When the Travel Stops

Travel freeze. In corporate terms it is the equivalent of being grounded as a teenager. Don't go anywhere. Save money. Work from home. Sell, sell, sell just from your desk virtually. It happens. But when your job is all about travel and you are suddenly told to not travel what happens to you as a person.

It's been 26 days since my last flight. I may be twitching a little bit. I slept in my own bed for 19 nights in a row. That is an all time record since starting this job. I drank more coffee than usual and less water which resulted in a lot of 3am emails and lunchtime power naps. I learned some major things about myself.

1- I work better in public. I have always suspected this. After years of setting up shop wherever I am for work I need the hubbub around me. Right now I am in a coffee shop at Houston Hobby with my headphones firmly planted in my ears and I have finished 2 reports, 13 emails and 3 articles. During the time at home I determined that the cost of the latte and a gluten free cookie at our local coffee shop was worth the price of productivity.

2- Despite my protests I am actually a morning person..... if I can get myself up. When your commute is down the stairs to your office the day can start a little later but for me it comes with a cost. If I start early and plow through the work it gets done. If I wait till "starting time" it takes me longer to get going. Structuring my day around when I work best has been key in keeping up.

3- I know very little about my own town. One of my first days home I drove my daughter to school. It was maybe my third time doing so this year. I wanted to head to a coffee shop that I had never tried but passed frequently. I had to use Google Maps for directions. That was a wake up call. We moved here almost a year ago and I need to put a little more effort into learning what is available to me. Since I drive to a city 30 minutes away for most box store errands I hadn't spent time driving our streets.

So even though the travel has started back up a bit as meetings get booked I am trying to hold onto these 3 things and am looking forward to reorganizing my home office a bit to be a better fit for when I am home. What are your best office organization tips?


When Teen Driving Shenanigans Come Back to Bite You and the Chance to Win Tires!

*This post is sponsored by She Buys Cars and Michelin but the shenanigan stories are my own. *

There's that moment when you are asked to write about driving safety for National Teen Driver's Week and your mind suddenly becomes a slideshow:

* the time you were 15 and tried to take your parents car for a ride around the neighborhood but it was a stick shift and you spent the rest of the afternoon just trying to get it back into the same spot on the hilly driveway before they got home
* when you were a senior in high school and attempted to hide the shrieking noise your car was making because prom was a few days away and you didn't want to be driven by your parents if your car was in the shop
* the senior skip day that never happened because when you and your friend were headed into school to sit for attendance and walk out a fat raccoon ran across the road and you rear ended the lady in front of you
* the time in Driver's Ed when the German foreign exchange student started going 85 on a rural highway and the 100 year old instructor finally told him to slow down to which he replied "in my country we do not have speed limits"
* the time you and your friend decided it would be really fun to drive across another state on Labor Day since you had no school but didn't tell anyone because it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

And then you realize that your oldest is only 5 years away from driving and HOLY CRAP that is scary considering what you did as a teenager. Seriously, if karma plays a role in this I am screwed.

Luckily the fine folks at Michelin North America and Katie Couric have partnered for the #SharingSafety campaign during National Teen Driver's Week. Click over to see tons of fascinating tips on their site.  They also have the oldie but goodie of checking your tire pressure. Every single time I saw my grandfather whether I was driving or it was my parents he inevitably asked "Is your tire pressure good?" and "Do you have enough gas?". Thank you Michelin for proving that my grandpa was on the cutting edge of driving safety, even if he did really enjoy turning to me at a particular set of train tracks and saying "Watch this, if you hit them just right you catch air!" (Reflecting back he may be where I got some of my driving mannerisms from).

But I'm not just here for fun driving tips and stories of my misguided youth- enter below for the chance to win $600 for Michelin tires and join the conversation on Thursday 10/22/15 at 9pm EST when we chat safety and teen driving education. Find out what you should be modeling now even for your youngest kids to start them off on the right foot!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


You Are a Match

Eleven times.

I had moved 11 times when a courier appeared at the door to our temporary rental home in Vermont bearing a letter saying I was a match to someone needing a bone marrow donation. I had given birth less than a week prior and could not move forward with the process.

Fourteen times.

I had moved a grand total of 14 times since joining the registry in college during a drive in our student center when my husband received a call asking him to have me call in. I returned that call and am now in the process leading to bone marrow donation.

