gluten free option as well.

Considerations for Individuals with Disabilities or Special Needs:

The show is LOUD. Fortunately they give adequate warning when chainsaws will be used. This gives kids who are sensitive to loud sounds the chance to use headphones or cover their ears. Our daughter, who is blind, received so much auditory input that she enjoyed the show just as much as the sighted children. We often find, with shows and events, that things are highly visual and she misses a lot of what’s going on. With Lumberjack they described everything that went on. The host was constantly talking, explaining the events and fun music tied in all the moments when the talking ceased. We definitely give this a thumbs up for visually impaired children and adults.  We also noticed that they offered great floor seating for those utilizing mobility devices.

REVIEW: Chimney Rock (NC)

  • Hickory Nut Falls
  • Chimney Rock State Park
  • Chimney Rock State Park
  • Chimney Rock State Park
  • Chimney Rock State Park
  • Hickory Nut Falls
  • Hickory Nut Falls
  • Hickory Nut Falls
  • Hickory Nut Falls
  • Hickory Nut Falls
  • Hickory Nut Falls

Disclaimer: The folks at Chimney Rock State Park kindly allowed our family admission for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

Fall is officially here, which means camping season! We already have a two-night camping trip planned with our small group and can’t wait to sleep under the stars again.

Last July, we tent camped in Chimney Rock, NC (near Ashville), which was about five and half hours from our home. Check out our experience and plan a trip there yourself, it’s one of our favorites!

Hickory Nut Falls Campground:

This was our first time camping right on the water and the kids had a blast being able to stand in different parts of the Rocky Broad River. Our family (Nana, Papa, cousins, everyone!) occupied the end on sites 78, 77, and 76. It was nice not having other people outside of our family on one end. It gave us a lots of extra space where our kids could explore without bothering others. Additionally, that end of the camp site is reserved for tent camping so you don’t need to worry about any pop up or RV campers (with 42″ televisions) rolling up next to you. The edge of the river has a few pockets of standing water but the closer you get to the middle, the deeper and faster the water rushes. Make sure to bring your own water tubes and water shoes. We didn’t equip ourselves with tubes so we ended up buying a few at a nearby store with inflated prices. The water is pretty loud which might bother you, but we found it soothing, especially at bed time. Make sure you reserve your spot early, the lots can go quickly! We reserved 3 months prior to our stay.

Chimney Rock State Park:

On Saturday, we visited the state park to hike Chimney Rock. There’s an elevator that takes you to the top of the Chimney but unfortunately, was broken during our visit.  With kids, it would’ve been nice to ride up to the top, then walk down but that was not the case for us. However, I’m glad to report that we made it without any injuries and few meltdowns. For the average adult, it takes about 25 minutes, covering 491 steps, to reach the Chimney. The Chimney itself is 315 feet at an elevation of 2,280 feet. Once we made it down, we visited a bat cave but sad to report that there were none to be seen at the time. Then we made another long, but easier hike to the 404-foot waterfall to cool down. By the end of that, we were all exhausted so we made one last stop to a kids area where one of the rangers showed off some snakes and other wildlife that the kids could touch and see up close. The state park charges per person (currently $13 for adults, $6 for children) however I do wish they would charge one flat fee per vehicle. For our family alone, the $50 admission would make the visit questionable. There was a ton more stuff to do but our young family just couldn’t handle it, especially on such a hot day.

Shopping, etc:

Right outside of the campground, there are plenty of shops that were really inexpensive. Lots of cute little mountain souvenir shops. Somehow we ended up with four harmonicas, bad idea for the drive home. We couldn’t refuse the Chimney Rock Gem Mine with kiddos, but I also scored some Salt Rock Lamps from their gift shop. There are a couple of lunch and dinner spots but we were very disciplined and stuck to eating at the campground with all the food we brought. We did treat ourselves to the Hershey’s Ice Cream Shoppe on our final night. They have a crazy amount of flavors, I think the sign claimed something like 85 flavors of Hershey’s Ice Cream.

Conclusion:

Chimney Rock is definitely a great midway camping spot between my family in Charleston, SC and our current location. The access to the water with kids is great however you definitely need to stay on guard if you have little ones like ours. Tubing is a must so make sure you plan ahead and bring some with you! Bottom line, waking up and hiking into the middle of the river with a cup of coffee is worth it every time.  We did a lot of rock sitting, skipping rocks and watching for wildlife. Can’t wait to go back.

