Weekend Getaways Close to Home – Our #Staycation at Woodlands Resort

Sometimes you just need to get away!

Taking a break from the worries of work, schedules and your normal routine can be such a great way to gain a new perspective and relax, but it can also be hard to carve out time to go on a long vacation. Plus, organizing and financing a trip far from home can be time consuming and pricey when you take into consideration flights, activities, hotels and meals.

We’ve taken several “staycation” mini breaks at home over the years, both over  the summer but also when school is in session when I find that schedules are beginning to run our life. Blocking out a weekend or even one day to spend together as a family can help us get reconnected and we’ve gone on picnics and museum trips and even just stayed home for games or movie marathons.

But it’s hard to really “get away” and be present with your family when you are at home looking at the loads of laundry, dishes and bills that need to be dealt with. Then there’s the lawn that needs to be mowed and wait…what? Is that the roof leaking?!!!

The Woodlands Resort seemed to sense we were in panic mode recently and called to see if we would check out their new lazy river and be their guest for an overnight retreat. We were thrilled to be offered this opportunity. Just about 45 minutes away, The Woodlands Resort is close enough to make it an easy trip, but far enough so that we put some distance between us and the work that was at home.

We actually stayed at the Woodland Resort in the spring, but that was before the lazy river was built and it happened to rain the entire time we were there (check out my post “How To Make the Best of a Rainy Vacation“). We still had a great time, but we really missed being in the water.

This time we arrived early Saturday morning to take advantage of all the poolside activities. Even though check-in isn’t officially until 3:00 p.m., The Woodlands Resort allows their guests to come earlier on the day of arrival to enjoy the property. Just stop by the desk and they’ll give you your bracelets. You can start sipping cold lemon-aid and racing down the water slides and they’ll call you when your room is ready!


We picked a seat by the back pool and water fall, so relaxing! But all the kid’s activities were happening at the front pool by the Cool Water Cafe.


Annie was excited about the line-up of activities scheduled for the day. She definitely wanted to get her face painted, get a balloon creation and take part in the hula hoop contest.

Woodlands Resort

We had a great meal by the pool from The Cool Water Cafe. Then at 3:00 p.m., we got a call that our room was ready! Our door was right by the pool and the back patio overlooked the lazy river. What a perfect view! The kids took a small break while I got ready to head over to The Spa at the main building.


The Spa is very quaint, quiet and relaxing. The therapist I had was wonderful. She asked me if it was ok if she worked out some of the kinks in my shoulders during my Swedish Massage. Yes, please! The hour flew by and I left feeling more relaxed for sure, but also more alert and energized!

cool water cafe

We were going to take advantage of the kids eat free deal in the Woodlands Dining room, but we were having so much fun by the pool, we decided to eat dinner poolside at the Cool Water Cafe again. They have a nice menu, so we were all able to get something different then we had for lunch.

lazy river

After dinner, we made S’Mores at the Fire Pit and circled around the lazy river a couple times before the movie. Their new, 1,000 foot lazy river wraps around the Forest Oasis Pool and guest rooms. With music playing along the way, we relaxed as we floated (the current isn’t too strong, very easy going) and then had a blast sliding down the new two-story water slide.

cookies and milk

When we returned to our room after the movie later that night, we had a surprise waiting for us…a cookie cake and carafe of milk. The kids felt so fancy! What a perfect way to end the day.

After a great night’s rest, I got up early to run. The fitness center is open 24/7, but I wanted to check out the property and run outside. They have a bike and run trail that surrounds the resort, but I just ran throughout the property and saw the golf course and tennis courts.


There is a lot of construction going on at the resort right now, but once you are back by the pool area – you hardly notice anything is going on. The $60-million expansion and renovation began last year and includes a new 184 guest room wing, the new (and now open!) lazy river and a new steakhouse along with an update to the resort’s conference center. We stayed in one of the 200+ renovated guest rooms at Fairway Pines, and they are really nice! The beds were comfortable and the furnishings were pretty with a modern Texas vibe. (Just be sure to ask for a room with a refrigerator if you think you’ll need one during your stay. Not all rooms have one right now.)

