My pup and I love to hit the mountain bike trails at a local park, Fisher Farm. On a recent trip out, our run turned into more of a nature walk when we encountered a staggering number of mushrooms (fungi!) Of course, I had to take pictures.
And a selfie, because, well… just a selfie. I call this my “will my dog protect me if I run into a stranger?” face. Of course he will. He’s fiercely loyal. Ok, enough of that… back to the fungi.
This little guy looks like something that should have a fairy hiding under it. It didn’t, I checked.
These fungi were blue.. yes, blue. They were so odd looking in color! I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods, but this was my first encounter with blue mushrooms.
There was nothing particularly unique about this mushroom outside of it’s shear size. The cap was as big as my dog’s head! Gnomes could use it as an umbrella!
This mushroom reminds me of those cheesy yard decorations. The color was so 1970s. Super cute… I wished I could’ve plucked it up and taken it home.
You can get much more opposite than these two. One is yellow, very yellow, and odd shaped while the other is white and round (it kinda looks like cauliflower, yes?). They were growing side by side, all alone on the edge of the trail.
Color aside, this mushroom makes me think of a water park structure. You know the ones, right? Water pours down over the top and the kids play underneath?
These little mushrooms were mostly flat, but they turned up ever so slightly to hold just a bit of water. I can imagine animals like to drink from these tiny little saucers right after a rain.
I really don’t know much about what is and what isn’t edible when it comes to fungi, but I’m gonna guess that these guys and their bright yellow hue are not a dietary win. I would love to find a field guide to take out with me at some point though. I have one for birds, I may as well add one for mushrooms.
These are the only mushrooms I ran across on my “run” that looked like something you might find in the produce section (don’t worry – I’m not eating any unidentified fungi).
Are any of you mushroom wise? I’d love to know what these are. Have you found any unique or interesting things when out and about?
The kids were stoked when a package arrived baring their names! They couldn’t wait to dig in and see what was inside. I was pretty curious myself! We opened the Surprise Ride box to find lots of fun things…
First, there were two activity kits (one for making wind chimes and one for making a “plant buddy”), a book, seeds to start an herb garden, a solar dancing plant and a fun snack to try. Each activity came with bright, clear instructions that were easy to read and follow. We decided to split the activities up and let each kid lead their own.
The boy loved prepping the soil pellet for our plant buddy. All of the steps were super easy and something he could do on his own (with mom keeping watch, of course.) We talked about how the soil pellet worked, what happened to make the dirt expand the way it did and why the soil was an important part of our project. Science in action, people! The boy was digging it.
Meanwhile, the girl set off on her wind chime making adventure. Being my little OCD princess, the first thing that needed to be done was sorting the mosaic pieces. We talked about design and how important planning is to a project, laid out her ideas and then set off to gluing. A little patience during dry time, a flip and she was off on side two.
While we were waiting, the girl took the opportunity to read the book Ace Lacewing: Bug Detective that came in our box. For me, the book really upped the value of the box. I’m a huge fan of reading and any way I can get my kids interested in a new book is a win for me.
We used the left over mosaic pieces and craft glue to give our plant buddy a face. The kit even came with a water bottle to aid in keeping plant buddy misted daily. Our plant buddy had a full head of hair in just a few days! It was really cool to watch grow in the window sill. The kids were able to trim his hair and give him a “spray bath” every day.
When the girl’s wind chimes were thoroughly dry, we hung them outside on our front porch. They have held up really well, even through wind and rain. It’s nice to see her art blowing in the breeze as I pull into the drive way. She had a great time with her project and has since asked about doing more mosaic art.
At around $25 a month, in my opinion, this is a great buy and a fantastic way to spend some time with your kids – not only doing fun crafts, but also as a learning tool. Outside of just being something cool to have for your kids at home, this would also be an excellent addition to a home school curriculum, preschool class or home daycare. We’re going to get someone started with a FREE box! Enter below and one lucky winner will get to check out Surprise Ride for free.
A few years ago when I heard we were getting a Great Wolf Lodge 30 minutes from the house, I though it was somewhere we’d never go. I’ve never been one to do “staycations” and we have other water park options in our area. Well, we finally broke down and took the kids this summer… This wasn’t a “press” trip or a “blogger” deal, so you’re going to get the good, the bad and the ugly.
