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.

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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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

Photo Friday: Independence Day 2018

We celebrated Independence Day this year with a shrimp boil at Aunt Haley’s House with the Graves family, minus Will and Anna, who were at Joe Daddy’s house for the holiday.

Aunt Haley had a sprinkler going, fully loaded bubble guns, and poppers (since we’re in a burn ban, plus two year olds and real fireworks aren’t always the greatest combo).

The girls sported their red, white, and blue outfits. Frugality tip: wait until a few days before the holiday and resale stores usually run great sales. We got these shirts for $1 each. New stores often do the same thing. My friend, Paige, scored adorable ones for $3.99 from either Gymboree or the Children’s Place (I can’t remember). Plus, unlike some of the other holidays, these are easier to wear throughout the year.

I love buying clothes from the resale store. It’s almost always in great shape and it makes me feel very “green.” You know, like I’m saving the world, one preowned outfit at a time?!? The downside to buying clothes at a resale shop is if you want your multiples or even singles to match, it’s not always easy. Every once in a while I’ll find two of something in the right sizes and I snatch them up. Even though I’m a “matchy-matchy mom,” I’m ok with them just coordinating to save a few bucks. Oh, the sacrifices I make to save money…

Or, if you really want to save money, just put your kid in clothes they already have. That works pretty well too and is obviously a lot easier!

Enough of the frugality tips…..

As you’ll see below, we had a fantastic, fun time on the 4th. So fun, in fact, we didn’t even stay awake long enough that evening to see any fireworks. Yet, even without the fireworks, it was still a wonderful day. I hope everyone had a great holiday as well!

(Not So) Tall Tale Tuesday: Bringing Joy in the Midst of Sorrow

Today’s (Not So) Tall Tale Tuesday prompt:

Write about a childhood memory that changed your perspective.

I could probably write quite a few stories about childhood memories that changed my perspective but for now, I’m going to go back to a memory from a long, long time ago that I barely even remember.

I am not sure how old I was but I was young enough to not understand death, funerals, or visitations.  However, my great grandmother on my Grammy’s side had passed away and we were in Lincoln, NE at the visitation at the funeral home.  I remember being there and there were so many people.  And they were all crying and they were all sad but they would brighten up as soon as they saw me.  I was just glad to be with so many of my family members.  I kept going to the many tissue boxes scattered throughout the room and pulling out the tissues one at a time.  I think I emptied all of them.  I might have picked a few of the flowers too.  I found it quite odd that they were all over the room.  They smelled so good, I couldn’t help it.  And for once, no one said anything.  I was shocked I didn’t get a spanking right then and there, to be honest.

At this point, you may be asking how this changed my perspective.  It didn’t change my perspective as a young child but what I got from this and the many other visitations and funerals that I went to as a child is that death is an inevitable part of life.  It’s something all must face and it doesn’t have to necessarily be a bad thing.

The other thing is this- I sometimes feel funny taking my children, knowing that it will be awkward for them (and possibly a hassle chasing the flock around).  But then I think back to the smiles that I brought the many grieving visitors and family as a child.  I see the same smiles from those that we share our kids with in these times of sadness.  Children bring joy in the midst of sorrow and are a constant reminder that life does go on.

Deep for me, I know….

017f89537a0905d084e75ed02fa953ccc6ceef910cMost of my (Not So) Tall Tale Tuesday posts have been a bit more upbeat, positive, or funny than this but it honestly was the first childhood memory that came to mind in terms of changing my perspective.  Sorry.  Not sorry.

However, if you need a laugh after this sobering post, check out this one.  It always gives me a chuckle.

Photo credit- Garen Graves Photography

My Dad turns 60

Growing up, and even in the recent past, my mom has told me, “You are just like your Dad….”

Man, what a compliment.

My Dad is one of my heroes.  It’s no secret that I adore him.  I’m proud of his accomplishments throughout his career, but I’m even more proud of the man he is personally.  Here’s a few things that I love about him:

He takes things as they come.  He has more patience than any person I have ever met….even Garen and that’s saying a lot.  He’s generous and truly believes in doing what’s right, even if it’s not the popular thing to do.  He’s got faith in what he believes in, even when others around him may doubt.  He loves my mom, his soulmate, with all his heart.  He taught me to get up early and to become a lover of all things breakfast-related.  He treats everyone with respect….and I truly mean everyone.  He can and will talk to anyone.  He is so very smart but also has common sense, which doesn’t always come packaged.  He loves a great debate.  He is passionate about whatever he sets his mind to.  He is a perfectionist and he goes further than measuring twice to cut once.  He can rock a sweater or turtleneck like nobody else I know.  He always wants to find better, more efficient ways to do things.  When he gets on a kick- whether it’s making bread, buying classic wool shirts on Ebay, or designing a custom anchoring system- he focuses in and perfects each process.  He admits when he’s wrong, quickly apologizes, and, on the flip side, also forgives quickly.  I believe him when he says he can fix anything but a broken heart.  And he can build just about anything too.  He believes in good shoes.  He’s an Eagle Scout.  He loves to read, listen to books, go to classes, and is a true life-long learner.  He is not afraid of change.  He’s hilarious and can find a way to make almost anyone laugh….or at least shake their head and grin.  He is an excellent friend to many.  And he truly is an amazing father and now also a wonderful YaYa to five grandkids and four grand-fur-babies, plus a grand-cat.

I could go on and on.  Really.

I’m sure, if you know him, you’d be able to add a few things too.

If you’re reading this, Happy 60th Birthday, Dad.  I hope you know how much I love you and how proud I am to be your daughter, employee, & friend.  I’m so glad for my kids to get to call you YaYa.  

To everyone else– enjoy the photos.  There’s nothing like looking at old photos to provide a bit of entertainment.  Genes run strong in our family, both on the Odom (Dad) and Bottlinger (Mom) sides, right?!?  Most of these photos were from the slideshow that Joe put together for Dad’s 50th surprise party that we pulled off, plus a few since then.  Yes, Mom, that means that I have found the video.  Hallelujah!

The above photo is from Mom and Dad’s 60th Birthday trip.  They climbed Machu Picchu.  Yes, I know they’re awesome!

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Thanks also to Joe for putting the man hours into getting these photos together.