Adventures with Four: Family Cruise Vacation Packing- Part 2: Plan Your Days and Organize to Avoid Overpacking

If you read my first post on packing for a family cruise vacation, you’ll know that overpacking isn’t worth it. Now, we can talk about how to avoid overpacking. It all starts with planning.

Here’s a few things to consider as you start the planning process:

  • What is your schedule?
  • What kind of excursions, if any, are you doing?
  • Will you work out?
  • Will you want to dress up for dinner? Or do you prefer dining at the buffet where you can wear pretty much anything?
  • Do you plan on doing laundry?
  • How much swimming and/or sunbathing will you do?
  • Do your kids need certain toys, blankets, or other items like diapers, sippy cups, bibs, etc.?

All of these things and more will go into what you plan on packing. The next step for me is to write out our schedule and what types of outfits we need.

Here’s my sample schedule with outfit types:

  • Day 1:Embarkation: casual but cute, swimsuits and cover ups girls wore matching seersucker sundresses and I wore a navy dress (with pockets). Boys wore shorts and nice polo or button up short-sleeve shirts
    • Non-formal dinner: dresses for girls and nice shirts and slacks for the boys with dinner jackets
    • I carried these items in our family carryon. You can see more about that in part one of this series.
  • Day 2:Day at sea: casual but cute, swimsuits and coverups, workout clothes for a morning run
    • Formal Dinner: semi-formal/cocktail
  • Day 3:Cozumel- beach excursion: swimsuits and cover ups, workout clothes for a morning run, casual but cute clothes for after returning to the ship before dinner
    • Non-formal dinner: dresses for girls and nice shirts and slacks for the boys with dinner jackets
  • Day 4:Progresso- beach and shopping: swimsuits and coverups, workout clothes for a morning run, casual but cute clothes for after returning to the ship before dinner
    • Non-formal dinner: dresses for girls and nice shirts and slacks for the boys with dinner jackets
  • Day 5:Day at sea: casual but cute, swimsuits and cover ups, workout clothes for a morning run
    • Non-formal dinner: dresses for girls and nice shirts and slacks for the boys with dinner jackets
  • Day 6:Debarkation and road trip home: Casual and comfy

From here, I knew how many of each type of outfit I needed to pack.

A few additional notes:

  • For the kids, I didn’t have them wear outfits or clothing besides swimsuits, pjs, or jackets more than once. I know they’re pretty likely to get things dirty.  There were a few items I planned on wearing more than once.
  • I packed one extra outfit for each kid and three extra pairs of underwear for the bigs.
  • I didn’t plan on doing laundry for the kids.  I washed some of my workout clothes.
  • Be sure to check what I packed into carry-on packs vs. into the regular suitcases in the first post.

My next process was:

  • I went to the little girls (twin 2.5 year olds) closet first to choose their outfits because I like them to match while I still can.
  • I then coordinated Anna’s (big sister- 7 years old) outfits for dinner to match and during the day if we were doing something together.  For example, Day 1 at Sea- we all wore our Oh Ship, Family Trip shirts my Aunt Sarah made and the girls wore pink skorts with the shirts.
  • After choosing Anna and the little’s dinner outfits, I tried to coordinate or at least plan for Will’s outfits not to clash with the girls.
  • I packed the bigs’ outfits in gallon-sized ziplock pags with a notecard that labeled which type day they would wear it and for what.  This included the accessories they needed:  ties, belt, matching socks for Will, etc.  I did the same thing for the littles but only used one for both girls together.  I’ll be writing another blog on how this worked for us to coordinate everyone.  This part really, really helped us to be organized and coordinated….especially since the bigs stayed in my parents’ room and the littles’ with us.
  • I packed two swimsuits for each kid so they always had a dry one.  will also had a few additonal swimsuit shirts because he wore them on days at sea too.
  • I packed two pairs of panties and underwear for the kids so that they could have one for the morning and afternoon.

As much as I do like for the entire family, Garen and I included, to coordinate/match for nice dinners and such, we only made this happen on Formal night when we all rocked navy, white, and gold.  Unfortunately we somehow managed to not get a single family photo.  I’m not sure how that’s even possible considering there are photographers every 10-20 feet asking you to take photos.  Maybe it was that they were intimidated by the running twin two year olds….

