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The Best Biscuit Recipe

When Derek and I moved to North Carolina (seven years ago this month!), I felt this obligation to get really invested into the southern culture and cuisine. My first introduction to southern cooking was biscuit making. This was the first recipe we ever tried, nailed it on the first batch and have been making them regularly ever since.

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I've used these as a side for soups, salads, and other light meals. I've also made them as part of our chicken biscuit pot pie, and countless other times for biscuits and sausage gravy. They're probably the easiest biscuits you can make, and are our go-to when we need a side dish in a hurry.

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If you need a simple six ingredient homemade biscuit recipe that takes less than 30 minutes. I've got you covered.

Ingredients:
2 Cups Flour
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon White Sugar
1/3 Cup Shortening
1 Cup Milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425ยบ

Whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Then add milk and shortening into the flour mixture. Using an electric mixer, mix the ingredients together until well combined.

Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Using your hands, gently pat the biscuit dough out into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter, or the open side of a glass, cut out the biscuits. Gather up any remaining dough, and repeat the process until the dough is gone.

Place your biscuits on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and bake in the oven for 13-15 minutes. Serve warm.

168 Hours Book Review

January always feels like a good month to read a book about productivity to help fast track you to where you want to go within the next year. My friend Janssen is doing an online bookclub this year, and January's book was 168 Hours: You have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. The premise of the book is that you have a 168 hours, which is a lot more time than you think, and that you can get a lot more done in that timeframe if you're honest with your time, prioritize correctly, and make room for things that matter most to you.

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This book has nine chapters, that are divided into four parts. Each part gave me so many amazing thoughts, and I'm going to try share my book review, by breaking it into each section.

Your 168 Hours:
The book started off by saying how we're all a lot more busier than we appear to be. There are many people who report working 50-60 hour weeks, when in reality, they only work about 45 of those hours. I found myself resonating with this. As a blogger, and social media manager who works from home, it feels like I'm working every second of the day. It feels like I'm working 80 hours some weeks. The reality is, it feels that way because my mind is constantly thinking about my long list of to-dos. In actuality, I'm only really working maybe 30 hours a week. This helped me realize that work would feel a lot shorter if I was more streamlined in my work processes, and checked email and instagram less. Checking these things constantly feels like I'm working, but the reality is, unless I'm typing an email or posting to instagram, that's not work, and I can be spending that time focusing on other things.

The other part of this section talked about our core competencies and how we make time for the things that are important to us. For me, I want to be present with my kids, have a good marriage, blog and provide income for our family, and have time to read and run. If there are things that get in the way of me giving my all to these five things, I have to be honest and decide if that's worth my time, and if it's not, be okay with either not doing it, or outsourcing it to someone who can.

She recommends creating a time log where you keep track of what you're doing for an entire week, so that you can see where you may waste time, and how many hours per week you spend on various tasks. This was eye opening for me to see the number of hours I waste doing certain things, and how there really is plenty of time for me to do the things I love.

Work:
Part two was all about work, and particularly how to know if you're in the right job. One part I really loved is when it talked about some people's current jobs may reflect things that they did as a child. I remember I used to write fake magazines on our family computer growing up, and make these powerpoint presentations that chronologically chronologically dictated the less than fascinating moments in my life. It's funny to see now how I basically do that same thing on a much larger scale. Turns out, I love what I do, and I'm in the right job.

This section of the book also talked about how if there is a part of your job that you don't like, or that takes time away from you doing parts of your work that you enjoy, you should outsource it. A lot of bloggers hire virtual assistants, photographers, social media managers, etc... up until recently, my blog has been just Derek and I. I write all the blog posts, take 90% of the pictures (Derek takes them when I need to be in the pictures, this is his only role here), do all my own social media, keep up on emails, negotiate deals with brands, etc... One thing I needed to beef up this year was search engine optimization. I felt I didn't have time for this, and that I didn't want to be the one going through all my old 1200 posts and making them rank hire on google, so I tried hiring it out. Turns out I don't think the guy I hired to do it did a very good job, so now it's back on my list of things to-do. But it was a good exercise in me trying to outsource something, even if it only lasted a week.

