Friday, December 30, 2011

Top Ten of 2011

I can’t believe that we’ve come to the end of 2011 already. What a year it’s been! I thought I’d take a minute to share my most popular posts from 2011. You never know, they may just inspire you to plan something fun for 2012 and hopefully give you a few tips to save a bit of money along the way! 

1. Tips for a Smoother Traveling with Kids Experience

We’ve always traveled, from the time our kids were tiny. This post shares some of the tips I’ve implemented over the years to train my children to be good travelers.

2. Fun and Inexpensive Staycation Ideas for Mansfield, Ohio

At first glance, Mansfield may look like there isn’t much to offer but if you know where to look you’ve discover it’s the perfect spot for an inexpensive staycation.

3. Harmony Park Safari; a Hidden Gem in Huntsville, Alabama

We had spent two years traveling back and forth to Huntsville and lived there for a year before we found this amazing gem.   

4. Get More Bang for your Buck: Hotel Savings

Let’s fact it, it can be super expensive to travel so why would you want to blow your travel budget on lodging? This post gives you plenty of tips to save money on hotel costs.   

5. Ten Ways to Save on Prom Expenses

Last year was the first time we dealt with the expense of prom and we didn’t have one child attending- we had three! I wrote this post to show others some of the ways that we saved money and made prom a very affordable event.

6. Getting Started with Twitter

I love Twitter but have to admit that it was incredibly confusing when I first logged on. This post is my attempt to explain and simplify Twitter.     

7.  Ten Reasons You’ll Love Callaway Gardens

When my family was invited to Callaway Gardens, I had no idea what we were in for. I still imagine returning for a week long, family friendly adventure. Callaway Gardens is really some place special!

8. Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor

This may be my Top Ten list, but I didn’t write this post. Nope. This post was written by Barb from the ever-popular, if- you- haven’t- seen- it, you- must- visit- site, The Handbook of Nature Study. I have to say that after reading her guest post I certainly can’t wait to plan a trip to Oregon.   

9. Fort Wilderness Campground: Is It Really an Affordable and Enjoyable Alternative to Disney Resort Hotels? 

Our stay at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground certainly was memorable, but not in a good way. Thankfully, Disney stepped up and saved the night and it turned out not so bad after all.

10. Hiking Trails Near Huntsville, Alabama: Devil’s Racetrack near Wade Mountain  

One of the reasons we loved living in Alabama was that we were able to hike nearly anytime of the year. That allowed us to visit quite a few hiking trails. This is written from our experience to Devil’s Racetrack.

Thanks for reading The Traveling Praters! I hope you all have a very Happy New Year and can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why I Would Love to Attend the 2:1 Conference

Designed with the homeschooling blogger in mind, the 2:1 Conference will be held April 27th– 29th, 2012 in Sterling, Virginia, a short distance from Washington DC.  

Washington DC Capital Building

1. I would love to attend the 2:1 Conference because my friends are going.

How’s that for a logical reason? I tell my teens that they shouldn’t want to do everything their friends are doing and here I am, announcing to all cyberspace, that I want to go because “it’s the thing to do.”

Well, that’s not exactly true. I want to go because I would love to meet my online friends. I want to meet the amazing godly women that I talk to online, tweet with,  and am encouraged by on a  daily basis.

2. I would love to attend the 2:1 Conference because I haven’t attended a blogging conference in two years.

If you are a serious blogger, or want to be, than I think it’s important to be continually learning.

The breakout sessions sound amazing and I’m particularly interested in Blogging and PR: Connecting with Brands you Love, Monetizing Your Site and Business Blogging: Healthy Habits for Success.

3. I would love to attend the 2:1 Conference because I haven’t been to a homeschooling convention for three years.

I’ve homeschooled for 13 years. This year, my husband and I will graduate our first child with our two other children graduating one after the other.  At this point, I don’t need the encouragement to stay the course, after all, ours is almost ending. But I do need to be encouraged so I can encourage others- online and offline.  

Raising the Daniel Generation and Where is the JOY? are two sessions that especially appeal to me. 

4. I would love to attend the 2:1 Conference because I haven’t been to Washington DC in nearly 10 years.

My hope would be that my family would be able to accompany me to the 2:1 Conference in April. With its close proximity to DC, and so many free area attractions, it will make a perfect homeschool field trip!

Are you interested in attending the 2:1 Conference? Now is the perfect time to buy your ticket, which is on sale for only $199 until December 31st

5 Family Friendly Attractions to Visit in Cincinnati

Cincinnati has no shortage of attractions to visit. From Kings Island and the Great Wolf Lodge, to IKEA, to catching a Reds game at the Great American Ballpark, there is something for everyone. Today I’d like to share some of the attractions that my family has enjoyed over the years while visiting Cincinnati.

