Mt. Rushmore Area Trip

July 21, 2021 at 6:41 am (travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

We did it! Iowa to Minnesota, to South Dakota to Wyoming and back again! In a car. With little kids. Do it again? Definitely!

But there’s so much to do and so little time. So here are just a few of the things that we thought were must sees and a couple skips.

Mt. Rushmore. Obvious. But it’s impressive even to all ages. Inexpensive, only $10 for parking and free entry. It was busy, but not overly packed. Of course, we had to hit up the gift shop for something to commemorate the trip. You can do a tour and spend, more time, but it isn’t necessary for the full experience, and overall this stop won’t take a ton of time.

When near Mt. Rushmore, you should totally stop to see Crazy Horse monument. Do I think it’s worth going all the way in? Not yet. It’s still under construction, and amazing as the start is and really amazing as it will be when it’s done, I don’t think $30 for the car to get in is worth it just yet. We pulled over at the sign in a little lot and took pictures. I recommend that!

If you are in this area, driving through Black Hills National Park and Badlands National Park are must dos. There are plenty of pull over and look out spots. And the views are GORGEOUS.

If you’ve made it out to the Badlands, stop at Wall Drug. Yes it’s a lot of hype. And busy. But a very cool see if you need a drink, a bathroom and a leg stretch. You could spend all day here. But you don’t have to. We did an hour or two and picked which bits to see here.

If you make it a little further out to Rapids City, SD, see Bear Country USA. We didn’t stop this time, but would have if time allowed (we did years ago). Totally worth it. Especially with kids in tow. It’s so amusing to see bears up close!

Sturgis is also a fun stop. More for the adults, but still things to see for all ages. Great to say you’ve been there even when the rally isn’t going on. Great food. Not a must do of you aren’t into this type of thing.

If you are at Mt. Rushmore and want to venture just a couple of hours west, a stop at Devil’s Tower, WY is a must do! It was STUNNING in this area! We walked the whole path around it and kids and adult alike were in awe.

This whole area of WY is stunning really, especially to see if you are not local. The red dirt and mountainous terrain are very neat to see. We stayed in Hulett, right next door to the tower and this town was definitely unique if you’re looking for a place to stop. There is an antique store there with unique Native American artifacts. The Best Western in town is very rustic and nice, with a pool. And the local cafe was delicious.

If you have headed out to WY from Mt. Rushmore, Deadwood is on the way. I recommend stopping here if you’re on adults trip. The gambling and drinks life there looked very fun. It’s not a horrible spot to stop with kids, but not a must do. The Broke Boot gold panning mine sounded super cool with kids. However, their website did not say we had to book in advance and since we did not, we were SOL. We also planned to see a shoot out there with the boys. They only do the shows on Saturdays and Sundays and we were there on a Friday. My fault, as this is on their website.

Also on the way out if heading west is Spearfish Canyon. Definitely drive the scenic byway here. Stop for some photos and explore. It’s just amazingly gorgeous out here. We did hear that there are mountain lions when off the paths, but we did not see any. This you don’t want to miss.

If your path take you East to Souix Falls, SD on the way in or out, we loved the Ramada there. They have a little water park. Kid win!

Another stop we had mid-South Dakota was Mitchell. We stayed here on our way out. This is home of the Corn Palace. It’s neat. The kids were impressed. Fun dining in town. It’s not a must see, but makes for a good place to stop if you need to!

Hitting Minnesota on the way? The town of Blue Earth is home of the real Jolly Green Giant. Great place to stretch! The even have a little sound park!

Hope this helps a little bit! If you are the get out and explore or hike type of fam, bring a fee baggies and a permanent marker for any treasures the kiddos find!

XX,

Jess

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Toddler Packing

April 13, 2021 at 9:44 pm (Mom Stuff) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve posted before about baby must haves and essentials, and talked about diaper bag supplies for babies, but what about when babies become toddlers?! Little different, right?!

No worries, I’ve rounded up everything I pack for a trip out with my toddler. All very handy!

Don’t worry, I’m an over packer, you can pick what you think would be helpful from the list. 😉

First, diapers, wipes, changing pad and extra change of clothes. Even if you toddler is potty training or has learned, these are super handy for emergencies. Believe me, I know. Also, a folding potty seat. Game changer. (This changing pad is so nice, and super wipeable/cleanable! )

Feeding supplies. Always snacks and water. I bring an extra bottle to refill our cups too (and use code Jessimarie15 on Swig bottles and mugs! 🙌) Having a bib, even if grown out of them at home, is super handy for keeping nice clothes tidy. I stash a fold up plate and silverware too, for when the eating situation is less than toddler friendly.

