We're Back! Arizona Vacation 2017


We are officially back from vacation, and we had such a great time!  I am warning you all now though, this is a picture-heavy post.  I apologize for the length of time it will probably take to load.  Believe it or not, I took a lot of effort to cut the pictures down to 2-3 from each activity we did, but we still had a lot!

Kids, if you are reading this in the future, you were all at every place we went, I promise.  And I took pictures of all of you.  I just didn't have enough space!

Onward...

The first couple days of vacation are usually a road trip.  We take road trip vacations because we find they are much easier with four young kids than flying  (not to mention more affordable).  These are usually sucked into a black hole when it comes to pictures, but we tried our best this time to slow down and stop a couple times throughout the drive - it broke up the days in the car for the kids and for us!  So we stopped at parks, points of interest, and restaurants.








Note: if you are ever in Durango, you HAVE to get a coffee at Durango Joe's!  Derek and I have a tradition of trying a local coffee place on every morning of our vacation, and this may have been the best coffee I've ever head. Ever.

On Mother's Day I woke to some footprint/handprint art form the kids (carefully crafted by my sweet husband), and a drawing book I've been wanting!  We also visited Mesa Verde.  Unfortunately a lot of the dwellings were closed until summer, but we walked up to check out Spruce Tree House with the kids.







We finally arrived at Page, Arizona!  We ended dup staying at Lake Powell Resort, and we were really happy with the stay there!  Unfortunately I did not book our tour to Antelope Canyon and we weren't able to get in until a day later than we planned (whoops), and so we spent a full day just having out at the resort - swimming, walking around with views of the lake, and we took a boat tour!













And of course, I broke out my tripod for a family picture.  When you are on vacation there is usually no lack of people who are willing to take a picture for you, but I'm usually much happier if I just find a pretty spot and set up the tripod!  Once I have a good shot for our annual family vacation photo I feel like I can relax!




Also worthy of note: Poor Clyde got sick during these two days of our trip with a mysterious fever.  We had to keep the poor child drugged up on Tylenol so he could enjoy the trip! I felt so bad for him,but weirdly once the medicine kicked in he didn't act or seem sick at all.  I'm still not sure what he had.  Also, I broke out in eczema on this trip in several different spots.  I've never had eczema in my life!  We always seem to get some weird illness when we go to Arizona.

We spent some time in Antelope Canyon, and I honestly got enough pictures there to fill up two full posts.  I'll just show you a few, because we could be here all day waiting for those pictures to load.

A little info about Antelope Canyon - you are not allowed to go there without a tour guide.  Some tourists died there many years ago because they were caught in a flash flood (which is how the canyon is formed), so now you are only allowed in with a guide.  The company I originally wanted to go with could no longer accept children on the tour because of their insurance, so I frantically searched for another company with an opening that would also allow children, and thankfully I found one.

(I'm thinking about writing a separate post on how we did Antelope Canyon with kids, so let me know if you have any specific questions.)

The Canyon was absolutely gorgeous, and I'll share more soon.  But wow.  It was definitely a bucket list item.





Next we headed down to Flagstaff for a couple days.  I was excited to check out the Rock Slide park down there, and we would have if the weather was like the previous week (80's).  The whole time we were there it didn't get warmer than 60 degrees though!  it figures we would go on vacation on the coldest week in May.  It was still warmer than home though (there were several inches of snow while we were gone).

Since our Rock Slide park plans were foiled, we checked out the Grand Canyon.  It was very windy that day, so we just walked around for a little bit and then saw the Imax documentary about the canyon at the National Geographic Visitor Center. We also went to Meteor Crater (a well-preserved meteor crater outside Flagstaff)!  We also ate free pie at Village Inn and ordered Chinese food to our hotel.  The food in Flagstaff was a highlight.




(This is an actual space rock, in case you didn't know.  I made the kids wash their hands after touching it since it contain uranium and who-knows-what-else.)

(On the crater age.)


(Swimming at a rec center, which the kids loved!)




(The Railroad Cafe, a Route 66 restaurant with huge portions of really good food!)

After a few days in Flagstaff we headed to my grandparent's summer cabin, and we spent a couple nights with them.  They were so sweet to feed us really well, the kids loved playing with all the toys my grandma had, and Derek and I got to play a bunch of games with my grandparents!  We love games and never get to play them with other people uninterrupted, so this was a really nice way to end vacation.  We also went on a gorgeous hike (the weather was nicer there than Flagstaff), but I think I'm going to share those pictures next week.

We finally headed home after that, and it turned out to be a fun and relaxing trip! 

Where are you all going on vacation this summer? 








Memorial Day Is Not About The Barbecues




Today is Memorial Day, and if you are like our family, you are probably going to a barbecue or using the extra day off to full advantage in some other way.  And I truly hope you have a wonderful, fun-filled day, but at the same time, I hope you take a minute to think about Memorial Day a little more deeply too.  Because the thing is...Memorial Day is not about barbecues.