1. Jungle Jim’s International Market

Jungle Jim’s International Market

5440 Dixie Highway
Fairfield, OH 45014-4108
(513) 674-6000

If you think grocery stores are a place you visit only to stock your frig, you haven’t been to Jungle Jim’s! It’s apparent from the Outdoor Jungle scene that you are not entering an ordinary grocery store. Inside you’ll find a Singing Elvis Lion, the Big Cheese, a Live Fish Harvest, and foods from over 70 different countries. What began as a small roadside stand has grown into the largest grocery store in the Cincinnati area!

Food sampling is offered everyday before 4:30 p.m., but I’ve been told that the best time to sample the offerings is on the weekend. Tours of the store are available Monday thru Friday, if you make your reservation prior to your arrival.

Make sure you stop by the award winning restrooms on your visit; all things are not as they appear!

FREE to visit & shop; small fee charged for tour.

2. William Howard Taft Birthplace National Historic Site

William Howard Taft National Historic Site
2038 Auburn Ave.
Cincinnati, Ohio 45219

A visit to the boyhood home of William Howard Taft, the Ohio born, 27th President and 10th Chief Justice of the United States includes the Taft Education Center and a guided tour of the home.

The Taft Education Center offers brochures, interactive displays and a small gift shop. The home is adjacent to the center and houses memorabilia from President Taft’s boyhood as well as highlighting his accomplishments in his political career.

A Jr. Ranger program for children between the ages of 6-12 is also available.


3. Krohn Conservatory

Krohn Conservatory
1501 Eden Park Dr. Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

(513) 421-4086

Located minutes from the Taft National Historic Site, Krohn Conservatory is a great place to relax! This attraction is beautiful inside and out. If you have an eye for architectural structures, you’ll appreciate that the building was built during the Art Deco era.

Inside you can step into the desert and rainforest- complete with a chocolate tree. Don’t leave without posing for a photo in front of the 20 foot waterfall.

Free, although there is a charge for special exhibits.

4. Newport Aquarium

Newport Aquarium One Newport Way Newport, Kentucky 41071 859-261-7444

This award winning, million gallon tank aquarium is home to thousands of animals from around the world. It is also the only facility to breed shark rays in the world. Fish feedings, touch tanks, sharks, otters, penguins, and live shows are just some of the things you’ll see and experience at Newport Aquarium- all on the banks of the Ohio River.

Cost: $22 for adults, $15 for children ages 2 through 12. Children under the age of 2 are free.

5. Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal

Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal 1301 Western Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45203 513-287-7000 800-733-2077

Although Union Terminal no longer bustles with railway passengers, this landmark still serves the city of Cincinnati as home to the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children’s Museum, Museum of Natural History and Science and the Omnimax Theater.

Even if you decide not to go to any of the museums, I would still recommend that you step into the Union Terminal just to view the unique architecture and stunning murals that make this building one of a kind.

The individual museums charge various admission prices.

You may also consider visiting The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Loveland Castle, and The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

Have you spent time in Cincinnati? What attractions would you suggest adding to this list?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tips for Visiting the Creation Museum

PrintPlanning a trip to the Creation Museum in Kentucky? Here are a few tips to keep in mind before your visit.

1. Arrive early.

There is so much to see at the museum and you won’t want to miss a thing.  I’ve read that you can see everything in 3-4 hours but I can’t disagree more.

My motto is, “It’s better to have more time, than not enough time.” So, why not plan on spending a complete day or two (yes, it could take that long depending on how interested you are), if you don’t need that much time, you won’t have any problems finding something else to do in nearby Cincinnati.

2. Be prepared to read. A lot.

There is a ton of reading and by the end of our visit, our heads were spinning. Audio tours may not be offered (but would certainly be a welcome addition), however, if you plan ahead, you can reserve a spot on a Closer Look tour.

Led by AiG scientists and speakers, the Closer Look tours offer guests a guided tour through the museum. You can visit the events page to see if a tour will be offered during your visit and to reserve your space.

3. Plan ahead.

There is much to see and you won’t want to miss anything. Prior to your visit, you can visit the Creation Museums website and find out what workshops and special programming will be offered during your visit so you can plan your day before your arrival.

In addition to the museum displays, there are several movies that are shown at various times throughout the day, special programs, children’s activities, a petting zoo, botanical garden (with a free cell phone audio tour) and Stargazers Planetarium (for an additional cost, but HIGHLY recommended).