I learned two things. The National Marrow Donor Program and Be The Match is really REALLY good at finding people and that there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding donation and the registry itself.

I will be writing my way through this process as I wrap my head around it, trying to answer questions where I can. Time to start with a few questions to kick things off that came up from friends when I introduced the idea.

Do you know the patient?
No. All I know is that he is in his 50's.

Why are you donating? 
My father in law received a stranger marrow donation while fighting leukemia in 2012 and it's a large part of why he is still with us today. I want to bless someone in the same way that we were blessed.

How can I sign up for the registry? Who are they looking for? 
Sign Up Here. The main group that they are looking for is 18-44 year olds. HLA (human leukocyte antigen) markers used to match are inherited so ancestry can play a part in match. For this reason I strongly encourage my friends of color to register as there are groups that are underrepresented.

Source: Be The Match

Why are you writing about this?
Honestly, I struggled with this. I certainly didn't want anyone to think that I was looking for asspats or praise. I think it is a really important topic and I would love to see more folks join the registry. And selfishly I struggle sometimes with perfection. I want to be able to tell a neat little story and so I procrastinate waiting for things to be perfect. With donation there is no guarantee that my story will wrap up in a pretty little package. Everything could work out and I could donate, or they could at the last moment have a better match. Writing about something with an unknown ending will be good for me. 

I'll be back with more on donation as I go through my process. What questions do you all have?


7 Tips for New Business Travelers

Being a frequent business traveler is a little like being in a secret club with a lingo all it's own and a shared set of experiences. Even networking with someone I just met we compare our airport favorites (identifying airports by their codes of course), share restaurant recommendations in upcoming cities, and discuss preferred brands and points promotions. Whether you are a newbie business traveler or have been spending 100+ nights annually in a hotel since before 3.4 oz carry-on liquids became a thing here are 7 tips to keep in mind.

1. Become a creature of habit when you enter a hotel room. Let's face it. When you stay in a different hotel every night they all kind of start to look the same. You start entering the wrong room number when you go to enter the wifi password, wake up trying to remember what city you are in, and wonder how soon it will be the weekend. Now throw in a potential a middle of the night fire alarm that leaves you standing out in the cold in pj's with no wallet and it's enough to drive you prematurely gray. But if you have a standard spot for certain things in every hotel room you stay in you will never find yourself pantsless in the middle of the night looking for your keys. Immediately upon entering a hotel room I place my keys, wallet, and room keys on the bathroom counter. I hang an outfit on the peg on the wall (Hampton Inn's) or on the back of the bathroom door. My shoes go directly in front of the door. This way if there is an emergency I can throw my pants on, grab my personal items, and put my shoes on before leaving the room quickly. I also take a picture of the room phone when I first get into my room. It always has the address of the hotel on it.

2. Be brand loyal. I'm a deal girl. I love to look for the best price but for business travel I stick to the best price in one brand. By being brand loyal I earn more points per stay, get free wifi, receive free drinks & snacks at checkin, pick up free breakfast slips and have access to last minute rooms that others don't have. Plus on Thursday when my brain is fried I at least know what brand hotel I booked.

3. Don't unpack. This one cuts two ways. I don't unpack in hotel rooms. It is a waste of time when I am only going to be there for a night and it speeds up my morning routine. But once I arrive home I also don't unpack. I open my suitcase in the laundry room and take out my packing cube of dirty clothes to wash. Once they are out of the dryer back into my suitcase they go. By having a minimal business wardrobe and repacking right away I save myself time. The toiletries I bring with me are not ones I need at home so I don't need to worry about forgetting anything. Keep a separate toothbrush, deodorant, and makeup kit in your suitcase if you travel frequently. Anything that you use both at home and on the road is an item that you can and will forget on a trip. Buy 2.

4. Make a list and check it twice. At the end of every week review your upcoming travel plans briefly. It can be easy to miss a step if you are booking a lot of trips and while finding a hotel room last minute is usually not a monumental task, standing at O'Hare and realizing you don't have a flight home is a little bit of a larger problem. Better to catch these things early. Pay special attention to airport codes. Back when the Monroe County Airport in Bloomington Indiana had commercial flights a coworker found herself there, 3 hours and 40 minutes from her intended destination of the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington Illinois after a mix up with a travel agent. Oops. Double check all reservations and put them on your calendar so you can see a missing hotel night or flight info easily.

