In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing one with you every week in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.
✅ Trails for Children
❌ Swimming (seasonal)
❌ Playground and Sports Fields
✅ Free Admission for Park and Trails
❌ Stroller-friendly Trails
❌ Reservations needed
Just a few miles north of Dripping Springs and about 25 minutes west of Austin lies a hidden sculpture park and adjacent trail leading to shops and restaurants in Bee Cave, TX, which is the location of This Week’s Hike! We’re excited to share everything we love about Bee Cave Sculpture Park!
Sharing a parking lot with the Bee Cave Police Department located on Highway 71 is this unique sculpture park with permanent and rotating exhibits. Kids will love trying to identify the sculptures and taking funny pictures with them. The trail meandering through the exhibits is stroller and kid-friendly. There’s also a beautiful pond to picnic next to and hunt for frogs.
Easy (but rocky)Trails
Adjacent to the sculpture park is a wide rocky trail going eastward. It takes you a short distance to an open green space with another pond. This trail is not stroller-friendly, but it leads you to the Shops at the Galleria. The distance is approximately 1/2 mile. After reaching the back of the Shops, there is a trail loop that can be walked to add more distance.
In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing one with you every week in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.
✅ Trails for Children
✅ Reservations needed
❌ Stroller-friendly Trails
❌ Free admission
Just north of San Antonio, east of Boerne, and about an hour from Dripping Springs sits one of our favorite state parks and the location of This Week’s Hike! We’re excited to share everything we love about Guadalupe River State Park:
In the summer, it’s the perfect swimming hole. In the winter, it’s fun for skipping rocks and trying to traverse temporary rock bridges without falling in. During any season, this spot on the Guadalupe River is the start of a 5-mile paddling trail for kayakers, tubers, and paddle-boarders. (Check water levels before dropping in though.)
Easy to Moderate Trails
On the south side of the River, all the trails are easy to moderate, which is perfect for a family with young children. I would not recommend strollers for these trails. We tried that once, and there was more stroller-carrying than stroller-pushing. Our younger kids could easily handle the Turkey Sink Trail, the Bald Cypress Trail, and the Scenic Overlook Trail. The trails vary in length throughout the park from .2 miles to 2.8 miles.
There are multiple cliffs and a scenic overlook to get great views of the River below and the surrounding Hill Country.
A Story Walk
Currently, there is a story walk on the Discovery Center Loop trail. Getting to the next page in the book was a great motivator for my 3-year-old to keep hiking.
The Discovery Center
Unfortunately, the Discovery Center is currently closed, but it’s definitely worth visiting when it re-opens! (Pics taken in 2019.)
More Challenging Trail Options
The Bauer Unit on the north side of the river, which requires a drive from the state park entrance to another entrance about 6 miles away, offers 8 miles of more challenging/remote trails, as well as a visit to the historic Bauer House.
On Saturday mornings only, guided walks through the Honey Creek State Natural Area are available, and they start inside the park at the Rust House.
A Small Playground
Near the bathrooms by the River, there is a small playground with a couple swings, two fireman’s poles, and an old metal slide. It was enough to keep my 5-year-old from wanting to leave the park.
Clean Bathrooms and Changing Areas
The park has recently remodeled the bathrooms and changing areas in the river -access parking lot.
Visit the bird blind to check out the many flying Texas species that frequent the area, including the Barred Owl. There are also equestrian trails for horse-lovers and free fishing equipment you can check out from the ranger station. On our recent trip here, an armadillo scurried right in front of us searching for his next dig site.
Great Towns Nearby
After a visit to the park, you can take the short drive into San Antonio to stroll the Riverwalk or enjoy dinner at the Pearl District. An even closer option is the cute small town of Boerne where you can do more hiking along a river or enjoy a beautiful evening on one of their local restaurant patios.
If you haven’t already, we encourage you to visit Guadalupe River State Park the next time the sun is shining! Also, if you’re into camping, it appeared that the park has several beautiful spots to pitch your tent.
Follow @dripping_with_kids on Instagram or this blog so you don’t miss out on the best places to go in the Texas Hill Country! We’d love to hear about your favorite spots too.
“I just CAN’T do this.” I whisper this sentence in a strained, hoarse voice to my husband after a long day. A day of watching videos from our district superintendent and texting with friends about what this school year *might* look like. A day of constantly quieting two screaming preschoolers by playing whatever it is they want. A day of breaking up sibling snack spats and wrestling a remote out of kids’ hands. A day of extricating my flip flops from a new puppy’s sharp teeth.
By the end of the day, I’m not only burned out from endless mommy-ing duties, but I’ve also had my fill of volatile debates regarding back-to-school decisions and mask-wearing. I go to bed feeling lucky and blessed that my children have a safe place to lay their heads at night and a mother who is able to stay home with them, but tomorrow, when faced with more of the same changes, I fear I just CAN’T all over again.
As much as I don’t want to admit it, this awful contraction has become such a huge part of my vocabulary and self-talk for years now. Apparently, it’s amplified during a pandemic. There just seems to be so many things I can’t do…
I can’t convince my 13 year old to give up You Tube videos as her primary source of information and entertainment.
I can’t stop multiple children from desperately needing my attention all day long.
