Sand Alphabet Dig

Thanks to the Corona outbreak, my kids have now been out of school for going on three weeks. My older kids are still waiting for the school to finalize their plan for continuing education, but my toddler is BORED. She doesn’t understand that we won’t be going back to school this year. So, I decided this is a good opportunity to put my Early Childhood Degree to good use.

The biggest thing to remember with young kids (and probably older kids too now that I think of it) is that they learn so much through play. I will not be sitting my three year old down to work on a bunch of worksheets. We may throw one in here and there but the most important thing I can do is let her play!

This activity is super easy. Here’s what I used:

  • Sand
  • A plastic tub
  • Letter magnets
  • A piece of paper
  • Page protector (optional)
  • A marker
  • Shovel and sifter

I had all of these things on hand. If you don’t have sand you would use rice or rocks or beans or dirt or whatever you can find. Be creative!

I started with writing her name on the paper and covering the paper with a page protector. This isn’t necessary but it’ll make the paper last longer.

Then we dumped the sand in the tub, and added the letters. I stirred them around to bury them.

Then I explained what we were doing and let her go for it!

Also, remember that their attention span is not super long so if they don’t actually finish it’s OK. My kid gave up after finding a few letters and now she is burying herself in sand. 🤷🏻‍♀️ The point is that we played, and we did something new. (And it wasn’t on the iPad! Score!)

An Afternoon in New Orleans

Recently, my hubby and I took a Carnival Cruise out of New Orleans, LA. Basically the whole entire reason why we chose NOLA as our port was so that we could see a little bit of the city before taking off.

When we pulled into NOLA we were starving, so we went straight to the French Quarter. Hi, don’t be like us. Eat a damn Snickers or something because being hangry and trying to find parking in a new city is frustrating as hell. We ended up DRIVING DOWN BOURBON STREET which meant that I’m surprised my husband didn’t divorce me then and there. Just because. The streets are tight, there are cars everywhere. It’s all confusing. Find a parking place before heading into the Quarter. A little walking isn’t so bad. Just be prepared to pay for parking no matter where you park.

Once we were out of the car, it was 100% worth it. I have some kind of fascination with old buildings and the French Quarter has plenty. It was a little rainy, but still comfortable outside. I loved taking in the sights.

We settled on a cool little restaurant named Bourbon Heat for our lunch. They had live entertainers at 1:00 in the afternoon singing jazz music, the employees were dancing in the front of the building welcoming customers. It was an amazing expericence. And this view.

Our lunch view at Bourbon Heat.
Gator Po Boy

My Gator Po Boy was incredible. After eating we walked around a bit before heading back to the car. We had to make a quick Walmart run for things I forgot.. when we pulled up we discovered that we had a construction nail in our tire. So we ran to a tire shop (NTB) where they informed us that the tire was too thin to patch, we would need a new tire, and they didn’t have any in stock…. So we were basically SOL in NOLA… So, down the road we went. We went to NOLA Tire who patched us, and checked all the remaining tires and gave me a free valve cap for my missing one. For less than 20 dollars and we were out in 20 minutes.

After that fun little disaster was over, we went to check into our hotel room. We booked a room at the Hampton Inn and Suites Convention Center. It was a little far from the French Quarter to be walking there, but I would 100% stay there again. The hotel was gorgeous. We were close to the downtown area so we had food, sight seeing and we could walk down to the Riverwalk Marketplace for beignets and coffee at Cafe Du Monde. Also, they shuttled us to and from the port for our cruise… and kept our car in their parking lot. It was the very best service.

I loved this square across from the hotel.
The Scrap House
Any insight on this would be great! I can’t find any information!

Walking to the River Street Market was definitely a highlight of our trip. I loved seeing the Scrap House Monument and doing some people watching. But the real treat was Beigents and Coffee from Cafe Du Monde. They tasted like a giant piece of funnel cake and were pretty much heavenly. After we ate we bought t-shirts for the kids and walked back to our room.

For dinner we trotted down the street for some pizza at Tommy G’s. Justin had a Buffalo Chicken Pizza and I had Lobster Ravioli with Nola Cosmo. Probably the best Lobster Ravioli I’ve ever had.

All in all we had a good time in NOLA and I think everyone should visit there at least once. I have friends that love it there. I’m more of a small beach town girl, but I love seeing new places and beautiful old buildings so NOLA was a must see. I wish we would have had more time to explore the French Market and the French Quarter a little more, but I had to remind myself that this was just a stop along to the way to our first cruise!

Have you ever been to New Orleans?

Book Review: Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire By Jen Hatmaker

Hello my friends! It’s me. Fresh out of my reading cocoon that I have been rolled up in all night while finishing Jen Hatmaker’s newest book: Fierce, Free and Full of Fire.

