Girls’ Weekend in the Texas Wine Country

What do you get when you gather 10 women in Texas Wine Country who all love wine, but have yet to really get to know each other?

An amazing weekend to recharge and the making of several new best friends!

Marti said it best when she summed up our weekend together:

It was a fun and memorable weekend. We got to leave our worries at home. If I think of everyone who was there and what made it so special, I think of how we all shared one thing in common – we needed to get away for our own personal reasons. It was time for us to focus on ourselves and let loose for a bit. No family responsibilities for a weekend, which was good. We opened ourselves up to others to allow for the bonding, compassion, and understanding that only women can give. The grass may seem greener on the other side, but it really isn’t. We have to embrace our struggles and keep our heads high, and know that not only have we developed a friendship from this wine weekend, we have also developed a life long support group. Thanks again to each and every one one of you for being there, not just for me, but for each other.

What did we do? Well, we did a whole lot of chatting and hanging out at the lake, but we began our weekend with lunch, wine tasting, and a tour of a lovely winery in the Texas hill country.

After a short drive from Austin, we pulled in to Flat Creek Estate in Marble Falls. The beautiful vineyard and luscious grapes on the vines brought huge smiles to our faces. This was just what we all needed!

Flat Creek Winery

wine grapes

Flat Creek Winery

Lunch was amazing. We had a prix fixe meal prepared for us, due to the size of our group. Salad, pizza, and plenty of wine, graced our table and filled our bellies, but the company and conversation was the icing on the cake.

Lunch at Flat Creek Winery

We moved to the tasting room to sample some of Flat Creek Wineries best bottles. My favorite was a 2013 sangiovese blend – the Super Texan. I purchased a couple of bottles to bring back to Ray.

wine tasting goodies

Tasting Choices

Wine at Flat Creek Winery

Last, but not least, was the winery tour, with rows and rows of barrels. Barrels full of sweet grape juice ripening in to wonderful red wine.

Wine Fermentation Process

Wine Barrels

Flat Creek Estate made for a great girls’ day and the highlight of a weekend away to recharge and create a bond with other women. We will definitely be back. I can see this winery becoming a clear favorite!

Flat Creek Winery

Create a Quiet Homework Station

We have six kiddos in school this year who are required to do homework after school and, in some cases, even on the weekend. I have to admit that it is pretty difficult for all of them to find a quiet place to work, if they are not completing their assignments at the same time (which hardly ever happens!). Latin, algebra and geometry, art history, and biology are subjects that call for a special atmosphere to encourage concentration. Add 20 minutes of reading aloud for each of my third graders and we could have ourselves a mess of confusion!

But, no matter how many kiddos you have, homework time can be difficult. It’s important to create a quiet space, with everything needed to complete assignments available at your fingertips. To help create this quiet space for my kids, we have dedicated a corner of our loft as our Homework Station.

Homework Station at Home

What makes a great Homework Station?

A Desk
My kids go to a classical school, so most research is done using old documents and books, and a majority of work is to be hand-written. Hand-written papers needs to be done neatly, so sitting at a desk makes this easier and tends to help create superior and more well-thought out work. Occasionally one of my older kids will have to do some online research or type up an essay, so the laptop is brought to the desk, so as to create a working environment free of distractions. The Mainstays writing desk, available at Walmart, is a great option for a small space.

Comfy Chairs
My kiddos have a lot of reading assignments. In fact, Zach read more than half of Homer’s Odyssey over this last weekend. He moved from his bed in his room to the porch out front to our beanbag chair in the loft, but he got it all done and was ready for his test today. Being comfortable while doing schoolwork makes a huge difference. (It helped that he enjoyed what he was reading!)

Big Joe comfy beanbag chair

Plenty of Extra Supplies
It’s smart to have lined paper, extra pens, and even extra binders on hand, just in case. You never know when a project or homework assignment will require something more than what is currently being used, or kept in backpacks and lockers. Now is a great time to stock up, since everything from crayons and glue sticks to those notebooks are on sale at Walmart.

Cubbies or Shelves
And, of course, you need an organized way to keep everything handy. These storage crates I found at my local Walmart (only available in stores) are perfect for organizing all of your extra supplies, books, and learning aids. A 3-drawer cart (on sale for only $16.86!) to store extra goodies would be a great idea, as well.