I can’t handle one more minute of divisiveness and hatred on social media, yet I can’t put my phone down.
I can’t determine whether it’s safe to go inside the grocery store.
I can’t finish a sentence or make a decision without self-doubt immediately following…………..
Yeah, I could go on for hours.
Unfortunately, “can’t” is easier said than done. Most of the time, I have no choice but to move forward and do what I feel like I can’t.
Thankfully, just as I recognized that this phrase started entering my brain regularly again, I remembered the previous blog post I wrote with the same title. I re-read my words about the impact one of my favorite books, Love Does by Bob Goff, had on my life two years ago when I was struggling during those *easy* days of pre-pandemic parenting. Bob Goff’s positive perspective was such an awesome reminder that love does even when I feel like I can’t. In a chapter titled, Hearing Aid, Goff wrote, “…[God] doesn’t pass us messages, instead He passes us each other.”
On my most challenging days, my love for the people placed in my life is what keeps me going, and with that little change in perspective, I’ve been able to reflect on the good during these last 5 months of forced family time.
Despite the chaos, we’ve managed to discover more ways to have fun at home together. We’ve connected with friends and family in a deeper way than ever before, even if it’s just been via phone or silly videos. We’ve learned to problem solve as a family unit, recognizing the importance of each voice in the decision. And we’ve practiced talking through the anger and the disappointments of 2020 often, following that up with intentional gratitude-sharing. We’ve leaned further into our faith and recognized the power of mindset and prayer.
The bonds built between my children, as well as with those who have walked alongside us during all of this recent uncertainty, has provided a renewed hope and motivation. In scanning through the pictures, texts, and posts from the last 5 months, I rest assured that one day, when I look back on the 2020 that was, I’ll be able to say to myself:
I just CAN.
Below is a list of simple activities and outings that have made this never-ending and challenging summer one of the most memorable yet, and these represent the good I hope my family and I will take with us.
This morning, my floor was covered in multi-colored pom poms, cotton balls, pipe cleaners, crayons, glue sticks, googly eyes, straws, and empty plastic baggies. Our sweet preschool teachers have been sending home adorable art project ideas and random crafts items. The kids and I have a blast making frog masks, hungry caterpillars, watercolored paper chickens, and sunny scenes with stickers…. but, what am I supposed to do with all of these beloved projects when they’re done? My children are home all the time as we continue to shelter in place, and they are very aware of every single art project they’ve created and where it last hung or which window it was sitting in.
That means there are no opportunities to discretely sneak them into the recycling bin. This issue has led me to start thinking up and researching simple crafts that serve a purpose beyond a fun few minutes with the kids and walls full of half-colored creations. As we enter into our last month of homeschooling for this year, I am feeling a sense of re-motivation and decided to write out my brain-dumped list of purposeful, easy crafts for kids right here. Please share your kids’ creations in the comments below or tag me on Instagram @dripping_with_kids
1. Simple Homemade Bird Feeder
Pull out those dusty popsicle sticks, a few markers, some twine, and glue. Have kids color the sticks as they choose and then assemble a base by placing two sticks a few inches apart and then building a floor on top of that. From there, create sides by gluing each layer in an alternating pattern. Tie the twine on to all four corners, leaving enough length to tie the top around a tree branch. Then, fill with bird seed and watch the sparrows flock your tree. Don’t keep birdseed around? Your local grocery store likely carries it for pretty cheap. We bought some to make ornaments last Christmas and paid less than $2 for a 4 lb bag at HEB.
2. DIY Costumes
Making costumes for small children to play dress up doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. With your children’s help, you can quickly and easily create simple costumes, such as pirate, superhero, Peter Pan, cowboy, Cookie Monster, and book characters to keep them entertained for hours at home. There are countless no-sew links online or you can pull up a picture of your child’s favorite character, look around the house for a t-shirt color that matches, some construction paper, and other random objects to pull together a costume that reasonably resembles the real deal. For example, if you have a Captain America fan in your house, take a white t-shirt, color it with a marker to look like the character’s shirt, then use red duct tape or markers for accents. You can make a shield by coloring the backside of a paper plate, cutting holes in the sides, and attaching string. Then, check links online for no-sew superhero masks that can be made with construction paper or felt.
3. Cereal Box Mini-Storage
I love this frugal way to repurpose what would normally become trash into little storage containers for craft bits and pieces, pens, office supplies, snacks, and any other small items that need to find their own place in your home. To create these mini-storage containers, cut an emptied cereal box all the way around approximately 2 inches from the bottom. Then, strengthen and decorate the cardboard with duct tape you have lying around. Kids can decorate the tape using markers or label it with what will be stored inside. Voila… you crafted something useful that can fit in your junk drawer and keep you organized.
4. Painted Jars for Organizing Colored Pencils or Small Toys
Do you have dozens of acrylic paint bottles set aside for no specific use? How about a few jars tucked away in your cabinets? If so, you and your kids can paint the jars and then set them up on desks or bookshelves as a way to sort and organize colored pencils, pens, toys, erasers, legos, etc.
