Category Archives: Connect

SHOP LOCAL: Non-traditional Christmas Gifts for little ones

Last year my sister kick-started this idea for me as she gave both of my kids a super cute certificate for a date night with Aunt Ra-ra.  It included dinner at a restaurant of their choice, arts and crafts, special dessert, and a sleepover.  BEST GIFT EVER.  The kids LOVED it and it was so memorable for both of them.  It adheres to the old adage that kids spell love T.I.M.E.  So, thought it might be great to make a helpful list of LOCAL ideas to pass along to family members that are beginning to request a “list”.

*Downtown Boone Footsloggers Climbing Tower Passes.  (The tower is operated by Rock Dimensions).  You can find more info here

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*Ski Passes/Lessons: I would suggest App Ski Mtn for the closest slopes and most family-friendly atmosphere.  http://www.appskimtn.com

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*Children’s Playhouse Membership:  This is an idea that I recycle year after year. The membership is so incredibly reasonable considering the mileage you can get out of it with your little ones.  http://www.goplayhouse.org

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*Mystery Hill Pass: a great place to take them in the winter months to engage their curiosity.  http://www.mysteryhill-nc.com

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*Blowing Rock Art and History Museum Membership: The calendar of events changes each month but always includes great children and family programs!  http://www.blowingrockmuseum.org

*Fun factory passes: The kids always leave exhausted!  http://www.funfactoryboone.com

*Caving Trip: This is a great activity in the winter.  River and Earth Adventures provides a phenomenal service exploring Worley’s Cave!  http://www.raftcavehike.com/caving/

*Emerald Village Gem Mining: Such a cool place to visit and a unique experience.  http://www.emeraldvillage.com

Outside of this shopping local theme, a list of memorable “home” themes could include: baking date, arts and crafts, movie date, spa day, “build” day….the list is endless!

My family has also hosted a “theme” each year which you can have a lot of fun with.  I’ve heard of many that do an “alphabet” theme where the letter gives direction to that year’s gift ideas.  Feel like you are in one of those families where everyone already has too much?  Think about a “food and game” theme!  You typically exchange names for this and spend the day eating yummy food and playing all the new games!

I hope these lists give you a few ideas to get the ball rolling with your family.  Do you know of a local experience I missed as a non-traditional gift?  Or another fun theme you have done before others should try?  I would love to hear them!

 

 

 

Winter as a SAHM (Stay.At.Home.Mom)

I just realized the title of this post sounds more like a confessional than a blog post…..and it just might be. I get cabin fever after two days of back-to-back rain and not being able to go outside. So while I love when Fall comes each year, it also brings with it a little sinking feeling that winter is quickly approaching. I have come a long way with winter since first having babies. My kids are now 5 and 3. For the longest time, I adhered to the principle that the time OUTSIDE in the snow must be equal to or greater than the amount of time getting READY inside. So in that regard, life may have gotten a lot easier this past year or so, but it does still require a lot of planning. And for me, that planning starts as early as NOW to make the winter go by smoothly. Here are some things that help me get along. If you have any tips of your own, I would LOVE to hear them too!

 *Wii Fit: This was a life-saver as a Christmas gift last year. You get the winter bonus of being inside AND getting energy out. We only allow them to play the FIT games that require exercise. And it really works! Both of my kids LOVE it and actually start to complain that their legs are hurting from so many squats.

*Craft Enrichment Programs at ASU: My husband first signed me up for a beginner pottery class when my oldest son was first born. It was a great evening activity that lets the creative juices flow and takes your mind off things. I will be taking the spring 2015 pottery class again this year. Give this hint to the hubby as a Christmas gift idea! Their classes include: basket making, drawing, glass, jewelry, beadmaking, painting, photography, pottery, weaving, metalworking and woodworking. Get a group of friends together to sign up for a class and make it even more enjoyable!

*The Children’s Playhouse: We all know this as a great indoor space AND a family membership would make a great Christmas gift! Do you know about the Parents Nights Out? When ASU is in session they usually schedule them once a month on a Friday night from 5:30-8:30. The cost for non-members is $15/first child and $8 each additional. Members are $12/first child and $6 each additional child. We usually try to plan our date nights around this schedule.

*GOOD snow gear: I’m not shy about liking the good stuff. ESPECIALLY when it comes to outdoor and snow gear. I think it pays off and retains its value in resell opportunities.

