Review: Showboat Branson Belle

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Image courtesy of the Showboat Branson Belle

Do you like to travel?
Do you enjoy dinner theaters?
Do you love to hear new music and meet new people?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re going to love the Showboat Branson Belle!
My family and I headed to the Showboat Branson Belle after our adventure at Silver Dollar City. The showboat is located fairly close, so if you live in Branson or you’re planning a trip, you can easily visit both places. Parking is free and very convenient at the Showboat Branson Belle, and the showboat itself is located on Table Rock Lake.
Yours truly on my way to the showboat!
One of the most lovely parts about this dinner cruise is simply walking to the boat. There’s a lovely walking trail from the parking lot to the boat itself. I did find a couple of polar bears on the way and I had to stop and take pictures!
Once you reach the boat, you’ll find a couple of guest shops and some places to sit and relax. You can pick up your tickets, use the restroom, and browse the guest shops at your leisure. When it’s time to board the boat, you’ll line up and simply head down to the Showboat Branson Belle. Easy peasy!
The view of Table Rock Lake from the dock was fantastic. My family had never been there before, and although I spent many family vacations in Branson, the view was seriously gorgeous. We all had to stop and just take in the scenery for a few minutes before we boarded the boat.
All of the staff members at the Showboat Branson Belle were very kind and helpful. We were nervous that our seats wouldn’t be together because our tickets had two different table numbers, but in actuality, guests are seated at tables in sets of two’s, so don’t let your ticket worry you. Our seats were close to the front of the room, but I’m going to guess there’s no bad seat at the Showboat Branson Belle. We walked around and the view of the stage was clear. Also, tables are lined in rows facing the stage, but there is plenty of room to get up. If you need to stretch your legs or use the bathroom, it won’t be a problem.
We went for lunch, but the Showboat Branson Belle offers several different dining options, including dinner. We had our own server who brought our drinks and food, which was tasty and delicious. There is a separate menu for children, which is fantastic. I loved the chicken and roast, but my kids liked their macaroni and cheese.
Please note that gratuity is not included for the servers, so you will be asked and expected to tip. Make sure you plan for this. There was a sign on our table that requested approximately 20% for excellent service. The service was outstanding and our server made sure our drinks were full and that all of our questions were answered.
My husband and I loved exploring the Showboat Branson Belle!

There was an intermission after lunch where we could explore the boat. We all got to meet the captains of the ship, and the gentlemen answered questions about what it’s like to be on the ship and how everything runs. There is plenty of seating on the upper deck, which meant we could relax for a little while before the show began. This was my husband’s favorite part of the experience. We all loved relaxing on deck, getting to learn more about the ship, and chatting with the captains about their jobs.
The show itself was a lot of fun and the production value was really incredible. All of the singers were entertaining and interesting. My sons had a great time. This was their first dinner theater experience and they weren’t disappointed.
If you’ve never heard of this fantastic dinner cruise before, check out this information on the current offerings:

America’s Most Entertaining Dinner Cruise, the Showboat Branson Belle takes its headliner show Celebrate! into the Christmas season, featuring a blend of classic and contemporary Christmas carols and holiday favorites November 4 – December 31, plus January 1, 2018, as the ship cruises Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri. The show features the male vocal group The ShowMen; Cassandré Faimon-Haygood, known for a voice as pitch-perfect as it is powerful; the dance troupe, Rhythm, billed as The Fastest Feet West of the Mississippi; and the ultra-sharp comedian emcee Christopher James, with the live band The Rockin’ Dockers. Noon and evening Celebrate! cruises include a 3-course dinner, show and lake cruise.
The Showboat presents Christmas adventure for kids on Santa’s Pancakes & PJs cruises, with kids invited to wear their holiday PJs for a treasure hunt-themed romp throughout the huge paddle-wheeler’s four decks. Kids can visit Sugar Plum Fairy Sweet Stops, visit the Captain in the Pilot House for a special gift, visit face-painting stations and write letters to Santa. As the ship sets sail, all gather in the dining theater for breakfast – pancakes and more – as a cast of holiday characters presents story time and sing-alongs. Kids can visit with Santa on the dock following the cruise. Santa’s Pancakes & PJs cruises are featured on Saturday and Sunday mornings November 4 -December 23, plus noon cruises on SundaysNovember 26 – December 17.
Information and cruise schedules: 800-775-BOAT(2628) or www.showboatbransonbelle.com.

Have you ever been on the Showboat Branson Belle? Leave me a comment and let me know!

*Author’s note: My family was provided with complimentary guest passes to the Showboat Branson Belle in exchange for a fair and honest review. Opinions expressed within this post and photos #2 and #3 are my own.

Review: Silver Dollar City

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As a child, my parents used to love visiting Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. We used to go once a year and ride all of the rides, explore our favorite shops, and ride the train. When I was offered the chance to try visiting Silver Dollar City as an adult, I knew I had to! My kids are currently 8 and 10 years old, so they’re the perfect ages for a road trip to Branson.

We were excited for the opportunity to visit Silver Dollar City during An Old Time Christmas festival. This year, there’s a huge new area called Christmas in Midtown. This was my husband’s favorite part of Silver Dollar City! Christmas in Midtown features light displays that are nine stories high! With Christmas in Midtown and the beautiful SDC decorations, there are over 6.5 million Christmas lights at SDC this year.

