Kennedy's 13th Dolly Parton Birthday Party | Preppy Birthday Ideas | Surprise 13th Birthday Party

3:02 PM

Kennedy's 13th Dolly Patron Birthday Party | Preppy Birthday Ideas | Surprise 13th Birthday Party | Limo + Hotel Birthday Party


I have a teenager. That is the craziest thing to write or say out loud. That also means, I have had this blog now over 13 years, which is even crazier. Since we did a new room makeover for her birthday {see that reveal HERE} there was no real plan for a party etc for her birthday. But, then as time got closer my mom and I both felt like we needed to celebrate her birthday in a big way. You only get to turn 13 once. However, because of Nutcracker season, it left us with no real time to celebrate, which happens every year. With my mom, we set up a surprise birthday party for her with her ballet friends after their first dress rehearsal.

First, they would be picked up from dress rehearsal in a limo, do a little drive around to have fun in the limo then be dropped off at a hotel for a sleepover. I was able to pull it off, somehow & she was so surprised! All the stress was worth it!

I picked a preppy / Dolly Parton theme & it was a hit! I will link all the party supplies that I can at the end of the blog post!

















#mrsreads December Reads

4:13 PM


 I did it!

I was very skeptical that I would make my goal for the year. I was a little overzealous even after moving my goal after having Hudson & I wasn't sure I would make it. But, I did! I am very proud of myself & I really thoroughly loved each book that I read, I think my lowest ranking was a 3 star this year!

All of December I stuck to Christmas reads & it made me so happy & got me in the spirit! 


1. Snowed in for Christmas by Jacqueline Snowe ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
2. Holiday Romance by Catherine Walsh ⭐⭐⭐⭐
3. The Christmas Fix by Lucy Score ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
4. Resting Scrooge Face by Meghan Quinn ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Nice List by Victoria Ellis ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I upped my goal by just a bit for next year raising it to 40 books! I think that is pretty do able! I will up if it need be, but right now I think it's pretty attainable!



I will continue to post my monthly reads for you all to look back at. I am toying with bringing my reviews on here, in addition to on my GoodReads instead of just giving you the star rating if that is something you would like! Let me know!

Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt

10:51 PM

 Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is driving around and looking at Christmas lights. Everyone gets in their jammies, we grab some hot chocolate and we bring a box of Little Debbies Christmas Tree cakes!

 The excitement can ebb & flow with kids so, I found a way to make it a little more fun & keep their attention! It's no secret I love a scavenger hunt. This makes looking at Christmas lights even more fun. You can make the game unique to your family. We only use the scavenger hunt when going out & looking at house displays, not the drive-thru pay-to-see light displays. We get very competitive & come up with a fun prize for whoever can find the most on their list!


Why simply admire the holiday lights when you can turn the experience into a festive treasure hunt?  Everyone will have a jolly time spotting Santa's sleigh and hunting for a Disney character. Get ready to make unforgettable memories this holiday season!

I recommend grabbing clipboards to use for ease of use in the car!

Fort Wayne Locals: click HERE for our family Christmas Lights Tour Guide if you have an iPhone !

Christmas Tree Scavenger Hunt




Everything you need to know about the Polar Express at St. Louis Union Station

3:54 PM

 St. Louis Station Polar Express

Going on the Polar Express has become one of our favorite traditions. We have been so excited to finally be able to take Bo, as he is crazy about trains! Instead of going to where we normally go, we made the trip to St. Louis to make a pre-Christmas getaway of it! We have been to St. Louis before {check out our trip HERE} & stayed at St. Louis Union Station, they had mentioned they wanted us to come back as they were undergoing a major renovation. It has changed SO much since we were there in 2019! It was already great but now there are a million things to do right on the property! Things like, an aquarium, more restaurants, a giant Ferris wheel, mirror maze, and during November & December they offer the Polar Express!

This Polar Express was Disney-level magic! It was so so well organized & the actors were amazing! We had the most magical time!







