Movie Review: Given the Movie

It’s 9:30 and my 6 year is still awake.  We drove back from a weekend summer getaway and he was so exhausted he slept for an hour and a half.  Of course, it was around dinner time so I had a feeling it was going to be rough to get him to sleep.  So, when the constant calls from the bedroom began, I decided I would just have him come out and watch a little TV.  We found the movie Given.  I didn’t really read the description, I just thought it was a surfing movie that he would find interesting.

Boy, was it so much more.  Narrated by 6 yr. old Given, the movie follows legendary surfers Aamion and Daize Goodwin (Given’s parents) from their island home of Kauai through 15 different countries in the quest for surf and to fulfill a calling handed down through generations.

There were so many things I liked about this move:

  1. It was such a different and fresh way of telling the story of family travel.  Having Given narrate the movie brought so much more innocence to the world of travel.  Often books and movies written by parents documenting their year around the world trips can have a “parental skew.”  This movie had me feeling of the sights and sounds as if I was the tender age of 6.  I was seeing everything from a child’s perspective.
  2. The photography was amazing.  The shots they took of the places they visited made me (and my kids) want to visit each one.
  3. He told his sister first thing the next morning.  That’s how I know it was good.  He was excited to finish watching the movie and watched it again with his sister the next morning.  They both talked about the movie for days.

This sense of excitement for travel and experiencing new things is what every travel movie should do for every viewer.  We will be talking about this movie for awhile and definitely recommend it to everyone.

We watched the movie on Netflix but if you aren’t a subscriber, you can download directly from their website.


Happy Vegetarian Week – Tips to get your kids to eat more veggies

We don’t need a holiday to celebrate veggies in our household, but we’ll take it anyway!  Looking few a few tips on how to incorporate more vegetables into your kid’s diets?  (what mom isn’t?)  Here are a few of our favorite ways to get our kids to eat more vegetables:


Vegetable Smoothies
Kids being silly while they drink their morning smoothie.

This is the number one way to get your kids to eat an assortment of veggies.  We started with a very basic pineapple and spinach smoothie.  The pineapple is sweet and besides the green color, you wouldn’t know that there is spinach in there.  From there, we started adding in broccoli or cauliflower.  Then we started playing around with different berries and vegetables.  They will now eat any smoothie that we make.  It might take some time, but keep playing with different combinations until they can’t resist any.




Yup, you heard me right.  During my Sunday prep day, I always try to make a muffin that has either a vegetable or a protein source for the week.  Here are some of the kid’s favorites:

Zucchini Bread

Carrot Muffins

Tips and Tricks

Leave them on the counter

My kids are dying for a snack when they get home from school. So, I put out a plate of veggies with hummus (or another dip of choice) and say they can eat as much as they want, but this is the only snack they get.

Grow them in your backyard

My kids can’t resist picking anything off a vine and eating it.  We grow tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, herbs and broccoli in our backyard.  They are involved from the moment we plant the seed.

Let them choose at the grocery store

Let them pick one (or more) vegetables from the grocery store. Then select a recipe and cook it together.  They will always want to try something they helped prepare.

Lastly, remember that it will take time to form a new habit.  Don’t give up.  Keep trying.  Hopefully, these tips will help your little one form a love (ok, maybe just a liking) of vegetables.

Kids Eat More Veggies





Operation Happy Sock – Teaching kids gratitude

We have been busy giving back each month…in fact, too busy to write about it.  In March it was my daughter’s turn to lead her monthly Girl Scout Meeting and one of our activities was to make cat toys for the local animal shelter.  My daughter loves cats (all animals for that matter) and so when I was searching a for a service project I came across Happy Sock.

Happy Sock, is an easy activity for all ages (my 5 year old did it).  Here’s what we did:

  1. Collected socks from the troop that had been sitting in their dressers and missing a mate.
  2. I purchased the following items:
    1. Fiber Fill from my local JoAnn Fabrics – don’t forget your coupon for 40% off
    2. Cat Nip

Happy Socks Supplies








I brought the supplies to the meeting and the kids put in about a spoonful of cat nip, some fiber fill and then left enough room to tie the end.

It was a super easy and fun project and the local Humane Society was SOOO excited to get them!


Vegetarian Meal Plan: Soup, salad and more

It’s been awhile since I posted a meal plan.  To be quite honest, I haven’t really been planning any of our meals.  Life has been a bit crazy and we are mostly making up meals with whatever we have on hand.  But, as I am working a bit later these days and my husband has been doing the cooking, I try to make it easy on him and have some recipes or meal ideas ready.  So, I thought I would plan out next week.


