Thursday, February 8, 2018

Family Fun and Travel: Christmas At The Island: Pigeon Forge, TN!! #Travel #FamilyFun #PigeonForge #TravelBlogger #Gatlinburg #Smokies #SmokyMountainTravel


Hey Y'all! I wanted to spend a few minutes today to tell you guys about one of our very favorite places in Pigeon Forge! The Island is a HUGE entertainment/shopping/retail/hotel type complex in Pigeon Forge. It's a relatively new place, and has been around for the last few years, but they are still adding to it and getting things in order. It really has come a long way in the past few years, and it is a really great place to hang out. When it comes to family fun in Pigeon Forge, this is a really great pick! 







Where is The Island? The Island is located centrally in Pigeon Forge, right behind the Comedy Barn theater. You really can't miss it, as there is a GIANT Ferris wheel, known as The Wheel! It's super easy to get to The Island, and usually you can walk from just about anywhere in Pigeon Forge. If you are too far away to walk, you can definitely take the trolley from just about anywhere, and if you do decide to drive, keep in mind that they have a shuttle service to get you from the parking lot over to the main shopping and entertainment area. 

So, what will you find when you get there? Oh, just a little bit of everything! There is so much to do at The Island, really, I think you could spend hours there and still not get to see or do everything! There is a ton to do, so let's go over some of the best things! 
EAT: Of course, this is one of the best parts of any vacation, and The Island does not disappoint when it comes to restaurants. You will find Paula Deen's Family Kitchen, Margaritaville, Timberwood Grill and Mellow Mushroom, just to name a few. If you know me, you know I am going to recommend steering clear of the chain restaurants, not only for the financial aspect but for the atmosphere as well. It's not that I am a hater when it comes to big chains, but I would definitely recommend trying out a more local or even regional chain to get more of a feel for the area and really get the full experience. If I was going to recommend a place to eat at The Island, I would go with Timberwood Grill, who has some really great deals on certain days. I would check their Facebook page for more on that. I have also heard great things about Poynor's Pomme Frites, which is a small German food shop. Of course, if you are looking for a bar or an ice cream stand, or of course, a fudge shop, The Island has you covered on those as well! 

PLAY: When it comes to things to do and play at The Island, there is so much you can check out and experience. There are some great fun family things like arcades, as well as the giant Wheel that you can ride and get a great view of the mountains. There really is so much to do, no matter what it is that you have your heart set on, from a ropes course that hangs high above everyone, to an old time carousel, gem mining, and more. Really, there is so much that you can do here, and you can spend a whole day exploring! 

SHOP:  There is also tons of shopping at The Island, and I believe they advertise more than 60 retail shops! There really is something for everyone here, and the great part is that the shops at The Island are small little retail shops, sort of like mall shops, so it doesn't feel like shopping at a huge outlet mall. It really does feel more like walking down Main Street in a small town, and that is the feeling that I love about it! 

THE ISLAND: WILL IT BUDGET!?!  
First of all, shout out to Rhett and Link, who I blatantly stole "Will It" from, please guys, don't sue me, you are already bajillionaires. Next, let's get to my tips for doing The Island on a budget. If you are going to try to attempt this, first of all, let me say, this is going to be a challenge. This place IS, by all definitions of the word, a tourist trap and a money pit. That doesn't make it any less fun, but, really, let's not sugarcoat it. It is what it is, and if you were to just open your wallet at every retail shop, food stand, and fun "thing to do" at The Island, you are going to be walking out of there at least $1000 poorer than when you walked in. 

There are things you can do to lighten the load on your wallet,so listen up. First of all, you are going to want to focus on the EXPERIENCE of this, not the GETTING OF THINGS. (That's a good life lesson by the way folks, so remember that!) If you have kids, I am going to go ahead and recommend that you pack a snack and some drinks when you head over, or else you are going to be "snacked" and "drinked" to death by your kiddos. Now, once you get there, whether you trolley, shuttle, walk over, or drive over, make it all about the experience. Night time is a great time to go, because there are so many lights and beautiful attractions, and just walking around is a gift! 

I cannot overstate how great it is to just walk around, window shop and especially visit the fountains and the light show. This is SO much fun, and you can just sit in the rocking chairs, relax, people watch and enjoy the fountains. Honestly, this is my favorite part of the entire thing! Also great is a visit to Ole Smoky Moonshine, where for the small cost of $5.00, you can do a moonshine tasting that is guaranteed to leave you more than a little tipsy! I also love going in the little shops and looking around, talking to people, and just hanging out. We had a great time, for example, in one of the magic shops, and spent about 45 minutes in there, chatting with the employees and teaching the boys' magic tricks! So much fun! 

All in all, The Island is a great and amazing place, and if you are in town, you will not want to miss visiting it, at least once. This is one of those experiences you can make as cheap or as expensive as you want! Definitely don't forget to check out THIS PAGE for coupons to any of the millions and millions of shops that you can visit on your trip! 