5. Think outside the restaurant box. Back to back nights on the road, especially when you are in different cities can wear on a person. Remember that restaurants aren't your only choice when you are on the road. Although it is nice to get out and interact with other humans sometimes you just need to refuel in your room watching trashy reality television and eating takeout. Don't count out grocery stores either. If you have dietary restrictions grocery stores can be a great spot to pick up items you can eat. Whole Foods have condiment stations that you can utilize to doctor up a bag of salad mix into a meal. Seek out small local locations. Some of my favorite lunches are fruit cups in San Antonio. Made to order meal sites like Texas-based Snap Kitchen are also great options. Since I am not able to have gluten Snap Kitchen is one of my favorite stops in Austin, Houston or Dallas to pick up ready to eat meals. I bring them back to the hotel with me and microwave them. I can also grab breakfast for the next morning since I can't eat many items in the free hotel breakfasts.

6. Don't be afraid to change plans. We all want to be responsible business travelers and stay within company budget parameters but this being said you also have to be flexible with travel plans as new opportunities and appointments come up. This means feeling confident switching reservations. I book on Southwest since my plans change a lot and they allow me to move flights around with no change fees. It is also a good idea to relook at rental car prices a few days before your trip if you booked in advance. They often go down.

7. Know what to do if you're sick on the road. At some point in time or another you will get sick on the road. You'll be in a strange city, lying on the bathroom floor in a hotel room trying to crawl to the phone to tell them you need late checkout. Hopefully your experience won't be that dramatic or happen when you are 32 weeks pregnant (that was quite the week in Cleveland). But the great news is that now you can have access to a doctor from the comfort of your hotel room. You don't even have to put your pants on! Part of the agony of not feeling well on the road is that the effort involved in "getting better" is a lot. Researching somewhere to go in a different city. Playing the insurance game. Waiting. Usually I just muddle through.
Not so with American Well. They are the nation's largest telehealth company with doctors on call 24/7 365 days a year. The docs are board certified with an average of 15 years of experience. Did I mention you don't have to put your pants on? You can book a quick appointment with a doctor and they can even issue any prescription you need. Save time, save money, save yourself the agony of laying on the bathroom floor plotting your next move. I am so excited to have this new tool in my business travel trick playbook. You can sign up at any time and there are no charges until you have an appointment. And here is where Travelingmom and American Well are offering my readers a special deal. Use code TMOM and receive a visit free (up to $49 value). Look at you smart business traveler, look at you!

This post was sponsored by Travelingmom and American Well. Please see the info below for Twitter party info.

Travelingmom will be having a Twitter party on Monday September 28th at 8pm CST to chat about travel and wellness. Follow #TMOM and #AmWellMD. I'd love it if you'd join!
Any business travel hints that I missed?
TravelingMom #AmWellMD


Planning For Spontaneous Travel: Pick a Hotel, Pick a Theme

Sitting in a Chick-Fil-A nursing a diet lemonade with my phone plugged in I make the 18th phone call of the evening. “All sold out,” the hotel clerk chirped in my ear. I combed through Kayak, went to individual hotel sites, and tried Priceline but there wasn’t a hotel to be found that was under $399 a night from Houston stretching all the way up past Huntsville. Even the fleabag motels showing prices at $175/night were sold out when I called. Luckily that night I walked into the hotel next door to the Chick-Fil-A looking pitiful and the desk clerk took pity on me. They had one room that someone hadn’t shown up for that they gave me. This was me on the road by myself on a business trip, I can’t even imagine trying to entertain 3 kids while trying to find a hotel room. Which brings me to the most important point of spontaneous travel with kids pick a hotel first.

“That doesn’t sound very spontaneous” you say but trust me you don’t want to kill a good last minute weekend away by sleeping in the car at a rest stop because all the hotels are full. Your lodging is usually the biggest expense on a trip so lock it down. Don’t let your wallet take the hit on last minute travel.

After you’ve picked a great hotel (preferably with a pool and free breakfast) it’s fun to pick a theme for last minute travel. Some of my family’s favorites are:

Stopping at all historical markers along a certain route.

This was how I found out that my 11 year old thinks you have to hold your breath in cemeteries so that you don't bring in a ghost and take it home with you.