Home:
The third section of the book was our homes and making them efficient for ourselves, and again, if there are things that need to be done that you either don't have time for, cut into something you'd rather do, or you just don't want to do it, you shouldn't feel guilty about outsourcing.

I actually really love cleaning my home, folding laundry, and cooking meals for my family. It is a really therapeutic activity, and I don't mind doing it. These things truly bring me joy. That being said I don't love grocery shopping, and even doing Walmart grocery pickup was becoming more of a hassle, so we now have all of our groceries delivered.

The back story is this- When we moved over the summer, the closest Walmart to us became seven miles and two towns away. I could have done grocery pickup at another store, but didn't want to pay the $5 fee, so kept doing grocery pickup at Walmart. The drive was a huge time waster, and then I'd have to bring the groceries up a flight of stairs into our home, and lug Kinsley up and down the stairs to get her in and out of the car. It was a process.

Then a few months ago we bought a new car with not-so-great gas mileage. I calculated the money I would spend in gas versus the $12 monthly fee for Walmart to deliver to my home unlimited amounts of time to my house, and it would cost me more than $12 in gas to drive to the store once a week, than it would be for Walmart to deliver my groceries whenever I wanted. It was a no-brainer, and we've been getting the groceries delivered ever since. Zero guilty.

168 Hours Day By Day:
This last section of the book mostly summarized the earlier sections, and then talked about individuals who applied these principals in their lives. This allowed them to do more of the things they prefer. It was amazing to see how small changes for these individuals had a huge impact on their lives. This provided a huge opportunity for me to evaluate my own life and see where I can make changes as well.

Have you had a chance to read this book? I'm giving away my copy on Instagram today, so keep your eyes out on my feed for a chance to win!

Weekly Menu Plan Jan 27-Feb 2

Time for another round of weekly menu planning. I got a lot of questions last week about how these meals work in our family and who eats what. The breakfast options, while certainly can be for the entire family, are mostly just for me in our home. The kids eat cereal most days before school, and I make myself breakfast when they get home. The lunch options typically feed Derek and myself, and Kyle eats hot lunch at school, and Kinsley eats whatever she'd like for lunch when she gets home. We all eat the same things for dinner each night.

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We try to eat as many healthy meals as possible, every night of the week. Meals that take longer, we prepare in the slow cooker. Having a weekly meal plan really helps us to save money, and have great ideas for what to eat throughout the week. I always need meal ideas laid out ahead of time or else I just won't eat, or eat junk food. That's why I try and plan some easy meal ideas for myself for breakfast and lunch each week so that I know I'm not skipping out until our big family meal each night.


Monday:

B: Two Eggs Scrambled with fruit

Tuesday:
B: Two Eggs Scrambled with fruit
D: Chicken Enchiladas w/ Black Beans

Wednesday:

Thursday:
B: Oatmeal
D: Wonton Soup w/ carrot sticks

Friday:
B: Greek Yogurt w/ Berries, Nuts, and Honey
D: EAT OUT

Saturday:
B: Everything Bagel

Sunday:
L: Buffalo Chicken Dip w/ Chips Carrots and Celery

You can see all of our other weekly menu plans here!

How I've Increased My Pinterest Views 500% in One Month

A lot of people get the idea that in order to be a successful blogger you need to have a massive social media following, particularly on Instagram. Ever since I shared how much money I made blogging last year, I've had people of all different sized platforms tell me ways in which I could improve. The interesting thing was that your Instagram size doesn't matter. There were people bigger and smaller than me offering advice, all making more money than me, because they know how to drive traffic from Pinterest. This lit the fire in me to get my act together, and finally make Pinterest work for me as well.

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If you're looking for a step by step action plan to drive more referral traffic to your blog, here is how I am gaining traction with Pinterest users without being a professional social media marketer, without paying for promoted pins, and without driving everyone crazy on all my other social networks.