PS: Don't forget to check out all of our other posts about our FAVORITE place in the world, the Great Smoky Mountains! You can read all about things like the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud, The Ripley's Aquarium, The Music Road Inn, Wilderness at The Smokies, and Tips On Choosing A Cabin Or Hotel!! 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Top 5 Must Have Products For Moms of Big Families! #MomLife #MomHacks #StepMom #Blended #MomOf4 #BoyMom #Parenting



Okay guys, I thought it was high time that I write a new post for y'all and share with you some of my newfound wisdom. As many of you know, it was only a few short years ago, that I was a single mama of two little boys. Fast forward to now, and I am suddenly a soon to be married mama/stepmama to FOUR, count them all FOUR kiddos, who are now suddenly 8, 12, 13, and 16. Not only did my boys grow incredibly freaking fast and incredibly freaking big, but I also have been blessed enough to gain two more kiddos! 
Must Have #1: Extra Large Griddle 

Okay, my big family mamas, if you don't already have one of these, you need to get one ASAP. These extra large griddles make cooking SO much easier. I use mine to make grilled cheese (Seriously you guys, I can make NINE grilled cheese at once!) It's also great for pancakes and bacon too, and really helps to cut down on that horrible time when they are all sitting around waiting on dinner, and you can only make one pancake or one grilled cheese at a time. Seriously, this has been a game changer in our house, and I love mine! They are also pretty inexpensive, so they are a pretty good investment! 

Must Have #2: Post Its

I know, I know, you guys already know about post its, but let me tell you how they have really changed things for us. Now, I am not a "Martha Stewart" mama, and I have tried multiple times to incorporate some kind of chore chart or system, to no avail. They just don't work for us, no matter what different kind of Pinterest Fail I come up with. However, tiny little post its have become the best possible thing for us when it comes to chores. I have the really small, square Post Its, and during the day, I look around the house for things that need to be done when the kids get home from school. It's usually only a couple of small things, but just enough so that the house doesn't get messy and that they can have a little bit of responsibility. 

I stick the Post Its to the front of the fridge, and the kids come in from school, grab a snack, and grab their Post Its, and do their chores right away. It has become a habit now, and they know to expect their Post It. Get this: THEY EVEN ASK ME WHEN THEY AREN'T THERE!!! I am not kidding. So, yeah, simple is better. Write some stuff on a Post It. Make the kids do it, and they will do it. Life is good. Note: My kids are big kids, so this is much easier for me than it would be for a mom of small kiddies. 

Must Have #3: Cool Soap
Yes, it sounds stupid. But I am telling you the truth. Once upon a time. Nobody here washed their hands. I kept regular old white Dial squirty hand soap in both the bathrooms and the kitchen. Bottles of hand soap would last MONTHS, since nobody was washing their hands. Well, if you are as paranoid of a mom about germs as I am, you understand that this just can't be a thing. Enter the lifesaver: Cool Hand Soap. 

Really, I don't know why it matters, but once I replaced the plain, white, boring soap with fun soaps, like bright colored ones, foam soaps, or delicious smelly ones from BBW, miraculously, the kids want to wash their hands. Now, a bottle of hand soap lasts about 2 weeks, and somebody is always washing hands. Now, are they wasting soap? Probably. Are they wasting water? Also probably, but I don't care as long as they are at least making it look like they are washing their hands, and it makes me feel better. So, do a soap upgrade, and see if you notice a change. 

Must Have #4: Water Dispenser 

Yep, I am talking about a full on water cooler, like the one you have in your office. When it got to the point that the kids were tearing through an entire case of bottled waters in two days, I knew we had to figure out something different. Of course I am never going to tell the kiddies that they can't have water, since I WANT them to drink more water. Enter the water dispenser. Now, we got a really nice one at Walmart, and I think the initial expense was about $179. We got two of the big five gallon water jugs, so we can swap them out whenever we need to, and to fill it up is about $1.50 each time. 

So far, this is working great for us! The kids all got their very own water bottles, and they fill them up all the time, whenever they want. They are drinking MORE water, we aren't having so much wasted plastic water bottles. It might seem a little bit weird that we do this, but for our big family, it's actually been perfect. Not to mention the fact that we got a water dispenser that has hot water as well, so the kids can also make their own hot chocolate, oatmeal and ramen noodles, so it's a great thing in our household! 

Must Have #5: Charts, Charts, and Charts! 

I can NOT tell you how much CHARTS have changed my parenting life. Being a mom is not easy, and being a step mom is even harder. Multiply that by FOUR kids and trust me, being organized and writing things down is a MUST DO. In our house, charts rule! There are charts on the side of the fridge, for everything! Some of the things that charts have helped with in our home: whose day it is to sit in the front seat of the car on the way to school, whose day it is to help with dinner, whose laundry day it is, who gets to make dessert, who has to do what chores, and who gets to have a sleepover in whose room. It sounds a little bit crazy, but really, it is the ONLY way to keep things straight and keep from fighting about really crazy and stupid things! 

Okay y'all, there you have my first top five tips for managing your big families. I am by NO means an expert on this, but just hoping to pass along some really great tips for things that have helped our family! 

