A Healthy Slice of Life | Delicious recipes, healthy living tips, and fun..
Hi, I’m Brittany! I'm a former health coach turned SAHM to my two sweet girls. Here you'll find delicious food, talk about the daily challenges and triumphs of motherhood, our journey into homeschooling, and our family travel adventures.
I have received a lot of messages asking why I refer to my current eating style as “plant-based” instead of vegetarian or pescatarian. I prefer that description for two reasons. First, because it isn’t limiting. A label tends to make me feel constrained by my choices and leave me focusing on what I can’t have. Secondly, it reminds me of what I should have in the spotlight of my meals- produce! It’s very possible to have a healthy sounding label (vegan, paleo, etc) and still not being eating in a healthy way. After all, potato chips and candy can be vegan, and bacon burgers with a fried egg on top can be paleo (if it’s wrapped in lettuce).
I’ve always been a vegetable lover, but lately by training my mind to focus on the vegetable component of a meal first, I’m eating even more of them and really enjoying the freshness and flavor of my meals. There have been some challenges since shifting to eating this way, but over the past 7 months, I’ve really taken to it. The meals aren’t boring either! Here’s a peek into what I’ve been eating lately.
I’ve been experimenting with different smoothies for the girls, but I just can’t seem to get myself away from the savory breakfast. Eggs and homemade sourdough seem to be a reoccurring theme, as are veggies. I love getting veggies in with breakfast. It just starts my day off on the right foot!
Kale, zucchini, and onion saute with homemade sourdough, a fried egg, and half an avocado.
Homemade sourdough with mashed avocado, lemon juice, salt, and red pepper flakes. Strawberries and mango.
Sauteed zucchini, onion, and tomato inside an egg wrap with salsa.
I tend to keep things light at lunch with wraps and salads during the summer. I’ve also tried to make more elaborate salad on Sundays to eat throughout the week, like the curried chickpea salad or the kale and quinoa salad (both from Oh She Glows Every Day). Also, I need to give a quick shout out to the Cilantro and Jalapeno hummus from Publix. I haven’t grabbed it in forever, but I did a few weeks ago and it is the PERFECT hummus for veggie wraps because it has so much flavor in it that I rarely even need to add a dressing. If you’re bored with lunches and don’t mind a little spice, I highly recommend it.
Cilantro and Jalapeno hummus on a wheat tortilla with spinach, tomato, and onion.
Lunch out at Davidson Ice House. I don’t feel right saying that it’s like CAVA because I’m not sure who had the concept first, but it’s a create your own bowl kind of place with the freshest and tastiest options for all kinds of eaters (from vegan to meat-lovers). I had heard people raving about it and I’m so glad we finally got to try it out. We will definitely be back!
Summer is the perfect time to substitute meals with snack platters. No one is ever picky about a snack platter. It’s like a law or something. We’ve enjoyed many lunch snack plates and have enjoyed putting together larger platters for when we are hosting friends. I can’t take credit for the first beautiful spread, as it was put together by my friend, Tanya. Isn’t it gorgeous? The second snack plate features caramelized onion dip in the spotlight and if you haven’t tried it yet, what are you waiting for? It totally counts as a meal during these warm weathered days!
Dinners are always my favorite meals to share because they are usually when I get the most creative and playful with what we eat. I’ve been trying new cookbooks from the library, scouring the internet, perusing Pinterest (follow me here!), and just winging a lot of meals too. We’ve really enjoyed some tasty suppers as a result and here are a few of our favorites.
Baked falafel burgers with tzatziki sauce. A simple cucumber and tomato salad, dressed with red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano on the side. (It’s been my go-to side this summer!)
Roasted salmon and broccoli over a warm veggies and lentils from Williams-Sonoma Eat Well. These lentils were so good! I’m going to play around with them a bit and try to turn them into a main dish for fall to share with you.
Thai red curry with vegetables over cauliflower rice. When I shared this on Instagram (follow me here!), I received so many responses from so many of you saying how much you loved this recipe!
Beyond Meat Burgers (which have become a weekend cookout favorite for us!) with Farmhouse Culture Dill Pickle Kraut and roasted shishito peppers.
I loved this meal! I roasted a spaghetti squash, then topped it with some chorizo seitan and red pepper cashew marinara and basil from the back porch. Maybe I was just extra hungry, but I devoured it!
Brussels sprout tacos with charred corn and pickled red onions from Chloe Flavor.
And as for what I’ve been drinking? Lots and lots of Berkey water; it really has increased our whole family’s water intake! Well that, and finding a water bottle I love.
I still feel like I eat such a wide variety of foods and it has surprised me that I haven’t missed chicken at all (beyond the convenience). I don’t really miss steak either, but I won’t rule out the possibility of a filet at some point in the future if the craving strikes 😉
I’m curious, how do you (or do you at all?) define the way you eat?