We will definitely go back to the Woodlands Resort again soon. It was one of the most relaxing overnight stays I’ve ever had and because it was so close to home, getting there was stress-free! The Woodlands is such a great area and there are plenty of stores and restaurants located close by, but they have everything you need right at the resort so there’s really no need to ever leave the property once you arrive. We didn’t…and we can’t wait to do it again!


I was invited to stay at the Woodlands Resort with my family in order to review the property and resort amenities. I did not receive any other compensation and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 



New Grilled Chicken at Chick-fil-A #GrilledLove (Giveaway)

Chick-fil-A is at it again.

Last year I posted nutritional information and a review of Chick-fil-A’s newest salads and wrap which continue to be extremely popular with their customers. I love the healthier menu options which make it easy to eat well while on the go.

Recently they made a big change to their grilled menu.


Have you heard about this latest news? Maybe not, because they played it all calm and low key and just kind of snuck these in on their menu without doing a lot of promotion. In fact, even though David and his team invited me and my friends to preview the new items for free at the restaurant in our area in Houston on April 7th, they had actually already been serving the items to their customers for several weeks.

Even though they didn’t make a lot of hooplah, make no mistake…this change is HUGE.

Chick-fil-A has introduced a new lineup of grilled chicken entrees that will give the chain one of the most nutritious and expansive grilled menus across the quick-service industry.

On April 14, the Atlanta-based restaurant chain officially rolled-out three new entrees:

  1. Chick-fil-A® Grilled Chicken Sandwich
  2. Chick-fil-A® Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich
  3. Chick-fil-A® Grilled Nuggets

So you’re probably thinking, what? They already have a grilled chicken sandwich and grilled nuggets – what’s the big deal?

Actually, the items they have been serving on their menu for years have been CHAR-GRILLED, not grilled. Chick-fil-A invested seven years of testing and more than $50 million to reinvent its grilled chicken recipe including the creation of a proprietary grill. This grill sears chicken perfectly on cast-iron grates like it was cooked on a backyard grill, only faster.

What does that mean for you and me?

Chick-fil-A’s new chicken filet is 1 1/2 ounces larger than the fried filet. The grilled recipe is moister, juicier and more flavorful than the char-grilled version offered before. Each grilled chicken breast is marinated with a blend of sea salt, lemon, garlic and savory herbs, and cooked on their newly developed proprietary grill.

My friends (girl scout brownie troop moms) and I were all, “that sounds good – but we’ll be the judge of that!” So we all ordered items from the grilled menu and chowed down, Texas style.

Our verdict? Delicious! Every grilled menu item was so tasty and moist…you can actually see sear marks on the chicken. Did you know that some restaurants have a grill mark press they use to simulate sear marks?! Chick-fil-A’s are for real!

chickfila chicken

Check out the details including nutritional facts on the grilled chicken items:

  • Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Sandwich: The Grilled Chicken Sandwich is a boneless, 100 percent pure breast meat chicken, marinated with a special blend of seasonings, served on a new toasted, multigrain bun (not wheat) with green leaf lettuce and tomato and with a side of Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce. Pickles no longer come on the sandwich to reduce the sodium level. It is priced starting at $4.29 with just 320 calories and 5 grams of fat, making it one of the most nutritious grilled entrees in the quick- service industry.
  • Take it up a notch with the Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich with Colby-Jack Cheese and Applewood smoked bacon for $5.49 with 440 calories and 14 grams of fat.
  • Chick-fil-A Grilled Nuggets: Chick-fil-A Grilled Nuggets are pure boneless breast of chicken that come in the four and six-count kid’s meals are also available in eight-count (140 calories, 3 fat grams for $3.79) or 12-count (200 calories, 4.5 fat grams for $5.59) packs. Grilled Nuggets are made without gluten-containing ingredients and are free of trans fats.

I love to get grilled nuggets with honey mustard dipping sauce (one of the better choices at 45 calories a serving) with a side of fruit and a diet lemon aid!

Chick-fil-A’s new grilled chicken recipe is also in the Chick-fil-A Grilled Market Salad, Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap and Chick-fil-A Chicken Salad Sandwich.