My 30 Day Pinterest Growth:
Before I tell you how I did this, lets take a look at where I was at with Pinterest previously. From November 1, 2019 through November 30, 2019, my blog was getting 2038 page views a month from Pinterest (top image below, multiply the sessions by pages per session). Since implementing these changes in just the last 30 days, Dec 24, 2019 through Jan 23, 2020 my Pinterest page views have grown to over 6,087 per month. That's triple the amount of traffic in just a month since I've adopted my Pinterest strategy.

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Making Pinterest Friendly Images:
The first thing I did was go through all of my recipe posts on the blog (almost 400 posts!) and made them more Pinterest friendly. I had a ton of old recipe posts with horizontal images instead of vertical (vertical do much better on Pinterest), and I converted them into those fancy Pinterest images that everyone loves pinning. You can see in the images below, all I did was take these old spaghetti images, make a vertical collage with text (tutorial coming next week!) and that one change already makes the image for this Slow Cooker Meatball Recipe look more interesting to pin.

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How to get people to see your images on Pinterest:
After I spent an entire week correcting all of these recipe posts to have better images, I then had the task of actually repining them to Pinterest, and cross my fingers that they got some traction. The key to Pinterest is to write your captions with searchable terms. What are people going to type into the search box in Pinterest that is going to allow your pin to appear in the search results? This is what I ask myself when I write my new captions.

Previously I would write something like, "This spaghetti was so good. My kids loved it and even asked for seconds! It's sure to be a crowd pleaser at your next big gathering!"

That kind of caption might be great for Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, but it's not going to get you incredibly far on Pinterest. At least, it wasn't getting me very far.

My new caption for this pin is. "Easy slow cooker meals. Easy crockpot meals. Easy weeknight meals. Dinner ideas. Easy dinner ideas. Easy meatball recipe. Easy meatballs. Easy crockpot meals. Five ingredient meal ideas. Slow cooker spaghetti and meatballs. Easy spaghetti and meatballs. Spaghetti and meatballs recipe."

While that might seem like overkill, that has gotten this post a lot of traffic in the last couple weeks, and has taken this post from 57 page views in the last 7 years, to 476 page views in the last month.

You can even use hashtags on Pinterest, which I'm still playing around with, but for a post like this you could use things like #food #dinner #spaghetti #slowcooker #crockpot #healthymeals #meatballs #marinara etc... You aren't going to be using the same hashtags that you would on instagram though like #foodporn #foodie, etc...

Utilizing Group Boards:
Group boards are huge on Pinterest. These are boards where many people collaborate together and pin onto one board. These boards then have the ability to reach the entire audience of all the people that are in the board. If I have 3,000 followers and someone else has 10k followers, and another person with 80k followers, now all of a sudden I have the ability to reach 93k people instead of just my 3k people. This leads to more eyes on your pins, more potential repins, and more potential followers for you. Right now I'm a member of a small handful of group boards, but this is something that I really need to be proactive with getting into more of them.

How to Get into Group Boards:
I used to be a contributor for a couple larger blogs, and part of those deals allowed me to be on their boards. Other ones I'm a part of through Tailwind, a company that allows you to automate Pinterest posts (we'll talk more about that in a second!). Another part of Tailwind is joining tribes. These tribes are group boards you can join through Tailwind, and pin your content on them through the Tailwind platform, and reach more people that way too.

Tailwind and Scheduling Pins:
I've been a Tailwind member on and off for the last few years. I've gone through phases where I tried to make Pinterest work, join tailwind, can't get it to work for me, cancel tailwind, and repeat the cycle 10 times and here we are today.

Tailwind costs $14.99/month (you can get a month free through my link), and allows you to schedule your pins for the most optimal time of the day so that your pins can be seen when the most people are on the platform. When I'm pinning a pin on Pinterest I schedule it on Tailwind for all the possible relevant boards it can go onto (usually about 6-7 different boards), and then move onto the next pin. Right now I'm scheduling about 72 pins per day, which I read somewhere online that 72 was a good number, decided that worked for me, and then went with it. I also have 1,280 blog posts though, if you have fewer posts than that, you might want to shoot for around 30 pins per day.