Last weekend the girls and I packed up and headed south to spend a week at my mom and dad’s house on Lake Oconee. We had been looking forward to this for so many reasons, one of them being that weekend visits always fly by too fast and another reason being we’d be able to visit with extended family during that time as well. I brought along the girls’ bikes and even lesson plans just in case we had downtime- HA! We stayed busy in the most wonderful way, with plenty of lake action, several golf cart rides, and a couple of dad’s famous martinis too!
My dad’s sister, Aunt Pat, and her two girls (can I still call them “girls” if they are grown women?) flew in from Pennsylvania and Indiana, along with my cousin Kristin’s son, Alex. We were trying to figure out what my girls relation to Alex was (second cousin once removed?), but ended up just going with calling them cousins, which Hailey and Kaitlyn took to immediately took. He is a few years older than the girls but played so sweetly with them and the whole group dynamic just flowed really well!
My Nannie (my maternal grandmother) lives only a brief 45 minute jaunt away from my mom and dad and having an extended visit meant we were able to head into the country to hang out for a bit too. My uncle and aunt live next door to my Nannie, so not only were were able to chat and catch up with all of them, we also took full advantage of their ripe blueberry bushes and peach trees and picked our fill. With Nannie’s help (she’s a pro picker), we came home with several quarts of blueberries to fill our freezer with (and that was even after making blueberry muffins, which were delicious- I highly recommend this recipe!).
Over the years my parents have accumulated quite the collection of lake toys. My mom is a realtor (and a fabulous one, so let me know if you are curious about moving to lake country!), and has been able to buy them from clients as they move. That results in the “Camp Nana Papa John” title being incredible accurate because the girls are spoiled with fun things to do. From the lake pad, to stand up paddle boards, to kayaks, to jet skis and boat naps, there was no lack of lake fun to be had.
My cousin is a preschool teacher and I loved getting to show her our curriculum and get her two cents. She’s off for the summer, but jumped right in to help Kaitlyn work on some letters! We rounded out the fun with a trip to the pool so Kaitlyn could practice her new skill of swimming without floaties, an afternoon movie (Incredibles 2 was cute!), and several golf cart rides. Hailey has learned to drive it on her own (am I allowed to admit that?) and gets great pride from carting us around! Also, I’m quite proud of myself that I kept up with my 5k training all week long, despite the conflicting distances between my fitbit and my GPS on my phone. But that’s a post for another day!
Second only to family, my favorite things about Camp Nana Papa John is the food. Mom and I eat very similarly and always have fun trying new dishes in the kitchen together. We tried the Brussels Sprouts Tacos from Chloe Flavor and again I said to myself, this is a cookbook worth buying! We also ate the vegetarian lasagna from the Engine Two Cookbook, peas from the farmers market, and lunch always included Curried Chickpea Salad from Oh She Glows Everyday, which is now a staple dish in both our households.
We always have the go-to dip from my dad’s side of the family that we’ve been eating at every gathering for as long as I can remember- my Grandma Betty’s famous cream cheese dip! We also made my favorite Caramelized Onion Dip (have you tried it yet?!) and put both out with plenty of veggies for dipping… and Cape Cod Chips, too, because they are the best!
Going out to eat isn’t the easiest with kid (at least with my tired kids), but we did manage one night out at one of our favorite Lake Oconee spots- Silver Moon! Their Mediterranean baked cod was fabulous… almost as fabulous as their generously poured martinis 😉
All in all, I could not have asked for a better week down at Lake Oconee at Camp Nana Papa John. It’s going to take me a full week to get the girls back on a schedule, but isn’t that what summer is all about? Lake nights, slumber parties, and making those sweet memories with the people you love!
Thanks for the fun, Lake Oconee, and Camp Nana Papa John!
Are you a lake person?
What is your favorite lake to visit and activity to do?
I’m a sucker for the jet ski and the stand up paddle board!
What makes a good summer? I don’t think checking off all the items off a summer bucket list is necessarily the ticket to bond with your kids (which is why we are doing this instead of a list).
When I first was thinking about this post, the first tip that came to my mind was a little unconventional. I considered leaving this out, but it’s really been useful for me. That tip? It’s to get a babysitter or do a swap with a friend and watch each others’ kids for a few hours on a consistent basis. Why is getting help a tip to actually bonding with your kids? Because I believe in quality over quantity. As a SAHM/WAHM, I have a lot of quantity time with my kids, but I finally got it through my head that quality means more to me. Getting a sitter for 4 hours in the morning means my afternoon is free to be with my kids- body, mind, and spirit.
But what about the time we are with our kids? How do we make those stretched out summer days count and connect us on a deeper level? Here are a few ways I’ve found to bond with my girls this summer.