As someone who tries to make healthy food choices wherever I go, I appreciate that Chick-fil-A makes their nutritional information easily accessible on their menu boards. You can also go online to find a meal calculator.

kids with cones

What’s on the horizon for Chick-fil-A:

1. On Feb. 11, Chick-fil-A announced that it will serve chicken raised without antibiotics in all its restaurants nationwide within five years. The move marked the first time a quick service restaurant has committed to a 100 percent “raised without antibiotics” standard for poultry.

2. Iced and hot coffee will be introduced in August 2014. Farmer-direct medium-roast coffee was developed especially for Chick-fil-A by experts at THRIVE Farmers. Both will be available in original and vanilla in 16- and 20-oz. serving sizes.

3. Frappes will be coming late 2014 to early 2015! Sustainably sourced by THRIVE Farmers, they will offer Triple Chocolate and Salted Caramel flavors.

4. Smoothies. Word on the street is Chick-fil-A will come out with pineapple mango, strawberry orange and berry acai smoothies made with real fruit and low-fat yogurt sometime in 2015. All smoothies will be 300 calories or less.

Want to be the judge the new grilled items yourself? How about….A Giveaway!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

 group with chikfila cow

My friends and I were treated to dinner at Chick-Fil-A in order to review the new grilled items. No compensation was received and, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 


Man’s Best Friend Deserves A Beautiful Collar

Sadie with Annie in 2006

I never had a pet growing up, so when my husband and I adopted our little dog, Sadie, from the Citizens for Animal Protection 16 years ago – it was a big deal. We fell in love with her the minute we saw her. She is a beautiful border collie, sheltie mixed breed and when she looked up at us that day, well – we melted.

Sadie has been with us through thick and thin. She’s lived in three different homes with us, was there when we brought both of our babies (now 10 and 5 years old) home from the hospital and has loved us unconditionally…even when life got so busy that long walks to the park became less frequent.

I love my dog so much. I know that she won’t be with us forever and even though she’s got a lot of spunk left in her for an old gal, I can certainly tell she’s slowing down. It’s hard for her to see, she can’t jump up on the coach or go upstairs anymore and she walks a bit slower. But she’s happy and I’m so thankful for every day we have with our sweet Sadie Lady.

I was brushing Sadie the other day and realized that she’s had the same collar for a LONG time. Unacceptable! Really, a collar is the only way a doggie can can glam it up!  I looked for one at the local pet store, but they were all kinda…boring. So I looked online and found a great website, Dog Collars Boutique, that has a ton of great pet collars…so many that I had a hard time deciding which one to select. They have everything from bling to “rock star” leather style collars to subtle solid color canvas collars in all sizes and price ranges. Collars with spikes, crystals and beads. Preppy-style argyle print collars, personalized collars and 60′s style flower-power collars.

Sadie Lady has simple taste and so I decided on a simple but beautiful pink, round-rolled leather collar by Auburn Leathercrafters. These collars are perfect for long-haired dogs because the round shape helps prevent tangled and matted fur around the dog’s neck. Which is good for Sadie because her hair is so long you can barely even see her collar!

My order shipped quickly and when the package arrived, it was wrapped up so cute in paw print tissue!

In addition to dog collars, they also carry cat collars, dog training collars and organic dog toys.

Me and Sadie...9/12/11

Sadie loves her new collar and I love that I did something nice for her. I think it’s time for a nice, long, (albeit slow) walk to the park. Just me and Sadie!

I was given a collar to review by Dog Collar’s Boutique but wasn’t otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 


Correct HALO ProBar 40% Off Link and Code

As mentioned in yesterday’s post – I’m offering 40% off an online order of HALO bars. The link given to me was incorrect. Please use this one  http://theprobar.com/shop and enter “BLOGGER” upon checkout (all caps). Sorry for the confusion! (It’s corrected in the post now!)


Buck: A Documentary

Last night my family and I saw the premiere of the documentary Buck and had the pleasure to meet Buck Brannaman, the horseman that it is about. We were, unfortunately, a few minutes late; however, from where we jumped in (about 10 minutes into the film) we were hooked.

Buck is a horse whisperer of sorts. Abused by his father as a child, he turned his painful past into a life where he travels 40 weeks a year teaching clinics that help people GENTLY train their horses. Highly regarded in his field, he assisted Robert Redford with the making of the movie, The Horse Whisperer starring Scarlett Johansen….which is covered briefly in the documentary.