Trying all of a certain type of food. (We’ve done BBQ treks, coffee treks, donut treks.)
The kids develop a rating system and rate each location.

Visiting strange roadside attractions and museums.

We loved the Mustard Museum and Spam Museum. 

Hiking. Our family is always happy with a good hike in a pretty place.

Win a Weekend at Staybridge Suites
Staybridge Suites (an all suite hotel with free WiFi and free breakfast) is running a  Family Weekend Getaway contest to help families escape for a weekend of fun. Three winners will receive:
  • 3-night stay at a Staybridge Suites hotel
  • $250 MasterCard prepaid card
  • Kindle Fire HD7 8GB Tablet
  • $50 Amazon gift card

There will also be a Twitter party on Monday, July 20th at 8PM CST. Join us to chat spontaneous travel! #TMOM #StaybridgeSuitesWeekends.

This post was sponsored by Staybridge Suites and but opinions are my own. 


How To Save $40 A Day (Or More) at Disney

Find out how to save money at Disney by planning ahead and packing snacks. 8 Tips to Maximize your savings.

When I was a freshman in high school my parents announced suddenly that we were going to Disney. My dad had gotten a bonus at work and boom we were headed off to Florida for vacation in 2 weeks. Now my mother is one of those planning people, there is a list and a system and a plan, so to say that a two week turn around rocked her world a little bit. She bought one of those Unofficial Guide to Disney books (yes, I am that old- travel web sites were not utilized) and started the listmaking process in fast forward. One of the other things that she did was a big shopping trip where she stocked up on oatmeal packets, snack foods, and juice boxes. She packed all of this into our checked luggage and anytime one of us talked about being hungry that trip she magically pulled a snack out of her fanny pack (yup, fanny pack- as a teenager I was of course properly mortified). Our money on that trip went to nice dinners.

Years later, I have my own family and like me they are grazers. We love snacking in our family so when we were headed off to Disney World for the TravelingMom retreat I immediately began planning my snack strategy. With my gluten free requirements and my parents coming along as well I planned to pack a box of snacks to check as one of our free pieces of luggage on Southwest. Using coupons and shopping sales I was able to buy enough breakfast and snack foods for our trip for roughly $30. 

Next up I laid everything out on the counter and took it out of the boxes. Packing items in their original boxes takes up too much space but you don't want items to get squished- this is where plastic cereal containers come into play. They fit a ton of items and protect them from baggage handlers intent on squishing all of your Nutri Grain bars. 

I did several like this - one with all gluten free items for myself, one with breakfast foods, and one with snacks. The great thing about these containers is once you've eaten all the food on your trip you can pack them full of dirty clothes and put them in your suitcases on the way back. The main goal with snack packing is to have to check a box on the way there and not have to check one on the way back.

Top 8 Things to Remember When Packing Snacks

1- Pick things your kids will actually eat. Now is not the time to convince them they like tiny boxes of raisins. You won't save any money if your kids won't eat what you brought. Our kids love fruit snacks and Go Go Squeez's so we made sure we had plenty of those.

2- Attend to those with allergies. Allergy friendly dining at Disney is fantastic. They specifically shine at table service locations but for quick snacks planning ahead is your best bet unless you want days of fast food. I packed enough gluten free snacks to cover my time at Disney and also to substitute in for a meal if I couldn't find something.

Gluten free goodies for me (and tea for my parent's nightly cup of tea). 

3- Don't forget about drinks. It's brilliant planning to bring reusable water bottles (and you should) but your kids are going to see other folks with a variety of drinks and they will probably get tired of water. We packed a box of Capri Suns and also powdered Propel and Gatorade. With all the walking that we did we were still easily able to keep the kids interested in drinking fluids and were constantly replenishing their electrolytes. 

4- Breakfast items will give you the most bang for your buck. If you can eliminate an entire meal from your daily budget then you get a savings gold star! For us oatmeal packets are always a popular choice and the hotel room coffee maker provided hot water. I packed 2 plastic bowls and spoons. For myself I packed a roll of rice cakes and some peanut butter. 

5- Bring a couple fun snacks that you normally don't have in the house. Part of my strategy to keep the kids away from snacks at Disney was to offer a few items that I don't normally buy. Fun size packs of cereals and Pop Tarts provided a distraction from the ice cream and cotton candy swirling around us. 

