Friday, July 3, 2015

Family Fun at Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede

Disclosure: I was provided press tickets at a discounted rate in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are 100% honest and my own. 

A year ago my parents decided that they wanted to take our entire family to Branson. So a few weeks ago, 16 people spanning 3 generations made the drive down to Branson, MO for a week of fun. When we started researching our trip I knew that the one thing Grace would really love to see was Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede.
Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede Review

Grace absolutely adores horses.So we reserved our tickets and told her we would get to go see a horse show. We then proceeded to watch every single video I could find online related to it because she wanted to watch them over and over. To say she was excited would be an understatement. She told everyone for weeks before that we were going to see the horsie show and see the "horsies jump through FIRE!!!!" If you're not familiar with Dixie Stampede, check out this video and you'll see why she was so excited:

My dad and I went to get our tickets early on the day of our show and I was glad we did. We had the chance to look at all of the horses and pick up our tickets in just a few minutes. When we arrived just before show time, the lobby was packed and the line was long. So my advice, go get your tickets early in the day!

The kids in our group ranged from age 2 to 11 and they were all excited for the show. We took our time looking at the horses on our way into the theater. Connor fell asleep in the car right before we arrived and stayed asleep on my shoulder when I moved him, I couldn't believe he slept through all of the noise while we stopped to look at each beautiful horse.

We were ushered in to take a family photo before making our way to the pre-show in the carriage room. We watched two absolutely amazing jugglers (seriously the best I've ever seen) while Connor continued his nap on me, making it hard for me to get any good pictures. Everyone enjoyed this show. You are able to buy snacks and drinks during the pre-show but we chose to wait for dinner as we had heard you get a lot of food!

We were ushered to our seats on the Southern side of the arena. The arena is large but it doesn't seem like there are any bad seats. We were on the second to last row and had a great view of everything.

As you can see, Grace was very excited for the show to start.

Connor woke up just as we were entering the arena. Children ages 3 and under are free if they are on your lap so he happily went from lap to lap enjoying everyone's food. Our waiter was fast, efficient, and generous as he gave us an extra biscuit for Connor and happily filled up his sippy cup with water. Our drinks were always filled and the kids loved eating with their hands.

The show was amazing! The show started with the lives of the Native Americans and all of the kids loved watching the bison run around the arena. This part of the show featured a beautiful dance with a flying bird. This was one of my favorite parts of the entire show.

Next they moved on to the settlement of west with the wagon trains. Grace loved seeing all of the horses and wagons and these numbers were amazing. There is so much to watch and they do a great job making sure to interact with all parts of the arena. Like I said, there is no bad seat!

The hands down favorite section of the show for the girls was the Southern Belles' song and dance. Grace keeps talking about the princesses with the light up dresses and saying she wants their dresses. It was a beautiful scene!

The boys loved the competition part of the show towards the end. The North and the South faced off with events filled with audience participation including chicken racing and water races. We were entertained by horse relays and a lumberjack competition that was amazing! The kids laughed hysterically during the adorable pig races. It was fun to cheer on our side (the South) despite losing by one event.

I didn't get a chance to take a picture of most of my food because Connor started devouring it as soon as it got to my plate but there was a ton of it! Each person gets a cup of soup, a biscuit, a small rotisserie chicken, a pork loin, a potato, a corn on the cob, a dessert and unlimited drinks (Pepsi, lemonade, tea, coffee, or water). Trust me, you shouldn't leave this show hungry! Luckily Connor moved to Grandma's lap before dessert came so I got to enjoy this delicious apple turnover all by myself.

Every single member our family had an amazing time at Dixie Stampede. The food was yummy (we came home with lots of leftovers!), the staff was extremely friendly and accommodating, and the show was entertaining. Connor does not do well in sit down type shows, generally Mike or I end up having to take him outside. Dixie Stampede was the only show he lasted through during our entire week in Branson. That is a huge thing for him and he was all smiles during the show. He loved looking at the horses on the way back to our car and talked about horses on the ride home. Dixie Stampede is a show that all generations will love! My kids are already begging to go back so I know it will be on our must see list during every trip down to Branson.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

My First Quilt: Circle Baby Statistics Birth Announcement Quilt

My best friend recently had her second baby boy! Cue happy tears and uterus aching. I was so excited for her but had a hard time figuring out what to get for the new little guy. They had everything they needed for him so I decided to do something personalized for him. I remember Grace getting tons of cute blankets and personalized items at my baby shower but Connor got almost none of that being the second baby.

