Travel

Beach Vacation, Gulf Shores AL.

When I asked my boys where they wanted to go on vacation they both yelled, “the beach!” Who doesn’t love the beach, right? I know I do, so I was eager to start planning the trip. And since the beach pretty much makes a perfect family vacation all by itself, the hardest part of the decision was choosing which beach to go to. I know several families who love Gulf Shores, so I thought we would check it out this summer.

Gulf Shores is a town on Alabama’s Gulf Coast that’s known for its endless strip of white, sandy beaches, lively dining and entertainment scene and natural habitats. It’s a relatively easy drive from St. Louis, but we broke up the trip by spending a few days sightseeing in Nashville first. Check out that post here.  Then we headed south down I-65 to the white sandy beaches of the Gulf.

Gulf Shores AL

As we were driving to the Gulf we had some time before we checked into our condo so we stopped in downtown Mobile and found some fun street art.  There are several cafes and restaurants in downtown if you need a snack.

Mobile AL

Battleship Memorial Park

My boys loved climbing all over the huge battleship.  It is a great place to stop if you need to get your kids out of the car and run some energy out plus an amazing way to bring history to life.  We all loved the submarine tour too.  It’s a quick tour and not as many places for your kids to hide.

USS Alabama

USS Alabama

Another fun adventure on your way to Gulf Shores would be to take the ferry to Dauphin Island.  You can then explore the island and then take a ferry over to Gulf Shores.

Where We Stayed in Gulf Shores, AL

When I planned this trip, I had one requirement: a place right on the beach so that I could listen to the waves at night. I can’t remember the last time I woke up feeling so relaxed and calm.

Gulf Shores AL

Space was another consideration when looking for a place to stay. I wanted my boys to have a room where they would get a good night’s rest and have their own space, and we had Grandma with us on the trip—I knew she would definitely need her own room to escape the madness!

I ended up finding the perfect place that fit our needs exactly: a condo with two bedrooms and two bathrooms beachfront, plus a bonus bunk room for the boys.  The condo was beautiful and spacious with upgrades throughout, pool and beachfront views. But the best was, it was right on the beach. Check it out here.

If you ever find yourself looking for a condo rental in Gulf Shores, I’d highly recommend renting through Gulf Beach Rentals. They were a great resource for ideas and kid-friendly suggestions in the area.  Not only that, they were super helpful when we got locked out of the unit (don’t ask), and flexible when we decided to stay an extra day because we were having too much fun! #familyfun

For a packing list when renting a beach condo check it out here.

Gulf Beach Rentals
Info@gulfbeachrentals.co
Contact Emily at (251) 500-0596

Gulf Shores AL

EAT
When I asked the locals what the area is known for food/drinks they said:

The Bushwacker, a frosty rum drink
Snapper, grouper, oysters fresh from the Gulf

Since eating out with two boys isn’t always relaxing we used the kitchen in our condo quite a bit. It was functional and had everything we needed to make simple meals and enjoy them while relaxing on the balcony of the condo. Many breakfasts were spent just waking up to the ocean waves and watching dolphins as we ate.

Gulf Shores AL

When we did head out to eat, we tried to hit all the best kid-friendly restaurants in the immediate area. Bonus points for establishments that didn’t have golden arches or Kraft mac & cheese as an entrée! Here’s a run-down of our favorites:

Lulus is named after its semi-famous founder, Jimmy Buffett’s sister, Lucy. It’s a super-popular establishment with three locations; one in Destin, Florida, one in Gulf Shores and one in Myrtle Beach. With live music, fresh fish and seafood, and a giant sand area for kids to play in while families eat, we found Lulus to be absolutely perfect for kids. My advice is to plan to go at an off time (early or late lunch/dinner) to avoid looooong waits and huge crowds.

Matt’s Homemade ice cream.  You can’t go on vacation without ice cream, right? My boys are always looking for a treat, and Matt’s certainly delivered—it was perfection. It’s the only homemade ice cream shop in Gulf Shores, serving 40 different flavors of ice cream, along with delicious throwback confections like banana splits, sundaes, and milkshakes. The boys couldn’t believe how amazing it was, and Logan was complaining his wasn’t as big as the rest of ours. Because, you know, comparisons.