6- Start a bin ahead of time. I set up a laundry basket roughly the size of the box I wanted to use and started buying items on sale and with coupons to toss in it. I also "shopped" our own pantry for items that fit the bill of small, portable and non-sticky. 

The laundry basket of snacks at it's fruition. I might have needed a bigger basket.

7- Buy larger and bring Ziploc baggies. Cost- wise the tiny packs of Goldfish didn't make sense for us so I bought in larger quantities and packed them in the large bag to save space (and to decrease the likelihood of them turning into Goldfish crumbs). I also packed small snack size Ziploc baggies (a Sam's Club super sale coupon find from last year I have enough of these to last till the girls go to college!). Once in the hotel room I was able to divvy them up. 

8- Once at the hotel set up a Snack Command Central. To the sound of my husband's teasing I packed my Ikea fabric drawer organizers. They unzip to lay flat and made the perfect snack holders. I designated a snack drawer and a breakfast drawer and put my gluten free snacks in a separate holder. 

Organized snacking in our Coronado Springs hotel room. 

We found that planning our snacking ahead for Disney allowed us to save at least $40 a day in snacks (those $4 waters/drinks add up). I put our savings towards the purchase of Memory Maker which pleased the grandparents in a big way! What are your kids favorite snacks? Did I miss any major points? 

Disclosure: My family and I were hosted on our trip to Disney as part of our TravelingMom retreat. My parents paid for their own accommodations. I would have packed snacks either way :) . 

Parenting? There's An App for That

Working from home I dread the "Wahhh" coming from the upstairs playroom when I'm in the middle of a report or article. Because.... sisters. Quiet hours long tea parties and the building of a town out of Legos can dissolve into an instant into an interrogation scenario. While I'd love to think that when I run from my office to see what happened I'll be told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth it usually ends up being the individual child's creative interpretation of "their truth".

The system we have. Description & image from

Enter the Panasonic Home Monitoring System. The starter kit had 2 outdoor cameras and a monitoring hub. From the moment it arrived at the house my husband and I were in a debate about where exactly to put it. We already had an alarm system but no cameras with it. Until my father in law, the voice of reason, chimed in "Why don't you use it to watch the girls in the playroom?". Genius! With a micro SD that could record video and direct viewing on the Panasonic Home Network app it was the perfect solution. After a quick setup that didn't involve massive amounts of Googling or scratching our heads we were ready for a test run. (Fellow TravelingMom Karyn Locke gives a really in depth setup review HERE.)

The True Test

"Now we just have to wait for them to argue," I told my husband. Of course everyone knows that kids have their own timeline so we waited for a long 15 minutes (does that count as a date?). And then the shrieking kicked in. "Stop," we yelled thru the monitor. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that you can talk THROUGH THE MONITOR? Epic. The girls froze. 

We went upstairs. Normally asking what happened results in a song and dance where we try to interpret the embellishments out and understand the younger one (who is speech challenged). This time the talking monitor had them at full attention and we got a quick answer. It was such a momentous occasion that I even documented it on Facebook. 

Video confirms this story. 
We've also gotten some fun random captures from the camera. Did you know that stuffed animals dress up when you aren't looking?

Monster is really rocking that cowboy hat. 

The Verdict

This product is a strongly recommends. It has solved several mysteries for us (Yes, the dog does stand behind me when I'm not looking on purpose). We have another camera aimed at our stoop for security purposes. I receive a lot of packages for work and if anything ever goes missing I will have footage of it. We are looking at purchasing additional cameras. This system is a much more realistic system for families. With the smart phone app integration it is extremely easy to check in on your house or family from wherever you are. 

Now I'm not advocating parenting through smartphone or consistently reviewing the tape to see who is in the clear but the ability to speak to the kids through the monitor and do quick safety glances while still being productive in my office has been fantastic. (And is the reason I was able to even type out this review!)

Disclosure: I received the  Home Monitoring System to use and review as a member of the TravelingMom Network. 


Mother's Day is Over

It's 12:01 am and Mother's Day is over. I'm celebrating with a mimosa.

Mother's Day this year began on Saturday morning. With a mimosa. My husband was assigned for duty on Sunday so we celebrated a day early. I smiled. If my relationship with Mother's Day was assigned a Facebook status it would be "It's complicated." With a son from my first marriage who lives with us on vacations and in the summer I always have him for Father's Day and so Mother's Day carried little meaning until the girls came along. Now it's Mother's Day, but not complete until my son calls which this weekend was late Sunday afternoon making my day of celebration a 32 hour ordeal.

