Monday, September 16, 2013

What a beautiful weekend!

I am starting to feel a fall chill here in Kentucky.  Over the weekend, the morning had a little extra chill that I love when waking up (though it also makes me want to just stay in bed covered up!).  Alex had a great soccer game Saturday morning, and then we got to enjoy a beautiful hike at Mcconnell Springs.  Cara put on a jacket and I realized just how much she has grown since the spring, so on Sunday we headed out to the store and got a new hoodie for her.  I also got a little cleaning done, but not as much as I should have done, which seems to be the story of my life when it comes to cleaning!  Maybe when the kids are grown I will have time to clean!  What did your weekend look like?  I hope everyone has a wonderful week!!
Alex and Cara at Mcconnell Springs

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fall Soccer is Here!

Now things are going to be super busy until Christmas!!  Once soccer ends, I start on my Masters.  I will do my best to stick with 3 days a week blog posts, but they will probably be a whole lot of ramblings and I will get back to a few recipes when things slow down!!  Hope everyone is having a great Monday, I am missing my 3 day weekend from last week right now ;)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Couch to 5K

So last week I started the Couch to 5K program.  I found a wonderful app for my phone from that shows me how far and how fast I have gone each time I am out, something that completely keeps me motivated as I love to compare my most recent run to previous runs. 

Now I have always been quite timid about getting outside and jogging/running.  I don't know, it just seems like the older I get, the more I don't want to be seen running, which is really strange when I stop and think about it.  I mean, we have quite a few joggers in my neighborhood and have a walking trail where I see plenty of joggers.  Why do I even care what others think of my jogging?  I don't know most of the people I see when I am out, and I am looking decent since I have a sports bra helping out with not getting knocked out or a black eye when I am jogging (my bigger breasted ladies, you know what I am talking about ;) ).

Anyways, I have been told by a few people I should at least try the whole Couch to 5K thing, that it is a great way to ease into it and get comfortable.  So I finally looked at the calendar for the program and could have slapped myself when I saw that most of the times needed were just 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week!  How awesome is that!  I was thinking I would have to carve out all this time, and working around Damien's schedule to ensure someone was home with the kids during my run was something I had been dreading.  But 3 days a week for only 30 minutes?  There were surely 3 evenings I could find Damien off, or even a morning of a weekend if need be... sure enough, when I checked Damien's work schedule, I found I could fit this in quite easily!

So one evening, I was completely motivated, found the awesome app I mentioned above, but I needed something to help with carrying my phone around as I was not planning to be wearing jeans on my run.  So I headed to Wal-Mart quickly and found one of those armbands that can carry your phone and I was set.  The first week's calendar for the Couch to 5K is to jog for 1 minute and walk for a minute and a half alternating.  The best part of the app was that it told me when to start jogging and when to start walking, so I did not have to time it myself.  I don't know about you, but I don't want to have to think about the exercise when I am exercising, so having something tell me when to jog and when to walk was pretty awesome.  Some times it is the small things I love!  I was also able to play Pandora in the background and could still hear the lady on the Couch to 5K app clearly.  And if you have music stored on your phone, you can just play it through the app.

This fall I will not be able to participate in any races, and I know once it starts to get cold I will stop running outside (hopefully I will be motivated to keep up on the treadmill), but I love that I can do this again when it warms up in the spring, and hopefully I will be able to participate in a race!  I have just completed the first week so far, so let's see how motivated I stay in the coming weeks.

Have you done the Couch to 5K program?  Did you stick with it after the program?  I would love to hear your story, including if you got to complete a race after doing the program!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Canning Crunchy Banana Pepper Rings

After 2 batches, I found the way I prefer to can banana pepper rings so they have a nice crunch to them (the first batch I tried were way too mushy!).  After reading up on what others have done, I decided to try the open kettle food processing method instead of a hot water bath.  I warn you, the open kettle food processing method is not the way the USDA recommends canning.  However, all my jars sealed and I know we will eat these up pretty quickly, but if you are not sure, stick with a hot water bath method of sealing your jars (keep jars in the hot water bath after putting lids on for about 10 minutes).  I also used Ball's Pickle Crisp Granules in each jar, so they stay crunchier after the water bath as well.  And now, for the recipe!