The Hang Out.  This fun beachfront place was perfect for families, with their loud, boisterous ambiance. In fact, while we were eating, an announcer came out and asked if anyone was celebrating a birthday. And I’m pretty sure that the few brave souls who admitted to it won’t soon forget it! The fun, friendly staff routinely gets people up dancing on tables, doing the electric slide, and generally having fun like you should on vacation.

Gulf Shores AL

A few places we didn’t have time to try that came recommended were:

Flora-Bama, home of the Bushwacker (the must-try frozen drink of the area)
The Gulf, a waterfront restaurant made of shipping containers
GT’s on the Bay

What we did for fun

There are endless activities that tourists enjoy in Gulf Shores, but we chose to keep things a bit more simple since we were traveling with young kids. We spent a ton of time on the beach, where we hunted for seashells, rode waves and built sandcastles. We went on walks and set up little scavenger hunts for the boys, which they loved. And at night after dinner, we’d return to the beach to get pictures and hunt for crabs as the sunset and the beach got dark. Don’t forget your flashlights and buckets for this fun activity!

Gulf Shores AL

 

Gulf Shores AL

Gulf Shores AL

For lots of other fun ideas (and discounts!), check out the coupon books located all around the area. There’s a place called The Track go-karts that’s a must-do; it’s a wild, woody track that has three levels of wild driving—perfect for my boys!

There’s also Pirate’s Island Mini Golf, which is a great family-friendly option if you’ve had enough of the beach.

A couple other recommendations we didn’t have time to try were:
Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, called the little zoo that could.
Owa, an amusement park

All in all, Gulf Shores was the perfect beach getaway! It’s easily accessible.   The beach is absolutely stunning, lodging is abundant and reasonably priced, and the dining, entertainment, and nightlife just can’t be beaten for families.   There’s truly something for everyone in Gulf Shores!

Gulf Shores AL

Gulf Shores AL

Let me know your favorite beach trips with kids.

For other kid-friendly trips check out my posts about Nashville, Bentonville Ar, Big Cedar Lodge Branson Mo, and Echo Bluff State Park

XOXO  Sarah~

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The ultimate packing list when renting a beach condo 

 

Beach Items:

Beach Bag
Beach Towels
Sunscreen
Hat
Sunglasses
Kid glasses
Swimsuits, a couple in case they need to dry
Soft cooler
Snacks
Goggles
Beach shoes/flip flops
Waterproof pouch for your phone.
Beach Balls/Toys/Sandcastle supplies/water guns/nets/mask and snorkel
Magazines
Water bottles
Scarfs to tie as a sarong
Boogie Board

 

Kitchen Supplies

Paper Plates and Cups
Dishwasher pods, one for each day
Trash Bags, one for each day
Coffee and supplies

 

Rainy Day Activities

Games, cards, legos, art supplies
Travel Booking information and contact numbers

 

The evening’s on the beach

Flashlights or headlamps (hands-free),  nets, buckets

 

Mom to Mom-Angela co-creator of Kidzxplor

Angela Sandler

Background of Kidzxplor

Angela Sandler is the Co-Founder/CEO of Kidzxplor– a revolutionary app and web-based membership that connects families with local activity & experience partners. Kidzxplor strives to help kids find their passion by making parents lives a bit easier. Kidzxplor is a subscription-based B2B and B2C partnership that works in tandem with local business owners to manage their activity open inventory and redistribute it via Kidzxplor where consumers can attend a variety of activities, all on one platform. Kidzxplor takes the stress out of the search and discovery of activities- often a daunting task for parents. By utilizing technology, Kidzxplor is a one-stop-shop for all activities kid. Parents can purchase Passes through Kidzxplor on a monthly basis or via a la carte packages. There is never any commitment and flexibility is key.

Angela is a business manager with over 19 years of proven results in brand management, new product development, strategic planning, marketing, and sales. An intuitive marketer with a keen sense of timing to identify and capture emerging market opportunities. Angela started her career at May Department Stores and has worked for a variety of companies launching new brands, and developing existing brands such as Victorinox Swiss Army, Timberland, Carhartt, Jonathan Adler and BMW. Angela was recognized as one of 200 female founder startups selected by Rent the Runway Foundation and UBS, to participate in the 2017 Project Entrepreneur intensive.

Angela was born and raised in St. Louis and attended the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss).  She is married to her husband, Andy, and lives in Creve Coeur with her daughter Joie, and a son, Grant.  In her free time, Angela enjoys spending time with family and friends, running and doing yoga, and traveling wherever and whenever she can.