Get The Parenting Answers With A Great New Book By Dr. Tanya Altmann!!



You guys. Seriously. I can not believe that it has been so long since I had a baby in the house! It's crazy, really it is. I recently got a review copy of a great new book for new parents to pass on to my sister for her upcoming baby, and it really got me thinking. It really took me back to the days when my oldest on was born, which has now been close to 12 years ago!

As most of you know, my parents passed away when I was a teenager. As for extended family, I have spent most of my adult life with no extended family to speak of, aside from my wonderful family that I inherited a few years ago from my husband to be! Needless to say, this made for a very stress inducing and scary time for a 20 year old brand new first time mama. Actually, this is where the name "Flip Out Mama" came from, the exaggerated and extra large freak outs that I would have from time to time (ok, all the time!) as a brand new mom.

With no one to call, no one to ask, and no freaking clue what I was doing, those first few years of mommyhood where quite stressful. I remember being super stressed about knowing whether my baby was hot or cold. Did he need socks? Did he need an extra jacket or blanket? Or was I actually burning him up and he was secretly wishing I would take the damn blanket off? UGH, so hard to know at the beginning! When my little guy was 4 months old, I noticed a bulge in his little belly when changing his diaper. It turned out to be a hernia, but did I know that at the time? Absolutely not! It would have been SO nice to have a resource to turn to, no matter the time of the day or night, to answer those pressing and sometimes embarrassing to ask questions.

That's why I'm really excited to share this new book with you guys. It's called "Baby And Toddler Basics: Expert Answers To Parents' Top 150 Questions", and it's written by Dr. Tanya Altmann, who is a renowned practicing pediatrician who founded Calabasas Pediatrics and an assistant clinical professor at Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA.  She is an American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson and is the author of several books. 

Dr. Tanya is a top-selling author and contributes her expert advice to leading media outlets including the TODAY Parenting Team, Live with Kelly, The Doctors, USA Today, Parents, Real Simple, Redbook and dozens of other media outlets. She lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and 3 sons. 

I was really excited to check out this book, and to pass it on to my sister, who is expecting her first baby. Even though she has way more in the way of "a village" than I did when I was a new mommy, I am still excited for her to have this great resource at her fingertips when she is in the trenches of new mommy-dom! This book is super cute, and has a ton of great information in it. I love that it is all laid out in easy to read Q&A form, and it's super easy to find what you are looking for. The book covers the basics, from basic baby care, to the ever popular poop questions, to what to do when kids are sick, sleep issues, and more. It really is a great read, and a great resource for moms (and dads too!) to have on hand for those times when you really don't know what the heck to do!

This is a really great asset for new mommies, and if you know someone who would benefit from such a great book, definitely check it out HERE! 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Taking Better Care of My Skin With Era Organics Tea Tree Oil Cleanser and Tea Tree Oil Face Cream! #Review #Skincare #Beauty #Organics


Do we need to mention the fact that I will turn 32 in 21 days? No, i do not think that we do need to mention that. And, yes, I am aware that my blog bio STILL says that I am 27. No, I do not want to change that. We are good, just let it be.

Anyways, as I continue to (somehow, all the time) get older, I am really starting to notice some changes in my skin. It's rough, this aging crap, and it is really starting to get me down. The dark circles, the random acne breakouts like I am 13 years old, the weird age lines or random chin hairs. Come on, this really isn't fair, and what did I do to deserve this? Okay, maybe it was all those times I went to the pool with no sunscreen, or slept in my makeup, or how I continue to eat like a college frat boy every single day. Hmm, come to think of it, it might be time to try to do something about this!

I recently received some products from Era Organics to check out and try to help my horrible mom skin. I was really excited to try these, as Era Organics uses, well, all organic ingredients to make it's skin care products. My face is probably going to write me a thank you note after 31.99 years of using horrible chemicals on it. I received the Tea Tree Oil Cleanser, which I have really enjoyed. The cleanser includes natural ingredients like, obviously tea tree oil, but also things like aloe vera, St. John's Wort, and Dandelion Root. It is so refreshing to use something like this on my skin, and feels  very soothing every time I use it. This is a great product and I have really enjoyed the fact that it is good for all skin types, conditions and issues, so no matter what my crazy skin is doing, I can use this product. I am not sure if I am noticing a difference yet or if it is all in my head, but I love the way my skin feels after using this product, and that is what matters!

I also received the Tea Tree Oil Cream. This is a great cream which is useful for breakouts, and acne prone, oily skin. I have been letting my teens use this as well, as they are right in breakout city these days! Just like the cleanser, this cream is soothing and refreshing, and I really do think it has been making a difference in the acne cycles of my kids (and me!). It only takes a small amount to cover your whole face, and the kids have been using it at night after they shower, and I have to say I am really impressed with the results.

I am really happy with both of these products that I have been blessed enough to review from Era Organics. This is a great company that offers tons of products that are safe for the whole family. I love the fact that they even have baby products! So exciting! If you are looking for a new skin care regimen for you or for any members of your family, I would advise you to check out Era Organics, as I have been very impressed with them!
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