Southwestern Kale Power Salad by Cookie and Kate

Spicy Lentil Soup also by Cookie and Kate

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tostado from

Quinoa Cakes by Ohmyveggies

Crispy Quinoa Cakes with Red Pepper Cashew Cream from


I know it’s not Pumpkin season, but boy do I have a craving for it, so…I’ll be making these muffins by Delish Knowledge.

Pumpkin Muffins by delishknowledge


Road Trips with Kids

Road trips with kids, whether they are an hour’s drive to Grandma’s house or a trip across the country, can be exhausting for all involved.  The number of times I get asked, “are we there yet” is enough to make me want to pull my hair out.

Although playing with electronics and listening to books on tape can be great, sometimes we need more.  Here’s a list of car games for kids that we play when we need some distraction.


Choose an animal: All players have to make the noise that animal says before they speak, 1st person to forget looses.

Category game: Pick a category and kids need to say as many things in that category in within one minute

Silly sentences: One person chooses 5 random letters. Kids come up with sentences in which each word starts with the designated letter. For example, HRTB. Harry read three books.

Thumb war

Count how many red vehicles you can find in 1 minute

Count each animal you see on your drive

I’m so hungry game: I’m so hungry I could eat an item that begins with an “A”, then you repeat the “A” word and add a “B” word. Keep doing this for all the letters in the alphabet

How many people can you get to wave to you?

No talking contest: Who can be quietest the longest? (parents favorite)

Staring contest: Who can stare the longest without blinking?

Color Search: Pick a color and you have to find 15 objects that are that color

20 Car Games for Kids

Cookie Game: If I were to make cookies, I would add these ingredients

Name Game: You say a name, for example, Tom, and the next person says a name that starts with M, the last letter of the previous name.

Pick a common word and you can’t say that word the whole car ride. First person to say it loses.

Guess what I’m thinking: Get travelers to guess what you are thinking by providing three clues

Tell a story

Say one thing nice about everyone you are traveling with

Play charades

Pick a letter and find something in the car that starts with that letter

Name all the words you can think of start with the letter of your destination.

Need some quiet time in the car?  Check out our road trip travel pack that includes 12 pages of activities to keep your kids busy in the car.


Things To Do in Detroit, Michigan With Kids

Visiting Detroit, Michigan with kids?  Having a staycation?  Here is a list of 34 things to do in Detroit and the metro-Detroit area.  Some places listed are more popular and we couldn’t leave them off the list because they really are worth a go, but sometimes, you need unique.  We’ve included some Michigan off-the-beaten-path adventures on this list as well.

Michigan Outdoor Center – Located on Detroit’s Riverfront, this is a great place to climb a tree, drive a motorcycle and cross a river all under one roof.

Make a day of it, and visit the Belle Isle Park after visiting the Outdoor Center.  Belle Isle is down the street and has an Aquarium (7th oldest in the US), a conservatory and a maritime museum.  Don’t forget to pack your lunch, it’s a great area for playing and picnicking.

Go on a candy tour at Sander’s Candy Factory.

Spend a day at the Detroit-themed fun and educational indoor play area, Detroit Kid City.

Wander around the Detroit Riverfront.  Check the site for festivals and local happenings.

Catch a game at any one of our new stadiums:  Comerica Park for baseball, Ford Field for a football, and the soon to open Little Ceasars Stadium for hockey.

Smell the roses and grab some veggies for your picnic at Belle Isle when you’re visiting Eastern Market.

Gaze at the stars at the Cranbrook Science Center planetarium.

Visit Detroit Mi Kids

Let the kids explore and learn at the Children’s Hands on Museum in Ann Arbor.

Visit one of the many Michigan pumpkin patches in the fall for cider and donuts.

Enjoy a baseball game with a more intimate feel at the minor league Jimmy John’s Stadium.

Check out the new Penguin exhibit at the Detroit Zoo.

Check out one of the family programs at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Spend the day as a scientist at the Detroit Science Center.

Get your build on at Legoland.

See Detroit from the River by taking a Princess River Boat Cruise.

Detroit Princess Riverboat Cruises

Explore the mysteries of the deep at Sea Life Aquarium.

The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village –  At The Henry Ford, you’ll discover America — its culture, inventions, people and can-do spirit — and hundreds of hands-on ways to explore it, enjoy it and be inspired by it.

Looking to play some video games and have a go in the bumper cars, check out CJ Barrymores.

Ride a  1924 train car.

Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve – Offers nature inspired classes and events.

Step back in time at the Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum.

Take in a play or musical at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts.

Take a tour or a class at the historic Pewabic Pottery.

Watch a puppet show at PuppetART Museum.

Check out the unexpected at The Heidelberg Project.

Get lost in the gardens at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor

Visit the farm at Petting Farm at Domino’s Farms.

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American history – This museum began in 1965 and opens minds and changes lives through the exploration and celebration of African American history and culture.

