We Are Doing The 2013 Summer Bucket List Challenge! (Happy Family Movement)

summer bucket list challenge main photo

Last year when I heard about the Summer Family Bucket List Challenge by The Happy Family Movement, I immediately signed up. We sat down together as a family and brainstormed things we wanted to do during summer vacation. (You can see my list here)

The challenge is back this summer and you can sign up here. We did! It officially begins on May 20, 2013 and you can enter to win prizes, get inspired by other family’s bucket lists, view adventure guides as well as have access to other travel resources. There’s even a facebook community you can join!

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Colorado Summer Road Trip

Last year I made a garland with each activity listed on a separate index card attached with a mini clothespin. After we did the activity, we’d put up something from the activity by the card (like a program, ticket stub, photo or brochure) and by the end of the summer we had a very fun, visual way to remember our summer vacation! I decided to do something similar this year as well.

The year before last, without a plan in place, the summer ended in a blink of an eye and all those things we had in our brains that we wanted to do, never got done. While we didn’t accomplish EVERYTHING on our bucket list last summer, we did most of them and I really have the Summer Bucket List Challenge to thank.

We are so excited about this year and my kids (my 7-year-old daughter, Annie, and 11-year-old son, Jackson), my husband and I are already thinking about fun things to do with the extra time off. We are crossing a BIG bucket list item off our list before summer even starts. We have a trip to DisneyWorld planned in May! We’ve never been and we are so excited! I also have a bucket list trip  to Paris in June planned with my mom and two sisters. It’s always been my mom’s dream to go. She is retiring this year and we are taking her abroad to celebrate the beginning of the new journey in her life!

But the bucket list challenge isn’t just about big vacations and high-dollar trips. In fact, it’s more about the little things that we feel we’ll always have time to do so we never really do them…like taking a picnic in the park, a bike ride on the beach… or a neighborhood walk to feed the ducks! You can in this post see we crossed this one off our list right as summer started (and you can get a glimpse of the my index card garland)!

Some of the items we didn’t get to like fishing and visiting the observatory have made it on this year’s list. Annie  has been bugging me since last summer to learn to sew and I keep telling her “when we have more time”. So, you guessed it, it’s on our  2013 summer bucket list and we plan to take a class together in July.

Since I work from home full-time and my husband works from home part-time, we have more flexibility to do things like take a family bike ride or a short swim at the neighborhood pool. Our lives have changed a bit since last summer, too. I lost 55 pounds and embarked on a healthier lifestyle which we have all embraced. We ran our first fun run together last weekend and we have many items on our list this year that are more physically challenging then ever before (like participating in a mud run, going water skiing and trying to parasail).

Really though, the items on the list aren’t the most important things about the summer bucket list. Whether or not we go fishing this year (although we hope to!) isn’t what it’s really about (at least to us). What it means to us is to make time to do things together as a family. So many times during the school year we get going in a million directions with homework and after-school activities like scouts and sports… we don’t have time to really visit. Carving out time to do things together during the summer months when time is more on our side is a great way to re-connect. Even planning the outing or trip together can be a fun time in itself!

(If a visit to Aquatica or SeaWorld is on your Summer Bucket List, visit about our trip last year here when we crossed it off our list. We included tips that might help you plan your visit!)

The Patrick Family’s 2013 Summer Bucket List

summer bucket list challenge collage

Ice Cream Cone free printable tag artwork by Amy Moss
  1. Go to the beach
  2. Go fishing
  3. Visit the observatory to see the stars
  4. Go water skiing
  5. Go bird watching
  6. Do a mud run
  7. Go parasailing
  8. Participate in 2 family fun runs
  9. Learn to sew
  10. Sculpt with clay
  11. Keep a journal
  12. Have “date nights” both time for mom and dad to go out alone, plus time for each parent to spend time with each child doing something fun
  13. See a concert with lawn seats at The Woodlands Pavilion
  14. Invite a different family over for dinner every couple of weeks
  15. Have a talent show
  16. Pitch a tent in the backyard and “go camping” Make smores and tell ghost stories.
  17. Face our Fears – pick a thing we  each have always wanted to do but were afraid to … and try it
  18. Go snorkeling
  19. Go to Aquatica and try out some new adventures in San Antonio while we are in town
  20. Go to the Drive-In Movies
I was not compensated for this post. I’m just sharing  great summer resources available because I love the program and want you to have the best summer ever!
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Hill Country Holidays at The Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort – Giveaway


I love Christmas.