5. S’more Love for Neighbors and Friends
Looking for a way to spread love during these unique times? This campfire art project allows your kids to make something beautiful and gives you all an opportunity to share s’more love with others. Materials needed: small twigs from the yard, red and yellow paint, thick paper or cardboard, cotton balls, and a small amount of clay or play-doh (colored paper, cardboard, or just about any craft material can be substituted here). To make your campfire, glue the twigs at the bottom of the paper to look like fire starters. Then pour the red and yellow paint onto paper plates. (Mix some red and yellow to make orange as well.) Let kids paint or dip their palms into the paint and make handprints to resemble flames above the twigs on the paper. Make as many or as few prints as you want until you have your desired campfire image. Then, create a s’more above the fire with a rectangular strip or brown paper or cardboard to represent the graham cracker, a bit of brown or black clay to represent chocolate, and a few cotton balls to make your marshmallows. Write a sweet note at the top of the paper, and deliver the beautiful creation along with a baggie of s’mores ingredients to a friend’s front porch.
6. Easy Art Wall
There are many ways to make an art wall in your home for all of those beautiful creations mentioned in the first paragraph. The easiest way I know how to do this is simply to hang a wire and use clothes pins to hold up those treasured pieces and continually replace the old with the new. To include the kids in this activity, have them decorate the clothespins. They can make tiny faces and glue on felt or paper clothing. They can make butterflies and dragonflies. They can glue on poms to make cute, colorful insects. The options are endless, and your art wall will be even cuter than you imagined.
Bless someone on their quarantined birthday by filling a box full of special decorations and surprises. Think of a theme, create games or activities (pull pages from a themed coloring book, pass down a puzzle, or just include sidewalk chalk and some instructions for a driveway obstacle course), scavenge the house for party supplies or decorations, draw faces on inflated balloons, and make a card. This box will be chock full of love and fun, plus your kids will have a blast doing a crafty and kind act for another person.
8. Homemade Clean-Up Labels
Has your kid ever used the excuse of not knowing where something goes to escape a clean-up chore? This easy craft serves the purpose of giving your child an opportunity to be creative and keep their little hands busy, while also making labels for shelves, bins, and drawers for easy clean up. Print blank pictures of toys or toy categories, such as legos, dolls, trains and cars, costumes, doll clothes, play-doh, or any other favorite toy in your home. Then, let children paint, color, or recreate the printed picture using their own supplies and creative ideas. Glue or tape the new labels in their appropriate location and encourage kids to “sort” their toys to match the labels.
9. Recycled Materials Art
Search the house (or better yet, the garage) for unused, unique items that can be repurposed to make beautiful art. Buttons can be eyes, twine can be a smile, a nail can be a nose, and yarn can be hair. Find an old frame for the artwork, and you have a personal and meaningful piece of art for your wall.
10. Disposable Table Cloth
Cover your table with easel, butcher, or the back side of holiday wrapping paper. Tape it down and let the kids decorate it. This is such an easy and fun way to keep kids busy for a long time! Plus, you can use your disposable table cloth to teach kids how to set the table by drawing plates, silverware, and napkins at one setting or you can practice math skills by measuring the table and using division to separate the table into equal art “squares” for each family member (and then calculate area and perimeter) or kids can simply use the tablecloth as their scratch/note paper while completing their online schoolwork.
11. Painted Rocks as Reward Tokens
Most kids love to paint rocks, but you can use these painted rocks as more than just sidewalk or trail decorations. Think of behaviors you want your children to work on. Then, collect rocks and separate them into piles for each behavior. Maybe you have an “inside voice” pile, a “close the back door without reminders” pile, and a “flush the toilet” pile. For each desired behavior, assign a color. Have your child paint all the rocks in that pile with one specific color. (They can add designs too.) When the rocks have dried, bring them in the house and set them next to bowls or jars labeled with the desired behavior. Each time your child achieves that goal, have him or her place a colored rock in the jar or bowl. When it’s filled, give a reward.
Happy Crafting! Please share your creations below or on Instagram with the tag @dripping_with_kids or #drippingwithkids. I’d love to see your crafts with a purpose!!
Aren’t kids so great? I’m currently riding in a packed car for 10+ hours with 4 of them. In between dishing out massive quantities of unhealthy snacks, changing shows on kid kindles every 67 seconds, breaking up sibling disputes with my futile mom-voice, and attempting to make conversation with my husband who somehow has the superpower ability to block out any and all activity occurring behind his seat, I am on and off my phone often. And each time I pick my phone back up, I am greeted by this lovely photo:
My sly pre-teen changed my phone’s lock screen from an adorable pic of her two youngest siblings sweetly staring up at me from their double stroller to this reminder of how uncoordinated and embarrassing her mother is. She laughs so hard every time I pick up my phone and sigh.
What she doesn’t realize is that I will gladly embarrass myself over and over again if it brings a smile to her face and helps us forge this developing mother/(almost-teen)daughter bond that’s new to both of us… a bond based on her discovery that she is now becoming way more cool than her mother has ever been, a bond that requires difficult, awkward conversations that are easier to get through when humor is sprinkled in, a bond in which we are both silently recognizing that she is eager yet not quite ready to be an independent teenager.
Navigating changing relationships with my “big” kids has been challenging for this mama, especially because I feel like my day consists of bouncing between cleaning up potty accidents, rescuing a toddler from death-defying stunts, re-teaching algebra lessons, and shouting out chore expectations. With kids ranging in age from 2 to 12, it can be overwhelming to satisfy each child’s need for attention and manage age-appropriate discipline, activities, and topics of conversation.