  • 5- 1 pint canning jars, lids, and rings
  • 15-20 Banana peppers sliced into rings (I had closer to 20)
  • 1 clove garlic for each pint jar
  • 1/8 teaspoon Ball's Pickle Crisp Granules per pint jar
For the Brine:
  • 5 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 teaspoons canning/pickling salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  1. Wash and slice your banana peppers into rings, taking out any seeds during the process.
  2. After all the slicing is done, ensure your jars are sterilized.  I stick each jar in hot, boiling water.  Also, keep the lids in hot, right at boiling point water until you are ready to put them on top of the filled, hot jar. 
  3. At this point I start working on the brine.  In a pot, bring your brine ingredients to a boil (the vinegar, water, canning/picking salt, sugar, and turmeric).  Once it starts boiling, boil for 5 minutes.
  4. While the brine is boiling, get your hot jars ready by putting in a clove of garlic in each jar.  Pack in the banana peppers tightly!  Right before the last little bit of peppers, add the 1/8 teaspoon of pickle crisp granules.
  5. When your brine is ready, fill until you have 1/2 inch of head space.  Tap the jar on the counter or use a long handle or spatula to get the bubbles out and re-fill the jar until you are back to 1/2 inch of head space.
  6. Quickly wipe the jar rim before placing the lid on it.  After placing the hot lid, put ring on and let it sit upside down.  I let mine stay this way overnight, then checked to see if was sealed the next day (the lid was concave, it did not spring and pop back up when touched or pushed down).

I may or may not have learned some of the following dos and don'ts from experience.
  • Do wear oven mitts when dealing with any of the hot items, even if you are using another tool to pick the object up!
  • Don't think that just because the pepper rings fit in the jar that it is packed, actually pack those rings down!
  • Do cut your peppers into rings before boiling the brine.
Remember, the USDA does not recommend this method of canning.  If you are unsure, please go ahead and do a hot water bath. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

September 2013 Blog Hop with Bloggy Moms

Come join us!!  

Happy Labor Day!

I hope everyone that has today off is enjoying it! I love a good three day weekend, but I am a little sad that Damien had to work all these days and tomorrow is his day off, the day we head back to school for the week.  It completely stinks, but I also have to remember that I need to be grateful that we both have a job and we are going to be able to catch back up financially.  Because he works in a restaurant, we have been able to keep babysitters and daycares to a minimum by working opposite hours when I was not staying home.  Now that both kids are in school, they do after school care since it is in the middle of the day, but overall, they still do not have to stay long in after school care, something I think we are all grateful for.

Anyways, that last paragraph is definitely some rambling on my part!  Now go enjoy your holiday off!  See you on Wednesday!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Who has been on in the last little bit?  I checked this website out a few years ago, did okay with finding some stuff, but kept coming up short at certain spots so I quit.  Fast forward to last week when I decided, on a whim, to check the site out again.  And wow, was I amazed at the changes!

First of all, when searching a particular person.... say, your great grandmother, when her name is found on a census or other documents, a little leaf flags by her name.  Then you can click on the leaf and many times, you can view a copy of that page in the census (or other document)!  It is really amazing to see the older style writing and find your ancestors' name on those pages! 

I was also able to find military documents on some ancestors.  These are much more rare than finding a name on a census, and pretty cool to see an ancestor's signature, where they may have been stationed, draft registration cards, etc. 

One of the clues that would pop up was if that name is in other people's saved family trees.  Which was awesome because it gave you hints about an ancestor's mom and dad in some cases if you were having a hard time finding that information.  It also gave information on brothers and sisters.

Now there was a couple of drawbacks that drive me crazy.  One is that when a document is saved for an ancestor, if you do not remember the person you saved it under it is hard to find.  Even if you do remember the person it is saved under, it is still hard to find!  Seems like it could be a little more simple to find the things you already saved.  Another problem I found is that if there is a misspelling in a name, say, your aunt had a name that was misspelled a few times, then if you did not pay attention, it would pop up that person 3 times, like they are 3 different people.  It is a simple fix, but still a pain.