I actually love the entire fall/winter season. The period between Halloween and New Years Day is my absolute favorite time of the year.

But it always goes by too quickly!

And if I’m not careful, I let holiday preparations (sending out Christmas cards, shopping for gifts, meal planning and food preparation, etc.) take over and I miss out on the actual joy of the holiday season itself.

Which is why we always try to do something special together as a family each December. Ideally, we try to get away from home because of all the “stuff” that always seems to need to be done. I step away from my Christmas lists and trying to figure out the perfect gift for everyone. I leave the stack of cards to be addressed on the dining room table and we go out to spend time together as a family.

Living in Houston, we are lucky. We are just a stone’s throw away from the beautiful Hill Country and there is so much to do in San Antonio. We love to go to SeaWorld and see the park decorated for Christmas. Sometimes we go camping and enjoy the outdoors and cooler weather.

This year we are going to the beautiful Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort for their annual “Hill Country Holidays,” event – a unique holiday winter wonderland program that runs from November 22, 2012 through January 6, 2013. We can’t wait to see the resort come to life with Christmas lights and decorations and participate in a variety of activities right on the property like ice skating, arts and crafts, cookie decorating, carolers and (of course) a visit with Santa!
In addition to Frost; their synthetic outdoor skating rink, they will also have live shows by the Magik Theatre of San Antonio and The North Pole complete with an elves playland and magical snow fall!

We can’t wait!

With The Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort’s special Holiday Package, it’s an affordable weekend getaway for the entire family. Rates start at $189.00 a night and the The Hill Country Holiday Package includes a $25.00 resort credit per night of stay which can be used to experience any of the Hill Country Holidays activities or  in any other resort amenity including the restaurants. To find out more, visit them online or call 800-WESTIN1 and mention ratecode “HCHPKG”.

A Giveaway!

Do you want to visit The Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort this holiday season? How about for FREE! One lucky, Still Living The Dream reader will receive a prize that includes a one (1) night stay at the resort and tickets for Frost (the outdoor, synthetic ice skating rink) for a family of four (4).

All you have to do is visit  http://bit.ly/WLCholidays2012 and then come back here and leave a comment telling me what you what you like most about the Hill Country Holidays event. A winner will be selected randomly on Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 12:00 noon CST.

Want more chances to win (I always do!) Here they are. You know the drill. Leave a separate comment for each that do below.
  1. Follow me on Pinterest
  2. Follow me on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Like The Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort on Facebook
  5. Tweet this: “I want to win a night @WestinLaCantera Resort for their Hill Country Holidays event. @jpatrickcomm http://www.stilllivingthedream.com/2012/11/hill-country-holidays-at-the-westin-la-cantera-hill-country-resort-giveaway.html”
I received a one-night stay at The Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort for their HIll Country Holidays event, but received no other compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 
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Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Ballet – A Giveaway!

It dawned on me today that there’s only 39 more days until Christmas! This time of the year goes by so quickly and if I don’t remind myself to stop and enjoy the season, it flies right by me.

A Christmas tradition in my family is to see The Nutcracker ballet. The music, the costumes, the dancing…it just brings the season to light. And when that Christmas tree grows on stage and Clara dances with the Nutcracker Prince and snow falls to the ground….magic!

I was SO excited to hear that I don’t have to travel far to see this holiday classic this year. On Monday, December 3, 2012,  at 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, performed by the Mariinsky Ballet Theatre,  is being brought to movie theaters nationwide by NCM Fathom Events and More2Screen.