With the unfortunate spread of novel COVID-19, kids will be at home quite a bit this month and will require a lot more attention from their already-stretched parents. I’ve seen many articles and ads about activities to do with kids while we’re stuck at home with them. I empathize with the fear many parents are expressing about having children home all day every day and finding ways to entertain them without allowing countless hours of screen time. However, when I reflect on when my family is happiest, it’s definitely when we don’t have to adhere to a schedule and when we’re able to let our creativity lead us to spontaneous or new ways to have fun together. When we return home from our trip, I know my kids will not be ready to launch into full days of educational activities. To them, it will still feel like vacation if they are not in school. Therefore, I thought I’d get ahead of the game and make a list of fun “stay-cation” ideas to get through the longest spring break we’re likely to ever experience and hopefully build even closer bonds with each one of my kids, no matter what stage of coolness, sassiness, or independence they’re in.
1. Celebrate a favorite holiday out of season! Have Christmas in March with caroling, sugar cookies, re-gifting, and favorite holiday movies. Or celebrate Easter a little early with a themed egg hunt, bunny crafts, and bible stories. (Don’t have anything to fill the eggs with? Put coins or tickets inside and let the kids “buy” prizes, such as coveted snacks, forgotten stuffed animals, or a ticket for one on one time with Dad.) Or if 4th of July is a fave, decorate bikes and trikes and parade through the neighborhood, watch Independence Day, and make red, white, and blue treats.
2. Make the backyard a water park! Turn on the sprinklers, fill the baby pool, roll out the slip in slide, load up the water guns and balloons, and let the kids wash your car too.
3. Have a carnival! Set up easy carnival games like bowling, tossing a ping pong ball in buckets, pinning the nose on the clown, ring toss with cones or bottled drinks, and duck pond with rubber duckies from the bathtub.
4. Host a kids’ baking championship! They bake, you all eat, and the second/third place contestant cleans.
5. Take a hike! Follow up your hike with an indoor picnic and camp out, complete with a tent in the living room and s’mores in the fireplace! You can practice social distancing while exploring nature. Venture into another neighborhood and check out their trails. Or pull up google maps and look for any green space nearby that you’ve never explored before. Click on that green area, and you’ll be able to determine whether there are trails or an open park space there. You can also just type in “hiking” or “trails” in the search bar to find a new-to-you spot to explore.
6. Have a character day! Make costumes or get them out of your Halloween storage and dress up as favorite characters from movies or books and try to stay in character all day. Or switch characters each hour.
7. Learn about a new culture! One of the best parts of travel is learning about different cultures, and with a google of information at your fingertips, you can have your own culture fair at home. Let each person research a recipe (and cook it), a tradition, some historic facts, and additional information about a foreign culture. Then, he/she can share with everyone else in the family.
8. Explore a museum (at home)! And then create your own! A dozen famous museums, such as the Guggenheim and the Rijksmuseum, are offering virtual tours of their exhibits online for free. Explore these amazing institutions and then create your own museum at home with dinosaur toys, homemade art to mimic famous pieces from history, and/or natural specimens from a nature walk in your neighborhood. (Have older kids research their own museum contributions and write a summary of their exhibits.)
9. Create a repurposed art gallery! Search the house (or better yet, the garage) for unused, unique items that can be repurposed to make beautiful art.
10. Set up a ninja or obstacle course! And then follow that up with indoor and outdoor scavenger hunts! Challenge the kids to beat mom or dad in a course of climbing, crawling, jumping, and parkouring. Then, keep them busy and out of your hair searching for obscure items throughout the house and backyard.
And then, when you’ve had all the fun you could possibly muster…
11. Tackle spring cleaning! Bribe those kids with treats, money, screen time, an opportunity to redecorate their rooms, or a you tube dance party in the living room in exchange for decluttering, scrubbing floors, wiping baseboards, dusting shelves, and finally tossing that old 1st grade project.
In all seriousness, I pray that you and your families remain safe and healthy in the midst of this uncertain time with an uncertain pandemic. I also hope that something good can come of it as we take full advantage of this time at home with our loved ones.
Have you ever gone into your drawer and had to search through multiple pairs of black yoga pants to find that ONE pair you really love? I counted recently, and I have 11 pairs of them. ELEVEN! Despite having so many of one type of clothing in my wardrobe, I used to search for deals on black yoga pants every time I went shopping. Until I took a true inventory of what I owned, I just fell back into my regular shopping habits and searched for a deal on what was familiar. I have a feeling you do this too. What items in your closet do you have multiples of? Do you have a dozen pairs of jeans? Several pairs of the same type of running shorts? Twenty t-shirts of the same style?
How about in your pantry or refrigerator? How many bottles of ranch or Italian dressing do you have? How many jars of peanut butter or bags of flour or types of half-eaten cereal? These are items found in most households, and because they’re the “common” items, we often buy more and more of them when we mindlessly shop and fall into routine habits.
Taking inventory is your first line of defense against unintentional spending. Awareness helps you spend less and therefore, save more. After all, even if you find black yoga pants for 50% off or buy another bottle of ranch because there was a $1 off coupon, you’re still spending money on something you don’t currently need.
