West Texas Adventures

We reached a milestone in our marriage in 2020. We had been married for 10 years. We had dreamed of big plans to celebrate this accomplishment and then the pandemic hit. All was washed away and in the midst of it we were moving. We finally got settled and realized I was getting a 3 day weekend in October. I am not a “do things on a whim” kind of person but I felt we needed to get away. We travel often and we hadn’t been any where since January of 2020….10 months is a long time to not go any where. At least for us. So Victor and I dropped our kids off with the grandparents and set off on a road trip with no set plans except to climb the Guadalupe Mountain Peak. (Which we decided about 3 days prior to that!)

Friday night we drove until we couldn’t keep our eyes open. We ended up in Fort Stockton at a cheap motel. We needed to get up really early to make it to the mountains so it served its purpose. We got up around 6 a.m. and continued our trek. We had 2 and half hours to go before we hit the national park. We got to the visitor center at 9 a.m. and the parking lot was already full and we had to park half a mile away. We only knew the hike was about 9 miles round trip. Victor is pretty well versed in long hikes and I am pretty capable but the park ranger could tell we hadn’t read too much into it and recommended close toed shoes due to the rough terrain and rocks. He said it would take 6 to 8 hours. So we had to walk back to the car which made us end up walking a little over 10 miles that day. Haha

The hike was beautiful! The leaves were starting to turn and the views were like no where else. We made it to the top in about 2 and a half hours. The peak had never ending views and showed a part of Texas you can only find in the west. Guadalupe Mountain is the highest point in Texas. The wind was so intense at the peak. We stuck around for about 15 minutes. I know some people don’t realize Texas has mountains but we do. 🙂 We were stubbornly determined to make it to the bottom of the trail in less than 6 hours. What we were not anticipating was how much harder it is to go down than up. It took us about 3 hours to get back down. My lungs felt great the entire way down but my legs and feet were not used to the constant downward motion, so Victor and I had to stop and give our bodies a break. We ended up at the bottom of the trail at 5 hours 45ish minutes. If you are not a frequent hiker, plan for the 6 to 8 hours. You need time to give your legs and feet a break. Oh and by the way it was totally worth it!

The national park offers a multitude of trails and I recommend visiting during October-November to see the leaves change colors. If you are hiking in the summer months, I would highly advise going on the trail early in the morning. It can get very hot. One trail we hope to hike next time is Devil’s Hall.

Surprisingly, the closest town to the park was actually in New Mexico. We found an affordable hotel in Carlsbad and were pleasantly surprised at how cute and updated it was. One thing we found out in these desert towns is that things close early or not open on the weekends. We ate dinner, showered and crashed pretty quickly.

We got up early and headed out to the Carlsbad Caverns. We thought we would get there 15 minutes before it opened. From the main road you would think the park didn’t have much to see on the outside, but we came around this hill and were blown away by the rolling hills and rock cliffs. Thanks to COVID the park already had a LONG line! It opened at 8 a.m. and we waited in line for about 30 minutes to pay and get an entrance time. Our time was 11:30 so we decided to explore the surrounding area. We even saw some bighorn sheep!

We made our way down into the caverns and I thought I knew what to anticipate but it was so much larger than I thought! It was mesmerizing…down right breath taking. It was nice and cool in the caverns which was a nice change from the hike the day before. It is a lot of walking but you don’t notice because you are trying to take in all of the cavern.

We left the caverns around 2 p.m. and headed back towards San Antonio to hit one more hike before our trip was over. We hiked Lost Maples Monday morning and picked up our kids Monday afternoon. It was a lot of driving and a ton of hiking but it was worth every second! If you don’t take time to get away with you spouse kid free, I highly recommended it. It’s good for your marriage and your soul. 🙂

Colorado Springs 2.0

Colorado Springs 2.0

We spent a month in Colorado this summer working at a Young Life camp called Wilderness Ranch and ended our trip with a short visit to Colorado Springs. One of my brothers is stationed there so we were excited to see him and his family after a year and a half thanks to COVID. We drove in on a Tuesday afternoon and met up with the rest of my family at the Airbnb we were staying at together. My Dad, 2 more brothers, and their families came as well. We scored a good deal because it was a newly listed home needing reviews. We spent the evening cooking dinner and playing games while catching up. We hadn’t all been together in two years.

Cheyenne Mountain State Park

We headed up to Cheyenne Mountain to see Helen Hunt Falls and take a small hike. The mountain is beautiful on the way up. The road winds in between large carved out rocks and trees. There is a parking lot right next to the falls. After viewing the falls you can take a short hike up to see some beautiful views of Colorado, just be careful because it can be a little slippery in certain places. Afterwards we drove further up the mountain. It is filled with tons of trail options ranging from easy to difficult. We saw quite a few mountain bikers weaving in and out of different trails along the way. All of this is free and is great place to take in nature no matter what level of “outdoorsman” you might be.

