Our Road Trip…20 Hours, 1200 miles, a 2nd Grader and a Sleep Hating Toddler

Sedona, Arizona
Sedona, Arizona

Since our last road trip was affectionately dubbed “Vacationpocalypse”, and the road trip before that we learned (the hard way) that Tater gets car sick, so understandably, I was a bit on the nervous side last week when we packed up for a week in Nevada and Arizona.

My husband had a 2-day business conference in Nevada, and after that was finished, we took a 5 hour drive out to northeast Arizona to see the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert for a day, and then headed west two hours to Sedona for two days before heading home. All in all, it was 20 hours-plus of driving over 6 days, and while the kids did pretty good in the car, Junior didn’t sleep well at the hotels so we are starting off this week very tired!

It was definitely a lot of fun and we made wonderful memories. Because of homeschooling, I was able to write the trip into our curriculum, and the kids did hands-on science and geography lessons, explored the history of the region, did road trip math, and completed several Junior Ranger programs. (Plus, I purchased the entire Schoolhouse Rock series on DVD, so the kids were learning while we drove as well. Hahaha.)

Having Fun Building Cars at the Childrens Discovery Center
Having Fun Building Cars at the Children’s Discovery Center

While my husband was working, the kids and I headed out to the Children’s Discovery Museum in Nevada. This was our third trip there, and it never disappoints. Although, 7 year old Tater has stopped wanting to play at the imagination make-believe stations and has taken more interest in the hands-on science experiment areas. Sniff Sniff.

We drove through several sections of old Route 66 while driving from Nevada to Arizona. The random, side of the road attractions really made me feel like I was stepping back in time. The small town of Seligman, AZ was especially cool to see.

Driving Route 66 was Quirky and Just Plain FUN!
Driving Route 66 was Quirky and Just Plain FUN!
I Sort of Wanted to Stop Here for Lunch...
I Sort of Wanted to Stop Here for Lunch…
This is a Still Working Motel on Route 66
This is a Still Working Motel on Route 66

We finally reached Holbrook, which is the gateway to the Petrified Forest. It was 17 degrees when we woke up the next morning! We spent most of the following day at the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert, which is actually one park. It was beautiful, and because it was off-season, there were maybe 10 other groups in the entire National Park! We had the place pretty much to ourselves to wander around in.

The Snow and Blue Skies Made for the Perfect View
The Snow and Blue Skies Made for Perfect Views
The "Blue Badlands" of Northern Arizona
The “Blue Badlands” of Northern Arizona

Tater learned so much about geology and earth science while exploring the “Blue Badlands”…it’s such a surreal landscape, and we took some fantastic hikes.

If you ask my kids, though, the highlight of the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest was becoming Junior Rangers. At every National Park and National Monument in the US, there is a Junior Ranger program, where kids fill out a workbook about the park and earn a badge or pin. The workbooks include scavenger hunt, puzzles, and “draw what you see” type activities to help kids get the most out of their time at the park.

The Junior Ranger Badges and Pins the Kids Earned on Our Trip
The Junior Ranger Badges and Pins the Kids Earned on Our Trip

After spending the day there, we packed up and headed two hours southwest to Sedona. The snow was just beginning to melt, but there was still enough snow on the surrounding mountains to give an amazing contrast between the red rocks and white snow.

Beautiful Sedona
Beautiful Sedona
Hiking in Sedona
Hiking in Sedona

Montezuma’s Castle was another highlight—and another Junior Ranger destination. The “castle” was a collection of Native American cliff dwellings that were mysteriously abandoned by their inhabitants about 800 years ago. Tater had so much fun imagining living in one of the cliffs!

Fascinated by Montezuma Castle's Cliff Dwellings
Fascinated by Montezuma Castle’s Cliff Dwellings

After a day and a half in Sedona, we headed back home. It was a quick trip, but we managed to pack a lot in as per usual. I can’t wait to see where our next adventure will take us!