1. Get your tickets early!
You can sign up to get notifications at stlpolarexpressride.com to be the first to know when tickets go on sale each year. You don't want to wait til after Thanksgiving for your tickets! Prime days & seats go fast!
2. Ticket Info
You buy your tickets right online at stlpolarexpressride.com. You can print out a novelty ticket like in the movie HERE or you can wait to get one when you arrive{free of charge}.

Currently{2023} rides start around mid-November til the End of December!

We did a hotel package for our stay & tickets! They offer tickets & hotel room packages & even packages where they decorate your hotel room for you! I highly recommend doing this especially if you are coming from out of town like us. This made it so magical & not rushed.

Ticket Prices:
Tickets starts at $40

TRAIN CAR TIERS

COACH: Forward-facing (airline style) seating. Rows of 4, 2 seats on either side of the aisle.

FIRST CLASS: Pods of four seats facing each other with a small table in between. Sold in groups of four with a commemorative Polar Express mug (must purchase a seat for everyone in your party). Includes complimentary digital photo download.

PREMIUM UPPER DOME CAR: Mix of Booth Seating and set of Captain’s Chairs. Seats are located on the 2nd Level. Full 360-degree view with glass windows in the Dome area. Each seat comes with a commemorative Polar Express mug (must purchase a seat for everyone in your party. Includes complimentary digital photo download and Polar Express Gift Shop Retail Credit

PREMIUM DOME CAR: Lower Lounge: Lower-level premium seating with lounge-style seating in a spacious area. Each ticket comes with a commemorative Polar Express mug (must purchase a seat for everyone in your party). Includes complimentary digital photo download and Polar Express Gift Shop Retail Credit
Assigned Car selection: When you arrive you are given a wrist band & that band tells you what car you are in & how to line up accordingly.

Are Polar Express tickets refundable?
Really think about the dates when you book, as you more than likely are making them months or a year out. Tickets are non-refundable and not transferable to a different date.



3. What to wear

This is totally up to you! My kids always wear their PJ's in true Polar Express fashion. One year we had to layer as it was very chilly, another year it was very warm & were good to go with just PJ's. Us parents do not wear our PJ's, however, I would say 75% or more of parents DO dress in theirs as well. Wearing PJ's children or adults is not required at all. Go in whatever you would like!

4. What happens? Where do we go?
From their website :
THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride is a re-creation of the classic children’s story on board a real train. Passengers are served hot chocolate and a treat by dancing chefs, enjoy a reading of the book by Chris Van Allsburg, and receive the first gift of Christmas (a silver sleigh bell) after Santa boards the train to greet families. Elves lead passengers in caroling and fun holiday activities on the return trip to Union Station.
Where do we go:
Why the north pole of course! :)


How long is the ride:
The ride itself is about 45 mins long. 

Please please do arrive early. There is fun stuff to do ahead of time & plenty of photo ops. They depart promptly at your reserved time. They will not wait for you. If you are traveling to get here, like us, leave with ample time! We leave with wanting to get there a little over an hour early.







5. Extra Fun

-The ride itself is enough. But, after you pick Santa up at the North Pole he comes on board & you are able to grab a photo with him on the train. Then, he gives the first gift a Christmas. Just as he did in the Polar Express, it's a bell. It's great quality & engraved with the "Polar Express" on it.
-They have a gift shop full of amazing souvenirs. Like the conductor's hat, light-up wands, you can buy the actual book there, ornaments, etc.

-There are a few photo opportunities while you are there. In the gift shop, they have where you can buy prints on-site or buy them digitally. 

6. What else is there to do?
We didn't leave St. Louis station the few days we were there & had a ton of stuff to do! Here is all that is offered:

The Train Shed
This is a restaurant on property at St. Louis station, decked to the NINES in Christmas decor. I had some kind of decor hanging from every inch of this place. They even have a fun festive drink menu. No reservations are needed, first come first serve.