Kidzxplor currently operates in St. Louis, Missouri and Houston, Texas.

Angela’s goals for Kidzxplor in the balance of 2018 is to continue to grow the events side of the business, network with more businesses, and continue to connect parents to opportunities in their community.

Social handles:

IG: http://www.instagram.com/angela_sandler

FB: http://www.facebook.com/angelawecklsandler

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mrssandler & http://www.twitter.com/kidzxplor

Email: angela@kidzxplor.com

Business Questions

Why/ When was the Kidzxplor app created?  The Kkidzxplor concept was created in September of 2015 on Miami Beach.  Attending a mutual friends 40th birthday celebration, after a walk on the beach complaining about how much we were spending on kids activities and the commitment involved- we felt there had to be a better way.  We were all ClassPass users and felt that the same concept could easily be adapted to kids activities and that the concept made even more sense since kids are finicky and often must try many things before they find their passion.  After the trip- we started the process of developing the technology and then launched to the public in August of 2016.

What is your favorite thing about being a woman-owned business?  The comradery.  I love working with different women business owners as we all really support each other.  We all face struggles in life that men don’t experience- the balancing of both the business, our families & children, running a household, and also trying to keep ourselves happy and healthy.  There is a lot of struggles in finding a balance or happy medium and women understand this.  We all can commiserate and help each other find solutions and support together.

How has your business evolved?   Our business has evolved very much from the beginning.  From the start, we have always been passionate about offering families experiences- and those experiences have now grown to include events, birthday parties, and finding unique experiences you cannot find anywhere else- much more than just taking an art or music class.  Initially, we were 100% focused on the child, and now we are moving towards being more focused on the whole family- mom, dad, and kids.  We also, in the beginning, were very focused on the consumer, but as we have developed- we find that the businesses are also a big part of the equation.  ALL businesses are looking to bring families in their doors – we have found that these businesses include retail, restaurants, services, etc.- much more than just the original kid’s activity providers we started with.

What’s the biggest challenge about creating an app?  The biggest challenge with building an app being a startup is budget.  App’s and tech can be very expensive and as you grow as a company- there are always additional improvements and updates you would like to make to improve the experience, which can be very costly.

What are your favorite mom apps?  I love Apps!  I use so many to help!  My favorites include Blinklist, kidzxplor (of course!), Mind/Body, Apple Music, Venmo, Open Table, Postmates, Shine, and The Skimm.  I don’t know if those are all Mom-App’s- but they sure help me manage my life!

You recently hosted an amazing Mod Mamas event.  How did you get the idea?  Moms today are so busy and rarely have a day to themselves to help nourish their mind, body, and spirit.  Mod Mama’s was created as a one-stop-shop for busy Mama’s to help them experience community, education on key topics for Mama’s, fitness, food, and friends all in one place.  It really was developed out of what we personally felt that we would like and enjoy and how we felt we could bring the best information these Mamas in small bites.

What do you want people to know about Kidzxplor?  Great question!!!  I think there is still a lot of confusion about kidzxplor and what it offered and how it works.  I think the main thing is that its such an incredible savings over retail!  You can pick and choose, on your schedule, what works for you and your child.  You can purchase credits that allow you to drop-in to whichever activities you want – there is no commitment, no membership, and it’s completely flexible to your needs.

Mom Life

Angela Sandler

How do you balance work and family?  I am not sure there is ever a balance- it’s more of an ebb and flow.  Some weeks are busier with families, some weeks are work heavier, some weeks you can breathe.  I do a lot of outsourcing to help.  I want to be having fun and enjoying my children when I am around them- so I try to offload the things I don’t like doing so that when they are home- I can be with them.  I hire someone to do our families laundry so that is taken care of, I order all my groceries online, I use a lot of app’s to have streamline processes, and I use my calendar to schedule everything to make sure that everything has it’s place- particularly exercise so it doesn’t get lost.

What are qualities you try and role model for your kids?  Kindness 100%.  There is never a reason not to be kind.  Thinking positive and looking for the good in most things.  I also really try to make my kids self-reliant.  I don’t do a lot of things for them that they can do themselves and I tend to let them manage their time and their actions- I don’t fight their battles and I look forward to opportunities for them to make mistakes (in reason) so that they can learn from them.

What would you tell your younger self? It’s all going to be OK.