First of all, everything at Great Wolf Lodge is larger than life. Even the entry monument is huge. Sadly, the line to check in was larger than life as well. I stood in line for over a half hour just to get our water park passes. Thankfully, our room was also ready early. That kept me out of the line for a second time. The desk staff weren’t slow, there were just that many people coming in at once.
We stayed in a Grizzly Bear Suite. The room itself was really nice. The bedrooms were separate from the living area and there were two bathrooms. There was plenty of open space in the family area for the kids to scatter their stuff all over, and their room had two beds, so no fighting over bed space. We could have easily fit more people into our room too.
Our room had a patio overlooking the Great Wolf Lodge property. I loved being able to sit outside after the kids went to bed just to people watch. The only downside to the balcony was the size… which was teeny tiny. It was still a nice feature though.
You can see the main entry near the center of the photo above. That’s also the general area where the water park is located. Our room was quite a walk away. With Magiquest and other things going on throughout the resort, it was definitely one of the louder places I’ve stayed, but I guess that’s not a bad thing when you have two very excited kids with you. It was actually kind of nice to know that my kids weren’t being any louder than kids belonging to anyone else.
Great Wolf Lodge offers a cool upgrade “treat” you can buy for your kids… milk and cookies, delivered by a character, as a bedtime snack. It was $20, but it was worth it to have the kids waiting for a surprise. They loved having the Wolf come to our room and thought the milk and cookies were pretty awesome too.
Even at full capacity, the indoor water park wasn’t as crowded as I expected it to be. There was a wait for some of the slides, but nothing terribly long. Both kids really enjoyed the wave pool and I really enjoyed the multitude of lifeguards on duty. Knowing there were extra eyes on my kids made it so much easier for me to relax about them being in the water.
Before tucking in for the night, we headed downstairs to check out Story Time in the grand lobby. It’s a pretty neat little set up with animated characters telling the story. My biggest complaint was that there is so much other activity in this area that it was hard to hear the story well.
A huge win for me was having a Dunkin’ Donuts on site. We were able to grab coffee and donuts for a quick breakfast before heading out to enjoy day 2 of waterlogged fun. Who doesn’t love donuts for breakfast? Of course there were other dining options too, but with two kids chomping at the bit, a quick and easy in-room breakfast was the best choice for us. One of my favorite features of Great Wolf was the ability to link charging things to our room to our wrist bands, which also served as our room key. It was nice not having to worry about carrying my wallet around or trying to keep up with a room key.
I honestly had no idea Great Wolf Lodge had an outdoor pool until we saw it on the property map. It was a beautiful weekend in our area, and I was grateful that the kids wanted to spend as much time in the pool outside as they did the water park inside. The pool was super clean, had a nice little bar where you could get drinks and whatnot on the pool deck and was once again well manned by lifeguards.
My little fish had an amazing time, and though it was incredibly loud, a little nerve wrecking and relatively expensive, it’s something we will try to do again – though we may travel and check out another location next time.
Have you stayed at any of the Great Wolf Lodge properties? What was your experience like? I’d love to know about the sites you’ve visited and what makes them great or not so great.
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.
As a child of the 1980s, one of my favorite snacks was Jell-o Pudding Pops. The chocolate pudding pops were my after school go-to for snacking in the warmer months, and when challenged by #CollectiveBias to come up with an #AddCoolWhip treat, I decided to whip up some Jell-o pudding pops of my own to have on hand for my kids as quick and easy snacks. But you know me… plain chocolate just wouldn’t do.
These pudding pops are so easy, it’s ridiculous! And if you’re back to school routine is any where near as hectic as mine, you know why that’s so important. I’ve got two delicious recipes for you, but first thing first, you need to gather your supplies.
You can get everything you need (and any last minute back to school supplies) at your neighborhood Walmart. Plus, while supplies last, you can grab a $1 off coupon you can use to save on your Jell-o Pudding Mix and Cool Whip.
