Unplugging in Heber City Utah

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Derek and I attended college at Brigham Young University, nestled right at the mouth of the canyon in Provo, Utah. For the most part, all of our friends were interested in being adventurous, hiking, and getting outdoors. I have countless pictures of us hiking through various trails in Utah, swimming in Deer Creek Reservoir, and skiing at Sundance ski resort. When I think about our college experience, it seems like a miracle that we ever graduated because most of my memories from college are of all the fun we had outside, and I don't have many memories of being studious in my apartment... Although maybe that explains why I only have an associates degree.

It's been really important for me to be able to take our kids back to Utah and show them where Derek and I lived, what places were meaningful to us, and what we did to have fun. Since we were wanting to go to Utah/Idaho to be with family this year for the holidays, and then this post with the City of Heber had come up, it seemed like the perfect timing to be able to show the kids our old stomping grounds, and make new memories together as a family of four. 

Traveling with kids is hard, I won't deny that. I've felt the last few years that with Em and her disability that it's even harder for us to travel, and so we would avoid doing really adventurous things because it was easier to just skip out instead of learning to adapt and accommodate. I'm so glad that we were finally able to put some of those fears aside, ditch the tablets that the kids had been playing on for hours of driving and flying, and have a really great fun filled day together in the great outdoors of Heber City. 

Heber City offers a wide variety of activities and places for you to connect with children. One important thing I try to implement is not going overboard with planning activities. I try to only plan for 1-2 big activities per day so that the kids don't get worn out and cranky.

Since we were staying at The Homestead Resort for this trip, it made it easy for us to do one activity in the morning, come back to the hotel for quiet time and naps, and then head back out to do something else before dinner and bedtime.

We started off our morning at the Heber Valley Railroad. They have a ton of amazing programs that they do all year round, and since we were there for the holidays we got to do the "North Pole Express" train. They had an amazing 90 minute round-trip train ride with hot cocoa and cookies for the kids, and lots of Christmas caroling. When we hit the half way mark on the trip, Santa came aboard and gave each kid a little gift, and it was such a magical experience for the kids to feel like they were reliving one of their favorite Christmas movies.

Since we had some time before heading back to the hotel for naps, we decided to go and explore the Wasatch County Library. This is a fun little tradition that we picked up from my friend Janssen when we travel, and I think it's so fun to see and explore different libraries wherever you go. We played in the kids section, colored some pictures, and played with puzzles for about an hour before heading back to The Homestead Resort for a little rest and relaxation.

One of my favorite features of this library was the huge reading wall in the kid's section. It's basically a massive cinder block wall with holes cut out, and kids can curl up in the holes and read their stories. Jay was beyond himself, and thought it was the greatest thing ever. Em also loved curling up with Derek on the bottom and reading stories with him. 

After the library we headed on over to The Junction for lunch. We were wanting to try out some of the local food, and this place didn't disappoint. It's a fun place that serves a variety of burgers, pizza, and salads, and has a really chill atmosphere. The kids both shared the chicken tenders and fries, while Derek got a burger, and I got the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. The food was fast, and delicious which are two important qualities when you're trying to squeeze in food before nap time.

Once we were rested and ready to take on the evening, we headed out for the Midway Ice Castles, which were conveniently located on the same property as The Homestead where we were staying. The Midway Ice Castle is one of just four in the Northern Hemisphere. It's a majestic structure made of thousands of icicles frozen together that weight over 25 million pounds. The walls themselves are 10ft thick and are just an incredible sight to see if you ever get the chance.

This was something that Derek and I had never done while we were in college, and were really looking forward to getting to experience it with the kids and everything for the first time. Unfortunately, when we were in Heber City, they were having unseasonably warm weather and rain, and we were unable to see the Ice Castles, or get close enough to take our own pictures.

Luckily The Homestead Resort had some mini Ice Castles on their property that the kids were able to see and admire from a distance. Even though we only got to take this one picture with them, Jay still claims that "seeing the giant Ice Castles" were his favorite part about Utah.

We were so glad that we were able to squeeze this little trip in while we were in Utah. We don't do vacations very often, but this small one day trip was just what our little family needed. As we were leaving and making our way back down Provo Canyon I was overwhelmed by just how beautiful Utah really is, and how lucky we were for getting to share it with our kids. This little place certainly holds a big piece of my heart.

This post was compensated by Heber City, although all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you so much for supporting the brands that make this blog possible. 

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty Review

Monday, January 16, 2017

I never thought that I would be at a point with reading books that I had an author who generally wrote books that I really like, but after reading a bit more over the last few years, I've found I really love Jody Picoult, and now Liane Moriarty as well. I read What Alice Forgot last year and found myself unable to do anything else until the book was finished, and I had similar feelings as I was listening to Big Little Lies a couple weeks ago. I also have Truly, Madly, Deeply in my Audible library right now as well. 

