Life gets busy and it’s easy to get overwhelmed especially now that lazy days by the pool are being replaced with manic mornings getting the kids ready for school. But, for some moms, September is the silent savior they’ve been patiently waiting for. Instead of biting your nails with anxiety like you did in junior high, you now sigh with relief when you hear the words, “back to school.” It’s different for every mom depending on your lifestyle, work, and the age of your kids, but chances are, no matter what situation you’re in, you could use a little time for more self-care.

walking-in-the-forest

Being Mindful

Fall is a great time to practice positive habits and daily rituals that give us the zest for life we crave and deserve. It’s important to stop and be mindful of what’s going on in our day to day and develop an awareness. In order to spend more time doing the things you love and less time being overwhelmed, you have to know what causes unhealthy stress and what makes you feel happy and fulfilled.

A few months ago, I hosted a Mother’s Day fundraiser brunch for first grade moms at my son’s school where we talked about work- life balance and the ongoing juggle struggle between kids and self-care. As part of a fun exercise, I had each mom write a letter to themselves with a summer goal (all self-care related) and I collected them all up to send back at the end of August. I partnered with Gladly Designs to create some pretty note cards the moms could use to jot down their personal goals. This could include anything from restorative yoga to MNO happy hour.

I decided that this summer, I would commit to some “me” time since it is so hard to find time to yourself when the kids are out of school. I made a plan to meet regularly with my health coach, try out a new yoga class (I love the quiet zen time!), float in a float tank, and get at least one facial for some much needed pampering and relaxation.

This exercise was challenging for some of the moms since it had been a while since they had the time to do something for themselves. Moments of downtime for busy moms are few and far between so, it’s tempting to take those rare hours of solitude to get ahead on work and cross off other housekeeping to-do’s. Rarely does float tank session make the list. As summer comes to an end, it’s important to prioritize health and well-being in order to feel restored and revitalized for the beginning of a new season.

Putting the ‘self’ back in self-care

Self-care is word that’s often overused nowadays with it being such a trendy topic on social media. Remember, self-care is about doing what’s right for you. Sometimes self-care can be as simple as quieting your mind for a few minutes with a glass of wine away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It doesn’t necessarily have to involve a high-energy fitness activity or stressing out over a complicated vegan recipe you found on Pinterest. For me, journaling is a quick and easy way to find some peace. I like to reflect on my day and write down what I’m grateful for and looking forward to in the coming weeks and months. If your self-care routine ends up feeling more like a chore, it’s not fulfilling its purpose. Find activities that make you feel good!

relaxing spa in STL

Mom to mom: a few self-care routines to add to your autumn bucket list

As a working mom with a hectic schedule, I’m here to suggest some self-care activities that won’t leave you feeling even more exhausted than before you started them! Find some calm in your busy life and embrace Fall with open arms as a new and refreshed you!

yoga blogger

Try a meditation app or podcast

Meditation can do wonders for the brain and soul. It’s no easy task to empty the mind completely, but once you get into a flow, you’ll find just how restorative it can be. Apps like Rituals and Headspace are great for those of us with things to do and places to be. Simply pop in some headphones during your morning walks or even on your commute for a guided, easy to follow stress-free session. For those who struggle with meditation, opt for a new audiobook or binge-worthy, inspirational podcast. I love listening to Goal Digger, How I Built This, and The Influencer Podcast while I’m working out, taking a walk, tidying up the house or driving in the car. For busy bookworms, I recommend Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis.

Wake up earlier than the kids to do something you love!

I’m not suggesting that you wake up at the crack of dawn to get work done or get in that mile run before the sun comes up. Wake up a little bit earlier so that you have some time to yourself to simply ‘be.’ Sit in bed with some morning coffee, make a delicious breakfast or flip through the pages of St Louis magazines you never have time to read. Take a brisk walk as the weather gets chillier and enjoy the quiet morning calm before the storm.

Take a mini vacay with friends

Now, this one might be a bit harder to do with kids and busy schedules, but I highly recommend doing this at least once a year! Plan a mini solo vacay or getaway with friends over a weekend where you can decompress and indulge in a little R&R. It can also be incredibly empowering to go solo and do things your own way. You call the shots, you create the itinerary. You don’t have to travel too far either! Make it a staycation by staying local. Plan a spa weekend, an outdoor adventure or simply a couple nights in nice hotel with room service and a kid-free evening to enjoy a Netflix binge-a-thon. I recently took a little weekend trip to Ameristar with one of my girlfriends where we lounged by their luxurious pool and relaxed at the spa.

float tank #selfcare #spa

Try something new

I always look forward to new things I have not experienced before! Experiencing new things is a major thrill for me. Try something unique and unforgettable like a trapeze exercise class, sipping on a new drink from a coffee shop you’ve never been to or detoxing in an infrared sauna.