Storage Crates keeps supplies organized

Creating a quiet homework station has solved a lot of concentration problems for us. Let me know if you create one similar!

As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Dyson V6 Slim {Review}

I have always been a huge fan of Dyson vacuum cleaners. We’ve had the opportunity to review several Dysons over the years and I am always very eager to pass them on to friends and family when a new one was shipped to me. This last one we had was broken beyond repair and we had to toss it, so I had been drooling over the latest models when I was asked to review the V6 Slim for Walmart. Of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give it a try and tell y’all about it!

This newest model is a Walmart exclusive and is available on Rollback for only $259, during their Labor Day promotion, now through September 12th.

Dyson V6 Slim review

It was pretty easy to get set up in the charging dock. Once the light on the side of the unit went off, indicating it was fully charged, I was ready to use my new vacuum for the first time. Initially I was incredibly impressed. I was able to vacuum my entire hardwood covered first floor. We later tried it out on the stairs, in our vehicles, and in tight spaces throughout our house.

Here is what we love about the Dyson V6 Slim:

The V6 Slim is cordless, making it lightweight and extremely versatile. We have used it mostly on our stairs as a handheld, and in our vehicles, but can also use it on our hardwood, tile, and anywhere else in the house. The charging dock is pretty convenient and keeps the unit out of the way and charging when not in use.

Not many other brands can beat Dyson’s suction power. This little model does not disappoint with it’s fade-free suction. When I am not using the motorized cleaner head, the included click-fit cleaning tools make vacuuming hard to reach places, especially in our cars, pretty easy.

Dyson V6 Slim on hardwood

Dyson V6 Slim on stairs

Like all Dyson vacuums, the V6 Slim comes with a 2 year warranty. If at any time the unit stops working properly, this warranty will cover parts and labor to repair it. With our luck we will probably be taking advantage of this warranty.

What we didn’t love:

I do wish that a full charge lasted longer than 20 minutes as a handheld and more than 15 minutes or so on my hardwood floors. We can barely get our stairs done in that amount of time, and most certainly need a couple of charges to vacuum out the entire Yukon.

I also do not like that I have to hold the power button down while using the unit. This makes it hard for me to use the vacuum for very long, due to my carpel tunnel, and my younger kids have a hard time using it, as well. Maybe it’s good that we can only vacuum with the V6 Slim for short periods of time, but it would be nice to click the power on and be able to leave it on until the charge dies.

The pros far outweigh the cons, in my opinion, making the Dyson V6 Slim a great vacuum for quick cleaning jobs.

Don’t miss the Dyson V6 Slim on Rollback at Walmart if you want to give it a try!

As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Kindergarten Learning at Home

As I gear up for Timmy’s first year of school, I am reminded of all of the fun activities I did with my older kids when they were his age. I am taking my own advice from years ago not to stress, but to enjoy this time. After all, it’s his last year home with me and the great thing about having a preschooler or kindergartner at home is all of the fun activities you get to do in the name of learning! I look forward to this precious time of playing and learning together, without an expensive curriculum!

With my little guy I plan to focus on the basic learning of letters and numbers. I have chosen one of each to focus on each day. This is something that can easily be done by printing out templates and allowing your little guy to color in the outlines of each, saying the sound of the letter, or counting to that number, as he colors. You can even incorporate the teaching of basic colors into this activity by choosing a specific color, as well. If you’d like to be really aggressive, throw a shape in there, too.

Like Sesame Street you will have a letter, number, and color of the day. Point out these letters, numbers, colors and shapes as you go about your day. You’ll be surprised at how many teachable moments you will discover, even after just a short time “studying”.

Here are some additional fun activities that encourages learning at this age ::

Make a batch of Sugar Cookies and let your kindergartner find the measurements (whole numbers only, at this age… you don’t want to confuse him) and help you measure the ingredients. This will enhance his number recognition. I’m sure your little guy loves to play with the dough, like mine do, right? Pick up some letter-shaped cookie cutters, or just roll out the dough and shape each letter.

photo via panitanjohn
photo via panitanjohn

Work on only a few letters at a time, maybe the letters in his first name, to start, and then the letters in your last name. Move on to two and three-letter words next. (You can use these same concepts with pretzel dough and roll the dough out in to the letter shapes. Heck, you can even get into the numbers and shapes here, too!)