Michigan Sports Hall of Fame

A cross between horseshoes and Bocci Ball equals lots of fun at Feather Bowling at Cadieux Cafe.

Go zip lining at The Adventure Park.

MI Adventure Zipline

Do you have a favorite place to visit in Michigan with kids?  Please tell us in the comments below.


Ted Talks for Kids (and the whole family) to Enjoy

If I have to watch another video of someone playing Minecraft I may need to be committed to the Looney Bin!  In general, our kid’s TV watching has gotten out of control.  We, like many other families, struggle with too much electronic time.


We have been working hard to come up with an electronics policy that will work for our family.  Here are some of the things we are doing to limit screen time:

  1. Just say no:  this has been met with whining, crying and the dreaded “I’m so bored.”  But each day gets better and they start finding other things to do.
  2. Chores for time:  If you do these 3 chores, then you will get X amount of electronics time.
  3. Setting an actual timer:  wow, it’s hard to believe how quickly you can get swept up in a project and not realize that it’s has been an hour and they are still playing a game or watching a show.
  4. Changing what they watch when they do watch tv:  That brings us to this post.

Instead of another mindless video, we have told our kids that they can watch fun (also read as inspiring and educational) videos from YouTube.  I have started compiling a list on my account and I’ll share some of the videos they liked the most and have watched multiple times.  You can  subscribe to my kid-friendly YouTube videos,  and as I add more videos, you can enjoy them too.

YouTube Videos for Kids to Watch

My Journey to Yo-Yo Mastery – Japanese yo-yo world champion BLACK tells the inspiring story of finding his life’s passion and gives a performance that will have your kids asking for your yo-yo.

A Cyber Magic Card Trick –  This video combines two things kids love–magic and computers.

Why People Believe They Can’t Draw – This had by 5 year drawing characters all night

Dive into an ocean photographer’s world – Amazing ocean images that will make the whole family yearn for the ocean.

Close-up Card Magic with a Twist – Magic tricks that will have you rewinding the video and watching again while laughing the entire time.

How to control someone else’s arm with your brain – What kid doesn’t love watching someone control someone else’s body part with electronics?

Breakdancing to the violin: Dr. Draw & Gadfly at TEDxToronto – Who knew the violin was such a rockin’ instrument.

How to Magically Connect with Anyone – A good combination of magic tricks and lessons about listening instead of “waiting to talk”.

Magic Performance – Can you tell my kids love magic?

Bluegrass virtuosity from … New Jersey – A group of brothers, all under the age of 16, rocking some Bluegrass tunes.

Reggie Watts disorients you in the most entertaining way – Proving your mouth is your most valuable instrument.

Do you have any favorites?  I’d love to hear about them.  Also, if you have any tips on limiting screen time, I’d love to know those too!


Vegan Meal Plan

It’s been awhile since I posted a meal plan.  We were on vacation (yea for us), I have been a single parent for a few weeks (boo for us), and then we had a wicked windstorm that knocked out power for a few days.  But this week we’ll be back on track and ready for a normal week of dinners.  So, here’s what we are cooking this week:


10 Minute Pasta by Oh She Glows – Quick and it includes hummus (i gotta try it).

Mexican Quinoa Stew by Cookie and Kate

Black Bean Enchiladas by The Savory Vegan

Crispy Apple and Kohlrabi by Cookie and Kate – This is a side dish, but I love Kohlrabi, so this will get added to a baked potato for a delicious meal.


Visiting Clearwater Beach, FL with Kids

Leaving the cold of Michigan to visit sunny, warm, Clearwater Beach…yes, please!  The kids were off the entire week of school for mid-winter break (why didn’t I become a teacher), so we chose this time to head south and get some Vitamin D.  Of course, the main attraction is the sun and the beautiful white sands of Clearwater Beach, but in case you need a break from the pool or beach or the weather doesn’t cooperate with you, here’s a list of things you can do in Clearwater, Florida and the surrounding areas:


Attractions in Clearwater Beach

  • Rent jet skis or a boat – check with your hotel or you can find a company right on the beach
  • Take a ride on Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise or the Calypso Queen
  • Play at the Pier 60 playground
  • Jump on the inflatable bounce houses on the beach (there is a cost for this)
  • Enjoy the kids show and vendors at the Pier 2 hours before and after sunset (and catch an amazing sunset while you are there)
  • Visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and visit Winter from the movie Dolphin Tale
  • Play mini-golf at Captain Bligh’s Landing
  • Go parasailing
  • Check ut the indoor Flowrider surf simulator at Surfstyle.  This is a shop right on Gulf View Drive where you can buy souvenirs, clothing, groceries and catch a wave all in one place.  It was closed for cleaning when we went in, but the kids did get a few souvenirs with their money, one being a boogie board for them to catch some waves at the beach.
  • Take a ferry to Caladesi Island:  Here you can find 3 miles of pristine beaches (and usually fewer tourists than on Clearwater Beach) and enjoy snorkeling, shelling and sunbathing.
  • Take a Segway Tour
  • Countryside Mall – If it’s raining and you need a break, this mall has a movie theater and an indoor skating rink!