Overall, this was very addicting over last weekend.  I would stay up and could not help but keep looking for more information late into the night.  If you do get stuck and cannot find information on someone, especially when you are getting way back there in the 1700s and even 1600s, you can Google that name and many times there are other people asking the same questions in various genealogy forums and you may find your answer!  By the way, there is a 14 day free trial you can check out, just remember to cancel before the 14 days are up if you do not want to get charged!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Crock Pot Chicken Tikka Masala

I love Chicken Tikka Masala, especially at a particular restaurant close to me.  But with trying to eat out less, I have been trying to perfect some of my favorite dishes at home (and I love my crock pot and try to use it at least one time a week).  Though this is not exactly like my fave dish at my fave Indian restaurant, it is still pretty darn good!

  • 5-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1"-2" cubes
  • 1-2 green bell peppers cut into long strips (I had forgotten this so that is why peppers are not in the photos below!)
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 28 oz. can tomato puree
  • 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons ginger
  • 2 tablespoons Garam Masala
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon paprika
  • 1-2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you would like the dish)
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • Cooked rice
  1. In a large bowl, mix together chicken, bell peppers, onion,  garlic, tomato puree, yogurt, olive oil, ginger, Garam Masala, cumin, salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and black pepper.  Make sure there is an even color throughout showing it is all mixed well.
  2. Spray your crock pot dish with Pam spray.  Pour mixture into the crock pot and then add your 2 bay leaves .
  3. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.  During the last 30 minutes of cooking, follow directions from step 4 below after removing the bay leaves.
  4. Blend together the heavy cream and corn starch. Add the mixture to the crock pot, ensuring that it is mixed well and the color in the crock pot is consistent.  Cook for an additional 30 minutes.
  5. Serve over cooked rice (I prefer brown rice).

Mixture after pouring into the crock pot, before cooking.
After cooking and adding the heavy cream and cornstarch mixture.
Serve over rice!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice: Summer Break Tour

A week before school started we had the privilege of taking the kids to their first concert to see Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice.  Of course, Cara was super excited, Alex.... well, not so much.  I was just happy we were able to go as a family as Damien was able to request off for that night.

Getting ready to head into the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati.
The opening act started 5 minutes early, which was awesome... but then after he was finished, there was a long wait and I thought for sure it was time for Victoria Justice to come out!  But no, it was another opening act.  Then another long wait.  Then finally, Victoria Justice!!  By the time we were waiting for Big Time Rush, is was past 9:00 and we probably sat around 30 minutes just for them to get started.  Definitely a long wait for kids!
During one of the many breaks in between acts.
When Big Time Rush finally hit the stage, Alex was pretty much over it.  He made it through a few songs and then complained about the music being too loud and started crying (mind you, this was getting close to 10:00 pm at this time, their usual bedtime is 8:30).  So Alex and Damien left the concert and sat outside while Cara and I finished the concert.  And she lasted the entire time!!  I think she was too excited to complain or think about being tired!  Perhaps if we had seen a band that Alex cared for, he would have lasted longer as well. 

Overall, I am so grateful for the opportunity to go to this concert, it is something Cara will never forget!  I know if I had the chance to see New Kids on the Block at her age, I would have been over the moon!

Friday, August 23, 2013

When Refrigerators Go Bad!

I should have figured when the fridge broke on New Year's Eve and I spent the entire evening defrosting our fridge that it was a sign of the year ahead.  After that, we spent money twice trying to fix the fridge (along with both vehicles needing repairs, issues with the washer, and other things that just seemed to take a lot out of savings!).  We finally found out the fridge had problems with the heater part around the coils so it just kept freezing up.  At the time, we were given an estimate of around $600 to fix it.  We decided to get a new fridge instead, but we did not have much money, so every week and half I had to defrost the fridge until we were in a better position to get a new one.
One of the many times I had to defrost the old fridge.

With school on my mind a couple of weeks ago, I told Damien I could not keep up with defrosting the fridge and everything else too, I was ready to get a little cheap fridge.  So on a whim, we got online to and found their cheapest 18.2 cubic ft. Kenmore.  Now I know better than to buy and check reviews after the fact, but that is what happened and I kept reading that the fridge was LOUD.  I thought, how bad could it be?
Alex saying bye to the old fridge.

Our delivery day was a Friday, 2 days after ordering. The good thing about getting a fridge delivered from Sears is that for 10 bucks more they will take and recycle your old fridge. 

