Favorite Products, Kid Approved

Fun Making Shrinky Dinks Jewelry

Shrinky Dinks I was looking for a shortcut, something easy, and not too expensive.  This seemed perfect!  I remembered doing Shrinky Dinks when I was a kid, and having so much fun with them.  I loved how they shrunk up and got thicker in the oven.  Even the colors were more vibrant after they baked.
Shrinky Dinks

Shrinky Dinks Jewelry

I came across a really cute Shrinky Dinks jewelry making set when I was searching Amazon for “Kids Craft Kits”.  I was looking for some fun projects my toddler could do when her big sister was babysitting her.  Something they could do together.  A lot of times our “projects” are from Pinterest and we use things we already have at home.  But, I was looking for a shortcut, something easy, and not too expensive.  This seemed perfect!  I remembered doing Shrinky Dinks when I was a kid, and having so much fun with them.  I loved how they shrunk up and got thicker in the oven.  Even the colors were more vibrant after they baked.

Buy Shrinky Dinks Kit Here

For Kids of all Ages

Since my daughter is only 4-years-old, this was a project we all three ended up working on.  My oldest ended up babysitting another child that day, along with her sister, so they did not work on the project that day.  My youngest was so excited about the project that we ended up working on it when I got home from work.

A Big Project to Keep Your Little One Busy

This was a pretty big project, and we started with half of the Shrinky Dinks.  You could easily divide this into 3-4 separate projects depending on how many kids are working on it and their ages.  My youngest enjoyed coloring each piece with the sharp bright pencils that came with the kit.  Have a sharpener on had to sharpen up the pencils as they become dull and worn.  Both girls loved watching their project shrink in the oven!  It was a new and neat experience for both of them.

The next day we made a bracelet for my youngest with our Shrinky Dinks jewelry kit.  My oldest is a teen, and this jewelry was a little young for her.  She did enjoy sitting and coloring with us the day before.  The beads that go with the jewelry are very tiny, the package is a bit misleading.  I struggled with putting the beads on the string.  My 4-year-old ended up putting most of the beads on herself.  Her vision is much better than mine.  I think this is a great activity for fine motor skills, concentration, and patience!  It took a while, but we finally got her bracelet completed, and she was super proud of it.  Showing it to her big sister and Daddy right away.  We also made 2 little hair clips.

Lots of Fun

We had so much fun making and using this Shrinky Dinks jewelry kit!  I just love projects that are made simple.

Here’s the link to buy it on Amazon (affiliate link):


Have you discovered a fun, cheap, and easy craft online?

Free Stuff, Kid Approved, Oklahoma

Digging for Selenite Crystals at Oklahoma’s Great Salt Plains

We love finding adventure not far from home! My husband’s son was visiting for the summer and we decided we needed to take a little adventure with him and our youngest daughter.  We decided to go to the Great Salt Plains for a fund geological digging adventure.  The Great Salt Plains dig area is about an hour and a half drive for us, perfect for a day trip.  It was June 2015 which can mean temperatures up into the 100s, so we started off early that morning.

 What are Selenite Crystals?

A little bit about Selenite Crystals and the dig area. The 11,000-square-mile Great Salt Plains are as white as salt, thanks to the saline deposits left over from an ancient sea that once drenched the area. Still flowing beneath the surface is a saline aquifer that replenishes the layer of salt when the underground water rises. Dig for hourglass selenite crystals here because they are found nowhere else in the world. It is the only place in the world where hourglass-shaped selenite crystals are found. Millions of years ago the area was covered by a large inland sea. The sea was eventually cut off and the water evaporated away, leaving behind thick layers of salt that were then covered by dirt and erosion from surrounding mountain ranges. As groundwater rose to the surface through the salt-saturated sand, it took salt along with it and deposited them on the surface as a thin crust. It was the concentrated saline solution combined with gypsum that promoted the growth of selenite, a crystalline form of gypsum. These crystals are found buried only a few feet below the surface.

Before you go.