I digress….

I started packing my stuff next.  I started with my dinner clothes because I knew that I could wear some of these dresses during the day either casually or as cover-ups. I’m a nerd that takens pictures of my outfits so I remember what all can go with what so it’s easier for me to mix and match more pieces. Below are a few examples of how i try to keep in the same color scheme.

Here’s what I took and wore for the five day cruise:

  • Day 1:Embarkation:  Navy dress with pink, navy, and white scarf, tan sandals
    • Non-formal Dinner:  Black sleeveless dress, red flowery shrug/kimono, red sandals.  These were packed in my carry-on, along with my red swimsuit.  The black or navy dress could’ve been used as a cover-up should I have chosen to go swimming as well.
  • Day 2:Work out:  Black shorts, Duluth tank top (both of which could’ve been worn casually around the ship or with other outfits), running shoes,
    • Day at Sea:  White capris, navy Oh Ship, Family Trip shirt, and red sandals.  Navy cardigan for when it was cold inside the ship, which I ended up not needing.  Grey shorts later on when I sat in something with my white pants.
    • Formal Dinner:  Navy and gold dress, gold shoes, navy cardigan.
  • Day 3:Work out:  Grey shorts, duluth tank top (grey shorts were worn the day before and both could’ve been worn casually if I needed to), running shoes.
    • Cozumel beach excursion:  Black swimsuit, purple/pink maxi dress (dress could be worn either casually or with a black cardigan and jewlery for dinner), tan sandals
    • Non-formal Dinner:  Peach sundress and floral multi-color scarf with black wedge sandals and a black cardigan/jacket (I had planned to wear this dress as a cover-up with my black swimsuit, if necessary, as well.  It also goes well with the scarf I wore the first day and the navy cardigan with tan shoes)
  • Day 4:Skipped workout:  womp, womp
    • Progresso beach exursion and shopping:  Red sundress, red swimsuit, red flowery shrug/kimono, red sandals.  (red dress could be worn at dinner as well).  After getting the girls back onto the boat for nap, I changed into my third workout outfit of red shorts and blue Duluth tank top, running shoes for comfort.
    • Non-formal Dinner:  Black dress (worn the first night), black and metalic scarf, black wedge sandals with one of my black cardigans.
  • Day 5:Skipped workout
    • Day at Sea:  Red flowery shirt and black shorts with a black cardigan for when it got chilly.  Later wore black pants and red flats to a show with the same black cardigan.  During naptime, I wore one of my recycled workout outfits.
    • Non-formal Dinner:  Black dress with red flowers and red flats, as well as one of the black cardigans for in case I was chilly.
  • Day 6:Debarkation and roadtrip home:  Black dress, red sandals, and red/white scarf (yes, it was the third wear for that dress but it was so comfy, had pockets, wasn’t visibly dirty, and didn’t smell bad.

Amazingly, I only had two items (besides my extra underwear) that didn’t get worn- an extra work-out shirt (since I skipped two work-outs) and one extra casual black and white shirt that could’ve been worn with either pair or black shorts or my black pants.  I call that success

It was really so great not to have an over-abundance of extra un-worn clothes at the end of the trip.  What’s better is knowing that the clothes I had with me all coordinated with at least one or more other items so I could’ve made many, many more outfits if I wanted/needed to.

If I had one thing to change, I would probably have worn my pair of black sandals on Day 1 instead of the tan ones.  I feel like they might’ve been more versatile since I tend to be more likely to wear more black color-schemes than browns/tans.   Again, if that’s the only thing I’d change, I think that’s a success.

There you have it- how I packed clothes for our family of 6 (besides Garen) to make sure we didn’t overpack.  Check out my first blogs about why not to overpack on a family cruise vacation.

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Blueberry Crumble Pie with Shortbread Crust

I love blueberries….any way you fix them.

Growing up, my Grammy made a lot of blueberry muffins, blueberry cobblers, and, occasionally, a blueberry pie. For quite a few summers in a row, one of my Uncle Mo’s good friends provided a steady supply of fresh blueberries.  Grammy always froze them and we had (almost) fresh blueberry baked goods all year round.  I can still easily bring to mind the smell of freshly baked blueberry goodies, no matter how they were baked.