So after our big fridge was gone and our new smaller fridge was here and plugged in, I heard what the fridge sounded like when it is running.... and it is LOUD!  I am used to it now, but I am still a little nervous about when we put the house on the market and the potential buyers are hearing this loud fridge.  We will probably be taking it with us, so maybe they will be relieved when they see that the fridge is not to be part of the house!
New fridge, super loud!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Easy Crock Pot Jambalaya Recipe

Okay, so it is not authentic Jambalaya, but it still tastes pretty darn good!  I could not help but keep going for seconds!  Be sure to use the sausage of your choice, the good sausage that you can get in Louisiana is not necessarily something you find regularly in Kentucky, but I ended up using turkey sausage since I am trying to watch my waistline.  It was not as great with the turkey sausage, I was craving more taste from the sausage, but something to consider if you are watching calorie intake, or choose the sausage that you love (perhaps andouille sausage if it is something you can find easily?).  I also recommend cooking the rice separately, I can never get the rice correct when making it in the crock pot!  This recipe is not too spicy to me, but it does have a little kick to it.  Adjust the hot sauce and spices to suit your taste!

  • 1 pound boneless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 28 oz can petite diced tomatoes (drain a little bit of the juice as this recipes becomes very soupy as it cooks in the crock pot)
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 14.5 oz chicken broth
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce ( I used Tabasco sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (I used Ragin' Cajun Fixin's All Purpose Cajun Seasoning)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound frozen cooked shrimp without tails (I just pulled mine off after defrosting)
  • 14 oz turkey kielbasa sausage sliced (or sausage of your choice!)
  1. Mix the following ingredients in the crock pot: chicken, diced tomatoes, onion, green bell pepper, celery, broth, garlic, hot sauce, oregano, parsley, Cajun seasoning, thyme.  Place in the 2 bay leaves.  IF YOUR SAUSAGE IS NOT PRE-COOKED, ALSO INCLUDE THE SAUSAGE AT THIS TIME!
  2. Crock pots differ in time, my low setting cooks quickly.  If you feel yours cooks slow or fast, please adjust.  For the basic recipe, time it to be about 7-8 hours on low or 3 to 4 hours on high (mine actually cooks on low in about 6 hours, so use your gut and just make sure that chicken is cooked!). 
  3. During the last 45 minutes of cook time, take out the bay leaves and stir in the shrimp and sausage (if you did not include the sausage at the beginning of the recipe).  Since I used a simple turkey sausage that is pre-cooked, the last 45 minutes is fine. 
  4. Cook your rice separately and place the crock pot mix on top of your rice.  Add as much juice from the crock pot as you like (it turns out a little soupy after cooking).
The Cajun seasoning I used.

The mixture in Step 1 before cooking.

After cooking and adding the sausage and shrimp.

Mixture with juice drained sitting on top of rice.

Monday, August 19, 2013


There are two types of businesses that I stalk my Groupon app for, salons and restaurants. 

Now my love for Groupon started when a lot of local restaurants were offering 50% off a meal for 2 or 4 people.  Now it seems like a good restaurant Groupon is becoming more rare every day.  So every time I see a good Groupon for a restaurant we love, I grab it and don't look back!  And if it is a restaurant where tipping is the norm, I do not forget to tip off the original check, not with my Groupon discount.  I was once upon a time a server, and it is a tough job!  I really relied on my tips since the pay was just enough to cover taxes and maybe a little pocket change.

The trend for my area Groupons are all about the salons this past year.  Seems like many are part of the Groupon world, including stylists that just rent a stall and put out the Groupon for just themselves.  I have gotten to the point that I cannot afford to get my highlights from the stylist I fell in love with years ago, so I do jump stylists depending on who has the best Groupon out that serves my needs.  I feel a little guilty, I admit, because I know many stylists depend on the return clients.  But for now, I must do what I can afford.  It is nice to get a Groupon where I can get my highlights, cut, and style for half the price I used to pay (and would put on my credit card, part of why our finances are how they are now and we can no longer afford the things we used to do, including long vacations!).  And of course, I pay the tip based on what the price would have been before the Groupon.  Many stylists have been a little surprised that I still tipped based on the original price before the Groupon, so it makes me think that maybe people are tipping based on the Groupon price (or maybe not at all).  These people are making you feel confident and beautiful so do not forget to tip!!  Tipping is the norm with stylists, Groupon or not!