*APP SKI homeschool days: this was awesome last year. Now that Caleb is in kindergarten, I will get to use these times to teach Ellie to ski! Here is the info from App Ski Mtn French-Swiss Ski School designed for ages 5-18 and family members.

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-Dates: Dec.12, 17; Jan. 7, 13, 27-28; Feb.4, 9-10, 18, 24-25; March 2-3, 10.

-Pricing: $8 slope ticket (this flex ticket is good for 8 consecutive ski hrs), $7 group lesson (required), $6 ski equipment rental (optional) OR $14 snowboard equipment rental (optional).

-Times: Beginner lessons are at 11:15 and Intermediate at 12:30.

-It is recommended that you reserve a spot up to 1 week in advance. You can call the French Ski office at the mtn to do so.

 *Winter hanging cart: My new purchase to make winter more tolerable for my type-A personality. I am sure there are prettier ones out there but I found this guy at Wal-mart. One thing I never like about winter is the coats, gloves, hats, boots, etc. scattered and hanging all over the house. This guy will stay in our basement right next to the door,  Problem. Solved.

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*Baking: Anyone can tell you that I don’t really cook. However, baking is a bit easier for me as it only requires the timing of ONE dish to be the focus at a time. I will be challenging myself this winter to spend more time in the kitchen and involving the children in the process. Added bonus: it heats the house.

*Trip planning: The other three seasons in Boone I really don’t need a vacation or to get out of town. Winter is another story. I NEED to stretch my legs and can usually last till about the end of February. This year we are planning our first BIG ski trip as a family out west to Crested Butte, CO. In my opinion, the winter is when we REALLY need to take a vacation!

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*Time out: You may laugh, but I put myself in “time out” all the time, usually for the same behavior that my children are in time out for. I think it’s healthy for them to see the value in quiet, reflective time. Maybe it’s the lack of vitamin D, but winter usually requires a higher volume of time-outs.

*Potlucks: I have to be really diligent in planning these. I always like the idea but the winter blues keeps me from following through alot. When I DO follow through though, I really appreciate it and it’s well worth the effort.

*Christmas gifts that keep on giving: I am going to do a whole blog post on this topic soon but wanted to get the ball rolling as you might have early family Christmas shoppers who are already requesting a list. We have opted for a children’s theme of “life experiences” this year. That could include a date night with a favorite aunt, ski tickets, ice skating, bowling, sleepover with the grandparents, tea party with friends, the list is really endless. This is also great because it helps fill up the calendar days for the rest of winter with fun activities that everybody gets to enjoy. AND it doesn’t break the bank for loved ones and takes the focus off of gifts! I will roll out that blog post soon and share some more fun ideas we have been thinking of!

I would LOVE to hear any plans or ideas that you have as a SAHM or a family for the winter! Please leave a comment below!

 

Rocky Knob Fall Fest/Take a Kid Mtn Biking Day (Oct.10-11th)

This was such a great event last year, and you should be sure not to miss it this year! The Rocky Knob Fall Festival combined with International Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day (no joke-it’s for real an international holiday) is coming this weekend !

 The events are starting out Friday night (10/10) with a fun time at the RK Pump Track from 5-8pm. They bring out lights and stage the track for when it gets dark, music, and fellowship as we watch some great riders shows some tricks. The kids love it and adult riders are friendly to them finding time to squeeze onto the tracks too. Caleb got some awesome LED bike wheel lights from The Incredible Toy Company last year at Christmas so it should be pretty fun to try those out.

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The event continues the next day for a full-fledged family affair between 10am-2pm. They will have demo bikes available for the kids to try out (including Strider balance bikes for younger ones too). Training clinics include: Riding without training wheels, basic skill sessions (turning, braking, etc), pump track skills, and trail riding. This is quite a collaborative effort from several different groups representing that will be on hand to help your little one! There will be BBQ lunches available for purchase as well as a Silent Auction.

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If you haven’t been to Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park, this would be a great time to come check it out. The playground there is phenomenal. It really is more like a low ropes course for kids than a traditional playground. There is also ample tables for a picnic lunch or dinner. The trails are friendly but of an intermediate/advanced mountain bike skill level. The pump track has a “small” loop perfect for learning on and also a larger loop pump track. If you haven’t visited lately, the parking lot is now paved and there are some sweet bathroom facilities that are now opened!            