Set the clock for 30 minutes to 1 hour and let them call the shots. If you can do it without a time frame, kudos to you, but sometimes it helps me knowing it’s for a limited time. I’ve learned so much about my kids by letting them take the lead. I’ve learned their passions and what lights them up. I’ve learned that sometimes they’d rather just have me play dolls or build forts with them rather than do a fancy pinterest-worthy craft.
Look at photos and tell stories about the pictures. Yes, we love a good walk down memory lane. I’ve been using any free moment I have to try and finish off our 2017 family album (yes, I’m way behind, but Mixbook makes it easy to hop on and do just a little at a time). I’ve concluded I take way too many pictures, but when I see the joy my kids get from thumbing through our albums together, I know it’s worth it.
Make a mess in the kitchen. My girls LOVE making their own sourdough, pizza dough, and mixing things together until it resembles… you guessed it… dough! I let them roll it and mix it and then we bake it and taste their crazy creations. Other times I enlist their help with something real (these raspberry bars are next on our list) so we can all enjoy the product. We usually end up taking extras to the neighbors houses, which is another fun activity on its own!
Read aloud together. We all know reading with children is a simple way to improve their language and reading skills. But research also shows that reading with children actually stimulates patterns of brain development responsible for connection and bonding. This makes sense when we consider that story time usually involves cuddling, eye contact, and shared emotion. We’ve been in the habit of picking a single novel at a time (I recommend these!). We like to make it a special event when we can with snuggles, blankets, popcorn, etc. Then we discuss the book, like a mini book club, and if one is available, we’ll watch the movie when we are finished with the book too, which is always a fun treat!
Another tip I heard once that has stuck with me is the importance of breaking the routine. As someone who typically enjoys having a routine and order, I completely agree that going off course sometimes leads to creating the strongest memories. Growing up my mom would sometimes announce a backwards dinner, where we’d bake and eat chocolate chip cookies for dinner, and to this day those nights still feel special and make me smile. Especially during the summertime, I love being reminded that it’s ok (and encouraged) to shake things up a bit. Making memories is what it’s all about!
How do you navigate quantity versus quality time with your kids?
What are your favorite ways to bond with your kids during the summer?
I want to introduce you to my new love. Say hello to my Berkey Water Filter! David hasn’t stopped laughing at the name Berkey for some reason, but I don’t care because this water filtration system is something I’ve been eyeing for months and I’m overjoyed to finally have it as a staple in our kitchen. The Berkey offers some of the most revolutionary charcoal water filters and it takes no energy to filter the water since it works from gravity! Not to mention, it’s also pretty to look at. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I wanted to take the time to answer some of the questions I’ve received since I shared my Berkey love on Instagram.
Why did I buy a Berkey Water Filter?
I don’t claim to be perfect at healthy living, but when I find something that seemingly can make a real difference in my family’s health, I like to implement it. That’s how I felt with the Berkey. I’d been eyeing it for months after seeing it on several wellness Instagram accounts I follow and in health articles I’ve read. My interest skyrocketed when I started questioning more about the water we were drinking on a daily basis. Our water comes from a community well, which is fine (well water is typically known to be fresher than city water), but there have been some concerns in our area about ground water quality. We have a whole house filtration system, but it’s a very basic one (basically a water softener+) and I wanted to feel more confident about the water we were drinking as a family. I started researching to find the best solution for us, and all roads seemed to lead to Berkey water filters.
Things to Know About the Berkey
Highly polished 304 stainless steel shell
Will filter bacteria to a 99.99999% leve land viruses to a 99.9999% level.
The black berkeys filter out Chlorine to undetectable levels
Removes Lead, MTBE’s, and other heavy metals up to 95% levels.
PF-2 filters remove Fluoride and arsenic.
Black berkey filters exceed EPA log 7 ANSI / NSF protocols for filtration and are rated as water purifiers.
Gravity fed systems that require no plumbing or water hookups for use
Black berkey filters have 3,000 gallon life (6,000 used in pairs)
Allows red dye testing to know when filters need replacing (no expensive water tests)
In emergencies allows use of non-public water (stream, lake, etc.)
Assembly is simple and takes less than 30 minutes. For speed, you can watch the assembly videos on youtube ahead of time. When our box showed up, I called David in with an excited squeal and he had it set up and filters primed in about 20 minutes.
All the technical stuff from above aside, the water tastes so FRESH. It tastes clean. I was surprised at the filter power it has from a seemingly simple system.
It can filter out food coloring! It is so powerful it can remove food coloring from water without removing the beneficial minerals your body needs. Also, the red food coloring test can be used at anytime to know that the filters have not exhausted their filtering ability.
We don’t buy bottles of water anymore. I used to keep jugs of water on hand (I have a little bit of a prepper mentality), but now with these powerful filters we could filter any water that we needed to have. It boasts the ability to turn outdoor water from lakes or streams and make it drinkable.
The girls love filling up their bottles out of the spigot and have been drinking more water because of it.