Before we headed out, we had to take a few things with us to prepare for a warm day of digging.  We packed sunblock, bottled water, snacks, shovel, bucket and some towels to clean up with.  We also brought a change of clothes and wore old clothes to dig. Digging can get pretty messy and dirty!  You can also bring water, a sifter, and maybe smaller shovels to help find and clean the crystals.  We did not do this, but it is a good idea after the fact.  We’ve been digging before with our two older kids.

What to expect

This year they moved the dig area.  Dig areas are rotated every couple of years.  Wow!  Could we tell the difference!  We found so many crystals easily.  It is recommended to dig a hole two feet wide and about two feet deep.  After that, we dug without hands through the piles that we dug out, and in the hole.  We just used our fingers to sift through the dirt.  It is very easy to dig and sift through without extra tools (water, small shovels, and a sifter), but it sure would not hurt to bring those things.  The day was windy, and even though we started out in the morning, it got hot pretty quick.  Our youngest had a good time, but she had more fun wandering off from us.  We found so many great crystals!  After

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After digging for a couple of hours, we decided to visit the lake area and State Park.  You could easily make this a weekend trip and camp out at the park campground or rent a cabin.  There are a few hiking trails and a nice playground for the kids.  We let our youngest play on the playground, then we went for a very short hike.  It was afternoon and was very hot and humid out by then.  We will be back!  If you are going in the summer I recommend going in the morning before it gets hot.

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Free Stuff, Kid Approved, Travel

Garden of the Gods

We made our way to the Garden of the Gods after our visit to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Helen Hunt Falls.  Garden of the Gods is Beauty 360 degrees!  The red mountains and with the green trees and grass was stunning!  Garden of the Gods is also perfect for the budget because it is free!

 Visitors Center

 We stopped by the visitors center before we entered the park (that’s where my featured image was taken).  There is a great view of the park from there and you can get a map of the Garden of the Gods fromt there.  Of course there’s a gift shop too for all the fun memorbilia to take home with you.

The Drive

The drive alone is worth a visit!  There are winding roads throughout, so you can drive and see the beautiful sights without even getting out of your car.  

Hiking and More

Of cours we wanted to go for a short hike, that turned into a long hike.  The path was paved, and very easy to hike with an 18 month old. We were lucky there was nice cloud cover, which made for a cooler hike in the early evening. There were quite a few other people hiking and taking photos, but it was not too crowded.  There were a few rock climbers high up with their ropes and equipment.  They are pretty impresive, nothing that I’m willing to do. 

There is so much to see, so you should really make a good amount of time to explore the park especially if you like to hike.  We were pretty tired from our busy day, or we might have stayed longer.  We were also anxious to get back to our retreat and relax in the hot tub.

Where’s your favorite place to hike or explore in Colorado?

Free Stuff, Kid Approved, Travel

Helen Hunt Falls

After some time at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo we decided to go to Helen Hunt Falls.  A couple of years before we had been to Seven Falls, but I wanted to go somewhere different this time, plus Helen Hunt Falls is Free!  

Finding Helen Hunt Falls

I found out about Helen Hunt Falls through TripAdvisor.  TripAdvisor is a great app (or website) with information you sometimes can’t find normally.  A lot of reviewers leave great tips!  I’m not sure I would have known about Helen Hunt Falls if it had not been for searching for free things to do on TripAdvisor.  

We drove on a winding road to reach the falls through North Cheyenne Canon Park.  There were several picnic areas and people pulled over hiking, playing in the water, exploring, etc.  We had to park on the road and walk a little to reach the falls. We had a nice hike up the falls.  You really must climb to the top to get the full experience and spectacular views.  It’s not a bad hike and we had already been all over Cheyenne Mountain Zoo earlier in the day, so we were pretty tired.  Yes, it was hot and humid!  

Visitors Center

They also have a visitors center and everyone was very friendly. The falls were not crowded at all, especially for being later in the day, so that was very nice.  I don’t know that they have a website, but you can google for more information or search on TripAdvisor.  

Our next stop was The Garden of the Gods, then we headed back to our little retreat at the base of Pikes Peak for some time in the hot tub, some fresh cool mountain air, and a good nights sleep.

What’s your favorite free thing to do in Colorado Springs? 