Gear for the Great Outdoors!

I’m so thrilled to partner with my blogging buddy Meghan Tucker today! I camp in a tent and she loves to pull her pop-up wherever the Summer takes her. We were reflecting on some of the best (and USEFUL) camping gear we’ve utilized this Summer and came up with a great list from both perspectives. Hope this gives you an idea of what you need to get started with your own camping adventures! (and hint, hint, you might see a trend, we both love Coleman products as they are both affordable and durable)

Meghan’s Picks:
Westfield Outdoor XL Zero Gravity Chair

Coleman Youth Mummy Sleeping Bag

Fox Outfitters Hammocks

Coleman Camping Stove

My Picks:

Fox Outfitter’s Self-inflating Sleeping Pad

Coleman Red Canyon 8 person Tent

CusineArt Portable Gas Grill

Coleman Instant Screen Tent (this literally sets up in 5 min or less)

IMG_3340Go Outside!

REVIEW: Just Porter – A Pack That Gives Back

It’s safe to say that we are backpack people. Anytime we go camping or traveling in the city, nothing else compares. When the time for a new bag rolled around I began searching for a high-quality/durable backpack. And I am always most excited when I find one that has a give-back model. We think we’ve found our match: Just Porter.

“For each bag purchased, Just Porter manufactures a give bag and fills it with school supplies then gives it to a child in need. But, Just Porter’s charitable giving goes beyond parachuting and dumping goods onto poor communities. They actually work with the communities to manufacture their Give Bags locally and purchase their supplies from the local markets. They are working at creating a sustainable solution using education and creating jobs in the areas they give.”
Provide customers with a high-quality product and in return help break the cycle of poverty in developing nations? Sold. So for the last couple months, we’ve been carrying Just Porter’s Piko backpack when traveling (Bledsoe State Park, Chicago, Houston, Holiday World) and when not traveling (Calvin has been using it for his daily commute).

Just Porter offers various models but we landed on the Piko (H: 17” / W: 12” / D: 5”) because we felt like it was the best for us in relation to everyday use.

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1. Instant Pocket – Front Vertical White Zipper Pocket
2. Front Pocket Compartment
3. YKK Easy Glide Zippers (Standard On All Bags)
4. Elastic Side Pockets (fits my water bottles)
5. Laptop Padded Compartment
6. Main Compartment With Back Sleeve And Net Pocket
7. Heavy Duty Hanger Loop
8. Large Finger Loops On Adjustment Straps


Overall I really love this bag and I know it’s going to hold up for a long time.

Disclaimer: The folks at Just Porter kindly provided the Piko for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

Chicago: Part 2 (Attractions)

Oh Chicago… it seems everyone loves you! I’ve had countless conversations since our visit and everyone shares how much they enjoy their trips to the Windy City. I’m sure that has something to do with the vast amount of entertainment choices the city has to offer. We weren’t able to do it all but here are a few attractions/activities that we enjoyed on our visit:

Blue Man Group: Dare to Live in Full Color –  I was somewhat skeptical about Blue Man Group. Silly fun isn’t my favorite. I don’t enjoy comedians or gimmicky things. I also had this idea that they just played drums and splattered paint on things. Well folks, there is a reason this show has been going strong for nearly 25 years. It has strong theatrical influence, it’s interesting, it’s hilarious, it’s heart warming, it’s FUN… it’s very different from anything I’ve ever seen. Three blue men take you on a quirky little journey through music, discovery and connection. Audience participation is huge as the show takes over the entire theater… not just the stage. I’ll never forget moving it to some bizarre song about shaking my “can” while playing toss up with ginormous glowing beach balls in a black-lit, neon glowing auditorium with hundreds of other adults-turned-children. If that’s sounds ridiculous to you, you probably just need to get over it and secure some tickets to see the show. You won’t be sorry.

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Current Deals: Upon purchasing a ticket for Blue Man Group, guests can receive a free ticket to visit Chicago’s Willis Tower Skydeck (where they can step out onto one of the building’s “Ledge” glass boxes) or 360 Chicago (for unparalleled views of Michigan Avenue and Lake Michigan.) College students who are studying in Chicago or home for the summer can enjoy the thrills of Blue Man Group for a discounted price. Upon presenting a valid college ID, they can get a discounted ticket for $35. Student tickets are available two hours prior to show time, based on availability.