Also, these cups from Elk and Friends have solid lids that make packing snacks super easy too! 👌

This is where face wipes and wash clothes come in handy. And kid friendly sanitizer.

I always have safe sunscreen and bug spray. Plus Fight Bite is amazing for taking away bug bite and poison ivy itch!!

Bandaids and medicine are a must! These metal kits from Welly come loaded and are so handy. I buy the bandaid kit and med kit and swap half and half to put in places like the diaper bag, car, camper, etc. Their meds include stomach soother, fever relief, and allergy relief. And are rated for ages 2 and over. So handy!!

I like to pack a pouch of toys that the kids rarely see so that they are interesting. And soft headphones. So handy when they need to swipe my phone for entertainment.

A clip on fan for the stroller is helpful too!

And our Tubby Todd Dream Cream goes everywhere with us. Great for dry skin, rashes, etc and works for the whole fam. (This link saves you 10% automatically! 😉)

I also always add a mini CleanSmart spray. This guy disinfects surfaces with just a spray and is safe for the kiddos! CleanSmart and sanitizer both go in an easily accessible side pocket, not a pouch, for quick grabbing.

Our Lily Jade diaper bags are our favorite and their packing cases make great spots for all the things we need. I like to pack them by category. I even use one pouch for “mom stuff.” Think lip gloss, lotion, Tylenol, etc.

I also always add some Bumkins pouches. Handy to pack snacks or to stash things on the go. We’ve even filled one with shells and treasures on an adventure before. 🤣

Anything I’m forgetting? Always forgetting something. Hope this helps! 😉

Jess

XX

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Muscatine Iowa Area Sightseeing

July 13, 2020 at 8:12 pm (travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Summer is here! We’ve been quarantined long enough, so we are off to see all the sights, but distantly! So, we thought we would round up some of the things to do and see outside and at a distance, here in Muscatine area, Iowa. Enjoy!

1. Wilcat Den and Saw Mill- this is one of my family’s favorites in the area. Its historic and beautiful and there is plenty to do here! You can camp or stop for the day, hike the many trails, and explore the historic buildings. There is a school and an old church and even a mill. The old bridge over the stream at the mill is a gorgeous sight to behold. PLUS… you can swim in the stream and go up to the waterfall! Its an amazing experience and the whole family loves doing it!

2. Weed Park- one of the best parks I’ve found, anywhere. Picnic areas, pavilions, historical plaques and sights, gorgeous views of the Mississippi, beautiful landscaping, and a pond with ducks, geese, and fishing for kids. Plus, they have two playgrounds that are awesome. And once back to normal they have a waterpark. Totally worth a visit for everyone in the family.

3. Discovery Park- during normal times, they have an indoor center to see interactive wildlife features and even take classes. Currently, you can still see all they have to offer outside. There are numerous trails to walk, most paved, through gorgeous views, wildflower patches and even see wild animals. They have a butterfly garden and owls outside to view too. They also have a pond where you can fish!

4. Muscatine River Front- plenty to do down here, even distantly! You may not be visiting the pearl button factory museum right now, and even the splash pad is not turned on yet, but it’s still a beautiful, relaxing, and even entertaining area of Muscatine. You can walk the gorgeous river front, even stopping to read the plaques about the city history. You can play at the play ground. You can even take photos with the clam digger statue. And there are a few downtown restaurants up the block that offer outside dining!

5. Swinging Bridge- you have to drive about 15 minutes out of town for this one, but worth the drive. The Swinging Bridge in Columbus Junction is a sight to not miss. We visit each year for the views and a photo. Read about the bridge’s history, walk across if you dare, snap some photos, and even hike the lower trails. You will love this one!!

While you are out in the Columbus Junction area, you can see the historical marker for Convict Highway! 😉 Just a super old road, but you can read about how the convicts of the time built it!

Muscatine also offers several parks with awesome playgrounds, a skate park, and a disk golf course. Plus plenty of sites indoors once that is safe again!

We also love to camp and boat. I can recommend places for that too! Enjoy! 😉

XX,

Jess

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Family Travel Tips

January 14, 2020 at 6:51 am (Family Stuff, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Traveling with kids is not for the faint of heart. But, it’s totally possible to have an awesome time and not lose your sanity! We are living proof. I have a few simple tricks to keep it all together when traveling with a crew. My family of 5, mom, dad, 17 year old, 6 year old, and 1.5 year old, recently traveled to Florida and not only survived, but also had an amazing time. (Read about Florida ideas is previous post!) Here are some things that worked really well for us that we recommend and will be doing again.

