Summertime…

Summertime…long, lazy days spent basking in the sun, hiking, and exploring…

Maxwell Falls

I am so thankful that we are here now.

I know that talking about where I have been as a blogger is one of those things that other bloggers say not to do, but I am going to do it anyway. For the past six months, I have been chugging along with life and learning to be content.

I haven’t been completely silent. I have become a monthly contributor to Mile High Mamas where I share family travel posts and my love for all things library. For the most part though, my job as a teacher librarian and my family duties have kept me quiet here.

Summertime has given me the space to get my creativity back and share some of our adventures, tips, and tricks. As I have always said, adventures can happen in your own town. You don’t have to take big trips and we are going to prove that with our Colorado adventures this summer.

Coming up – our favorite hiking spots near Denver, a girl’s weekend to Chicago, and more. Where are you headed this summer?

Aventura Clothing – Something for Every Body

If you have been here before, or if you follow my Instagram account, you know that in between sharing my favorite travels spots, tips, and hints, I also share my love for Aventura Clothing. I fell in love with Aventura almost two years ago when a friend shared some of her favorite outfits during her ambassadorship. Becoming an ambassador for Aventura was such a great fit for me because I was already sharing my love for Aventura anyway. During my time as an ambassador, I receive a couple of items and an occasional discount. Scroll down for an opportunity to get a 60% off discount card!

The reason I love Aventura Clothing is because there is something for every body type. I do not have a tiny model body type. In addition to that, I have been almost six feet tall since I was in 8th grade. Finding clothes that fit and make me feel good can be a difficult task. Aventura Clothing is made for real women of all body types. Does everything fit me? Nope. But, you know what? That is okay. I am not a fan of how the pants look and I stay away from the fitted skirts. But the tops and sweaters? The flowy dresses and skirts? I am in love.

Aventura tops make me look like I have lost 10 pounds and the sweaters fit and hug in all the right places. Now that I have been wearing Aventura for a couple of years, I have found the styles that fit me the best and make me feel like a million dollars when I am out and about, whether I am at work or just hanging out at the park. Here are some of my favorites:

Aventura

Pretty Tops

My favorite tops are the ones that don’t cling but still look pretty. Aventura pays so much attention to detail with feminine touches that aren’t over the top. Pictured above, I am wearing the Aberdeen top in Blue Spruce. I love it so much that I am thinking about ordering it in another color. Some of my other favorites include the Avila top, which has a lovely detail on the arm. The Erin top crosses just below the chest and hugs in all the right places. The Greta is a step up from your average thermal. It keeps me warm while still looking fashionable.

Aberdeen Top in Blue Spruce

Aberdeen Top in Blue Spruce

Avila top in Petal

Avila top in Petal

Greta top in North Sea

Greta top in North Sea

 

 

 

 

Erin top in Craisin

Erin top in Craisin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweaters

In the wintertime, I live in sweaters. My library gets cold and I need something that will keep me warm and comfy throughout the day. The Upton sweater is just the right weight. The Beasley sweater looks great with my jeans and boots. I have to wear the Caserta sweater with a long sleeved shirt because it has a little bit of wool in it and that can irritate my skin.

Upton Sweater in WInetasting

Upton Sweater in WInetasting

Beasley Sweater in Winetasting

Beasley Sweater in Winetasting

Caserta Sweater in Grisaille

Caserta Sweater in Grisaille

Do you want to try out Aventura Clothing with a discount? I am giving away 4 60% off discount codes to the first four people who comment. The code is good for a one time purchase up to $250. It is a great way to try it out and see for yourself!

Aventura Clothing Fall Favorites for Travel

*As an ambassador, I receive three outfits from Aventura Clothing. I loved the line before I became an ambassador and spend a large amount of my paycheck on Aventura clothing! Aventura is offering 25% off any purchase from Aventura using the code AMBF25. I also have five one time discount codes for 60% off of the original prices up to $250. I will give a code to the first five people who comment on this post. What are you waiting for? Head over there and place your order!

When I am packing my suitcase for travel, I keep a few things in mind:

Will the item look like it was balled up in a corner for three weeks when I pull it out of my suitcase at my destination?

Does the item weigh too much?

Can I wear the item for casual and dressy events if need be?

Does the item match several other things that I am bringing with me?

I used to pack whatever I wanted without putting too much thought into my choices, but now I find myself wanting to pack as lightly as possible with items that will serve me well on the trip. I also find myself reaching for my favorite Aventura pieces. So much so that my suitcase looks like I am planning for an Aventura catalog shoot at my destination!