4. Visit during the week for less crowds.

We visited during Christmas break and it was very crowded. If you want to avoid the crowds, visit during the week if at all possible. If that doesn’t work for you, be patient, once you get through the admission lines you’ll discover that the museum is a pretty big place.

I do suggest that you buy your tickets to the planetarium as soon as you arrive and make sure that you arrive early for all movies and special programming to assure that you’ll have a seat.

5. Consider purchasing an annual pass.

Depending on the size of your family, or ages of your children, it may cost less or just a bit more to purchase an annual membership than one day pass. Family memberships start at $178.95 and allow your family free admission during the duration of your membership, invitations to members-only events, and allow you to support the AiG ministry.

6. Save money by visiting on a free or discounted day.

The Creation Museum offers several free days and special pricing to various groups at select times of the year, such as the 2012 Winter Homeschool Days

Free Days for 2012 include: 

Mothers: May 13 (Mother’s Day)

Fathers: June 17 (Father’s Day)

Veterans: May 28 (Memorial Day),  July 4 (Fourth of July), November 11 (Veterans Day)

All guests: December 24, 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM (Christmas Eve)

Children under five years old: Always free

Find out about special promotions by following the Creation Museum blog, and/or on  Twitter, and Facebook.

Have you visited the Creation Museum? What helpful tips would you add?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2012 Winter Homeschool Days at the Creation Museum

Homeschool Days at the Creation Museum

It’s nearly time for the Winter 2012 Homeschool Days at the Creation Museum! This is a perfect opportunity for homeschool families to save money while supplementing their homeschool curriculum with a fun field trip!

Just look at what the Creation Museum has in store for you: 

The Creation Museum presents a unique and unparalleled experience, a walk through time portraying significant, life-altering events from the past, illuminating the effects of biblical history on our present and future world. Be prepared to experience history in a completely unprecedented way. Our state-of-the-art exhibits, Stargazer's planetarium, life-sized dinosaur animatronics and beautiful outdoor gardens with paved walking trails and petting zoo make this an exciting addition to every homeschool curriculum.

Weekdays, from January 2 until February 29, 2012, the Creation Museum will offer discounted admission to homeschool families. Prices are as follows:

Adults, age 13 and up- $12                                                                                                       Children, ages 5 to 12- $8                                                                                                  Planetarium- $5

If you’d like to take advantage of the savings offered by visiting the Winter Homeschool Days at the Creation Museum, please print and present this PDF when purchasing your tickets at the ticket counter. The pricing is ONLY offered with this coupon!

Homeschool Days Creation Museum

As an added bonus, homeschooling families may present their admission tickets in Noah’s Cafe or the Dragon Hall Bookstore to receive a 5% discount on all purchases.

If you have any questions, regarding the 2012 Winter Homeschool Days, please contact Eddie Lutz at 859-240-6642 or by email at  The Creation Museum is located at 2800 Bullittsburg Church Rd. Petersburg, KY, just outside of Cincinnati.

Though we haven’t attended a homeschool day, my family did have the opportunity to visit the museum. You may enjoy reading about our visit at The Creation Museum: Field Trip Friday

Coming up, later this week, I’ll be sharing tips for visiting the Creation Museum,  my family’s favorite creation resources and links, and other places to visit in nearby Cincinnati. I hope you’ll stop back!

Have you been to the Creation Museum or do you plan to visit during the 2012 Winter Homeschool Days?   

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teaching Life Skills at The Homeschool Classroom


The Homeschool Classrom

Oops! I almost forgot! Today I’m sharing 15 Life Skills Essential to My Children at the Homeschool Classroom. My kids are approaching adulthood at an incredible pace and I find myself trying to teach them everything I can think of.  I hope you’ll stop by and share what you are or have worked on with your own children.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Our Trip to The Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill

clifton mill

If we still lived in Huntsville, we would have jumped in the car, zipped across town and enjoyed viewing the Galaxy of Lights, as we have the past two years. Now that we’re back in Ohio, I thought it would be a great time to begin a new light viewing tradition. Originally, my thoughts were that it would be really fun to seek out the best light displays in Ohio and visit one each weekend until Christmas.

It sounded great in my head anyway. I quickly changed my mind once I voiced my idea.

Chelsea and I

My daughter and I. No, it’s not just the Santa hat. She really is taller than me.

Some of the family was up for it, but not everyone was on board with the idea. So with much grumbling, we jumped in the car, picked up my mother-in-law and drove nearly two hours  to view the Legendary Lights at Clifton Mill.

I was wagering that once we arrived and my kids saw the lights, they’d forget about the drive and enjoy the display.  Or so I hoped. 

Our visit would coincide with the opening weekend and take place on a Saturday, so I was prepared for crowds. We arrived early, easily found the free parking lot and followed the already gathering bystanders towards the gate.