Special Needs Accomodation: In 2015, Blue Man Group is supporting Austism Speaks. They will donate a minimum of $25,000 and are doing specific autism-friendly shows this year. Even if you can’t make one of their specific shows, individuals with autism are still encouraged to attend the show at any time. Noise cancelling headphones available. Parents of children with autism need to know if the children crave the heavy sensory input or prefer to avoid it.

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iFLY: Ever Dream of Flying?
Let’s just say I spent a lot of time being skeptical on this trip. But isn’t that why we travel? To challenge ourselves, discover new things… iFly was one of these new things. There were people of all ages packed into the Chicago iFLY building. Some watching others fly, some suiting up to prepare for their skydiving experience. We watched a short video with our group, listened to the instructor and learned some hand signals we would need during the flight. Then it was time to put on our goggles and earplugs and head into the chamber. The instructor remains in the chamber with new flyers, like us, and gives instructions and tips with hand signals.

It really was an amazing sensation, totally weightless and flying. And you can’t help but smile like a crazy person because if you don’t you’ll just drool all over yourself. Flying with a group is also a lot of fun, even as strangers we were excited to watch our new friends figure out how to fly and stay balanced in the chamber. There were also some locals who obviously visited on a consistent basis to work on new maneuvers. In the end, our trainer did a demonstration for everyone to enjoy.

The location in Chicago was a little far out for us but there’s outdoor shopping and an outlet mall nearby so anyone could maximize their trip that way. Also, there are plans for an iFLY location in Lincoln Park which would be very convenient. I’m sure this would be even more entertaining with a group of people you actually know. We are looking forward to visiting iFLY with our kids in tow next time!

Special Needs Accommodation: We are always asking questions and watching for companies that go the extra mile to accommodate children and adults with special needs or disabilities. We were happy to hear, from the iFLY representative, that they have a program for children who are autistic. Alex, with emotion in her voice, told me some amazing stories about what flying does for these awesome kids on a sensory level. She also explained how they accommodate for other guests who have additional needs. Very exciting to hear, great job iFLY!

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Brookefield Zoo –  There are two zoos in Chicago. Lincoln Park and Brookefield. Lincoln is free and Brookfield is not. However, Brookefield does offer a wider range of attractions. Dolphins, polar bears and the butterfly garden are just a few of the additional attractions at Brookefield. We made time to watch the Dolphin show at Brookefield and we felt it was really well done and educational. There was a baby dolphin being adorable and playing with his trainer… so of course we couldn’t help but love the whole experience.

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Brookefield is simply bigger and more like a theme-park experience zoo. BUT… it is very far away from everything else you might want to do in Chicago.

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So plan ahead, if you want to take your family there, and make time to spend the whole day there enjoying what the zoo has to offer. It’s also a better deal to book your tickets online. You are allowed to choose 3 extra attractions while saving about $5 per person.

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Chicago Cubs Calvin loves baseball, so of course we headed to Wrigley field (bricks and ivy!) to root for the home team. There’s not much to report here, Wrigley is just one of those parks that you must check off your list. Unfortunately we got caught in a rain delay and ended up leaving before the game is over (even worse, they had a walk-off run in the 9th inning). Calvin purchased our tickets on StubHub so here’s your money saving tip of the day: Our Kroger gives 2-4x gas points on all gift card purchases. We purchased a Stubhub giftcard from Kroger and racked up some points! Saving on gas purchases in the Summer is always a good thing with all the extra driving we do. Also, unless you’re going to a popular game, you can usually get tickets at the cheapest price about a day or day and a half before the game. Here’s your funny story from the game: I was waiting in line for a pretzel and a friendly, grandfatherly PURE Chicago kinda guy struck up a conversation. He asked where I was from… Tennessee…. with the biggest smile he exclaimed “well you’re the only 10- I- see. Here’s a drink on me, welcome to Chicago!” and offered to buy me a beer from the cart. He was completely adorable, just happy to be watching the Cubs on a Saturday night.