So, the next time you’re making your grocery list, peek into your pantry and your fridge and take count or better yet, take a picture. Not only will this keep you from adding something to the list that you don’t need, it will prevent you from mindlessly or impulsively buying yet another bottle of ketchup or frozen bag of peas.
Before your best friend and you embark on your next shopping day together, take a count, make a mental note, or snap a picture of your drawer full of jeans, your shelves full of shoes, your rack of dresses and skirts, and your pile of soft graphic tees. Being aware of what you already have will give you that resolve to say “no” when your friend is telling you how stinking cute you look in that #MomLife t-shirt.
A few other categories to take inventory of prior to launching into your weekly errands include:
– Beauty items, such as makeup or hair accessories and products
– Personal care items, including soap, body wash, razors, lotions, and toothpaste
– Towels … oh my gosh, the towels! I cannot even tell you how many times I’ve found amazing deals on soft, luscious, colorful towels at Target and convinced myself that we just did not have enough nice towels in our house. Now that I’m taking inventory, I’m blown away by how many drawers, cabinets, and closets in my house are packed full of every type of towel imaginable.
– Laundry and dishwasher detergents … there are almost always coupons available at the grocery store for these items, convincing you that you should buy more, but remember what I just said. There are ALMOST ALWAYS coupons available when you do actually need to replenish those products.
– Toys! Take a picture of your playroom or your child’s bedroom at its worst and have it handy for when you’re tempted to buy that “must-have” toy that was just marked down.
With all of this being said, I don’t want to discourage you from taking advantage of a great sale or huge discount. As a self-proclaimed frugal shopper, I understand that there are some deals that just cannot be passed up. I completely agree that occasionally, it makes perfect sense to stock up on something if you find an incredible deal and know you’ll be using that item often or that it will get eaten within the next month or two. For example, recently my grocery store was running a 20% discount on organic food items. This included the 24 pack of organic applesauce that my kids love. I already had a stash in my pantry, but because my younger kids each go through 2-3 applesauce pouches per day, I bought all the boxes left on the grocery store shelf. Those boxes full of addictive pouches of puréed fruit are taking up a lot of space on my pantry floor, but when I’m ready to go to the grocery store again, I’ll have a mental image of them being in stock at my house, saving me $12 of mindless grab-and-go shopping next time around.
I hope taking inventory of what’s on your shelves keeps you on the right path of your savings journey. You will likely recognize that you have far more than you truly need, and this awareness will prevent you not only from throwing away extra cash but also save you from being nominated for the next episode of “Hoarders”. Happy Saving!
Happy New Year! Have you already made your resolutions? Planning to get skinny (errr… I mean “healthy”)? Hoping to read more? Watch less TV? Exercise daily? Go to church more often? Swear in front of the kids fewer times per day??
Those are all good ones, but so far, the single resolution I’ve been hearing the most is “to save money!” Consumerism has taken over and rendered many of us hopeless and hungover in its wake. The year 2020 is the time for change, right?!
What I’ve also been hearing is that most people aren’t sure how to save money. Where could they possibly cut back? Especially when kids are in the picture. That’s exactly where I stood several months ago when I started a deep-dive into the messes of our finances and our spending. I had previously considered myself pretty darn frugal. I only bought clothes and decor on sale. I made my kids share meals when we went out to eat. I had one fewer drink than I wanted to when out with the girls. And my husband and I took joy in repurposing or building furniture rather than buying new. So, where could I possibly cut back without leading a life of “deprivation”? I was already careful with money… so I thought.
Regardless of the doubts I had on whether it would make a difference at all, I decided to set out on a journey of budgeting and tracking our spending. It was difficult at first, and I did not take it seriously, but after listening to a few personal finance podcasts and talking to several friends, I really started to treat it like a true mission. That’s when everything changed! Just in the process of tracking what we were spending, we started saving. A lot. We started saving so much money that I looked back and didn’t understand where it had all gone before￼￼. Our lives didn’t even look different. This propelled me and motivated me in such a way that I now want to help others on the same path to changing their lives without changing their lifestyle, to start saving more money for their families and their future, and to see the benefits of frugality.
This list of 9 easy ways to save money in 2020 are just the first 9 things that came to mind when I thought about little changes that a family can make to achieve big wins. Please let me know if they’re helpful at all, and I’d also LOVE to hear your tips on frugal living and financial gains.
1. Track your spending! Pay attention to where every dollar goes. Write it down, dictate it into your phone, use an app, whatever works for you. Then, ask yourself whether that money is going toward what you consider to be most valuable in your life. (This is the hardest but the most helpful step, by the way. Skip it and come back to it if it seems too daunting.)
2. Unsubscribe to retailer emails! All those emails about upcoming sales, can’t-miss offers, and travel discounts seep into your subconscious and encourage you to spend, spend, spend because ya know, it’s a DEAL! Go a month without seeing them and determine whether you are really missing anything in your life that you HAD TO HAVE. If you are, I’m pretty sure you know how to find that retailer’s website or store location again.
3. Take on a challenge! Engage your family (or friends) in a fun money-saving challenge, such as a “spend-nothing week” or “eat everything in the pantry week” or “free-activities month” where you only partake in family fun that’s totally free. (Check out my post on the best parks in the Dripping Springs area to get started on this one.) You could also try “no eating-out month” or “book a family vacation for less than $1000”. Make saving fun, and you might see even bigger results than you expected.