Memorial Day is a day to remember and show gratitude to those who have died in defense of our country.  It's a day to remember the fallen, those who have died.  I think we overlook this a lot, because Memorial Day has largely become a party holiday, the kick-off to summer, etc.  But we have this day off, because we live in this country that is free.  And we live in freedom in this country because men have died to protect it.  Most of us will never be called upon to sacrifice in that way, and the reason we won't is because others have already sacrificed for us.  These men and women gave everything they had for people they would never meet, out of love, and duty, and honor, for God and country and freedom.  And the only reason we can go to parties and pools today in freedom is because of them.



We took a trip to our military cemetery with the kids the other week, to visit the graves of my grandfather and great-great-grandfather.  And we looked around at all those graves, many of men who died while fighting for our country, and I explained to my kids that many soldiers have died to make us free.  I'm so glad we did it, because while we celebrate in some ways today, this is a solemn day.  I don't want my kids to grow up thinking it's just about barbecues.



Full thoughts on Tommy Nelson today...and I hope you take a little time today to thank God for our freedom in America, and for those who have died to keep it for us.


How I Listen To Audiobooks For Free (Or Cheap)





Sometime last year I became aware of the vast array of audiobooks that are available these days - and I also became aware of how much more "reading" I could sneak in through audiobooks!  Who says you can't read and drive at the same time?

I listen to audiobooks while I drive places, while I fold laundry, while I cook dinner, and while I clean out closets (the current project).  I've listened to them while doing yard work.  I've even listened to them before I go to sleep when all the lights are out.  On top of all that, there are a lot of books I know I would never even get around to reading that I've been able to cross off my list because of the wonder of audiobooks.  I'm a big fan!

So for those of you who might be interested in giving audiobooks a try, I wanted to share how I've obtained quite a few books to listen to for free (or very inexpensively).  Here are all my secrets.  You are welcome.


Overdrive

If you have not heard of Overdrive pull out your phone right now and sign up!  It's an app that works through your public library, so you do need a library card.  Once you are all signed up, you have access to an unbelievable array of ebooks and audiobooks!  I really got started through this app, and it's so nice because if you come across an audiobook that just isn't doing it for you, you've invested no money and there are many more waiting for you to try.  

Audiobooks.com

I signed up for Audiobooks.com because I saw a book I wanted to listen to on there, and realized that Audiobooks.com gives you a free audiobook credit for signing up!  Shortly after signing up, I also got an email with an offer for another free credit for leaving an iTunes review.  That's two free audiobooks!  It is a monthly subscription membership, but you can cancel anytime, so I just cancelled before I got charged for another book credit.

Audiobooks.com also has a fantastic selection of free audiobooks that you can download and listen to through the app.  These include a lot of classics!  Some are Librivox recordings that have been compiled into an audiobook format through the app, which is the most convenient way I have found to access Librivox audiobooks.  Some of the free books I am most excited about (for myself and for the kids) are Under The Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott, The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Chronicles Of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery (never read this one), Dr. Doolitte, Little Bear, The Bobbsey Twins books, and more!

Audible

Most people think of the monthly membership fee with Audible, but in case you weren't aware, you can download the Audible app and use it without creating a monthly membership.  And why would you do this?  Download the app now and go to the "Channels" tab.  Look at the top and choose "Featured".  Scroll down a bit and you should see a banner for free audiobooks to stream for Amazon Prime members!  I'm listening to Pride and Prejudice right now, under "Celebrity Voices, Classic Stories".  They have a selection of 20+ free, high-quality audiobooks that you can stream right now.

You can also sign-up for a membership trial for two free books, and if you don't decide to keep it, you can cancel anytime (even before you are charged the first time).  I haven't used the two-free-books deal yet, because I'm waiting until I finish more of the audiobooks I already have, but rest assured, I will be taking advantage of that in the future!

ChristianAudio

ChristianAudio is another audiobooks service much like the two listed above, and they also offer a free book for signing up for a membership (haven't taken advantage of this yet either, but I will eventually).  However, ChristianAudio is great because they actually offer a free audiobook each month, just for entering your email.  No other strings attached!  They also have a reviewer program that you can sign up for to receive free audiobooks - this is open to you even if you aren't a blogger!

Amazon Whispersync

This is the option where you have to pay, but at a deeply discounted price.  Amazon often offers Whispersync audiobooks as a package deal with their Kindle books - this is neat because you can switch between the ebook and audiobook anytime, and Whispersync will save your place.  If you are interested in a book, check the Kindle version on Amazon, and then look underneath the price.  If Whispersync is available, there will be a checkbox to "add Whispersync audio for $______."  These deals are often great for audiobooks, especially if the Kindle book also happens to be on sale.  The best deal I've gotten was probably the Anne Of Green Gables audiobook and Kindle book combo for $2.  Read the ebook in the Kindle app, and be sure to download the Audible app to listen to the audio - all of your Whispersync audiobooks will show up under your Amazon account in the app!

(Affiliate link below.)