The girls were adorable though. Soey has grasped familial relationships and greeted me with, "You my mommy. I your daughter," and late in the day Yasmina decided to confide in me when I told her how sweet and cuddly she was being, "we're being nice cause it's Mother's Day and daddy told us to be good. We'll be normal tomorrow." Yippee.

This chapter is now closed and I wait until next year to feel the discomfort of a day dedicated to celebrating the maternal ideal. Most days I struggle with just feeling like a real live grown up so feeling most like a mother isn't present for me when I'm being showered with praise from my children. I feel like their mom when I'm cleaning up poop, finding that Soey has drawn with my makeup again, and explaining to them both that baths are yes necessary. I didn't need to birth either of them to feel like this. I didn't need to grow them in my belly out of my ingredients. So Happy Mothers' Day to everyone who has children, had children, gave children to other families, or has adopted. Happy Mothers' Day to those raising their children's children. What makes a Mother? If you have done any of the seven following things then congratulations you qualify.

1- Gotten dressed in a rush/in the dark to avoid waking a sleeping baby. Realized hours later that you are wearing an item of clothing inside out or two different shoes. Bonus points if there are underwear or pantyhose static-ly attached to the outside of your outfit.

2- You have frantically google'd info on a rash/fever at midnight and then turned to a Facebook group to ask advice. Bonus points if someone recommended breast milk/coconut oil/wafting of essential oils and you were like yeah right on that sounds like it could work.

3- You have lectured a stranger after they commented on your toddler daughter's outfit as inappropriate. They are kids, stop sexualizing their clothes. You have a toddler son and you have lectured a stranger after they commented on the doll he had. No you will not "confuse" him. They are the one who is confused.

4- If you have ever uttered the words "Bend over and stick your butt up so I can wipe it."

5- Your child has eaten food off of a public floor and after saying "Eww" you figure they'll live and move on.

6- You have ever bribed a child with candy to keep them busy in anothe room so you could have some "alone time".

7- You see puke coming at you and instead of running and screaming you figure out a way to catch it in your tshirt so there is less to clean up later.

Happy Mothers' Day!


Hectic Schedules, Hectic Parents: When Chaos Collides

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by VolunteerSpot and

This is what my "office" looks like most days. 

Madness. This month has been total madness. Between my schedule for work which puts me on the road 3-5 days a week all over Texas and my husband's new position on a county EMS squad two and a half hours away we've been getting very creative with the schedule lately. On a weekly basis my husband, father in law and I sit down to figure out who will be where and as a result who will be watching my youngest two. Throw in a 10 year old going back to school in Oregon, meal trains for friends who are pregnant and having babies, church groups and the discussion of adding preschool or a homeschool group to our plate and I could not be happier have online tools on my side. The more I can do on the go the better.

This may be a sponsored post but I was first introduced to VolunteerSpot a year ago when I moved to Texas. Since then it has been used for numerous activities. This free online tool allows a parent to start a virtual sign up sheet doling out time slots or items needed. Other parents then "claim" shifts and VolunteerSpot will even remind you of what you promised you do.

The best part of all of this? It eliminates the REPLY ALL mess. When I'm driving around Texas for work and I hear my email ding I look at it on my next stop. It is severely irritating when I open it up and it's 9 reply all emails of "Thanks!". With the virtual nature of online sign up everyone can do their thing and log in at a time that's convenient for them without a flooded mailbox. And as a traveling mom I appreciate that ease. From the road I can sign up to bring a meal on a day I'm home, from thousands of miles away I can check in on class parent assignments, and I can start a volunteer sheet for events I'm running.

As if the sanity gained from easily planning and participating from the road aren't enough you can also participate in VolunteerSpot's giant giveaway. The chance to win up to $20,000 in prizes for yourself and your child's school should have you clicking away with glee! Be after school cool with VolunteerSpot and win prizes including gift certificates, Amex cards & Cabot Cheese (Disclosure: I love cheese.). Your school will automatically be entered to win a $1500 in grants.


Discover the Forest aka Everybody Poops, Even Raccoons

(I was asked to share this campaign with my readers and was compensated. However, the opinions and the heartfelt poop stories of my childhood in this post are all mine.) 