Who inspires you?  I am really inspired by my business coach Erin Joy- and also female entrepreneurs that are making their dreams happen.

The advice you’d give to other working moms?  Take a deep breath- and outsource, outsource, outsource.

Personal

What is your guilty pleasure? Hmmmm… probably alcohol.  Truth.

What do you put in your coffee?  Hazelnut creamer from Trader Joes at home, half and half at coffee shops

Favorite workout?  Shred415 – hands down.

What is one thing you cannot go to bed without doing?  Checking Instagram

Best place in the world you have been?  There’s too many to mention!  Hong Kong, St. Lucia, Bangkok, Venice, Barcelona.

Your bucket list is The Maldives, Phuket, Galapagos’, Canary Islands

 

If you missed the other Mom to Mom check out:

Mom to Mom with Stephanie Pohlman Designs:
Mom to Mom Meet Sarah

 

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Are you planning a Nashville road trip with kids?  I’ve got all the tip and tricks for a successful road trip to Nashville including where to stay, where to eat, and more.

Nashville Road Trip with Kids

This year, we kicked off the boys’ summer break with a trip to Nashville. Nashville is a city close to my heart because I’ve been there on several girls’ weekends. It’s a place I knew my kids would love, so I new we couldn’t go wrong.  What made it even better, was Nashville was on the way to Gulf Shores, Alabama, where we were going for a beach vacation.

Nashville mural

Nashville Road Trip – Kid-friendly Activities

After the four-hour drive from St. Louis, we wasted no time heading straight to one of Nashville’s top attractions for families: the Adventure Science Center. It was a great choice for sure!  After being cooped up in the car for so long, my boys ran from one side of the science center to the other. The science center has a ton of hands-on and interactive activities for kiddos of all ages!

Mason’s favorite thing to do was pretending to drive the ambulance, while Logan was fascinated by the exhibit that allowed him to imagine what it would be like to walk on the moon.

Adventure Science Center

The next day we did the Hop on/Hop off Trolley tour of Nashville. If you choose to do this, here’s a tip: tickets for this are less expensive if you purchase online or over the phone than at the ticket booth.

Trolley Nashville

The first time I saw the trolley on previous visits to Nashville, I was dying to get the boys on it.    I knew they would love it and then we have loads of options to explore.  We boarded the trolley at Downtown Broadway. Our first stop was at the Nashville Farmers Market, where there’s plenty of fresh food for sale. There’s a ton of different food vendors, and we went with a brick-oven pizza, which was delicious!

Nashville Parthenon

Next, we stopped at the Nashville Parthenon, which looks exactly like the Parthenon in Greece. It’s an art museum on the inside, with lots of beautiful grounds on the outside, including a playground and lots of open fields. Finally, we stopped at the Gulch to get pics at the famous wings mural, which is just one of many fun murals in Nashville.

Wings mural

Some other fun kid-friendly ideas that we had on our list but swimming at the Drury indoor/outdoor pool won out :  

Nashville Zoo

Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge

The Ryman Tour

Another tip when traveling with kids:  Be flexible.  I had a lot of things planned but ultimately they were begging to swim and Mason fell asleep on the trolley.

Nashville Road Trip – Where We Stayed:  

When it comes to lodging, I’m very particular.  We look for certain amenities that will make the vacation easier for all of us. A hotel breakfast is super important to my kids, and it saves us from having to eat out and spend a lot of money on food the kids may or may not eat. And I like having a separate bedroom with a door, so I’m not forced to go to bed at the same time as the kids. Also, the boys insist on the hotel to have a pool, which is fine by me so they can burn off all their energy.  

I was thrilled to partner with  Drury Plaza Hotel in Franklin, Tennessee, because it was the perfect fit for us.  We absolutely loved it!  Located just 15-20 minutes south of downtown Nashville, so you won’t have any parking hassles or late-night party scene.

The first thing you notice when you enter is the amazing lobby. It’s grand, yet welcoming.  And every afternoon, the scent of fresh popcorn wafts through the air, enticing guests both young and old, to stop and enjoy a quick afternoon snack.