I like to take advantage of getting them fresh, while they’re in season during the summer.  Garen brought home a few boxes of blueberries from our new Kroger (which I’m currently loving) on Friday.  I had initially bought them to make muffins but didn’t get to it Saturday morning so I decided to bake a pie for us instead.

As a side note, I use a lot of frozen blueberries throughout the year for baked goods and they work well too but fresh blueberries are easier than thawing out frozen ones.  I’m letting my lazy-mama features shine brightly, right?!?

This Blueberry Crumble Pie with Shortbread Crust is an modified version of a recipe from Williams-Sonoma and you can find that recipe here.  Below is my adapted version, which includes a fantastic shortbread crust.  I honestly can’t remember exactly where the crust comes from- I think a combination of Pinterest and blog posts, plus a little bit of trial and error.  Wherever it came from, it’s the one I like to use- I’m too much of a perfectionist to even attempt making a regular homemade pie crust since they always turn out looking terrible for me and it drives me bananas! If you don’t like thick crusts, this one is not for you.

This pie crust is perfectly sized for my favorite pie dish. (I’ll have to share the recipe on another post- again, lazy-mom) One of these days I’m going to splurge and get the red pie dish. I started with the white version since I’m such a matchy-matchy person and white is easier to match with other dishes if you’re taking a pie somewhere.  I digress….

Here’s my version of a Blueberry Crumble Pie with Shortbread Crust with a few pictures:

Ingredients

  • Shortbread Crust
  • 1-1/2 C plus 4 Tbsp. All-purpose flour
  • 1 C firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 Cplus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 16 tbsp (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 5 cups blueberries

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Make the shortbread crust and transfer to a 9-inch or 10-inch deep pie dish. Press into the pan.  If you have another recipe for a pie crust or a store-bought one, you can use it if its big enough as well.
  • In a large bowl, mix the 1-1/2 cup flour, 2/3 cup of the brown sugar, the 2/3 cup granulated sugar, and 2 tsp. of the cinnamon. Put the butter pieces on top and toss with a fork or your fingers to coat with the flour mixture. Using your fingertips (or, if you’re fancy, a pastry blender), work the ingredients together until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of large peas. Set the topping aside.
  • In another large bowl, combine the 5 cups of blueberries, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and 4 Tbsp of the flour. Gently stir to evenly coat the blueberries.
  • Sprinkle 1 tbsp flour and 1 tbsp granulated sugar over the bottom of the shortbread crust. Pour the filling onto the crust, spreading it evenly.
  • Sprinkle the topping evenly over the blueberry filling.  (You may have extra left, depending on whether you use a 9-inch or 10-inch pie dish.  This makes great topping for muffins as well and can be refrigerated for a few days.)
  • Bake the pie until the crust and topping is golden brown and the blueberry filling just begins to bubble, 45 to 55 minutes.
  • Serve at room temperature, warm, or cold. Garen and I both like it cold better.
  • It goes perfectly with ice cream, whipped cream, or cool whip.

Speaking of cool whip…

To add a little more sweetness to our night and go along with the pie theme, we played the Pie Face Showdown. I had forgotten how much fun this is for the kids.

The mess was worth the fun….plus, we did this right before bathtub. Easy as pie! (Pun intended).

I hope everyone’s Saturday (and Sunday) were as sweet as ours!

Disclaimer- I’m not being compensated for any of this content and I’ve not been given these products that I’ve linked too.

Photo Friday: Liz VS. Granite Counter-top

Liz VS Granite Counter-top. Spoiler alert: the counter-top won.

I know that technically it’s Saturday but the internet gods were mad at me and wouldn’t upload it last night.  It is what it is.

Two days before we left for our family vacation, I was delivering some tools to of my best and biggest customer’s offices. I caught my foot on the threshold as I walked in.  I flew forward, boxes and all. As I did I thought to myself in what seemed like slow motion, “Ooooooh Nooooo! I’m fallllllling!” And as I barreled forward my next thought was, “I’mmmmmm goooooooooing to hiiiiiiiiit the countertop.”