These are a few of my favorite Aventura pieces from the Fall/Winter line:

 

Nova Reversible Skirt in Heather Gray

Nova Reversible Skirt
I chose this skirt as part of my ambassador order but I loved it so much, I turned around and ordered it in the black. The skirt is reversible, which means that it can get a little dirty and I can still wear it during my travels (though I try not to do that!). It also means that I can wear the one skirt more than one way while I travel and the people I am traveling with won’t be any wiser. Note that the black skirt has a hint of color in the design. I can’t quite tell what it is (beige?) but it is not black and white. I wore it with the Romy top and it made the coloring appear pink.
Romy Top in Dark Purple
Romy Top
This has to be the softest top in the entire collection. I love the lightweight rayon jersey and it can be rolled up neatly in the suitcase. I do believe that this top runs a little on the big side.
Upton Sweater in Winetasting
Upton Sweater

 

This sweater is light enough that it won’t weigh down your luggage but it is heavy enough to keep you warm on those cool fall nights. I love that it is dressy enough for a night out but can also pair with jeans for a casual afternoon.

Savona Infinity Scarf in Petrol

Savona Infinity Scarf

Scarves have become my favorite travel accessory. They are easy to pack and dress up an outfit. I love the coloring in this scarf. I have worn it with the Nova Reversible skirt as well as a pair of jeans and a cute top. Aventura has all sorts of scarves from some that provide warmth to some lighter weight scarves that are more for accessorizing.

Medical Emergencies While Traveling

You are planning out your dream vacation: hotel is booked, adventures planned, restaurants scouted out, clothes packed. When putting your clothes in your suitcase, you usually plan for contingencies, right? A sweater in case it’s cool, a swimsuit in case there is a pool or beach, a nice outfit for dinner out. You never know exactly what is going to happen so you try to be as prepared as possible. What about when it comes to your health or accidents? How do you plan for that? Of course, we can never foresee an unexpected injury, or that cold that hits you right in the middle of your summer trip to the Bahamas.  But just like we prepare for foul weather, I recommend you always have in the back of your head what to do if someone decides to ruin your trip by going and getting sick on you!

Medical Emergencies While Traveling - twokidsandamap.com

We are still in the middle of a less than stellar move from Newport, R.I. to Omaha, Nebraska.  Our housing plans completely fell through at entirely the last possible minute and we found ourselves homeless in our new town.  After some more house hunting we made the unplanned drive over to Denver to stay with Jen and her family while we wait for our home to be available.  It should come as no surprise to us that my 10 year old daughter would suddenly have an abscess appear below one of her teeth.  AGH!  What to do!?!

It can be incredibly stressful being in a strange area, out of your usual medical coverage area, trying to get in to see a doctor that you aren’t even going to be a patient of in the future. Our stress was compounded by the fact that we are getting ready to separate from our children as they continue their vacation with family.  This had to be fixed YESTERDAY.

I have taken many trips with and without children and here are my tips for how to cope with an injury or illness on the road:

  1. Give Permission for Medical Treatment in Advance: If leaving your children with other friends or family members while you (or they) vacation, write a letter that gives their caretaker permission to seek medical treatment.  Include your name, your kids’ names, the caretakers’ names, and be sure to sign it. Also leave a copy of your insurance card, allergies or illnesses and current physician’s contact information.
  2. Bring Your Insurance Cards: Always be sure to have access to your insurance information while traveling.
  3. Be Aware of Your Out of Network Policy: The last thing you want to worry about in an emergency is if you are making the right choice financially. Our medical insurance company had a webpage specifically geared toward what to do while you are traveling. Do try to be sure you make it to a provider that your insurance will allow, or you could be smacked with major bills later.
  4. ICE Contacts Stored in Your Phone: ICE (In case of emergency) contacts are vital in case you get hurt and are unable to call your emergency contacts yourself.
  5. Timing is Everything: Do not wait to see what happens. If there is a problem, whether accident or illness, take care of it ASAP.  It could develop into something so much worse and your issue could get out of hand faster than you imagine.
  6. Pack a Small First Aid Kit: I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to use antibacterial cream when someone gets cut while camping, or worse. Jen posted once about what to pack in a car first aid kit. Take a look and see if you are ready for the unknown!
  7. First Aid Kit - twokidsandamap.comStay Calm and Cool and Think With a Clear Head: Nobody will benefit if you are having an anxiety attack mid-emergency.