Tailwind has a plugin for Google Chrome, so if you're on your blog and want to pin something, you just need to hover over your image, click the Tailwind button, write the pin description, select the boards you want it to go to, and then schedule it.

I've read a lot of things that say you should also be pinning other people's content too. I've been doing that the last couple days and don't know if it's really helping anything, but all this major growth from Pinterest has come without sharing other content too. So take that detail for what it's worth.

Organize your Pinterest Boards:
I used to have a lot of random boards with weird titles, and a million different food boards for different things. I finally consolidated boards (you can do this by taking a board clicking and dragging it over to another board and plop it inside the new board and Pinterest will combine them for you!). I then labeled all the boards that were specifically pins from my own site with "Flammily" on them, and then organized them at the top of my profile. I then organized the rest of my boards alphabetically, with all my group boards at the bottom. You can see how mine are organized here.

Other Random Notes:
I don't really know what this means, but I have Rich Pins setup on Pinterest. You can see how to do this here. I also have a pin it button installed on my blog so that whenever people hover over my images, they can pin them directly to their Pinterest profile. You can have a Pinterest Business Account, but I'm 99% sure I don't have that setup.

The Results:
You can see the results for themselves in the screenshot below. Previously my Total Monthly Audience was about 130k per month on Pinterest. This is the amount of people seeing my Pinterest pins and profile each month. By implementing these things right after Christmas (where you can see an immediate increase in the graph below!), I've had steady growth these last few weeks and am now at 591.23k for my Total Monthly Audience. This is basically a 500% increase in just a few weeks, which has led to 300% increase in the amount of traffic actually getting to my blog from the platform.

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Anyways this post was crazy long, but that's everything I've been doing these last few months, and it's hard work that is paying off. If you have any further questions, let me know in the comments and I'd love to answer them if I can!

Kinsley's SDR Evaluation at the Gait Clinic

Yesterday we went to Shriner's to have Kinsley's first evaluation for her Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy surgery that she might possibly be getting this year. I won't go into all the details of this surgery, but if you want background information Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR), and how it reduces spasticity and muscle stiffness, you can read this post here to learn more about SDR surgery.


We got to Shriner's at 1pm, and headed down to the Gait Lab. When we got there they didn't waste anytime asking lots of questions, got Kinsley changed into some shorts and a tank top so they could see how all her muscles are working and we got down to business.

The first thing the physical therapist did was get a video of Kinsley walking with her leg braces on, using her walker. She "ran" (as much as she can), up and down a blue lane while PTs filmed her from forward, behind, and at her side. They also had two stickers on each of her knees that communicated with a computer that would read what her muscles were doing, and eventually spit that information out into some type of report.

They then repeated all of this without her leg braces on, and that's when all the drama and meltdowns happened. Kinsley has literally never walked with her walker without her leg braces. It was really eye opening to see how much she struggled, how high her muscle tone really is, how much she walked on her toes and could not get her feet flat on the floor, and how painful it was for her to do that. It was a sucker punch to the gut for sure.

I then had to fill out a bunch of questionnaires, they manipulated Kinsley's legs and feet into a bunch of different directions, took a ton of different measurements, and added that to her file as well.

Collecting all of the data took about an hour and a half. They then went on to tell me that it will take about two weeks for them to get all the data from her tests, and then they will take that data and send it over to the doctors at Primary Children's Hospital.

The pediatric neurosurgeon and team at Primary's get together for what they call a "spasticity clinic" where they meet together in a conference and will talk about Kinsley and any other children with cerebral palsy being considered for the surgery once per month (unless they don't have enough kids to talk about and they'll skip a month...) During that meeting they'll review Kinsley's report from Shriner's, watch the videos of her leg muscles, and make a call on what they think the best thing for Kinsley moving forward is.

After they meet together, we'll get a call and they'll let us know if they think Kinsley is a good candidate for surgery or not. What I thought was going to be a really quick answer is really going to be something that we're going to have to wait 30-60 days to hear back on.