Kid Approved, Travel

North Pole – Santa’s Workshop

While we were in Colorado Springs (July 2014) we visited the North Pole – Santa’s Workshop at Pike’s Peak.  I visited as I child, I think I was about 7 or 8-years-old.  I remember having a lot of fun as a youngster.  I was excited to take my kids, and hoped it was still as neat as I remembered.  

Go on a Weekday

Santa’s Workshop did not let us down!   It was great because the park was not crowded, no wait in line for rides, food or bathrooms.  We went on a Thursday, so I’m sure that helped to make it less crowded.  

What to Expect

The entire place is so quaint, friendly and clean. We really loved it! Our oldest (13-years-old) said this was her favorite place we visited in Colorado Springs.  There are rides for young and old.  You pay an entrance fee which covers all of the rides, then they give you a card and you charge everything else on it.  When you leave the park they total up your expences, and then you pay.  This can be a little dangerous!  We kind of lost track on what we were spending.  There are lots of good eats, and many cute little shops.  Everything is Christmas themed.  If you are a Christmas lover you must visit Santa’s Workshop.  They have a palethra of Christmas ornaments.  We ended up getting several custom ornaments.  There is a shop that will paint names on any ornament you want.  I got one for each of the girls, they picked their’s out.  I also got one for my Mom and put all of her grandkids names on it. 

 We headed to Meade, Colorado after we left to go visit and stay with friends.  Our plan was to visit Rocky Mountain National Park at least one of the next 2 days.

Have You been to Santa’a Workshop?  What did you enjoy most?

Kid Approved, Tutorials

Staying in Colorado Springs at the Base of Pikes Peak with Air B&B

In July 2014 we took our girls to Colorado for vacation.  Our first stop was Colorado Springs, CO.  I wanted to stay somewhere besides a hotel.  I researched several cabins, but the prices were a little higher than I wanted to pay for 2 nights.

About Air B&B

I discovered Air B&B.  One of the great things about Air B&B are the reviews on each apartment, home, and room.  We were looking for an entire home, and you can filter your search to find only entire homes in a certain area.  There are several other filters, such as price range, bedrooms, bathrooms, hot tub, pool, elevator, pets allowed, etc.  I scoured through several houses, finally filtering it down to 3.  I actually played this searching and deciding game for several days before I made my final decision.  We ended up renting a garage apartment at the base of Pikes Peak, Mountain Retreat in Cascade, CO.  Every single review was fabulous.

About Our Stay

We loved staying there, and our hosts were very friendly.  Everything we needed was provided in our little apartment.  There was a security gate with a keypad to enter.  They even provided a bottle of wine and fruit.  The peaches were our favorite!  Juicy and sweet, we devoured them.  The first evening we sat on their lovely deck, visited and sipped ice cold local beer with our hosts, Ingrid and Robert.  They had a shared hot tub and a towel warmer for heated towels when you got out of the hot tub. My oldest and I enjoyed the hot tub both evenings we were there.  The evenings were so cool and beautiful.  All the fresh mountain air and no wind or mosquitos.   I wish we had stayed longer!  We had meant to relax on our 2nd day in the evening after our daytime venture out to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Helen Hunt Falls and The Garden of the Gods, but we just packed too much into that day so there was not much time for relaxing when we made it back.  Of course, my oldest and I managed to spend some time in the hot tub, to relax our achy muscles from walking all day.

After our stay at the retreat, we visited The North Pole, then headed to Meade, CO to spend the rest of the trip with friends.  Luckily they have a big house with extra rooms, and we stayed with them for 3 nights.

I would stay here again and recommend it to anyone with a small family or to couples!  It was a beautiful place to stay!

Where’s your favorite place to stay in the Colorado Springs area?

Kid Approved, Travel

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

On our vacation to Colorado Springs, we decided to visit Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.  I have a cousin who lives in Denver and she and her family met us there in the morning.  We wanted to get an early start before it got too hot outside.  Even though we were in Colorado, it can still get very hot in the summer.  Especially if you’re not way up in the mountains.     Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is actually on a Mountain, so there was a lot of hiking up and down hills on our visit.  We rented a stroller for our youngest, but she was just getting feet mobile and wanted to do lots of walking herself.