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Super Bowl Sunday Sandwich Bar

super bowl

I love football. I really do, and I always have. But, I love food even more. So, how wonderful is Super Bowl Sunday; the beautiful marriage of football and food?

When you’re hosting a Super Bowl party, the meal you serve should be just as important as the game itself (and the commercials!) Menus that are buffet style with lots of serving options are the best bets: Chili, Nacho and Taco bars, and meals made of appetizers are always big hits. But today, I’m going to share my new favorite Build Your Own meal…

The Sandwich Bar

My family loves going to delis and sub shops, because everyone can order exactly what they want, and even picky Junior can find something he likes. With the sandwich bar, everyone can come up with their favorite combination…there are endless choices! If you’d rather do a simple sandwich bar, pick just one or two different options for the bread, meat and cheeses. Everyone can still build their own, and it will be easier on your wallet.

Bread
A good sandwich begins with good bread. Make sure your bread is as fresh as possible, and preferably purchased from a bakery or deli.
French Rolls
Sourdough
Sliced White
Whole Wheat
Croissants
Gluten Free Bread


Meat

Roast Beef
Turkey (various types if desired)
Ham
Bacon
Italian Meats (Pepperoni, Salami, Capicola, Soppraseta)
Meatballs


Cheese (sliced thin)
Swiss
Cheddar
Pepper Jack
American
Provolone
Mozzarella

Veggies
Lettuce
Tomatoes
Onions (sliced, red and white)
Banana Peppers (in a jar in the condiment aisle)
Bell Peppers (sliced, green and red)
Jalapenos
Pickles
Avocado Slices
Cucumber
Roasted Red Peppers

Spreads
Mayonnaise
Mustard (Yellow, Deli, and Dijon)
Horseradish Sauce (in the refrigerated section)
Cherry Pepper Relish (in a jar in the condiment aisle)
Mashed Avocado


Finishing Touches

Crushed Oregano
Red Wine Vinegar mixed with Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Hmmmm. I can’t decide between a Turkey-Bacon-Avocado Sandwich on Sourdough with Pepper Jack, Lettuce, Red Onion, Cherry Pepper Relish, and Oil and Vinegar OR a Meatball Sandwich on a French Roll with Provolone. Oh, wait, maybe a Roast Beef with Cheddar, Green Bell Peppers, Pickles, Jalapenos and Deli Mustard on Whole Wheat.

I. Just. Can’t. Decide. But, boy am I hungry! Yay Football Food!

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Book Review: Step By Step

I have always had a real interest in the medical field…I wanted to go into Neurology when I was in college, but all those pesky math classes kept getting in my way, so now I just live vicariously through researching and reading medical novels.

Author Candance Calvert is a former ER RN, and has written several hit Christian Medical series. Her newest book, Step by Step, is part of the Crisis Team series, a series that follows the lives of Crisis Team volunteers and ER staff.

Step By Step introduces us to Taylor Cabot, a young widow and ER Nurse who has recently moved to San Diego from Sacramento in an attempt to “start over” nearly three years after the loss of her husband. Taylor has outlined a survival plan with a few goals she wants to accomplish by the time that three year anniversary rolls around in just a few weeks.

The novel takes place in San Diego, and opens at a kite festival on the beach. When tragedy hits and an airplane careens into the crowd, Taylor, a crisis team volunteer, is the first on scene helping. Also in town is crisis team chaplain and friend of Taylor’s late husband, Seth Donovan.

Seth has come down to San Diego to lead crisis team volunteer training sessions, but is harboring a secret purpose in his heart–to see Taylor.

Meanwhile, in her attempts to move on with her life, Taylor begins to be seen with suave and handsome plastic surgeon, Rob Halston. When Taylor finds out Seth is in town, she keeps her distance–thinking that starting over means severing all ties from the past. Throughout the book, we watch as Taylor struggles between knowing whether she should trust her heart or her mind as she seeks to find love and joy in her life again.