Helen Hunt Falls

Manitou Springs

We visited this place the first time we came to Colorado Springs. It is full of shopping, restaurants, an awesome arcade and some pretty amazing cliff dwellings. We headed that direction per request of my 7 year old. All she wanted to do was go to the arcade again and honestly it was so fun the first time I didn’t hesitate to say yes. If you want to read more about the arcade visit my original blog post.

I returned to Manitou Springs the next morning with two of my brothers to do the incline. It is only 2,774 steps straight up the side of a mountain! We started at 6:30 in the morning and honestly if you are going to do it in the summer, I recommend going at 6 am! It gets hot by 8 in the morning and you do not want to be hot climbing all those stairs. It was intense! I did an interval method like when I train in running. I did 50-80 steps and then took a 1 to 2 minute break. You will NEED water. It is always best to take more than you think you will want. When at the top you have two options take the steps back down or take the switch backs. We took the steps back down but honestly half the time I felt unstable because it is so steep. Next time I’ll take the switchbacks. OH, and yes my calves were ridiculously sore the next day but it was 100% worth it!

Mt. Baldy

My dad and brothers have jeeps so we decide to see how far we could off road up the mountain. Mt. Baldy is actually located on Almagre Mountain South. The first 8 miles or so up the mountain is a dirt road that any car could drive! I saw cars, SUVS, trucks ect. It is a two lane dirt road that has some great views along the way! We hit the bumpy roads and that was definitely the exciting part of the drive. At no point did I feel unsafe or worried about falling off the side of the mountain. Haha! You can do jeep tours with a company and get the same experience without having to purchase a jeep of your own. 😉

America the Beautiful Park

This is a newly completed park located in downtown Colorado Springs. It includes a massive ring water fountain that rotates, a playground, a sky bridge, and the Olympic and Paralympic museum. We did not go into the museum but it is on my list of things to do next time we visit. We visited the training facility two years ago and loved it so I can only imagine how awesome the museum will be. The water fountain is a great place to bring the kids to play and cool off with a great mountain view. The sky bridge is the perfect place to get a great photo of the family with the mountains in the background. You could easily spend an afternoon here soaking up some quality time with loved ones.

Palmer Park

We visited Palmer Park twice during our visit. Once for sunset and another the next day. The best view of the city and Pike’s Peak can be accessed here at the Grandview Overlook. The park does have some great trails but the overlook can be reached without major walking. We had hoped to catch a great sunset but due to the smoke being blown in from wildfires in the west it was hazy both days. It was still a beautiful view and a great place to sit, relax, and hang out.


We celebrated July birthdays in my family at Edelweiss. My family loves to come and eat here anytime we visit. This is the most authentic German food and tastes so good! We started out with potato pancakes and moved into wienerschnitzel, rouladen, and bayrische schweinshaxe (which was so massive by the way!) They of course have a great beer selection and if you can’t decide which one to get just order a flight and try them all.

Remember to visit my first post about Colorado Springs to find more places to visit and things to do! Click here to read!

The Thoughts of a Teacher During a Pandemic

Everyone’s feelings and emotions have been swirling around during this pandemic. We’ve all gotten lost in what is truth and what is speculation. It’s been seven months and we have learned many things but much still hangs in the balance.  School doors have reopened and with this comes excitement, fear, and uncertainties. As a teacher, I feel all of these emotions daily. 

Online learning is HARD….not only for the kids but for the teachers. Most school systems were not built to handle virtual school but the education system pulled together and made it happen. Some families rocked it and didn’t skip a beat, some families made an attempt but did not expect the difficulties that came, some families were never able to give it a chance. No matter what, our human minds were not made to sit in front of computers all day. So where did that leave us? We had to reopen schools, but the question was how?

As I write this, we are two weeks into in-person school. My feelings and emotions are like a roller coaster who’s operator doesn’t know where the off switch is. The first day of school was exhilarating. I couldn’t wait to see students in my classroom. Bulletin board up…check, Smart TV working…check, fun activities planned….check, door decorated…check and then the reality hits. Hand sanitizer…check, desk separated….check, extra face mask…check, online nurse form open in case someone is sick…check. My already long list just got even longer. Which by the way our door decorating was on point this year thanks to my awesome team!