In a world where we’re always “on”, it can be difficult to slow down and just breathe. Add kids, work and other adult responsibilities to the mix and we’re left with very little time to focus on ourselves, but holding yourself accountable and making a real commitment to self-care will prove worth it in the long run. What commitments will you make this Fall?

 

If you’re a family with young kids living in the Midwest, you don’t need to look very far for a fun-filled vacation. Turns out, my family found the perfect getaway when we booked a trip to Branson, Missouri this summer.

Branson Road Trip with Kids #notyourgrandmasBranson! #

Branson Road Trip with Kids

I know what you’re thinking: “Branson, Missouri?! Isn’t that a senior citizen hot spot?”

Why yes, yes it is, but trust me, our trip was nothing like a seniors tour. This was #notyourgrandmasBranson! We had an amazing time, and I can definitely say that there really is something for everyone in this bustling little midwestern town. My family loves being outside in nature, finding lots of adventurous activities for the kids, and spending quality time together. We found all that and much more in Branson, and here, I’ll share all of our favorite recommendations with you.  

We can’t wait to go back!  

First things first: when you arrive in Branson, be sure to make the Branson Tourism Center (off Branson Hills Parkway exit) your very first stop. They have tons of information on tickets and local attractions, and local tour guides can help you plan an incredible trip. Or, if you’d like to plan your trip ahead of time, visit them at http://www.Branson.com or call (800) 785-1610.

For our family’s trip, I told them my boys love nature, adventure and animals. All of their agents live in the area and have great ideas!

Here’s what we did:

Wolfe Mountain Branson

It may not snow much in Branson, but that won’t stop your family from enjoying an amazing day of snow tubing at the Snowflex Tubing Hill. It’s the largest synthetic tubing hill in the world, and this was definitely one of the most exciting things we did—the kids absolutely loved it! According to my 7 year-old son, “it’s scary looking from the top, but once you go one time, you’ll want to go over and over again!”


Tickets are $35 for adults and $29 for kids, which gets you one hour of tubing, and there’s a conveyor belt that takes you to the top of the hill so you don’t have to climb each time.

This is a fun MUST.

Tubing at Wolfe Mountain in Branson #hosted #bransonzipline #snowflexmountain #tubing

The Track Family Fun Parks

What kid doesn’t love go-karts? I know mine do! And so do I, which is why we made sure to check out the Track Family Fun Park. Forget everything you know about go-karts, because this is a next-level experience! This park has several different go-kart tracks for every level of experience. They’ve got super-simple karts for kids as young as four, all the way up to a “wild woody” track that’s basically a wooden roller coaster for go-karts…and grown-ups! In addition to the tracks, they have bumper boats where you can spray the other boaters—that was Logan’s favorite, and of course, classic karts where little ones can ride alongside a driver—Mason’s personal favorite since he’s not quite ready to drive yet.

This popular Branson attraction made for a whole evening of family fun, so I definitely recommend that you add it to your Branson bucket list, especially if you bring your kids.

go-karting in Branson #hosted #Branson.com #gokarts

Shepherd of the Hills Inspiration Tower

If you want to see Branson from above, I recommend you check out Inspiration Tower, which as my kids aptly pointed out, looks like the “Paw Patrol tower”. For just $8, you can take the elevator to the top of this 230-foot concrete tower and take in sweeping views of Branson and the surrounding areas. And for those of you adventure-seekers with older kids, know that the tower is also the jumping-off point for the Vigilante Extreme Ziprider, a thrilling half-mile ride through the sky on the highest zipline in the state of Missouri. Bring on the adventure!  

Two boys looking out over Branson in Inspiration Tower #hosted #branson

Silver Dollar City Amusement Park

No family-centered vacation to Branson with kids can be complete without a trip to an amusement park, right? That’s why we took a whole day to hit the Silver Dollar City amusement park. It’s a theme park designed to be reminiscent of an 1880s silver mine. There’s lots of fun rides and attractions for kids of all ages, and you can even get discounted tickets if you take a 20-ounce bottle of any Coke product to the ticket window.