Your basic supplies are: Popcicle molds, Jell-o Pudding Mix, Milk and Cool Whip. You can go wild here with mix ins, only limited by your imagination, or you can choose one of my flavor combinations…
For S’mores Pudding Pops: Jell-o Chocolate Pudding Mix, Mini Marshmallows and crushed Graham Crackers
For Banana Pudding Pudding Pops: Jell-o Banana Cream Pudding Mix, Sliced Banana and crushed Vanilla Cookies
Prepare your pudding of choice based on package directions. After the pudding has chilled and is typical pudding consistency, you can start filling your molds. The molds are easiest to fill by using a plastic storage bag. Just spoon the pudding and Cool Whip into the bag, alternating a spoon full of each, and snip the corner of the bag. You can easily squeeze the pudding mix into the molds without making a mess.
Alternate layers of filling and add in ingredients in each mold until you’ve filled all six molds. Insert your popcicle sticks and pop your tasty treats in the freezer. In 4-5 hours, you’ll have some amazingly yummy treats, perfect for after-school (or anytime) snacking!
Are you a child of the 80s? Do you remember the original Jell-o Pudding Pops? We’ve got several other flavor combos we want to try… next up is Cherry Cheesecake! What flavor combo do you think you’d like to try?
We all know how crazy expensive back to school can be. Some fellow bloggers got together to do a little Paypal giveaway for you guys to help with the expenses of heading #BackToSchool
And by a little giveaway, I mean $175 in cold hard Paypal cash! Maybe you’ll use it all on notebooks, pencils, markers and the laundry list of other school supplies your kids need in lower grades, or maybe you’ll use it for a mini fridge in your freshman’s new dorm room. Maybe your kiddos need new shoes and winter clothes, or maybe you want to order some new curriculum for your homeschool. That’s the beauty of a Paypal Giveaway… you can do whatever you want with it!
We haven’t started our back to school shopping yet, despite the fact that my kids start back in just over a week. Both of my kids need new shoes, new backpacks, new pretty much everything. I think I just spent the $175 from this Paypal giveaway in my head without even moving!
Enter now before you miss out! You’ve got 5 days left to enter.
Sponsored content was created and provided by RBS Citizens Financial Group.
As you plan your school year budget, remember that expenses for your child or children don’t stop with back-to-school shopping. Sure, parents probably need to stock up on a few things at the beginning of the school year, but to be a savvy shopper, make sure budgets and bank accounts look ahead to the entire year. Planning for some of the biggest and most frequent budget items like clothing, lunches and vacations, while taking care to increase funds in your personal checking account, can help you save in the long run.
Clothing & Supplies
Start by making a list of what your child will need and looking at your bank account’s available funds. Evaluate what you already have at home – you may not need to buy new clothes or new packs of pens, pencils, markers, etc. if you still have usable items left over from last year. Some parents find that putting a small amount of each paycheck directly into a savings or checking account designated for school shopping makes it easier to stick to a realistic budget for these items. When shopping, compare prices at different stores, buy in the off-season and shop sales and discount outlets. For younger children that quickly outgrow new purchases, consider shopping at a thrift stores, resale shops and garage sales, or using hand me downs.
As a parent, you want to balance giving your child a healthy lunch they’ll actually eat without making your personal checking account suffer. If you qualify for a school lunch program from the city, state or federal government, it may be more cost effective to enroll in this program than to pack lunch at home every day. If not, you’ll likely find that packing is a better deal than buying. Consider using an online banking tool like Quicken that allows you to track expenses for your bank accounts . You can easily manage spending on school lunches and look for ways to cut back.
Start by purchasing reusable lunch bags, boxes and containers – this will save you the hassle of buying these items on a consistent basis. Be a smart shopper at the store too. You can find affordable snacks in bulk and seasonal fruits and vegetables often come with a lower price tag at a local farmer’s market. Scan your newspaper for sales or coupons and stock up on items you use regularly.
Holidays & Vacations
With a little planning, parents can prepare for upcoming holidays and vacations by putting aside extra money into their personal checking account throughout the year. Adding just $100 each month to your account would give you a savings of $1,200 by the end of the year. Budgets are incredibly important for reducing debt during holidays and vacations. Plan ahead to create reasonable spending limits for gifts, and don’t be afraid to give homemade presents.
When planning family vacations, research ahead of time for special offers. If you are flexible with your destination and travel time, you can find great deals. Driving is almost always cheaper than flying, so look for vacations within a reasonable distance. Camping is often an affordable choice for families and offers a variety of low to no cost activities for the kids.