Animal Encounters

One of the first things we did was the giraffe feeding, they are pretty close to the entrance.  They are super friendly and it’s fun to watch their long tongues reach out for food.  Both girls enjoyed feeding the giraffes.   My cousin’s two girls are a little older and they both had fun too.  We also fed several birds in the bird sanctuary they have.  That is always neat for kids to do, and I enjoy it myself along with my husband.  If you go to the zoo’s website you will find several “animal feeding experiences” listed.   You have to pay extra for all of the animal feedings.

Rides

My cousin’s husband, her girls and my oldest road the Mountian Sky Ride.  It is a like a ski lift that goes high over the zoo.  It looked pretty cool, but I’m not sure how I would have handled the height!  I was never scared of heights until I got older.  I think I was in my late 30s that heights started making me a bit dizzy.  You do have to pay extra to ride.  My youngest had to ride the carousel while we were there.  Always a good ride for the younger kids and even the bigger kids enjoy it.

Visit the Zoo’s website for current pricing on all of the extras.  The food at the zoo was pretty good.  Your standard zoo food.  We had some delicious ice cream.  It may have tasted so good because we were all hot, sweaty and tired when we ate. The views were fantastic!  Everywhere your turned were beautiful views of the mountains.  My biggest negative for me was the zoo set up is not user-friendly.  You go into one section, then have to circle back out before you can move on to the next section. We still had a very good time.

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is a fun little zoo to visit with family.  Be prepared for a lot of up and down hill hiking!

Have you been to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo?  What was your favorite part?

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Sharing ice cream
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Feeding the giraffes
Kid Approved, Oklahoma, Travel

Tiger Safari in Tuttle, OK

After hiking and exploring the Wichita Mountains area we headed to Tuttle to visit the Tiger Safari.  We had visited once before when my oldest was about 7 or 8 years old.  I thought this would be a fun experience for both girls.

What to expect.

Tiger Safari is a neat interactive Zoological Park down a country road near Tuttle, OK.  We went in May 2014, so I know there have been some changes since then.  We bought my oldest the ticket to interact with the animals, and my youngest husband and I just bought the tickets that provide a guided tour.  That is one of the things I really liked about this zoo, the guides are great and have lots of information on the animals their likes, where they came from, how long they’ve been there, etc.  You can tell they really like their jobs!  This was my 3rd visit (I went several years earlier with my cousin and her children), and I have always had a really good time, including the tour guides.  You can walk the park on your own, but I recommend a guide and the interaction experience if you have little ones that love animals.  There is almost always a new animal to interact with, but they have Tiger feedings every time.  My oldest was pretty brave holding animals.  Especially the Python!  She would not hold the owl though, so I did that one. He was pretty heavy so she may not have been able to hold him. I can’t remember if I had to pay extra to do that or not?  It was pretty cool though.  Check out their website for additional information and pricing.

What is your favorite animal park in Oklahoma?

 

This photo is from our first visit to Tiger Safari about five years earlier. My oldest holing a fox.
My oldest, 5 years earlier at Tiger Safari holding a baby fox.

 

Kid Approved, Oklahoma, Travel

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

The Wichita Mountains is a pretty spectacular sight to see.  You are driving along the prairies of Oklahoma, we came from Oklahoma City on the turnpike, then suddenly there are mountains in view.  Huge stacks of boulders seem to be piled on top of one one another to form mountains.  It’s a beautiful sight, with flat prairies between the mountains.  I have visited, hiked and camped at the Wichita Mountains many times before I moved to NW Oklahoma.  There are so many places to hike, explore and rock climb.  You could go 50 times and discover something new each time.  They have camping sites, a visitors center, hiking, rock climbing, prairie dog town, lakes, lake recreation, animal sitings and more.  This visit was the first time I took my girls, and it was not long enough.

