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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Travel, When in

London, England

London, England

How about a trip down penny lane in……London, England! My husband’s last business trip. before the world went on lockdown due to COVID-19, was to London, England. He was able to take in a few sights and sounds before everything closed. London was one the cities he was excited to visit, he typically passes through it travelling to other countries.

What better way to make the best of a short business trip than to hop on a double-decker sightseeing bus! This by far is one of the best ways to see all that London has to offer; you can hop on and hop off to get a more up close and personal experience at each of the historic sites. One of the first sites was Paddington Station, known as the world’s first underground railway. This is the same station seen in movies and is still recognizable by its original design by Brunel. And while your there, don’t forget to take the kids to see the Paddington Bear statue which was name after the station. Since your on a double-decker bus, don’t miss out on the fantastic sculpture pieces around town like the Still Water sculpture. This sculpture is quite the head turner…….it’s literally a horse’s head! Commissioned by Sir Anthony and Lady Bamford, it is a replacement of the Horse at Water sculpture….I wonder what the original looked like??

If your headed to see the Tower of London, cross the River Thames using the Tower Bridge. There is so much history surrounding this bridge and the architectural design is stunning. The Tower Bridge connects Southwark to Tower Hamlets boroughs and is a major thoroughfare for the cities citizens. It is an iconic symbol of London but it is not to be confused with the London Bridge. There have been numerous incidences at the Tower Bridge such of multiple planes flying under the pedestrian walkway throughout history, the bridge opening with a double-decker bus driving across it and even a president getting stuck on 1 side apart from his security team!

Tower Bridge

Of course you can’t visit London without visiting Buckingham palace and Big Ben. Buckingham palace, home to the Queen Elizabeth is beautiful and truly must be seen in person. My husband did not make the changing of the guards but he was able to get right up to the gate for some awesome pictures. On the way there, he passed the London Eye which was still giving rides at the time. He said he didn’t have time to catch a ride but I think he was scared of the height of the Ferris wheel which is 443 ft (135 m) tall! Its one panoramic view of London, hence its name, is definitely worth seeing. And close to the London Eye is the Earl Haig Memorial. The bronze equestrian statue is of British Western Front commander Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig on Whitehall in Westminster. A representation of a great war hero, the statue is not without its controversy. From the likeness of the commander to his stance, uniform and the representation of his horse Poperinghe definitely has a love hate relationship with the people.

These are just some of the things to see and do in London. There is a TON of rich history learn about during your stay. Unfortunately, this particular trip was short so we definitely plan on going back. Next time, we will definitely get on the London Eye Ferris wheel and enjoy more British cuisine.

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Travel, When in

Seoul, South Korea and Lizards

Seoul, South Korea

Seoul the capital of South Korea is a city my husband has visited many times, including this past August. He enjoys the culture, temples and especially the food in South Korea. Fun fact….Did you know that Seoul is the home of fried chicken and barbecue??? Who would of thought!! This was right up my husbands alley and now I see why he visits so often. While there he visited the Coex Centre in the Gangnam district, home to Asia’s biggest underground shopping mall complete with casino, kimchi museum and traditional Buddhist temple. While there, he also visited the Joseon Royal Tombs, Garden of the Gods that has the tombs of the Joseon dyanasty. The Joseon dynastry lasted for 519 years and produced 27 kings! And if you like the Olympics check out the Jamsil Olympic Stadium aka the Seoul Olympic Stadium home to the 1988 Olympics. But it not just and Olympic stadium, it also served as the stadium for the 10th Asian Games in 1986, music concerts, and the centerpiece for Seoul sports.