I was recently honored with the opportunity to help launch Jen Hatmaker’s newest book baby. This mean that I received an advance copy of the book so I can tell the world what I think of it. Well, hello, I knew I would love it because, Jen Hatmaker.

I started following Jen on social media and reading her books (generally in one sitting) probably five years ago. I was immediately drawn to her humor.. I honestly had no idea that Christians were even allowed to be funny. I guess I thought they were supposed to only talk about Bible Verses and eat communion wafers. Little did I know that they could write hilarious words that speak to my soul and make me feel a little less alone in this giant, weird world.

I’ve always been one of the first in time to read Jen’s newest work. I’m also a member of her book club. I promise I’m not a weird stalker but it kinda sounds like that’s where this is headed. Anyway, when the chance arose to be on her launch team, it was a no brainer.

I received my digital copy of her book and dove right in. After reading the first two chapters, I read them over again because they were that good. And it was a good thing because this quote hit me harder and deeper the second time around.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the life I want to lead. I want to love and have open arms. I am sick of the judgy crap that turns me away from the church so fast it makes my neck hurt. I love my current church and I am so grateful for them, but damn, some of my previous church experiences make my heart hurt. What if I had give up? What if I had believed that God didn’t love me because I’m not perfect? This isn’t ok.

Jen covers so many topics and I’m sure it was all written with me in mind since we are obviously the best of friends. She talks about owning who you are, body imagine, deserving to be treated right, parenting and marriage and so many things. There is help in this book for all of us.

I am ready to put these things into practice. Some, I have already started. Some I need to sit down and chew on for a minute.

I highly, super mega encourage you to add this one to your list. Order the pre-order. You won’t regret it!

*This post includes affiliate links. If you purchase anything through my link I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

10 Things I learned on my first cruise

So… we just got back from a Carnival cruise about two weeks ago and the first thing I said was “we probably won’t go on another one…” Right? Well guess who booked another cruise for next December for our 10th anniversary? Yep, that’s me. Obviously the last one was a trial run and a good opportunity for us to learn things for next time. Here are the things I definitely learned for next time:

  1. Bring a plug adapter. We have one plug in our room. Not one outlet. One plug. We could charge our phones on our multi USB port OR we could use our fan. I ordered this one from amazon. It has USB’s and outlets so I’m already loving it. It’ll be a permanent part of my travel stuff now.
  2. Don’t bring 1000 pairs of shoes. I ended up wearing my sandals, flip flops and sneakers. My ankle boots and high heels were basically a waste of luggage. However, I will probably bring water shoes for excursions. The shore at Mr. Sancho’s was hard to walk on barefoot.
  3. While we are at it, chill with overpacking of productive stuff. I brought 3 books, my laptop (for the car trip, never opened it) and my ipad. I read one chapter in one book and touched nothing else. I joked that it was in case I caught Corona Virus and had to be quarantined for two weeks. This did not happen. (Thank God)
  4. I did not need a blanket. I bring one when we travel because my husband likes the hotel room to be 23 degrees. The cabin wasn’t hot, but also not cold. And if you ask for an extra blanket they will get you one.
  5. We did not need towels. I packed beach towels for Cozumel. The ship leaves towels for you to use on deck or at port. You just have to return them. That room we could have saved in my suitcase would have been fantastic.
  6. Just because you have the drink package (which is highly recommend) doesn’t mean you have to “get your monies worth”. 6 mojitos after dinner was maybe too much. I did love the drink package though. No worrying about budgeting. And it includes soda, and specialty coffee. Order a drink and don’t like it? Who cares. Order something else.
  7. We did bring a small fan. I have trouble sleeping in total silence. And it keeps the air in the room moving. We got this one from amazon.
  8. If you want a snack, get it before 11 pm. After 11 Pizza was the only thing opened and I did not love the pizza on the Valor.
  9. The photo package is not a must do. We bought a photo package for $99. After formal night we looked at our pictures and decided that we wasted our money. Some photos were good but not anything I was dying to purchase. We had to really search to choose our 5 photos, and that was after having a few drinks and running from backdrop to backdrop getting goofy photos on the last available night. Next time we will just purchase one or two as needed.
  10. Enjoy and relax. Your first cruise is a learning experience. Once you’ve been on one you know what to expect for the next one!

Cruise Recap: Sea Day #2

Recently, my hubby and I went on our first cruise. We left from New Orleans with Carnival and visited Cozumel, Mexico. Recap from Port Day here.

On our second Sea Day and really the last day of our cruise, I may have woken up with a slight hangover. Turns out trying to “get your monies worth” of your drink package by drinking 6 mojitos in 6 hours isn’t a great idea. Who would have thought. Weird.