The next thing I knew I was bouncing off of the corner of the countertop, the boxes of tools flying through the air, as I dropped to the ground.

Then almost everyone in the office was looking down at me on the floor and asking if so was ok. I quick felt my head to make sure I wasn’t gushing blood. It wasn’t bleeding, but I felt this nice egg sized knot.They quickly got me some ice and trucked me off to see a doctor. I was fortunate and it wasn’t fractured and I may have had a slight concussion but nothing too severe.

What was damaged the most was my pride. A LOT.

Following my pride, the next most injured part was my vanity.

Remember in the first paragraph when I said that we were going on vacation. It was a cruise vacation…complete with tons of pictures and the opportunity for me to get dressed up every night for dinner.

The doctor told me that I would have a bad black eye. By the next day, this is what it looked like. Lovely….But still not too bad yet. But I was worried about it so I went to Ulta to get help from the experts. They helped me find some concealer and heavy coverage makeup. The trip resulted in this:They did a decent job covering it up but the worst was yet to come.

I woke up the next day and looked like this. It was Schlitterbahn day so I didn’t even bother with makeup.

By day 3, post accident, I looked like this.Just in time for Day 1 of the cruise!

I tried finding some sunglasses before we boarded the cruise that would hide it and still be light enough to rock glasses inside….none of which looked great and I’m pretty sure the Target people thought I was in an abusive relationship….

I ended up with these, which I unfortunately lost on a gigantic floating slide in Cozumel. They worked while they lasted.  img_3537Better losing them than my red wayfarers that I wear 95% of the time.

This is what I looked like after I lost the glasses in the beautiful ocean!  You’ll notice that the reef-safe sunscreen didn’t rub in all that well, which is a whole other review….OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOh, and don’t I look beautiful for formal night (Day 2 of the cruise)???  Sorry for the bad quality of the picture.  You’d think as many photos as we take, we could’ve had someone take a decent picture of us on formal night…. 01f75b00d0b47579a3c41b63c10a583ac9a1cb23caBy Day 4, I was looking even better (and getting better with my makeup too)….plus, I learned to make a towel animal. Can you tell what it is???

By now my eye is almost back to normal after two weeks. Now I just look like I’ve done a terrible job with my makeup smeared under my eye or like I’ve not gotten any sleep.

I learned a few things from this:

  • Don’t carry too much stuff when going up steps and you can’t see your feet.  I have a background in safety.  You’d think that I’d practice what I preach.  The good this it wasn’t “a recordable” injury.
  • If you’re going to have a fall, don’t do it in a customer’s office.
  • When you see someone with a black eye, chances are they weren’t in a bar fight or being abused. It’s easier to ask what happened than to stare.
  • If you do stare at them, try to control your shock or surprise. Seriously people!
  • If you hurt something above your eye you’re going to get a black eye and maybe even a red eye too if you’re lucky like me.
  • I have a German hard-head. My husband has known this for a long time, as have my parents. But for the first time, it came in handy since I didn’t have a fracture.

There you have it. The story of Liz VS. granite. I lost…but at least everyone got a good laugh out of it

Happy Photo Friday!

Adventures with Four: Family Cruise Vacation Packing- Part 1: Why not to Overpack

We just got back from a wonderful (and a little exhausting) family cruise vacation.  You can see highlights at my previous post.  If you’ve ever packed for a cruise, you know how easy it is to overpack. This is the first cruise that I can say that I actually didn’t overpack- for me or the kids. Is it cheesy that I’m actually really proud if that?!?

However cheesy it may be- I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some tips to pass on after packing for the trip for our family of six. This is part one and will consider overall considerations before you start the process. I feel like preparing helps you to avoid overpacking quite a bit.

You’ve got a few things that contribute to overpacking tendencies when preparing for a cruise:

  • No charge for checked bags
  • So may activities across the spectrum- from formal dining to trips to the beach to working out.
  • Because of the many wardrobe changes, it can be really easy to pack lots of shoes if you’re not careful.