Here’s some more important information:

One of the nation’s most acclaimed Christmas festivals, profiled by USA Today, CNN Travel, The Travel Channel and Good Morning America, is even bigger and brighter this year with an all-new area:

  • NEW: Christmas in Midtown, a 70,000 sq. ft. area filled with new light displays 9 stories high, including 30 angels, animated reindeer pulling a sleigh, 3 light tunnels, two 40-foot long moving trains, dozens of stars and snowflakes, and a 50-foot tree, all created at Silver Dollar City. Christmas in Midtown, the largest single lighting expansion to date in the past 2 decades of the festival, adds 1.5 million new lights, bringing the park’s total to 6.5 million lights!
  • Rudolph’s Holly Jolly™ Christmas Light Parade, led by the most famous reindeer of all, features musical lighted floats with 200,000 lights accompanied by 33 costumed characters.
  • Rudolph’s Christmas Town, where kids can meet Rudolph™, Clarice™ and Bumble™, also includes activities from Reindeer Games to cookie decorating.
  • Two original musical productions present Broadway-style experiences, with elaborate sets and talented casts: It’s a Wonderful Life, adapted from the Frank Capra classic, and the acclaimed production A Dickens’ Christmas Carol.
  • The Christmas on Main Street light & sound show features the 5-Story Special Effects Christmas Tree with over 350,000 colorful LED lights.
  • Tinker Junior’s Toy Shop is an interactive show for kids featuring a 12-foot talking and singing Christmas tree.
  • Kids can meet Santa in Santa Claus Lane, illuminated in colorful lights.
  • Plus, the festival presents holiday shows, a musical Living Nativity, shows, rides, shopping and new Silver Dollar City dining specialties.


During An Old Time Christmas, Silver Dollar City is open Thursdays – Sundays, plus Wednesdays Nov. 22 and December 20, and open after Christmas Dec. 26-30.


If that’s not enough to convince you to hop in the car right now, let me tell you a little bit more about our time at Silver Dollar City.
First off, parking is super convenient. After living in Taiwan for two years, parking lots never cease to impress me. We chose to walk from the parking lot to the entrance. It took less than ten minutes; however, there are free shuttles that will take you directly to the entrance. If you’re concerned about elderly relatives who may struggle to walk, don’t let this stop you from visiting. SDC is very conscious of the needs of the families who visit, so there are many options for getting into the park. 
When you first enter the park, you’ll go through a large gift shop and visitor center area. This is also where you’ll take a tour for Marvel Cave if you’re interested in that. We were anxious to get to the rides, so we skipped the cave; however, it’s a fun experience if you love nature and natural beauty. Make sure you plan ahead to give yourself extra time if you’re interested in exploring Marvel Cave on your visit to Silver Dollar City.
Once through the gift shop, we had the chance to explore several little shops. They had everything from jewelry to leather Bible covers to jackets to hats. There were toy shops and candy shops and more. We love to wander, so we had a great time exploring these little areas on our way to our first ride.
Along the way, we stopped to watch a gentleman chopping logs. My boys were excited to see a “real life lumberjack!” He was taking round logs and making them square. He took the time to stop and answer questions for any guests who were curious about the process. This was one of the many highlights of visiting SDC. I loved how friendly the staff members were when it came to answering questions for guests.
We also stopped and had a funnel cake and shared a soda. There were plenty of seating areas throughout the park, so we never felt rushed or like we were standing on our feet all day. One thing I will note is that while SDC is a very family-friendly environment, the prices are fairly normal amusement park prices. Make sure you plan ahead for this if you’re going to have a meal at the park. You can purchase a re-usable SDC cup that offers less expensive refills as one way to minimize your costs while inside the park. 
While some of the water rides at SDC were closed due to the cold weather, there were still roller coasters open, as well as plenty of rides for smaller children. Both of my sons liked that there were some smaller rides available. While they like roller coasters, sometimes it’s fun to do something a little less high up!
Silver Dollar City also has a really fun area called Fireman’s Landing. This was the highlight for both of my boys. They loved this area. There’s a space called Firefighter’s Fire Drill where kids can climb, play, and shoot foam balls. This is also a great chance for Mom and Dad to rest. One of the BEST things about this is that there’s a special area for smaller guest with an employee to ensure only smaller kids enter that area. I really appreciated that because when my kiddos were younger, I often worried about them playing with bigger, faster children. This also ensured that the big kids were able to play without accidentally tripping over smaller kiddos.
One thing you absolutely have to check out is the train ride. This has always been my favorite part of Silver Dollar City. (If you’re a fan of the program accompanying the train ride – no spoilers! – note that the program is different during the winter time!) 
My family really enjoyed our visit to Silver Dollar City and can’t wait to go back again next year. If you’re thinking of visiting, you can find out more information at www.silverdollarcity.com.

Have you visited SDC? What did you think?


*Author’s note: My family was provided with complimentary guest passes to SDC in exchange for a fair and honest review. Opinions expressed within this post and all photos are my own.

Minimalizing Made Easy: Here’s What You Need to Know

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It’s no secret that I’m a firm believer in minimalism. In fact, I’ve written a couple of books about simple living and the value of living with less. I love the concept of simple living and minimalism in general. While there’s nothing wrong with having belongings, there’s a certain freedom in simplifying what you have and not hanging onto items out of emotional guilt or childhood trauma.

For me, simple living means I can be in a calm space without a lot of clutter and just have room to be. Instead of focusing on buying stuff and accumulating knick-knacks, I can focus on making memories and spending time with my family.

