Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Great Outdoors, Part 2

I'm not real sure why it has taken me a month to finish the posts about our camping trip. This summer has been particularly tough for me to keep up with my normal blogging routine, and I'm not sure why. I suppose just having the kiddos off of our normal routine is part of it, and partly because we've been on the go most weekends (which leads to more fun stuff to blog about/get behind on). 

Anyway, back in June we took the kids on their first camping trip. We loaded up most of everything we own and headed to Lake Fort Smith State Park, where we swam in the awesome pool, rode paddle boats, slept in tents, cooked outside and saw lots and lots of deer. We even took Fergie along with us, which was nice, since we usually have to leave her behind on most trips.


Overall we had a good experience for the first time. I learned a few things about a few things, as well. Let me just tell you what I learned about camping with kids.


1) Camping with kids = walking to the bathroom a lot. Seriously, more than a lot.
2) Camping with kids = taking a lot of toys with you. Kinda feels like moving...

3) Camping with kids = finding creative entertainment to keep them busy.

4) Camping with kids = using a whole box of Band-Aids.
5) Camping with kids = being noisy after the posted "quiet hours."

6) Camping with kids = answering a lot of questions.
7) Camping with kids = setting off the car alarm before 8:00am, which woke the whole campground.
8) Camping with kids = eating a lot. (But that part was kinda fun)
9) Camping with kids = making a lot of great memories and seeing the joy in their eyes!




I took the kids on a morning walk and we saw four deer! This was a baby who, seconds later, crossed the street to get to his mom.


Making their own fun at camp.




Curious about the butterfly.




Cruising the lake on a paddle boat. Or do you say "peddle boat?" I have great childhood memories of my parents renting them for us at Village Creek. Of course my kiddos loved it, but the big people did all the work.




Never a dull moment with Boy Twin around.




We had our first watermelon of the season!





I think someone loved camping. They left a note for the next occupants of our campsite to prove it.




Here's another photo of the fantastic pool area at the park. It got so hot on Saturday that it was the perfect relief for us, even if we had to pay to swim! FYI, at Lake Fort Smith there is no swimming allowed in the lake...so the pool was our only option! But nobody complained.

On Sunday, we barely had our things packed and loaded before a serious rain storm moved in. Whew. We made it back home in no time, where I was oh so happy to take a shower. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

That one time when I had a relaxing lunch...

#sponsored post

This post is sponsored by Downtown Bentonville, Inc. I was compensated for my review of the event that follows. All opinions are my own and are not affected by fact that I was compensated.


It's no secret that I rarely escape from home and the demands that come with it. So, when I got invited to attend the Farm To Table: Backyard BBQ luncheon, and give a review, I jumped at the chance. As luck would have it, my sister-in-law Dee was visiting from out of state, so I was able to take her along with me for a nice, relaxing lunch. As every mom knows, sometimes just getting away for a few hours can make a huge difference in how you feel.


On our way to lunch, I was able to show Dee the downtown Bentonville square area. We also decided to walk the 5 blocks to the Bentonville Bungalow, where the event was being held. It was a beautiful, sunny and warm July day, and we soaked up every minute of it.


The Bentonville Bungalow is tucked away on a quiet, unassuming residential street just minutes from downtown. Upon our arrival, we were able to tour the inside of the quaint home and see where many couples and families have been able to stay when they've visited the Bentonville area. The home has two bedrooms and two baths, and it's fully furnished with anything one could need for a weekend stay (or longer). We found out the home can be rented nightly, weekly and beyond...which is perfect for a couple's getaway, a wedding reception or even a Razorback weekend.  If you are interested, rental info can be found here.


We were ushered out into the backyard and greeted by a lovely, shaded yard with rows of tables set up for the luncheon. I understand that it's a regular event throughout the summer, and it's open to the public. It's a family-friendly event that's fine for taking the kiddos along, or for enjoying on a date or just with girlfriends. Ticket info can be found here.