Considerations for the Berkey Water Filter
It’s an investment (but check out my discount code below!). I bought the Big Berkey (2.25 gallon) and it’s working for us, but given how much water we drink, I probably should have opted for the Royal (3 gallon) model. I fill a glass pitcher with water from the Berkey and keep it in the fridge as a way to ensure we always have enough water to fill all our water bottles at once.
Another thing to consider is if you need their PF-2 filter, which removes fluoride. Since I am on well water, I purchased a model without this filter, but if you are on municipal water that is fluoridated this would be an option worth looking into.
Because the water is not kept refrigerated, it is important to empty out any unused water after about a week and clean the unit thoroughly. However, we go through at least a tank everyday, so this isn’t a problem for us. The glass pitcher I keep in the fridge also means we have a cold water option.
You can overflow the bottom chamber. I learned this through experience. Only pour in the top what can fit in the bottom. We are trying to get in the habit of adding water every time we take some so we will continuously have water at the ready without overflowing. You can, however, purchase the water view spigot which will show you how much water remains in the tank.
If you’re looking for a trustworthy product that will filter even the dirtiest water leaving clean, purified water that tastes the same every time, then get a Berkey. We use ours now to make coffee, tea, soups, and more and have been able to taste a difference, but further more, my mind has been put at ease.
I think it’s safe to say I love my Berkey, but I was blown away at how many people on Instagram messaged my singing praises about how much they love their Berkey as well. Why didn’t anyone fill me in before?! 😉
If you have any questions about Berkey Water Filter, ask away. And if you are interested in getting one for yourself, use the code SLICE5 for 5% off the system of your choice!
I lucked out with a good eater from the start with Hailey. While I followed the advice to eat a lot of varied flavors while pregnant, I know a lot of it was luck and genetics. Her eating habits are identical to mine, all the way down to both of us enjoying leftover curry for breakfast. So I am not speaking to you now as the mom that had a great eater and wants to tell you how to do it; I’m speaking to you as the mom of Kaitlyn, who has been picky from the start (though I won’t call her that). Yes, sweet Kaitlyn, the child that was sent to a specialist for because of her low weight and finicky eating. I know the fear that comes with worrying that your child isn’t getting the nutrition they need. I understand the longing for them to just eat something, anything. I’ve felt that intensely at moments over the past four years, but I’ve trusted the system and it’s paid off. If you struggle with feeding your kids and worry about their intake, I want to encourage you to trust the division of responsibility model too because now that we’re four years into this, I’m reaping the rewards and it makes life with young kids so much easier.
Before I even knew about the division of responsibility model, both David and I believed that our children would not starve themselves and committed to feeding our kids meals that always had something they liked on their plate, while consistently exposing them to new flavors, as they ate whatever we ate. We patted on ourselves on the back with Hailey, but then had to eat a big ol piece of humble pie with Kaitlyn because even though we followed the same routine and habits with both girls, but still ended up with two very different eaters. Still, we stuck it out.
Down the line, I learned about the division of responsibility which is an approach to feeding children proposed by The Satter Feeding Dynamics Model. It may seem unconventional to some, but it has worked wonderfully in our house, and I love how simply it outlines the parent and child’s individual roles when it comes to meal time.
You are responsible for what (ie. breastmilk or formula). Parents are to creative a calm and organized feeding environment, and yet adjust the environment to accommodate the infant’s cues for timing, tempo, frequency, and amounts of feeds. The infant is responsible for how much they choose to eat.
The Division of Responsibility for Toddlers
You are responsible for what the child is fed and increasingly assumes responsibility for when and where the child is fed (based on child’s feeding abilities). With traditional spoon-feeding approach, parents guide the child’s transition from nipple feeding through varying textures of solids to finger food and family meals based on what the child can do, not on how old they are. The transitional child is responsible for how much and whether or not to eat what is offered by the parent.
The Division of Responsibility for Children
You are responsible for what, when, and where a child is fed. From toddlerhood through adolescence, parents are to facilitate more structured meal times as part of the daily routine. During these stages, parents need to trust their child to determine if and how much they eat. The child is responsible for how much and whether or not to eat what is offered by the parent.
So how do you implement The Division of Responsibility Effectively?
Based on my own personal experience with two girls that are very different in their eating habits and preferences, here is what I’ve learned has made the system work for us:
Starting early doesn’t guarantee things will always run smoothly, but it does establish the precedent that meals will not be a stressful event. As a parent, you are relieved of the stress that comes with worrying about how much is enough and are instead free to experiment with the offerings and enjoy the watching your children experience the joy of eating. Since we started with this from the start with both girls using baby-led weaning/feeding, we avoided the need to do a hard restart to reverse bad habits.
Communicate the guidelines to your child so they know what to expect.
