Travel, When in

Weekend Trip: Kingsland, TX

Located an hour and half from Austin, Kingsland, TX is famously known as the place the The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was filmed. Yes, the infamous house from the film is located here; now a restaurant it’s a frequent tourist attraction. You’ll pass “the slab” or the clear section of the Llano River as it crosses over granite slabs and boulders, on your way to the Texas Chain Saw house. But Kingsland has so much MORE to offer than famous movie spots and rocks! Our trip took us off the normal beaten path and into new and fun adventures.

Packsaddle Mountain

During out trip, we decided to stay at an AirBnB rental property with a semi-private beach. One of the best choices we made! Not only is it social distancing safe because it just us in the house but you also get your own beach! The house and beach were on Lake LBJ and had plenty of activities: kayaks, a boat dock, wake boards, Sonos music system on canopy at the beach and so much more. Plus, there was a spot for a bonfire so our first night we stayed warm by the fire and viewed all the stars. Our kids had a great time building sand castles each day of our trip; each day the castles got bigger and better. One even has a moat around it! The house had great views of pack saddle mountain and the surround area. Named after its shape, Packsaddle mountain is a great place to hike and is of interest to both geologists and historians. It’s the location of the Packsaddle mountain fight, the last major Native American battle area and is believed to have been mined for gold before the Texas Revolution. If you choose to hike the mountain, there is a historical marker at the location of the battle.

Boat Day

On day 2 of our trip we took advantage of the boat dock and rented a pontoon boat for the day. This by far one of our favorite things to do when we’re on the water. The rental company literally boats to your location, drops off the boat for you and then picks it up at the end of the day. Easy peasy – I highly recommend it! Here you can see why we love renting a boat and plenty of reasons why you should too! My husband is usually the captain but I did drive the boat more this time around. We explored the whole lake and even stopped at Wakepoint LBJ; a place to fill you boat with gas and your belly with food. We had delicious barbecue from Uncle Arnold’s BBQ for lunch and then it was back on the boat. One of my favorite sights were all the lake houses – these houses were phenomenal! They all had their own boat docks but some houses added additional features: slides, fountains, double patios, boats houses and so much more. Here’s to keeping our fingers crossed that we can get a like house like the ones we saw!!

Longhorn Cavern State Park

On our last day, we took a socially distanced tour of Longhorn Cavern State Park. If your into rocks, caves and history this is the place to be. Longhorn Cavern is a beautiful limestone cave that has been used for many things: concerts, speakeasy, outlaw hideaway, church services and more. We took the walking cavern tour but they also offer the wild cave tour where you get to crawl on your hands and knees through the many crawl spaces. The tour took about 90 minutes and there was lots to see; from the bats to the crystals to Indian arrowheads left behind. Once your done with the tour, you can tour the park which has plenty of “parkitecture”, benches for family lunches, hike trails like Backbone Ridge and the CCC Observation Tower.

But that’s not ALL the things you can do in Kingsland, TX. We have some honorable mentions that we think you should check out during your trip:

  • Falkenstein Castle
  • Llano Slab
  • Lake LBJ
  • PackSaddle Mountain Hike Trail
  • Inks Lake State Park

Surviving Chaos

We had a great time in Kingsland and had plenty of adventures. Here are some of my surviving chaos tips so your trip will go splendidly!

  • Sunscreen: Be sure to put on plenty of sunscreen while and the beach, on the boat and wherever you decide to go. Bring 2 bottles…you’ll need it.
  • Light Jackets: The temperature is significantly cooler at the lake’s edge so you’ll want a jacket especially if you do a bonfire at night. The mornings can be quite cool as well when you sit on the patio and drink your coffee. Also, the cavern is cooler, between 60-65, so the jacket will come in handy.
  • Walking Shoes: There is a lot of walking in the cavern so where comfortable shoes.
  • Life Jackets: Either bring your own or check if your rental property includes them. All kids under 18 have to wear one and its good have when your kayaking.