This is the first time ever it has been shown in select theater locations, and there are several locations in and around Houston including Cinemark 19 in Katy, Cinemark 18 in Webster, Cinemark in Spring, Cinemark 13 in Cypress, Memorial City Mall, and Houston Marq*E, so don’t miss your chance to see this timeless class in Real D 3D.

To purchase tickets before they sell out, visit the Fathom Events website.

A Giveaway!

Do you love The Nutcracker? Would you like to take a friend or family member to see this holiday classic to start celebrating the holiday season? Do you live within driving distance to the Cinemark 13 theatre in Cypress? I’ve got FOUR pairs of tickets to giveaway to four, lucky, Still Living The Dream readers for the December 3rd matinee showing at 2:00 p.m. at the Cinemark 13 in Cypress.

All you have to do is leave a comment stating what you love most about the Christmas season. That’s it, easy-peasy! Four winners will be selected at random on Wednesday, November 28, 2012, at 12:00 noon CST.

Want more chances to win? I know you do (and I’ve got em!) Leave a separate comment for each addition item you do below.

  1. Follow me on Pinterest
  2. Follow me on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Tweet this: “I want win tickets to see The Nutcracker Ballet @jpatrickcomm http://www.stilllivingthedream.com/2012/11/tchaikovsky’s-the-nutcracker-ballet-a-giveaway.html”

Disclaimer: Winners and their guests must arrive 10 minutes prior to redeem seats at the theatre (seats are 100 percent guaranteed until 10 minutes before show time). Winners will receive ticket vouchers to bring with them to the theatre. All federal, state and local regulations apply. A recipient of prizes assumes any and all risks related to use of prize, and accepts any restrictions required by prize provider. Fathom Events, Allied- THA, and their affiliates accept no responsibility or liability in connection with any loss or accident incurred in connection with use of prizes. Prizes cannot be exchanged, transferred or redeemed for cash, in whole or in part. Not responsible if, for any reason, winner is unable to use his/her prize in whole or in part. Not responsible for lost, delayed or misdirected entries. All federal, state and local taxes are the responsibility of the winner. Void where prohibited by law. No phone calls. 

I was given a pair of tickets in exchange for posting information about this great event on StillLivingTheDream.com but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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Thanksgiving Traditions – Imperial Sugar Recipe Contest

I remember Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house when I was a child. My mom and sister and I, along with my aunts and uncles and cousins, would gather around my Grandparent’s table for a feast each year. We’d always eat at noon and then have turkey sandwiches with homemade turkey soup later in the evening while the grown-ups played Pinochle or Poker and the kids played board games or pool.

Ah, traditions.

For the main meal, there was always turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and corn. But Grandma would make some of her originals like her yummy cranberry and jello mold, an onion side dish and out-of-this-world homemade fudge, pumpkin pie and tapioca pudding for dessert.

Many of the same dishes make their way to my table now that I’m an adult with a family of my own. (Although it still eludes me how she got her gravy to be so perfect each year.) I’ve also added some recipes of my own to make our dinner special.

We always joke about the fact that Thanksgiving dinner is a meal that takes hours to prepare and just minutes to devore! But it just doesn’t get any better than enjoying good food with family and friends, whether at the table or while it’s being prepared as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade plays on the TV in the background.

What’s Your Favorite Recipe?

Imperial Sugar is looking for the best, most delicious homemade Thanksgiving recipes from your kitchens. Whether it’s a side dish, a decadent dessert or your grandmother’s classic turkey glaze, Imperial Sugar wants to see and taste your creations.

Three winners will pocket gift cards just in time for the Christmas shopping season. Now that’s something to be thankful for!