If you’ve been thinking about taking the leap, so to speak, and starting to live a simpler life by decluttering your home and moving to a more minimalistic approach, there are a few things you need to know before you begin.

First off, start slow. No one is saying you need to sell all of your stuff and buy a tiny home. A few years ago, my husband and I gave away almost all of our belongings (we stored a few boxes with my parents), sold our cars, and moved overseas. The experience was incredible, and getting rid of things wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be. We both have a flair for the dramatic, though, so don’t think you need to do anything this crazy. For you, perhaps decluttering your junk drawer will be a good place to start. Maybe simplifying your dining room is what matters most. Never think that just because you read stories about people who live with one piece of furniture that you need to be that person. You don’t. You just need to be you.

It’s also important that you be realistic and respectful of your family. If you live alone, you can skip this part, but for minimalists with spouses and kids, make sure you aren’t decluttering to the point of stressing out your family. Here’s what I mean: I have a girlfriend who wanted to do the whole minimalist-living thing. Her husband didn’t. She got rid of almost everything in the house except for a box of his VHS tapes he was saving. She was trying to decide whether she should get rid of these when he wasn’t looking because he never used them. See the problem? To her, these VHS tapes just took up space. For him, they were a collection of favorite movies he’d taken years to accumulate. I don’t know what ended up happening in this particular situation, but I hope that they were able to communicate openly and honestly and come up with some sort of solution that worked for both of them. If you live with other people, don’t declutter their stuff. Instead, focus on yourself.

It’s also a good idea to set realistic goals. What is it you hope to accomplish by decluttering your house? Some possible goals could include:

  • Having a more relaxing living space
  • Not having piles of books or papers on the kitchen table
  • Reducing the number of boxes in the garage
  • Keeping the space beneath the beds clear
  • Minimizing the amount of clean-up and dusting you have to do
  • Having a tidy living room so unexpected guests don’t cause stress or hasty cleaning
Each person seeks minimalism for a different reason. Understand that no matter what your goals are, there will always be exceptions and there will always be things you can’t declutter. For example, my husband and I both love to study languages. We will never not have books in our house. To some people, the idea of having shelves and shelves of books is a dust bunny invasion waiting to happen. For us, it’s a haven. While it’s pretty difficult not to compare yourself to others, make a conscious effort to focus on yourself and your own goals, rather than what other people are doing.

Are you a minimalist? What are your personal minimalism goals? Leave me a comment and let me know! You can also check out one of my minimalism books, such as Minimalism Made Easy: What it Really Takes to Live With Less, for more ideas!

30 Classic Movies to Watch With Your Kids

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It’s getting colder out there and with winter comes more time indoors. While I love spending time outside regardless of the weather, I’ve found that it’s not always possible to go outdoors. Whether your kids are sick, have asthma problems, or just don’t tolerate the cold very well, sometimes spending time inside is a better choice.

If you’ve found that you’re stuck indoors a lot with your little ones, you might get a little bit anxious. As a parent, you’re probably concerned about letting your kids have too much time online or in front of their devices, but spending time together as you watch classic films can be a lot of fun and opens up the possibility to discuss many different topics, including:

  • How people lived during different time periods
  • Social issues that affected the story
  • Clothing and apparel during different time periods
  • Similarities between today and the past

Make sure you talk with your kids after the movie and find out what they thought and what they found most interesting! When you’re ready to get started, grab a bag of popcorn and settle in for a night of movie watching! Here are 30 classic (or at least pre-1995!) films you need to watch with your kids.

1. Swiss Family Robinson
2. Pollyanna
3. Anne of Green Gables
4. The Parent Trap
5. The Goonies
6. The Princess Bride
7. The Neverending Story
8. Free Willy
9. Dennis the Menace
10. Mrs. Doubtfire
11. Charlotte’s Web
12. Babe
13. The Fox and the Hound
14. Angels in the Outfield
15. The Secret Garden
16. Homeward Bound
17. Fiddler on the Roof
18. Little Women
19. Old Yeller
20. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
21. Home Alone
22. Mary Poppins
23. E.T.
24. Labyrinth
25. Stand by Me
26. A Troll in Central Park
27. 3 Ninjas Kick Back
28. The Wizard of Oz
29. The Sound of Music
30. Miracle on 34th Street

Most of these films are available directly through Amazon, but many are also on Netflix

What are your must-see movies for kids?

How to Teach 2nd Grade Math Without Going Crazy

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If you’ve been scratching your head trying to remember whether > means “greater than” or “less than,” this is the pots for you.

I know firsthand just how tricky teaching 2nd grade math is. Fortunately, there are a ton of resources available that will help you educate your 2nd grader without going crazy.

Whether or not you used a boxed curriculum, there are a few things that you’ll want to make sure your child masters during his 2nd grade year.

Here is what your child should learn in the 2nd grade:


-Greater than/less than
-How to use a thermometer
-How to use a ruler
-Adding more complex numbers (100s, 10s, etc.)
-Subtracting those same numbers
-Mastering counting to 100 by 10s, 5s, and 2s.
-Basic geometry
-Fractions (what is “half”?)
-Basic money identification (quarters, nickels, etc)
For even more skills that your child should learn in the 2nd grade, check out this list on IXL.

Still want a bit of guidance when it comes to teaching?

No problem!

This post is designed to help you teach 2nd grade math while keeping your cool. If you’re uncomfortable with numbers or you have a difficult time teaching math, your child will pick up on it. He’ll become even more frustrated than he was before. In order to teach math in a way that is fun, relaxing, and educational, check out these resources an tips.

