Planning Fun & Safe Trips for the Family

Every mom knows that the more kids you have (and the younger that they are) the more difficult it can be to plan out a trip that is going to be truly enjoyable for the whole family. You’re going to have to get a lot more creative than you did when it was just you and your spouse before any kids were in the picture. Back then you could have probably got a trip planned and made your way out the door in an hour or two. Nowadays, things might take a little bit more concentrated thought. If you have young children, there are a few things that you will need to consider when you’re getting ideas, not only for where you’re going to go, but for what you’re going to do when you get there!

Determine the “Where”

One of the best ways to get started is to decide the method of transportation. Will you be driving to your destination or flying? Flying can be a bit of a pain with little ones, but the ability to fly obviously extends your range 100 fold! After you have set a theoretical range that your trip is limited to – start thinking of fun and exciting locations within that range. The time of year will obviously have a big impact on what type of area that you’re looking for. (Beach trips tend to be a bit less popular when there’s snow on the ground :])

While many people are seeking out unique locations that are off of the beaten path, sometimes it can be good to decide on more tourist heavy destinations. Areas with a lot of tourists are usually much busier, thus difficult to navigate. However, areas that attract a lot of tourists usually have better amenities when it comes to keeping your kids happy and healthy. The types of amenities that I’m referring to are: baby changing stations inside of restrooms, ample seating, child daycare facilities, stores that provide speciality items that either babies or small children may need, better access to medical care in the case of an emergency, and more family friendly activities in general.

Boston Harbor

Credit: www.Mami-Eggroll.com

When you make your final decision on a destination make sure to consider: weather, amenities, activities, safety, and uniqueness. In addition to those aspects, you also shouldn’t miss out of any opportunity to turn your trip into a teachable lesson or series of small teachable moments for your kids. This is a great element to work into any trip in your own way. Historical locations provide a framework for learning and make it easier to ensure that your kids end their trip a little more knowledgable than they started. Our trip to the city of Boston earlier this year was a great example of this.

Plan Your Activities

You’ll want to plan out a rough schedule of your trip before you even leave the house. This will prevent any large stretches of down time where little children can start to get very antsy. By no means do I advocate scheduling things out to the exact minute, this is sure to drive everyone on the trip crazy (especially your significant other).

Doing research online ahead of time can be a good way to discover some of the most popular (and appropriate) activity options at your destination. Don’t forget to try the cities official webpage that often has a useful list of local attractions. I’ve found that it’s usually even more helpful to look on the website of a local newspaper. They often do a better job of informing readers about upcoming events and are possibly more in touch with what’s currently going on in the surrounding areas.

There’s only so much that can a should be planned in advance. You should always leave room for suggestion and the ability to react to the vibe that you’re feeling once you’re there and you’ve got your feet wet. Once you’re at your destination and are doing a bit of exploring, don’t be afraid to talk to the locals! This is one of the best ways to find out about lesser known activities or places to check out. The locals are usually a great source of information if you’re looking for areas that aren’t overcrowded (especially during peak tourist season)!

Family Beach Day

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Not only do you have to think about what your family is going to be doing on their vacation – but you have to think about what they’re going to be eating as well. There’s only so much that you can prepare in advance, which is especially true if you’re going to be flying. It’s also hard to prepare real food when you’re there in many instances. Hotel rooms are exactly an easy place to whip up a nutritions meal for your kids. You can often find local restaurants that have higher standards and nutrient rich meal options. If you do some searching for restaurants online ahead of time, it will save you time on your trip and a lot of frustration!

Last year we travelled to see my husbands family that lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Trust me when I say that it was an extremely long drive for us! Hopefully it’s the longest drive that we even have a make. Next time we will be flying to get closer before we pack into the car, that is for sure. During our drive I found a local website that I used to search for a local restaurant with good meal options. I just search for restaurants in clare mi (the little town the we were driving by). I already knew exactly where to go before my husband even got off the exit!