Obviously if you are starting this at 6 months old, no explanation is necessary, but as they get older and crave more control, it’s nice to give them a heads up as to what to expect with meals. I’ve explained the division of responsibility flat out to my kids several times and they now that they know the breakdown, there isn’t any confusion and there is minimal backlash.
Remain consistent. Without consistency, this will not work.
As with anything with parenting, or in life in general for that matter, consistency pays off. There will be challenging times when your child will only eat the fruit, or only eat the bread (I’m looking at you, Kaitlyn), but hold strong to your principles. Keep offering. Keep the stress out of meal time. Resist the urge to plead for them to eat two more bites. Have I done the pleading? Absolutely. But it never pays off in the long run.
Ease your worry by evaluating overall intake, not a per meal intake.
We’ve all been there. You know, when my child eats only grapes for lunch, leaving the carrots, the sandwich, and the cheese stick untouched. My gut instinct would have a jerk reaction and think A CHILD CAN NOT SURVIVE ONLY ON GRAPES! But that is just one meal. Maybe it was just yogurt at breakfast, just grapes at lunch, and just rice and beans for dinner. Overall, that’s a pretty balanced day. And even the days that don’t work out that well, over the course of a week, eating tends to even itself out. Look at weekly periods of time rather than individual meals or days.
Remember, you are setting the example for a child’s eating habits for life. It’s OK to have a systems and some structure. Children are not adults and they need guidance in navigating healthy eating habits early on, just as they do with other life skills.
I don’t believe feeding your child has to be as hard as popular culture will make you think. I’ve chuckled at #mykidcanteatthis (<- a truly funny Instagram tag that any parent will be able to relate to!) and I’ve experienced it myself when I cut a sandwich in half vertically rather than diagonally (the horror!), but on a whole, those moments don’t really define a child’s eating style. It’s just them trying to assert some control at a time in their lives that they have very little control. By outlining their responsibilities to them, they feel empowered to be part of their eating choices, which will take a lot of the stress and strife out of meal time.
If you have more than one child, are their eating habits similar or different?
Do you have keys to success you’ve found for feeding your children? What are they?
Make and take this caramelized onion dip to your next party or set out as a fun appetizer or afternoon snack. Be sure to see the Instant Pot option, too!
It’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine, it’s SUMMERTIME! The heat and humidity are insane, but I’m not complaining a bit because I adore these long days spent in the water and with friends. My best friend, Christen, and her family came up this past weekend and not only did we had an absolute ball, so did the kids! We didn’t have much on the agenda beyond a neighborhood pool party, but that’s what I love about these summer days- easy going fun.
Another thing I love about summer? The food. Grilling is definitely my favorite way to cook, but the real winner in the summertime food category belongs to the dips. Backyard cookouts, pool meet ups, last minute shindigs- all settings for bringing a dish to share. I love nothing more than creating a meal out of appetizers and dips, and always want to bring something delicious to contribute. Hailey has picked up on this and was all in on putting together the snack tray for our friends’ arrival. We debated my avocado feta salsa, which is often the first dip to disappear at a party, but I’ve never met a soul that didn’t love caramelized onion dip, so we went with that. She was so proud of herself and her final product, right down to the finishing touch of the cherry tomatoes from the garden.
This dip calls for homemade caramelized onions with really ups to flavor with minimal effort. Served with brightly colored veggies (and a few potato chips for good measure), this caramelized onion dip is sure to be a hit at any gathering you bring it to. It certainly didn’t last long for us this weekend!
Make and take this to your next party or set out as a fun appetizer or afternoon snack. Be sure to see the Instant Pot option, too!
For Caramelized Onions:
1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
To make Caramelized Onions:
Stir onion slices, butter, salt, and pepper together in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30-45 minutes or until caramelized.
Instant Pot method
Combine onion, butter, salt, and pepper together in the container of an Instant Pot. Cook on sauté mode for 5 minutes. Close lid and cook on manual for 8 minutes. After carefully releasing the pressure, remove lid and sauté an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until extra liquid cooks away.
To make Dip:
Combine cream cheese and sour cream. Stir in parsley, lemon juice, sugar, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and onions. Serve with fresh vegetables, chips, or crackers.
If I had any doubts about summer fun wearing my kids out, yesterday sealed the deal. We were invited to a media day at Great Wolf Lodge and we took full advantage of the activities by arriving at 9:00 and not leaving until close to 5:00 PM- and we still weren’t able to fit all of it in! It was my second visit to Great Wolf Lodge, but the last time Hailey was barely one year old, and this time I felt like I learned so much more about the facility, their offerings, and how best to navigate it. Since I know it’s a poplar destination for many, I wanted to share some of those tips I learned with you in case you are considering a family getaway to Great Wolf Lodge yourself!
MagiQuest can take three hours to fully play.