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Sight Seeing – We made sure to hit all the major tourist areas. Navy Pier, Magnificent Mile and of course Millennium Park (the Bean). Navy Pier is currently under construction and is always very jam-packed with people. This combination made the whole experience mildly annoying. However we still enjoyed the lake views and a Chicago style hot-dog. I would hate going there with kids, it’s a glorified version of a tourist trap with pricey junk food and souvenir stores. Sorry Navy Pier. Now… Magnificent Mile? I loved it. Great shopping, great restaurants and fun street performers all in one area. That pretty much sums it up! Millennium Park was also a favorite. A beautiful park with great art, surrounded by the gorgeous Chicago architecture… definitely a hit. And we did the fun touristy thing and took a picture in the the reflection of the giant silver bean. Hint: Watching people taking their picture in the bean is way more entertaining than actually doing it yourself.

So yes, dear Chicago, we love you. Thank you for treating us to a great weekend. If you missed part 1 (lodging, transportation, food), you can catch up here.

Disclaimer: Blue Man Group, iFLY Chicago, and Brookefield Zoo kindly provided us admission for this feature. As always, the opinions are my own.

Chicago: Part 1 (Lodging, Transportation, Food)

Our nine-year wedding anniversary rolled around last week. Calvin had casually mentioned just doing a joint thing, nice restaurant, no gifts etc. I should have known he had something in the works. And that something was a four-day adventure to Chicagoland.

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Calvin and I love a bargain, so it’s fitting that this Chicago review is full of budget friendly tips and deals. Leaving room for things like a quick trip to ZARA for some Summer essentials. Here is a run down of all the deals and all the fun.

Lodging: Hotels in Chicago, especially in Spring and early Summer, are outrageous. We utilized AirBnB to get a great deal on a studio apartment. The apartment had more room than a hotel room, a full kitchen, a record player(!) and it was close to an L station. (More on the “L” in a bit.) Our host even had fresh towels and toiletries in a basket waiting for us. We also enjoyed living like “city people” rather than staying in just another hotel. Adds to the authentic adventure feel.

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Transportation: Last November, we signed up for a Southwest Visa credit card to take advantage of the 50,000 miles sign-up offer. This can be equivalent to about 3-4 round trip flights if used correctly. For this trip, we went ahead and used points (you still have to pay the taxes) . Right now if you sign up for a Southwest credit card you can still get 50,000 points if you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account. We use our credit card like cash for our regular purchases (gas, groceries etc) and pay it off monthly. The rewards are valuable if you can discipline your spending to use it correctly. We did not rent a car in Chicago. The “L” which is a cool train transit line took us everywhere we needed to go. We took it from the airport to the apt and then all over the city. We purchased a 3 day-pass for $20 each. So for $40 each we had all the transportation we needed to navigate Chicago easily. The Google Maps app took out all the intimidation of public transportation. It gives  step-by-step instructions for the L and bus system as well as ETAs for the train stops.

      FYI: Southwest currently has (as low as) $116 one-way tickets to Chicago! Ends tomorrow 6/18/2015

Food: We really didn’t have to over-think the food situation. There are great restaurants in all the little neighborhoods that make up Chicago, you can easily find a great hot dog, pizza, or Italian beef sandwich. Definitely check Groupon ahead of time and download their app for local food deals. On the night we saw the Blue Man Group, we purchased a Groupon for Four Belly (asian street food) ahead of time since it was down the street from the theater. Our biggest money saver was a new program called Spring Rewards (Nashville folks – The link is for free $10 to Sky Blue Cafe for signing up). Through Spring Rewards, we saved about $80 on food. Many of our meals ended up being $3-$8 after tip!

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I personally love Spring Rewards because I didn’t have to hand the waiter a coupon or voucher, show my phone etc. We pre-loaded the deals into our account and the money was credited back to us from Spring Rewards. For example, we had a $15 (receive $15 back when you spend $15 or more) Spring Reward for a sushi restaurant. We went in, ordered a couple of rolls for an early dinner and spent $15.35. We tipped the waiter accordingly and we received the email moments later that a $15 refund was on the way. We used Spring Rewards to get lunches at little to no cost and also used this method to eat dinner by “restaurant hopping” having smaller meals at 2-3 restaurants. It was a fun challenge and a way to try several places.