  • First place is a $500 gift card
  • Second place is a $300 gift card
  • Third place is a $200 gift card

Contest Details & Rules:

  • Contest began November 1, 2012, and entry deadline is November 23, 2012. Winners will be announced December 2, 2012.
  • All recipes must be the original creation of the Entrant.
  • All recipes must include a minimum of one teaspoon of a Imperial Sugar product.
  • Recipes will be judged by Imperial’s very own Chef Eddy Van Damme.

So what are you waiting for? Get cookin’ and then scoot over to Imperial’s website for the official rules and to enter.

While you are on Imperial’s website, check out the Fun Kid’s Projects in the Kid’s Kitchen section. You can find fun things to make with your kid’s including several Thanksgiving projects like Pilgrim Hat cookies, Candy Acorns and a handprint Thanksgiving Serving Platter.

What are your holiday traditions?

What kind of foods/dishes make up your Thanksgiving feast?

I received compensation for my post about Imperial’s Recipe Contest; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

 

 

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Summer Fun: Feeding the Ducks!

While we were at the library last week, I made little cards with each of our Summer Family Bucket List items on them.

 

We hung them up on the living room wall above the sofa so we can see them everyday.

Yesterday, we were getting ready to go the grocery store and the kids said, “We want to do something FUN!!”

So we looked at the “family fun clothesline” and decided to get an extra sack of bread while at the store to feed the ducks on the way home.

Not every summer family fun moment needs to be an epic adventure like a weekend away to a theme park. Sometimes, stopping by the pond on the way home for 15 minutes can be pretty amazing.

For us, it had been awhile since we stopped to say hello to our neighborhood feathered friends.

Jackson and Annie named them all as they fed them. It was pretty fun.

What fun things have you done with your family spur-of-the-moment?

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And So it Begins – Swim Team Summer League

Daily swim practices.

Start at the crack o’ dawn, all-day swim meets.

Standing on hard pavement for three hours straight timing heats.

Expensive team suits plus googles and swim caps and team t-shirts and photos and….

….memories that make it all worth it.

I’m so proud of my kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cookie Exchanges Do More Than Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth!

Thanks to Duncan Hines for sponsoring my writing. There’s no limit to the baking possibilities, so grab your favorite Duncan Hines mix and Comstock or Wilderness fruit fillings and Bake On! www.duncanhines.com.

Every year in the beginning of December, my friend and neighbor, Judith, has a get together for the gals before life gets crazy during the holidays. Held on a Monday morning, those who participate in her annual Christmas cookie exchange get together to make the “swap” but others are invited to attend for food and fellowship as well.

Although I’ve done it in the past, I didn’t participate in the cookie exchange this year. I’ve been so swamped with work and writing deadlines, I just didn’t think I had the time. And this morning while I sat working at home on my computer and 10:00 a.m. rolled around, I thought I was too busy to get away…even for a couple minutes. And I almost didn’t go.

But Ed loves those chocolate mint surprise cookies that someone almost always makes, so I grabbed my camera and walked down…you know, to get him a cookie.

I’m so glad I did!

I’ve been so isolated with looming deadlines that I forgot what a little time away could do. I caught up and laughed with a good friend I hadn’t talked to in a while (thanks, Phoebe!) and stole several bites of  yummy sweets – you know, for quality control purposes.

It was so good to get together with a group of ladies and just relax. I think every neighborhood needs a Judith, by the way. She’s the kind of person that gets things done and has been instrumental in forming other long lasting groups like the cookie exchange (which has been going strong for 11 years under her leadership!) such as a baby sitting co-op, book club and advent ornament exchange.

Refueled (with several cookies and great conversation!) I got a lot of work done today. It’s amazing what a cup of coffee and a snickerdoodle can do for your productivity! I was just sad that I didn’t make the time to make cookies for the exchange. If I had, there would be 12 dozen different yummy goodies on my counter top when my 3:00 p.m. wall hit!

But I was working so hard I didn’t even look up from my computer until 3:30 p.m. when the kids got home. Then at 4:00 p.m. the door bell rang. Judith had put together a plate of cookies for me! I was overwhelmed by the kindness of the thought.