And of course there are other great industries that are taking advantage of the increase of customers from Groupon.  Hotels are a major one I noticed, though I have yet to try booking a hotel from a Groupon discount.  The ones I have looked at are usually only good on dates I cannot travel.

What are some your favorite Groupon deals?  Do you check the Groupon website or app often?

Friday, August 16, 2013

First Day of School Photo

I have decided to start posting 3 times a week as this first week at school has been pretty crazy!  Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays will be my post days.  I wish I could keep up with 5 days a week, but I don't see it at this point.  And, as my post says, here is a photo Damien took of the kids on their first day of school!  I have to say, it was a successful week overall!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

First Day of School!

So I am writing this ahead of time because I know how crazy busy we will be for the first day of school!  I will try to post photos before the end of this week though!  But as I head out to the elementary school I work at and the kids head out to the school they attend, I am a little sad.  I had decided long ago that if I was not a teacher at the school they attended, I would not pull them out to go with me, mostly because of the fear of being pink slipped and they having to change schools again and again if they were following me.  I am working at the same school I was at last year, but I had also been pink slipped in March and not rehired until July.  I am a planner, and with that fear over my head year after year until I can hopefully get tenured, I feel better that the kids go to their neighborhood school (keep in mind I am going to be switching jobs to a long term sub this year, losing my time as an assistant for tenure purposes, though if I was a regular certified teacher, I would have to start over the tenure process anyways... so basically I will probably be tenured when they are in middle school anyways!).

With a possible move over our heads, this is quite possibly the last year the kids will be at their current school.  But I will keep them with whatever school we are districted for if/when when we move.  I am a little sad to move them, I am a creature of habit I suppose.  I know the teachers there, we all have friends there, it is a little intimidating to have to start all over!  Especially for the kids, I did not have to change schools (other than when a new one had been built, but all my friends were there for the move too).  I do not know what it feels like to be the new kid in class.  So I worry about that too. 

So yes, I am worried with the big changes coming this school year.  I have a lot to tackle and I do not want to disappoint myself or others.  I need to remember to take a deep breath and make the most of every day I have.  My best is needed this year, I have a lot to prove to myself that I can do it, even under pressure!  Taking over a class halfway through the year, starting my Masters, putting the house on the market, plus the kids activities and other things that take up our time.... here we go!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Liebster Award

I was nominated for a Liebster Award by The Many Adventures of Lill Kids.  The Liebster Award is an award for newer blogs with less than 200 followers.  I am honored to be considered!

In order to accept the award, I must answer 11 questions and then list 11 random facts about myself.  So here we go:

1. Sweet Treat or Salty Snack?  I love switching between the 2!  A little bit of sweet followed by a little bit of salty is perfect!

2.  What is your favorite holiday song?  Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

3. Romantic Comedy or Terrifying Thriller?  Romantic Comedy... I am a big scaredy cat!

4. Who was your favorite teacher when you were younger?  I had many fave teachers, but I have to say my Biology teacher in high school was the most memorable!  He had such a small voice, yet everyone listened up when he was talking.

5. Chocolate or Plain milk?  Chocolate!!

6. What did you want to be when you were growing up?  A teacher, and I am almost there!

7. Jeans or Yoga pants when you are home?  Yoga pants!  I am all about some comfort.

8. Read a book on the kindle or read a book you can physically hold?  I like to physically hold a book... it makes me feel the most comfortable.

9. What is your favorite sports team?  I am in the Big Blue Nation part of the world, huge fan of Kentucky Wildcats basketball!