Hope for the Best – Plan for the Worst

While vacations and trips are usually a lot of fun, they can also contain a lot of high stress periods. There will be a lot of brand new experiences for your kids that they may have never seen before. While this is exciting, it can definitely take a toll on the little ones. Be prepared to take a lot of breaks for rest. It may be necessary to schedule in a couple of trips back to your home base for a nap and a snack to get everyone back in the right mind-state.

Before you leave home, you also need to take a mental inventory of all of the essential items that you need for your families’ health. Do your kids have any special medications or medical devices that they shouldn’t be going without on the trip? Something like an epi pen is easy to forget, but can be extremely dangerous in a situation where you need it all of a sudden and there isn’t one to be found.

One of the most overlooked aspects of a vacation is remaining positive and upbeat the whole time, even when things don’t go as planned. It seems as though this should go without saying, but it can often be difficult not to get upset when something that you have planned for weeks (or months) totally falls apart. Bad weather happens, events get cancelled, kids get sick, things get forgotten. The only thing that you really have control of is your reaction to what happens – so stay positive and be a good example for your kids!

Family in the Back of Their Van

Credit: ConsumerAffairs.com

 

Cooking Basics for the Family

Learning to cook is much easier than many people realize. It’s often viewed as some innate skill that has been passed down by the culinary gods through some type of delicious, divine connection. When, in reality, people that are good at cooking have just gone through a lot more trial and error than the rest of them. Let me tell you that no one starts making tasty dinners and memorable desserts on their first go at it – that’s a fact. The best chefs out there are people that have tried and failed many times over. You’ll find that the best cooks have failed many more times that the people that “can’t cook” have ever even tried!

Anyone and Everyone Can Cook

The truth of the matter is that people who “can’t cook” are really just people who haven’t failed enough. The basics of cooking is really little more than following directions and emulating what other people have already done and figured out. We’re lucky enough to live in a time where a literal treasure trove of information is freely available online for the taking. All you have to do is start with some Google searches or YouTube videos and you will have detailed instruction right at your fingertips.

If you view yourself as one of the “I can’t cook people” then it’s time to take a long hard look at yourself. Can you really not cook? How often have you tried? I’m betting that you haven’t spent much time trying to coax out your inner chef that is just waiting below the surface for a little bit of stimulation. Don’t ignore your inner chef. Actually, on second thought, you can forget your inner chef entirely. There’s something much more basic than some fictional ‘inner chef’ character that you’re imagining. Everyone shares the same basic connection with food that is obviously essential for life itself. I found that I really started to love cooking when I took the time to think about this connection more deeply. You’re not cooking as some type of art form. You’re cooking for your health and sometimes more importantly, your pleasure. Not to mention that of your families as well.

Learn the Tools, Then Expand

There are a set of basic skills that you need to get a grip on, then you can really start to explore out in any direction and being to develop your own style that suits your taste buds. One of the fundamental skills that will aide in your journey is proper cutting. By proper cutting, I’m referring to knife skills – or the ability to use the proper knife as a tool to transform your ingredients into the proper physical form to be used in your creations. I have personally found that the better my knife skills become, the more foods I am able to enjoy and incorporate into my regular diet. For example, I’ve always loved the taste of and been interested in avocado. But, I never actually bought them at the store to eat at home. When I was eating out I would spring for the avocado addition right away, but never at the grocery store. Why was this the case, I thought to myself. I began to realize that I was avoiding the avocado (along with a list of other delicious and nutritious foods) at the grocer because I didn’t know how to turn it from its raw form into something that I could easily consume at home.

Angie's Realm Knife Skills

Credit: scott.af.mil

This was a very silly reason to skip out on any type of food, I told myself. I made a commitment to start to learn how to process the avocado, along with several other foods that I have been avoiding out of what was really pure laziness. Once I learned that it wasn’t hard to prepare these foods to eat, it opened up a whole new world for me. I now eat half of an avocado every single morning with my breakfast. It’s something that I love to incorporate into my family’s diet on a daily basis. The avocado is full of beneficial fats and oils that the human body thrives on.