Plan Ahead for Effective School Year Budgeting
Since the school year will no doubt bring in unexpected expenses, you’ll want to do your best to save throughout the year. Putting away a little money with each paycheck and cutting costs where you can make a big difference in your personal checking account balance. Ask your bank about available online tools to help you manage your expenses. With a variety of budgeting calculators, automatic payment options, software to track spending and budgeting tips for parents, they can make a world of difference in executing a successful spending plan.
This is not a funny post, or even a cute one. It’s far more important than that. I wasn’t going to write anything about the celebrity deaths this week, in fact I’m not even going to mention names here, but after watching a little video this morning that showed up in my Facebook Newsfeed, I felt inclined to point out a simple truth: Social Media is a sham.
Depression is a fickle little bugger. I’ve battled with it on and off for most of my life. Granted, in my teen years I had no idea what I was dealing with, neither did anyone else. There was so much drama in my family life, everything appeared to be a reflection of that. As I got older and moved on with my own life, it became clear that I would go through manic phases of being on top of the world, to depressive phases of feeling like everything sucked. And that was all before I spent my days comparing my life to everyone else’s via Facebook or Instagram.
Here’s the video I watched this morning:
Whose life is that great anyway? No ones. Not a single person has the life that they show us on Social Media. Not one. Not mine, not yours and not my kids’. We’re only seeing snippits of moments, literally fractions of a second, often staged to look just so. It’s true of my personal Facebook page as well as the one for this site. The posts published here, the pictures shared – they are usually carefully crafted, staged and retouched. In other words, not a true indication of my life.
Yet we take these snippits, and we compare them to our own whole. We compare them, we look at them like they are the definitive, comprehensive evaluation of a person’s life and how theirs is better than ours. Their job is better, their house is cleaner, their kids are happier, their friends are cooler… And we forget that we’re only seeing what they want us to see.
That’s the sham. There life isn’t better than yours. My life isn’t better than yours. I’m only showing you the parts I want you to see.
I don’t show you the parts where my kids are screaming and literally fighting over craft supplies, or because one is mad that the other got to do something that they didn’t. I don’t show you the parts where I’m sitting at work and my daughter calls to cry about not wanting to go to summer camp. I don’t show you the parts where a 30 minute meal takes me over an hour because I’m arranging things so-so for pictures or because I have to stop to clean up dog vomit.
I don’t show you a lot of things.
What you see online is not my life. You see parts of a whole, but usually only the good parts. Don’t compare your life to mine based on parts of the whole. You would not want to trade places with me, not right now and probably not ever, if you had the whole picture. That’s the Social Media Scam.
I’ve known for a long time that I needed a better case for my phone. When Catalyst contacted me about reviewing their waterproof phone case, I couldn’t say no. With summer in full effect and a beach trip on the horizon, I was ready to put the Catalyst waterproof phone case to the test.
Let me start by saying… I am cheap. I don’t buy a lot of expensive things, but when I do, I try really hard to take care of them. My iPhone has always, always been in a case. If I’m doing something where my phone might get wet, I toss it in a Ziploc bag. My life is in that phone and I have to keep it safe. Enter the Catalyst waterproof phone case.
When I removed the case from its packaging, I was really surprised at how light it was. Considering it is waterproof up to 16 feet and meets military specifications for drops up to 6 feet, I was expecting something much heavier. The slim profile and light weight were a huge bonus. My biggest complaint about most good cases is that they are so bulky, but the Catalyst waterproof phone case is not. The 2-peice design has a very secure fit and was easy to put on without being difficult.
As far as function goes, I’ve have only one complaint about the case, but we’ll get to that in a minute. I can tell no difference in sound quality from my speakers or ear piece and I have had no complaints about the quality of sound from the microphone either. All of the buttons work great, as does the toggle switch for the “mute” functionality. The added layer of the screen took a few days to get used to, though you just have to be a little firmer in your touch than you do with the naked screen.
But, is it really waterproof? Yes! I’ve had this bad boy out for a run in the rain, playing in the ocean and even spilled coffee on it… all without incident! The Catalyst waterproof phone case even protected my phone from the blowing sand on the beach.