10. Where did you meet your best friend?  School

11. Chocolate Chip or Peanut Butter Cookies?  Chocolate chip!  Total chocoholic here!

11 Random Facts
  1. My husband is from Australia.
  2. I love the shows Biggest Loser and Once Upon a Time.
  3. I lived in Florida for 5 years.
  4. My favorite colors are blue and green.
  5. I don't like to listen to newer music, radio stations that play music from the 70s, 80s, and 90s are for me!
  6. I am starting grad school this fall.
  7. I am feeling that I am boring with my list so far, haha!
  8. My new fridge is too loud but it was way cheap so I cannot complain too much!
  9. I love couponing and wish I still had the time to do it properly!
  10. I could have gotten my driver's license when I was 16, but waited until I was 18.
  11. I have been to 4 colleges if you count the one I am going to this fall!
Blogs I am Nominating for the Liebster Award
Rules for Nominees
- Link back to your nominating blog
- Answer the questions they have provided
- Share 11 random facts about yourself
- Nominate blogs with less than 200 followers
- Create 11 questions to be answered by your nominees
- Contact your nominees and let them know
Questions for Nominees
  1. Dog or cat?
  2. What is your fave movie genre?
  3. The last person you hugged?
  4. Favorite childhood memory?
  5. Any broken bones?
  6. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  7. Fave school subject?
  8. What does your name mean?
  9. What is the last thing you ate?
  10. Last song you heard?
  11. Last person you texted?
Thank you for the reward!  I cannot wait to see what the above blogs come up with! 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hi-ho, Hi-ho, It's Off to Work I Go!

I know you are totally singing that in your head now!  But today is the day, my first official day back to work for the school year.  The kids are not back until Wednesday, so while they get to go off and head to the pool with friends today, I will be sitting in trainings and doing the wonderful computer training that I am sure you all love.  Not boring even one bit (hear the sarcasm??).    But it is so worth it.

Back in March I was pink slipped from my teaching assistant job and spent that month up until July more than a little stressed.  I was sending out my resumes left and right, only hearing back that they received it and would be reviewing resumes in the next few weeks.  Then nothing, crickets maybe, but that was it.  Crickets.

June started and I was blessed to be working Kindergarten Camp at the elementary school I had been working at.  One day in July, the principal asked me to come back as an assistant for half the year, and as a long term sub for 1st grade during the second half.  I was elated.  Sure, I have been looking for a regular teaching job, but when all you hear are crickets, you quickly realize how much of a blessing it is to have a job close to what you love, even if it is not exact.  And then I still get to be the lead teacher during the second half, and hopefully will prove myself valuable enough to become a regular teacher for the next school year.

So though I dread the early mornings and being away from my own kids, I realize what a blessing it is to be going to a place I do love, with students I love and care for, and with some co-workers that are the best around.  And with that thought, I leave you with one of my previous summer photos I posted last week... but it is one of the moments during our summer that was simple and yet I treasure the most.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Activities Close to Home: When a Faraway Vacation is Not Possible

I want to start off with thanking all those that checked out my posts this week about different spots we visited during this summer!  School is next week for us so it has been great remembering the fun we had (I need to check how many days until next summer, I am going to miss it too much!).

This week has been about activities that we found close to our home in Lexington, Kentucky.  For those that have not seen the posts yet, you can find the different spots I featured in this series here:
We were not able to go on a faraway vacation this year for many reasons, including financial reasons.  In late March, I found out I was pink slipped from my teaching assistant job (I got re-hired in July for that position until after Christmas, which is when I will take over a 1st grade classroom for the last half of the year).  But in late March until I was re-hired, I was a bit stressed!  I did not want the kids to just be sitting at home all summer because we were having financial problems, so I knew they would be going to the local parks and other free things that Lexington offers.  But what else could I do to make it a super special summer without spending much money?  My guidelines to finding activities included:
  • Distance from our house (had to be within a 2 hour driving distance)
  • Family friendliness
  • Cheapness
I feel we did pretty well on keeping true to those guidelines.  When I ask Cara what she will tell people when they ask what they did this summer, she had a list a mile long, so we must have done something right!  And so now, I leave you with a few photos of other summer fun we had, close to our backyard!

Historic Lindsay Springs- 15 minute bike ride from our house- Free!
YMCA Pool- 15 minute car drive from our house- Monthly fee for the Y
Waveland Museum and Park- 20 minute car drive from our house- Free!
Mcconnells Springs Hiking Trail- 10 minute car drive from our house- Free!