As teachers, we already worry about our students. We want the absolute best for them. We want them to succeed. We want them to see what we see…that they can do anything if they just try. As a teacher during a pandemic, we think all of these things and then some. How much did they miss already? How long can they sit in their chairs? Do they remember how to interact with their friends? Are they nervous? Are they excited? How much do they know and don’t know about COVID? Are they fearful? Can I let them hug me, will their parents be ok with it? Can I work hard enough to make sure they can catch up to where they are suppose to be?

What a day in the classroom looks like; They made it! You are here! Find a desk and put all your school supplies on your desk. Let’s go to the carpet and read a book.  Oh no, don’t sit there….keep your hands to yourself….face mask on…go wash your hands…my mind wanders every 5 seconds…do I worry about that? Do I let them do things as normal as possible? Am I protecting them? Which is more important right now…the safety guidelines or their mental health? Can I achieve both the safety guidelines and ensure their hearts and minds are flourishing? Research based educational practices do not follow COVID-19 safety protocols…where do you draw the line? I ask myself all of these things at least a 100 times a day.

None of us asked for this. We all dream of what it was before. A teacher already carried so much weight before this pandemic. Things that no one sees unless you are in the trenches. So many people have opinions but aren’t willing to jump in with us. Some aren’t willing to lighten the load. So many people have forgotten that teachers have families too. We must not only protect your children but ourselves and our families as well. Many teachers felt the weight was too much, the risk was to high.  Many older teachers retired not only to protect themselves but your children. If one day your child’s teacher never came back, it would leave a mark on their heart. It would be far more traumatizing than wearing a face mask.

Believe us when we say, “We are doing our best.” I know you dream about about all the things your child will do as they grow up and so do we. We do everything possible to make sure they realize how amazing they can be. Give us grace…be our champions not our critics. I am only one teacher with a million thoughts, thoughts of wonder, worry, and hope.

One Pot Italian Casserole

I love Italian food but I cannot stuff myself with all the pasta. I needed to find a solution that would allow me to feel like I am eating spaghetti but not suffer the consequences of consuming lots of carbs and gluten. So after many trials, I found something that I love!

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. ground lamb or beef
  • 1 or 2 zucchini
  • 1 or 2 squash
  • 1 jar of tomato basil spaghetti sauce (Rao’s is my favorite)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes Italian style.
  • 1 bag of frozen riced cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic or garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

I love using my dutch oven for this recipe. I am sure it taste the same in other pots but I feel like it gets such a good flavor the longer it gets to simmer in this pot! Also, I highly recommend trying it with the ground lamb. It is sooo good! If you are weary about it, then try 1 lb of ground lamb and 1 lb of ground beef together.

  • Begin with putting your dutch oven on medium and toss in your olive oil. Once warmed up add in your minced garlic and let cook for a minute or two.
  • Next, add your ground meat with the spices. (oregano, thyme, sage, salt, pepper) If you love garlic like I do, then add a little garlic powder as well. Let your meat brown before adding the next ingredients.
  • Once the meat is ready add in your zucchini, squash, and diced tomatoes. If vegetables are not your favorite or your kids, then I suggest dicing them up small. I give it a good stir, put my burner on medium low, put my lid on, and let them simmer until the veggies are tender. While I am doing that, I always buy the riced cauliflower that can be steamed in the bag. I toss that in the microwave for 5 minutes and then add it to my dutch oven to simmer a little while as well.
  • Once your veggies are tender, add your spaghetti sauce and stir really well. I turn up my burner a little and allow this to come to a bubble. Once it is nice and hot, I turn it down to low and crumble in my goat cheese. You could also do a ricotta cheese, but I love the tanginess that the goat cheese brings to the dish. Allow the cheese to melt into the dish (usually 5 or so minutes) and then it is ready to serve!

Seasons of Life

Every year the first cold front rolls in and I cannot wait to throw on my light sweater and tall boots. This season always brings joy to my heart. I spent my freshman year of college in Cleveland, TN.

It was a season that truly shaped me into who I am today. I had just graduated high school from a small town where I spent my entire life. Yes, my family had taken vacations but I was definitely a young unaware teenager about to step into a completely new world. I was accepted into a college ministry program that was about 12 hours from my hometown. I could not wait…I was definitely that kid who jumped at the chance to get away from home and see the world. I packed up all my stuff, and my family and I made the 12-hour trek. I remember walking into the dorm building and seeing these huge glass windows that gave a view of hills covered with beautiful trees. I then proceeded to my dorm room where it looked like I had stepped into the Brady Bunch show. It had orange countertops, funky brown carpet, and oak mismatched furniture! My family and I brought my stuff in and I met my very enthusiastic roommate from Alaska. I love her and still to this day don’t think I could call her anything else but her given name that year…Alaska. 🙂