Packing Cases- We got each family member a different color set of packing cases this time. Especially helpful since plane tickets no longer come with a checked bag any longer, as we decided to pay the extra fee for only two large checked suitcases between the 5 of us. This set of packing cases, which we used, are decently priced, come with 6 pouches per set, and had plenty of color options. They are a bit cheaply made, but did a good job for us. Lots more options for these on Amazon too! I divided each person’s cases into groups, like one pouch for shirts, one for bottoms, one for undergarments, etc. I also think it may be helpful to divide by outfits rolled together. At least this way there were only 6 options for where your swim suit could be located on the chaos! 😉

Nacuwa Bottle- If you haven’t heard already, all airlines now only allow liquids in 3.4 oz bottles and these need to be in a quart sized ziplock baggie. To simplify things, use the Nacuwa bottle! All of our necessities can go in one bottle. It’s even TSA approved! Tip- add a ziplock to each bag. You might bring home a hotel lotion, or find that you had a little perfume in your purse without a baggie. Each person is allowed one, so make sure you are prepared to take advantage of this! We use the Nacuwa travel bottle for camping and cabining as well! So handy!

Bubble Bum Seat- Got kids in the booster seat age and size range? You need this. Its handy for all the things, travel, grandma’s car, carpool, etc. We loved having it for the rental car. I know rental cars can provide carseats, but they add an extra expense. And, I’ve heard rumor, that sometimes they don’t have the size seat you requested on hand, or it is outdated or dirty… Save yourself extra trouble and get this guy. He fits in this bag shown in my hand, then blows up to the seat B is holding below. It meets and exceeds all safety standards! Plus, B says it’s super comfy.

Spirit Airlines- Ok, hear me out. This may not be the airline of beat choice if you are taking a super long flight and need extra comfort… but they have their perks if you are ok with very basic and are hoping to save some money. Perk 1- they allow you to bring a diaper bag on free, in addition to the one personal item each traveler is allowed. Thank goodness! Perk 2- they also allow you to check a stroller and carseat for each child for free. We checked the toddler’s carseat (again with the rental car issue) and gate checked the stroller. This means we drove it all the way to the gate with kiddo in it, and it goes right in the door of the plane and off to meet us. Perfect! Perk 3- they combine weights for your suitcases, whereas other airlines don’t. Each checked suitcase is allowed to be 40lbs without extra charge. With Spirit, one could be 20lbs and one could be 60lbs then. Less stress worrying about how to split things up!! Perk 4- you can bring your own snacks and drinks! They do not serve anything for free on the flight, adding to your lower prices, but this also allows you the freedom to pack what and how much you want! Some airports will not allow you through safety checks with drinks. Chicago did, because Spirit’s checkpoint was separated. However, Jacksonville did not, as all airline were checked together. Snacks were fine. Exceptions are always made for breastmilk, formula, etc.

Carseats– I mentioned above that I believe in the perks of bringing your own carseat when renting a car. Here is something you should get. A strap to attach the carseat to your wheeled suitcase. So handy to not lug another parcel through the airport. We wheeled the carseat to baggage check. Then we packed it in it’s own travel bag to be checked. The second picture below is how the carseat bag rolls up into it’s own pouch to pack. Pack this in an outside pocket of your suitcase and you will know where it is before you check bags.

Last tips- stay organized, go with the flow, don’t see it all, and enjoy the little things. Dad says- pack lots of snacks. You will have a blast! Safe travels!

Anything you would add?

XX,

Jess

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Marineland, Family Florida Trip Ideas

January 9, 2020 at 7:12 am (Family Stuff, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Want to take the kids to Florida, but not quite ready to go all in on Disney just yet? We weren’t either. I have some ideas for you!

Must see in Florida? Marineland Dolphin Adventure!! Truly, this place is a must see and a pleaser for all ages.

Yes, we danced with the dolphins! 🤩 This dolphin is Dazzle and she was a sweetheart. We learned a lot about her and dolphins in general. You can choose tickets to swim with the dolphins or tickets to meet and greet with them (pet them!), like the youngest and dad did.