4. Ask a friend! When you’re in need of something, ask a friend or offer a swap before reaching for your wallet. You can swap clothing, jewelry, kids’ puzzles/toys, books, and so on. You can swap time also: babysitting hours, carpooling/rides, and home organization hours. Doing home projects with a friend is more fun anyway. Maybe you can help clean out your friend’s fridge this week, and the two of you can tackle your shoe collection next week.
5. Call your credit card! Find out what they’re willing to offer you as a loyal customer. Ask and you will likely receive. Do you need a lower interest rate? Do you want your annual fee waived? Are you looking for opportunities to earn more travel rewards?
I no longer wanted to pay the annual fee on the credit card that we’ve had for 10 years and had been paying off every single month, so I called Chase, and after a 6 minute call, my annual fee was credited back to me.
If your ccard company doesn’t have anything to offer you, there are MANY more out there who are happy to give you bonuses and lower rates.
6. Pay attention to your TV habits! Are you watching ALL the channels? Are you regularly taking advantage of ALL the subscriptions? If not, what can you cut? Choose one and cut the cord or call the cable company and ask for a better plan.
7. Take inventory! Before you shop, be sure to know what you already have. Really take note of what you have in your pantry or in the back of your fridge. Go to your closet and count how many pairs of black yoga pants you have and the # of gray t-shirts and the collection of sneakers, etc. Intentionally taking stock of what you own might keep you from buying yet another.
8. Get the app! Do you always shop at the same grocery store? Download the app, check out the coupons, and take advantage of the featured offers. Do you often stop at your kids’ fave fast food joint? Try out the app, collect the points, and snag some freebies. Do you like getting cash back for what you already buy? Check out the Ibotta app or Rakuten.
9. Watch YouTube! I know, I know… “YouTube” is equivalent to a 4-letter word in my house due to my kids’ obsession with it, but it can truly be a useful tool when something in the house breaks and you want to save money on handyman fees. Or when you want to teach your child something new, like beginning guitar lessons. You can find a DIY video on just about anything on YouTube, so save money while simultaneously winning cool points with your kids.
Thank you for reading about the 9 easy ways to save money in 2020! I plan to blog about this journey often, and I really hope you’ll join me in the challenge to become a new FRUGAL you. I really hope we can all achieve small, and eventually big, wins together. I’m looking for a tribe who can help keep me motivated (and vice versa), who can share these wins, and who will join me for carefree vacations in my future home in the Rockies! 😉
Children and holidays are a lot alike. They can both drive us insane, but oh, how we love them so! I’m a huge fan of the holiday season, but I have to admit that every year, I feel a bit like the stressed, impatient, beloved main character in the children’s book, Llama Llama Holiday Drama.
“Is the big day coming soon? Llama Llama starts to swoon… All this waiting for one day? Time for presents right away! Too much music, too much fluff! Too much making, too much stuff! Too much EVERYTHING for Llama… Llama, Llama, HOLIDRAMA!” ¹
Not only do we have to find gifts for every human we’ve ever come in contact with, but we also have to make sure we make it to each white elephant party, see ALL the lights, and prepare for the perfect pic with Santa. Oh, and don’t forget the family traditions of holiday movie-thons, tree-decorating, caroling, searching for that dreaded elusive elf, and sending dozens of cards, all while wearing matching PJ’s! How do we squeeze everything in?
With so much going on, having a plan and finding a good balance is the only way to avoid ending up on the floor in a holidrama trance like little Llama Llama. In our house, we use the Advent calendar to maintain a game plan and limit the holiday commotion. Starting on December 1st, I write down one holiday experience to do for each of the days leading up to Christmas. These daily activities can be must-do tasks, like addressing and sending Christmas cards, or fun nights out, like meandering through a trail of lights after dinner. I love this tradition because we get to participate in all of our favorite events, activities, tasks, and traditions while waiting in joyful anticipation of celebrating the birth of Jesus. In addition to the daily activity, I also include a slip of paper with scripture that tells part of the Christmas story so that each day, a little more of the story is being recited. (Luke 1:26-35; Luke 2:1-20)
Below I’ve included a list of some of the activities I’ve hidden in our advent calendar pockets, along with our annual Holiday Bucket List, so you can find that perfect balance to fill you up with the joyful holiday spirit yet keep you sane!