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Last year the family absolutely had a blast at this event. And it was great to see all the kids encourage each other riding. I hope to see you there!

 

Getting off the Mountain

I know some Mom’s do this ALL the time. They drive off the mountain just for dinner. I am NOT that Mom. I anticipate and plan a trip off the mountain pretty rarely but always appreciate it when I do. This weeks blog focuses on two great places for families in Hickory.

*Catawba Science Center: I had saved up this plan for when I noticed several back to back rainy days this summer and it was a HUGE hit. And you get the added bonus of it being educational! Pack a lunch to eat there, tour the hands-on science center, and round it out with a film in the planetarium. We went with another family and between all of us adults and kids we got a GROUP Rate (10 people or more)! Everything is better with friends! Check out their website at : catawbascience.org   TIP: If the cost is too steep for your family, the 3rd Friday of each month is FREE!

*Kool Pool: Do you ever go to cool places and think to yourself “why isn’t this place PACKED?” This place has been on my summer bucket list for two years now and I FINALLY made it this past weekend. It is an awesome outdoor pool with a huge natural waterside (long but not steep….even BABIES were on it) and other cool features,  There is an abundance of picnic tables and you can bring in your own packed lunch! If you don’t have any plans this coming weekend (9/13 and 9/14) it will be the last weekend they are open this season. Added Bonus: admission is only $5/person since it is after Labor Day weekend when they typically close. I personally feel like general admission during peak season pricing is too high for my liking (at $15/adults and $8/kids), but they also offer ½ price after 3pm. Also…they only take CASH.  You can check out their website at : koolparkpool.com

NOTE: Directions can be tricky. Lots of turns on random small roads. Keep your directions close at hand. They have some listed on their website and we used google maps and found our way fine.

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Let’s be real though: you know you go to Hickory for Target. Lordy I wish we would get one in Boone. In the meantime though, strap the kids in the carseat and enjoy the hour drive off the mountain!

10 things to know about moving to Boone as a Young Family.

It seems like there have been a lot of young families moving to Boone recently! I have been able to meet a few of them and thought it might help (from one person’s perspective anyway) to compile a list of useful information if you are new to the area and have little kiddos:

1. Weather: We get all four seasons of the year and it is awesome. My favorite is coming up soon: FALL! You picked an awesome time of year to be new to the area and will soon see Boone at its finest. We get a decent amount of snow (and ice) in the winter, enough to want quality clothing on your kids to play outside and good tires on your vehicle. Each snow accumulation usually melts off pretty quickly. Sometimes the biggest culprit of harsh conditions can be the wind here in the winter. Here is the link to our local weather source for area information!

2. Churches: If you haven’t noticed yet, you are in the Bible belt of the South. How do you know? Look around almost every street corner and you will find a church. In the summer, I have known some parents that can so carefully string together Vacation Bible Schools, they can last all summer long. We have a wide array of faiths in the area and can say with confidence you can easily find one for your family. I am biased, but I think it dictates a great community!

3. Schools: You will hear it from any parent you ask. We have a great school system with great teachers in our area. You can’t go wrong. If you are looking for non-standard schooling options you can check out:

*Two Rivers Charter School: a tuition-free NC Public Charter School. Go here for more information.

*Grace Academy: a classical Christian school serving students in grades K-8. A homeschool/private school blend. Click here for more information.

*Homeschooling is a wildly popular option for many here and a wonderful support system is in place if that is the right choice for your family.

4. Mom Groups: If you are a stay-at-home mom there are primarily 3 (organized) groups that you can be apart of for fellowship and encouragement.

*High Country MOPS (Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers): Meet at Mt. Vernon church the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month from 9:30-noon with childcare provided. Their first mtg of the year is coming up: Thursday Sept. 4th! For more information, contact Megan Drake at: mmdrake1221@gmail.com to get more information about this great group of women!

*High Country Mommies: This group offers a simple way to connect with local moms for friendship, support and fun.  Members connect on private discussion forums to share information related to parenting. Each month, they also offer many face-to-face events for their members, their children, and families. Registration is free and you can do so at highcountrymommies.com!

*Blueprint: A Christian group of woman and mothers of all ages who meet together the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month (Sept-May) from 9:30-noon at Alliance church. Childcare and a home-school room is available during the meeting time. Your first meeting is FREE and then $5/meeting or $25/semester. Contact Marci Parker at mparker@abfboone.org for more information!