- Build A Bear Headquarters
Again, right at St. Louis Union Station they have the build a bear headquarters! You can make a bear {they even have a polar express one available}


- The Wheel & Carousel 
Take a ride on the giant Ferris wheel! The cars are climate-controlled so you don't have to worry about being cold! You get a great view of St. Louis Union Station & can even see the arch!




- Lobby projection show
This was one of our favorite things on our last visit, now for Christmas they have a Christmas Projection show. It is so much fun!

- St. Louis Station Aquarium
It sounds crazy but there is an actual aquarium here there on property to visit!


- Fire Show
This was another family favorite on our last visit! This time the pyrotechnics were set to Christmas music! Was so so cool!

There is STILL more to do, like a rope course, mini golf & mirror maze that was didn't even get to!
I can't remember the St. Louis Union Station enough it was the most magical time!


 



#mrsreads November Good Reads

11:08 PM

 November Reading List

I didn't make my goal this month...again. But, I am hoping December brings on some cozy days, I will be able to relax more & read! I am so excited about the Christmas reads I have on my TBR for December.



1. A Cross-Country Christmas by Courtney Walsh ⭐⭐⭐⭐

2. A Bird in the Oven by Kata Cuic ⭐⭐⭐

3. Tis the Season for Revenge by Morgan Elizabeth ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

4. A Very London Christmas by Sara Madderson ⭐⭐⭐⭐

5. Wreck the Halls by Tessa Bailey ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Follow me on GoodReads HERE

10 Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving for the First Time + Thanksgiving Checklist

9:20 PM





10 Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving for the First Time + Thanksgiving Checklist

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. It is a time for celebration, quality time with family & gratitude for all that we have. Plus, lots of yummy food!

But, if you are hosting Thanksgiving, then the big day also means hours of prep work, decorating, cleaning, shopping, & waking up at 5 am to prep & start foods. 

If this is your first year I know that can sound intimidating, My first year I was so nervous that the entire day was riding on me. It can be super intimidating to take on hosting a holiday for your family. But, I promise it isn't as hard as it seems & when you see your family gathered around your table, it makes every worry worth it!

While some things can be completely out of your control the day of, you can prepare & organize yourself for the day to go as smoothly as possible. I have been hosting now for over 5 years & I have come up with these tips for you to follow to ease your anxiety so the only sweat from the day is from your oven and not your blood pressure ;)

SHOP


1. Plan Ahead

Sit down & figure out your budget for your meal. Schedule what time your meal will be, my family doesn't do a typical Thanksgiving dinner we eat mid-day to enjoy the majority of the day together. Whether it be early or later in the day choose & let family know when to arrive. Then, figure out your menu. Are you taking on the whole meal yourself? Or are sides & desserts being delegated to other family members to bring? If so, send out a quick text to them to confirm & remind them. That way you know who is bringing what. 

 My suggestion is to always buy your turkey & canned goods early. {Unsure what size to get? Right below I have a quick glance infographic to help you.} 

*Hosting tip: I like to find a fun game everyone can play together each year. It's perfect for after everyone has eaten & always a blast*



2. Clean out your fridge 

This is one step you will thank me for later. Most people only have one fridge & when you are hosting it can fill up FAST. The week leading up to Thanksgiving, make an effort to use up any leftovers, empty out old condiments & check for expired food. If you need to put leftovers in zip locks & freeze them for later. Do a check in the pantry as well. You may find that you have some things for your meal already & can save yourself money. Then, give your fridge a good clean down. Lots of people will be looking in there. ;)


3. Buy leftover containers

Everyone wants to take home leftovers from Thanksgiving, that's one of the best parts. Trust me, when I say you want to buy some for people to take home & toss. Using your own can be a hassle because 1, you yourself are going to need them and 2, they may not make it back to you. THESE are smaller but very cute & THESE are practical & come with plenty.



4. Decorate and set the table ahead of time

Decorating for Thanksgiving can take a big chunk of your time. Getting the decor down, assembling centerpieces, and decorating your table can be a chore, so start early! I like to start the week after Halloween. & the kids' table the day before. But, I don't do Christmas before Thanksgiving. Whatever will work best for you & your home, just do it early. This will take one thing off your plate as Thanksgiving gets closer but also prepares you to see if you need more seating & configuring your home to host everyone best.