TRADITIONS/FUN AT HOME –
Bake sugar cookies
Make cards/gifts for teachers
Holiday movie night
Read the story of St. Nicholas and put shoes outside your door for a little surprise (Dec 6th)
Deliver treats to neighbors
Caroling and holiday charades
Trim/Decorate the tree(s)
Make homemade paper snowflakes and tape them in the windows
Tell stories of your family’s holidays past, as well as dreams for the future (reminisce over photos, plan vacations, etc)
Make gingerbread houses
HILL COUNTRY HOLIDAY BUCKET LIST –
Reindeer Visit at the Hill Country Galleria (Bee Cave): Santa’s reindeer will be in the Central Plaza from noon – 4 pm one day only (Nov 30th)! Stay for shopping and a movie at the Hill Country Holiday Village. Santa’s arrival and the tree lighting will occur at the same location one week earlier on Nov 23rd at 6 pm. (https://www.hillcountrygalleria.com/)
Luminations at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (Austin): Dec 5th – 8th and Dec 12th – 15th, 6 – 10 pm… Gardens will be lit with thousands of luminarias and filled with music and festive fun. Plus, there will be performances by the aerial dance group, Blue Lapis Light. $18 for non-members, free for members and children under 5. (https://www.wildflower.org/event/luminations/all)
Emily Ann Theater Trail of Lights (Wimberley): Nov 30th – Dec 28th, 6 – 9 pm… Stroll through over 100
lighted exhibits, roast marshmallows, listen to live music, and visit with Santa on select nights. FREE, donations appreciated. (http://emilyann.org/trailoflights.html)
Donuts and Photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus (S. Austin): Join and support AOC MOPS while enjoying quality time with Santa and the Mrs. There will be photos with Santa, a doughnut breakfast, festive crafts, and story time with Mrs. Claus! Plus raffle items from Kendra Scott, Rodan and Fields, a complete car detail, personal chef services and much more. Reservations just $10 per family. Follow the link to make yours. Spots are limited, and it is expected to sell out.
Johnson City Lights Spectacular: Nightly November 29th – Jan 5th… The courthouse and downtown area are aglow with thousands of lights. Local vendors set up tables inside and outside the courthouse. Parade rolls through town at 6:30 pm on November 30th, and food court will be available that night. On Dec 7th and 14th, there will be lamplight tours through LBJ’s boyhood home, crafts for children, and live music. Carriage and hay rides are available for a fee. (https://www.johnsoncitytexas.info/local-events–calendar.html
Holidays in Gruene: Weekends in December… photos with Cowboy Kringle, free afternoon shows at historic Gruene Hall, gorgeous Christmas lights and decorations throughout the town, and unique shops to complete your Christmas lists. (www.gruenetexas.com)
Crafts, Music, and Stories at your local library: Check your local library’s newsletter for FREE holiday events, including making holiday gifts, hunting for Elf on the Shelf, donating items to local shelters and senior centers, live music, and much more.
Home Depot December Kids’ DIY Workshop: On Dec 7th between 9 am and noon, create your own countdown to the holidays, and have a blast with your child while doing it. Kids develop hands-on skills with sanding, nailing and applying stickers. With help from parents and store associates, your child will make a merry memory this holiday season. All kids get to keep their craft, receive a FREE certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron and a commemorative pin while supplies last. (https://www.homedepot.com/workshops/#store/8995)
Christmas on Mercer (Dripping Springs): This fun hometown festival on Dec 7th from 10 am to 5 pm draws a crowd to see Santa cruise in on a fire engine, to sip hot cocoa while perusing local vendor tables, and to watch local groups perform dance routines and sing Christmas carols. Come dressed to impress so you can snag a FREE picture with Santa. There will also be pony rides, a petting zoo, and a trackless train ride for the kids. (https://www.destinationdrippingsprings.com/events/2019/christmas-on-mercer-street)
Community First Village of Lights (Austin): Dec 6th & 7th and Dec 13th & 14th, 5:30 – 9 pm… With more than 200,000 lights choreographed to holiday music, the Community First! Village of Lights is one of the biggest Christmas light displays in Central Texas. Be sure to include a stop at the Advent Market to shop for unique, handcrafted gifts made by formerly homeless craftsmen and artisans who live at the Village. Your purchase of gifts and concessions during the event will help our Community First! Village neighbors earn a dignified income. (https://give.mlf.org/event/village-of-lights-2019/e255043)
Lost Pines Christmas Snow Day (Bastrop – Fisherman’s Park): Dec 14th, 12 pm – 5 pm, followed by a lighted parade through downtown at 6 pm! (www.visitbastrop.com)
A Pioneer Christmas at the Pound House (Dripping Springs): Dec 14th, 12 – 2 pm… Food, Wagon Rides, Photos with Santa, Make-and-Take Ornament Crafts, Story Readings, Live Holiday Bluegrass Music, Demonstrators, Shopping with Local Artisans, Re-Enactments, and Tours of the House decked out for the Holidays! FREE admission. (http://www.drpoundhistoricalfarmstead.org/pioneer-christmas.html)
Holidays in Fredericksburg: There are several events throughout the season that will fill even the scroogiest attendee with the holiday spirit. Check out the town lighting on Nov 29th or the Light the Night Christmas parade on Dec 6th. There are also markets, ice skating, lights tours, live music, crafting, art walks, and many more activities happening in this cute little German town throughout the month of December. (https://www.visitfredericksburgtx.com/plan/events)
Maywald Lights Display (W. Austin): Over 120,000 lights are on display at a family’s home in Austin for a good cause: the Make-a-Wish foundation! Check out their “Believe” theme this year and leave a donation. (https://maywaldchristmasdisplay.weebly.com/)
Save the Date: Snow Day at the Science Mill (Johnson City): Jan 18th, 2020, 10 am – 4 pm… 20 tons of snow will fill the museum’s backyard. Tickets are $11 for adults and $9.50 for children 3-12. (https://www.sciencemill.org/upcoming-events-1/)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this question after revealing the destination of a recurring road trip for our family.
