Category Archives: Health & Fitness

Regional Recreational Vision: Middle Fork Greenway

 

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We attended the grand opening of the new section of the Middle Fork Greenway trail this past week and were excited to see such a large turnout. There have been many people involved in this project that have committed countless hours, resources, and energy into this additional section.  The trail is a  joint venture between the Blue Ridge Conservancy, High Country Pathways, and a task force of dedicated individuals. This subsection is one more link in completing a trail system that stretches from Blowing Rock to Boone, and ultimately Todd.  There are still hurdles the group is facing for this to become a reality (gaining easements and fundraising) but the hope is that the large turnout is an indication of the growing community support.

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In the last couple of years, it seems that there has been a noticeable development in the “branding” of the High Country.  While we’ve always been recognized as a mountain resort destination, it is evident that more and more people are moving to and/or visiting the area to take advantage of our many outdoor recreation opportunities.  While it is deffinatley not new “news” that the High Country is home to incredible cycling, climbing, hiking, skiing, kayaking, and mountain biking, it does seem that our community leaders, business owners, and citizens are becoming increasingly aware of the untapped potential of these activities.  I’ve always enjoyed the lure of my kids growing up in a simple mountain community, but I get even more excited about them growing up in an active mountain community where we all share in a work hard-play hard lifestyle.  Groups like those involved in the Middle Fork Greenway are essential to bridging the gap between public and private efforts to further develop our recreation infrastructure.  As more is done in the future, we should all be encouraged to get outside and PLAY!

High Country Pathways: High Country Pathways mission is to create a network of trail and paddle access points along the headwaters of the New River in North Carolina’s High Country. Its primary current initiative is the Middle Fork Greenway connecting Boone and Blowing Rock.

Blue Ridge Conservancy: Blue Ridge Conservancy’s mission is to permanently protect land and water resources with agricultural, ecological, cultural, recreational, and scenic value in northwest North Carolina. BRC has protected close to 18,000 acres in Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany, Wilkes, Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties.

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!

Family Camping

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We had my family camping reunion in Damascus, VA this past weekend. We got a double unit campsite at Beartree Campground which is up the road from the Virginia Creeper Trail. We have stayed at this campground many times and really love it. The campsites are super spacious, clean, and staff is friendly. The forecast was calling for several days of rain during the stay so we were thankful for our check-in day of sunshine so we could get as much tarp coverage underway before the rain set in. Clearly being over-prepared runs in the family!

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There is A LOT to do in Damascus. The priority this trip was having quality family time. If we were able to get good weather, we had hopes to get some climbing done here. Due to a lot of rain, we narrowed our activities down to the last leg of the Creeper Trail, and Smokey the Bear’s birthday party (he turned 70 this year)!

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The Creeper Trail is VERY popular and can sometimes be really crowded. It is 17 miles of downhill beauty and perfect for kids.  We’ve found that the best way to take advantage of the Creeper Trail, while traveling with young children, is to put on about 5 miles up from Downtown Damascus at the Straight Branch parking area off of Hwy. 58. We put on early in the morning while the commercial shuttles are taking their first groups up to Whitetop Station to begin their 17 mile decent back to Damascus. By the time we are finishing the trail, at the downtown park, we have out-paced the first group from the top and practically have the trail to ourselves. And it’s the perfect distance for our 3 year old to ride at just under 5 miles. The choo-choo train and playground at the end of the ride are great incentives for her to finish as well. Since it is only ~5 miles, my husband just bikes back UP the trail to get the truck back (so we don’t have to pay for a shuttle) to pick us up. We didn’t think of it this time, but my 5 year old will be biking back up the trail with him on the next trip to really burn off some that energy. If you are needing a shuttle though, I suggest JC’s Outdoors. It is right off the Creeper trail at the end just as you enter Damascus.

We have been camping as a family since Ellie was in a playpen. We have developed our own little “bag of tricks” when it comes to camping with kids:

  •  Baby Wipes, and lots of them. (Nothing ground breaking here, but a real tragedy if you forget them)
  • Peanuts in the shell. Kids love them and it keeps their little hands busy while you are setting up the tent.
  • Chem Lights. I grew up with them as my Dad was in the military and we always had them on hand. They are great for kids at night and they don’t use batteries. They also make great lanterns that have to be “wound up” to be operable. Any light without batteries is great for kids.
  • Earthworms: You can buy them here in Boone in several places including Walmart. They will last for a few days in the tub if they stay cold. Great for fishing, worm races, measuring, wiggling. So on and so on.
  • GORP: An essential piece to all our adventures. This became a staple for my husband and I going through Outdoor Programs at ASU. Granola, Oats, Raisins, Peanuts. Extra bonus: M&M’s.
  • Ropes, and Bungee Cords: This keeps our 5 year old busy for FOREVER. You can make a swing, a bear trap, a zipline for stuffed animals, practice knot tying, etc. The possibilities are endless.

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Our favorite time of year for camping is right around the corner… FALL. I will post some more entries on a camping packing list, meal ideas, etc. with our trips to come!

 Have any tips or tricks of your own for camping with little ones? I would LOVE to hear them! Post a comment below!