Here’s a few reasons not to overpack for the cruise:

  • Space in your stateroom is limited, depending on what size room you get.
  • Space for your suite cases are limited, depending on what size room you get.
  • The more bags you take, the more you’ll need to tip the porter and shuttle drivers. We typically tip a dollar each bag. That’s not really that big of a reason but it can add up if you have a big family. As a side note, using a porter is worth every penny if you have more than one bag per person with small kids, in my opinion.
  • The more bags you take, the longer it will take you to check in and out. It’s just like on an airline with security. You’ll need to put tags on them, etc.
  • This one is pretty obvious- the more you pack, the more you have to carry- even if it’s just far enough to check your bags or to the porter. Just like on airlines, you have the choice to check a bag or carry it on. We did both. When you have four kids to keep corralled you’ll probably need to consider whether your kids are old enough to help carry bags and, if so, what size/kind of bag are they able to carry? This should be a determining factor in how many bags and the size you take for your family.
    • Our littles (2.5) carried their backpacks that contained a few toys, wipes, diapers, and boogie wipes to have accessible. They both also insisted on helping roll on a little toy bag that also had their cozy blankets.
    • Our bigs were responsible for carrying their check-in bags until we got to the check-in point.
    • I packed a family carry-on for the first day/night in case the checked bags didn’t get there quickly enough for activities and dinner. This had:
      • Sunscreen
      • Meds- because who wants to pay twice as much for something you
      • need?
      • Makeup/cosmetic bags for Garen and I
      • Swimsuits- the girls and I were able to use our dresses we wore onboard for a coverup if we needed to
      • Dinner outfits for everyone- it helps to plan this outfit to go with the shoes, accessories, and jewelry you wore onto the boat to minimize the amount of space you need in the carry-on. Keep in mind the first night’s dinner is usually casual- our family still dresses nice (non-formal dresses for girls and pants and button-up it polo for boys). You will see an array of dress each night so you can choose what works for your family. We just like to take the opportunity to dress up like we’re going out to eat.
  • Another obvious point but worth mentioning- The more you pack, the more you wear. The more you wear, the more laundry you’ll have. And what you don’t wear you still have to unpack and put away. And after a family vacation (especially with a big family) this takes forever at a point when you may be wanting a vacation from your vacation.  Trust me….I’ve been swimming in laundry since we got home.

There you go- my humble opinions on why it’s worth not overpacking. Now the next post: Plan Your Days and Organize to Avoid Overpacking (Part 2).

Until then, happy packing and planning for your family cruise vacation!

Photo Friday: Family Cruise Vacation 2018 Highlights

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This gallery contains 13 photos.

As I write this today, I’m recovering (and doing loads and loads of laundry) from our family vacation.  It was fantastic and exhausting.  We started out last Friday roadtripping down to Galveston with the littles (stay tuned for a post … Continue reading

Mommy Review Monday: Wilderness Club at Big Cedar

You’ve probably ready a LOT about our trip to Branson/Ozarks. Sorry if it’s a little much but for those who are looking to go on a family trip that has a little bit of everything to keep everyone entertained, this post might be helpful. If you want to learn more about our trip check out my post about our Branson/Ozark Mountains Itinerary. 

What we liked:

  • Spacious rooms
  • Full kitchen (in most rooms)
  • Window to living room 
  • Balcony with a view
  • Jetted bathtub
  • Separate bathroom 
  • Big dinner table
  • Movies and games to check out
  • Indoor pool with small slide
  • Lazy river and big slide (With lifeguards around these)
  • Shuttle service to anywhere on resort 
  • Free use of paddle boats, canoes, and kayaks
  • Activities for kids and families (like fishing and tyedye)
  • Childcare available 
  • Free putt putt
  • Fun Mountain with bowling, bumper cars, laser tag, rock climbing, huge slide, and arcade (not free though, except slide)
  • The staff is amazing. They were all friendly and helpful the entire time. 
  • We liked how close it was to Top of the Rock- also owned by Bass Pro Shops. 
  • Nice dining. 