Restaurants in Clearwater Beach

We found most restaurants served the same fare.  Mostly fried and grilled options of fish, chicken, and hamburgers.  Here are a few of the more famous attractions and restaurants that we ate at:

  • Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe (they have a few different locations)
  • Clear Sky Beachside Cafe – we had a great breakfast here
  • Jimmy’s Fish House and Iguana Bar – this was at our hotel so we did eat here twice
  • Cooters –
  • Gondolier Pizza – we had this delivered to our hotel when the kids were to whipped from all the swimming
  • Crabby’s Beachwalk Grill – I add this more as a no need to go here kind of place 🙂
  • Jimmy’s Crows Nest – This is a rooftop bar and is worth the visit up for the great views of the beach and the Pier

Places to visit outside of Clearwater if you have a car

    • Tampa Aquarium – we did not visit this aquarium on this trip but visited when my daughter was 3 and had a great time
    • Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL– your hotel may have discounted pricing for this attraction
    • St. Petersburg – Museum of Fine Arts, Florida Holocaust Museum, Boyd Hill Nature Park and The Dali Museum
    • Tarpon Springs (approx 20 minutes north of Clearwater)- rich in Greek culture and is famous for its Sponge Docks.
    • If you are planning on visiting more than one of these locations (including Clearwater Marine Aquarium) I recommend a Tampa City Pass.  You can get more information here –

Additional Clearwater Beach Tips and Resources

  • It is not necessary to rent a car if you plan to stay on Clearwater Beach.  Access to everything is in walking distance.  You can get a shuttle from the Tampa airport to your hotel for approximately $60 one-way.
  • Most hotels have a “sight-seeing” card rack in their lobby that offers discounts on many of the local attractions
  • We stayed at the Holiday Inn because it suited our budget, timeframe and accommodated 5 people.  However, there are many local vacation rentals, air BnB rentals, and hotels in the area that are available for rent.
  • Beach rentals:  Clearwater beach has cabana and umbrella rentals.  You receive two beach chairs and the cost was $30 a day and went down to $20 a day after 2:00.  You just grab one when you get to the beach and someone will come by and take your money (either cash or credit).

Hiking With Kids – 8 Tips to Keep Kids on the Trail

Hiking and backpacking were adventures that my husband and I loved to do together.  When we started having kids, those two things were put on the backburner.  We knew we wanted to do this more and the only way we can get out there is to get our kids on board with the adventure.  So, here are some tips and tricks we use to get our kids on the trail with us.

Give them their own gear

Who doesn’t love gadgets and gear?  The best part of finding any new activity is the new gear you get to buy. Kids are no different.   We bought both our kids a backpack that is used for hiking and travel.  This is a good start to getting them used to wearing a backpack and carrying their own stuff.  Even on short hikes, they wear their packs.  It prepares them for carrying their own things for future longer hikes.  They also enjoy storing the treasures they find during their hike.


Every good hike needs snacks

With kids, I think every activity needs snacks.  Hiking is no exception.  We always pack trail mix, protein bars and snacks that they might not get often at home to make it a special event.  Don’t forget their water bottle!

Maps and Navigation

My kids love leading the hike.  Some trails are marked, but I also bring a map.  Even if it’s just a quick loop at our local park.  It helps them to learn how to map read (something I am terrible at) and gives them the confidence to lead the hike.

Plenty of stops

I know, stopping a hundred times isn’t an adult’s idea of a good hike, but kids need it.  We have to remember they are small, most initially don’t prefer walking and get bored easily.  We stop often to look at nature, have our snacks and take pictures.

Kids love games – make the hike one big game

In the kid’s backpack, I add things like a magnifying glass, small baggie to collect specimens, scavenger hunt printouts and in the summer and fall, a leaf collection book.  These are just a few ways to make the hike more fun and engaging.  We also sing songs, climb trees, throw sticks in the water and look for animal scat and prints.


Friends are more fun than parents

Kids are never bored when they have a friend around.  Bring friends along on the hike or join a local hiking group with other families to build a network of fellow hikers.

Go often

Busy schedules can make getting on the trail hard.  Remember that not every hike needs to be epic.  Short hikes can be just as engaging as a long one.  The idea is to be consistent about going.  The more it becomes your family’s routine, the easier it gets to get them on the trail.  It might seem obvious, but scheduling a hike on the calendar is the best way to make it happen.  If it’s on the calendar than your committed to hiking!