Personally, I enjoyed walking around and viewing the mill without the lights. Arriving early allowed us time see some of the displays before it got really busy.


We saw the nativity- every Christmas display should have one.

The amazing animated miniature village features dozens of tiny scenes, including a miniature Clifton mill and village, a moving train, and an OSU stadium- after all, this is the Buckeye State!


The Toy Shop displays dozens of vintage games, toys and sleds from the 1940’s, 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. I saw many items that I recognized from my own childhood.

They also had this light from the Christmas Story on display.

Santa’s Workshop adjoins the Toy Shop where you can peek inside the windows and see Santa hard at work.

We also made our way through the Santa display which includes over 3,000 Santa Clauses and claims to be the largest Santa display in the US!  


At exactly 6 p.m. the mill goes from hushed darkness to a brilliant display of color.

The best place to view the amazing transformation is on the deck outside the seating area of the mill’s restaurant or somewhere along the fence between the covered bridge and the water wheel.

Across the bank you can see the beautiful rippling waterfall of lights. It takes over 3.6 million lights to put on a display of this magnitude.   


Every hour on the hour guests gather around the covered bridge to watch an unbelievable mind-blowing light show synchronized to dramatic Christmas music that I haven’t been able to get out of my head since that night.  Da da da da….

window clifton hill 075 

Just as the show ended at the covered bridge, we saw Santa pop out of the chimney of his workshop. If you miss him, don’t worry. He reappears every 20 minutes and between his appearances, you can peek through the windows of his workshop and spy on him as he tinkers around.  


Don’t forget to take another peek at the miniature display once the lights are turned on. I loved the miniature Clifton Mill. 

    window clifton hill 082

Before you head home make sure you stop in the Country Store gift shop for some of the Mill’s special pancake mix. Doesn’t Apple Cinnamon or Blueberry pancakes sound especially yummy?  


Details for visiting:

Clifton Mill is located in the charming town of Clifton, about 30 miles east of Dayton or 40 miles south west of Columbus, just outside Springfield. You’ll find the mill at  75 Water St. Clifton, OH 45316.

Hours of operation are 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. every night. I highly suggest that you arrive before the lights come on at 6 p.m. for the most memorable experience.  The gates close an hour early on Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. 

In the event of severe weather or rain, Clifton Mill will not be open. If you are in doubt or you’ll be driving quite a distance,  call ahead to confirm their hours at 937-767-5501.

Admission is $10 per person for everyone age 7 and older, younger children are free.

You can find out about the history of the mill and additional information on the Clifton Mill website

Don’t let the price (or a bit of a drive) scare you, I think it was worth every penny and if you’re curious, my wager paid off. My teenagers did enjoy the outing.

If you missed it you can read my post 5 Christmas Light Displays worth the Drive. What Christmas light displays have you enjoyed?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Join the 5 Days of Christmas series- It’s Your Turn!

Thanks for stopping by and joining me for the 5 Days of Christmas series this week! It’s been fun to share some of my ideas and tips and to read all of the wonderful posts from the other bloggers that also participated in the series.

Now it’s your turn to share. You can link up your best Christmas post with a tip, craft idea or recipe for the 5 Days of Christmas. You can write a post specifically for the 5 Days of Christmas series, or you can link up a post that you’ve written in the past. It’s up to you. I can’t wait to read your posts!

A Slob Comes Clean – Getting Your Home Company Ready
Feels Like Home – Christmas Traditions
Somewhat Crunchy – Christmas with Dairy Allergies
Spell Outloud – Children’s Books
Mama’s Learning Corner – Children’s Crafts
Many Little Blessings – Edible Gifts
Sunflower Schoolhouse – Decorations
An Oregon Cottage – Christmas Cookies
Catholic Icing – Wishing Jesus Happy Birthday                                                                     Mama's Laundry Talk - Laundry Gifts                                                                                            The Homeschool Classroom – Gifts Kids Can Make

Friday, December 2, 2011

5 Gifts Ideas for Your Traveling Canine


This week for the 5 Days of Christmas Traveling, I’ve shared:

You can also read one of my posts at The Homeschool Classroom:

For my final post in the series, I had planned to share some of the unique places that we’ve shopped for Christmas gifts or Home Tours around the Country that you shouldn’t miss. Instead, I decided to share a few gift ideas for some of the other special members of your family, your faithful, four legged traveling canines. 