Our room was clean and updated. There was a fridge microwave and sink in the bar area. The bathroom was spacious, featuring a gigantic tub and separate shower, toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, and body wash) in large dispensers inside the shower.  (Check out my Instagram story by clicking the “highlight” button to see the full video)

While our room was wonderful, we certainly not prepared for the value of the breakfast at Drury. There was no shrink-wrapped, slapped-together convenience food—it was a full-blown breakfast with anything you could want!  They served a full spread of hot foods like eggs, biscuits and gravy and sausage and potatoes. Then there was a huge selection of cereals, fresh cut fruit, and yogurt. They even had a station where you could get made-to-order pancakes and another where you could make your own waffles, which the boys loved. The food was all super fresh, and the Kelso Bros Coffee was piping hot.   

Drury breakfast

Another great feature was the pool. My kids love to swim no matter where we are, and the pool at Drury didn’t disappoint. It was heated, with a neat indoor/outdoor feature—where you could swim under a large partition to go from one side to another.  There also was a huge hot tub, and an endless supply of high-quality clean towels too.

Drury indoor/outdoor pool

Drury indoor/outdoor pool

What was our favorite thing about Drury? It definitely was something called “kickback hour”.  It’s every evening at  5:30, and to say that it exceeded our wildest expectations, would be putting it lightly.  Even though it’s considered a snack, it’s really more like a full-blown dinner.  It has a full spread of items like baked potatoes, pasta, chicken tenders, a nacho bar, hot dogs, and salad bar. I found this to be a nice touch, and an unexpected surprise, because going out to eat with the kids can be stressful and expensive!  Also, get this, adults can get THREE free drinks during kickback hour. Yes, you read that right, THREE!  Amazing!  

Drury kickback hour

Drury kickback hour

We absolutely LOVED Drury and can’t believe the value and quality offered,  and can’t wait to stay with them again. 

Nashville Road Trip – Where We Ate:

When traveling I like to find out what special food the area is known for.  In talking with some locals the Nashville foods to try are:  hot chicken, biscuits, sweet treats, BBQ, and goo goo cluster bars

Since we regularly ate a huge breakfast at the hotel and appetizers for dinner at the kickback hour, eating around Nashville was more for lunch and progressive-style snacking and treats.  Because vacation calories don’t count right?

Biscuit Love, Immensely popular, known for cuisine centered around biscuits.  Make sure to try a bonut, which is fried biscuit dough topped with Italian cream cheese.  Delish!

Bonut Biscuit Love

Biscuit Love Nashville

Five Daughters Bakery Try and tackle one of their 100 layer donuts, which is a hybrid of a croissant and donut.  Are you kidding me?!

Five daughters Nashville

5 daughters Nashville

Caviar and Bananas This gourmet market and cafe uses only fresh ingredients to deliver a tasty culinary experience.   The decor is as amazing as the food.  This place looks like its right out of a magazine.  Caviar and Bananas

Martin’s BBQ Their specialty item is a Redneck Taco, which is any of their hickory-smoked meats on a corn cake.  Yee haw!

Martin's BBQ Nashville

Other kid-friendly places we wanted to try but didn’t have time:  

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken If you never tried chicken and waffles, this is the place to give a whirl.  Also, the chicken comes in different spice levels; the hottest contains the fire-breathing ghost pepper.  Yikes! Note: When we stopped by this place there was a 45-minute wait outside the building. Be prepared to wait and have something to entertain the kids.  

The Grilled Cheeserie Its humble beginnings was as a popular Nashville food truck, whose menu was created by a master chef.  So, this isn’t your run of the mill sandwich.

The Aquarium Restaurant  A true underwater dining experience, as you’re surrounded by a 200,000-gallon saltwater aquarium.    

The Pancake Pantry You’ll get a full serving of Southern hospitality at this 50 plus year-old Nashville hot spot.

Overall Nashville is such a great town to explore with kids.  We had so much fun, and hope to be back soon.  I hope this helps you plan a fun trip there with your family.

Nashville mural

XOXO  Sarah

We were so grateful to partner with Drury Hotels for this trip, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Meet Stephanie Pohlman from Stephanie Pohlman Designs.
Stephanie has helped me design my entire home.  I love working with her because she designs for spaces that need to be, not only beautiful, but functional for my entire family.  Having two boys doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice on style.

Stephanie Pohlamn Designs

My name is Stephanie Pohlman, and I grew up in Saint Charles, MO!  Ever since “Trading Spaces” and “While you were out” aired on TLC in 2000, I have been obsessed with interior design. I went to Mizzou to follow my passion to be a designer and graduated in 2012. I worked for another designer and a builder before having my baby girl in January of 2017, which led me to start my own business.  After having my daughter, I realized I needed to have more flexibility and control my work hours.  I am married to my best friend, Matt and we have one little girl, Rey who is 15 months old!