I was really into poop when I was little. Ahem, I mean scat. I had a field guide poster on my wall. We lived in NH and I'd troll our woods looking for fresh matter to identify. At "Kids College" over the summer of second grade I dissected an owl pellet (technically this would be barf) and pieced together a mouse skeleton. Later living in Vermont on 10 acres I used these "poop detective" skills to identify deer trails and locate where they bedded down. No staring contests though.....

I think what I'm trying to say here is that you should get out and into the outdoors with your kids. Poop and pawprint ID skills are how I learned that a raccoon was eating our garbage and a skunk was hiding under our porch

This summer our wildlife experience will be a little different as it is our first summer here in San Antonio. The girls and my husband are headed to Big Bend National Park soon and I'm sure the How to Put Out a Campfire Snapguide on Discover the Forest will be a big help since the kiddos can't stop talking about s'mores.

After a long day of hiking there is nothing better than s'mores around a campfire so I am finally going to reveal my super secret s'more recipe to the world.

- Put marshmallow on stick.
- Take a square of Hershey's chocolate and shove it against the stick into the middle of the marshmallow.
- Roast the marshmallow.
- Take it off gently and place between two graham crackers with 3 squares of chocolate on each side.

The end result is the ooey gooeyest s'more of all time.

You're welcome.

(Middle of the winter? Never fear- you can make Oven S'mores.)

We have managed to haul the kids into the great outdoors at all ages so head on over to Discover the Forest to find great outdoor attractions in your area. I can't wait to explore my new city!

Join @Cheecker and @kimorlando for a fun Twitter Party all about the great outdoors with the US Forest Service at 1 p.m ET on June 26th.

How Not to Be a Jackass at Starbucks

Spending a lot of time on the road for work pretty much ensures that I find my way into the green machine a few times a week. Between the clean restrooms, free wifi, and the fact that they are all over Texas it's inevitable. And even though I'm cranky that they have gluten in their caramel sauce (sneaky) they do have a gluten-free Zesty Black Bean Chicken Salad that I like. Coffee shops tend to bring out the best and worst in people so I thought I would share 6 ways to NOT be a jackass at Starbucks.

1) Get off your damn phone. You are NOT that important. If you were someone else would be fetching your coffee. When you get up to the register you should be at attention and ready to order. If you are sitting in the cafe you should not be the only person people hear.

2) Sure you may see articles online talking about how to "hack" the system and get your drinks cheaper. Let me just say that if you do #1 more than twice in the same store you are just causing those espresso shots to be decaf from that point on. It's just an asshole move to do that. (Some of the other ideas are not as sketchy.)

3) If you are using the drive thru it is because you are in a hurry, or have kids in the car, or are just too lazy to walk through the door. Or it's Texas and it's too damn hot to get out of the car and walk in, besides the 110 degrees will flatten your hair. Whatever the reason the drive through is not the place to be indecisive. If you've never seen a Starbucks menu before go inside. If you are ordering 8 drinks, go inside. It is not the time to stop and stare for 5 minutes while you decide and people are trapped behind you.

4) Asking someone to watch your stuff and disappearing for an extended period of time. First off you're asking a stranger to watch your laptop. There is a 5 minute grace period on that, it should be a quick bathroom run. I'll give you a grace period of 10 minutes if you're moving your obnoxious cell phone conversation to the sidewalk after I've been giving you stink eye. But true story today a girl asked me to watch her stuff and disappeared for 41 minutes. Seriously? I didn't come to Starbucks to babysit your stuff.

5) Starbucks is not your office. Yes, it has free wifi and is a pleasant place to sit and wile away an hour or four. When you start laying down a protective ring of papers and using extra chairs to sort and staple you've gone too far. It's called a communal table for a reason.

6) I love dogs. I do- I have one and he is often my favorite child but there are some indicators that your dog is not patio-worthy. If he/she is shaking uncontrollably and looks utterly petrified bring it home, if it barks shrilly for 10 minutes anytime anyone walks by within a 10 foot proximity it is not patio appropriate. If it lifts it's leg and urinates on anything (especially another patron) leave. It's not cute, we don't think it's ha-ha funny, and it's cruel to the dog to make them that uncomfortable.

So go forth, caffeinate and make good decisions boys and girls.