Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium

I cannot believe our summer has gone by this fast and that it's already over. We've traveled all over the country, worn out our swimsuits and just have had so much fun!

A few days ago we went to see Winter the dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Every time the girls watch A Dolphin Tale, they get so excited and want to see Winter.  This time, I realized that the only day we had left before school started, was the next day! So I booked a hotel, bought the tickets and we headed out the next morning!

On our way!

It was super hot, but the girls really had a nice time. My 8 year old loved it the most, because she really liked listening to the workers there when they gave their talks. I thought it was very interesting too! The little girls liked looking at the animals as well as the trolley ride over to the second building, where they have a building dedicated to the movie, with set pieces, little known-facts, and a hurricane re-enactment (that honestly really scared the little girls but was just sort of wobbly and windy to me).

Winter's gel that keeps her tail on

Jolley Trolley ride to A Dolphin Tale Adventure
Hanging at the Dolphin Tale Adventure
I spy a dolphin!

Afterwards, we stopped at the grocery store to get some food, then I asked Google to bring me to the closet public beach.

Can I just say that I love Google? It took me past the busy, loud, crowded pier area of Clearwater to this awesome public park, where there was plenty of parking, no crowds, and tons of quiet beach time.

As well as an awesome sunset.

Gorgeous, right?!  It was amazing!  

And then as we were leaving, we saw fireworks being shot off. Perfect end to an awesome day.

Here's to hoping the school year is just as peaceful.

Thanks for reading!


New Recipes to try!

I tried some new recipes today and I thought I would share them with you all because they turned out pretty good!

Carrot Applesauce Muffins

 I printed this one out awhile ago and was just waiting for the right time to try it, and today was the day!

Totally yum! And only my middle daughter didn't like them ("I don't like the big carrots in there"), so it was a win in my book. There's actually only 2 of the dozen left--and I just made them this afternoon. I used matchstick carrots that I chopped up a little finer, so next time I will try actually grating the carrots as the recipe suggested. They have a nice warm cinnamon-y flavor too. Mmmm.

Click here for the recipe from 100 days of real food. 

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

I also tried making this recipe for Garlic Mashed Cauliflower from Allrecipes.com.

I thought it was pretty good (still tasted like cauliflower!) but my husband and I both liked it. I'd definitely recommend it for the more adventurous tasters in your house!

Give them a try and let me know what you think!  I'm always looking for new recipes to try, especially muffins. They are such a good grab and go treat, perfect for us since we're always on the go!

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, August 15, 2015

5th Golden Birthday Party Details!

Last weekend my middle girl, Marie, turned the big 5! Since she turned 5 on the 5th, we had a very special golden birthday party for her. For those of you that have never heard of of a golden birthday, it's when you age is the same as the day you were born. (1 on the first, 10 on the 10th, etc) Some of our friends have heard about it, but many have not! 

Isn't it funny when something that you've grown up with, just isn't common everywhere? It's a funny feeling. Makes my world feel a little bigger. 

On to the party!

Here are some party details, in case you're wanting to throw a "golden birthday" too, or just wonder what kind of food is good to serve (mine was super awesome, if I do say so myself.)

Gold spray-painted wooden 5 (picked up at JoAnn's)
fresh flowers in a vase wrapped with gold tissue paper (picked up at Target)
gold spray-painted horses (taken from our toys; we have a lot of horses!)
black paper roll with gold glitter tape (picked up at target; on the food table)
chalkboard banner with "Golden" written in chalk (from Target too)
Fringe Tissue Paper Background with homemade "Happy Birthday" Pennant Banner (I'm going to do another post about how I made this--see it below!)

2 boxes of vanilla cake mix made into cupcakes, mini cupcakes and a heart-shaped cake
My mom used to decorate wedding cakes, so we used 2 cans of store-bought frosting, gold sprinkles, and a decorating kit to make them pretty. 