Have you had to deal with an emergency while traveling? Do you have any other advice to share?

Can You Plan a Surprise Trip and Keep it a Secret?

A couple of months ago, I had this crazy idea to surprise my husband with a 36 hour trip to Las Vegas for our 15th wedding anniversary. It had been quite some time since we went away together and my brother-in-law offered to watch the kids. I watched the sales, booked the trip, and all that was left was to keep it a secret until it was time to go.

Consider how you will fund the trip. This part was easy for me. I have gone back to work and had been putting away some money so I knew what kind of budget I wanted to stick to. I am also in charge of the bills. My husband is very much aware of our bills and financial situation but he doesn’t micromanage the day to day side of it. I knew he wasn’t likely to check the credit card statements online. If he did, I hoped that he just wouldn’t notice. If you are planning a surprise trip, how are you going to hide it from the person you are surprising? If you are surprising your child, this will be easy but if you are surprising a significant other who usually takes care of the finances, this might prove to be a bit more difficult. Also, consider your financial situation and what the other person will say. This is supposed to be a fun trip for you and the person you are surprising. It would definitely ruin things if your significant other asks how much you spent on it before you even leave the house.

Consider how you will feel if you can’t keep the surprise. After the trip was all booked, I told pretty much everyone I knew who did not talk to my husband on a regular basis. For the most part, I wasn’t worried about other people spilling the beans. I was more worried about spilling the beans myself! As it turns out, I was able to keep the secret until my husband told me two weeks before the trip that he had to go out of town for business and wouldn’t be back until the night we were supposed to leave. I quickly told him that if he had to go he had to be back three hours before our flight time. I told him he had to be at the airport waiting for me because we were going out of town. I stopped there with details but boy was it painful keeping it a secret once he learned a little piece of it.

Consider when and how you will tell the person about the trip. I had this whole plan where I was going to pack my husband’s bag, my brother-in-law was going to show up, and we were going to supposedly go out on a date night. I was going to drive us to the airport and then share the surprise. Of course, that all went by the wayside when I had to tell him about the trip. Since he knew we were taking a plane somewhere, I took him to the airport and we wandered around until about thirty minutes until our flight. Once it was time to board, we stopped in front of the Vegas sign and I told him that was where we were going.

Consider whether to plan the entire trip or leave some of it open ended. I planned the date, transportation, hotel, and person to watch the kids. I left everything else open. There are some pros and cons to this. The obvious pro is that your travel partner will have a say in the plans and you can make plans together. The biggest con to this method is that if there is something that requires reservations or early reservations, you might miss out. I really wanted to see the Neon Museum at night but I wasn’t sure that it would be the way my husband wanted to spend our one full evening in Vegas so I didn’t book it. Tickets sold out and it turns out that he would have enjoyed it. Oh well. Lesson learned.

Have you ever planned a surprise trip? Share your tips with us!

Travel Bingo Laura Kelly Designs Printable


Road trips with kids can make parents a little nutty but with a little proper planning, a road trip can be a lot of fun for everyone. While I am not against electronics in the car, I try to make sure that we have lots of different activities. If the car ride is going to be more than a couple of hours, my husband and I make sure the kids pack a bag with toys, books, and other things that will entertain them.

Often, I will throw in a few fun surprises by hitting the interwebs to find some printables that I can put together in a folder. They include crossword puzzles, word searches, travel bingo and more. The travel bingo was always a disaster though! I would print off the cards and they would all be the same so the kids would win at the same time.

Laura Kelly Auto Bingo
Enter Laura Kelly printables. Laura Kelly’s shop has all these great printables that help you throw a party, make your own checkers game, and drumroll please…a make your own travel bingo card. Laura gave me a copy of the printable so that I could give it a try.

Laura Kelly Design Auto Bingo
The Travel Bingo Printable can be purchased through Laura Kelly Designs shop. Once you have purchased and downloaded it, you can print it for use. Once you have printed your copy, have your kids spend a few minutes creating their own special bingo card by cutting out the things to look for and gluing them on the card. This will make sure that everybody’s card is different and everybody has a hand in creating it will make the kids excited to play.

Laura Kelly Auto Bingo
We will be hitting the road soon. The trip is going to be a doozy! My mom and I are taking five cousins in the car for about 27 hours total. We will definitely need something to do! My kids created Bingo cards for all of the cousins and they are so excited to share. The best way to make the cards last the whole trip is to laminate them (either yourself or take them to an office supply store) so that they can be used over and over again.