Buck was present to answer questions at the end of the film and while many in attendance were horse owners with questions about specific problems they have with their own horses, many more people commented on how the film moved them to tears and applauded Buck for the work that he does. Known  as a humble and quiet-tempered man, Buck thanked each audience member for their comments…dodging any kind of indication that he is out of the ordinary. In fact, he doesn’t even consider himself a horseman but hopes when he meets his trainer, Ray, in heaven some day that he’ll be proud of him.

I loved Buck’s sense of humor that came through both in person and in the film. And his honesty. At one point in the film he works with a wild and dangerous horse that can’t be broken and while dealing with both the owner and the horse, he stayed calm but spoke from his heart. It was a moving scene for sure. Buck believes that many “horse” problems are really “people” problems. Truly, issues with children have much to do with the parents. Same holds true with horses, Buck believes.

In fact, questions from the audience that didn’t have to do with horse specific issues were mostly about those that suffered abuse in some way…or those that work with abused children. After Buck’s mother died he lived with foster parents that he loves dearly. He said of the film, if it makes someone aspire to be like Betsy Shirley (his foster mom) and give a kid no one cares about a home, then it was worth it.

I asked him how a cowboy from Wyoming handles sudden movie star status.

Standing in the theatre with brown cowboy boots, a yellow dress shirt with a western decorated tie, cowboy hat and jeans tight enough to see the outline of a round tin can in his front pocket he answered: “The film has a beginning, middle and end and one day when it’s in the bargain bin at Walmart, I’ll be back doing what I was doing and be just fine.”

Pretty authentic.

I highly recommend you check Buck-The Documentary out when it hits theatre July 1st.

I was invited to a special screening in order to review this movie but received no other compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


Father’s Day Present Idea – Personalized Cufflinks!

I never know what to get Ed for Father’s Day. Flowers seem weird and hand tools are too expensive! Because I’m a scrapbooker I like to make meaningful gifts, usually with photos. When I heard about the customizable cufflinks from PhotoJewelryMaking.com; I knew I found this year’s gift.

I have a lot of different jewelry with Annie and Jackson’s photos on them and PhotoJewelryMaking.com offers tons of choices for women including bracelets, necklaces and rings; however, they have items like the cufflinks for men, too – which I think is brilliant.

I received my Father’s Day Easy Change Photo Cufflinks Kit ($19.99) in the mail which contained instructions, photo paper, the cufflinks and the EZ photo resizer CD.

After installing the software, I was able to download the photos I wanted to use and size to fit the cufflinks perfectly. I printed them on the photo paper, cut them out and placed them on the cufflinks. Easy peasy!

I wish I had selected a photo of Jackson that wasn’t so close up (I picked photos of the kids in their baseball team hats), but I think they turned out great.

I really like that the website carries all supplies you need to make photo jewelry and if I wanted to get another set of cufflinks without the CD etc, I can order them for just $9.99. They also carry several different home business kits with supplies to make many necklaces, etc. Perfect if you had a lot of gifts to give or want to earn a little extra money on the side.

What are you giving your dad/husband for Father’s Day this year?

Disclosure: I was provided a free cufflink kit to review but wasn’t otherwise compensated for this post. All opinions are my own. (So are the cute kids on the cufflinks!)


Cube Dog App Review

Thank you to Cube Dog for sponsoring this review. For more information about Cube Dog please visit the Facebook page or download it on iTunes.

Ever since I got my iPhone 4 I’ve been all about the apps. My kids have theirs (which have saved me on more than one occasion when waiting in a long line or for a doctor’s appointment) and I have mine (I loves me my words with friends!). Once in a blue moon, we all enjoy the same app. Have you heard of Cube Dog? It must be a blue moon because my kids and I ALL think it’s cool.

This free app allows you to customize up to three dogs by choosing features including eyes, mouth, body and ears. You can choose what color you want your dog to be (Annie picked pink, go figure?!!) and name him or her. Then you are able to interact with your dog through different strokes on the screen. Jackson loved putting his pet, “cuby dog” into Ninja mode and Annie loved it when her dog, “Marlo”, got hearts in his eyes! You can play ball with your cube dog and he can even “call” you on his cell phone…so cute!