Kids and Bikes

As my children have developed a passion for bike riding at an early age, I’ve been asked a few times what the secrets been to success. While I would love to give my husband and I some credit, or maybe my children rather, I really am convinced it comes down to introducing the right bike at the right time and getting out and using it as often as possible. While certainly no two children are the same, I do think there are a few key tips that have helped us get started and maybe can help you too:

-Strider Balance Bikes (http://www.striderbikes.com): Great friends of ours introduced us and we fell in LOVE. We’ve often said that the balance bike has been one of the greatest tools we’ve utilized as parents. It really is brilliant and simple… learn balance before proceeding to pedals and brakes. Once balance is learned all that’s needed is a little confidence to make the transition to pedals without ever having to introduce training wheels. We’ve been advocates of the Strider brand since they make the lightest balance bikes in their category (less than 7 lbs.) and have the lowest seat height for the youngest starting age. Kids as young as 18 months are learning to ride!              (NOTE: If you have a child that just stands and walks on the balance bike, adjust the seat height.  I see a lot of people struggle with that.  There is a “magic” seat height that they will sit down on.)

 

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This is our little Ellie on her balance bike at the Rocky Knob pump track. Photo courtesy of Boone Area Cyclists

-Keep it light: When transitioning to a pedal bike, we’ve found that the lighter weight bikes make it easier for the child to manage by themselves. After the Strider we transitioned our kids to a 12” Specialized Hotrock, and then the 16” Hotrock. While these might be more expensive than others on the market, they will still have great resell value after holding up to the abuse of young children. (NOTE: The advice we have been given is to keep them on a pedal brake until a 20″.  Both gears and hand brakes will be introduced then.)

-Carry your own weight:  This next tip really offers no clear benefit to a child, but rather sanity for the parent. From the beginning, we’ve had a “no carry” parenting policy. If they decided to take their bike on a walk, it’s been their responsibility to get it home. It may seem harsh but since that was the rule from the beginning they never new any different.

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-SNACKS: Just like anything else with kids, a good ride can be summed up by the quality of snacks and water readily available. Both of our kids have the children’s version of the Camelbak hydration backpack. They carry their own water and snacks and they LOVE it.

So….looking to get your little one excited about biking?? There are a couple great events coming up for the family you should check out. Cyclovia is this next Sunday (July 27th) from 11am-4pm in downtown Boone. (http://boonecyclovia.com ) We will be stationed at the High Country Recreation booth having relay races and obstacle courses if you want to come play!  Cyclovia is this next Sunday (July 27th) from 11am-4pm

Also coming soon is Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day at Rocky Knob Park. It will be on Saturday, October 4th. More details will be coming as we get closer to the date!

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This was last years crew of kids from Take a Kid Mtn Biking Day. Photo courtesy of Boone Area Cyclists.

 

 

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

Internet Safety

Child safety (little ones and teenagers) is important to me (and you). It is something I hold very near to my heart.  I will try to keep it light(-:  Please share some of these tips with your family and friends.  You might save a life and a fragile soul.  After you read, I encourage you to share your safety tips.

 More than 550 victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation have been identified by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents in the first eight months of fiscal year 2014.  These are a few tips they have shared with us:

TIPS FOR PARENTS:

  • Talk to children about Internet predators and whether they have ever been approached online. Visit Netsmartz.org for conversation starters on a variety of topics.
  • Keep the computer in a common area of the house, but don’t forget that online technology is also available on cell phones, laptops, tablets and gaming devices.
  • Set limits for what sites can be visited and have your children show you what sites they are frequently visiting.
  • Recognize signs of victimization and grooming. If your child has become withdrawn and isolated from friends and family, you find inappropriate material on the computer or mobile device, or if your child is communicating or receiving money or gifts from an unknown person.
  • Ask them to tell you if anything makes them feel scared, confused or uncomfortable. Let them know that online sexual exploitation of children is a crime and that it should be reported to law enforcement.
  • Encourage them to report cyber bulling, not just when it happens to them but when they see others being bullied as well.

TIPS FOR KIDS:

  1. Never share pictures of yourself online that you wouldn’t want seen by your family, teachers or a total stranger.
  2. Don’t respond to offensive content and don’t forward images or info that might hurt or embarrass someone.
  3. Don’t accept friend requests from strangers. Change your passwords regularly so strangers can’t find you.
  4. Set user profile to private so only real friends can get access. Know who you’re chatting with – a “friend” is not always a friend.
  5. Don’t share personal information online like your full name, school, address or phone number, or user passwords.
  6. Remember that anything posted online lives on forever and can be shared with anyone anywhere in the world.
  7. Stop the harassment. Treat people online as you would in person and don’t be mean or rude. Report cyber bullying to a trusted adult.
  8. Tell an adult if someone makes you feel uncomfortable by their actions or words. If you suspect online “stalking,” sexual exploitation, or other suspicious behavior, report it to law enforcement.
  9. Don’t meet up in person with anyone you met online.
  10. Check your privacy settings on social media sites frequently, as they can reset due to site updates.

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.