We took all our classes in one day…8 a.m. to 8 p.m…every Tuesday. The rest of the time, we served the community, did ministry, studied together, and traveled the country in the efforts to learn about God and shows others what His love looked like. When I applied for the program these were things I kind of had an idea to expect but what I didn’t expect was the way it would change my heart. The girls spent evenings hid away in dorm rooms telling stories, doing each other’s hair, making jokes, and pouring out our hearts to each other. Other times we all hung out in the common area playing games that many times ended in injury (ha-ha), singing songs, or just acting like fools. I’ll never forget the night we had a helicopter land in the field in front of the dorm because one of our games turned out to not be the best choice. No permanent damage though! When we had free time, we would go out and explore the mountains and towns around us. Chattanooga was a short drive from where we were and was filled with so many things to see and do. Even though I spent the entire year there, the fall is what sticks with me. The beautiful Smokey Mountains covered in trees full of orange, yellow, brown, green, and red. All you wanted to do was be outside.


I think the fall was so impactful because it was the first time that all we had to depend on was each other. The majority of us were from far away and this was the first time we were dipping our toes into adulthood.

We grew up that year. I learned how to truly pray that year…not follow what I had learned in youth group. We all learned how to serve others without an expectation of something in return. We all realized that the world is a big place and even though we were just a bunch kids, we could make a difference. No season in life is perfect, but the good far out weighed the tough stuff.

Do you have a season, or event that comes around every year and brings up joyful memories? Do you have people that no matter how long you have been apart you pick up right where you left off the minute you see each other? In the world of technology, we “keep up” with each other but are we truly keeping up? I live even further from that beautiful place these days but I have managed to take my husband to see it. It was important to me that he meet some of the people who helped make me who I needed to be to marry him. Every year when this season rolls around, I make sure to soak in all the memories that come flooding back and do all of the silly traditional things that it brings because, honestly, memories and friendships are all we really get to keep in this life. I hope you go out and make some memories with the people you love this season and reconnect with someone who you haven’t spoken to in a while!

10 Hot Spots in Colorado Springs

We had a blast in Colorado Springs and the most exciting thing is my brother lives there so we have good reason to keep going back! This is definitely a family-friendly destination but also a great place for any type of trip. The summer is a great time to visit. The weather is nice and the area has a vast amount of outdoor opportunities. Let us venture into the awesome things we did!

Royal Gorge and Train Ride
This was my favorite! The Royal Gorge is about an hour away from Colorado Springs and is a family-friendly adventure park centered on this beautiful gorge with a mountain view. The park was centered around an amazing suspension bridge that is 956 feet above the Arkansas River. Adults are $26, children $21, and anyone 5 and under is free! You can also zip line, ride the sky coaster, take a gondola, or play at the children’s playland. We went on July 4th so it was definitely busy which made the lines for the zip line way too long. I was pretty disappointed, but again we will be visiting again soon! We ended up rushing ourselves a little bit because we needed to get back down the mountain to catch the Royal Gorge Train. The train takes you for a ride through the gorge that we were just peering down at 30 minutes prior. The train tracks run alongside the river and give you beautiful views of the Colorado Rockies. We spent the majority of our time in the outdoor car so we could really take in the scenery. You can also stay in your train car, order food, and enjoy the views from your window. THIS IS A MUST DO! The train was the most expensive thing we did which came in at $49 an adult, and $44 for children.


Cave of the Winds

This is another family-friendly mountain park. It has a wide range of activities for any age group. We stuck mainly with taking a cave tour and my brother and niece ventured out onto the Terror-Dactyl. The discovery cave tour is a walking tour that lasts around 45ish minutes. Adults are $22, kids five and under are free. It was fascinating to see the different rock formations and hear the history behind how the cave was discovered. The Terror-Dactyl was insane. I was not about to hop on that thing but watching my brother and niece do it was thrilling enough! The swing/bungee sits at the edge of a 200-foot cliff. It drops 150 feet into the canyon! My brother said it was the best ride he had ever experienced, so if you are an adrenaline junkie this is for you!!



Manitou Springs

The cutest little mountain town packed full of shops, restaurants, and a nostalgic penny arcade. If I lived in Colorado Springs, I could easily spend my weekends playing arcade games and eating fun foods. The arcade is multiple little shop buildings with the outside filled with those cute quarter rides for the kids. We spent the majority of the time outside watching the girls gleefully hop from one ride to the next. This place has every old school arcade game you can think of from your childhood along with some new games. The games ranged from a penny to a dollar but mostly landed in the quarter price. We spent at least an hour playing games and only spent 15 dollars. We then strolled up and down the streets looking in all the shops and hopped over to a Jewish restaurant. I had some awesome lamb and falafels.