Greater than/less than:


Math is Fun has a helpful chart for remembering which sign means “greater than” and which means “less than.” To simplify it even more? The arrow points at the smaller number!

You can also watch Allie the Alligator with your child for teaching greater than/less than.

How to use a thermometer


For a science and math combined lesson, check out this tutorial that discusses how you can make your own thermometer using household items.

You can also check out Step Into Second Grade and check out this teacher’s classroom project. You can create your own thermometers during an art lesson!

How to use a ruler


Visit Education.com’s free ruler printable worksheet. You can print out your own ruler and let your child measure items on the page. Don’t stop there, though! Measure other things around your house. Need some ideas? Try measuring your doorknobs, your fridge, your child’s hand, or even your pets!

Adding more complex numbers (100s, 10s, etc.)

Visit PreK-8 for some free downloadable worksheets that you can use for teaching addition.

Education.com also has a printable that you can ues.

Watch a YouTube cartoon that explains how to do double digit addition.


Subtracting those same numbers

Read the lesson on double digit subtraction at Cool Math 4 Kids. They break things down and make it SUPER easy to teach your youngster!

Check out this YouTube video that easily explains to children how to subtract from the ones column and then the tens column.


Mastering counting to 100 by 10s, 5s, and 2s.

There is a fantastic song on YouTube that shows how your child can count to 100 by 5s.

This song shows how you can count using 2s, 5s, or 10s.

Not a singer? Practice counting with your child in the car, before bed, or even while you’re eating breakfast.

Basic geometry 

Soft Schools has free geometry worksheets that you can download to use in your home school!

K-5 Math Teaching Resources has several activities that you can do to teach geometry to your student.

Fractions (what is “half”?)

Get your free worksheets to teach fractions at Math Fox. They have a huge selection of worksheets that you can easily print off to use at home.

Math-Salamanders.com also has free worksheets for talking about fractions.


Basic money identification (quarters, nickels, etc)

Check out this YouTube video for teaching about U.S. currency.

You can also check out this video on how to make your own free money game.

Looking for even more tips on keeping your cool while you teach? Check out How to Home School Your Child Without Going Crazy.

Butterfly Crafts You Can Do at Home

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Autumn is here and it’s time to start conquering some new crafts! Whether you have a preschooler, kindergartner, or a 1st grader, butterfly crafts offer a great way to spend an afternoon, to decorate your house, to spend time together, and to learn about nature. In this post you’ll find four of my favorite butterfly crafts put together by top-notch bloggers who walk you through the process of creating butterfly crafts step-by-step.

Picking things like butterfly crafts will open up discussions with your child about science and nature. Ask questions like “Where do butterflies live?” or “Why are butterflies important?” Talk with your child about the differences between moths and butterflies. You can also use this as a chance to try out new craft items. Each craft below requires different things – some use paint, some use markers, and some use scissors. Choose a butterfly craft that meets your child’s needs and that is age-appropriate for your little ones.

Two-Daloo has a fantastic post on creating an easy butterfly suncatcher. This post also includes links to other bloggers who have similar springtime Easter crafts available.

Crystal & Co shows you how you can teach your child the letter “B” with this cute butterfly craft.

Spotted Canary has an easy butterfly craft that is perfect to do with a group of kids or for a party.

Modern Handmade Child shows you how to make a cute little butterfly at home with your preschool child.

Now you’re all set to work on the letter “B” with your child! Remember to relax and have fun as you work together on your new project.

Review: Sea Life Kansas City Aquarium

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The Kansas City Aquarium offers a fun, educational way to spend an afternoon. If you’re looking for a place you can take your kids when it’s too hot or cold to be outside, the aquarium provides an exciting place you can go to learn about sea life and underwater creatures.

Parking and arrival:
Sea Life Kansas City Aquarium is located at Crown Center in the same building as LegoLand, so make sure you check out my review on LegoLand for specific parking and ticketing information. The biggest thing to remember is that getting to SeaLife is very easy. We don’t live nearby, but had no problem locating Crown Center and finding parking.

Adventures:
Once inside the aquarium, you’re free to walk around and explore. There are signs throughout the aquarium that offer fun and interesting facts about the creatures. There are also shows and educational talks you can listen to. We missed those, but did have a chance to talk with several employees during feeding time for the fish and sea creatures, which was really fun. We learned all about how the diets for each fish are planned. There are also a couple of places where you can touch star fish, crabs, and sea urchins!

Additionally, there’s an entire room that’s wide open for kids to play in. There’s a Lego castle where kids can add and build their own Lego creations and add them to the castle. There’s also a space where you can crawl through a little tunnel and watch the fish from below.

Favorite bits:
My favorite part about visiting the Sea Life Kansas City Aquarium was learning about different underwater creatures. My family and I have been to many aquariums throughout the US, and we love to see how each center has different creatures and fun facts. I also have to point out that the staff members were super nice and friendly to us. Each person we encountered was very helpful and offered interesting information we didn’t know before.
I also loved that there are several places in the aquarium where you can stop and rest if you need to. For moms that have small children who are nursing, this makes it easy to feed your baby while you’re at the aquarium. Seniors may also appreciate that there are places where they can sit and rest on their journey through the aquarium and won’t have to stand and walk the entire journey.

Planning:
Plan to spend at least two hours at the aquarium if you go! There’s plenty to see and a lot to learn.