The Healthy Avocado

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Identify the Basics, Then Build

When you’re putting together a meal for yourself or your family, there are some basic areas that you want to cover to ensure that diverse nutritional needs are met. You need to have a protein (which is generally the focus of the meal), a vegetable for vitamins and micronutrients, sometimes a starch for a belly-filling satisfying effect, and fruit will serve as an excellent substitute for any after-the-meal sugar cravings (dessert).

This knowledge gives you a roadmap on where to focus your learning. Find out how to prepare several basic proteins (vegetable based proteins like black/red beans, chicken, turkey, venison, and beef), a few basic starches (rice, potatoes, etc.), vegetables (broccoli, spinach, green beans, kale), and fruits. Even knowing just a couple preparations from these categories will give you the ability to mix and match to create a huge variety of different meals for your family. The variety that comes with mixing and matching will keep everyone interested and on their toes guessing what you will be able to come up with next. This can be the fun part! I know that it is for me.

Chicken Dinner Angie's Realm

Credit: maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com

Sewing Basics

Sewing usually turns out to be one of the most helpful skills to have. This holds true for someone who is just trying to maintain a healthy and happy home or even for someone who is stuck in a survival situation. I know that may sound a little dramatic to suggest that sewing could actually help save your life, but you would be surprised at the amount of situations where knowing how to sew can prove to be fundamental to your wellbeing.

A Very Useful Skill

This goes completely without mentioning that learning to sew can end up saving you and your family a lot of money. Start collection old fabric scraps, used clothing that you no longer care to use, or other random pieces of undesirable fabric. Once you get into the hobby of sewing it’s invaluable to have a stockpile of various types, colors, and styles of fabrics that will assist you in creating whatever it is you need at any given time. In addition to a fabric collection, you will want to get a small plastic container that you can start to keep your supplies and tools in. I have even seen some of my friends use a fishing tackle box to organize their supplies and this works surprisingly well. However, there’s no need to spend extra money on a specialized container when any old used container from a secondhand store will work just fine. But, nonetheless, it will be necessary to have some type of container to keep everything together or inevitably you will start to lose things. By the way, loose needles are not something that you want to find in random places around your house. This is especially true if you have kids and/or inquisitive pets!

Straight to the Basics

Alright, now we can get down to the basics. By the basics, I mean that most fundamental things that you will need to wrap your head around in order to be a successful seamstress. This video tutorial course that I will display below does a great job of covering the basic elements of sewing to really help you understand what you will need to start producing your own garments (or anything else for that matter)! I have to give a lot of credit to YouTuber “Made to Sew” for putting in all of the hard work to make the tutorial series come together

Sewing A Dress

One of the most fun sewing projects that I have ever worked on was the first time I made a dress with my oldest daughter. This was a few years ago, but feels like it was just yesterday. Now while my daughter is as sweet as can be. It was often difficult to get her to sit still for a period of time longer than three to four minutes. Knowing this fact was part of the reason I was so ‘mind blown’ that this project really got her attention in a way that I had never seen before. She had always liked trying on dressed and different clothes. We had a collection of costume hats in a box that we would try on and make funny faces at each other. This made her laugh wildly and was one of our favorite rainy-day activities. One day as she was strutting around in one of her costume dresses, I proposed an idea to her. “What if we actually made a special dress, from scratch?”, I asked her. A small smile drew across her face as she pondered the thought to herself for a moment. “Yay mommy! Let’s make a pretty dress.”, she squealed with delight. So I gathered up some old princess patterned bed sheets that she had as a very young child. She was overjoyed to see them again, hugging them close to her body in a nostalgic embrace.

We spent a few hours after that cutting up the fabric to match a template that I found online to match her little body. I showed her the proper way to stitch quality seams that wouldn’t come out after a few hours of rolling around on the ground. I also took some time to explain to her the safety aspect of being very careful with the needles and other sharp tools. It was important for her to understand that the sewing machine that we were using was an important tool and not a toy to be played with. I was proud to see that I think she understood and respected this fact right away. Needless to say we had a great time sewing together and she got a cute little dress out of the deal.