You can even get a package that includes painting with the dolphins! There are talks and training demonstrations…

There was a tour of the facility, which included learning the history here. They are the first facility of their kind! Movies have even been made here! You can see turtles and other sea life too. There was just so much to explore. Plus, who doesn’t love an adorable gift shop? They even had custom necklaces made with each dolphin’s fluke (tail fin). How neat?! There is also a photographer there to snap photos while you are in the water or focusing on the dolphin fun!

And the view over the ocean was divine, even on a cloudy day…

There is just so much to say about this place. Truly I can’t rave enough and highly recommend you visit there for yourself!

Want to make it a whole weekend and need more things to fill your time? Us too! I’ve got a few recommendations:

Tip- Fly into and stay in Jacksonville. It’s a big enough city to have plenty to do, but not a spring-breaker hot spot.

1. Check out the beaches! The whole family enjoyed the sand and water, even in the cooler winter time. We all love to hunt for shells and treasures. Best beach for shells, sea glass and shark teeth is Mickler’s Landing, a public beach at Ponte Verda. Jacksonville beach, Atlantic beach, and Neptune beaches are all public, close by and very nice. Public beach access in Marineland was also very nice!

2. Jacksonville Zoo! Also fun for the whole family.

3. See St. Augustine! The younger kids didn’t understand the significance and were not super interested, but did enjoy seeing the big stone “castle”. They had lots of lights up in the evening, the bridge is neat, and there is a huge light house. Plus shops and restaurants to please us bigger kids.

4. St. Augustine alligator park! We didn’t get to make it here, but this attraction looked so fun!

5. Catty Shack wildlife sanctuary! We also didn’t make it here, but it is on our list! You can see them feed the tigers!

6. Seafood! Need I say more? I’ll list a few of our tried and true favorites.

*Safe Harbor, Jacksonville

*Slider’s, Jacksonville

*Sonny’s BBQ, Jacksonville (not seafood, but totally a favorite worth checking out)

*South Beach Grill, Marineland

Tip- Hyatt Place, Jacksonville Airport is where we stayed. Casual yet nice, family friendly and spacious. Plus, you can sign up for Hyatt Club for free and get free breakfasts. Just one we would recommend!

I hope you enjoy visiting Florida too! Let me know how you like these spots!

XX,

Jess

Disclosure: we were hosted at Marineland only. All opinions of all locations listed here are fully our own. We want to be helpful for your family, with honest reviews!

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Wedding Date And Location Set!

July 27, 2009 at 1:46 pm (Wedding Plans) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Its official!  We finally set a date and picked a location!  Are you ready?  Our wedding will be August 28th, 2010, in Negril Jamaica at the Couples resort!  Yay!

After meeting with a travel agent last week we were almost immediately sold on Negril and the Couples resort.  We are now so excited that we wish we could push the date ahead!  How did we decide?  Well, the travel agent loves Negril and told us how amazing and gorgeous it is.  And, who wouldn’t be sold by a few of these pictures!? :

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http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1395/1489692121_6520c4957b.jpg

So, what do you think?  These aren’t exact pictures of the Couples resort, just the Negril area.  But, to check out our exact resort, go here: http://www.couples.com/13cn/index.html

The trip includes everything imaginable, from flights, to drinks and food, to sports and massages.  The wedding itself, with a planner, is even free! 

My question for all of you is, what colors should we use for the wedding?  I want something more tropical than we had planned before.  I am thinking a teal and yellow or berry pink… or?  Help!

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Wedding Decisions and Last Minute Changes

May 27, 2009 at 1:37 pm (Wedding Plans) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Well, it’s getting to be that time… the time when we need to start making actual decisions and booking things for the wedding.  We had a plan.  Small church wedding, outdoor reception, simple, vintage, black and white, and elegant.  I had a book full of clippings and notes.  And what happens?  We get a new, completely opposite idea and are making some last minute changes.

We are now contemplating the idea of a destination wedding.  A beach, sand, sun, bright colors.  We are meeting with a travel agent and looking at the possibilities.  It doesn’t sound like what I (thought) I had always wanted.  But, oh, how it does sound amazing.  Maybe it sounds so perfect because it’s what WE want and not what I had imagined as a little girl.  Well…we are pretty serious, although not yet booked, about the idea of a tropical getaway wedding with the closest of family and friends. 

 So, in my new planning stages I have been searching for new inspiration. I don’t like themes, and cheesey matchy-matchy decor, but would like to have bright, elegant flowers…not sure what else? 🙂  I thought I would share a bit with you:

This peach and teal combo looks so fresh and beach-y.

 

These centerpieces look beachy and summery, but not too frilly. 