5. Popular Playgrounds:

-Tot Lot: on Hunting Lane off of State Farm Rd

-Valle Crucis Park: off Broadstone Rd next to Mast General Store Annex

-Downtown Blowing Rock Memorial park

-Rocky Knob mtn bike park and playground: out 421 towards Wilkesboro

-Daniel Boone Park: on Horn In The West Drive off of Blowing Rock Rd.

- Junaluska Park: Located on Bear Trail off of Grand Blvd.

6. Kids clothing consignment:

*Bluebird Consignment: New and pre-loved children’s consignment shop located at the Harris Teeter shopping center. The store carries lots of new eco-friendly items and high quality consignment items from newborn to 18 years. Also offers baby registries. Check it out on their facebook page for store hours, consignment info, etc.

*Wee-Cycle Consignment: semi-annual children’s consignment sale. Location is subject to change at each sale so be sure to “like” their page on facebook to be up to date on the next upcoming one! http://weecyclechildrensconsignment.com

7. Farmers Market: We have a killer Farmers market located at the Horn in the West parking lot on Saturday mornings. Yes, you can get all the fruit and vegetables you need there, but many also go for the fellowship and community comradery. There is also an adorable “kids market” every other Saturday in the corner of the sale. It’s adorable…put it on your “to do” list.  Click here for more information.

8. Chick-fil-a: If you have kids, you will find yourself here a lot. Especially in the winter. It’s also a great place to meet people and let the kids expend energy. They do a great “toddler time” on the 2nd and 4th Thursday mornings of each month. The kids get a FREE breakfast (3 count chicken mini biscuits or cinnamon cluster) AND they entertain them! That’s a score in my book. They also do many other special kids events throughout the year, “like” them on FB to get the upcoming news or you can check out their website here.

9. The Children’s Playhouse: this place has saved my sanity on many an occasion with the kids. I ask for the $100 family membership every year for Christmas. It’s a 3 level house with a wide array of activities for kids of all ages. Go to their website at http://www.goplayhouse.org for information!  Also be sure to check out the fall dates for their Parents Night Out to schedule your next date night!

10. Other ongoing activities:

*Story time at the library: Every day at 11am on the story steps and Baby Lap Time every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30am.  http://www.wataugacountylibrary.com/childrens

*Fun Factory: indoor inflatable bouncy house playground and birthday party facility.  http://www.funfactoryboone.com

*Lowe’s Build and grow: register your child(s) for a FREE Saturday morning wood working project and your child receives a apron, googles, patch and much more. 10-11am.  http://lowesbuildandgrow.com/pages/default.aspx

*Michaels Arts and Crafts: check out our local stores kids crafts programs here.  https://classes.michaels.com/OnlineClasses/control/dateView?storeId=1047&zipCode=28607

*BRAHM: (Blowing Rock Art and History Museum) Doodlebug Club is an hour long class for preschool aged children on Tuesdays from 1-2pm. Projects concentrate on basic art skills and children are introduced to different art mediums. It’s a great way to introduce your child to art and meet other children and parents. Targeted for children aged 3-5. Doodlebug Club is $5/child. For additional information, contact Ethan Brooks-Livingston at 828-295-9099 ext 3004 or email ethan@blowingrockmuseum.org.

Last but not least, High Country Mom will be hosting a potluck for local families at Honey Bear Campground you will not want to miss!  It will be a great time to meet some other families and kids if you are new to town.  So save Sept. 28th at 4pm on your calendar and check back to High Country Mom soon for more information!

 

4th of July Ideas

It is hard to believe July 4th is this weekend!  Wow, summertime is flying by so quickly.  Thought I would share some of our weekend adventures we have planned.   We are going to miss a great event: West Jefferson’s Christmas in July.

July 3rd, Thursday “Plans”

We are going to have a relaxed day at Honey Bear Campground!  For $10 ($5 per kiddo) we can spend the entire day at Honey Bear and enjoy their fun activities.  Come on out and join us, we have room on the grill.

12:00 pm, Family Menchies treat

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1:00 pm to 3 pm, Water Tower Time at Honey Bear Campground

3 pm to 5 pm, Art in the Park at Honey Bear Campground

5:30 pm, Family Cook Out at Honey Bear Campground

Here are some recipes for a yummy July 4th!!