I loved being able to take pictures of the kids without worrying about the ocean spray. I can’t wait to take underwater photos at the pool. I only wish I’d gotten the case sooner… it would’ve been awesome for the trip we took to Great Wolf Lodge in June.
If you’ve been around MamaMommyMom for very long, you probably know I am a huge fan of photography. Being able to take great photos with my phone is a must for me. While I have a DSLR, I don’t always want to lug it around and sometimes I just don’t have it handy. Some cases impair the cameras ability to do it’s job as well as it can. The Catalyst waterproof phone case does not.
My one and only complaint about the Catalyst waterproof phone case is that some headphone jacks do not fit well through the port in the case. I did however just find out that Catalyst sells an adapter to remedy that problem.
All in all, I am super impressed with the Catalyst waterproof phone case and would definitely recommend it if you are looking for a truly waterproof case that you can rely on.
If you had a case like this and could take your phone anywhere without worrying about water damage, where would you take it and what would you take pictures of?
If you’re in the Charlotte area and want to experience a truly delicious meal, check out Nan and Byron’s on South Blvd. A while back, the owners (there are three of them) at Nan and Byron’s invited a group of local bloggers out to check out their menu and see what the restaurant had to offer. If there’s free food involved, you can always count me in.
We had a pretty big group, as you can see. What else can you see in this picture? Popcorn. Yes, popcorn. Not chips, not bread. Delicious seasoned popcorn. It was the second unique thing I noticed at Nan and Byron’s. What was the first? Well, the pitchfork and shovel door handles, of course!
We shared some ah-mazing appetizers (like the Vegetable Dip, Peppedew Poppers and Train Wreck Fries) while we all poured over the menu and debated our options. There are SO many delicious entree options to consider!
One of my favorite parts of our meal was our server. He was very knowledgeable about the menu and gave us some great personal recommendations, as well as answered any questions we had… and with a group of 10 women, you know we had a lot! He was also kind enough to snap that group photo for us above.
While we waited on our dinner (I ordered the Shepherd’s Pie), I enjoyed a Nightshade Martini. It had pomegranate juice and muddled cucumber. It’s a seriously refreshing, perfect for summer drink.
The Peppedew Poppers are to die for and must be ordered! Even if you don’t care for peppers, you should give these a try! They are sweet with just a hint of heat. So good!
Unique cocktails are definitely a specialty at Nan and Byron’s. The Rosemary Bellini and Jalapeno Margarita were phenomenal. There were several other drinks I would love to try, and will at some point. (I have already been back once since this trip and am anxiously waiting another night out!)
I don’t have a picture of my entree or our desserts. We were in an open air space and the daylight sort of gave out on me. While there are no pics, I can promise you that the Shepherd’s Pie was amazing, as were the several desserts we sampled.
Nan and Byron’s has an awesome bar area, fantastic dining room and a lovely outdoor (pet friendly!) patio. It’s also located well within walking distance of the light rail line and offers valet parking, should you prefer to drive. It’s great for a date night, though kid friendly too! If you’re in the area, stop by and check it out. Don’t forget to order the Peppedew Poppers!
Bacon, bacon everywhere! Generally, you won’t hear me complain. I happened upon something last week though that blew my mind: The Bacon Milkshake.
Are you as completely freaked out right now as I am? A bacon milkshake? What? My emotions ranged from disgusted to intrigued and I almost bought one just out of sheer curiosity. My good senses kicked in (and the fact that I had my dog in the car, and it was hot outside, and I was late getting back from lunch already) and I decided to pass. I have been completely vexed by this sweet and savory abomination ever since.
And I have nearly stopped to try it every day.
Then I think about my jeans being a little snug, about how much I really need to go for a run (and definitely not with that on my stomach) and how I really don’t need to spend the $3 on something that will surely be awful. Then I drive on by.
The next day, I repeat that scenario again.
Am I crazy for being so intrigued by a bacon milkshake? Has anyone tried it? Do people actually order these things? Can I live life never knowing what a bacon milkshake would taste like?
What say you all? Gross, genius or something that I need to try and report back on? I mean, if you *need* to know and you *need* me to tell you, I guess I could take one for the team. Should I do it?