Pikes Peak
This is probably the most popular tourist attraction. You pay either by carload or per person. The best thing to do is to cram all kids 5 and under in one car with one adult so you just pay for that adult. While the other car is filled with adults and will pay the carload flat rate. You can drive up the mountain and see some awesome sites along the way. We had a crazy/ traumatic experience, to say the least. We found out once we reached the top of the peak that our 2-year-old has altitude sickness. In case you were wondering if it’s possible to go down a winding mountain going 60 miles an hour…you can. We were in a park ranger’s vehicle and once we reached a lower level, she regained normal breathing and consciousness. We learned that day 2&3 are the hardest on your body and no one really knows if they have altitude sensitivity until they are in the middle of it. Drink LOTS of water before going up and during your visit. At the top, they have a shop where you can get their famous donuts and merchandise. I would not spend a ton of time in there because I am sure that the billion other tourists are sucking up the little oxygen that is in the building. The view though…BREATH-TAKING!


Air Force Academy

Victor served in the Air Force so we knew we had to see the beautiful campus. The chapel is extraordinary and the campus is covered in beautiful greenery. You can visit for free and venture around certain parts of the campus on your own. We were able to see some of the cadets training during our visit.



Olympic Training Center

This was a must-do on my list. You get to take a walking tour with a guide. We were lucky enough to get a Paralympic athlete guide! Our guide was Tyler Carter; he competed in the last 2 winter games as an alpine skier and continues to train for the 2022 Olympics. We were able to see the pool that Michael Phelps once trained in as well as many other training facilities. I feel like this is the closest I will probably ever get to experiencing the Olympics up close.



Garden of the Gods

Begin your visit at the visitor’s center, where you walk through a mini-museum of science and history surrounding the Garden of the Gods. Thenk walk out to the ovebservation deck to see a fantastic view of the rock formations. You can hop on a shuttle that will take you over to the actual park. The shuttles run constantly so no need to worry about waiting around for the next one. The park and visitor center are free and can be hours of fun climbing and exploring.


Seven Falls

This waterfall is nestled in the middle of Colorado Springs. You have to park at a separate location and a shuttle takes you to the park. There is no parking anywhere within walking distance to the entrance. It is private property so you must pay to enter the park. Adults are $15 and children are $9. You have to walk about three-quarters of a mile to get to the waterfall but the scenery is beautiful the entire way there. Once you reach the waterfall, you can take an elevator up to see a perfect view. Also, next to the waterfall they have 224 steps you can climb to see the above view of the waterfall. It was an unexpected workout to get up there but the view is awesome. From the top you can take  several hiking trails to other parts of the park. They do have a restaurant below the waterfall but honestly, it wasn’t worth the hype…

IMG_2450IMG_2468IMG_246720190707_15000920190707_145321Kings Chef Diner

This place is a true hole in the wall diner in the downtown area. The outside looks like a purple castle and when you walk in they literally only have a small countertop seating area. We sat outside at a picnic table contemplating whether we should go somewhere else but a server came out and we decided to stick around. We were not prepared for what was about to happen! We ordered The Grump, which is a mound of hash browns, eggs, bacon, onions, and cheese topped with gravy. We opted to have their famous green chili sauce instead of the gravy. It was so delicious!


Ivywild School

This is an old elementary school turned into a community market place. You can eat, shop, drink or attend classes. We had dinner at the brewery and then hopped over to the bakery where I had the most amazing lavender lemonade and flourless chocolate cake. It was so good I made sure to eat most of it before my kids noticed so I would not have to share! LOL They kept true to the roots of the building and kept a lot of its original decor. They even have a bar area named the Principal’s Office!


Colorado Springs can be a very expensive or inexpensive trip. It is packed with tons of free outdoor adventures. We definitely splurged on a few things but we also had a free place to stay and cheap flights. One thing that I wish I could have done is go zip lining somewhere but lucky for us we have a great reason to return many times in the future!

The Best of St. Augustine

St. Augustine is the oldest town in the United States and believe me they will let you know. Victor and I had been here once before during a work trip so we did a little exploring but didn’t really get the full experience. I will say though the first time we went it was during “winter” with decent weaher and this time it was HOTTT. We swam in the hotel pool everyday….it was necessary…
St. Augustine has a whole lot to offer between the history and beaches. We opted to pay for the Old Town Trolley. This is a great option because it takes you to most of the major attractions and allows you to hop on and off. You do not have to drive around town trying to find parking and they give all the interesting facts about the city. We did the 2 day tour for $35 dollars per adult and children 5 and under were free. My only complaint was it felt like they needed to make sure they had a certain amount of stops so some of them were unnecessary or weird. At times I’m pretty sure we were going in circles. I will say it gave us breaks from the heat and walking. When you are toting around small kids a break is definitely necessary. Here is a list of the stops.

