Searching for "travel"

Baby Bloom Blog Event: Graco FastAction Fold Jogger Click Connect Review


This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Graco.  All opinions are my own and as always I only write about products I would personally recommend to a friend.  Thanks so much to Graco for the opportunity to review this jogging stroller and car seat.


Graco‘s latest development in jogging strollers is the super easy to use FastAction Fold Jogger Click Connect.  The name is more complicated than operating this stroller, I promise.  True to its name, the jogger folds and unfolds in one step in one second.  Amazing.  If you’ve tried to manhandle your share of bulky strollers, you know this is a big deal.

The jogger is compatible with all Graco Click Connect car seats for those new babies who aren’t ready to use the 5 or 3 point harness in the seat.   Once kiddos are bigger, the seat has multiple reclining positions to make sure your wee one is always comfortable.  The Bear tried it out on a jog with Daddy, and the ride is super smooth.  


The snack tray removes completely so you can clean it well.  Y’all know those things get NASTY fast and are so hard to clean when you can’t remove them.


When you fold the jogger (in one step, in one second) it automatically locks and stands and stores upright.  As you can see it is much less bulky than some competitors and is a great option for families with small cargo spaces or storage issues.


Favorite Features: the double cupholders, smart phone cradle, and reflectors for night time and early morning safety.  What can I say, I’m a details kind of girl.  Our previous jogging stroller did not have any of these features, and the cupholder and phone thing was an issue for me.  If there is an emergency, I don’t want to have to dig through the basket under the stroller to find my phone.  
Least Favorite Feature: the air filled tires.  They provide a smoother ride than hard tires, but can also go flat requiring more maintenance.

This jogger is a winner for me because of the cost vs. value.  The jogger retails for $179, and the complete travel system retails for $299.  A quality jogging stroller for less than $200 is a frugal deal in my book.  Competitive brands retail for at least double that.  
This post is part of my Baby Bloom Blog Event series.  Check out the other Baby Bloom posts here.  

Graco’s NEW jogger is the ultimate crossover stroller, combining all the comfort and convenience features of a traditional stroller (FastAction Fold and Click Connect Technology) with performance and maneuverability of an all-terrain jogger.
As an added bonus, Graco’s innovative one-second, one-hand FastAction™ fold automatically locks & is self-standing.
This post is sponsored by the Graco.

**Thanks to Julie Harding Photography for the use of photos from the Dallas Graco Party.

Double Rainbows in Colorado

We took an amazing road trip through the western United States this summer with our toddler on board.  You can read more posts about our travels here, and more about Colorado here.  Everything about Colorado has this magical quality, even the weather. Storms move through fast and are unpredictable.  From our view at Trail West we could watch storms roll in over Mt. Princeton almost daily.  

 These rainbows appeared one afternoon and alternately faded and glowed as the storm took its course.

 You can see some of the collegiate peaks in the background, and the base of Princeton is just to the right.
Below you can see the storm over the top of Mt. Princeton.  Princeton is over 14,000 feet high, a true Colorado fourteener.  The summit is completely covered by the storm.

Frugal Friday: Making the Most of the Library

As a voracious reader, one of the first things I do when I move to a new place is get my library card. I’ve always loved the library, but in my new role as a full time mama I’m realizing just how awesome it really is.  This week The Bear checked out his first books.  This kid LOVES to read, especially books about trucks.  The book in the picture above had to be returned after a couple of days because the plastic cover proved too much temptation for little toddler hands.  We’re sticking with board books for now.  How do I love the library? Let me count the ways.

1. It’s FREE!
2. story time for kids
3. books, magazines, and movies
4. the queue
5. It’s close.
1. It’s FREE!  Totally, completely free.  Just bring your stuff back on time or recheck it online and you won’t ever have to pay a dime.  Free, air conditioned entertainment can’t be beat.
2. Story time for kids.  Most libraries have some sort of story time for children.  Dallas libraries do a really great job of this.  We go to story time at the Lochwood, Lakewood, White Rock Hills, and Northpark Mall branches all the time.  They have different offerings for each age group from birth on up.  The Bear LOVES it.  He runs around, claps his hands, and has the best time.  We even found a story time at the library in Vail, CO, and visited while we were traveling.  And again, it’s FREE.
3. Books, magazines, and movies.  You can borrow any of these, as well as books on CD for long road trips, CDs to listen to, and so much more.  A lot of libraries are even starting to carry ebooks.  All FREE.
4. The Queue.  The might be my favorite thing about the library.  You can go online with your library card, search for the books or movies you want to read, and add them to your list.  You will be placed in line if there are more requests than there are books available, and then notified when the book is yours.  The best thing about it is that the books you request will be sent to the branch you choose, and held with your name on them for a week.  This is so great for when you get a book recommendation from a friend, magazine, or blog, and want to remember to read it.  Put it on your queue and it will soon be yours.  Awesome.  And FREE.  
5. It’s close.  In most places there are multiple library branches, so there is bound to be one close to you.  We have 2 within 5 minutes and another 2 within 15 minutes.  We are so spoiled.  
Do you make the most of the library?
Does your local library do anything special?