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Travel, When in

Weekend Trip: Waco, TX

*Note: Trip taken pre-pandemic

Known as “the Athens of Texas” due to its many fine schools, Waco is nestled in between Dallas and Austin and sits along the Brazos River. Since it only takes about an 1-2 hrs no matter which city you are coming from, its the perfect weekend trip for the whole family. You can stay in Waco or in one of the many suburbs such as Hewitt or McGregor. Home to Baylor University, there is so much to explore within Waco. But our eyes were keen on seeing the Magnola Silos and all things Chip and Joanna Gaines!

Magnolia Market at the Silos

First up on our trip were the Magnolia Silos which is the best place to be! There is so much to see and do from the open courtyard for cornhole games, garden, picnic tables to eat ALL the yummy food to the Magnolia Market at the Silos store full of Chip and Joanna Gaines fantastic home decor. This is a place that cherishes family, food, and fun! The Magnolia Market has so much stuff that you will leave with bags full of decor, coffee mugs, planters,etc. Can’t fit your items in your car, ship it home using their onsite Fedex station! When you leave you will definitely be inspired to start redecorating with all the home goods you found. My personal favorite was the Magnolia Seed and Supply where you can pick up seeds, garden tools, planters and flower growing kits for your kids. I’ve always loved flowers and gardening, a little something I picked up from my grandfather, so I spent most of my time in there. My favorite part of the silos is seeing all the families have an amazing time and getting chance to bond. Families from all over come to sit, enjoy the warm sun and create memories with their loved ones.

Cameron Park Zoo

Next up was something for our kids….the zoo! Prices are reasonable and if you have children under 2 they are FREE. This 52-acre natural habitat zoo was the best and favorite of our kids-we spent the whole day there. With lots of waterfalls, ponds, and lakes it is picturesque! We started our adventure at Gibbon Island with all the monkeys and worked our way through the zoo. Our favorite exhibit was the African Savanna where the elephants, rhinos, and giraffes call home. We had perfect timing because a baby giraffe had recently been born so our kids were very excited to see a baby giraffe. If your looking for some peach and serenity from all the excitement at the zoo, head to the lush green bamboo forest in the Asian forest section.

Waco Mammoth National Monument

If you love paleontology, science, animals and bones this is the place to be. The Waco Mammoth National Monument has fossils from 24 Colombian mammoths and other mammals. Its the largest known concentration of mammoths dying, possibly during a flash flood. Our kids had a field day with this site and had so many questions-it really sparked their interest. They loved standing next to the leg bone of a wolly mammoth and be shocked by how big they were-it makes for the perfect photo-op! Once your finished learning about the mammoths, spend some time walking the trails where you see honey locust plants, Texas Live Oak and a few roadrunners.

Although we did a lot, that’s not ALL the things you can do in Waco, TX. We have some honorable mentions that we think you should check out during your trip:

  • Waco Suspension Bridge
  • Texas Rangers Museum
  • Dr. Pepper Museum
  • Baylor University
  • Mayborn Museum | Baylor University

Surviving Chaos

We did a lot during our trip to Waco! So here are some good surviving chaos trips when planning your visit:

  • Comfortable Shoes: Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, you’ll be doing a lot of walking at the Magnolia Silos and the Cameron Park Zoo.
  • Sunscreen: Don’t forget your sunscreen! The Texas summer can be brutal and hot so don’t get burned. Slather on sunscreen before and during your outside time-there’s not a lot of shade at the Magnolia Silos.
  • Water: Pack plenty of water and drink it often. Texas summer heat is like not other; try to visit your outdoor adventures early in the morning.
  • Wear a backpack: By the time you shop at the Magnolia Market, buy souvenirs, bring snacks and water you’ll need something to carry all your stuff. Plus, you need your hands free to play football or cornhole games!