Is there an amusement park for children? Nope. Is there a nice resort to stay at? Not that I know of. Is there a beach? Definitely not. (But read on to find out how you can ride the waves in the center of Texas.) Is there anything more to do than following the Gaines family on their latest venture? Surprisingly, YES.
There’s something about the many small towns of Texas that really piques my family’s interests. Each town in this great state has such a unique history, culture, and vibe, and Waco is no exception. It has a long and intriguing history rooted in Native American culture and early American settlers. It’s also the site of one of the largest mammoth excavations in the world and the location of the first bridge over the Brazos River, which connected east and west Texas, forever changing the population and economy of the future republic. Waco has also had a negative and notorious reputation for murder, including the lynching incident deemed the Waco Horror, David Koresh’s Branch Davidian cult massacre and fire, and the biker gang shoot out in 2015. These stories made Waco less than popular among tourists, yet this town has a thriving university, multiple museums, beautiful natural landscapes, cultural diversity, and a story to tell. Chip and Joanna decided that Waco wasn’t worth giving up on, and my family tends to agree. One weekend just isn’t enough to take all of it in, but here’s our version of how to make the best of those few days and entertain the entire crew in the infamous town of Waco…
Where to Stay:
We found a great house in the nearby town of Riesel. It’s off the beaten path, and there’s no grocery store or special attractions, but it’s just a 15-20 min drive from Waco and offers a relaxing country setting, as well as opportunities to enjoy quiet quality time with family and friends. Check out this house: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/22227878
If you want to stay right in town, there are plenty of options through Airbnb, but we’ve also stayed at a hotel (Springhill Suites) that had rooms big enough for our family of 6 and included a full kitchen and free breakfast. Highly recommend!
Things to Do:
Cameron Park Zoo – One of our fave zoos! The zoo has plenty of shade, a fun playground, and interactive exhibits; plus, it’s easy to walk through the whole zoo in half a day. Highlights include the slide through the otter exhibit, feeding the giraffes, bridges over animal habitats, several cute photo ops, the nocturnal animals barn, and the extensive reptile house. Tip: Feed yourself and the kiddos in advance. There are two cafes, but they are spread out. There aren’t many snack options in between the two.
Cameron Park – This Park has it all… multiple playgrounds, a splash pad, picnic areas, scenic views, and hike and bike trails. It is one of the largest municipal parks in Texas, and the Brazos River runs alongside it. Tip: Explore the website and map in advance to determine where to park your car based on trail heads or playgrounds you want to visit. https://www.waco-texas.com/cms-parksandrecreation/page.aspx?id=310
Magnolia Market at the Silos – The Gaines family ventures aren’t completely avoidable. With lawn games for the kids, shopping for Mom, and food trucks for Dad, there’s plenty to do here to keep everyone happy. (BONUS: Joanna Gaines has re-opened her original store on Bosque as a liquidation shop. If you make a purchase at Magnolia Market at the Silos, you can bring your receipt to the Bosque location and get an additional 10% off the already reduced prices.)
Mayborn Museum – It’s a history museum and children’s museum in one… win-win for the whole family! Highlights include the mini mammoth site, kinetic music hallway, outdoor pioneer village, and dozens of interactive children’s exhibits, including a toddler play area. Also, the museum is on the Baylor campus, which is really pretty to walk or drive through. Tips: Allow a lot of time for this visit. Your kids will want to stay put in specific rooms, and you will want to have plenty of time leftover to explore the outdoor village. Outside food and drinks are not allowed.
The Dr. Pepper Museum – Do you love the sweet, sugary concoction and want to know all about its history? Then, this museum is for you. There are some nostalgic components worth reminiscing over and some fun photo ops, but if you are with small children with little patience, save this museum for another visit when they’re a bit older and/or when the grandparents want to relive their early years with the soda jerk. (Sorry, Mom.)
On the bucket list for a future visit:
Waco Mammoth National Monument – This paleontological site represents the nation’s only recorded discovery of a nursery herd of Columbian mammoths. Visitors can view “in situ” fossils including female mammoths, a bull mammoth, and a camel that lived approximately 67,000 years ago. https://www.nps.gov/waco/index.htm
Homestead Heritage – Homestead Heritage is an agrarian- and craft-based intentional Christian community. Its literature stresses simplicity, sustainability, self-sufficiency, cooperation, service and quality craftsmanship. It also strives to live in peaceful coexistence with the land, other people and other faiths. You can visit the craft village Mon-Sat. https://www.homesteadheritage.com/overview/
BSR Cable Park – This surf resort boasts the longest lazy river in Texas, plus opportunities to learn how to ride the waves and satisfy your dreams of becoming a pro surfer. This adventure is meant for older children and adults, but it offers cabins to rent and picnic spots for the whole family. https://www.bsrcablepark.com/
Texas Ranger Museum – Yes, it’s a history museum… about law enforcement. It’s probably not for everyone, but it’s still on our list for the history nerd in our family. (I’m pretty sure you’ve already guessed who that is.) https://www.texasranger.org/
Texas Sports Hall of Fame – This one’s for the guys in our household. It’s supposed to be a really cool place to visit with lots of sports photos, memorabilia, and statistics that are necessary for the male brain to memorize. http://www.tshof.org/visit/info/