I started to search Pinterest for embroidered baby blankets and happened upon this Circle Quilt Tutorial from Jay Bird Quilts. I had never quilted before in my life but I knew my sewing machine had quilting features and so in a moment of insanity I decided to make a quilt in a very short amount of time. Start to finish, I made this in just under a month. I followed the tutorial exactly with the ruler she recommends. Overall the process was simple, just very time consuming.

Baby Statistics Birth Announcement Quilt

Unlike the tutorial, I didn't have any quilting scraps available so I purchased all of my fabric at Joanns. It wasn't cheap but I had a ton of fun choosing it all. I created the back of the quilt by blocking minky and a penguin fabric (my best friend adores penguins!)

I decided early on that I wanted to embroider the baby's birth statistics on the center piece, so I had to wait for him to be born to finish it. Baby August was born just over a week before we were headed down to visit so he didn't give me much time! I ordered this embroidery file for my embroidery machine from AppliqueCandy on Etsy.

I did most of the hand sewing on the binding during the 3 hour drive down and got it done the night before our first visit with adorable baby August. I think he likes it!

After the craziness of trying to get my first quilt done so fast I'm still not 100% certain I'm cut out to be a quilter. It requires a lot of very precise sewing and a ton of attention to detail. I will probably try to make another one but I will give myself a lot more time!

Have you created anything lately? I'd love to hear about it! 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cartoon Nostalgia on Netflix #StreamTeam

Disclosure: As part of the Netflix Stream Team, I received a welcome gift and a free monthly subscription. However, all opinions are 100% honest and my own. 

My kids' idea of watching Saturday morning cartoons is a bit different than my experience was twenty something years ago. Instead of flipping channels to find whatever cartoons happened to be on that morning and sitting through commercials advertising the new must have cereal or toy, my kids simply browse Netflix for their favorite shows and enjoy them commercial free. Their experience certainly trumps mine but I personally think my cartoon favorites are much better quality than the cartoons shown today. That's why I've been excited to see Netflix add many of the shows that I loved as a kid to their streaming collection.

Do you remember watching Ms. Frizzle navigate the human body with her class in Magic School Bus? Or following along with Inspector Gadget as he went on his adventures to nab the bad guy? Now you can share these family friendly classics with your kids! Grace adores horses so I have had fun introducing her to my love of My Little Pony. Mike is excited to introduce Connor to his video game obsession by watching The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. What show are you excited to share with your family?

Check out all of the fun throwback shows available on Netflix now:

Must-Watch Throwbacks

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New on Netflix for Kids and Families

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▪ Gallina Pintadita (Now streaming in Spanish!)
▪ Bindi's Boot Camp (6/15)
▪ Some Assembly Required (6/19)
▪ Dragons: Race to the Edge: Season 1 (6/26)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Stress Free Vacation at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch

Disclosure: Horseshoe Canyon Ranch and the Dude Ranchers' Association provided this trip for myself and 4 other bloggers to help promote the ranch. No other compensation was received and all opinions are 100% honest and my own. 

What does your summer vacation normally look like? Trying to keep your eyes on your kids on a beach full of people or waiting in long lines at an amusement park? Do you have to make dining reservations months in advance and then still wait in line when you arrive for your meal? That sounds more stressful than relaxing to me! I want to go on a vacation and enjoy my time with my family. I don't want to worry about a schedule or trying to keep my kids entertained in a long line.

My recent trip to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper, Arkansas opened my eyes to an entirely different kind of family vacation. Unlike many vacations where you need to schedule your activities months in advance, you can do as much or as little as you want at Horseshoe Canyon and you don't need to "sign up" for anything until the meal before. And trust me, if you forget to sign up like we happened to do, the staff will probably forgive you and let you go anyway! A trip to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is a truly relaxed experience that is made special by the amazing staff.
The Adventure Guides
The Wranglers

From the moment we arrived to the farewell dinner, the staff made every effort to make our trip as memorable as possible. I have never seen a destination that makes each visitor's experience as unique as this one. Each activity is done in small groups and we never felt rushed. The staff ate meals with us, answered every one of our questions, and made us feel like friends. There were many kids there during our stay and every single one told us how much they loved all of the staff. Not only does the ranch offer numerous activities for kids, the staff really take the time to interact with the kids. From teaching them how to rope and use a whip to taking them on critter hunts, none of the kids were ever bored. It wasn't unusual to see one of the wranglers take 5-6 kids on a trail ride while their parents went on a different ride. The parents and kids were both thrilled with the setup!