Meet Vincent

In three years, we’ve barely gone anywhere without ours. Let me tell you, our dog has really logged some miles! And he’s a great traveler.

car seat

1. Our dog may love to travel with us, but he also likes to see where we’re going. When he was smaller, he often sat on someone’s lap. Now that he is bigger he demands a seat of his own, but he’s not quite big enough to see out the window. Which is why a booster/car seat is #1 on my list of gift ideas for the traveling canine.

travel bed

2. I don’t like giving up my comfy bed when we’re traveling and either does Vincent. This  travel bed is perfect for the dog on the go!

travel bag

3. Vincent knows it’s time for a trip when I begin to pack necessities in his travel bag. Every dog should have one and this one is great because it comes with portable food and water containers that match the bag. I’m a sucker for matching pieces!

poop bags

4. You do realize that responsible dog owners clean up after their pets, right? I love these handy waste disposal bags that can clip right on Vincent’s travel bag so I know just where they are when I need them.

duck toy

5. I’m a fan of practical ideas, but your four-legged- fur- baby wants something fun for Christmas, too. Every year, I pick up one of these ducks to go along with other  stocking stuffers. Not only does Vincent love to open them, these toys keep him occupied for hours on the road!

  Don’t forget to visit the other bloggers that are participating in the 5 Days of Christmas series

A Slob Comes Clean - Getting Your Home Company Ready

Feels Like Home - Christmas Traditions

Somewhat Crunchy - Christmas with Dairy Allergies

Spell Outloud - Children's Books

Mama's Learning Corner - Children's Crafts

Many Little Blessings - Edible Gifts

Sunflower Schoolhouse – Decorations

An Oregon Cottage - Christmas Cookies

Catholic Icing - Wishing Jesus Happy Birthday

The Homeschool Classroom - Gifts Kids Can Make

Mama's Laundry Talk - Laundry Gifts

Successful Homeschooling – Serving

*This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

5 Gift Ideas for the Traveler in Your Life


Yesterday I shared 5 Gift Ideas for Traveling Teens, but what about the adult traveler in your life? Today I’ll offer 5 Gift Ideas for the Traveler in Your Life, all of which are items that I own or would love to have!

luggage tags

1. These luggage tags are too cute and at only $10 for the set, won’t break the bank.


2. It wasn’t until our last cruise that I decided I really needed a jewelry organizer. I don’t often wear or travel with expensive jewelry, but I do love costume jewelry and packing my pieces on our last vacation to Alaska was a mess. I just tossed it all into my suitcase and had to untangle each piece before I could wear it. I’ll certainly buy a jewelry organizer before I travel again!

oasis 3.  A travel size noise machine is probably the best gift I’ve ever purchased my husband. Now, whether he’s at home or on the road he can drift off to sleep each night to the same calming sounds of crashing waves or the chirping of crickets on a summer night.   iPod 4. Every traveler needs an iPhone, iPad or my favorite, the very portable iPod Touch. They are small, portable, and invaluable. Are you trying to plan a trip, find free wi-fi, figure out what to pack for Caribbean vacation, or in need of a public restroom in NYC? There’s an app for that!   


5. When all else fails, remember that gift cards are always appreciated, especially for the traveler who can use them to pay for meals, gas, lodging and entertainment while on the road.

What ideas would you add to the list?

Don’t forget to stop by and visit the other bloggers participating in the 5 Days of Christmas series!

A Slob Comes Clean - Getting Your Home Company Ready

Feels Like Home - Christmas Traditions

Somewhat Crunchy - Christmas with Dairy Allergies

Spell Outloud - Children's Books

Mama's Learning Corner - Children's Crafts

Many Little Blessings - Edible Gifts

Sunflower Schoolhouse – Decorations

An Oregon Cottage - Christmas Cookies

Catholic Icing - Wishing Jesus Happy Birthday

The Homeschool Classroom - Gifts Kids Can Make

Mama's Laundry Talk - Laundry Gifts

Successful Homeschooling – Serving

*This post does include affiliate links.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

5 Gift Ideas for Traveling Teens


Let’s face it, purchasing Christmas gifts for teenagers can be a daunting task. It can be more or less so depending on the teens that you have to shop for. I’m fortunate; my kids are easy to please. They may be drooling over a Kindle, an iPad or the best SLR camera (who isn’t?), but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t thankful for, and won’t also enjoy less expensive items.

Today I’ve put together a list of 5 great gifts for teenagers. And since my family is often on the road, I’ve written it specifically with traveling in mind.

1. iTunes Gift Cards

iPods are pretty popular. Whether it’s an iPod shuffle that the teen can load their favorite songs on, or the more versatile iPod Touch that holds songs, lectures, movies and really awesome apps- iPods are becoming a staple for the happy traveler. But not all those songs, apps, or movies are free, which is why the teen in your life will appreciate iTunes gift cards which are available in values from $10 and up.    