Social handles:

IG: StepaniePohlmanDesigns
FB: Pohlman Designs on Facebook
Email: spohlmandesigns@gmail.com

Why/When did you start your Stephanie Pohlman Designs?

In 2016, I was working for a custom home builder part time and decided to start Stephanie Pohlman Designs on the side for some extra cash. After having my baby girl in January 2017, I decided it was the right time to start my business full time to allow for more flexibility with my work schedule. I gave it a shot in May of 2017, and it’s thrived ever since!

What are your favorite things about designing client homes?  

I love to see their reaction when my vision comes to life. My favorite is when my clients let me design while they are gone for the day and come home to a finished product. Receiving a text saying how much they love it, makes all the hard work so worth it! I can easily say I never dread a day of work. I mean I get to shop for a living, it’s pretty much a dream!

What’s the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge is the very beginning of a job, trying to pinpoint my client’s style exactly. Everyone has something different they want for their own home, and it’s my job to figure that out!

Where do you get your inspiration?

I follow a lot of interior designers on Instagram and love to browse Pinterest. A lot of times, I will be walking through the aisles of Home Goods before I come up with my ideas.

Who are your favorite designers?

Ahh, this is a tough one! Of course, I love Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper. Who doesn’t? On Instagram, I am obsessed with Studio McGee. Her style is probably more modern than my own, but I love it!

Mom Questions:

How do you balance work and family? 

I try to remove myself from work after 5 and on the weekends, but of course, that isn’t always easy with owning a business. Luckily, my clients are all very understanding and let me choose family first if anything ever comes up. Otherwise, I just make time in the evenings and weekends to spend time with her and my husband.

What are qualities you try and role model for your kids?

I want her to see that you can follow your dream and make a living doing what you truly love!  I also try to live a healthy lifestyle by exercising and staying active.

What would you tell your younger self? 

To take more business classes! Haha

Who inspires you?

My mom, she’s my biggest cheerleader!

The advice you’d give to other working moms?

To try to remove yourself from work while you are with your kiddos, even though I am guilty of this sometimes. We need to embrace every second with them because time flies!

Personal Questions:  

What is your guilty pleasure? 

Reality TV, especially Big Brother and the Bachelor/Bachelorette!

What do you put in your coffee?  

Natural Vanilla Creamer.

Favorite beauty tip?

Drink lots of water. 😊

Favorite beauty product?

Anyone who really knows me, knows I am not very good with makeup or beauty products.  So any advice here is welcome! Haha

What is one thing you cannot go to bed without doing?

Brushing my teeth and washing my face.

Best place in the world you have been?  Bucket List travel spot?

Jamaica for my honeymoon was absolutely beautiful. Australia is on my bucket list!

 

Read the other mom to mom questions here.

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CoCo Key Water Park Resort

Recently we had an opportunity to stay at the Adam’s Mark Hotel and CoCo Key Water Park in Kansas City during my boys’ spring break.  It’s about a 4-hour drive from St Louis right off Interstate 70, directly across the highway from the Royals’ and Chiefs’ stadiums.  It’s affordable family fun that gets you out of town in a few hours.

We arrived at the Adam’s Mark Hotel the lobby area was updated and inviting.  Our room was clean and simple no-frills accommodations. The outside of the hotel could use some updating, the good news is they currently have plans in place for an outside renovation. All my boys could think about was getting to the waterpark.

CoCo Key Water Park

According to my boys, CoCo Key Water Park was amazing!  Some hotels pools may have a slide or two, but never a full-fledged water park.  Even if you are not staying at the hotel you can still go to the water park.  It was a perfect fit for both of my boys, who are 7 and 3.  Logan, my oldest, was tall enough to ride all the slides.  CoCo Key also features a lazy river, splash area and lily pad adventure for little ones, and even basketball goals.   There were some local residents who were having their birthday party at CoCo Key. There are cabanas along the side of the pools for rent and a restaurant for food and drinks. No outside food is allowed.

The hotel has a huge arcade. In addition, they host several activities throughout the day, such as movie night, dance parties, face painting and appearances from CoCo the Bird.

For all the details check out http://www.cocokeykansascity.com

Logan’s favorite was: The big slides
Mason’s favorite was: The little kid slides
Mom’s favorite was: The boys slept like rocks after spending most of the day there.