Stop 5:
We stopped here and walked around in old town. They have left its architecture intact and converted many of the buildings into shops and restaurants. We saw the Oldest Wooden School House but in order to go in you must pay.

Stop 6:
The Pirate Museum was pretty cool. It had actual artifacts found on sunken pirate ships and movie memorabilia that reminded you of your childhood. I was surprised by how small it was but they do give free guided tours so you can get the most bang for your buck. The coolest part for the kids was a section where you could “shoot” a cannon.


Stop 11:
Flagler College is in the heart of St. Augustine and holds a ton of history. It is so beautiful and makes you want to be in college again so you can roam the campus. They do give tours of the campus.


Stop 12:

The St. Augustine Distillery was pretty cool. I do not really drink but the rest of my family had the opportunity to taste their whiskey, rum, gin, and vodka and they even made mixed drinks for everyone to sample. They offer free tours where we were able to see the process. You can take children. I gave my 2 year old a tablet to entertain her so that I could hear everything. My older one did well with paying attention and during the sampling they give out lemonade for under age tourists. They also have a restaurant that is highly reccommended called the Ice Plant but we weren’t able to check it out.


Stop 13:

The San Sebastian Winery was very interesting as well and like the distillery, they give free tours and samples. I don’t feel like you see quite as much but it is still interesting and I did taste test the wine.

Stop 14:

The Whetstone Chocolate Factory does offer tours of the facility but it is a charge. We did not do the tour but we did indulge in their vast chocolate selection in the store front. Everything we tasted was great and we had one of their signature frozen hot chocolate drinks that gave us a great cool down and probably a sugar comma.

Stop 18:

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument was a very cool fort that could explore. It sat right on the water’s edge and had things to explore inside and out. It was very hot so it was nice to walk into the rooms within the concrete building to cool off. You could go up to the top of the fort walls and see the amazing views of the water and the drawbridge.  We did get to see the drawbridge raise. They had a junior ranger program where the kids could earn a ranger badge and folks dressed up and told stories.


Stop 22:

The Old Senator is a really old tree right in the middle of the Howard Johnson hotel parking lot. It made me laugh but it was a very beautiful tree and as you turn out of the parking lot you see the most beautiful street in town. It is on the top 10 most beautiful streets in America. I would love to take professional photos on this street one day.


Alligator Farm
One of my favorite things we did was visit the Alligator Farm! It was fascinating and scary at the same time haha! They had a swamp area that for sure had to have at least 100 gators in it. We were able to watch while they were being fed and I can definitely tell you that if you fell in there you would not survive! I also saw a guy feeding an alligator inside an enclosure! No way!


The Lighthouse Museum is fun for everyone. They have a great play area for kids to explore and multiple buildings with tons of history about the light house. You can also climb to the top of the lighthouse just be prepared to climb to over 200 steps to get there. Children under 3 cannot go to the top so we took the older kids while we let my youngest play on the playground. The older kids did a great job climbing to the top with only minimal complaining. The view is gorgeous!



The beach was beautiful and not overly crowded. The waters were a little rough but with floats/lifejackets and parental supervision it is great for families!



I am not going to lie we ate at a few places that were disappointing…we ran into a girl who was from Austin going to college there and she helped lead us in the right direction. Texas food is most definitely better than Florida! Haha…so I will highlight some places that we did enjoy.

Meehan’s Irish Pub & Seafood House

One great thing here is we didn’t have to wait long to be seated! It was in the heart of old town and most places there had a really long wait. It was family friendly but maybe by the outward appearances people weren’t sure. We had seared salmon with a berry sauce, Shepard’s pie, fish and chips, and chicken strips with mac and cheese for the kids. I will definitely say mine was the best! Eating downtown does come with a price most dishes ran between $15-$25/plate.


Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille

This was recommended by several friends so we knew we wanted to try it out. Our first attempt at eating here was a bust. It was an hour and a half wait and NO ONE has time for that! So we came back the next day around 2 p.m. and waited around 20 minutes. Because we came during the lunch hour we did not get to fully experience their dinner menu options but it was a little cheaper. It has a Louisiana Cajun twist to it and was very yummy. We actually fed the kids pizza prior to arriving at the restaurant which probably saved us quite a bit of money! We had boudin balls, redfish, andouille crusted grouper, and catfish etouffee. Lunch prices ranged from $13-$20/plate.