We filled our plates with a delicious lunch that was prepared by the guys from Tusk & Trotter with fresh ingredients found mostly from the Farmers' Market. The white beans with ham was delicious, and we enjoyed all of the fresh fruit, salad and sausages.  I will say that Dee and I both agreed that our favorite part was the signature cocktail we had called the Bees Knees. It was so refreshing on the warm day! Everyone was casually visiting in the backyard, while listening to the songbird voice of Dana Louise.  The food was great, the company was excellent and the setting was perfect for a mid-summer outing in our beautiful Northwest Arkansas corner of heaven.


After lunch, Dee and I walked back downtown where I went with her through the Walmart Museum and the Walton 5 & 10.  Since we were already in Bentonville, we met up with the rest of our crew and ended our day at the splash park at Lawrence Plaza for some cooling off!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Great Outdoors & A Giveaway!

#Sponsored post. See information below.


Well, the Party of Five is fresh off our first family camping trip. We spent last weekend camping at Lake Fort Smith State Park, which is about 30 miles from home. It was our first trip to the park, and we were in awe of the beauty and all the fun things to do there. We even got to take Fergie with us!

We camped, we walked and we played. But, more than anything, we ATE! I guess that's just part of the scene. Keep reading to see some of the yummies we cooked and how you can WIN something delicious from me.



Our campsite, which was the farthest one away from the bathroom (of course).




The fantastic swimming pool, complete with water slides and splash pad. We spent some of the hot afternoon there.




Breakfast in the great outdoors, courtesy of Dad and Petit Jean Smoked Bacon! What? Doesn't everyone need a slingshot at breakfast?



Here we are roasting our Petit Jean Grillers over the campfire, some of us more fashionably than others. Now, let me tell you a secret. I am not a hot dog person; in fact, I usually pass on the dogs.  However, I will throw down some PJ Grillers! They are the best (and only) hot dogs that I will eat.

Do you want to try some for FREE? Leave me a comment in this post and tell me about your favorite place to go camping. Are you a tent or RV kind of person? I'll give one person four packages of PJ Grillers FREE to try out. Edit: Please leave me your email address with your comment, so I can reach you if you win. 

Deadline to enter giveaway is Tuesday, July 1st at 5pm Central. And, by the way, July is National Hot Dog Month....so you can celebrate, courtesy of Petit Jean Meats and ME!





Disclaimer: I am a member of the Petit Jean Meats Blue Diamond Club. Through this affiliation, I get to try out products, and give my opinions on new products and branding for the company. My opinions are my own and honest reflections of how I feel. I was given some PJ Grillers for this giveaway, in exchange for promotion on this blog.

Monday, June 16, 2014

We've Been Busy...Having FUN!

This is one family that seems to always be on the go! So much so that finding time to capture all the goodness on the blog has been a challenge.  In the past couple of months, my kids have gotten to enjoy some new experiences and it's been so fun for us to watch and share with them.  I'm enjoying the fact that we have so many events and places to visit nearby that are easily accessible and don't cost a fortune for a family to do.  I've been on a hunt for these kinds of activities, and I think I've found a few great ones.
 
The kids have now been to their first drive-in movie experience. And because we all had a blast, we've gone back a second time! We are so lucky to have this hidden treasure in Fayetteville! I think it's the perfect arrangement for a big family; it's more affordable than a movie theater and you can bring your own snacks! We've yet to try an "inside movie" with the twins, so this was a perfect introduction because they don't have to sit still and stay quiet all the time.  Our drive-in theater shows a double feature, so you get even more for your money!  Boy Twin was the only kid to last through both movies without falling asleep--I should have known he wouldn't sleep if Captain America was on!
 
 
 



First time for family bowling--another success! And this was our Mother's Day outing, my choice. We've signed the kids up for a summer bowling program called Kids Bowl Free, where they will each get coupons for TWO FREE games every single day throughout the summer, so this won't be the only time they get to bowl.  Check out the info at www.kidsbowlfree.com.
 