The feature we love the most, though, is the ability to take photos of your cube dog and WITH your cube dog. The high-quality 3D animations; compatible with the iPhone and iPod touch 4 with camera, are really cool and Annie and Jackson give the app 2 thumbs up!

In the cube dog store you can also purchase more parts and animations to further your cube dog fun and creativity.

Check out this video which shows how you can customize your own cube dog!

You can also check out Cube Dog on Facebook here. They are hosting a fun contest from June 13 to June 17, 2011!

What do you think? Do you love your Cube Dog?!

While Cube Dog provided me with the app to review, the opinions I’ve expressed here are solely my own and represent my honest viewpoint. Cube Dog, Clever Girls Collective and I promote Blog With Integrity.


Review and Giveaway: Knowledge Adventure Online Games

Sometimes I need a little peace and quiet but feel slightly guilty about putting my kiddos in front of the TV (I said ‘sometimes’ – other times I don’t feel any guilt about turning on a little Spongebob or ICarly) On the days I’m feeling especially mother of the year-ish, I try to find activities for the kids to do that are both fun AND educational. I know – I’m awesome like that. It’s just how I roll.
My kids and I were recently given the opportunity to check out a cool kids website, http://www.jumpstart.com/ that we think IS both fun and educational. Let’s call it – “Fudcational”. Knowledge Adventure created this virtual world for kids ages three to 10 years old where they can create their own avatars and explore magical worlds, discovering and unlocking games, videos and storybooks that teach them about subjects including math and reading. (Without them really knowing that they are actually learning stuff. Which is sometimes key to the “Fun” part of Fudcational.)

The company told me that they constantly add more features, portals and learning games to the site, so there’s always something different to do. My nine-year-old son, Jackson loved the fact that because of how it was designed you never “finish it”.

“With some games once you win, you’re done – but with this you know you’ll always have something new to check-out whenever you log-on” he said.

You can design your own avatar…and name it!

He is wise above his years.

I was a little skeptical about a website that claimed to appeal to both my five-year-old daughter AND my nine-year-old son…they are worlds apart in their “gaming” skills. But there are many places to explore once you launch JumpStart. The first is an area called StoryLand, aimed at 3-5 year olds, and Annie loved it here. She was able to design her own “jumpeez”, which is the character she named “Olivia Brave Daisy”, and within about 20 minutes was able to navigate throughout the land all by herself. YAY!

She spent a lot of time in the art house where she could paint pictures and in the movie house where she could sing and dance to songs like “Head, shoulders, knees and toes!” She adopted a pet in one area and it followed her along to other areas. Very cute.
They also have AdventureLand and MarineLand, designed for kids in kindergarten to second grade and FutureLand, geared towards older children. Jackson hung out in this area a lot and liked the Industrial Zone. His jumpeez had a glider outfit so he could fly around. He thought the Buggy racer was pretty fun and the Ghost Town Grab game was challenging and cool.
JumpStart also just launched what is now their most popular area, the Enchanted Sanctuary, where kids can hatch and raise their own dragons…which satisfies their “I want a pet” desires without me having to run to the pet store for new goldfish every week.

They add fun seasonal things to the site often!
We all really liked the seasonal play areas (in the winter they could throw virtual snowballs and right now they have Valentine’s Day themed attractions). Parents can visit the JumpStart Blog at http://blog.jumpstart.com for information about the latest additions to the game.
You wanna try it out? How about for FREE?! The great folks at Knowledge Adventure/JumpStart have given me a three-month membership to give away to a lucky “Still Living The Dream” reader (that’s you, silly!) just in time for Valentine’s Day. Just a little way for me to say, hey – I love ya!
The membership includes access for six kids, unlimited access to Jumpstart.com, Mathblaster.com (the new virtual world for kids 6-12) and 4 downloadable games. All you have to do is leave a comment about how you would spend some quiet time while your kids are playing JumpStart. I’ll pick one randomly on February 14th. Isn’t that cool?


Counting game in StoryLand
Disclosure: I was provided with a JumpStart membership at no cost by Knowledge Adventure in order to test the products’ abilities and give my own personal opinions on it. The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but were not influenced by the company or the free product provided.