End of the Road

We’re back! After 8 weeks of travel through 8 states with a 1 year old in tow, we are finally back home in Dallas.  I can’t wait to share our incredible adventure with you, as well as my new role as a full time mama.  First I have to unpack my suitcase, my least favorite part of travel.  

Scenes from the Road – Texas

The first leg of our trip was a great success. Everything fit into the car which was no small miracle. Packing is Jed’s spiritual gift. The Bear was GREAT in the car minus the fact that he only napped for 27 minutes all day. We stopped for lunch and play time at Lucy Park in Wichita Falls thanks to a rec from the Berres. It was perfect. Bear loved the duck ponds and chased duck after duck into the water. He even started saying duck (du du). Our next stop was at an awesome fair park in Childress, TX, where the bathrooms were glorious and the baby swings in the shade. Travel magic, people. We found a great hotel deal on Priceline and rolled into Amarillo right on time. If you are rolling with a toddler we highly recommend the Ashmore Inn. There was a nook in our room just perfect for a pack n play. We got a dinner rec on Twitter and hit the Coyote Bluff Cafe for fabulous burgers and fries. I love fun local joints like that.

• I’m posting from my phone so it may not look exactly right. Thanks for understanding.

Our Crazy 8 Week Road Trip with a Toddler

This summer we are embarking on an eight week road trip across Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, and possibly Florida.  With a one year old.   To the casual observer this might seem totally crazy, but we are really excited about it.  The trip will be a combination of work, play, and family time.  I am referring to it as Gypsy Caravan Summer Tour 2012, in reference to a summer spent similarly in 2006.  We have gotten a lot of surprised/horrified reactions from friends because of the length of the trip and the age of our child.  There is this idea out there in the world that you can’t travel with a toddler.  I believe that we can and hope that I won’t be proved wrong over the next 2 months.  
I plan to sit here a lot.  

We are packing our bags and finishing up details for our trip right this minute.  I hope to chronicle it for you here on the blog.  We have our housesitter lined up, and Jackson the Wonder Dog is at Camp Grandma and Grandpa for the immediate future.  There was a small baby biting incident a few weeks back that I’ve yet to write about.  Let’s just say Jackson is lucky that my parents love him and have a big backyard.  We have a big checklist going of all the things we need to do and pack before we leave.  The excitement is building.
We’ve had a TON of questions from friends and family about our trip, so I decided to address a few here.

 Can’t. Wait.  

Where are we going?  Our first stops will be Amarillo, TX, and Salida, CO, on the way to Young Life’s Trail West Lodge in Buena Vista, CO.  I will be working at Trail West for a month as the women’s summer staff coordinator.  After our month at Trail West we will be staying a week in Vail, CO, possibly a stop to see friends in Pagosa Springs, CO, then almost a week in Red River, NM.  We will then head to Little Rock, AR for a wedding and to see family.  After that there may be a beach trip involved, but that is yet to be determined.

Wait, I thought you were becoming a stay at home mom.  What’s with working all summer?   Yes, my last day as a Young Life staffer is June 30th.  I will be working at Trail West as a volunteer.  We believe in the mission of Young Life wholeheartedly and are thankful for the opportunity to serve at Trail West.  After that I will be a full time mama.

How can y’all afford this?  Did you throw the Dave Ramsey budget out the window? Nope, we budgeted FOR the trip.  That’s the beauty of a budget, you can add stuff to it.  We have a vacation fund as well as some very generous friends who are loaning us places to stay.  Our month at Trail West is free because we are working, and our gas to and from camp is reimbursed.  We budgeted for food, gas to other places, hotel stays on the road, and incidentals.  We plan to do lots of free stuff and have lots of free quality time.  If you have free fun ideas for us in any of the places listed above, PLEASE pass them on by emailing me, tweeting me, or commenting below.  Our neighbors are also housesitting for us in exchange for lawn mowing services.  Thanks neighbors!

That’s great and all, but are you seriously hauling a one year old across the country?  Yes, yes, we know it is crazy and we think it will also be awesome.  Our little boy is such a joy and hopefully we be so on the road with lots of park stops on the way and hotel pools to swim in.  I will be tweeting all summer with the hashtag #toddlertravel so you can see how it goes.  If you have any travel with toddlers advice, I’d love to hear it.