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Family, Surviving Chaos, Travel, When in

The Exotic Resort Zoo – Johnson City, Texas

If your looking for some family fun, something that is social distancing friendly and you happen to be in Texas, then check out the Exotic Resort Zoo! Located in Johnson City, Texas the Exotic Resort Zoo is the perfect getaway for the whole family. This is a full scale zoo with exotic animals and safari cabins available to rent. Before the pandemic, you could hop on any one of the numerous guided tours for a trip around the zoo. While on the tour, you can feed the animals and visit the petting zoo which is a ton of fun. Also, if you wanted to spend more time at the zoo, you can rent a cabin…..even during the pandemic! These cabins are a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city with panoramic views of the Texas Hill Country. Each cabin can sleep 4-8 people and features basic kitchen appliances to a full kitchen depending on the cabin of your choice. These cabins are perfect for couples or the whole family.

Currently, the zoo has switched to a drive-through safari which is perfect for social distancing. You get to experience the zoo right from the comfort your car and still get the chance to feed the animals! First up on our drive-through safari was the petting zoo full of goats, fallow and axis deer. Although we couldn’t go inside, we were able to toss some feed to the animals which the kids loved! Following the petting zoo, we encountered all types of deer. From Sika to Axis to Fallow they were all eager to get some food right out of your hand. These guys definitely weren’t shy and came right up to car…talk about up close and personal! And of course they were accompanied by their friends the antelope and sheep.

Up next we entered the camel pen which was crazy! When you see a camel from far away you don’t truly understand the magnitude of how big they are. But once they get to your car and stick their WHOLE head and neck its a whole new perspective. And whats a camel without an llama or 2. These animals have no fear and enjoy every minute of their visitors.

My favorite part of the safari were the Zebras. They were absolutely beautiful and stunning and we spent the most time their feeding them. You definitely have to be careful with these guys because they bite! Be sure to drop the food on the ground so you can keep all your fingers. On our way out, we visit the Ostrich pen and encounter some Buffalo. To be honest, the ostrich and emu look very mean to me or maybe just angry….. These creatures are gentle giants but are very aggressive when it comes to food. Be prepared to keep your hand sanitizer handy or at least a towel because the buffalo loves to lick the food from your hand. Their tongues are long and EXTRA slimy, it was definitely a gross out moment for the kids.

The Exotic Resort Zoo is a perfect getaway for the whole family, especially now during these unprecedented times. If you plan on making the trip, here are some surviving chaos tips to make the trip smooth, stress free and fun:

  • Buy Ahead: Purchase tickets and at least 2 bags of feed BEFORE the day of your visit online. If your going on a holiday, buy your tickets at least a week in advance. This place sells out quickly.
  • Snacks: Be sure to pack some snacks and water for the road trip! Nothing worse than cranky kids stuck in a car.
  • Restrooms: Due to social distancing, the restrooms at the zoo are closed. Be sure to stop at the nearest gas station, about 4 miles north of the zoo, for your families pit stop.
  • Hand Sanitizer: Be sure to bring plenty of hand sanitizer and wipes since you will be feeding the animals. Their tongues are slimy so you’ll want to have clean hands when your finished.

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Food, Surviving Chaos

Tea Sandwiches: English Tradition

150-year old English tradition, afternoon tea is synonymous with England. What better way to complement your tea than with tea sandwiches. Tea sandwiches are a delicious snack that can be filled with all sorts of things – fresh veggies to fruit jams to fancy cheeses! No matter what you fill them with, these finger foods are always light and dainty and they won’t fill you up too much for dinner. Want more English culture, check out our London, England trip here.

Ingredients

  • 6 thin slices of your favorite bread
  • Cheddar-Apple Sandwich
    • 2 slices cheddar cheese
    • 1/4 apple, thinly sliced into rounds
    • 1 tablespoon (14 g) mayonnaise
  • Egg Sandwich
    • 2 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped
    • 1 tablespoon (14 g) mayonnaise
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons (8 g) mustard
    • salt and pepper to taste

Let’s Make It!

  • Cheddar-Apple Sandwich
    1. Spread mayonnaise onto two slices of bread
    2. Layer the cheddar and apple rounds on one slice of bread, then top with the other slice.
    3. Cut the crusts off of each sandwich, then slice them into thirds.
  • Egg Sandwich
    1. Mix chopped up eggs, mustard, mayonnaise, salt and pepper in a bowl.
    2. Spread the egg mixture onto two slices of bread, then put them together.
    3. Cut the crusts off of each sandwich, then slice them into thirds.

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Food

Farm to Fork Travel

Farm to fork” travel or agri-tourism is a new way to travel and have the best food experiences. With many people looking for fun and creative ways to travel and experience all that nature has to offer, agri-tourism is the perfect option. Now more than ever we are more conscious of what we eat, where are food comes from and its impact on our environment and community. As a global movement, farm to fork travel spans many countries and brings lots of tourists to rural areas all over the world. Travellers can either stay on a farm, ranch or small holding or, to become truly involved in the experience, work the land. What you farm you eat! Authentic food is the heart of local culture and the heritage of your destination so why not embrace it!

The country of destination gets to opportunity to share the culture, experiences, and way of life with all travellers through food. Farm to fork travel is not just about the good food and farm lifestyle; many destinations offer tours of the land and trails that celebrate the local farmers, their heritage and sustainable development. So where are some of the best places for farm to fork travel? Here’s a list of some of our favorite farm to fork destinations. Where will you go for the best eats in town?

  • Maui, Hawaii
  • The Cotswolds, England
  • The Winelands, South Africa
  • Provence, France
  • Donahue, Iowa

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Travel, When in

5 Ways to Save On Your Next Trip

We are so ready to get back to travelling both domestically and internationally. There are so many places we have yet to explore but we’re waiting until it’s 100% safe to travel. In the meantime, we’ve been planning and budgeting for our next trip. The budgeting part can be the hardest as we want to save money but get the most from our experiences and “do it all” while we are away. I curated our top 5 tips on how to save money when planning your next trip. The tips will save you hundreds if not thousands on your next vacation so there will be less money stress and more fun and relaxation during your vacation.

  1. Use Airline Miles: We ALL have a bunch of airlines miles saved up since the pandemic started. Now is the time to cash in!! Review your miles and cash them in for seats, hotel stays, or rental cars. For example you could travel domestically or to the Caribbean for 10,000 miles or less. By doing this you will end up only paying for government mandated taxes and fees. NOTE: Watch out for blackout dates; typically certain holidays throughout the year.
  2. Book A Rental Condo: Instead of a hotel try out a rental condo which gives you more space and the ability to live like a local during your trip. Plus condos are more affordable than hotels especially if its a family vacation with lots of people. Plus, you’ll have your own kitchen so you’ll save money by eating at “home” and its a creates the opportunity to gather around the table with your family.
  3. Travel Off – Peak: Book your trip during non-holidays, i.e. the week before or after to save hundreds of dollars. Not only are these times cheaper, there will be less crowds or the dreaded “we over booked the flight, anyone want to volunteer their seat?” speech (we’ve all heard that before). Plus there will be smaller crowds and shorter lines at popular tourist destinations like museums, amusements parks, etc. Additional savings: tickets for popular tourist destinations will also be cheaper!
  4. Deals Guide the Way: If your on the hunt for a great deal, then let the deal send you to your next destination. Instead of trying to make your budget fit your destination, let a trip deal determine where you will go. There are great deals for the places least travelled so its a great opportunity to see something new and expand your experiences. But these deals come and go fast so set up email alerts so you’ll be ready to book ASAP. This strategy is perfect for saving on your next trip and many include airfare and lodging so its a win-win!
  5. Stick to Your Budget: The best way to save money is to stick to your budget. Research how much air travel, lodging and experiences will cost and stick to it! Its easy to get lost in new offers or 1 extra experience during your trip. But by paying for that extra luxury, you can easily eliminate your cost savings and possibly go over budget. Travel budgets are easy to create in excel or use any of the numerous templates online. Don’t forget to include expenses for food and souvenirs!

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