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Our one splurge was at The Purple Pig which is located on the Magnificent Mile. It was apparently voted as one of the top 10 restaurants in America by Bon Appetit. And yes. It was amazing. Definitely put it on your splurge list for Chicago. We ordered small plate items and shared and still got out just under $40.

General: I have definitely fallen in love with Chicago. I know some may disagree, but I saw a lot of warmth in the people there. I saw people give up seats on the L for women with babies, I saw people chat and communicate with strangers who looked very different from them. I watched blind adults navigate the public transit system. So much diversity and respect for others. I think maybe I’m just in love with public transportation… but still, I saw some great stuff on there. Another thing I love about Chicago is that it’s not ragingly expensive. No $20 hamburgers! Everything seemed to cost about what we would see in Nashville. We even ate deep dish pizza at the famed Pequod’s pizza for $4.99. I would call Chicago, the no fuss city. Just come as you are, enjoy the city, enjoy some art, enjoy some food. Can’t wait to go back.

Part 2 of our Chicago review is coming later this week! We will be sharing about the activities, attractions and sites we enjoyed while in Chicago.

Camp Recipe Reviews

We tried a few of the recent camp food trends on our recent adventure. As you know everything looks good on pinterest. Here are a few of the recipes and my thoughts on how they actually turned out. (click link to view recipe)

Crescent Dogs: I’m not a hotdog fan to begin with but I picked up some all beef nitrate-free Applegate Farms hotdogs and decided the kids would love this treat. This was just one of those failures all around. The crescent roll burns before the hotdog is cooked, even when kept at a safe distance from the fire. So you end up with cold hotdog encased in charred dough. Really gross. Thumbs down, and won’t do it again.

Tacos in a Bag: I modified this a bit using grassfed beef and homemade taco seasoning. (trust me, read the taco packet and you’ll make your own too) This was tasty and a hit with all the kids. Also RICEWORKS sweet chili chips (2.49 at Kroger) taste just like Doritos for another healthier alternative. It was also very easy. I chopped up all the taco salad parts beforehand and only had to freshly slice the avocados and brown the ground beef over the fire. We used a Cast Iron dutch oven and it was just heavenly.

Campfire Cones: These were a great success and very easy. We used marshmallows, dark chocolate and bananas. We simply filled the sugar cones with the ingredients, wrapped them securely in foil and placed them on top of a log in the fire. After a few minutes we removed them with tongs, unwrapped the foil and enjoyed our easy dessert.

Foil Packs: The foil keeps everything inside and the meat doesn’t get dry. It’s super easy and everyone can customize what they want, chicken, mushrooms, no mushrooms, spicy, mild… whatever. There are tons of great recipes online just do a quick search for inspiration.

What are your favorite tried and true camp meals?

REVIEW: Bledsoe State Park (TN)

On Thursday I attended the last of a series of ceremonies marking the end of school. I ended up with one best smiler, one super reader and one fun friend. Say what you will about unnecessary pomp and circumstance but my kids’ teachers nailed it with their awards. We had a great year of school with tons of progress, growth and achievement. IEP meetings for Lola were smoother this year and there were less hurdles all around. We are better at advocating and anticipating her needs. The year went by so quickly compared to the year before. In fact, it went a little too quickly. Next year we will have a 2nd grader, two 1st graders and a mother’s day out preschooler. Liam is almost four, and while he loves being the baby of the family, he seems less and less my littlest everyday. I feel like I’m approaching the stage where I blink, and instead of awards for super reading my kids will be accepting diplomas.

Entering into the “big kid” stage definitely has it’s advantages. They pour milk, clean rooms and even lay out their outfits for the week. Life feels much less chaotic than the “Four, 5 years old and younger” category we lived in for awhile. Those new advantages were definitely tested this weekend when we headed out for our first of many family camping trips.

I was super excited to get the kids and head out so we checked out of school a little early and hit the road. We made reservations at Bledsoe State Park because it’s conveniently located just 30 minutes away. I’m an ambitious mommy so I told Calvin to just meet us there after work and planned to set up the site with the help of my four small ones. This actually went pretty well minus the excited youngest who wanted to run off and explore every 4 seconds. Bledsoe is a great little state park. They have excellent hiking trails, some that run along the water, and nice wooded campsites. The bathrooms are also clean and heated which was very nice on cold mornings. The Goodbye boys didn’t frequent the bathrooms often, as they were more interested in the bathroom freedoms the woods provide.