Here are some inside tips we learned that you can take advantage of when planning your trip to Silver Dollar City:

  • SDC has free parking! It’s one of the few theme parks in the country to offer this.
  • Download the Silver Dollar City app  

The app uses GPS to show you exactly where the nearest restrooms and restaurants are, along with up-to-the-minute wait times for all attractions. It also has a feature where you can create a wishlist of attractions you’re interested in. So handy!

  • SDC allows outside coolers, food and beverages, so stock up to save!
  • There are phone charging stations at Fireman’s landing.  
  • Take advantage of smaller crowds immediately after the park opens by enjoying breakfast at Molly’s Mill restaurant, which opens at 8:30 AM.
  • Go to Grand Expo during lunchtime, since it’ll be much less crowded then.
  • Lie down on the bed in grandfather’s mansion to see a hidden message

Silver Dollar City Theme Park #silverdollarcity

The Amazing Pet Show

If your kids love animals (and honestly, what kid doesn’t?), be sure to stop by this fun pet show. It takes place in the Grand Country Music Hall, and tickets can be purchased at the Branson Travel Office website. You’ll find lots of cats, dogs and parrots performing cool tricks as part of the show, and here’s a fun fact – many of the pets in the show are rescue animals! During the show’s intermission, your kids can get a photo with a poodle, which Logan couldn’t wait to do. I’m personally excited to have this photo to show the first girlfriend Logan brings home.  My boys still talk about this show. It was one of their favorites.

Little boy with poodle at Amazing Pets in Branson

Fun Spot Farm Mini Golf

Experience life “down on the farm” at this fun, family-centered mini golf center right on the strip in downtown Branson. My boys love anything farm-related, so they were right at home here. The 18-hole course was fun and just challenging enough that the kids could enjoy the game without feeling frustrated.

If the afternoon sun gets a bit hot, there’s an adjoining game center that has lots of video and arcade-type games for kids. Load money onto game cards and let them play for as long as they want.

Mini golf in Branson, MO #hosted #minigolf

Top of the Rock, Lost Canyon Cave & Nature Trail

For a fantastic outdoor adventure, a tour through Lost Canyon Cave simply can’t be beat. This two-mile, golf cart tour leads you on a paved path through the amazing geological features of Lost Canyon in the Ozark mountains. You’ll see incredible rock formations and beautiful waterfalls. The tickets are a bit pricey ($28 for adults and $12 for kids) but trust me, it’s totally worth it! This was one of our favorite attractions of the entire trip.

 

Where we stayed:  

The Hilton Branson Convention Center

For this trip, we decided to stay at the Hilton Branson Convention Center. You’ll recognize it by the Welcome to Branson mural located directly outside the hotel. 

Branson Roadtrip with Kids

Aside from being a beautiful, well appointed hotel, the Hilton was fabulous for its convenient location. In fact, location is the name of the game here, with the hotel centrally located within walking distance to historic downtown Branson. There’s lots of great shows it’s also right across the street from Branson Landing, which boasts great shopping and dining. If you don’t feel like walking, you’re in luck, since the trolley drives right by the hotel and offers rides to all of these attractions.

There are two fabulous pools—one indoor and one outdoor—that are big enough for a large crowd, and cabanas can be reserved in advance for $75.

Lobby inside Hilton Branson, MO

Ride Sparky the Trolley

And speaking of trolleys, you can’t visit downtown Branson without taking a ride on Sparky, the town’s resident trolley. #RideSparky. Sparky’s free, and offers 13 stops that take you all around downtown Branson. My boys love trolleys, so this was a must-do for us!

The Branson Landing

Since our hotel was directly across the street from Branson Landing, we definitely had to spend some time there. There’s so much to see and do! There’s Parakeet Pete’s, which is a zipline that takes you up over the waterfront and allows you to get a birds-eye view of the entire downtown area. At night, the zipline lights up for a trippy, zippy ride in the dark.

Other fun Branson Landing attractions include Steampunk Balloons, where you can experience what it’s like riding in a hot air balloon without the dizzying heights, and Buster’s Old Time Photos, because who doesn’t love dressing up like an outlaw every now and again? We loved Branson Landing, and found something fun for the whole family here. They even have a  Bellagio-style Water Fountain Show, every hour on the hour.

Wondering where we ate on our kid-friendly Branson vacation? Here’s the lineup!

Rocco’s pizza –fantastic New York-style pizza which tons of different recipes.

Cantina Laredo, Landing – easily the best queso and fresh guacamole made right at your table!

Mr B’s Ice cream parlor – a cute 50’s-style ice cream parlor within walking distance from the hotel.  