MagiQuest is described as a video game, come to life, and you are the main player. The kids (and adults if you’re into that sort of thing) choose a wand, activate it, choose a magical name, then run around completing quests by virtually capturing crystals and other paraphernalia with the power of your wand. It’s chaos, as the items can be found on three different floors, so kids are running up and down stairs and down themed hallways trying to find their treasure. It’s worth nothing that this game is not included in the stay. It can cost around $30 once you buy the wand and the access to the games. However, if you are a frequent visitor, you can bring your wand back the next time to use.
We completed one quest (supposedly the easiest one) and it took us 45 minutes! Part of that was a learning curve. The girls were really into it and I could see how it would be a great idea to send the kids on an adventure while mom and dad sat at the restaurant on the main floor, relaxing, and watching the craziness unfold. We chatted with staff that told us that for kids to complete all the quests, it can sometimes take 3-4 hours. That’s a lot of chill time for mom and dad!
One night equals two days at the park.
Great Wolf Lodge does not offer day passes; you have to pay for a night’s stay to access the facilities. However, you are allowed into the water park on the day of your arrival AND the day of your departure, so you can really maximize your stay by arriving early and staying late. They have an ideal setup for families because they offer bunk rooms. A tip? Splurge for the themed ones; the kids will lose their mind with excitement! Another tip? Take advantage of their wine and dine package. They will deliver a bottle of wine and a snack to your room so you and your significant other (or Nana, or sister, or just you!) can enjoy a chill evening after the kids crash into bed early!
Age 5+ is where it’s at.
I had a lot of DMs on Instagram asking about taking a toddler. You could totally take a toddler and they’d have a ball. There is an entire toddler area in the water park, plus other activities like story time, a miniature bowling alley, putt putt golf, and character meet and greets. However, personally I think ages 5+ will get the most out of the experience AND it will be more enjoyable for you too then without having to constantly hover over them. Hailey was in the sweet spot for this trip (age 6 1/2). She could ride all the big water slides, swim in the wave pool, participate in the ropes course, and run around doing MagiQuest by herself.
They’ve upped their food game.
In the water park, you’ll find what you’d expect- hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken tenders, and fries. However their restaurants offer some decent options like a hummus appetizer, grilled shrimp and farro salad, and roasted wild mushroom risotto. They served us food from their catering and conference division and it was really good! The Concord location (just outside of Charlotte) also has a Dunkin Donuts in it and will deliver donuts and coffee to your room in the morning if you’d like. There is also a breakfast and dinner buffet at which children age 3 and under eat for free. They are allergy-friendly and will accommodate any allergy; just make sure to talk to your server.
Summer is their busiest season.
This actually surprised me at first because I figured winter would be popular for people looking for a break from the cold and some water fun (I also received a lot of Instagram messages from y’all saying that the Christmas decorations are worth making a trip to see). However, now that I’ve been, it makes sense that summer is the busiest because you can also take advantage of the outdoor activities- the outdoor pool, ropes course, and putt putt. For me, the ropes course was a highlight and if we go again, I want to make sure we go when we have access to it. Watching my girls conquer their fears and move through the course and down the zipline was definitely one of those proud mom moments I’ll always remember.
All in all we had a great time. I had been eyeing a time to take the family (I was on the lookout for Groupons, but otherwise I was trying to find an time to go during the week when rates are lower and crowds are quieter), so being hosted for the day was a real treat that I was grateful to attend. I think it’s worth noting that we went during their busiest season and never waited more than 5 minutes for any of the water slides, and many of them we walked right onto. I do wish I would have worn my fitbit to see how many steps I accumulated because the place is huge and has a lot to offer families.
If I left anything out or if you have any questions, ask away!
And if you’ve visited a Great Wolf Lodge, I would love to hear how your experience was!
I have the sweetest memories growing up of my mom and dad reading me bedtime stories. Most memorable to me are The Berenstain Bears, Little House on the Prairie, and Nancy Drew. I cherished that time to cuddle and listen, and love recreating that feeling with my own kids. I am also fond of reading aloud nowadays because for a brief amount of time, the chaos stops and I get to get lost in a world very different from our own with the girls. I’m a big fan of the Read Aloud Revival, a movement that encourages creating meaningful and lasting connections with your kids through reading together. I was even recently gifted the Read Aloud Family Journal and I am looking forward to tracking our literary adventures with it and keeping it always as a memory of our time spent curled up on the couch together.
With Hailey at 6 1/2 and Kaitlyn at 4 years old, I’ve been on a mission to find read aloud books that work for both of them. I research books and I get suggestions from friends in real life and book lovers on Instagram as well. I’ve started keeping track of the children’s authors and stories my girls are into and though the list is long, these are a few authors I’ve really grown to love and wanted to share with you.