Here at home, we were sorta settling into the 3rd week of school. School starts in August in the South so we were trying to get our school groove back from footloose and fancy free over the summer. And of course this was the week that all the after-school activities started, tons of paperwork for fundraisers and events for the year were being sent home and the parents opportunity to visit with your child’s teacher to review the curriculum for the school year. After a week full of activities, I was FINALLY getting a chance to stop, catch my breath and absorb all the info I had received ……or so I thought. It was Thursday evening, the house was quiet and was about to settle into bed when I saw it….a shadow cast from my nightstand lamp on the wall. At first, I thought it was my eyes playing tricks on me from sheer tiredness and having filled out tons of school forms. But no. There was clearly a shadow on the wall. But it wasn’t just any shadow….it was a small shadow with legs….4 legs to be exact. Due to the position of the shadows, whatever it was was closer to me than I thought. Completely frozen, I finally found the courage to turn my head to see what was there……a LIZARD!!!! Let’s be honest…..yes, I squealed and yes I jumped out of bed to the other side of the room. Considering where I live you would think I would be accustomed to this sort of thing but alas, I’m not. It starred at me and I starred at it. I have no idea how it got into our bedroom but didn’t have time to process the logistics. And then to my horror it scurried behind our bed. Ugh!!! At that point I had to think quickly assess the situation-my husband was on the other side world, I was NOT going to bed with the lizard in our room, it’s night time and my kids are fast asleep so we can’t leave. I knew at that point it was him or me! Thus began the hunt to find the lizard, which happened to blend in with everything. By the time I found it I had……moved 2 nightstands, flipped the mattress and box spring to vertical positions, knocked over a plant, etc. Chaos has ensued trying to find the lizard that our room looked like a tornado hit it. Once I finally found the lizard, I trapped him in a cup and put him outside (it took a TON of courage). I did call my husband and explain what I had just encountered….which was met with a ton of laughter (yes, he laughed at my pain). Nonetheless……I survived.

Our bedroom…surviving chaos

Here are you surviving chaos tips:

  • Bundle Paperwork: If deadlines permit, complete school paperwork all at one time and send them to school all at one time. This frees up your weeknights for other activities, keeps you organized, and sane.
  • Be Strong & of Courage: No matter what life throws or crawls at you, be brave!! Find your inner strength to conquer your fears (this applies to life in general, not just lizards).
  • Backup plan: If this had been a more dire situation….snake, tarantula, fire, etc have a plan to call someone for backup or leave the house. Always have a plan, you never know when you will need it.
  • Wine: This is self-explanatory.

Travel, When in

San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica

What’s warm sunny and beautiful all over……Costa Rica!! Who doesn’t love sun and gorgeous sandy beaches? Costa Rica has plenty of beaches and so much more to offer. With year round warm weather (23.7 °C (74.7 °F), its the perfect spot for winter vacation, summer vacation or any vacation. But don’t forget your umbrella, especially from May to November which the “rainy season” or green season. It rains everyday, sometimes twice a day!

One of our favorite cities to visit is San Jose, Costa Rica – the capital and largest city in Costa Rica. With more than 1 million people passing through the city, there are lots of things to see and do while your there. From theatre to European architecture to museums there is something for everyone. The National Theatre of Costa Rica is sight to behold with its European architecture and lavish Italian furnishings inside. With plays showing several times a week, be sure to stop and enjoy the architecture. And don’t forget to check out the San Jose skyline featuring the San Jose Highlands. Made of towering volcanos to the north and mountains to the south, its a perfect view.

When your done sight-seeing, head to one of the many beaches in Costa Rica to soak up some sun. There are many private and public beaches to choose from which all offer scenic views. If your looking for something more secluded, hope on a catamaran or yacht to take you to private beach. Our favorite…the Calypso Cruises! The Manta Raya yacht will take you to Tortuga Island across the Gulf of Nicoya. Once on the island you can experience a guided tour, snorkeling, bar service, live music, food, etc. It’s all inclusive and definitely worth the trip. And to top it all off, you get first hand experience with the wildlife on the island. Pigs, parrots, hermit crabs, and like freely roam the island and love people. Don’t be surprised if they walk right up to you looking for a handout…..from your lunch!