App Summer Festival also has some excellent events!

July 4th, Friday “Plans” -

Wake Up and Celebrate the 4th of July with Kiddos (activities, books and traditions)

11:00 am, Downtown Boone Parade 

(also going on: 11:00 am, Todd’s Parade, 11:00 am, Banner Elk 4th of July Parade)

12:00 pm, Watermelon and Cake at the Jones House

2:00 pm, Grill Smores’ at Valle Crucis Park and play in the River

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9:00 pm, Tweetsie Railroad Fireworks

(also going on: 5:00 pm, Bethel Blast – this event is FULL of FUN!!,  7:00 pm, Music in the Valle - a more relaxed venue, )

Saturday “Plans” -

8:00 am, Watauga Farmers Market

10:00 am, Honey Bear Campground Holiday Happenings

12:00 pm, Honey Bear Campground Parade (bring your bike / dress up in your favorite 4th attire and join in the fun)

2:00 pm, Blowing Rock Independence Day Parade (Climbing Tower and Bounce Obstacle Course actually starts at 11:00 am to 4:30 pm)

5:00 pm, Mountain Radio, Bluegrass Concert, Honey Bear Campground – Going to be a blast!

6:00 pm, Cool Summer Nights, Tweetsie Railroad

8:30 pm, Honey Bear Campground has two Great Movies – ET & Monsters inc.  Only $5 per car, show up at 6:00 pm, cook out on your grill and then enjoy the movie!  You can also buy smores and roast them on the open fires.  Such a great tradition!

9:30 pm, Blowing Rock Fireworks at the Blowing Rock Country Club

*You may also want to spend the afternoon at Westglow Resort beginning at 5:30 pm or Horn In The West or just found out about The Crestwood Resort & Spa – they are having a Low Country Boil, BBQ, Corn on the Cob, check it out

Whew!  I am excited and exhausted already!  I believe Sunday we will spend on the lawn of Moses Cone Manor with a family picnic!!

What are your family’s 4th of July plans or traditions?  We would love to hear from you!  Subscribe here to stay up to date with HC Mom!

Enjoy our amazing area and have fun with your family growing up on the Blue Ridge Parkway!

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Riverfest: Valle Crucis Park

This past weekend was the 14th annual Riverfest at Valle Crucis Park. It was our first time attending this event but will now be adding it to our list of annual festivities!  Typically, when people inform me of family festivals or grand openings it translates to me as AVOID that location on that day. That being said, Valle Crucis is an incredible host sight for an event. There is so much room to spread out that you never feel claustrophobic or worry about losing sight of your kids.

            The festival was filled with hands-on activities and information for both youth and adults about the benefits of keeping our rivers clean and healthy as a community. Presented by Watauga River Partners, it was great to see the wide variety of non-profit organizations and local businesses come together to teach and advocate on behalf of the natural resources we are blessed with in the High Country. In the hopes of raising my children to be passionate about the outdoors, it is important for me to then extend that passion to preserving it.

            Some favorite take-away moments included the children’s watermelon eating contest for children 12 and under.

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One of my favorite parts of this picture is the “I Love Mountains” temporary tattoo on his arm they gave him at the festival.

 On the other side of the park, River and Earth Adventures (www.raftcavehike.com) provided free tubes for those who wanted to float down the section of the river within the park. I became friends with the owner of the company (Grant Seldomridge) back when I worked with Appalachian State Outdoor Programs in my college years. He and his wife run a stellar business if you are looking for a guided adventure!

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Not sure what YOUR preferences are in a park, but Valle Crucis is at the top of my list.

Well, Valle Crucis and Price Park…

And Wildcat Lake…

And Rocky Knob.

If you haven’t discovered these places yet, I will be happy to introduce you in my future blog posts. I don’t know about you, but I was a little overcome when Summer Solstice came and went the other day. It serves as a reminder to utilize and make the most of our incredible summers and be outside as much as we possibly can!!!

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A special shout out to my awesome friend and local photographer Alicia Greene who took the amazing shots included in this post.   She specializes in outdoor/action photography and is AWESOME with kids!

Her website is aliciaverde.tumblr.com and her email is alicia.verde.photography@gmail.com if you want to contact her for a family session in your favorite outdoor place!