Mary Pope Osborne
The Must Read Book:The Magic Tree House Why My Kids Love Her: Though she has written picture books, biographies, mysteries, novels, retellings of Greek mythology, Norse mythology, medieval stories, mermaid tales, and American tall tales, our favorite books of hers are those in The Magic Tree House series. The brother and sister duo are very relatable. My girls love to imagine themselves being there right along with Jack and Annie, being transported through time into the exciting (and educational) adventures they go on, from the prehistoric land of dinosaurs to the imaginary world of Camelot. There are scattered black and white pictures throughout the book which helps Kaitlyn stay in engaged as well.
The Must Read Book:The Mercy Watson Series The Runner Up: The Tale of Despereaux Why My Kids Love Her: A fun fact about Kate is that she lives in Pennsylvania and writes two pages a day, five days a week. I love that because I think it just shows her dedication to writing stories that bring together all ages. Her adventurous tales about Mercy, the “porcine wonder,” are some of the best beginning chapter books I’ve found. The stories are fun and the illustrations from Chris Van Dusen are bright and engaging!
The Must Read Book:Thank You, Mr. Falker The Runner Up: Pink and Say Why My Kids Love Her: I believe Patricia Polacco writes in such a captivating way because may of the stories are about her own childhood. Her stories are entrancing and hold our attention easily. She’s clearly a natural storyteller and we have yet to be disappointed by any of her books!
Chris Van Dusen
The Must Read Book: The Circus Ship The Runner Up:If I Built A Car Why My Kids Love Him: His books are just a true pleasure to read. Between his rhyming lines that create imaginative and funny stories and his true gift as an illustrator, we haven’t read a Chris Van Dusen book that we haven’t enjoyed yet. The Circus Ship was our first and remains a favorite, but “If I Built A Car” is a great one as well and sparks fun conversations with kids about creating and inventing better versions of ordinary things.
The Must Read Book: Matilda The Runner Up: The BFG Why My Kids Love Him: As far as literature that I give my kids access to, Roald Dahl is edgy. He uses words like stupid and twit, but his stories are colorful and twisted (remember the Chokey?!), and his imaginative writing and storytelling pulls kids in with ease. We are currently reading Matilda together and I can’t wait to read his others famous stories like The BFG and Charlie and Chocolate Factory as well.
The Must Read Book: Where The Wild Things Are The Runner Up: Chicken Soup with Rice Why My Kids Love Him: Probably best know for Where the Wild Things Are, he also wrote Chicken Soup with Rice, a book I read in the first grade and one that has stuck with me ever since. Take note though, that as you get more into his lesser known work, they are definitely not all sunshine and rainbows. His book “Outside Over There” actually was unsettling to my girls, so stick to his more well known works listed above.
The Must Read Book: Charlotte’s Web The Runner Up:Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan Why My Kids Love Him: He authored many beloved children’s classics, many that were inspired by his life of a farm. His animal characters that seamlessly interact with the human world delight my girls!
Margaret and H.A. Rey
The Must Read Book: The Original Curious George The Runner Up: Curious Georgia Goes Camping Why My Kids Love Them: I couldn’t leave the creators of Curious George off this list because that silly monkey has been a favorite in our home for years. There is something about his goodhearted antics that draws kids in. We love George’s pure intentions and how they lead him into precarious situations. I’m sure he needs no introduction, but the Curious George books are some of the best for young children.
There are so many others I want to add to the list, like CS Lewis, but I really wanted to stick to authors that are ideal for ages 4-6. I did tease the girls by reading them the picture book version or The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which is incredibly well done, and now they’ve been begging me to get the real thing. Or next read aloud perhaps?
Like I said, many of my best suggestions have come from other moms and dad, so I’m curious, which children’s authors and books would you recommend for young kids?
David and I got married in May of 2009. I was 25 years old; he was 28. I didn’t have any strong feelings towards our honeymoon destination beyond someplace warm with something to do. Neither one of us are the type that enjoys just sitting on the beach, so we decided we’d like a place that felt like an adventure. After several months of researching at our leisure, David came across a honeymoon that was off the beaten path, adventurous, yet still offered some of that luxury I was hoping to find as a newlywed. We chose to visit Young Island, a small private island, just 200 yards off the coast of St. Vincent in the southern Caribbean.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but when we arrived in the late evening to a glass of champagne and then were shown to our private cottage, I immediately knew we were in for a treat.
I learned quickly that most islands don’t have air conditioning, but the wooden slats that surrounded our one-room cottage allowed the air to flow through quite nicely. Being surrounded by so much nature made me feel free in a way everyone should feel at some point. We had only a single lock which was a wooden slat that closed the wooden fence around our cottage, and a stone back patio that led right to the beach. There was even an outdoor shower that we shared with a few lizards. I loved that this place was unlike anywhere I had been before and we wasted no time at all slipping into honeymoon mode.