You can find the Laura Kelly Auto Bingo card for $1.99 in her shop.

*Thanks to Laura for providing me with the file so that we can try out her printables. Check out this amazing 4th of July party created with her Patriotic Party Printables.

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Scarves: My Favorite Travel Accessory

aventura

When I travel, I am always standing in front of my small jewelry box trying to decide what to bring with me. I have a couple of necklaces that I love to wear with different things but do I want to travel with them? I am not a big accessory gal but I do have a couple of pieces I love. One necklace is worth more in sentimental value than monetary value and I would be distraught if I lost it or if it was stolen. Another necklace is hard to keep from tangling even in a jewelry pouch. What about the bracelet that my husband bought for me for the last holiday? Do I wear it all? Do I put it in my luggage and hope for the best? I usually end up leaving it safely at home in my jewelry box but I always feel like I am missing something when getting ready to explore a city that is new to me.

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I have found the solution to this travel accessory problem. If you are a visitor to this site, you know that recently I became an ambassador for Aventura Clothing. While I was shopping, I decided to add a couple of spring scarves to my order. Since moving to Colorado, I have fallen in love with winter scarves. My sister has knit me some pretty gorgeous scarves that I wear on a daily basis. Why not give a spring scarf a try?

 

 


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I may or may not have a scarf problem.



When the scarves arrived, I fell in love with them immediately. They are soft and lightweight making them perfect for spring and summer in Colorado. I probably wore one to work at least twice a week.

When it came time to pack for my next trip, I threw several of the scarves in my suitcase. They don’t take up too much room and I don’t have to worry about the sentimental value if they get lost. And at an average price of $30, I can worry less about the loss of the scarf than I would about the loss of some of my jewelry. The scarves are lightweight so they don’t make me feel like I am suffocating in a warm climate. On the other hand, they still provide some warmth when moving from the warm outdoor weather inside to the air conditioned buildings.

What is your favorite travel accessory?

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*In exchange for a couple of outfits to review and some discounts, I share some of my favorite things about Aventura Clothing. This is easy for me because I was a huge fan of the line before I was asked to be an ambassador. As you know, I only share things on this site that I love and use already or do continue paying for myself.

5 Things to Love about Aventura Clothing (and a Chance for a Discount Code)

When I find a piece of clothing that makes me feel comfortable and looks decent, I usually buy it in every color they have. Capri pants that don’t make me look like or feel like I weigh 1000 pounds? I will take them in khaki, black, and navy blue. T-shirts that fit my shape? One in those seven colors please. To be honest, I don’t really have any fashion sense and will always look for comfort over look.

5things

Enter Aventura Clothing. I was introduced to Aventura Clothing by a friend and ambassador about a year ago. I fell in love with the brand both for what it stands for and how it looks. That is why it was such a great fit for me to apply to be an ambassador when the application process opened. As you know from visiting this site, I only recommend products that I use in my every day routines. I am thrilled to announce that for the next year, I will be an Aventura Clothing Ambassador!

The Lantana Hoodie - I am trying to decide if I can justify purchasing one in each color.

The Lantana Hoodie – I am trying to decide if I can justify purchasing one in each color.

These are just a few of the reasons why I love Aventura Clothing:

1. The website is full of ideas to help you put together perfect outfits. I love the way the website showcases each piece of clothing in a perfectly put together outfit. If you are like me and don’t really have any fashion sense, Aventura helps you put together an outfit that you can feel good in. To be honest, three of the latest outfits I have purchased or chosen as an ambassador were picked right off of a catalog picture. It has helped me step out of the box and pair colors that I might not have paired together. Speaking of colors…

2. The colors compliment each other.  Every time I get an order from Aventura, I am pleasantly surprised at how many different outfits I can put together with just a few pieces of clothing. The colors all compliment each other and work well together. One of my favorite outfits right now is the Meryl skirt in Alhambra Green and the Dionne top in Blue Moon (pictured below). I would never have bought these two items together in the store but seeing them next to each other on the site? They are a perfect match.

 

 

3. You can feel good about your purchases. The Aventura mission is to help the earth one garment at a time. The clothing is fashionable but also has a low economic impact. The sustainable eco-friendly fabrics include materials like organic cotton, recycled polyester rayon from bamboo, and other natural fiber blends.