2. A Travel Journal

My kids have been required to keep journals from our travels since they could draw pictures. Today my son has journals full of adventures. Last year, my husband and I purchased a beautiful leather bound journal with replaceable notebooks that will hold up for years. Of all his gifts, the journal was his favorite.

If you’re buying a journal, why not consider a special writing pen, water color pencils or colored Sharpies? 

3. Travel Games

My kids love to play board games. Over the years we’ve collected Connect Four, Scrabble, and Battleship in convenient smaller, compact travel sizes and cases that have allowed us to pack them up and take them everywhere! If only I could find a travel size Risk game, the fun would never end (insert a tiny bit of sarcasm here)

4. Old Fashioned Books

The Kindle and Nook are wonderful inventions, but like me, my kids still love to hold a book in their hands. Books, word searches and cross word puzzles are a great way to pass the time while waiting for the bus, a taxi or plane.

Of course, if the teen in your life prefers e-readers, you can always purchase their favorite books as a download as well. 

5. Gift Bags with a Variety of Inexpensive Surprises

My kids love little surprises. Gift bags filled with candy, gift certificates, rolls of pennies for pressed penny machines or vending machines, glow sticks, one time use rain coats, trial size toiletries, and packs of gum are perfect for the teen on the go.   

What Christmas gift ideas would you suggest for a traveling teen?

Today I’m also sharing a super cute craft at The Homeschool Classroom as part of the 5 Days of Christmas, Gifts Kids can Make series. I hope you’ll pop over and take a look!   

Other posts in this series:

5 Christmas Light Displays Worth the Drive

5 Tips to Keep you Sane While Driving this Christmas Season

Don’t forget to visit these other amazing bloggers that are participating in the 5 Days of Christmas series.

A Slob Comes Clean - Getting Your Home Company Ready

Feels Like Home - Christmas Traditions

Somewhat Crunchy - Christmas with Dairy Allergies

Spell Outloud - Children's Books

Mama's Learning Corner - Children's Crafts

Many Little Blessings - Edible Gifts

Sunflower Schoolhouse – Decorations

An Oregon Cottage - Christmas Cookies

Catholic Icing - Wishing Jesus Happy Birthday

The Homeschool Classroom - Gifts Kids Can Make

Mama's Laundry Talk - Laundry Gifts

Successful Homeschooling - Serving

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

5 Tips to Help Keep You Sane While Traveling this Christmas


If I had to give you one piece of advice when it comes to traveling at Christmas, I’d say “expect the unexpected.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that I have a pessimistic mindset, it simply means that I’ve traveled enough to realize that things don’t always go the way you’ve planned.

It’s much easier to deal with the hitches and setbacks if you’ve planned for them, or at least thought through a few “what ifs?”  Today I’ll share 5 tips to help keep you sane if you plan to be traveling this Christmas.

1. If you’re driving, have your vehicle inspected before making a long trip. At the very least, consider purchasing AAA or a similar roadside assistance program.

If you’ve ever had car problems and have been stranded alongside the road you know how frustrating or terrifying that can be. For peace of mind, I suggest having your vehicle inspected, the tires checked, and fluids topped off prior to traveling.

I also recommend that you carry a good spare with you. And make sure you can access it easily. If your spare is tucked up under the vehicle, and you haven’t needed it for awhile, take a minute to lower it and make sure that you can get to it. The mechanisms are known to have problems on some vehicles and it won’t do you any good to have a spare you can’t use. Just ask me how I know. 

My family also now has AAA. We didn’t think we needed it until I was stuck in Nashville last year after I locked my keys in the car. Do you know how expensive a locksmith can be?

2.  Keep a bit of money back for emergencies.

We are a cash only family. We don’t have one credit card, so planning ahead is extremely important! For the past two years while traveling to Ohio from Alabama for Christmas, we experienced at least one unexpected expense per trip. 

One year we ran into a terrible ice storm and had to rent a hotel room for the night.  That was a $100 expense that we hadn’t bargained for.  Another year, our transmission went out on our vehicle and we had to rent a car to get home. Let me tell ya, one way rentals are not cheap!

3. Keep a stash of “emergency” gear in your car.  

My grandmother had a list of items that she always carried in the car when traveling, growing up, I thought she was crazy, but now I see the benefit of each item.

After my child suddenly vomited in the car while traveling to Virginia, I’ve learned to keep paper bags, a wet washcloth in a bag (or wet wipes), paper towels, a jug of water to drink or clean up messes, a cup, crackers, small first aid kit,  toilet paper (you just never know), and a small trash bag. In cooler weather, I also make sure we have a couple blankets. 