Kentucky State Capital- 25 minute car drive from our house- Free to walk around ;)
Kentucky State Capital- Flower Clock- Cara loves this thing and talks about it all the time!
Backyard fun... Free!
What are some destination spots close your home that you want to or have gone to during a "staycation?" 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Activities Close to Home: Kentucky Railway Museum

Today is Day 4 of my "Activities Close to Home" series.  Click one of the links below for Days 1-3 if you missed them:
We based our outings on the following criteria:
  • Distance from our house (had to be within a 2 hour driving distance)
  • Family friendliness
  • Cheapness
The Kentucky Railway Museum is somewhere over an hour away from our home in Lexington.  I checked out their website ( ) to find out what kind of train rides they have and found out they only run on certain days of the week.  They have lots of great ideas for train excursions, including a Day Out with Thomas the Train that they do every year.  My kids are starting to get a little old for that, so we settled on a train excursion that included an old time train robbery (any money collected is actually for charity).  Before heading out on the train, we had time to check out some old trains and a very small museum they had on the premises.

This last one sure had a rough life!

When it was time to line up and board the train something had happened to prevent us from getting on at the right time.  It was a hot day, and finally after standing out in the hot sun, it was a nice surprise to get in the train car and get hit with some nice, refreshing air-conditioning.

We got out of the small town of New Haven quickly and started to see some nice country and some houses here and there.  On the way, there were people dressed up in period clothing, talking to the passengers and having a good time with everyone.  We stopped at a small store halfway through so the train could go and get turned around and everyone could enjoy some refreshments.   The kids were starting to get antsy about seeing some robbers by this time!  We hopped back on the train, picking a different train car since each were a little different.  The kids were staring out the window (very dingy and hard to see out of windows), waiting for what promised to be a crazy time!

Finally, there were some loud popping outside!  It was showtime! (Sorry for the following photo, this is the best I could get out of the windows).

The robbers came in and started demanding money (though they very quickly mentioned it was actually going to a certain charity).  The kids had their dollars ready to give.  It was a good little show and made the train ride that was special in itself even more so.

If you happen to be close to Bardstown, you should definitely head on over to New Haven and ride a train through the country!  There are different events throughout the year, including:
  • Train Robbery
  • Day out with Thomas the Train
  • Christmas Train
  • Mystery Theatre
  • Dining
The trains are old and are in need of some repair, but it is a great way to go back in time and enjoy a day out with the family!

Kentucky Railway Museum Pros:
  • Not many places offer train rides that really take you back in time!
  • Different events throughout the year.
  • Air conditioned, great during the summer months!
Kentucky Railway Museum Cons:
  • Train cars need some renovating.
  • Windows are a little tough to see out of.
  • Museum in the station was a lot smaller than expected.
 Kentucky Railway Museum Tips:
  • If you are going in the hot summer months and not doing the dining event, bring some snacks and water.
  • Check online at for dates and times the trains are heading out.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Activities Close to Home: Newport Aquarium

Day 3 of my series "Activities Close to Home" is about our journey to the Newport Aquarium (read Day 1 about the Louisville Zoo here and Day 2 about Mammoth Cave here).  Just to recap, we used the following guidelines on choosing destinations to visit as a family this summer:
  • Distance from our house (had to be within a 2 hour driving distance)
  • Family friendliness
  • Cheapness
Having visited Ripley's Aquarium at the Gatlinburg or Myrtle Beach locations for 4 years in a row, I was more than happy to be visiting an aquarium that was not Ripley's.  There were more similarities than I expected, but Newport Aquarium was a great day out.  They had the underground tunnel where you see water all around you, penguins, alligators, sharks, stingrays; basically anything you expect to see at an aquarium and more.


There was also a fun little play area for the kids in a great spot where kids could just have some fun and let off some steam after being such angels during the first part of exploring the aquarium ;)

One of the best parts of the Newport Aquarium is its location.  It is a beautiful walk all around.  Behind the aquarium is some beautiful scenery of Cincinnati and the Ohio River.

After going down the block we came upon an awesome bridge over the Ohio River for pedestrians.  Later I found out it was the Purple People Bridge, a bridge that was once upon a time part of the railway system, later a road for cars, and now is used as a pedestrian bridge over the Ohio River.  It was a great surprise and discovery for us, it was like finding a hidden treasure since we had no idea it was there!