If your little guy is already reading simple words, use these activities to practice what you’ve already learned. For example, ask him to grab the C cookie cutter, then the A, and finally the T. Cut out your dough and ask him what the letters spell when put together on the cookie sheet to bake.

When you need a bit of a break, set your budding student up with JumpStart or Mia computer games, instead of in front of the TV. These games are great for reinforcing simple reading, counting, and recognition skills. Sit back and take a breather!

Science could simply be planting seeds, watering them, waiting and watching for them to grow. Take advantage of the time waiting to talk about what happens when a seed turns into a flower. You can even incorporate your Bible lesson into this time by reading, reciting and even memorizing related Bible verses (Genesis 1:11 KJV “And God said , Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.”)

photo via Elnur
photo via Elnur

Another thought would be to incorporate Bible, Science and History lessons together by going through the Creation Story. Spend a bit of time talking about the first day :: talk about how darkness is the absence of light and can be scary, but we can rely on God to keep us safe. Talk about the differences between day and night. Then go on to the second day and talk about land and sea. On the third day he created the vegetation, so perhaps here you can incorporate the planting of seeds “experiment.” And, of course, when you reach the sixth day you can talk about how God made each of us special, discussing the characteristics of each individual.

Whatever you decide to do with your preschooler or kindergartner, know that he is soaking everything up just by observing and interacting with you. This is an important time in his life, but the realization that he is a child of God, who is loved greatly, is the most important lesson of all!

The Best Portable Speakers for Travel

Our family loves listening to music. We can’t always agree on what to play, but we almost always have something playing, whether it’s in the background or to drown out the chaos. I wish I was kidding. Ahem, anyway. I purchased a portable record player for Ray for Christmas, and while it’s fun to play vinyls, it certainly isn’t practical on the road. Enter a few of our favorite portable speakers…

Bluetooth Speaker

First of all, we have the Insignia Bluetooth Speaker. We can listen to our music at home or on the go with this cute little portable speaker, which features Bluetooth technology for easy wireless audio streaming. Julia has actually stolen this speaker. It has a handy silicone strap and an ultra lightweight, compact design allowing for her to clip it virtually anywhere. It’s currently hanging in her bedroom, as she she forgot to pack it for our vacation. I imagine, however, that she will hang it on her backpack once school starts.

Here are some of it’s great features:

• Compatible with most Bluetooth-enabled devices for wireless audio streaming.
• Splash-proof design
• 1.5W total system power (2W peak power), produces quality sonic output
• USB charging port keeps electronic devices powered, so you can continue enjoying your favorite songs.
• Rechargeable lithium battery provides up to 6 hours of playback time on a full charge.

Insignia Bluetooth Plug In Speaker

Next, we have the Insignia Plug In Bluetooth Speaker. Now this one is my favorite and I DID pack it for vacation! We can wirelessly stream our favorite audio in any room of our resort condo here in New Orleans with this Insignia plug-in Bluetooth speaker. This speaker features a built-in power adapter and rechargeable battery, allowing over 2 hours of playback. It’s going on the cruise with us, too!

While this speaker does plug in directly to the wall outlets, it does not need to be plugged in at all times to work. The best part is that there are no wires, it doesn’t take up shelf space, nor are any expensive receivers needed. It really is perfect for on the go.

Here are the Plug-In Speaker features:

• Compatible with most Bluetooth-enabled devices for wireless audio streaming.
• Auxiliary audio input jack connects your non-Bluetooth devices for more listening options.
• Built-in power adapter allows the speaker to stay plugged into a wall outlet to maintain a full charge.
• USB charging port keeps electronic devices powered, so you can continue enjoying your favorite songs.
• Built-in rechargeable battery enables over 2 hours of playback when taking your speaker on the go.

Now through September 5th you can receive 30% off on the purchase of an Insignia Portable Speaker. Head over now to get your coupon!

I have been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.