Mojo’s Tacos

This was more of a quick service stop but it turned out to be quite tasty! We are always very weary of whether Mexican food will be good or not when we visit other states but this place surprised us! It reminded of Freebirds with a farm to table twist. They even served locally made Kombucha and Dole Whip! You could choose from a bowl, taco, salad, or nachos. Most meals were under $10.

Hyppo Gourmet Popsicles

They were a great treat to cool off with during the summer heat! They had tons of flavors! You find them in the old town area. I had a blackberry and goat cheese that rocked my world! The kids stuck with fruit flavors and strawberry cheesecake that was amazing as well.

Mayday Ice Cream

I am sucker for a good ice cream spot and this place was so good that we went twice! They have cool funky flavors that are served with homemade sprinkles and a mini waffle. My favorite flavor was the lemon ice box!


We had a great time but my advice to St. Augstine is to invest in a City Pass. They have a bunch of really great attractions but when you pay for them all seperate they add to more tham what most people want to spend. Especially because a lot of them are for smaller museums and sights. A comprehensive package with a flat rate would be more appealing. The summer is extrememly hot and busy but manageable. I would stay away from old town and enjoy a hotel close to the beach.

Jacksonville is the closest airport but we flew into Orlando because the fares were much more affordable. The drive is about an hour and a half to two hours depending on traffic. You drive up the coast so you can stop and see some beautiful springs and beaches along the way!

Low Cost Flying

We just returned from a whirl wind 3 weeks of traveling. We saw lots of family and explored multiple cities. You might think to yourself…how in the world do you do something like that and not break the bank? It was a combination of money saving tricks, but one of the biggest was low cost flights.

We flew 4 of us from Texas to Florida, Florida to Colorado, and then back to Texas for $364.93! I know you are thinking impossible but it’s not! We had 3 tricks up our sleeves to pull this off.

Trick # 1

We are apart of Frontier’s bare fare club. This means we pay 59.00 dollars a year to get access to discounted flights and the kids fly for free option. With the amount of flying we do, this pays for itself and then some. Honestly it can easily pay for itself in one flight depending on what kind of discount it is giving. Example, we can find a one way flight that is 69.99 regular price per person, with the bare fair it can range in price from 46 to 58 dollars per person. Once you calculate that for every person flying with you it adds up. Their is 4 of us so that is 48 to 96 dollars in savings for one flight and 96 to 192 dollars round trip.

Trick #2

Two out of three of our flights we were able to use the kids fly for free option that comes with the bare fare club. That means that for every adult that flew we were able to have a child 14 and under fly for free. This alone saved us $238! This offer is not valid for every single flight so do your research. Our 2nd flight was the day before a holiday, so it didn’t allow us this option but we scored a flight that was only $58 a person!

Trick #3

The Florida part of our trip was a work trip for my husband. His flight to Florida and leaving Florida was paid for by his job. This also saved us $108. He did not get to experience all of the fun we had while in Florida but I would say it was a memorable experience for him as well.


Flight 1: 49.99 per person

2 adults: 99.98

2 kids: free

Flight 2: 58.98 per person

4 people: 235.92

Flight 3: 69.00 per person

2 adults: 138.00

2 kids: free

In total we paid 473.90 but were reimbursed for my husbands two flights which totaled to 108.97 in savings.

So we paid 364.93. I’m not sure we could have driven for cheaper than this because of the amount of time it would have taken to drive cross country.

Other ways we saved

2 out of the 3 weeks we stayed with family/friends

We used our credit card travel points to pay for rental cars when needed (we didn’t rent a car the whole time)

We traveled with a group of people part of the time which helps split the cost of things.

When we stayed with family/friends we were able to cook meals and store snacks.

If you are hoping to travel with your family but feel it is impossible to afford it, you are wrong! It takes some patience and research but you can see the world and not break the bank in process!

Hamilton Pool & Milton Reimers Ranch Park

We have quite a few adventures planned this summer and our first trip was to central Texas. We met up with my brother and his kids to explore a popular waterfall right outside of Austin, Texas. This is a trip that will need to be planned ahead in order to get into the preserve.

Hamilton Pool

You will need to make reservations well in advanced. The reservations opened up for the summer in March and we immediately booked for a June date. I don’t know how quickly it fills up, but we didn’t want to wait and find out. It is a popular place that only a few people at a time can get into. I appreciated this when we got there because the waterfall area is very small and could easily get crowded which would make it loose it peacefulness and beauty.





It is a fairly easy hike. It was a mostly shaded quarter mile hike from the parking lot. It also has a 1.8 mile hike but we were not able to explore this option. It had rained heavy the day before causing some flooding. You can walk around the entire pool and capture some great pictures behind the waterfall. The water is so clear we could see the fish and turtles swimming! The rain also kept us from swimming in the waterhole below the waterfall. The rain causes higher than normal bacteria levels which is not safe for humans. This honestly played to our favor because it forced us to find another beautiful swimming location right down the road!