For the all inclusive experience, the ranch limits it to about 50 guests per week. There were between 25-40 people during our visit which allowed all activities to be done in small groups with individual attention. Each of our trail rides were done with 1 wrangler per 5-6 people. The adventure guides took small groups of 5-10 through the adventure course. The staff made sure that each group got try everything they wanted. When one group had to leave early, the guides took them up to the adventure course a day before it was scheduled so that they could try it. A wrangler, Emily, took us on a trail ride/hike up to the goat cave and a waterfall that we had missed earlier in the week so we wouldn't miss it.

During our skeet shooting experience, another of the wranglers, Jessie, took us over to throw Tomahawks since we had missed trying it earlier in the week. I did well skeet shooting, I actually managed to get one of the clays!
 But Tomahawk throwing doesn't seem to be a talent of mine. It's harder than it looks!

During our time at the adventure course, the guides took the time to talk to us, encourage us, and cheer us on when we conquered something we never expected we could do.

After a fun day of adventure, there's no need to wait in line for a meal, simply take the short walk to the lodge for a delicious homemade meal. The chef is amazing (I promise more about the food tomorrow) and I loved everything she made (and I am an extremely picky eater!). If you need a break during the day or simply want to indulge in a homemade treat, there are jars of yummy cookies and jugs of lemonade and tea in the lodge all day long. I won't admit how many of those cookies I ate but let me just say we spent a LOT of time on the couches in the lodge.

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch offers the most personalized vacation experience I have ever seen. We were all sad to leave the staff that now feel like friends. If you're looking for a unique family vacation, check out Horseshoe Canyon Ranch and you'll find out why families return year after year. I can't wait until I can take my family there to experience everything the ranch has to offer!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Dude Ranch Vacation: Relaxation, Fun & Adventure

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch and the Dude Ranchers Association sponsored this trip for myself and 4 other bloggers. All opinions are 100% honest and my own. 
Dude Ranch Unique Vacation Idea

When I signed on to travel to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper, Arkansas for a blogger trip, I have to admit I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But as a stay at home mom, I couldn't resist the chance of a kid free 5 day vacation. Full disclosure, I'm not exactly an outdoorsy kind of girl. I am from Kansas and have dealt with my fair share of bugs and critters, but I've never been to a ranch before and have only ridden a horse a couple of times. After speaking to the other bloggers, it was clear that none of us really knew what to expect so off we went on the 4 and a half hour drive that would lead us to a truly amazing experience! I originally wrote vacation there instead of experience and I had to change it because it was truly such a memorable trip for me.
Despite some stormy weather upon our arrival, I could tell that the scenery was breathtaking.

We settled into our cabin and dove right into the numerous activities offered the next morning. From climbing with the Adventure Guides to riding with the Wranglers, there is never a shortage of activities at the ranch. Check out a list of over 50 things to do at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch created by Enza, one of the other bloggers on the trip. Every morning and afternoon we got the chance to do a ride on one of the many beautiful trails on the ranch. The wranglers make every effort to keep you with the same horse all week if you feel comfortable with it. My first horse and I didn't mesh well so they moved me to a different horse, Noah, the next time and he and I got along great.

He was my horse for the rest of the week and we got the chance to do some amazing rides! My favorite was a ride that took us down to the creek where we got to ride our horses into the water to see a beautiful waterfall. Despite Noah's hesitation to go into the water, the wrangler eventually had to come lead him in, it was absolutely gorgeous and I will never forget it.

While riding is what you would normally think of when you hear about a dude ranch vacation, Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is full of adventure opportunities and is a famous rock climbing destination. Despite my massive fear of heights, we couldn't pass up some of the adventure course and I'm proud to say I conquered the nearly half mile long zip line and a 40 ft drop swing called The Screamer.