Cakes-n-Creams 50’s Diner – another retro spot, serving delicious burgers and shakes, with authentic juke boxes at each table.

Billy Gail’s Cafe – Wonderful, country-style breakfast joint on the way to Silver Dollar City with pancakes larger than a plate.

hot air ballon in Branson, MO
Steampunk Balloons
Two boys eating cookies #bransonlanding
Cookies at the Hilton!

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Brunch Bunch

On Sunday, May 6th, with the help of my fabulous co-hosts Jen Znosko, Amy Schuster, and Julie Fowler, I hosted a Mother’s Day brunch to benefit Westchester elementary.  It was a fun way to raise money for the school while also taking time to celebrate moms who work so hard for their families and communities. The goal of the party was to allow moms to have fun and celebrate Mother’s Day free of distractions for a few hours.

Just like the selfie scavenger hunt we hosted back in April, this was also a fundraising sign-up party. In honor of the beautiful spring weather, we created a light brunch menu. First up were some cute “mom-osas” served with pink-and-white straws and “spa” water (fruit-infused water). Along with plenty of brunch finger foods, a simply decadent chocolate tasting courtesy of Bissinger’s Chocolates was a perfect way to round out the menu.

Mom-osa brunch

We wanted to keep the brunch menu simple yet delicious, so we chose finger foods and appetizers that everyone was sure to enjoy. Nothing is more simple and scrumptious brunch food than skewers. You’ll see there were several on the Mother’s Day brunch menu, and they certainly didn’t disappoint!

Here’s what was on the menu:

“Mom-osas”

The perfect fun brunch drink to celebrate amongst fellow hard working moms.

Mother's Day Brunch

 

Mothers Day Brunch

Momosa brunch

Spa Water

Mother's Day Brunch

We loved having two different types of infused water to keep things fresh and light. My favorites were Detox Cucumber (cucumber infused water) and Citrus (oranges, lemons, and basil).  These H2Os were beautiful and refreshing!

Veggie Cups and Dip

Mother's Day Brunch

Veggie cups

The veggie cups with dip were simple, delicious and healthy; a can’t-miss brunch food idea!  Simply put some dip in the bottom of clear plastic cups, then place carrot and celery sticks, broccoli and a tiny skewer of grape tomatoes in the cup on top of the dip. These made such a bright, colorful, and fun addition to our brunch food.

Bacon Skewers

Bacon Skewers

If you want an amazing brunch item that looks simple but is anything but simple in the taste department, then trust me—these bacon skewers MUST for your next gathering! They were spicy, sweet and simply amazing! Amy found these taste bud electrifiers on Pinterest, and I couldn’t stop eating them. Get the recipe here

Yogurt parfaits with Irene’s granola

Irene's granola parfait

Here’s another simple brunch food idea that was beautiful and easy to assemble. For our yogurt parfaits, we simply layered yogurt over fresh-cut fruit, then topped it off with Irene’s soft granola for a little bowl of heaven!  Irene’s granola is made locally in Kirkwood and is amazing.

Quiche

Momosa brunch

You can’t host a brunch without serving quiche, right? It’s a great brunch food since it’s filling, but pairs perfectly with finger foods and appetizers. For our quiche, we decided to offer some variety with a two-pack from Costco. We chose the spinach-artichoke and cheddar-broccoli flavors from La Terra Fina, and we were super pleased.  They were healthy and delicious!  Check out their site for a coupon.  My friend Jen said the spinach-artichoke dip is amazing.  I can’t wait to try that too!

Fruit Kabobs

fruit kabobs

Who doesn’t love a fruit kabobs?   These little gems were on our brunch menu! So light, so delicious, and so easy! Cut the fruit and skewer.

Donut Hole pops

Donut Pops

This was an easy brunch treat to assemble and provided such a fun presentation.  My friend Julie bought a box of Munchkins donut holes from Dunkin Donuts.  We skewered each one and served.  Perfection!

All these foods were super easy for a busy mom who doesn’t have time to be slaving away in the kitchen.  These would be great ideas if you are hosting a baby or wedding shower, graduation parties or having brunch with your favorite girls.  Whatever your event, this easy and simple menu will give you more time to toast with your friends.  Cheers!

XOXO

Sarah~

Special thanks to my co-hostesses Jen, Amy, and Julie.
The businesses who made this party special:  Elizabeth from Gladly designs for all the beautiful signs and food tents, Irene’s granola for the amazing granola.