Have you been to this aquarium? What did you like best?

Please note: I was provided tickets to Sea Life in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not paid or otherwise compensated for my review. Opinions and pictures are my own.

Review: LEGOLAND Discovery Center Kansas City

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It’s cold and rainy, but the leaves are falling here in the Midwest, which means winter is coming! (See what I did there?) If you’re trying to find something fun, educational, and – most importantly – indoors to do with your kids this fall, consider checking out LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Kansas City. Conveniently located at Crown Center, Legoland offers an interactive adventure you and your kids are sure to love.

Parking and Arrival
It’s been a few years since I last visited Crown Center, but it was easy to find and parking was a breeze. There’s a convenient underground parking that’s really easy to use. Best of all, it’s only about a two minute walk from the Blue parking level to Legoland. Note that you’ll need to save your parking receipt. You can have it validated at Legoland, which means you can park for free for several hours! Make sure to check your validation slip to see whether you qualified for three or six free hours of parking. You’ll need both your parking receipt and your validation slip in order to get out of the parking lot.

Once we parked, finding Legoland was very easy, and check-in was a breeze. You can buy tickets to both Legoland and Sea Life at the same desk, which is super convenient. The staff members were all incredibly helpful and could answer all of my questions. They took three family photos for us, gave us directions and information about current exhibits, and then sent us on our way.


Inside LegoLand
LegoLand is really fun to access. You’ll take a Lego elevator up to the second floor, where you’ll have the chance to learn from a REAL master builder. If your kids love The Lego Movie like mine do, they’ll be excited to see a real master builder hard at work. Even cooler? They’ll get to design and create their own projects!

Each of my kids immediately got to work on their Lego projects. There’s an instructional video that shows how to use the special Lego Builder graphing paper, along with plenty of pencils. One of my kids designed a complicated Lego project he wanted to work on at home, but the other designed a small N. When he was finished, we went over to an area filled with Lego bricks and he got to design his own N based on the drawing he’d done. There are plenty of projects on display to give kids extra ideas. While the Lego projects aren’t designed to be taken home, your kids can leave their finished Lego project to show other kids who come through that day! There’s a special display shelf just for kid-made projects.

After working on creating some fantastic projects, we kept going through LegoLand. The next portion of the center was really fun: rides! There are two rides at the Kansas City Legoland Discovery Center. Both parents and children can go on these rides.

My favorite ride was Kingdom Quest. The Legoland website explains the rules of this game:

The captured Princess needs your help! Hop aboard your chariot on the Kingdom Quest ride to rescue her. Be warned, there are beastly trolls and sneaky skeletons lurking. Can you zap them all to save the Princess?

As you can guess, Kingdom Quest is definitely a ride, but it’s an interactive one. Each rider will have a laser gun they can use to shoot bad guys and Lego monsters (things like skeletons – nothing too scary!). The person who shoots the most monsters wins!

If rides aren’t your thing, there are tons of other fun, interesting Lego-themed projects and adventures! Here are just a few of those:

  • Lego karaoke
  • Lego play area (separate play area for toddlers)
  • Lego play kitchen where you can create your own Lego pizza
  • Lego pixel projects area
  • Lego racing area
  • Legends of Chima 4D movie
  • Lego cafeteria 
There was also an entire Lego room full of models of Kansas City, which was incredible to see. My personal favorite was the Wizard of Oz themed section. Inside tip: press the buttons to see your favorite movie scenes come to life!



Highlights

Here’s what my husband and sons had to say about Legoland:

“An epic adventure!” – My husband

“Epic! Epic epicness! Epic!” – 10-year-old son

“Really fun!” – 8-year-old son

We had a fantastic time at LegoLand Discovery Center Kansas City and will definitely visit again. My boys are already asking when we can go back and build things again.

If you’re ready to play your trip, check out the LegoLand Discovery Kansas City website for current times and ticket information.

Have you ever been to Legoland? What did you think? Leave me a comment and let me know!




Please note: I was provided tickets to LegoLand in exchange for a fair and honest review. Pictures and opinions expressed are my own.

24 Ideas for Gardening With Kids

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One of the most entertaining ways to spend time with kids is by gardening together. I love that gardening is something fun, helpful, and educational we can do together. Not only does gardening produce something valuable, but it teaches my kids real life skills they can use for years to come. If you’re a prepper, survivalist, or just a parent who wants their kids to learn valuable real-life skills, why not try gardening together? Here are some fantastic ideas you can use to garden with your kids: no special skills required!

1. Thumbprint art painted flower pots
This is a cute, fun project you can do with your kids! Create adorable flower pots for your personal garden or to give away to family members and friends.

2. Create a play garden
If your kids are interested in playing outdoors, why not create a play garden together? This website features a ton of different ideas you can incorporate to use in a personalized garden for your kids.

3. 20 school garden ideas for autumn and winter
This blog post has some incredible ideas for autumn and winter fun. You can use these with your kids at home or even in a classroom.

4. Create a garden rock caterpillar
This is a cute, simple project you can do with your kids. Consider spending an afternoon making garden rock caterpillars together that you can place in your garden. Like the painted flower pots, these also make sweet gifts.

5. Visit Kids Gardening together.
This is a really interesting website with a ton of great resources for kids about how to garden. If you’re starting from nothing and your kids have no prior gardening experience, this website provides a solid starting point.