Another slightly frustrating thing is that we talked to some friends whose daughter is having the surgery at the end of next month here in Utah. They scheduled their daughter to have the surgery in July, and aren't actually doing it until now, seven months later. So even if we get accepted for the surgery, it looks like it's actually going to be a really long time until anything happens.

The reality is we could be a solid nine months out surgery. It's a long time to just be sitting around and waiting, but I also need to remember that this is all in God's timing as well, and that His timeline always reveals some amazing things in all the waiting. It just means we have nine months to do even more work, more physical therapy, get Kinsley even stronger than she is now, and the stronger she is before surgery, the better the long term outcomes will be after surgery. As always, we'll keep everyone updated as we learn more!

Easy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and it's advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #RealMilkMoment #LoveWhatsReal #CollectiveBias

I love preparing easy go-to meals for my kids that are full of nutrients, and hit all of the major food groups. One item on our food list that has been a go-to for us our entire lives is farm fresh real dairy milk. Very few food items can match the full nutrient package that is naturally occurring in milk since it contains calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and B vitamins. It even is a high quality source of protein with 8 grams per 8 ounce serving.


I also love that milk has no added sugar. Many non-dairy milks have added sugar to increase the flavor profile, while milk is naturally great tasting on it's own. That's why I love to use 2% milk in my cooking and baking for my kids, along with as a drink to accompany their meals as well.


When I need a quick and easy lunch or dinner idea for the kids, this stovetop macaroni and cheese recipe is my go-to. It comes together with super simple ingredients such as 2% milk, chocolate milk, cheese, pasta, and butter. I usually pair this with some fresh veggies as a side dish, and some chocolate milk if we're having it at lunchtime, and it's a great, easy meal that my kids really love.


Because real milk has a consistent flavor regardless of which type or brand you purchase, it makes it great for cooking since you know what you're going to get each time. Since we always use 2% milk, this mac and cheese recipe turns out great every time!


Ingredients:
8oz Elbow Macaroni
1 1/4 Cups 2% Milk
1 1/2 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese
2 Tbsp Butter
1 tsp turmeric, optional

Optional seasonings (if desired)
Onion powder
Salt and pepper
Garlic powder
Ground mustard

Directions:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook macaroni according to package directions, stirring occasionally. When your macaroni is cooked al dente, drain it in a colander before putting it back into your pot.

Add the butter to the pasta and stir until the butter is melted and everything is well coated. Next add in your 2% milk and give it a stir. Finally, add in your cheese and stir until everything is thick, creamy, melted, and well combined. If you want your cheese sauce to be thicker or thinner you can vary the amounts of milk and cheese until you get the consistency that works best for you.

My kids like their mac n cheese to be yellow like the boxed varieties, so I add a tsp of turmeric at the end and stir it in so that it looks like the color they're used to. This does no effect the taste at all, but the kids really enjoy it! At this point you can add in any additional seasonings you may like, such as mustard powder, garlic, etc...

St George, Utah Travel Guide With Kids

We spent the long weekend down in St George since the kids had a four day break from school. We love going to St George, Utah because it's only a four our drive from our house, is a little bit warmer in the winter, and has significantly less pollution which means you can actually see the blue skies. A rare novelty from us since we live near the oil refinery in North Salt Lake. 

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The kids had the best time, (mostly due to the friends we saw for much of the time we were there), and if you're looking for a short list of fun things to do with kids in St George, the best food to eat in St George, and where to stay, we've got you covered. 

Where to Stay in St George:
Both times that we've rented a place to stay in St George, we've rented a condo in The Sports Village. It's in a good location between St George and Santa Clara, which means you're never too far from anything either town has to offer. The one we stayed in this time had two bedrooms, and a pull out sofa, so we all had our own sleeping areas, and we all slept wonderfully. Full night's sleep from both kids each night, and I also took a nap each afternoon. My kind of vacation. 

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What to do with Kids in St George:
Most of our time was spent with friends, but on the time where we were flying solo we did a few fun activities. Our first day there we went to the St George Children's Museum. It's converted from an old school building, and each room is a different themed play area. The major hits for our kids were the airport, farm, and grocery store! It's $5 per person, so $20 for our family of four, and was totally worth it. 