Plus all the amazing businesses that donated to the Mother’s Survival Kit swag bags:

Swag Bag
Kidzxplor, Yoga 6, Fit Flavors, Chick fil a- Des Peres, Bissinger’s,  Marley Lilly, The Daily Bread Cafe, Wee Tutoring, Kendra Scott, Shine Tan, European Wax, Soap Box and Prana Yoga.

We did a self-care accountability activity check out that post here.

Photos from @missverajeanae_

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Who is excited about the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale?
I know I am which is why I booked my appointment with Amber Kemp, the Nordstrom personal stylist in St Louis.  

If you are like me and time is the most valuable asset you have to call Amber to make an appointment.  Her number is 314-452-6589 Her email is: Amber.R.Kemp@nordstrom.com To see my previous post with Amber and to get her list for wardrobe basics click here.   

Why call Amber?  

  1. Her service is FREE.  Why would you not use her??????  
  2. She will listen to what you want and have your sizes ready and waiting for you in the fitting room.  
  3. She’s a stylist.  She’ll help you pull it all together for the look you want.  

In the end, you’ll end up saving time and money.  Here are a few of my favorite looks from this sale.  

I’ll be wearing this look straight to Eckert’s pumpkin patch this fall.

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

Sperry rain boots | DenimMoto jacket | More love graphic T | Flannel | Flannel (similar) | Statement necklace
Panama hat
This moto jacket is my favorite piece from this outfit.  The price, the fit, the removable hood, it’s such a fun jacket.

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

This dress is perfect now and into fall.  How perfect is this look for brunch with your girls at The clover and the bee?  

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

Floral dress | Denim jacket | Booties | Gold earrings | KS Favorite |

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

Every mom needs a superwoman shirt.  How perfect is this look for weekend soccer games and trips to the Kirkwood farmers market?

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

Graphic T | Cammo jacket | KS earrings | Crossbody | Boots | Denim

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

A simple but updated business casual look for work.  Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

Leggings | Sweater | Kendra Scott pendant | Earrings 
Shoe options:  Mule | Studded pump | Kentvi sandals

Perfect night out with your girlfriends at Billy G’s patio outfit.

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

Denim | Lace top | Booties | Leopard Clutch | KS earrings

Perfect night out with your girlfriends at Billy G’s sitting by the fire sipping on red wine outfit.  Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

Denim | Lace top | Booties | Leopard Clutch | KS earrings | Suede jacket

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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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Staying accountable to self-care over the summer.

Hey ladies.  I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation after being with my boys non-stop for 10 days.  We had so much fun but I’m exhausted.  Since a vacation is not possible my goal this week is all about self-care.  Can anyone relate?

Beach Vacay, Gulf Shores

A few weeks back I co-hosted a brunch for some other 1st-grade mom friends.  I wanted to have an activity that encouraged these moms to engage in a little self-care over the summer. As hectic as mom life is all year ‘round, somehow the summer months always seem to be the most frantic of all. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you’re suddenly tasked with entertaining your school-aged kids all day, every day—no easy task! And if you’re a working mom, it’s a challenge; I literally made a spreadsheet of what camps Logan will be at each week. You’ve got to schedule camps, sitters, and activities to fill all those hours your kids used to be in school while you’re at work so they are not plugged into the TV all day!

Gladly designs

With all that madness going on, it’s so easy to put ourselves last. Many of us can’t remember the last time we took five minutes to decompress and just, well, think our thoughts. With that in mind, I partnered with Gladly Designs to create a stack of beautiful note cards for my event. Then, at the brunch, I handed a card to each mom and asked her to write down at least one personal goal she wanted to complete over the summer or a self-care task that she’d like to accomplish. Maybe that’s meeting up for a summer MNO happy hour, going to yoga, or getting a pedicure; whatever their goal was, I asked the moms to write it on their card, address it to themselves.

Gladly designs

Gladly designs

The activity was a challenge for some and fun for others.  I loved hearing what they are willing to commit to doing for themselves. At the end of the summer, I’ll mail each of the moms her card so she’ll get a chance to check in with herself and see if she completed her task. I can only hope that they all do.

My question for you is:  What self-care do you want to commit to doing for yourself this summer?  You deserve it.  Here are a few of mine:

Meet with my health coach
Try a new yoga class
Float in a float tank
Get a facial

Thank you to Gladly designs for partnering on this activity.  To see all her amazing design work check out the Etsy shop here and be sure to sign up for a discount coupon on your first order.

Below are a few things she designed for the party and if you missed the brunch details check them out here.

Gladly Designs

Gladly Designs

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