Remember that no matter how long you’ve been gardening for, gardening with kids is its own experience. Maybe your kids will love gardening and maybe they’ll hate it, but try to focus on the fact that this offers you a great chance to spend time together and get to know your kids in a new situation. Furthermore, gardening will help your kids learn determination and planning. No matter what projects you work on together, they’ll be able to see that hard work really does pay off.

Have you ever gardened with your kids? Leave me a comment and let me know!

10 Prepping Activities To Do With Your Kids This Summer!

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10 Prepping Activities To Do With Your Kids This Summer! With good weather upon us its time for the prepper in the family to get laughed out of the dining room when they start talking about drills and bugout practice. If you take the wrong angle when it comes to training and engaging the family …

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Spring and Summer Outdoor Rituals

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Spring and Summer Outdoor Rituals This is an article about a slowly disappearing art. The title is a bit deceiving because it only really mentions one ritual. That said, its a very important one. Written by a hunting and rock and roll legend this article focuses on a style of practice in bow hunting that …

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14 Fun ‘Old-Time’ Winter Activities To Keep You From Going Insane

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14 Fun 'Old-Time' Winter Activities To Keep You From Going Insane

Artist: Winslow Homer

From our 21st-century vantage point, it is hard for many of us even to envision a life without electronic entertainment, especially during winter. But there really was fun to be had before the advent of handheld devices and before state-of-the-art televisions.

There were plenty of ways for people to amuse themselves year-round in days gone by. Children and adults alike had fun both indoors and out—and the best part is, most of the things enjoyed by people in the past can still be done in modern times. Following are some examples of old-time winter fun that we can still do today.

Outdoor Sports and Recreation

1. Snowshoeing. The basics are easy. They amount to strapping snowshoes onto one’s winter boots and walking across the snow. Of course, it is advised to use the model that works best for your ability and conditions, and practice the technique of walking with an enormous footprint before venturing too far. Some people strike off across the lawn, and others use trails groomed specifically for snowshoeing. Many folks use poles for added balance, but they are not necessary. Snowshoes can be found for every terrain, skill level and body size.

2. Cross-country skiing. This is relatively simple, as well, and can be done in a wide variety of settings, from the backyard or neighborhood park to commercial trails. Skis, bindings, boots and poles can usually be purchased as a package, and while the up-front price can feel daunting, they last for years and will provide many hours of free or inexpensive entertainment for the whole family.

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3. Downhill skiing. This activity kicks it up a notch in terms of cost and skill required, but remains a beloved winter sport for many. This type of skiing takes place on a groomed ski hill or mountain, with a motorized lift to the top. It requires a different set of equipment than that of cross-country skiing and uses different skills to master.

4. Ice skating. Skating on farm ponds and city rinks is a quintessential classic winter activity. Gliding across the ice on simple skates can be fun, romantic, exhilarating, challenging or athletic—or a combination of any or all of those things.

14 Fun 'Old-Time' Winter Activities To Keep You From Going Insane

Image source: Wikimedia

5. Birdwatching. Many birds remain in northern habitats all year long—or migrate into the area specifically for colder seasons—and winter is a great time to seek out favorites and observe their behavior. With less birdsong and chatter to compete with them, it is easier to make out the calls of some species during winter. Sightings of snowy owls and bright-colored cardinals can thrill the hearts of even those with little enthusiasm for birds in general.

Inside the House

6. Games. Cards, board games, checkers, kids’ games, dice, pick-up sticks, party, trivia, role-playing or words—whatever kind of game is appealing, winter is the ideal time to strike up a game. From Scrabble to Hungry Hungry Hippo, games are great for families at home, inviting relatives and neighbors over for a friendly competition, or for a community social event.

7. Puzzles. Puzzles run the gamut, from jigsaw puzzles to word puzzles and searches, to Rubik’s cubes and everything in between, for all ages and interests and budgets and skill levels.

8. Reading. Winter is an excellent time for reading. Whether one prefers romance novels, non-fiction, memoirs, adventure, how-tos, classics or other genres—they are all attained by simply opening a book or magazine, downloading an e-book, or listening to an audiobook selection. And when a household’s reading capacity exceeds the budget, library services are available in person or by mail just about everywhere.

Artist: Frans Van Mieris the Elder

Artist: Frans Van Mieris the Elder

9. Corresponding. This one sounds a little like the texting and social media that consumes so many lives nowadays, but it can be more old-fashioned than that if one wants it to be. Letters or cards to loved ones, pen pals, and personal journals are all ways to correspond.

10. Crafting. The sky is the limit when it comes to modern-day crafts, with an amazing abundance of ideas, tutorials and materials available at the touch of a screen and at stores everywhere. Upcycling, painting, gluing, crocheting, needlework, sewing, wood-carving, knitting, wreath-making, weaving—the list of worthy craft projects is endless.

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11. Culinary arts. Winter is a wonderful time to bring out tried-and-true favorites, try one’s hand at Hollandaise sauce or crème brulee or homemade confections, or just make and enjoy simple fare like sandwiches and hot cinnamon cider with the kids.

Away From Home

12. Visiting. Winter is a slower season for many, particularly those who practice homesteading and living close to the land, and a great time to catch up on socializing.

13. Roller skating, bowling, lap swimming, dancing of all kinds … and whatever other indoor sporting activity is available in the area—all wonderful options.

14. Movies, plays, concerts and shows. These kinds of attractions were often more special events than run-of-the-mill entertainment in old times. Lives today can include so many of these that they’ve become ho-hum. If that is the case, it might be worth mixing in more of the other old-time activities and limiting commercial attractions, thereby making the ones remaining more distinctive.