Sewing Supplies Thread

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Welcome Back to Angie’s Realm

If you’re reading this, then I’m glad to have you back with me again. I’ve finally gotten the chance to upgrade the look of my ancient website to something a little more fresh and modern. In addition to that, I will probably not be posting as much as I used to. We were recently blessed by God with a new addition to our perfect little family. Baby Elyse is here and boy is she a handful!

In another bit of very important news, I have decided to take an early retirement! Even if that just means retiring for several years until I can get a firm handle on my beautiful little kids. Mike and I have been talking about me doing this for quite a few years and I’m happy that his recent promotion has made this dream a financial possibility! We are truly blessed in that regard.

Now, enough about me. Even with a new look, you’ll find that Angie’s Realm is still focused on bringing you mouth watering recipes, interesting crafts, and just about anything else that will help you make your home a better place for you and your family for years to come. One thing that will be changing is my jokes. Apparently many of the readers just didn’t find them very funny. I do have to say that I’m not nearly as good of a comedian as I am a chef. So I will make sure to stick to that from now on so I don’t ruffle any more feathers. I have no idea that so many of my readers were expert joke critics, but I guess that they are and we don’t want to upset them now do we?

Home Cooked Meal

Credit: TheOdysseyOnline.com

I had to post this picture of this perfectly done steak. It reminds me a lot of the steaks that my mother-in-law grilled for us last weekend. It’s a long trip for the family to get out to the in-laws house, but they sure do spoil us with great food when we do get out there. There really isn’t anything better to pair a steak with than little red potatoes. I love it when they’re chopped up and cooked over the stovetop with butter and a little seasoning blend. The asparagus is a really nice touch to add some greens and much needed micronutrients to a plate that is dominated by proteins and starches.

One of the things that I want to do more of is food tutorials. I have made quite a few tutorials to my recipes in the past, but I find that many of the readers enjoy it when I post a video of another professional chef that has their own unique opinions and way of doing things. Then, you can take in the video for what it’s worth and I will add my own comments and little anecdotes about experiences that I have had trying to do the same thing or something similar. It’s definitely valuable to approach a topic with multiple different view points. I think that this is because everyone is operating out of their own set of circumstances and with their own tools and materials. As long as my site is helping, it doesn’t bother me if all of the content is directly from me or not. I’m not that much of a control freak (even though my husband may disagree with that). Oh well, I’m not sure if Mike is still reading my blog posts these days anyway.

One very popular aspect of the site has always been attempting to recreate crafts that I have found on Pinterest. I love it when readers will bring my attention to craft ideas that they themselves have found online. It’s really rewarding when someone asks me to try a craft that they have tried themselves but just haven’t had much luck with it. If I can post about my experience trying it, then it can hopefully help them finish it up properly. That’s really what my site has always been about – helping others and enjoying the similar interests that many of us have.

Coffee Can Flower Arrangement

Credit: UpcycledWonders.com

Speaking of getting more into crafts, I found this gem on Pinterest just the other day. I love the idea of being able to use things that you can find around your house and just right outside in your yard. These little coffee can flower arrangements would have made a very sweet little easter gift for the kids to bring to grandmas house. All you need for this craft is 1. a few coffee cans, some pretty colored construction paper, potting soil, and some wildflowers. Be careful though, it some places it is against the law to pick wildflowers. Also, make sure that you’re only taking plants from your own property. There’s nothing worse than taking away someone else’s hard work only to make something nice for yourself (that’s called being selfish)!

This is another great craft idea for kids. There aren’t any sharp tools needed and it’s a nice way to get kids to start thinking about and appreciating the great outdoors. Make sure to get a little scotch tape to secure your pretty construction paper to the coffee cans and there you have it – a nice little flower pot that you didn’t have to spend any more on. More importantly, you could have rescued that coffee can from the garbage (unless you were going to recycle it, of course.)

Stay tuned for upcoming posts, because I have many more recipes and crafts in mind that I’m sure you’ll just love!