 


We also spent an afternoon at S-Fest at The Jones Center in Springdale. We took advantage of the free games, kids' activities and live music to celebrate the day. Oh yeah, and some free ice skating (why didn't I take a photo??)! We are getting a membership to The Jones Center and will be spending much more time there in the coming months.





 
 
We have been having all this fun and much more that will be posting soon. These kids can't be still, so we've taken to trying to get out all the energy that we can. The good news is that we are all sleeping better than ever! And the adventures continue soon...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Long Lost Easter Photos

I swear these are the last of the Easter photos! I guess I should expect this to happen when my family has three different Easter celebrations.
 
Anyway, these are the pics from my Dad's house. The kids love running around his big yard and riding in the wagon, too.  As you can see, there are absolutely no photos of adults. I have learned this is what happens once kids are born into the family...there is now no need to photograph the adults. Adults only exist for being the vehicle of the children. For real.
 
My kiddos love every chance they get to play with Ally, so they loved this day. And you can see who was most excited about finding the "money eggs." We also got to meet Ally's new baby brother, who is such a cutie! Suddenly we are finding our family overflowing with babies!

* Click on the photos to make them larger.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Twin Tuesday, Birthday Edition

Happy 4th Birthday to two of the silliest, lovable kiddos that I know! What an adventure it is every day with these two.
 
We celebrated with lunch out at Chili's and opening gifts from mom & dad. We are going to play a lot of catch and Hungry Hungry Hippos this summer at our house!
 
 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My Escape to Moss Mountain Farm




Last week I did something very unusual:  I took a day off work to do something just for myself. I joined a group of bloggers from all over the state at Moss Mountain Farm, which happens to be the home of Arkansas's own P. Allen Smith, of gardening and kitchen fame. I was part of an invitation-only group to have a private tour of the beautiful home and sprawling acreage of flower, rose and vegetable gardens on the property. Even a little rain didn't dampen our fun!



 
 
The main house at Moss Mountain Farm was, in a word, charming. While there were tons of collections, art works and vintage furniture pieces in the house, everything felt like it belonged--even the giant print of Black Dog, the fierce Osage Indian warrior. Allen personally gave us the tour, and told us a lot of history of the artworks on display.


 
 
As I toured the home with Karen from Ting's Mom, we both had the same thoughts about it. First was that we could never let our children loose in that home. And second, wondering who has to dust the place (thankful it's not us!).
 
My favorite room in the home was the screened in "sleeping porch," as I'm sure it's where I'd spend most of my time if given the chance. The porch overlooks the backyard and down into the Arkansas River valley. It was just so peaceful and beautiful.





 
 
After our tour of the home and the grounds, we were treated to a delicious lunch and program presented by the staff from the Arkansas Gift Program, or the AR 529 plan as it's sometimes called.  Silly me, here I was thinking I was being selfish and taking a "me day" when I was really learning something that would actually benefit my children after all.
 
The 529 program is a college savings plan that is supported by the state. Anyone can enroll for the purpose of saving for college (not just for kids). You can start an account online anytime, and it only takes $25 to start and a minimum deposit of $10 per month after that. There are a few really neat things about the program. First, specifically for lower income families, the state will match your monthly contribution! So it works a little like a 401k in that way, but not everyone will qualify for the matching funds. Another cool feature of the program is that the funds can be transferred to other people. For example, if Child 1 gets a scholarship and doesn't use all the money in the account for college, then the parent can transfer the money to Child 2 for use with education costs. Brilliant! There are some tax deduction benefits for residents of Arkansas and a penalty if you withdraw the money for using for any purpose besides education costs. It seems to be a very easy, low-risk way to start saving for college.  And with three kiddos in my family, I'm going to look very seriously at setting up an account soon.



 
 
You can find all the info you need about the Arkansas 529 plan at thegiftplan.com, where you can also set up an account.