4. Spending a little money goes a long way. I am very frugal. It is important to me to save money anywhere I can whether I am booking travel, purchasing clothing, or shopping for groceries. I often purchase from the clearance rack and from high discount places. After purchasing my first couple of Aventura pieces, I realized that spending a little bit of money on clothing can save money in the long run. Instead of the $5 t-shirt that doesn’t last more than three or four washes, I spent a lot more and am still wearing the same Aventura pieces. They wash well and have lasted a long time so far!

5. You are going to look great! I get more compliments on my Aventura clothing than I do on the rest of my wardrobe combined. Every time I wear one of my Aventura outfits, I get compliments on the color, the cut, and the overall look all day long. You know what else I love about Aventura? I am cruising into my late 30s and Aventura helps me stay fashionable without feeling like I am dressing like a teenager.

Do you want to try Aventura at a discount? The first 5 people to comment on this post will receive a discount code for 60% off of the original prices up to $250.

*As an ambassador, I was provided with three outfits to review. I currently have several items sitting in my Aventura cart right now! All opinions are mine. 

 

The Perfect Tailgating Take-Along and a $300 Amazon Card

Football hasn’t really been my favorite sport to watch but it has grown on me since we moved to Denver, a city where loving the Denver Broncos is part of the requirement to call Denver your home.

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I also just recently finished my master’s at Florida State University. Rooting for the Seminoles is something that has become second nature to me. Along the way, I have also fallen in love with tailgating. Or rather, football party food!

One of my favorite tailgating take-alongs is something that is relatively easy to travel with and is a cinch to make. It comes from Gooseberry Patch and is in the 101 Super East Slow Cooker Recipes book (I LOVE this book!). Taco Joe’s are kind of a cross between sloppy joe’s and taco meat. The Gooseberry Patch cookbook recommends making the filling and putting it in hot dog buns but we think it makes the perfect chip dip or nacho topping.

Taco Joe’s

2-3 pounds of browned ground beef, drained

16 ounce can of refried beans

16 ounce jar of salsa

1 package of taco seasoning

10 ounce can of enchilada sauce (I have left this out because we didn’t have any and it was delicious without, too!)

Mix all ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on low for about 4 hours.

That is it! Easy enough, right?

When the flavors have had time to meld together, serve as taco meat, nacho topping, or drop it into hot dog buns. Our favorite way to serve it is with tortilla chips or Frito chips and all the other nacho garnishes – sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce, cheddar cheese.

Now for the fun part! I have joined a lovely group of gals to help give away a $300 gift card to Amazon to help with all your tailgating needs! Visit each of the blogs pictured below to get some more great football themed ideas.

The giveaway begins Sunday 9/7 at 12 a.m. and ends Sunday 9/21 at 11:59 p.m. Open to residents of the US and Canada, 18+ yrs of age. No purchase necessary. One (1) lucky winner will get an Amazon gift card worth $300. To enter, follow the directions below: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Vacation Mom

Vacation mom is a fun mom.  She always has a smile on her face and her head thrown back in laughter.  Vacation mom lets the kids eat foods they don’t normally get to eat.

The family hangs out together pretty much from waking up in queen sized beds next to each other to putting their heads back on those pillows when the sun has gone down.

Vacation mom thinks the kids are goofy and she joins in on the goofiness without thinking about it.

As vacation mom starts making her way back home, she can feel her shoulders tighten a little and her hands squeeze the steering wheel a little bit tighter.

Vacation Mom after 10 hours in car just a few hours from home.  Don't forget to smile!

Vacation Mom after 10 hours in car just a few hours from home. Don’t forget to smile!

She can see her kids getting quieter as they begin to feel the pressure of school starting back up, rooms that need to be cleaned, and meals that aren’t as exciting at the family dinner table.

You see, when we are on vacation (and I use that term loosely…vacation could mean a fun trip we planned, a blogging/writing trip hosted by a tourism board, or a visit to family members’ homes), we are the best people that we can be.

There is not a much sibling rivalry.  There is laughter, smiles, hugs, and hand-holding.  There is helpfulness and kindness.  Sharing comes naturally without thinking about themselves.

Sure it isn’t always perfect, but the not-so-perfect moments come few and far between.

My goal, in between trips, is to make sure that we continue to enjoy those moments of laughter without getting bogged down by the day to day rigmarole like we are so apt to do.

We should always try to be the best people that we can be.