The story starts off in Australia in an older woman's house. There is a ton of commotion and going back and forth at first, and it's hard to tell what exactly is going on. The first few chapters jump around quite a bit between the older woman's house, a crime scene investigation, and then the back story of leading up to the present. 

After the first few chapters it gets a little easier to grab your bearings and get a hold of what's going on in the story, and I'd assume it wouldn't take that long if you were reading the story, and not listening to it on triple speed on your phone. 

The story is about a bunch of women who all have children attending the same kindergarten class in the fall. At an orientation day before the school year starts, a little girl gets hit by another student, and the little girl's mom goes on a personal vendetta to make the accused "bully" and their mom suffer for the rest of the school year. 

Two other mom's back up the accused mom and her son, and the three women become really close over the next few months. The mother of the accused son is actually very young, about 25 years old and is raising her son on her own. She had moved to this new town to chase after a ghost from her past, and the entire story builds up to the crime scene at the end where you find out how all these women's lives were really inter-tangled with one another, and the truth behind all their secrets and lies come out at once. 

It really was a pretty great book, although there is definitely language in parts, and scenes that deal with sexual assault, domestic violence, and other heavy topics. So if that's not your cup of tea, you may want to steer away, but I did think that the book had an excellent story line, and I'd totally recommend it to someone else.

Our Menu Plan Week #1

Sunday, January 15, 2017

I've been thinking a lot lately about what type of content I want to be putting out over the next year, what things I want to add to this space, what things I want to take away, and what value I feel like I can add to your lives. I've always felt the happiest with the content that I produce when it's able to give something back to you guys, and either inspire you to make something, help you save money, whatever it may be, I love being able to contribute something to your life. 

This year we're really striving to make more home cooked meals. When I was in Idaho I was so excited to get home and work on this goal that I mapped out what all our meals would look like for the next two months. Picking the meals is always the hardest part for me, and from there I feel empowered to make the grocery list, and head on into the store. 

I decided that this year I want to share my menu planning and grocery shopping process with you guys. Each Sunday I'm going to have a post go live with my previous week's menu plan, and a video of what we got at the grocery store, and how much everything cost. I want to show you that you really can feed a family of four, and get all your household items for the month for less than $400. I've made big claims about money and menu planning, and what we spend on food in the past, and that our monthly budget was only $200/mo, and that's true it was, but it was just food, and I was never counting non-food purchases like diapers, cleaning products, house items, and over the counter medications. This year we've extended our food budget to $400 to include those items, although I don't plan on actually reaching that $400 threshold by the end of the month. If I had to make a guess, I'd say we're probably going to hit at or under $300, but we felt more comfortable budgeting for more, and allowing ourselves to be surprised and happy when we have excess each month. 

One final note, I always plan to cook five meals each week, and then leave one night for leftovers or pancakes, and another night to eat out. Sometimes that eat out night will happen, other times, like this week, it doesn't, and we eat leftovers again or whip up something random, but the goal is always five meals a week. Now that we have all that out of the way, this is what we ate last week, and you can see the video with my shopping at the end. 

1. Butter Chicken: This is one of our favorite meals, and was definitely appreciated as our first meal at home after traveling for 20 days. I love how this curry isn't too spicy for the kids, but is full of flavor!

2. Potato Soup via Gimme Some Oven: When we were in Idaho we had Potato Soup a few times and I forgot how much I loved it, and how easy it was to make. I decided to go on the hunt for a good recipe for me to make at home, and we all loved this one! I swapped out the chicken broth for 2 bouillon cubes and 2 cups of water to save money on chicken broth and it was delicious. 

3. Sloppy Joes: I love this meal because it's a family favorite and I never have to fight with anyone to eat it (I'm looking at the four-year-old who lives in my house when I say that), this recipe has been in Derek's family for years, and we love it. 

4. Biscuits and Gravy via The Pioneer Woman: When we moved to the south, we figured it was time to add this to our regular diets. We love biscuits and gravy and The Pioneer Woman's recipe never disappoints. 

5. Fried Chicken and Waffles: I just tried to find this recipe all over my blog and realized that I took a picture for it, but then never put the recipe up? So weird. Basically, get a bunch of flour and add 1/2 tsp of garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, seasoned salt, and black pepper, and if the mixture doesn't taste flavorful enough, add more seasoned salt until it does. Dip chicken breast in egg mixture, then in flour, then back in the egg, then back in the flour, and do this with all the breasts. Then fry in oil until the outside is golden brown, and the inside is cooked all the way through, and then place on top of a freshly made waffle. Then smear a mixture of 1/4 cup mayo, 1 tsp sriracha, and 1 tsp maple syrup mixed together on top of the chicken, and eat. It's the most amazing thing ever. 

Now that you've seen all the meals, here's what it all looked like after the grocery store.


Some Parenting Insights Worth Mentioning

This last week has been hard. We've been trying to get back to a normal schedule with life, home, family, parenting, homeschooling, blogging, all the things that are calling for our time and attention. It's been hard as we try to get back into the swing of our daily lives, and our kids are still in mountain time, waking up at 10-11am each day. It doesn't leave much time for us to get things done before Derek is home from work and our nighttime routine begins.