Young Island gave us the gift of seclusion when we wanted to be alone, but also the perks that come with staying at a resort. For meals, we would find one of the unoccupied thatched-roof huts, sit down, and a server would appear with the day’s menu which featured a small selection of choices that always were local and fresh, but the best part was the six options of freshly- baked bread (banana, coconut, cinnamon, white, wheat and raisin) that were available with every meal! In the evenings, there was often a man playing the guitar for guests to dance to, or we were free to wander down to sunset point and bask in the feeling that we were on a deserted island all our own.
For a few days we snorkeled, kayaked, hiked, and explored both Young Island and the bustling city of Kingstown across the way on the island of St. Vincent. Halfway through our week, we switched gears. We boarded a monohull sailboat to spend three days and two nights sailing with a captain in the waters of the South Caribbean. David was giddy. I was cautiously optimistic. My sense of adventure was just starting to grow and though I was up for it, I was also a little nervous wondering if I would get seasick and how I’d adjust to showering while standing over the head (the toilet).
With a seasickness patch behind my ear, we took off on a grand adventure. We sailed in five foot seas, we explored the island of Mustique and visiting Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary on the island of Bequia. We sipped wine at sunset and I spent more than a few hours with my back leaning against the mast just breathing in the salty air.
There are three reasons I’m really glad that we chose a honeymoon that was off the beaten path.
ONE: The off the beaten path honeymoon bonded us as newlyweds. There is a reason that they plan adventurous and even scary dates for the TV Bachelor and his ladies- going through an experience with someone strengthens your bond to them. Experiencing a completely new adventure together brought us closer together. You learn a lot about each other when you are sleeping in a rocking vessel on the sea without air conditioning. Not every moment was pleasurable, but being there together was so special and unique.
TWO: It set the tone for the life we live and the life we are working towards. Many of our date night conversations circle the idea that we both want to explore. We want to take our girls on adventures and while yes, Disney World was one of those, we also have a thirst for experiences that take us to places that are a little less-traveled and places we can talk to and learn from people very different from ourselves. Though much of that dream is currently still in the works, beginning our life together on a trip visiting and sailing in the Caribbean felt like a solid start.
THREE: It’s a fun story to tell! I hope to go through life collecting stories of things I’ve experienced that are worth repeating. Our honeymoon is certainly one of those. I love that we went to a place that not many people have heard of so telling the story of our car ride, two plane rides, a taxi, and a ferry in order to get to our destination is exciting to tell. I usually leave out the skinny dipping part, but the swim up coconut bar and the rickety jeep ride around the mountainous island of Bequia always make the cut.
Life is nothing if not an adventure and I’ll always smile about our first trip as a married couple!
This vegetable marinade gets a fresh, sweet kick from the mango and ginger, and a little bit of heat from the cayenne. Use it with your favorite grilling vegetables and mix this up all year long!
Grilling has long been paired with protein in my mind. And with good reason- grilled shrimp are one of my favorite summertime dinners! I especially love meals that can all be cooked together outside on the grill. It means I don’t heat up my kitchen and there are less dishes to clean (though one could rightfully argue that my grill grates could use a good scrub down). However, I don’t know why I often tend to forget about how well grilling works for vegetables. I think slightly charred veggies are one of the best ways to enjoy the plethora of summer produce in all its glory!
Though they are tasty with just a drizzle of oil and salt and pepper, I also enjoy kicking it up a notch with a flavor-infusing marinade. This mango-ginger marinade screams summer. It’s subtle sweetness and slight kick from the cayenne boosts the flavor of the gently charred vegetables that will give you a meal that’s both healthy and delicious. It blends up quickly and also makes for a fabulous sauce to drizzle over the veggies once the are cooked.
The next time you are looking for a summery side that will fill you fill you up and be delicious without weighing you down, give this mango-ginger vegetable marinade a go; I’d love to hear what you think!
This marinade gets a fresh, sweet kick from the mango and ginger, and a little bit of heat from the cayenne. Use it with your favorite grilling vegetables and mix this up all year long!
1 mango (about 1 cup chopped mango)
1 tablespoon peeled, sliced fresh ginger
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch cayenne pepper
1 zucchini, sliced diagonally
1 small eggplant, sliced diagonally
8-12 baby Portobello mushrooms, halved
8-12 medium carrots, peeled
2 vines of baby tomatoes
1 medium white onion, cut into wedges
Combine chopped mango, sliced ginger, water, canola oil, honey, lime juice, garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper in the container of a small food processor or blender. Pulse mixture until smooth.
Place all vegetables in a 13- x 9-inch glass baking dish. Pour mango-ginger mixture evenly over vegetables. Toss or stir gently to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
Preheat grill. Remove vegetables from marinade to another tray. Pour remaining marinade into a bowl; set aside. Grill vegetables turning occasionally for 10-12 minutes or until cooked through. Drizzle vegetables with reserved marinade, if desired.
I’ve recommended some of my favorite vegetables, but this marinade is very versatile. Try it with your favorites!