*Host tip: Don’t forget about the front porch. It’s the first thing your guests see when they arrive. It’s so easy to focus on the inside with cleaning and decorating. Rake up the front yard, sweep the porch. If you have the budget, some decor like a fall pillow, welcome mat, door hanger or sign. Even just a fall wreath on the front door can make a great first impression. You want to be proud of the outside of your home as well as the inside.

SHOP


SHOP

PLATES | NAPKIN RING | NAPKIN

5. Stock up on essentials 

This is the stuff that can slip your mind when your mind is anxious about the cooking portion of Thanksgiving. Trust me, you don't want a house full of family & realize you are down to your last toilet paper roll & no stores are open!

Make sure you have things on hand like:

- toilet paper

- paper towels or napkins

- dish soap

- if you using disposables: cups, dinner plates, dessert plates & cutlery

- serving spoons { you will be surprised how many you end up using, grab some extras just in case}

- pot holders & trivets

Grab these 1-2 weeks before Thanksgiving to elevate the extra stress & trips to the store during Thanksgiving week.

6. Use a Checklist

A Thanksgiving checklist is a GREAT way to stay organized while hosting Thanksgiving. I have one I made at the end of this blog post for you to print & use. But, you can easily make one yourself on paper or right on your phone in the notes app. Having a checklist can help you determine which duties can be done in advance so you are not trying to cram things in the week of the big day. Just seeing things laid out really helps as well, even years in, I still make a checklist to help me stay organized & my mind at ease.


7. Try things out ahead of time

If this is your first year  & some of these dishes you have never made before or you are trying to make a new recipe for the first time, you probably shouldn't have your first attempt be on Thanksgiving day. I might even suggest doing a trial run on a turkey ahead of time. Try to find a cheap small, $20 turkey. $20 is a small price to pay to be able to serve up the perfect bird on Thanksgiving day.


8. Start early on non-food prep

It's not just the food that needs to be prepped. You are probably pulling your china, crystal & serving dishes that need to be washed, or extra silverware. Make sure you are washing, pressing napkins, and making sure you have enough. Wash your oven mitts & kitchen towels. Do all of this the week or two before. Double-check your serving plates & utensils & iron your tablecloth/runner if needed, too!

Also, the night before I lay out all my cooking dishes, then use sticky notes that are labeled with what I am making in them, what to bake them at in the oven & for how long. This keeps me organized but also is great if anyone wants to chip in to help, without having to stop you to ask questions. I stick what food I can in the dish as well, so in my mashed potatoes pot, I put the sack of potatoes, etc. 



9. Have appetizers & drinks ready to go

Have wine chilling & small appetizers ready when family arrives. If everyone has a drink in their hand & something to snack on, they won't mind if the meal is running a little late & will make it easier for you to concentrate in the kitchen instead of entertaining first thing. 

*Hosting tip: DON'T FORGET THE ICE!*


10. Relax, have fun & live in the spirit of the holiday

My most important piece of advice? Relax! Remember the people gathered around you aren't there to be entertained. Not once any year has anyone complimented me on my baseboards. Don't stress. You are gathering in love & gratitude. Ask for help, laugh a lot, play some games, remember to let the turkey rest & above all, look around. Look around your table surrounded by the people you love & find moments of gratitude in a busy, messy, loud & delicious holiday. YOU DID IT!


Thanksgiving Checklist

Print my Thanksgiving checklist to keep organized while hosting!








About Me

Welcome Friends!
I am Tara. I am a wanna be southern momma, stuck in the Midwest. Huge Disney lover. I love a huge bow & all things Farmhouse style. Frequent user of "Ya'll" Here you will find about our travels, all things motherhood & parenting, with everything I love in between! Grab a cup off coffee & stay awhile!

IG @MRSMUMAW