It is not necessary to throw out 21st century technology in order to enjoy some of yesteryear’s recreational practices, but it can be a rewarding endeavor to set aside gadgets and devices long enough to try some old-fashioned ways to have fun.

What would you add to our list? What are your favorite winter activities? Share your tips in the section below:

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5 Ways to Have Fun With Your Kids This Week

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In Taiwan, the days are already getting hotter! It’s almost too hot to go to the park in the afternoon, which means we’ve been switching it up and going in the mornings or early evenings. What about those rainy days, though? Or, if you’re an expat in Asia, like me, what about the smoggy days?

This week, I’ve come up with five fun things you can do with your kids! My kids are 6 and 8, so this list is aimed at kids in that age range, but you can always adapt these ideas for younger or older children.

1. Make something
I don’t know about you, but I have an entire Pinterest board of DIY ideas I haven’t conquered. This week, why not try just one project on your list? We’re going to pick up some canvas and do a little painting, but your DIY project could be absolutely anything.

2. Create your own audiobook
My kids are crazy for audiobooks. Seriously. We spend at least two hours a day listening to audiobooks – and that’s before the bedtime books! Why not create your own? Or at least enact your own? I like to read a book out loud with my son and we come up with fun voices and sound effects to make as we read. You can also use a freebie audio app on your phone to record yourselves. Then your kids can listen later on.

3. Dance
Want to burn up energy? Put on your favorite song and come up with a dance routine. No, it doesn’t have to be serious. Yes, this is a real idea. We like to look at different choreography videos on YouTube and then follow along. This burns calories and keeps my kids busy.

4. Draw
Since we’re living abroad, I want my kids to have fun memories of their time here. While neither one of them enjoys journaling on its own, they both like to draw. Each day, they do a drawing. This can be anything: an adventure we had, something they were thinking about, or even a character they like. We keep most of the pictures in organized folders so later on, they’ll be able to look back at their time here and see what they were thinking and feeling.

5. Play ball
Line up a bunch of cups and try to throw a bouncy ball in. Set up a toy basketball hoop and try to get the ball in. Put stickers on the wall and try to hit each one with a tiny bouncy ball. The possibilities are endless, as long as you have a room where you don’t have to worry about things breaking!

What are you and your kids doing this week to have fun?

TeamSnap App: The Perfect Tool For Busy Families

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TeamSnap App: The Perfect Tool For Busy Families via The Survival Mom

I’m busier as a stay-at-home mom than I ever was when I had a full-time job. From keeping the house fairly clean to homeschooling the kids and trying to figure out what’s for dinner every night, life gets crazy. Add a few extracurricular activities, and there have been days when I thought my head would explode!

If your kids are in sports, clubs, Scouts, and even group activities at church, you know what it’s like to play chauffeur, master coordinator, minor injuries medic, and overall operations engineer! You also know what it’s like to realize how beneficial these activities are to kids. Kids are best prepared for the future when their education includes knowledge and skills they gain from a variety of activities.

My own kids have been busy in various sports over the years, but this year they are both on a rowing team. Three mornings a week, we travel to the shores of Lake Houston, and I drop them off for practice. When we first joined the team, it was a chore keeping track of when it was my turn to bring water, when practice was cancelled due to rain or high winds, and how I could let the coach know if one of my kids couldn’t attend. Emails would arrive too early, too late, or be overlooked altogether. Fortunately, my friend and team mom, Monica, discovered TeamSnap and team life suddenly became easier and less stressful.

I wish there was a TeamSnap to organize everything else in my life!

Easier to use than I thought!

My Android phone is already loaded with apps and I was hesitant to try TeamSnap. What? Another app? Another learning curve? That’s not what this busy mom needs!

I was so grateful to discover that the TeamSnap app is easy to use. It makes my life easier, not more complicated. I click open the app, click on our team name, the name of each of my kids, and then indicate whether or not they’ll be able to attend a practice, regatta, or team party. TeamSnap is how we parents coordinate our monthly parent meetings and how the coach can enter information about each team member, race results, boat assignments, and more.

TeamSnap app

A single click and I can see our schedule and click Yes/No/Maybe for our attendance.

Our coach now knows ahead of time who will be at any given practice and can plan ahead how to configure the boats among the rowers attending. I’m sure it was no fun at all prior to TeamSnap when an odd number of kids showed up and all his boats require even numbers of rowers!

Now, with TeamSnap, he has the capability to send out emails to the entire group or single out specific team members or parents for individual contact. Instantaneous text alerts are also an option, and so handy when there’s a last minute cancellation or the weather requires rain jackets.

NOTE: TeamSnap offers a free 4-month trial with full access and no need to sign up with a credit card. Check it out in person at this link!

The Tracking feature helps coach keep track of who has brought permission slips, who has finished assignments, paid their dues, picked up their uniforms, or who has taken their turn in a volunteer position. Little details like this can drive a coach, team mom, or coordinator to drink!

Beyond the sports scene

If your kids are more into drama, chess, choir, or band, TeamSnap is still your one-stop shop for staying organized. My daughter is in a girl’s book club with a gaggle of other book-crazy, teenaged, homeschooled girls. Their book choices change each month and different girls are assigned to host the meetings with discussion questions, author interviews, and snacks. TeamSnap is the obvious solution to keeping this group organized and in sync with each other throughout the month.