What about your life in Dallas?  How can y’all just pick up and leave for 2 months?  We will obviously miss our friends here.  I have a gypsy soul and need to just GO sometimes.  Dallas is hot as hell in the summer time, and sooo humid.  We live in an old rent house that is very difficult to keep cool.  Jed is a teacher so he is off til mid August.  I love being able to just leave.  For years I kept my passport in my purse, just in case.  That habit faded with marriage, a child, and a job that needed me 24/7.  My longing to wander will be satisfied for a little while by this adventure.

Do you think we’re crazy, or do you wish you were packing right now, too?

A Last Look at Christmas

Our family had a wonderful Christmas together in Little Rock, though we were missing my youngest brother Matt who was traveling in Bolivia. Here we all are, after I forced them to pose for a group picture. How cute is my niece, seriously? She is such a doll.

As I just got these pictures uploaded, finally, I decided it wasn’t too late to give you a peek at our Christmas decorations. Most of them made it to the attic shortly after Epiphany, but a few stragglers are hanging about waiting to be taken up. I haven’t taken the photo cards down yet, but they will get transferred to the fridge this week.
I hang all the flat photo cards on our reclaimed wood mirror, handmade by our dear friend Bruce. I use hemp cord and mini clothespins so that we can see the smiling faces of our friends and family. The cards that can stand on their own go on the mantle, but I forgot to grab a picture of that. I’m turning them into gift tags for next year right now.
I found this big nativity scene at an estate sale here in Dallas for $10. The seller told me that her mom made it by hand many years ago and used to display it in their front window every year. I love that we could give it a good home.
This teeny tiny nativity scene is from a great store in Little Rock called 10,000 Villages that is all about fair trade and supporting workers in their native villages. I love seeing the holy family sleeping soundly in the hands of God and thinking of our little family doing the same thing.
My newest obsession is this awesome felt mistletoe that I found at Bishop Street Market down in the Bishop Arts District. Love it. I hung it from one of our rafters with hemp cord.
I hope that you and yours had a very merry Christmas. I also hope that your Christmas decorations are put up and not hanging about burdening your to-do list.
When do you put up your decorations? Christmas Day, the day after, Epiphany, sometime in March…

Frugal Friday – What a difference a year makes…

One year ago this week we were driving down to Kingwood, TX, for Jed’s ten year high school reunion. The photo above was taken at the reunion. Jed had been telling me about this guy Dave Ramsey who had a plan for our finances. We stayed with Jed’s brother Sam and his wife Michelle, who were on the plan. On the trip down we listened to “Debt Free Friday” on the Dave Ramsey radio show, and I cried every time one of the famillies screamed, “We’re debt free!”. Over the course of the weekend, with some major encouragement from Sam and Michelle, we decided to jump on board. We made a budget, joined the “Total Money Makeover“, and were on the road to financial freedom.

We cut up our credit cards and started using cash. We got serious about paying off our debts. In four months we paid off $13,000 worth of debt, and were totally debt free for the first time in our lives. Then we started saving up and emergency fund. You can read more about that here. We finished our emergency fund in May with 3 months of expenses saved in an account we don’t touch. In July we started Baby Step 4, investing in our retirement. We are also saving for our first house and for a baby.

I cannot believe that it has only been a year since we started this journey. I cannot express in words the freedom I feel. We don’t make very much, and don’t have much hope of salary increasing. I’m in full time ministry and Jed is a teacher. Even with our modest earnings, we have found financial peace.

Just so you know how we have struggled in the past, I’ll sum up a brief financial history of us for you. In college we both got credit cards in the student union for the free t-shirts. We both started off paying them off each month. Then I started using mine to travel, go to concerts, etc. Probably the worst thing I did was put 5 plane tickets to NYC on my card for my friends. When they paid me back I didn’t put they money towards the card. It took me 8 years to pay for that trip. I don’t know what Jed spent his money on, because we didn’t know each other then. He came out of college with a mountain of student loan debt plus his credit cards. I spent the next few years being consistently late with payments, dodging calls from creditors, and still spending. I bought a brand new car I couldn’t afford, only to have to sell it a year later for a $3000 loss. In 2003 I consolidated $15,000 of debt into a loan. I promptly began to run up more debt. In 2005 I consolidated all of my new debt, $12,000 worth. I paid all of my debts off by the summer of 2008. Jed brought into our marriage the $13,000 worth of debt that we paid off this year. Basically we were both not to be trusted with credit cards, and in a finacial mess. Now that mess is gone and we are free. I never have to worry about a creditor calling me again.

Do you budget? Tell me about your financial story.

Click below to make a quick budget for yourself.