4. Allow extra travel time.

Nothing stresses me out more than running behind. I like to be punctual. If you’re traveling at Christmas, make sure you plenty of allow extra time for heavy traffic, bad weather or traffic snafu’s.

5. Keep the kids occupied.

Even though my kids are teenagers, it doesn’t take much to start WWIII in the back seats. Before we leave the house, I make sure they double check that they have their iPods, favorite DVD (Redbox is great for swapping movies along the road), books on CD, or hand held games. After all, I’m happy when they’re happy. 

Above all, remember to be patient with your fellow travelers. You aren’t the only one that wants to reach their destination before Christmas Day! 

What tips have you learned that allow you to stay sane while traveling at Christmas?

Are you just joining me for the 5 Days of Christmas series? You can check out 5 Christmas Light Displays Worth the Drive- and tell me your favorite light display and be sure to stop back tomorrow for more Christmas travel tips!

Please take a minute to visit these great bloggers that are also joining the 5 Days of Christmas series.

A Slob Comes Clean - Getting Your Home Company Ready

 Feels Like Home - Christmas Traditions

Somewhat Crunchy - Christmas with Dairy Allergies

Spell Outloud - Children's Books

Mama's Learning Corner - Children's Crafts

Many Little Blessings - Edible Gifts

Sunflower Schoolhouse – Decorations

An Oregon Cottage - Christmas Cookies

Catholic Icing - Wishing Jesus Happy Birthday

The Homeschool Classroom - Gifts Kids Can Make

Mama's Laundry Talk - Laundry Gifts

Successful Homeschooling - Serving

Monday, November 28, 2011

5 Christmas Light Displays Worth the Drive

This week I’m teaming up with 12 other bloggers for an exciting 5 Days of Christmas series. I hope you’ll stop back each day as I share Christmas travel ideas. 

I also hope you’ll take a minute to stop by and visit the other wonderful bloggers that are participating in this series. You’ll find links to their blogs and the topics that they will be sharing about at the bottom of this post.

Today I’ll be sharing 5 Christmas Light Displays Worth the Drive and hope that you’ll share your favorite light display after you read mine.


Thinking back to the memories of Christmas’s past, one of my fondest memories was climbing into the cab of my grandma’s king cab truck, with as many family members as we could squeeze inside, and heading out to see Christmas lights. As a little girl, seeing the bright colors illuminate the night sky, transforming ordinary objects into the extraordinary, was magical.

As an adult, I can’t see the festive Christmas lights without also reliving those special memories. As a mother, I want my children to experience that magic too. When they were tiny we’d load them up in the car and drive around our neighborhood oohing and aahing over the simplest of light displays. Now that they’re teenagers, some of their enthusiasm has worn off. It takes a bit more to capture their attention. Sometimes that means traveling a bit farther from home to see something memorable. With that in mind, here are five light displays that are worth a bit of a drive.


The Holiday Lights at the Beach located along the Virginia Beach boardwalk is hands down the most unique display that my family has ever seen. The nautical themed display stretches over 30 blocks and is the only time you are permitted to drive your vehicle along the boardwalk, which is pretty exciting in itself to teenagers. From jumping dolphins, to Santa in a boat, you’ll view each display while listening to a free CD that you are given at the gate. Sand, Sea and Santa- who says the beach can’t be a great place to visit in December? 

snowflake tunnel

The Galaxy of Lights in Huntsville, Alabama is one drive through display that goes on forever! From nursery rhymes, to rockets, to driving through a beautiful icicle forest, we really enjoyed this display. Voted as one of the South’s best light displays, you certainly won’t be disappointed. New this year is an entrance through the US Space and Rocket Center, which nearly doubles the display and a fun diversion, Santa’s Rocket Sleigh Pit Stop,  featuring fun treats and live reindeer!

Christmas Town Garden of Lights

Visit the Christmas Town and the Garden of Lights at The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, near Cincinnati. Not only will you walk through the museum gardens filled with lights, you’ll see a live nativity, visit a marketplace and view live dramas proclaiming the birth of Jesus. And best of all? This event is FREE.


The Fantasy of Lights at Callaway Gardens is one of those magical places that I wish I could escape to over and over again. You can drive through seven miles of lights or take the trolley where you’ll see fantastic displays. And since 99% of the lighted pieces where designed specifically for the Fantasy of Lights, you’re sure to see a unique display. Be sure to book a room at the Mountaintop Inn or in one of the cozy cottages to really make your visit unforgettable!  


lights at clifton mill

The Legendary Lights at Clifton Mill in Clifton, Ohio is truly a remarkable sight. Started in 1988, with 100,000 lights, this display has grown to include over 3.6 million lights, an amazing miniature display- complete with a mini mill, a Santa Claus museum with the largest collection of Santa’s in the country, a toy shop full of antique toys and Santa’s Workshop where a live, working Santa pops out the chimney every 20 minutes to the delight of the crowd. If you want to really be awed by this display, arrive early, before the lights are turned on. The transformation is truly astounding!  And the covered bridge light show that is synchronized to music is mind-blowing! It definitely got the attention of my teens’!