What we didn’t care for (the way we are teaching our kids to nicely say this):

  • Not clear instructions for Wilderness Club VS Big Cedar. We went to Big Cedar Lodge first, which is really nice. It was a little disappointing when we went to the Wilderness Club, which isn’t as luxurious. It is still very nice though. The clubhouse is just more practical and family oriented. 
  • Fun Mountain is pretty pricey. We knew this was going to be the case going into it. My biggest advice would be to get a package that has the activities that your family wants to do. We loved the laser tag. It was really fun and so were the bumper cars. The arcade sucks your money faster than anything else but for whatever reason the kids always love them. The slide is free there and can handle adults too but beware that you can easily get a burn going down because you slide so fast. We didn’t do bowling but it is surrounded by an aquarium and looked super cool!
  • The timeshare presentation was really long and very high pressure. Being in sales, I get that this is their job but it still felt way too pushy when asking people to make a very big investment. High dollar sales like this take people more than a couple of hours to decide on. If you go into it knowing this, it’s not so bad. We did. It it was still not fun and Garen I both felt sorry for the poor salesman that had only been in sales for a couple of weeks. 
  • I would’ve liked to see a snack bar at the pool for convenience. There was one at the clubhouse pool but not at all of the others had one available. 
  • I think it would be beneficial to have one restaurant that was a little cheaper for families or maybe a market onsite to buy some groceries. I didn’t think the dining was outrageous but it would be nice to have a little variation as the places were all pretty similar in cost. We will probably plan to cook one night next time we go since there’s a full kitchen. 

There you have it- the good, the bad, and there was no ugly. We really liked it and feel like it’s a great place for families that want to enjoy a little outdoors with all of the comforts of home. And being within driving distance for us, it’s a great little getaway. Check out more photos from our trip here: Ozark Beauty and But Wait There’s More

Disclaimer: I am not receiving ANY compensation for this review or writing this itinerary. These are 100% my own opinions and experiences. I hope they’re helpful if you’re considering a family vacation!

Adventures with Four: How we survived an 8-Hour Roadtrip

We just survived an 8-Hour round-trip road trip with twin 9 month old babies, plus a 5 and almost 8 year old. 

Here’s my travel tips for a successful trip with that many kids in one vehicle:

  • Consider leaving at night or early in the morning so you can get as much of the drive done while all of the kids sleep. We left the house at 4 AM and that bought us a few hours of peaceful drive time. 
  • Dress everyone comfortably. The big kids slept in their athletic shorts and shirts so we didn’t have to worry in the morning. The babies were in their footie pjs for the first leg of the trip. 
  • Bring a blanket for each kid. Someone is bound to get cold. 
  • Be sure everyone has pottied before you leave anywhere. 
  • Try to arrange seating so that someone can sit between the babies so you can feed or play with them, as necessary. 
  • Bring a bag of toys that you can rotate out. 
  • Bring extra pacifiers and keep them handy. We tend to always be missing one. 
  • Have wipes within reach. You never know when you’re going to need to clean something up- whether big or small. 
  • We knew the girls were going to go through 3 bottles each on the trip, so we packed a bottle bag with that many bottles and three shakers, a gallon of water, plus the formula. Some people suggested packing the pre-measured formula but it seemed just as easy to pack the big tub of it when you’re making this many bottles at a time. Oh, and we don’t warm the bottles- they just drank them room temperature, which made it way easier. 
  • Build in plenty of time for stops. 
  • We changed diapers in the vehicle because it was easier and cleaner than many of the restrooms. 
  • Have a general idea of where you can stop and eat that is kid friendly. Our favorite road trip stop is Cracker Barrell. 
  • Pack plenty of things for the big kids to do. We let Will take his DS and Anna got to watch a movie in my iPad. I also stocked a bag of goodies from the Target dollar section including sticker books, coloring books, card games, etc.  
  • Bring some healthy snack choices. We brought grapes, crackers, squeezy fruit. It kept them from wanting the junk from the convenience stores. 
  • Have a change of clothes handy for the kids- big and little. You never know when you might need it and you don’t want to have to pull out suitcases to find something. 
  • Bring help, if possible. We were fortunate to have Garen’s mom and his 17-year-old cousin along. It made it much easier and more fun for everyone. 
  • Use a van, if possible. We are fortunate enough to have been loaned a 12-passenger Ford Transit to take. We would’ve had to take two cars otherwise. This gave us plenty of room for everyone AND our stuff. 

We not only survived, we had a great time. It was a fast and furious trip but we all had a blast in Branson with the family!

What road trip tips do you have for traveling with kids? I’d love to hear them!