The adventure guides are a fun group of guys who specialize in pushing you out of your comfort zone. Several explained to us that we put limits on ourselves and if we could just get out of our own heads, we could do amazing things. When we were hiking up to the adventure course, I was bound and determined that I was only doing the zip line. Twenty minutes later I was swinging high in the air screaming my lungs out. Thanks to these guys I pushed myself farther than I ever thought I could and am so happy I did. They told us multiple times they never have anyone regret doing things, but they do get calls from people who regret not trying. My kids and husband still can't believe I did the Screamer but luckily I have this video to prove it! Skip to 1:10 if you don't want to see all the prep stuff. 

Our time at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch was truly amazing. The staff was wonderful, the food was delicious, the views were spectacular and the activities were so much fun. While I was ready to come home to see my family, I am now ready to take my whole family back to experience all that Horseshoe Canyon has to offer. I am really missing everything including the simplest moments of sitting on our cabin's deck just watching the rain. 

Photo credit:

Stay tuned next week for more posts about my experiences at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. I have so much I want to share with you about this amazing place! 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch: A Dude Ranch Experience for All Ages!

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch and the Dude Ranchers Association are sponsoring this trip so that I can share my adventures with you. All opinions are 100% honest and my own. 

Howdy y'all! I might be from Kansas, but I assure you I don't normally talk like this. I just can't contain my excitement about a travel opportunity that I've been quietly looking forward to for weeks. Tomorrow 4 other bloggers and I are heading to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. For 5 days we will get to enjoy the beautiful scenery in Jasper, Arkansas and participate in all sorts of adventures including horseback riding, rock climbing, and a zip line. It's been years since I've been on a horse and I'm not exactly a sportsy country girl, but I'm excited to get out of my comfort zone.

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is a part of The Dude Ranchers Association. While most of the Dude Ranchers Association Members are in the western part of the US, Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is only a four and a half hour drive from Kansas City making it a perfect family summer destination for us. However this trip is all for the girls, the kids are staying at home. Grace (my 4 year old) doesn't know what I'm going to do on this trip because if she knew I'm going to be riding horses she would be extremely jealous!

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is not a theme park version of ranch hospitality, it is a true dude ranch experience for all ages. I'm looking forward to relaxing in the cabin next to the fireplace and all the reviews I've read say the food is amazing! As a blogger, it's hard for me to unplug but I'm really hoping to unwind and enjoy the experience as much as possible. The staff work hard to make you feel at home and I'm guessing we will have a hard time leaving and getting back to normal life.

Follow along with our trip on my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages with the hashtag #HorseshoeCanyonRanch and like Horseshoe Canyon Ranch on Facebook and follow them on Twitter

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Grace's Last Day of Preschool + Free Printable Teacher Gift Bookmark

After an exciting year full of huge developments for Grace, her last day of preschool was last week. I cannot even begin to explain how much she has matured in the last year and what a difference preschool has made. Even her ballet teacher mentioned to me the other day how much she has come out of her shell and how her confidence has grown. She went from barely talking at all to talking non stop and she has so many little friends that she loves playing with. She grew extremely attached to her teacher and there were tears shed when I went to pick her up on the last day. I'm not sure she completely understands that she won't be seeing her classmates or teachers all summer. She told me after we left that she wants to go to preschool forever.

Her teacher and the other staff at her preschool go above and beyond for the kids in my opinion so I really wanted to make a nice gift for an end of the year thank you. However our budget is tight right now so I didn't have a lot to spend. I got creative with Photoshop and with the help of Pinterest came up with the idea of a bookmark and notebook for the director, secretary, and her speech pathologist. I found these adorable notebooks in the $1 section at Target and printed the bookmarks out on card stock and then laminated them.
Preschool Teacher Gift Free Printable

I've included a free printable for you to use for your child's teachers. Click on the image to download a PDF. These designs are for personal use only. All designs are copyright of Moments That Take My Breath Away. Any use for commercial purposes is a copyright infringement.
Teacher Bookmark Free Printable

I wanted to do something special for her main teacher, her beloved Miss Diane, so I played with my sewing machine and serger to create this boxy bag.  I used this tutorial I found on YouTube and it was super simple. Grace picked both fabrics and was so excited to give it to her teacher. I included one of the bookmarks, a gift card to Barnes & Noble and a handmade card from Grace.

Grace will be counting down the days until school starts again!


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