Travel, When in

Waterloo aka Austin, Texas

If you are ever in Austin, there are a couple of places in downtown Austin that are definitely worth visiting. Actually, there are LOT of places but for my family our favorite places are the Bullock Museum and the Texas State Capital Building. Unlike Austin’s famous tagline “Keep Austin Weird”, these place aren’t weird but fantastic! There so much to see, do, and learn during your visit and you’ll also get quite the workout. And yes, that’s a crane in the background of the star……Austin is boomin’!!! Let’s explore….

Bullock Museum (Texas State History Museum)

Named after Robert (Bob) Bullock Sr., the 38th Lieutenant Govenor of Texas, this museum displays Texas’ history from early indian settlers to the Texas Revolutionary War to the oil boom. Bob Bullock was famous for saying “In order to know where your going, you have to know where you been”; he was the driving force in creating and funding the Texas State history museum. It was named in his honor and the second floor features a 7ft tall bronze statue of him holding a gavel.

There are 3 floors (don’t forget your Fitbit!) in the Bob Bullock museum…..Texas has a lot of history to tell! But before you head to each floor, check out movie schedule at the IMAX theatre. Yes-there is an IMAX theatre inside the museum-talk about perks!!!! They show award winning new release films and documentaries and the 3D effect makes it totally worth while. The for Each floor’s theme is related to a particular period in Texas history. The 1st floor is related to early Indian civilizations and European and French colonial trade and exploration routes. The best part of this floor is what remains of the 300 year old French La Belle ship, a failed expedition to try to colonize the gulf coast. Our kids loved this and couldn’t believe they were seeing a real ship from 1684! Fun fact: Did you know the first European settlers called their settlement in Texas Waterloo? This city was incorporated under than name and but was replaced with Austin.

The theme for the second floor represent the personal history of Texas natives pre- and post Civil War and the Great Depression. On display are first hand accounts of life in Texas during those time periods through personal letters, home artifacts, photographs and fashion. There’s no story untold, from politics to farm living to African-American life in Texas. There is even a section dedicated to the Texas revolutionary war where Texas gained its independence from Mexico-its a BIG deal!! The third floor and final floor takes a look at industrious nature of Texas from oil boom to space exploration (hello NASA) to aviation. It proves there is so much more to Texas than just farms and cattle.


Texas State Capital Building

Texas State Capital Building

The Texas State Capital building is located on a hilltop overlooking downtown Austin. It is the sixth-tallest state capital building (there’s that Fitbit again!) and is taller than the United States Capital building. With 22 acres of grounds surrounding it, don’t be surprised to see people lounging, having lunch/picnics or children playing around. There is plenty of space for everyone to enjoy their day and lots of additional monuments that give a deeper look into Texas’ history. When not in session, the House of Representatives room and Texas Senate room are open to visitors. There are a TON of photo opportunities inside these rooms and so many historical desks to see. Who doesn’t want their kid to take a photo in from of the state seal or from a seat in the House of Representatives??….for future use of course! And speaking of photography, the painted self portraits of former governors and battle scenes from Texas history are magnificent. Don’t be surprised if you see a famous face or two…..in real life. Members of the house and senate are known to walk about the capital building on weekends….giving family tours of course!

Surviving Chaos Tips

  • FREE Admission: The Bob Bullock Museum is FREE!! This is perfect for when you looking for something to do on school holidays, the weekend or a short trip in Austin
    • If your hungry, check out the cafe on the second floor-they great kid friendly options
    • The museum is open on most holidays (yay!!)
  • IMAX Theatre: Be sure to check out the movie schedule, they show movies all day long!!
    • The documentaries are only 45 minutes (short and sweet) and are family friendly
    • Showtimes are mid-morning or early afternoon….so kids won’t miss their nap time
  • FREE Tours: There are free 30 minute tours of the Texas State Capital building. Its definitely worth doing as they pack a whole of of history in 30 minutes.
    • Again!….perfect for school holidays, the weekend or a short trips in Austin
    • If your wanting some independence (yes-pun intended) you do a self guided tour using one of their pamphlets.