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Things to do in st George Utah at night. St George Childrens museum rental. Bowling St George. St George weather. Parks in St George. Tunder junction all abilities park. Salt project st George. Mini golf in st George. St George with kids.

Things to do in st George Utah at night. St George Childrens museum rental. Bowling St George. St George weather. Parks in St George. Tunder junction all abilities park. Salt project st George. Mini golf in st George. St George with kids.
The next day we had the entire day to ourselves and decided to take the kids hiking over at Pioneer Park. This is where the famous "crack" is that you can walk up (you can see pictures from Derek going up it on our honeymoon in this blog post!), and where you can climb up to the famous Dixie Rock. Kyle and I went up to the rock, and then met back down with Derek and Kinsley where we explored and hiked around a bit more before leaving and getting a snack. 

Things to do in st George Utah at night. St George Childrens museum rental. Bowling St George. St George weather. Parks in St George. Tunder junction all abilities park. Salt project st George. Mini golf in st George. St George with kids.

Things to do in st George Utah at night. St George Childrens museum rental. Bowling St George. St George weather. Parks in St George. Tunder junction all abilities park. Salt project st George. Mini golf in st George. St George with kids.

Things to do in st George Utah at night. St George Childrens museum rental. Bowling St George. St George weather. Parks in St George. Tunder junction all abilities park. Salt project st George. Mini golf in st George. St George with kids.
The St George Dinosaur Discovery Site museum is a fun hands on activity that your kids will love. Derek and I went on our honeymoon, but decided then that we should come back when we actually have kids. Now that we do, we should actually take them next time we're in town.
Out of all the times we've visited St George though, we've never been to Zion National Park. We need to make a point to go down there for some family friendly fun before it gets too warm and the park gets crowded.
Where to Eat in St George:
We had three food outings while we were there, and being the terrible blogger that I am, I have zero pictures of any of the food. Our first day we ate at Roy's Pizza. It was really good, the kids loved it, and we had enough to take back to our condo for leftovers. We got the large Roy's Combo, and 4 water cups for about $20 and it was definitely money well spent. 

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The next day after our hike we went to Sloth Cookies for a treat. We had actually driven past it 6 times and kept making fun of the name, and then figured their marketing tactic had worked since we took the bait and went to check it out. For those in on the Utah cookie game, it's different from Swig, Crumble, Twisted Sugar, etc... Crumbles cookies are thick warm and gooey, Swig and Twisted Sugar have those large, cold, chewy sugar cookies that blow your mind... Sloth cookies have thinner chocolate chip cookies that aren't overly gooey, and their sugar cookies aren't cold and amazing like Swig. For these reasons, Derek loved Sloth Cookies over the competitors, and for these reasons, I liked the competitors over Sloth... so take that for what it's worth. 

On Saturday night Derek and I did an "at home date night" where we ordered takeout from Ahi taste of Asia and watched a movie. The food was amazing. I got the vegetarian spicy Japanese noodle bowl, and Derek got the chicken coconut curry. The portions were huge, which we ate for lunch the next day, and we would totally go back on a future trip. 

What Else We Did:
The major perk to going to St George was to visit The Wagner Family. Their son Michael baptized me in NY 10 years ago and now he and his wife and kids all live in the area (if you need a stellar dentist, check him out!), along with his parents who my kids seriously adore. We spent lots of time eating, playing, chatting, and going on some fun dirt bike rides for the kids. Their entire family is actually the best part about St George, and we're super grateful for the time we get to spend with them when we're there. 

Things to do in st George Utah at night. St George Childrens museum rental. Bowling St George. St George weather. Parks in St George. Tunder junction all abilities park. Salt project st George. Mini golf in st George. St George with kids.

Things to do in st George Utah at night. St George Childrens museum rental. Bowling St George. St George weather. Parks in St George. Tunder junction all abilities park. Salt project st George. Mini golf in st George. St George with kids.
Have you been to St George? I'd love to know what your favorite things to do down there are in the comments below!