We played Pin the Horn on the Unicorn and the kids had a lot of fun with it! Click the link and check it out! A cheap, easy game and it came in 2 days with my Amazon Prine; I couldn't have asked for an easier game. The kids swam in the pool for most of the party so I only did one game.  Those that didn't want to swim could play in our playroom.

Baked Ziti (see below for recipe)

Fruit Bar:
Green Grapes
Apples (bought already cut up)

Cherry Tomatoes

Potato Chips
Tortilla Chips
Cheese Dip
Spinach Dip

Water Bottles
Juice Boxes

I picked up most of the food at Sam's club, it was perfect that they already came in a big size! (and bonus: there were leftovers for days!) The 3 dips came in a 3 pack, so that was easy too. 

Plates were gold-striped plates mixed with regular white plates.
Napkins were solid gold mixed in with plain white. 
I purchased the napkins all at Target, and the plain white ones were so much cheaper than the pretty gold ones, so I just mixed them together! 
I put a bunch of plastic forks in a blue Mason jar that I topped with some of the gold glitter ribbon. I picked up the jar at an antique store while shopping in Minnesota this summer, it's a joy sparker for me!

Every party that we have, I always wonder about what food to serve. The one dish that has always been a clear winner is the Baked Ziti.  I found the recipe a few years ago on allrecipes.com, and it's been our favorite since then!  Here's the recipe:

Baked Ziti II
Recipe By:BUCHKO, found on Allrecipes.com, modified slightly
  • 1 (16 ounce) package ziti pasta
  • 32 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 (32 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and rinse.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix ziti, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, egg and 1 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish and spoon in ziti mixture. Top with remaining spaghetti sauce, followed by Parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes; let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Trust me, it's amazing! And it tastes even better the next day. 

Gift Bags:
I wrapped a bunch of candy in gold tulle circles (I got mine at JoAnn's) and put them in a basket that I spray-painted gold. Easy! 

Party time! See the cute fringe background? 
After opening all the presents, she immediately started coloring this backpack. Love her!
So, the party turned out awesome! We had a bunch of kids and parents swimming and then we had cake and presents and then everyone left! Seriously, everyone cleared out and the girls had the rest of the afternoon to play with all the presents. After a couple hours of serious playtime, and some clean-up, we all went to the movies to see Shaun the Sheep. It was so funny! If it's playing nearby, definitely go see it! We all enjoyed it, even my mom who was visiting.

It was a great day!


Day Trip to the Beach

Saturday. Family Day.

I started out Saturday morning by taking our 8 year old to Irish dance lessons. (I'm kinda jealous that I'm not doing Irish dance lessons, shhh.) She was the only one in class today, but she did really, really well; so proud of her!

The hubs and I decided that we'd take the kids to the beach this afternoon. Last week I took the girls with my mom and we had the best time. M is totally into nature and wanted to bring her goggles and look in the water too.  Hubs is really good at looking for sand fleas in the water, and we even found a few sand dollars too. Last week we found over 20!

On our way to the beach...notice the rain on the van windows....
We had tacos from the best little taqueria in town while waiting for the rain to stop. Yummm!

We beat the rain, but the dark clouds are still over there.

Searching for sand fleas!

Nature girl (notice the goggles!)

Not long after we were out in the water, it started storming and lightning again way out on the water, so we headed in to the restaurant (part of a hotel) that was nearby. We got some grub and then swam in the hotel's pool. We saw the same girls in the pool that we had met at the beach; they were so sweet!  One of the girls asked me if I "lived here", which of course I said yes. She then asked me my hotel room number, to which I answered, "No, I live here." And she seemed really confused. It was kinda cute. 

But locals go to the beach too. And we know better than to swim when there's lightning out on the water! Last year I had to convince one of our extended family members not to swim when there was a storm thisclose to the beach. People have gotten hit by lightning and died, y'all. Not worth it!

And now it's off to bed, because the weekend's not even over yet!