Basically, I spent most of the day napping, sipping Sprite and feeling like garbage. The effects of eating junk for three days were catching up with me so I went in search of a salad from the buffet. I had no idea the buffet would be so good! I was able to make a huge salad. Getting some vegetables in my stomach made me feel human almost immediately. Next time I will for sure be utilizing the buffet more.

The rest of the day was spent walking around and watching. People watching, searching for dolphins (no luck!) and just enjoying our last bit of Sea Time.

After our last dinner with our friends we went to pick up the last of our photos from our photo package. And we watched a couple of shows. There was an 80’s Rock Show in the theater and 90’s night in the lobby. They were both really good. Also, we caught part of the comedy show. So funny and definitely not kid friendly. I feel like this is the night I finally relaxed a bit. The rocking of the boat was still annoying but less bothersome.

I will say I am so glad our dinnermates warned us of what to expect when the boat turned into the Mississippi River. We were standing by the photo lab waiting to pick up pictures when we made the turn. Everyone leaned hard to the right and even knowing to expect it I was still kinda wondering if I was going to have to learn to swim real quick.

Last but not least we ran to the deli and got sandwiches for a late night snack. We were so over the pizza and refused to be be fooled by not making it there before 11 again. They were sold out of many things, but I was able to get a grilled cheese sandwich so I was happy as any 8 year old could be.

The next morning was disembarkation day! We woke up early (6!) and got ready to go back to reality. We had packed the night before so all we had to do in the morning was get ready and get our alcohol. (They keep any alcohol you buy in Mexico and you can pick it up in the morning.) Justin went to get our booze while I put on my makeup and did my hair. They start letting people off at 7:30, and they want you out of your stateroom by 8:30 so as soon as I was ready we went to the buffet to get some breakfast and wait for our turn. We were on the second floor and they start letting people from the first floor off first. It helps to carry your own luggage too. Otherwise, if you check your bags you will be waiting a while.

Our floor was called by 8:00 and we were outta there. Once we went through customs we called the hotel to pick us up. We had stayed in the Hampton Inn and Suites downtown Convention Center. They let us leave our car parked there for $14 a day. When they dropped us off our car was ready and waiting for us. Perfection. We were on the road home in no time.

Just because this is the end of our recap doesn’t mean it’s the end! Stay tuned. Next time I will share a summary of all my tips and tricks I learned on this trip. Plus, I need to share our time in NOLA!

See You Soon!

Cruise Recap: Port Day Cozumel

Since we just took a short cruise, we only had one port stop, Cozumel!

I’m going to be honest. We were kind of nervous about what to expect. This is the first time I had ever traveled outside of the US and I didn’t know what I was going to be walking into.

Oh also, did you know that you do not have to have a passport to cruise to another country. Is it recommended, however if you are an un-organized disaster who forgets to apply for a passport until 5 weeks before you leave, then you just wing it. If you don’t have a passport, then I don’t suggest missing the boat because you will have to find your own way home… which would be a pain without a passport.

Anyway, as soon as we got off the boat there were Carnival photographers EVERY WHERE. Hop into more than one photo. Especially if you bought the photo package. We found that our pictures so far had not been amazing, and I regret not taking more during formal night! (more on that later)

Once we made our way down the pier were walked through a store filled floor to ceiling with cosmetics and alcohol and vanilla and everything your little heart could desire.

We pushed our way through with promises that we would check things out on the way back. Who wants to carry a bottle of vanilla all over Mexico?

Once we got out on the other side we got sniffed by some drug dogs and then we were free to figure out what we were doing. We walked through the port while being called from every direction to check out their diamonds and taste test tequila, but if you said no thank you, they left you alone and everything was literally fine.

We had reservations for Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club so we found a taxi, and off we went! He did confirm that we had reservations, because it was a busy day there apparently. It was a $17 cab ride for the two of us, we gave him $20.

Once we arrived they took our name, and confirmed our reservation. It’s $60 per person for unlimited drinks, food and beach access. As soon as we walked in our waiter found us (I’m so mad that I can’t remember his name!) and he led us right to our table. We hadn’t had breakfast yet, so being the mature responsible adults that we are, we ordered french fries and margaritas. With guacamole, of course. Best fries I had for breakfast this whole trip. Possibly ever.

After we ate our nutritious meal, we changed clothes and headed down to the beach. The water was cold, but like a pool, once you got in you got used to it. I’ve never really swam in the sea before, so kicking back and floating felt incredible.