I decided to set up a TeamSnap account for this club myself, to give it a try as a coordinator, not just a parent. Using TeamSnap’s offer of 4 free months, there was no need to enter my credit card information, which I appreciated!

Set up is a no brainer, with easy to follow instructions. I recommend signing up your group or team, and then taking a few minutes to explore the TeamSnap website. There’s plenty of help available, including a Live Chat option. Katie at Live Chat was prompt and polite in answering my questions.

It’s not just for the kids!

TeamSnap’s capabilities lend themselves well to any group, not just sports and kids. A MeetUp group, for example, could set up an account and use it to keep track of attendance, meeting agendas, guest speakers, food assignments, and a lot more. A PTA group, book club, poker club, and even a direct sales group could utilize the app and TeamSnap website for planning and preparing for their events. Set up automatic reminders so there’s no confusion about meeting dates, times, and location.

TeamSnap app

TeamSnap connects to Google maps, so you always know where you’re going!

There are so many applications for this app (see what I did there?). On an Android or iPhone, it’s user and mobile friendly, and the app is free.

What groups do you belong to that TeamSnap could help coordinate? Four free months of use will give you a better idea of whether or not the app will help organize your group. The basic level is free, which is awesome, but give the free trial period a try so you can explore all the different options. There’s no need to enter credit card information, so you won’t be surprised on Month 5 with a charge you didn’t expect.

Hey, TeamSnap! How about creating a new app, LifeSnap? I could sure use that for everything else in my crazy-busy life!

Disclaimer: I was compensated by TeamSnap for my time and research. Since I already use TeamSnap, I was happy to share this with my readers.

TeamSnap App: The Perfect Tool For Busy Families via The Survival Mom

10 Winter Activities Guaranteed To Boost Your Homesteading Skills

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10 Winter Activities Guaranteed To Boost Your Homesteading Skills

Image source: Pixabay.com

It is now officially wintertime in North America. The garden tools have long been put away, all of the growing season activities have officially wound down until next spring, and we have resolved to snuggle up with a nice hot beverage by the fireplace (or space heater, or wood-burning stove, or electric blanket …).

While resting in a warm place during this time of the year is a great thing to do to help recharge ourselves from all of our hard work, we shouldn’t just sleep through winter! This season can be a great time to re-evaluate our goals and lives, learn new things, and to increase the resilience of our homesteads, whether urban or rural.

Here are 10 great homesteading activities to do over the winter that can improve your homestead and your life throughout the rest of the year.

1. Grow some microgreens or sprouts. By growing sprouts or microgreens, we can bring back some of that vibrant fresh nutrition into our diets during the non-growing season. These baby plants are very easy to grow and require minimal equipment and ingredients.

2. Plan your garden for next year. The pause in most homesteading activities during the wintertime provides a great opportunity to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work during the past garden season, and to consider what you would like to do differently next year. What kinds of varieties would you like to grow? What could you do to improve the soil of your garden?

Winter is also a great time to send for those seed catalogs and to start dreaming about what you would like to grow next spring.

3. Learn how to ferment. Beyond the processes of fermenting beer and wine, the possibilities of fermentation are almost endless, offering an exciting world of flavor, nutrients and healing properties.

Make ‘Off-The-Grid’ Fermented Foods Just Like Grandma Made!

Traditionally prepared sourdough breads, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, mead, yogurt, kvass, beet kvass, kefir, water kefir, ginger beer, and homemade lacto-fermented sodas are all tasty creations that you can easily experiment with in the comfort of your own home.

10 Winter Activities Guaranteed To Boost Your Homesteading Skills

Image source: Pixabay.com

4. Re-evaluate your goals and lifestyle. Are you where you’d like to be with your homestead and your personal life? The winter is a great time to consider changes that you’d like to make. Perhaps now is the time to go through things and simplify your lifestyle so that you can focus on more important things in your life.

5. Learn new skills or take a class. We should all embrace life-long learning. Learning new skills will not only make us more resilient as individuals, but it also helps us to stay personally flexible and helps to keep our brains in good shape. Always wanted to learn to knit? What about learning some handy skills to fix things around the house? Now might be the perfect time to start thinking about gaining some new skills.

6. Learn how to make herbal remedies. People have been using plants and making herbal remedies for thousands of years. In contrast, pharmaceuticals are new in the scheme of human history.

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7. Get wiser: Read! The wintertime is a great opportunity to get caught up on many of those how-to books that you have wanted to read for months now.

8. Increase your home’s resilience and efficiency. Winter is a great time to consider work that you might need to have done on your home in the year ahead. In what ways can you save energy in your home? What about saving water? In what ways can you reduce waste? How can you become more prepared for an emergency?

9. Help your local critters. The winter is a very challenging time for the birds and other local creatures in our communities. Providing some food for them in bird feeders or suet feeders, or providing a heated birdbath, can go a long way in helping our feathered friends to get through the winter. Just remember to continue to feed them throughout the winter if you start feeding them. They will depend on you!

10. Connect with others and celebrate! While much of the homesteading lifestyle is serious business, life should also be about fun and connecting with others. Use some of the wintertime to focus on reconnecting with those people that you care about and to connect with others in your community.

Becoming more resilient ultimately means including others in our journeys so that we can all be resilient together. When we are stronger together, we ourselves get much further than when we try to go it alone. Besides, no one can do absolutely everything themselves (or even know how to do everything themselves). You also never know when you might need a helping hand!

Don’t forget to celebrate and have some parties!

What would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the section below:

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