Besides Taylor, Seth, and Rob, we also read about the stories of Hooper (Taylor’s ailing dog), Sloane (wayward ER nurse) and Kasie (ER tch and crisis team member).

I really enjoyed this novel. It had several exciting and fast paced scenes, and also plenty of romance and dialogue. The dialogue was natural (thought not cheesy) and really showed the inner conflict each character was dealing with throughout the book. I may also have been a bit biased, since it takes place in my hometown of San Diego, and the artwork on the front of the book is the pier where my husband proposed.

I look forward to reading more books by Candace Calvert.

*I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review

 

A Bittersweet Season

IMG_9401The last few months have been tough around here.

Besides the usual busyness of Junior’s appointments and therapies and continuous monitoring of his fairly slow progress, Tater has been seeing a specialist for some potential health concerns. I’m a worrier, and was in Mommy Worry Mode for a while. But, once December rolled around, I was determined to enjoy every second of the Christmas season, and put all my anxieties on the back burner. The kids and I did crafts, baked cookies, and made ornaments. We decorated the tree, had family movie nights, and went out to see all the best Christmas lights San Diego had to offer nearly every single evening.

But, two weeks before Christmas, we got a phone call. One of those phone calls. The kind you always dread in the back of your mind every time the phone rings.

Your dad has advanced cancer.

My dad has battled many health issues over the years, but nothing his great attitude and sense of humor couldn’t overcome. We were shocked…this diagnosis came out of left field, and at Christmastime no less.

My dad was admitted to the hospital and began radiation the same day he was diagnosed. He’s battling, but it’s been tough. It’s been 6 weeks and he still hasn’t been able to come home permanently, but we are prayerful that he will fight this thing and be victorious.

We spent Christmas together as a family…my dad received a 4 hour pass from the nursing facility to come home and visit, have brunch, and open presents…and we tried to make each moment count. It was bittersweet. Sweet for the time spent together, Bitter for the circumstances clouding the day.

Now that it’s January and the excitement of the Christmas season is over, real life has begun to set in again. Junior’s delays are still being assessed. Tater still has follow ups with the specialist. My dad still has cancer. And I’m still tired. Tired of there always being something.

My dad had many favorite quotes he used to tell me growing up. (They annoyed me as a teenager, but now I am grateful for the morsels of wisdom.) One of the phrases he used to quote the most came from the movie Apollo 13, in which a set of circumstances devastating for one character, ended up being the saving grace for everyone else.

Things have a way of working out.

And they will. God promises that ALL things work together for the good of those who love him. Because He is the one who created my story, I trust that He is working everything out for my good. I may be exhausted, worn out, anxious, and grieved, but I have to trust that His promise is true. That things do have a way of working out, even when life is out of our control. Because He’s the One who holds all our tomorrows.

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Delightfully Delicious Greek Salad

greek salad

My sister-in-law is half-Greek. Her dad was born and raised in a little town in Greece, and he came to the United States as a young man. She has taught me a great deal about Greek culture and cooking. Like, did you know that real Greek salad has no lettuce?

It’s true! Authentic Greek salad is made up of vegetables, feta cheese (usually sheep’s milk), and a tangy vinaigrette.

This is one of my favorite vegetarian dishes…you can serve it as a side dish, or as a main dish with some fresh warm pita bread. It would also be great as a make-ahead lunch for the week.

Delightfully Delicious Greek Salad
Serves 4-6
(adapted from Ina Garten)

  • 1 cucumber, cut into 1-inch quarters
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 C grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 C Kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 C feta cheese
    Vinaigrette
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp deli or brown mustard
  • 1/4 C red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of sugar

Put veggies in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together vinaigrette ingredients until well combined. Pour over veggies, top with feta and toss to combine. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes. Serve as a main dish with warm pita bread or as a side dish.

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