I can see us visiting the particular area again.  I loved the location, the walking, the shops and restaurants all around.  If eating at a restaurant, this will bring our price up, but perhaps it is worth saving up for ;)

Newport Aquarium Pros:
  • Everything you want to see at an aquarium and then some!
  • Great location
Newport Aquarium Cons:
  • Overpriced gift shop, but that was expected!
Newport Aquarium Tips:
  • Wear your walking shoes!  Lots of great things to see and do in the surrounding area (including the Purple People Bridge).

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Activities Close to Home: Mammoth Cave

Today is Day 2 of my series "Activities Close to Home."  (Read Day 1 about the Louisville Zoo here).  Not being able to afford a bigger vacation this year, my family has been going on adventures a little closer to our home in Central Kentucky.  Some guidelines we tried to go by in choosing our adventures included:
  • Distance from our house (had to be within a 2 hour driving distance)
  • Family friendliness
  • Cheapness
Now Mammoth Cave is actually a few minutes past our 2 hour driving distance guideline, but it was too cool to pass up this summer!  Not to mention my cousin lives about 30 minutes from that area, so we were able to visit with family the night before. Along the way to the cave, there were other caves to tour and fun kid stops such as Dinosaur World in Cave City.  Plenty to do for a long weekend if you have the time!  You also have your choice of camping out or staying in a cabin or a hotel in the area.

Along the way towards the visitor center and hotel, there are plenty of beautiful trails to see.  If you like biking or hiking, this looks like a great place to check out!  As the kids get older and have more endurance, I would definitely like to come back here for both!

Our view on a trail after the cave when I spotted a deer but missed it in the photo.
We parked on the side where the hotel is, which was perfect for us because they have food and we were very hungry!  It was around 10:30 central standard time, pretty close to our lunch time since we are used to eastern standard time.  Thank goodness the hotel had the coffee shop open that also served sandwiches and lunch items.  The coffee shop looks just like an old fashion diner and had lots of charm and caring waitresses.  Everyone at our table ordered sandwiches and fries, and I have to say... the fries were awesome... I loved them... I wish I could have some right now!  It is almost like they are battered before frying, and it was delicious!  I cannot express enough to get some of those fries if you stop and eat here!!  The price for lunch, including tip, for all four of us was $31.00, not bad considering the atmosphere and yummy food!

After eating it was time to head to the visitor center.  I did not know what to expect since I did not really even look at the website and did not book any tours in advance.  And when I walked in it looked a little overwhelming, not at all what I was expecting.  There were tons of people, a museum area, and a waiting line to book a tour.  There are huge screens letting you know when tours were leaving and if any tickets were left for that tour.  The next tour that had not sold out was about 4 hours away, way to long for us since we were driving back home that evening.  Luckily, we noticed they were selling self guided tours.  It was not a long walking tour, just one that was in one of the largest areas in the cave, which worked well for us since our 6 year old was not ready for a tour that was miles long.  We bought our tickets (relatively cheap) and then checked out the museum before heading out.

The museum was bigger than I expected.  It was great at showing geological features of the cave as well as the history.  I love history and I am always excited to learn more about places we visit.  The kids were surprisingly into the history and science of the cave.  They had a sitting area to view a video about the cave and history, which was a little longer than I liked since I was ready to get out to the cave already, but the rest of my family was intent on sitting and watching the entire video.

Finally, it was time to head to the cave.  We walked back out the back (the side the hotel is on) and found a small sign pointing us on the right trail to the self guided tour.  When we got to the cave entrance, there were guides there to give us some details.  As we neared the entrance, the cold air of the cave was felt quickly.  Take a jacket if you are bothered by constant chilly air (something I had wished I remembered for Cara)!

The trail in the self guided tour are very wide and easy to walk.  There were two guides we met on our walk through the cave to give us interesting facts and to answer any questions.  Both guides we met that day were very personable, and one was a great storyteller.

Damien and the kids in the cave

The kids and I outside the visitor center

I cannot wait to be able to visit Mammoth Cave again!  Next time I will be better prepared by reserving a tour that fits our family at that time.  Perhaps we will be able to stay at one of the cabins also!

Mammoth Cave Pros:
  • Other area attractions close by.
  • Great food before heading to the caves at the Mammoth Cave Hotel.
  • Beautiful biking and walking trails.

Mammoth Cave Cons:
  • Unless you want to wait around a few hours for a guided tour, you need to reserve your tour online or in advance.

Mammoth Cave Tips:


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