Have you visited any of these displays? What did you think? What Christmas light displays would you like to add to the list?

Don’t forget to visit these great bloggers that are also participating in the 5 Days of Christmas series!

A Slob Comes Clean - Getting Your Home Company Ready

Feels Like Home - Christmas Traditions

Somewhat Crunchy - Christmas with Dairy Allergies

Spell Outloud - Children's Books

Mama's Learning Corner - Children's Crafts

Many Little Blessings - Edible Gifts

Sunflower Schoolhouse – Decorations

An Oregon Cottage - Christmas Cookies

Catholic Icing - Wishing Jesus Happy Birthday

The Homeschool Classroom - Gifts Kids Can Make

Mama's Laundry Talk - Laundry Gifts

Successful Homeschooling - Serving

Monday, November 21, 2011

How to Miss Your Flight in Three Easy Steps

Remember that trip we took to Seattle in August? Well, it turns out that it wasn’t all fun and games. Nope. There were a few stressful moments.

Like when our tire blew out on the way to the hotel.

Or, when the taxi we’d arranged to pick us up arrived a half an hour early and we weren’t ready to leave for our flight.

Or when we scrambled to get to the airport at 5:00 in the morning only to find out our flight was canceled and we didn’t fly out until 10:30 instead of 6:30.

Or when our taxi didn’t show up at all to take us to the cruise port and we were stranded in Downtown Seattle with all of our luggage.

Or when we could not find a cab when we were stranded.

Or when I called a cab company and they sent a cab for one person and we have five. 

Or when we were so fed up with cabs after the cruise that we decided to walk from the airport to our hotel with our stuffed luggage and it was a wee bit further than we had anticipated. 

Ughh. I think you get the picture, don’t you?

All of those little events were a bit taxing- some more than others- but none of them were as tense as when we arrived at the airport kiosk, punched in our information and read that our flight had already departed. We had actually MISSED our flight home, back to Ohio. 

And you know what was more stressful than that realization? When I realized that MY HUSBAND realized that we had missed our flight AND that it was MY FAULT.

At this point, you may be wondering how one goes about actually missing a flight. Turns out, it doesn’t take much effort.  I’ll even tell you step-by-step what you need to know incase you ever decide that your family vacation just wasn’t nerve-wracking enough, and you need a bit more excitement thrown in.  Are you with me?

#1 Book your flight through your favorite carrier and whatever you do, DO NOT print a copy of your itinerary. 

#2  Glance through your departure times once and convince yourself that your brain is like the safe at Fort Knox and allows nothing to escape. Even if you’re the type of person that forgets where they placed their car keys five minutes after stepping inside the door.

#3  When you suddenly wake up from a sound sleep, the night before your flight, and you have a nagging feeling that you should double check your travel plans, ignore it and go back to sleep.  After all, what’s the worst that can happen? 

All kidding aside, I certainly never intended to purposely miss our flight. I was horrified when I realized that we were actually supposed to be landing at 9:30 a.m. in San Diego and NOT departing from Seattle at that same time! I nearly vomited.

Thankfully, United Airlines, was most understanding and accommodating. They even waived the fees that could have been up to $150 per person to make changes to our flight plans. I’m truly grateful to them. However, we were assured that if this ever happens again- we will be charged.

So, heed my warning and make sure you check and double check those flight times on your next vacation!

What is the most stressful moment you’ve ever experienced on a vacation?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Six Reasons You Should Save Time in Your Schedule for Field Trips at The Homeschool Classroom


homeschool classroom banner 

I’m nearing the end of my homeschool journey. One child will graduate next year and the other two will soon follow. As I look back over our fondest homeschool memories I think of amazing read alouds that stole a piece or our hearts, co-ops with friends, and even a few science experiments gone bad. I also remember some of the many field trips that we’ve taken since we embarked on our homeschooling adventure and why, if I had to start at the very beginning, I’d incorporate even MORE field trips.

Pop on over to The Homeschool Classroom to read the rest of the post, Six Reasons You Should Save Time in Your Schedule for Field Trips.

I also wanted to take the time to say Thank You to those of you that nominated The Traveling Praters for Best Homeschool Variety Blog. I am deeply honored and encouraged. Thank You!


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