About the Wichita Mountains Wildflife Refuge

A little about the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.  The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge was established to protect wildlife species that were in grave danger of extinction, and to restore species that had been eliminated from the area. Bison were reintroduced, along with elk and wild turkey. More recent reintroductions include the prairie dog, the river otter, and burrowing owls.  The refuge provides habitat for large native grazing animals such as American bison, Rocky Mountain elk, and white-tailed deer. Texas longhorn cattle also share the refuge rangelands as a cultural and historical legacy species. More than 50 mammals, 240 bird, 64 reptile and amphibian, 36 fish, and 806 plant species thrive on this important refuge.  You can learn more at their website.

Hiking and Exploring

After breakfast in Medicine Park, we headed to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.  We stopped by The Holy City first, it is pretty close to the entrance.  The hiking there is relatively easy, not a lot of hills or rock climbing.  There are several structures including a small chapel.  Pasion Plays are performed there annually.  You can see video and photos of past Pasion Plays.  I just find it to be a fun and easy hike, with lots of structures and small hills for the girls to explore.  They have a little gift shop, and there were hummingbird feeders hanging outside.  We witnessed quite a few of the tiny birds fluttering around and my girls really enjoyed seeing them, as did I.

Visitors Center

We drove to the Visitor’s Center next and walked around in their nice cool air conditioned building.  The Center is pretty informative and is interactive also.  It is a neat place to visit, and a great way to cool down, refill water bottles, learn, and purchase some souvenirs.  Our next stop was Prairied Dog Town.   We got a kick watching these sweet little dogs run, play and communicate with each other.  It was fascinating!

I would have loved to hike a lot more and stay longer, but our next stop was The Tiger Safari in Tuttle.  I know we will visit again in the near future.  There is just too much to see not to visit this place many times.

 

Kid Approved, Oklahoma, Travel

Medicine Park, OK

We decided to take a short weekend vacation when my daughter was still under a year old to Medicine Park, Oklahoma, the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge and the Tiger Safari in Tuttle, OK.  We also did not have a lot of money to spend, so we wanted to go somewhere close.  I lived in Chickasha for several years before I was married and it is close to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.  It is a fantastic hiking and rock climbing area.  One of my very favorite places to go hiking!  I miss being less than an hour from the Wichita Mountains.  I decided it would be great to stay in Medicine Park, a very quaint little town just a few minutes from the Refuge and the first tourist resort in Oklahoma.  I wanted to share this area with my family.  I knew my oldest would love all the rocks, the cobblestone building in the town of Medicine Park and the rock mountains in the Wichita Mountains!  She has always been a fan of rocks.

I did some research, as usual!  And found a cabin in Medicine Park I liked and that we could afford.  Also, we were only staying one night, and not all cabins/houses would let you reserve for just one night.  I had a doctors appointment in OKC that Friday.  After the appointment, we went to Meers to have a meersburger.  Meers Store & Restaurant is a hole in the wall kind of place.  In the middle of nowhere and nothing fancy, but they have the best burgers and cobbler. Their menu has lots of tasty selections, and BBQ to go.  We ordered 2 longhorn burgers, and I ordered their fries.  My oldest and I shared a burger because they are huge! The meal was great, as always.  For dessert we all shared peach cobbler over homemade ice cream, it is beyond words.    After lunch, we headed to Medicine park and checked into Margie’s Cabin and it was perfect!  There were drinks, snacks, and a Keurig coffee maker.  There were also beach towels in one of the bedrooms.  It was set off from other houses and had a cute patio area.  We absolutely loved it, and I wished we had booked two nights instead of just one.

 


Just across the street, there is a walk way that leads to the center of Medicine Park.  The girls got in their bathing suits and we headed down the path and to the swimming area.  My oldest made friends quick and had someone to play with.  My husband, youngest and I just explored the area and watched the ducks, geese, fish and turtles.

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We drove to the Wichita Mountains and to the top of Mount Scott later in the day.  Such a great view from the top of the mountain.  It’s alway a little bit windier and cooler at the top.  The next morning we sat on the patio and just enjoyed nature and the quiet.  We walked to the town center after we all got around in the morning.  There was a little bakery with pastries and donuts, so we stopped there and had breakfast at a table outside.  Later that morning we went to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

Mount Scott
Mount Scott