 

Lilies are my favorite flower, and they work well for an island escape wedding.

 

Red and yellow would be a bright, fun combo of color.

 

 

As would teal and yellow!

Yup, I’d have to do this.  Or write my new name for the first time in sand.  Aw. 

Any tropical ideas for us?  Suggestions?  I will keep you all updated on what we decide!

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My First Ikea Visit- EVER!

May 19, 2009 at 7:54 am (Home Changes and Additions, Tid Bits) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Yes, its true.  I’m a small town girl, never been to Ikea.  We took a little road trip to Chicago this weekend with some friends to visit the monstrous store- WOW.  Love it.  That’s all you can really say.  Tony even enjoyed this shopping trip- was it the beer that you can drink while there?? 🙂  We didn’t come home with too many exciting things this time, but we got what we went for- a new duvet cover!  We also got a few pillows to replace the raggedy ones in the living room, and a yummy smelling candle.  All on the cheap!  I wish we lived closer because we will definitely be making the trip back when we need something! 

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The new duvet cover- looks like we need a bed-skirt too! – and the grey blanket is also from Ikea.

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The big black and white pillow is actually a cover, which we stuffed with three of the old dilapidated pillows, and the black one is also new.  We think they tie in the black curtains a bit better.

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A cute little delicious candle- for $2.50 you can’t go wrong!

Also- the counter-tops are half in and looking great.  They are planned to be done tonight!! Yay!

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Fishy Fishy

May 4, 2009 at 8:36 am (Tid Bits) (, , , , , , , , , , )

No cleaning, no housework, no projects.  We went fishin’!  Summer is finally here, so although this isn’t decor related, I thought I would share our fishin trip with you.  I caught this pretty Sheep Head guy.  And Tony caught this bity bull head.  He caught two of those tiny babies, but my fish definitely won me bragging rights for the week 😉

My fish.

My fish.

 

Tony's fish.

Tony's fish.

 

We packed a lunch and spent the entire day catching some sun (not many fish) and enjoying the peace of being at the canal.  It was a great day.  Now back to the work-week.  Hope you had a great weekend, too!

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My Favorite Place In The World

December 30, 2008 at 3:32 pm (Home Changes and Additions) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Nope, not Hawaii.  That ranks very high on my list, but not my top.  My favorite place in the world is my grandparents’ house.  That’s it.  Simple.  Ever since I was little they have had the coziest house (even after moving).  Not only are they interesting people and amazing story tellers, but they have such a great home that brings back memories of staying there as a kid.  They have always been antique collectors, and this is probably why I have an antique obsession.  Their basement is packed with antiques, and trinkets, odds and ends, and so many goodies to look at.  Now that I am older and have a house of my own, they have been slowly passing along some of my favorite gems to me.  We went to their house for Christmas this year, and I ended up coming home with a truck load of goodies.  I hope to someday inherit some more of their great furniture, but I also love the littles they send home with me.  Here are a few of my favorite finds from my recent trip to my favorite place in the world:

 

These are some antique mail boxes from a post office that my grandpa owns.  They are so perfect (and more of those cubbies I love).  We just aren't sure where to put them yet.

  

A close up of the doors and some things stashed inside already.

A close up of the doors and some things stashed inside already.

 

This is an old pin cushion made from a hoof that we used to play with as kids.  I know, kinda creepy, but I think it is totally cool!

This is an old pin cushion made from a hoof that we used to play with as kids. I know, kinda creepy, but I think it is totally cool!

 

This is an old lamp that needs some cleaning.  It hangs from the ceiling and you put oil in it.  The oil drips down the clear threads that run from the top to the bottom.  The oil then glows colors when the light bulb is on.  I think it looks kind of like early fiber optics.  Its very neat, but has been stored and needs TLC.  A project!  YAY!

This is an old lamp that needs some cleaning. It hangs from the ceiling and you put oil in it. The oil drips down the clear threads that run from the top to the bottom. The oil then glows colors when the light bulb is on. I think it looks kind of like early fiber optics. Its very neat, but has been stored and needs TLC. A project! YAY!

 

This is a Christmas tree made out of my grandma's antique jewelry.  What a cool idea!  It is framed in a very old frame and there are Christmas lights behind the black velvet.  It is really so cute that I might have to leave it our all year!

This is a Christmas tree made out of my grandma's antique jewelry. What a cool idea! It is framed in a very old frame and there are Christmas lights behind the black velvet. It is really so cute that I might have to leave it our all year!

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