Once we got done in the water we grabbed our drinks and went back to our table to enjoy some lunch. By then I had drank a strawberry margarita and a Miami Vice. They were both really good. The Miami Vice was better than it was on the cruise ship. Here are the menus:

Food Menu!
Drink Menu

Justin had chicken tacos and I had shrimp tacos. Easily this was my favorite meal for the entire trip. After eating we got back in the water for a little bit before drying off and heading back into town.

Hands down I 10/10 recommend Mr.Sancho’s. They have it all. You can eat, swim, relax, play on inflatables, ride horses, get a massage.. whatever. If I’m ever back in Cozumel I will absolutely go back. I felt safe and relaxed the whole time we were there.

Before leaving I had to have a shot glass to add to our liquor cabinet. What I wasn’t prepared for was the people trying to get us to go into their shops on the way out. I don’t love to buy a lot of clutter so we politely looked and then got out of the there. We took a taxi back to town, same price as before.

When we got back to the port we walked around a little bit. I was super excited to see these iguanas.

On the way out I saw some ladies trying to selfie in front of this sign. Pro tip: If you see someone struggling offer to take their photo in exchange for the same. Then you don’t have to try to take a selfie with a sign!

As promised we ran through the shop and bought a bottle of Mexican Tequila and some vanilla before boarding early. Out of fear that we were going to get left. We checked our booze and then I took a nap. Justin watched the pier runners from the Lido Deck.

After my afternoon nap (sunburns make me sleepy.. it does not matter that I applied SPF 100 3 times) we got ready for dinner. First we went to look at our pictures from the previous night, which is when I wanted to DIE. I bought the photo package when I got the beverage package. Gathering all of our photos from the trip so far, I found that choosing 5 pictures was going to DIFFICULT. We decided to run around after dinner and take as many pictures as possible.

So we met our table mates for dinner and then we ran around and took a bunch of pictures. There is no pain like waiting until the next day to see how they turned out. ugh. I wore my new faux leather leggings from Amazon that night. Seriously any kind of clothing goes. Want to wear a cocktail dress every night? Do it. Want to wear jeans and sneakers? Do it. As long as you aren’t trying to wear flip flops and a swimsuit into the dining room for dinner you are fine.

After our photo sessions we met up with our dinner friends again and went to the Love and Marriage Show. It was actually super funny and a lot of fun to watch. I might have maybe had too many mojitos (had to get my 5-6 to get my monies worth of my drink package, right?). Then we ate some pizza and headed off to bed. Definitely a fun night!

Have you ever been to Cozumel? What’s your favorite excursion?

  • This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything using my link I may receive a commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Cruise Recap- Day 2- Sea Day

Today as my husband and I were reflecting on our trip, we are thinking we may want to give another cruise a try after all. It’s hard to say no to all cruises based off of one Eh Experience, right?

Day 2 was Sea Day! We started the day by immediately running to running to the Lido deck in search of Coffee. The free coffee in the dining room is actually not awful. If you want/need fancy flavored creamers make sure to bring some single serving packs with you. Otherwise, you are stuck with sugar and cream.

After getting our caffeine, we went we went to look at the water. Oh my goodness it was gorgeous. The water was so blue… for sure a lot different that the Mississippi River.

I bought the dress from a friend, but I know Amazon has them too!

After taking in the view we went to the dining room for Sea Day Brunch. I had been told a least a hundred times not to miss out on Sea Day Brunch. I was annoying about how important it was that we did not miss it.

Sea Day Brunch

When we arrived in the dining room, they asked if we minded sitting with other people. Of course not! So we were seated at a table with some other cruisers. I ordered steak and eggs, and honestly seeing this picture made me laugh again. The steak is sitting on top of a half of a tomato, with fries, brown gravy, eggs and a dollop of soggy spinach tucked under my eggs. Also, I had a mimosa that tasted like Bud Light. We skipped the second sea day brunch.

The rest of our Sea Day was spent people watching, searching for dolphins (no luck!), and little bit of relaxing on the Serenity deck. If I did it over, I would have found a chair on the serenity deck and claimed it nice and early. I wish I could have gotten some more reading time in!

Reading a book by one of my favorite local authors! Check out her series on Amazon, if you haven’t yet!

Moijito at 10:30 am? Fine. Twist my arm.

The evening of our first day was Formal Night! Basically this is the whole reason for going on a cruise. Forcing my husband to wear a suit. It was so fun to dress up and take some photos. I really wish we had taken more! Here is the formal picture we purchased. Love it!

After dinner we spent the evening with some local friends that were on the same cruise. We really liked having other people around that we knew! Overall it was a fun night! Still some rocking but I was getting a little more used to it. The motion sickness medicine I brought with me told me to not take with alcohol soooooo I chose alcohol. ( I mean, we got the drink package…) Next time I will get some patches!

If you’ve cruised before, what’s your favorite Sea Day activity?