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The weather was not so great when we were in Kansas City but it didn’t matter because Coco Key was inside and heated.  It was a fun place to stay for my kiddos while in Kansas City for the weekend that doesn’t break the bank. My boy’s keep asking when we are going back.  If you are needing a quick fun and affordable family getaway, Coco Key will have you kids smiling the entire visit.

Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Adam’s Mark Hotel and Coco Key Water Park, however, all opinions expressed here are my own.

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Choo Choo,  All aboard the Kozy Kaboose.  Over Christmas break, I took my boys on the ultimate little boy staycation.    I gave them clues to where we were going and when they saw the caboose they couldn’t believe their sweet little eyes.  Spring break and Summer break are approaching and KOA’s campground in Eureka, Missouri has just the answer for those wanting a memorable camping experience without battling the St Louis crazy hot/cold weather.  

Kozy Kaboose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kozy Kaboose authentic caboose has the original Route 66 nostalgic feel.  It was completely refitted to a modern condition.  If your child is a train enthusiast, they’ll go crazy over spending an overnight in this choo choo delight.  It sleeps four people comfortably; 2 adults and 2 children, with a queen size bed and a bunk that my boys couldn’t get enough of.  My youngest spent almost an hour just going up and down the ladder.  

Kozy Kaboose

 

 

The bathroom has a shower-tub combo.  A small fridge is supplied and is large enough to hold some basic food supplies and drinks.  When eating, or playing a fun game of candy land you sit at a cute booth that seats four.  Also, there’s a TV with over 20 channels, and swivels from the dining area to the bedroom location.     

Kozy Kaboose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just steps from the back door, which has a porch with furniture, a grill and there is a fire ring that’s ready for roasting hot dogs and making s’mores.  My guys devoured more chocolate bars than anything else, which made bedtime a lengthy process.  Instead of purchasing pricey firewood, you can save yourself a lot of hassle by going to Academy Sports.  They have these convenient tree stumps, which have a core that’s soaked in lighter fluid.  All you have to do is light the middle and you have a toasty fire that lasts around two hours.  We added some Funky Colored Flames, that are also available at Academy, and your kids will be mesmerized by the variety of colors it produces.     

Kozy Kaboose

 

 We stayed for just one night, but given the chance, multiple nights would make for an awesome staycation.  They gave us a scavenger hunt on arrival the kids could hunt for.  When it’s warmer they have a pool, a playground and tons of fun kid-friendly activities.  For more information check them out at Kozy caboose Eureka

Kozy Kaboose

So, gather your family and get on board for an experience that’ll create great family memories!  If you missed our other family-friendly trip ideas check them out here:  

Echo Bluff state park

Bentonville, AR

Big Cedar Lodge

  • This post was sponsored by KOA but all thoughts are completely my own.

 

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Dierbergs Holiday Appetizers and Cocktails Class

I’m always looking for new and fun experiences.  So when Dierbergs invited me to one of their “pop up” cooking classes, I was thrilled.  This particular class was for holiday appetizers and cocktails, which is right down my alley.  I’ve been to some classes recently for a girls-night-out and work team-building activity, and each time picked up something new.  

Dierbergs offers some of their more popular classes as “pop up”, or last minute, so make sure you follow them on social media.  Their Instagram handle is @Dierbergs, or sign up for their newsletter here so you don’t miss anything.  They do fill up quickly.  

If you’re looking for a unique gift for someone celebrating an anniversary or birthday, these classes would be something interactive and fun.

Dierbergs holiday appetizer and jim beam cocktail class

Here was the menu:  

  • Seared Tuna Skewers and Spicy Avocado Cream & Pickled Cucumber
  • Sun-dried Tomato & Mozzarella Bread Sticks with Olive Caper Cream
  • Candied Bacon Cornbread bits glazed with Sweet Tomato Jam
  • Chocolate Caramel Mousse Cups with Candied Pecans

This class was a demonstration with Chef Christie Maggi.  In demonstration classes, you get to sit back and relax while the chef does all the work.  

What we ate:
While Chef Christie was starting to cook, she passed around a couple of apps from the store for us to sample.  We had a festive olive and salami tray along with a cranberry pecan torte you can pick up from the deli, which makes for a quick party-pleaser.  

Salami and olive tray

torteRecipes and a couple tips Chef discussed.