It cost $11 to reserve a time slot for up to 8 people and $15 at the gate per car. One reservations gets 8 people and 1 car in so if you need more than that make multiple reservations. The $15 day pass gets you into any of the surrounding state parks and preserves for the day.

Milton Reimers Ranch Park

We couldn’t swim at Hamilton Pool so we headed about a mile down the road to a larger swimming area. We didn’t know what to expect but we knew we needed some water to beat the outrageous Texas heat! Our day pass got us into the park at no additional cost. We parked and walked approximately a quarter mile or less to get to the Pedernales River. We were so taken back by its beauty! Only a few people were there swimming! I couldn’t believe this little beach wasn’t packed, but I was so grateful to have the peace and quiet. The water was perfect and the kids found some rocks to jump off into the water.









The wildflowers were in full bloom everywhere we turned. We couldn’t help but stop and capture a few photos!


Dripping Springs and Austin are very close to the state parks. We spent our time in Dripping Springs. We stopped at a little food truck park and hung out while we waited for our reservation time for Hamilton Pool. It had a handful of food trucks, a covered seating area, and a playground for the kids to play on. The kids had pizza, I had tacos, and Victor had some BBQ. Everyone was happy and entertained! About 10 miles or so outside of Dripping Springs is the world famous Salt Lick BBQ, so we had to hop over there for dinner. Because of the popularity it is likely you will have to wait a bit to sit, but it is well worth it. You have to try there German Potato Salad!!! It’s BYOB, so you can sit around, relax, and enjoy yourself! I made the mistake of trying to take a picture after we started eating, so there wasn’t much left! Haha!

We hope to return in the fall to camp and explore more of the surrounding area. In total it cost us $26 to explore some awesome natural preserves in Texas. You could easily pack your own food and save money when it comes to eating. We were only there for one day, so we tried to squeeze everything in!

Disney Princess Half Marathon

I am so excited to tell you about this awesome experience! This was my first half marathon and it did not disappoint. The weather was perfect and the people were great. Here are a few of my observations and tips if this is something you want to do!


1. Time Submission/ Corral Assignment

I highly recommend submitting a time if you are an avid runner. This will give you more of a chance to get to the front of the pack. It allows you more time to enjoy the surroundings and less time navigating your way around the crowds of runners. If you haven’t ran a race prior and don’t care, then you will get a corral in the back. I was in the second to last corral and it was fine but it is not necessary to get there at 3:30! We got there, waited, and then waited in the car! The later corrals don’t take off until after 6.


2. Crowd Control

20,000 people ran this race! Needless to say, it was packed! At times, I did need to run on the grass to go around people (which they do not want you to do) but overall I never felt overwhelmed. Occasionally, I did need to walk because the path became narrow. I usually run doing run/walk (Galloway Method) but because of the narrow path at times I saved my walking for when I had to and of course in the parks with the characters.

3. Transportation/Hotel

I did not stay on Disney property, so I did not use their bus transportation. Honestly, I’m glad….I was able to get there on my own time and leave on my own time. We saved tons of money staying at a hotel close by, which I recommend… BUT…the further away you are… the earlier you have to get up!

4. Race Route

You begin at Epcot and run the road to Magic Kingdom. The best part is running through most of Magic Kingdom. This is really the half way point so we walked most of this. We stopped and took tons of pictures. Then the path takes you through the back of Magic Kingdom and back to the streets. I was told they changed the race route this year, so once we got to Epcot we ran through the back/behind the scenes. The only beautiful part of this run was Magic Kingdom so be sure to stop and enjoy this!

5. Characters

I stopped for the majority of them! I met several princesses, villains, Toy Story characters, The Incredibles, Belle and Gaston, Tinkerbell, Jack Sparrow, Minnie, and Mickey. You run this race for these moments, so stop and take pictures! This is another reason you should aim for an earlier corral…you won’t have to wait as long in the lines but honestly we never waited more than 10 minutes.

Overall this is a great experience, but this is not a race you run for time. You have to stop and enjoy your surroundings, take pictures, and meet the characters! If you are afraid that you won’t be able to run a half marathon, then this would be a great one to start with. Some of the people in this race walked the entire thing. You MUST be able to keep a 16 minute mile pace. They have what are called balloon ladies that bring up the rear of the race. As long as you can stay ahead of them, then you will be fine. The scenery is such a great distraction and motivator to keep you going! I promise you can do this! Feel free to shoot me any questions that you may have!