We're all thrown off, especially Jay. For a boy who loves routines, schedules, and the natural flow of our everyday life, he was just in Idaho for 20 days, playing with cousins until his heart's content, or bedtime, whichever came first, and he was fine with that. However, I think he had this expectation that we would come home, and life would be exactly the same. I'm working on it, that's the goal, but this last week, it hasn't been the reality. 

His internal clock is all thrown off, the schedules and time commitments are thrown off, and so his behavior, is thrown off. There have been screams, and tears, and sadness, and happiness, and anger, all of these emotions. For the most part Jay has never been one to throw massive fits or have out-bursts that make me question humanity, and yet this week, they're here. 

I realize that this is a normal part of child rearing. All parents go through this at some point, with what I'm sure is each child, but it's a phase we haven't been through with Jay. Because of anxiety that I know he has, I've been quick to say, "there is something wrong with my child, we need a psychologist right now, this is not normal, red alert." 

So then I go through the steps of logic in my head that a psychologist would go through. I have admittedly been to several and so I know the basic routine of what that intake appointment would look like for this situation. I'd explain that everything was fine, and then we went to Idaho for 20 days, and then came home and his life wasn't on track because no one could get out of bed before 11am and then they'd explain that chaos is the only behavior to expect when home life isn't normal. Get home life back in order, and behavior will fall in order. These are all of course assumptions that I'm making on behalf of our hypothetical child psychologist, but I'm assuming as of right now, that's likely what we're looking at. 

I admittedly feel desperate for things to get back to normal though. Maybe it starts with me, and waking up early before the kids, and then me waking them up and forcing them back into eastern time instead of letting nature take its course. 

I have felt desperate for answers as my child is screaming and sobbing at me, and saying, "I JUST LOVE YOU!" while I'm in a desperate attempt to get him to eat his dinner in under 90 minutes, or I want him to put his shoes on, or buckle his car seat, or do any of the things he'd normally do before the 20 day disruption happened. 

As he's sat in his room screaming from the latest bout of, "I CAN'T PUT MY SHOES ON!", I've personally glanced up toward heaven with tears in my eyes thinking, "I can't take another minute of this", I've felt peace come to me in the words, "Love is spelled T-I-M-E".

I'm then reminded of all the times through the day where I've put my own agenda before the kids... just one more errand, or just one more break on the couch, or "hang on, I need to do this, this, and that"... When I think of all the things I'm trying to get done for myself, I think of the little boy having a melt down in his room and I go to him and say, "Hey, should we go play some alphabet bingo?" and within two minutes the tears are gone, he's giggling like the entire episode never happened, and we're now into the most rambunctious round of bingo you could ever imagine. 

I'm grateful for how quickly a child's heart can seem to heal as fast as it was broken, and I'm grateful for the pressing reminder lately that the way to mend those wounds are with "t-i-m-e." 

A New Embarrassing Moment

Friday, January 13, 2017

There comes a point in adulthood where you think you've got your life together enough that you're immune to majorly embarrassing moments. I had so many in high school that I thought I could make it through my 20s without anything scarring happening, but I was wrong. So far in my twenties, I've peed the bed, and on my birthday this last year, my brother-in-law sent me a text, and I was trying to figure out who it was without telling them I didn't know who it was, so I sent a reply, "Thanks! How are you (insert heart emoji here)?" That was only a little embarrassing, which is nothing compared to what happened just a few days ago.

Derek and I recently found out that I could use an app on my phone to connect with my camera to be a remote so that I could take self timered pictures and not need Derek to take my pictures anymore. When the kids were napping this week, I decided to put this outfit on, and head outside to try out the new app.

If you know me, I don't normally dress like this, ever. One of the perks to blogging is that I'm often reached out to by companies to try some new clothes, and  I sometimes pick things that I've been wanting to try, but would never buy if it was my own money. Hence the leather jacket and bodysuit. 

So I'm already outside, feeling a little self conscious, and hoping my neighbors don't see me, when all of a sudden, I see the missionaries pull onto my street. At first I didn't really think it was them, and they drove pass my house. But then I saw the bike rack on the back of the car, and the two guys in suits, and then thought, "if they turn around the cul de sac, and come back... it's them." Sure enough, I see their car whip around, I sprint over to the camera on my tripod, pick up the entire thing, and sprint back inside the house to pretend like the entire thing never happened. I ran upstairs as fast as I could, scrubbed off the lipsense, and surrounding skin tissue as fast as I could, threw a sweatshirt on over the bodysuit, and threw on some sweatpants, and then ran into Jays room to look out the window to see if they were getting out of the car. They'd pulled in, and then left again.... and I'm not going to church for at least six weeks... Or tomorrow morning when I need to help with a pancake breakfast, whichever comes first. 

Leather Jacket: c/o Tobi
Bodysuit: c/o Tobi
Jeans: Amazon
Booties: Target (old)
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