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“Real life is the good stuff, photographically and realistically. When I am given the opportunity to photograph families, I really love being able to find the real moments and bring those to the light. Watching kids navigate the world is one of the great gifts of adulthood. It is also rich to them. It adds richness to our lives. Photography doesn’t have to be complicated to be powerful or professional. My hope is to use my camera to find the real stuff in life and let others know it’s out there. I would love to have the chance to tell your real life story. ”  Alicia Greene

Family Time on the New River

Our most recent camping trip was at the New River State Park the weekend of the New River Canoe Race. We have owned a canoe for the past two years and have enjoyed introducing the kids to moving water. We joined two other families at a group campsite at the New River State Park take-out and all got on the river the following day

.New River State Park Group Campsite

Between our three families, there were 10 children all under the age of 13. The group site worked out great because it provided A LOT of room for the kids to play and run around. (Group camping reservation has a minimum of 14 people and a maximum of 45 people) Which is awesome. They slept HARD that night but Ellie still needed to catch up on her sleep during the canoe ride down the river the next day.

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This was our first river trip in which our son, Caleb, would be paddling solo in his own kayak. He had attended roll clinics in a pool before but we knew the first time in moving water would be telling whether he would take a liking to the sport or not. The New River stretch from Zaloo’s to the New River State Park takeout is about a 5 mile stretch with nothing over class 1 rapids. It’s shallow clean water that is great for families. There are also other great stretches of the New River that are great for exploring too and outfitters that can provide all the gear and shuttle assistance you need.
Like anything else with young children, the key to success is a lot of snacks. There is a lot of relaxing and listening /watching wildlife and jumping in and out of the canoe for swim breaks. Caleb did great in his kayak but still needed to take breathers in the canoe and have snacks as well. In that case, we just used a line to attach the kayak to float behind the canoe.
On this stretch of river, we have found a great little lunch island just a bit up from the take-out.

 

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The kids get obsessed with this island because they (sadly) find lots of broken glass pieces from bottles that have been sanded down by the water.  They spend very little time eating and most time collecting their favorite glass pieces and convincing butterflies not to fly away from them.  We used the glass pieces from this last trip to contribute to a Fathers Day craft project.

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It was another great weekend spending time as a family! The next event we are looking forward is Riverfest being hosted in Valle Crucis from 11am-3pm this coming Saturday June 21st. Check out all the fun activities planned for this event on the HighCountryMom.com website!

Outfitters for New River float trips: Zaloo’s Canoes in Jefferson, NC; River Girl Fishing in Todd, NC. Checkout camping and river information on the New River State Park website!

Becoming Conference Highlights

I just returned from the Becoming Conference, where I learned so many tips about saving money, preparing food and party planning, not to mention hospitality and organization.  It was such a fun girls’ weekend with my mom and my sweet babe in tow.  The decorations were lovely (using the thrifty skills that we were taught), as well as the cake, cheesecake and cake.  Did I mention there was cake?

I thought I’d take a few minutes and share the highlights from the weekend, along with a few of my favorite tips that I learned.

  • I thought this year’s sponsors were particularly AWESOME!  Although I’m not a coffee drinker, International Delight provided gallons and gallons of free iced coffee, with plenty of their new creamers for tasting.  We received some awesome coupons and goodies from sponsors, as well as a handbag and set of greeting cards from DaySpringCents of Style provided a beautiful “Becoming” necklace and a ten percent off coupon.  This is a great company for purchasing inexpensive accessories and they host really great sales on Fridays.  De Wafelbakkers provided some fun water bottles and a coupon to try out their pancakes.
  • I decided to go to Jenny Martin’s (Southern Savers) session on cutting your grocery budget in half.  I have already been to her longer workshop but I thought I could use a refresher since I recently decided to get back into couponing since I had taken a break after giving birth.
  • Best tips:
    • It’s important to learn what a “good/rock bottom price” is for a product.
    • Grocery stores cycle most products on sale every six weeks.  Buy enough to last six weeks, until it is on sale again.
    • Wal-Mart will price match grocery store ads for stores within a fifty mile radius (you must take the ads with you to Wal-Mart).  This helps save on produce.
    • You’ll save more money by not having brand loyalties.
    • To save on meat, buy local and buy in bulk.
    • To save on produce, buy from the farmer’s market or local farms for the best price.  You can check out this website for some help with pricing questions.
  • Barbara Hemphill presented a very helpful session about organization and clutter.  One major statement that I took away was “You can keep everything you want if you’re willing to pay the price in time, energy, etc.”  That gave me a new way to think about the things I keep and the reasons why.  Perhaps another blog post for another day!
  • My favorite session was by Edie of Life in Grace and Ruth of Living Well Spending LessHospitality and Party Planning on a Budget.  These two gals were such a dynamic duo in a very subtle way.  It’s really hard to explain but they contributed equal amounts of “heart” and practical ideas.  I was reminded why it is important to make people feel welcome and to extend a heart of love toward others.  I learned some great tips about planning a lovely party on a small budget, such as using scrapbook paper for pennants and party hats (which can be reused).  I’m going to use all of this information to plan my little nugget’s first birthday party in a few months.