The days were spent hiking, relaxing, preparing camp meals, riding bikes and playing games. Man did the kids ride their bikes. Liam even conquered two wheels. And that’s the thing about family trips and memories. I love that we can look back and say “remember when Liam rode a 2-wheel for the first time?” And we will, because it was a big event taking place in the simplest of times. This may be the reason I’m obsessed with becoming a camping family. I grew up camping and I loved backpacking in college. Some of my clearest family memories come from campfire circles or hiking trails. And as I watch the kids grow and gain independence, the moments where my almost 8-year-old holds my hand for a moment while we walk toward the water will become increasingly rare. Camping also builds character. It creates a need to work together. Gathering wood, setting up camp, cleaning up after meals and making sure nothing is left to draw animals. We were also lucky enough to hit early tick season in Tennessee. (insert emoji that displays a completely stressed out mom face) I cannot handle ticks. Read WebMD, they are tiny killers on the loose. I picked them off the kids and dog regularly. I’m still checking necks, ears and crevices because they were THAT BAD. Another memory right??

We have a few more camping trips planned this Summer. Hopefully there will be less ticks. Hopefully. We are all genuinely looking forward to more challenging hikes, longer stays and more adventure. And for those of you who have yet to take the plunge I’ll continue to blog about camping gear and what made life a little easier in the great outdoors. And for those of you who have non-camping significant others… just buy them some cool hiking shorts, it will change their whole outlook. It worked for me!

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Outfitting your Camp Site at Dollar Tree

Camping is considered an inexpensive vacation or getaway. However, gathering the gear and supplies can get pretty pricey. I like to cut costs by picking up clever little items at the Dollar Tree. I spent $18 at the Ol’ DT compared to what would have cost me close to $50 at Target (But I still love you Target!). Here’s what I picked up:

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Large Stackable Storage buckets (2). These can be used for washing dishes, collecting small sticks for fires, holding shoes the list goes on. Laundry hooks, this particular hook is strong enough for heavy items like towels or even blankets. Clothes pins, because who doesn’t need those around the camp site. Brush and dust pan set for keeping the tent tidy.

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Licensed antibacterial wipes for the kids to keep in their back pocket or backpack. It’s always fun to get character items on the cheap. Finger Lights for night-time story telling in the tent. We brought these to Disney and they were a huge hit, who needs light up wands??
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Microfiber Washcloths 3 pack (2). Microfiber is great for washing dishes and cleaning up spills, super absorbent and easy to wash out. Storage Bags for snacks and other kitchen items. Medium sized dish detergent, for you know… washing more dishes. Scrubber with dish soap reservoir, so convenient. Grill sponge for cleaning up the Ogrill.
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The Dollar Tree is definitely a great place to pick up all those little items that can really eat away at your camping budget. Try it out, the great deals are waiting!

REVIEW: Ogrill 1000 (Portable Grill)

The Goodbye kids are counting down the days, Summer vacation is almost here. We have lots of plans that include lakes, fishing, car trips and camping. Camping, while a staple of my younger years, is relatively new to my husband and kids. I’ve spent the last few months gathering the supplies and equipment needed to make camping as a family of 6 an enjoyable experience. (Full list coming soon!)

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One of my latest pieces of gear is the O Grill. The O Grill is a well-designed portable grill powered by either propane or butane canisters. Here is what I love about the Ogrill thus far:

– Lightweight: We have the O Grill 1000, it weighs 18 pounds
– Design… yes it’s pretty
– Cooking surface: The cooking surface is level and everything cooks very evenly, it also allows plenty of surface space to cook for a large family.
– Fold and Go: The legs and top fold in and lock in place with ease
– Size: Perfect for a picnic table top, it doesn’t take up much room.
– Ease: It is incredibly easy to set up and use. I simply attached the 1 lb. propane canister,    turned the dial to light and hit a button. There are no matches, lighters or multiple attempts needed.

I have nothing but praise for this portable wonder. I’m looking forward to putting it through a long summer of park cook-outs and camping trips.

For more information on the Ogrill check out their website. Or find best prices on Amazon.

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal