Family, Surviving Chaos, 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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Family, Food, Surviving Chaos

Salmon Avocado Rice Bowls

Salmon Avocado rice bowls a perfect addition to your summer menu and is part of our summer series recipes. Salmon is light, healthy and quick so you’ll have more time to spend with your family rather than cooking in the kitchen. This is also a great way to introduce kids to fish since this recipe has lots of sweet flavors to mask the any fishy taste. Its definitely a crowd pleaser!

Ingredients

  • 4 cup jasmine rice (1 cup per person)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Salt
  • 1 cup lime, juice only
  • 4 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 3 tbsp chicken or vegatable stock
  • 1 lb salmon fillets, skin off
  • 1 ripe avocado

Let’s Make It!

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F
  2. Cook rice per package instructions.
  3. Heat a cooking pan on medium-high heat. Add stock, 1 tbsp of honey, 1/2 cup lime juice and 2 tbsp cilantro to pan. (Save remaining ingredients for next steps).
  4. Simmer the mixture for about a minute, remove from heat and mix with rice. Mix well and set aside.
  5. Line a backing sheet with aluminum foil.
  6. Mix remaining lime juice, honey, and together in a bowl then rub mixture onto salmon fillets. Sprinkle salt on salmon as desired. NOTE: Glaze will run down salmon onto baking sheet and will burn. This is ok, the fish is not burning.
  7. Bake salmon 12-15 minutes.
  8. Divide rice among bowls and top with salmon fillet. Top with sliced avocado, lime juice, and salt to taste. Enjoy!

Surviving Chaos

  • Rice: Pre-cook rice the day before to speed of cook time.
  • Chili Powder: Add a 1/4 tsp of chili powder to add a little spice!
  • Noodles: Substitute thin noodles for rice to change up the recipe.

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Family, Surviving Chaos, When in

Best Travel Apps

Now that its spring and summer is right around the corner, some families will begin to travel (of course adhering to ALL the COVID-19 precautions). With that being said, now is great time to make sure you have the best travel apps on your phone so that your adventures will be smooth and stress free. Here are out top 5 travel apps.

Hopper

Hopper is best for fare watching to ensure you get the best price on airfare and hotels. It watches prices so closely, it can tell whether you should book your trip now or wait. Set up your own price watch alerts so you don’t miss you an opportunity to save. #winwin

TripIt

TripIt helps you get organized!! You can upload your itinerary and share it with your friends so they when you leave and arrive at your destination. #safety For an additional fee, you can unlock more features like flight alerts, refund notifications, and reward tracking. The best part, this app works without Wi-Fi so it perfect for those rural or secluded destinations.

Timeshifter

Timeshifter is perfect for those who travel internationally and want to prevent jet lag. Based on sleep and circadian neuroscience, the app provides you with a personalized “jet lag plan” based on your destination time zone. It suggests when to wake up, when to consume or avoid caffeine, and so much more.

Trabee Pocket

Need a way to track travel expenses, be sure to download Trabee Pocket. You can track all you spending in this app and upload receipts (especially if your travelling for business). Added bonus – it even has an exchange rate calculator! #sohelpful

PackPoint

It never fails….we always forget SOMETHING on when we are packing for trip. PackPoint to the rescue! Just enter your itinerary: date, destination and activities and PackPoint will generate a packing list with everything you need. Plus, it checks the weather and will remind you to pack an umbrella or jacket for your trip.

Family, Surviving Chaos

Building Your Tribe

We all have our very own tribe, you know….that group of people that we can always rely on. A tribe, a group a crew, or your posse are people you have chosen and elevated to be part of your inner circle. Those people who know your likes and dislikes, in and outs, high and lows. Basically, the people who know you best. I can’t tell you how many times we have relied on our tribe of family and friends during chaotic times, world chaos or when nothing seems to be going right. When my husband travels, I definitely have a tribe in each country that I can rely on both in the U.S. and abroad. This is especially important when traveling abroad, you need people you can trust should anything go wrong. If you looked around you, could you definitively say you have your own tribe?

Your tribe should consist of people who show up no matter what. The ones who call you consistently (yes, an actual phone call) whether they have something in particular they want to talk about or just to say “Hi”. They routinely check on you and your family to make sure everything is OK. They should know when you have deviated from your normal routine; they’re more likely to see red flags or be alerted when something is amiss. Additionally, your tribe should encourage you to go after you goals and dreams. Have an idea? Your tribe should be right there cheering you on. They will want the very best for you at all times.

Members of your tribe accept you exactly as you are…your uniqueness, individuality, quirks, imperfections, and everything in between. Who you are is what brought you together in the very beginning. Your tribe sees the good in you, what you have to offer, and what you have accomplished. They bring out the best in you and you bring out the best in them. Now more than ever, it is so important to have a tribe, a team that you can rely and they can rely on you. Even though we are social distancing, remember to keep in contact with them. With social distancing comes isolation. Your tribe will never let you feel alone or isolated, they are always looking out for each other. We are so thankful for our tribe aka our family and friends for their continued support.

Family, Food, Surviving Chaos

Kid-Friendly Baked Ziti

Kid Friendly Baked Ziti

Now that were all staying home, how about a recipe that the kids can help make? This recipe is easy-peasy and the kids will love mixing together the ingredients. Serve with your choice of veggie, caesar salad, and garlic bread for an authentic Italian meal.

Ingredients

  • None stick cooking spray
  • 8 ounce penne pasta, dry
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 medium bell pepper, red
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 cup spaghetti or marinara sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil, dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano, dried
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 6 ounce mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ounce ricotta cheese, part skim milk

Let’s Make It!

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray an 8X8 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Cook pasta as directed on package; drain and set aside.
  2. Mince garlic and dice onion and red pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté garlic, peppers and onions for 3-5 minutes. Stir pasta sauce, basil, oregano, salt and pepper into onion mixture. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove sauce from stove and stir in cooked pasta.
  3. Shred the mozzarella. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta and 1 cup shredded cheese.
  4. Spoon half the pasta into the baking dish and top with half of the ricotta mixture. Repeat with remaining pasta and ricotta. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella and bake uncovered for 18-20 minutes.

Surviving Chaos

  • Pre-cook Pasta: Pre-cook your pasta the night before to speed up the cooking process.
  • Add some meat: Add cooked ground beef or Italian sausage to beef up (pun intended) your baked ziti.
  • Leftovers: Leftovers will last 2-4 days refrigerated for a quick weeknight meal.

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