  • Miss Mustard Seed presented a session on DIY around the home, which is her specialty.  I admit I went to this session as a dreamer because I feel that I lack a lot of skills to “do it MYself”.  I was encouraged because she said it’s okay if you don’t take a fancy to every type of DIY.  I think I’m going to focus on crafts/decorations for parties and my sewing lessons; I’ll leave the upholstering to expert gals like Miss Mustard Seed!
  • Although I had attended Jen Schmidt’s (of Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) 80% Off Lifestyle and Loving It session the past two years, my mom wanted to attend so I tagged along with her.  I was reminded how much I have been wanting to learn to make my own cake stands and decorate with them for parties/events and I was reinspired to shop my favorite thrift stores for some fall clothing.
  • The last session included Jen’s Ten Minute Dinners and a special presentation by Jackie Brown of Mom on a Mission and the Freezer Fairy.  I loved this one because I am learning more and more about freezer cooking and she had so many great tips on how to freezer cook with more wholesome and less processed ingredients.  I have yet to really dig into her blogs but here are a few things I learned from her last weekend:
    • Fresh eggs can be frozen, without the shells.
    • Place a cooling rack (can be found in your local dollar store) in between freezer casseroles so that they don’t fold in on each other with the aluminum foil covers.  You can remove the cooling rack once the casserole is frozen.
    • I learned the proper way to freeze (cool food to room temperature, avoid air in the freezer baggies, use quality baggies, etc.)
    • She uses a plastic shoe box to freeze food in baggies, as well as another to defrost in the fridge (to avoid messes).
    • Keep a freezer inventory sheet.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference and I hope you’ll join me on August 8-9, 2014 at Ridgecrest so we can enjoy some girl time and learn lots of new things together!

DisclaimerThe above sponsors did not pay me to mention them in this post.  I have expressed solely my opinions regarding this conference and sponsors.

Serving Others with Your Children – Part 2

Last week we took a look at a few places where you might be able to serve our community with your children.  Here’s a peek into a few more:

Green Street Catering – This catering ministry is housed at our church, Alliance Bible Fellowship.  I absolutely loved delivering meals to a specific neighborhood in our community on Thursday afternoons.  We really got to know the folks in the neighborhood by name and a little bit about them, as well.  Unfortunately, our life group was not able to continue due to changes in our own lives and schedules but this is a great way to connect with others in the community.  You can volunteer by either delivering meals or helping prepare meals in the kitchen to serve at the church or for those that deliver them.  It is always good to have two adults help deliver the meals, especially if you take children with you.  Of course, remember to always use good discernment and judgment when venturing into new neighborhoods with which you are unfamiliar, especially if children are involved.

Watauga County Library – When I was in middle school, I volunteered at the Western Branch of the Watauga County Library.  I have some great memories of working with books and my Great Aunt Madge as she was also a volunteer.  This might be something wonderful if you have an avid reader on your hands!

Watauga County Humane Society has several volunteer opportunities and clear policies about the ages of children that can volunteer.  If your child loves animals, this might be a great service project for him or her this summer.

Helping Hands – Know someone in your neighborhood who is sick or could use a helping hand around the house or outdoors?  Perhaps you and your children could prepare a meal, offer to clean or do yard work, or make a craft to cheer up your neighbor.

Hunger Coalition Fun Run – Join in fighting hunger in our community by participating in the Fun Run on September 21.

Do you and your family have a special way that you serve in the community?  I would love to hear from you!