Monster Truck Jam

I’m kinda a girlie girl in a lot of instances. So when I found out I was having a boy nine years ago I sorta panicked. I didn’t have brothers and grew up with just my mom and sisters for the most part. I wasn’t sure I was going to be any good at “boy” things.

Fast forward to 2010 and you would have never known I had any anxiety about raising a son. I’m immersed in cub scouts. I become crazy mom at baseball games and swim meets. I attend airshows and rodeos. I camp. I buy shoot em up video games and bb guns and (as of this week) I decorate bedrooms with all things military. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I went to the Monster Truck Jam last weekend and had a blast.

But I was. I really didn’t expect to have a great time. I knew my son and husband would think it was cool (and they did) but I wasn’t convinced that Annie and I would be entertained. We were.

I like spas. And the theatre. And nice clothes. And good food. And things that don’t require earplugs.

And now I like Monster Trucks.

Driver David Smith (King Krunch) who is from Houston!
Annie and Jackson on the course before the show!
Autograph session after the show
I was surprised that it was such a family friendly type event. I expected a lot of men, drinking a lot. For the most part – it was the typical family of four in attendance. Lots of moms who like manis and pedis just as much as me! We had the fantastic opportunity to meet drivers before the show and almost all of them were sweet guys who have kids of their own and love the fans more than anything else. (There was also one female driver there, Madusa, who is a rock star. I found out while she doesn’t have any kids right now, she is planning to adopt soon.)
So check out my official review of the event at savvysource.com soon. And enjoy these photos from our visit. Oh – and as Madusa would say, “Eat dirt!”
Madusa used to be a pro wrestler!
Jackson and Annie signing one of the cars that got demolished in the show
Driver Alex Blackwell of Captain’s Curse. He won both events!
Driver Dan Evans and his wife Lorri. Super cool people.

Disclosure: I was provided with tickets to Monster Jam at no cost in order to review the event and give my own personal opinions about it. The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others, but were not influenced by the company or the fact that I was given tickets to the event.


Carl’s Jr. – I Just Don’t Get It

A couple of weeks ago a Carl’s Jr. burger joint went up a couple miles down the road from me. Apparently it’s the only one in Houston and is a big deal. Everybody’s all, “Oh my gosh, there’s a Carl’s Jr. here now” and I’m all “What the heck is a Carl’s Jr.?” and there all, “Oh my gosh, it’s the best.”

Which I was assuming was true because since it’s opened there has been a line of at least 20 cars in the drive-thru at all hours of the day. Today Ed said, “Let’s go see what all the fuss is about and get a burger.” And I said, “ok”. Because I’m pretty easy-going like that. And I wanted to see what all the hullabaloo was for myself. And because I love any opportunity to say and/or write the word “hullabaloo”.

So we went there at 11:30 a.m. and at noon we finally got through the drive-thru line. As we waited in line I looked over across the street at poor little Wendy’s. Just sitting there. All alone. No one in line. I’m thinking the owner of that particular restaurant was like, “It’s so awesome that Carl’s Jr. opened up across the street. That makes me so happy. The only one in Houston – right across the street from me. Can you believe the luck?!!”

Then I looked over to the left and saw Chick-filet and thought the owner over there was probably thinking, “Hamburgers are for losers, Carl – it’s all chicken – baby!” Then I remembered that they are a Christian organization and they probably wouldn’t think that. They probably wish Carl well and think there’s room for everyone in our fast-food obsessed market. Plus – they have a really kick-ass drive-thru system and you’re in and out quickly. So they have that going for them. And the cow mascot. They’ll definitely be ok.

I ordered “the original $6.00 burger” combo with a coke. They were out of Coke. That wasn’t a good way for me and Carl to start off our relationship. Mama likes her Coke. Not Coke Zero. Not Diet Coke. Coke. It’s how I roll.

But what was really disappointing (besides the fact that I ORDERED my $6.00 burger with lettuce, mayo and ketchup and GOT my burger with cheese and meat, is that it just wasn’t good. It was overcooked, dry and cold. Just like I make them at home. Yuck.

So Carl’s Jr. – I’m sorry – but I just don’t get it. But thanks for the inspiration for this blog post.