And to finish this off, I wanted to answer a common question:  

"Isn't it hard to listen to audiobooks with kids running around?  I wouldn't be able to focus."

While I understand why you might think that, I don't have a problem with this for two reasons.  

First, I don't expect to be able to sit with my eyes closed and focus on every word of my audiobook (which is the only way I would hear every word of my audiobook).  You can enjoy an audiobook without being 100% focused on it, and you might just have to realize that even if you miss a sentence here and there, you are will still hear and understand and enjoy 95% of what's going on.  The question is, is it okay if you lose 5% of non-critical words through listening to the audio version as a mom of young kids, with all the distractions that entails?  I say it's okay.  It's okay with me.  It's the tradeoff for getting more books in through taking advantage of audiobooks.  And if the thought of missing a few sentences really bothers you, try picking a book you aren't as invested in from among some of the free options I listed here!  Sometimes I'll choose to listen to books I've already read, or books I feel a little more casual about, to ensure I don't feel like missing that 5% robbed me of something.

Second, earbuds.  A lot of audiobooks, even Christian ones, aren't necessarily appropriate for young kids, so most of the time I listen through my earbuds.  This also helps me to be able to still hear my book when I'm cooking dinner and the kids are running through the house driving fire trucks on the wood floors (very noisy).  I really want to get some sort of wireless earbuds (like these maybe? I can't afford Airpods, so these look like an acceptable alternative), because that will make my audiobook-listening even more accessible and convenient!  I'm thinking these would be great for situations like working out and listening without wires connecting me to my phone, or sneaking my earbuds in while waiting for a doctor's appointment.  This will open up even more audiobook listening opportunities!

So there you go, all my audiobooks tips and secrets!  

Do you listen to audiobooks?  What has been your favorite audiobook?

The only other word of caution is that a narrator can really make or break an audiobook, so I'd be interested to hear if anyone has a favorite!









Triple Berry Ice Cream Topping Recipe





This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and ProYo, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #ProYoHighProteinIceCream http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

Lately, I have been on the hunt for a dessert that will hit the spot for my picky pregnancy tastebuds.

As most of you know, the first trimester has left me exhausted during most days over the last couple months.  Combine pregnancy fatigue with four energetic kids, and I am really valuing a little quiet during nap time lately.  I've been avoiding the to-do list, keeping my laptop closed, and taking that time to refresh during the day.  It's really helped me to recoup and be ready to handle the pre-dinner chaos!  I either take a nap, or I settle on the couch with a book or the remote...and ideally I want some sweet treat that I can enjoy every now and then all by my lonesome!

During some of my pregnancies I craved anything sweet, and it didn't even matter what it was.  But this time around heavy, overly fatty desserts just sound gross.  But at the same time, my sweet tooth is demanding to be satisfied!  It's a real conundrum.



However, I recently discovered ProYo Low Fat High Protein Ice Cream!  This is a type of ice cream that uses less fat and a high protein content in it's formulation, so I had to give it a try.  





I picked up a few different flavors at King Soopers, and I wanted some sort fruit sauce to top it with that would also be less sweet than traditional ice cream toppings...so I came up with this triple-berry ice cream topping recipe to enjoy with my ProYo Low Fat High Protein Ice Cream!  I'm really happy with how the sauce, and my dessert, turned out - I didn't douse the fruit in sugar, so the berries kept that slightly tart taste, which is perfect on top of sweet ice cream.



Triple Berry Ice Cream Topping

1 1/2 c. of blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries (frozen)
2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 c. cranberry juice

1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat, until fruit is thawed and sugar is melted.

2. Mash berries up until desired chunkiness is reached for your sauce.

3. Increase to medium heat and let mixture reach a rolling boil.  Boil for five minutes.  

4.  Remove from heat and pour into glass container.  Refrigerate until cool, and serve over your favorite ice cream!  




The topping should keep for one week in the refrigerator, and this recipe produces about 3/4 c. of topping.  I would double the recipe if you intend to share with guests (hint: ProYo Low Fat High Protein Ice Cream is also soy-free and gluten-free, which is really useful to keep in mind when I'm entertaining since some of my friends have food sensitivities).

I tried this triple-berry topping over the Vanilla Bean flavor, and I thought the flavors mixed together well (I also think it would be good on top of the Coconut flavor)!  ProYo Low Fat High Protein Ice Cream uses a sugar and xylitol blend, so despite having a lower sugar content, it tastes just as sweet and delicious as normal ice cream.  I thought this made the tart berry topping a perfect counter.  The next flavor I'm going to try...Dark Chocolate Toffee!  Yum.




If you'd like to try ProYo Low Fat High Protein Ice Cream, ProYo has a great coupon right now for buy one 14 oz. container, get one free - available now through 7/7, while supplies last!  ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Creams are available nationwide at Kroger and other Banner stores. You can find a store that carries it by using this store locator!

What is your favorite ice cream topping?  
Maybe I'll get some ideas for another homemade topping recipe in the future!








© Through Clouded Glass. Design by MangoBlogs.