Seared Tuna Skewers and Spicy Avocado Cream & Pickled Cucumber

This was my favorite appetizer of the night.  Chef Christie had a great tip about working with food on skewers.  Instead of soaking the food on the skewers, she recommended cooking the tuna first, then add the skewer after.  This prevents the skewers from burning and falling apart. 

Seared tuna skewers

Avocado substitution option: if the avocados you were planning on using aren’t ripe, you can substitute with Wholly Guacamole.  

Lemongrass substitution option: use lemongrass puree in the squeeze tube.  

Candied Bacon Cornbread Bits glazed with sweet tomato onion jam

Candied bacon cornbread bits glazed with sweet tomato onion jam

Sarah’s Scoop: These would be great served at a brunch or holiday appetizer party.  The tomato jam is what transforms this from good into an amazing item!


Sun-dried tomato & mozzarella breadsticks with olive caper cream

Sun-dried Tomato & Mozzarella Bread Sticks with Olive Caper Cream

sun-dried tomato breadsticks

Sarah’s Scoop:  If you don’t want to make the dough from scratch, Dierbergs sells pre-made pizza dough in the same aisle where fresh pasta is made.

Chocolate Caramel Mousse Cups with Candied Pecans

Filo cups are very versatile, so pick some up in the deli department.  I love using them for holiday appetizers too (see how I did for my holiday appetizer party here) but using them for desserts is equally delicious.  

Chocolate caramel mousse cups with candied pecans

Chef’s Tip:  This mousse can be made a day or two ahead of time.  A snazzy serving option is putting them in a shot glass with berries on top, or use a martini glass for a larger portion.  

Chocolate caramel mousse cups with candied pecans

 Jim Beam Cocktails

Jim Beam Side Car

Here’s what Stephen, the Jim Beam rep, made for us to sample.

  1. Moscow Mule
  2. Sidecar
  3. Manhattan
  4. Penicillin
  5. Maker’s neat

Up until this point, I hadn’t drank any whiskey since I was in college, so I didn’t know what to expect.  The Moscow Mule is definitely something I would serve at one of my own parties for my girlfriends.  My friend Jana recently served it at her house, and she threw in some cranberry to make it festive for the holidays.  These drinks ranged from light whiskey taste too very strong.  Penicillin and Maker’s Neat are more for whiskey lovers that enjoy the taste.  There were several whiskey enthusiasts in the class, that really enjoyed these cocktails.  The cocktail size was quite large, more than just a sip, so you really got to enjoy it.

This class truly had something for everyone, including dessert.  So, do you prefer to savor a rich decadent chocolate mousse or sip on a warm whiskey at the end of your meal?

Maker's neat and chocolate carmel mousse cups with candied pecans

Jim Beam cocktail recipes

Overall this class was a lot of fun, with a lot of pleasant surprises and fun people willing to learn.  Many attendees were celebrating a special occasion or having a fun night with friends. One couple in the class said they were hosting a lot of guests for the holidays, and wanted to gather some ideas.  They love to go shopping right after the class so they picked up the ingredients of the apps and drinks they liked the best.  Very smart.  Thanks to Dierbergs for such a fun experience.  

Did you know Dierbergs has classes for all tastes and preferences?  Even if you are not a cook.   Check out their list of options for January and February here.  Here are some I’d like to attend:

New Year, New You
Make it- Take it Valentine Spa-tacular non-food class.
Friday Night Dine:  Classy Appetizers and Craft Cocktails (super popular)
Gal-entine’s Brunch
Crock Pot or Not (for those who can’t live without their crock pot)
Puppy Love, Parent-Child Kids Class (My boys love helping me in the kitchen)

Dierbergs is so much more than fresh groceries, my boys love it too. 

We thoroughly enjoy their children holiday events.  We recently saw Santa and did fun kid activities around the entire store; such as sampling foods, getting balloons, face painting, and making ornaments.  It was a win-win for everyone.  

Dierbergs Santa fair

Dierbergs Santa Fair

Dierbergs Santa Fair

Also, I hosted a pumpkin beer and treat tasting with friends this past fall, where I picked up some pumpkin beer and snacks for my girlfriends to enjoy.  If you’re looking for a great place to host, but don’t have the time to do it at your place, this is a perfect solution.  They even have live bands every Friday to make for a really festive atmosphere.  Read all about it here.

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