I have to remember to take time out to get together with good friends when I’m feeling pressured and stressed. And I have to remember to thank those like Judith in my life who make get togethers like this possible.

And I think I’m going to get out the cookie sheets tomorrow and “pay it forward”. I don’t care how busy I am. Maybe someone else needs a snickerdoodle and a smile, too!

Judith with Ann (who started the cookie exchange in 1990!)

Remember to check out Duncan Hines’ website www.duncanhines.com to find some great recipes for your holiday get-together! I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective.

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Christmas Tradition – Decorating the Tree with #TysonGoodness

Every year when we get out the tree and ornaments and begin to deck the halls, sometime after Thanksgiving Day but usually before St. Nick Day on December 5th, we have a tradition. I get an assortment of finger type food and we have an hors d’oeuvre dinner. Sounds fancy? Nope. I’m talking about easy, peasy yummy finger food we love on plates in the living room coffee table where we can grab and go as we decorate (with a Christmas movie playing in the background, of course!).

A couple of staples are:

1. baked potato skins (my favorite)

2. a cheeseball with crackers (Ed’s favorite)

3. frozen pizza cut into small bites (we all love this!)

A couple new things we tried this year. Carmalized onion and cheese puffs (I loved them but no one else did. However, they will be back next year!) And the new Tyson Mini Chicken Sandwhiches.

Tyson chicken nuggets are in my freezer 24/7/365. If we get low on this item, bells and alarms start sounding because my kids are crazy for their chicken nuggets and they are a fast lunch, snack or dinner option when things get hectic in our household. And they do get hectic!

Now we have another #TysonGoodness favorite. Knowing I was going to be reviewing the mini sandwiches (and almost certain the kids were going to love them) I bought them at Walmart and tucked them in the freezer for our annual tree decorating event.

That night I went to get them out and HELLO…all but one of the packages were gone! Guess who already tried them out? My husband! He had been taking the microwavable packages (each with 2 mini sandwiches in them) to work during the week and having them as a breakfast or snack and LOVES them!

So with Mickey Mouses Christmas playing on the TV and the artificial tree halfway assembled…I cooked the last two mini sandwhiches for Jack and Annie. After giving dad a hard time, the kids dove in and loved them!

Since then we’ve had them as after school snacks and weekend lunches because they are so easy to prepare (just pop em in the microwave in their package for about a minute on each side). I’ve been told by the kids and Ed that they have a place on the “staples” grocery list next to the regular Tyson nuggets.

A GREAT Deal on Tyson Mini Chicken Sandwiches!

 

Still Living The Dream readers, you know I loves me a good deal and love it even more when I can pass one on to you! Currently if you buy two Tyson Mini Chicken Sandwiches at a participating Walmart, you’ll receive a $5.00 Walmart Gift Card!

Hello good deal, nice to meet you!

My freezer will be well stocked now! Just be sure to checkwww.Tysongoodness.com to find out where to go because they aren’t available at all Walmart stores. Click here for more information about the promotion which ends on 1/13/12.

 

So tell me, what’s one of your holiday traditions? Do you cook something special for the occasion?

 

This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Mom Spark Media. All opinions shared are my own. 

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Art is Therapeutic

Yesterday was a very, very sad day for me. My husband and I had to put our sweet dog, Sadie, to sleep. She was a part of our family for 16 years and I can’t yet put into words how much I miss her.  When I am able to write more about how much she meant to our family, I will. But today I’ve just felt empty.

When I woke up this morning I walked over the spot where she used to sleep (in the middle of the hallway!) and have started several times to let her out back. I can almost here her little feet on the tile floor and her scratching at the back door to let me know she’s ready to come back in.

Not really knowing what to do with myself…I made a prototype of the ornament I’m going to contribute to the Jesse Advent Tree project I’m doing this year.  A group of 25 friends have gotten together and we each drew a day of advent (December 1 – 25). Using the symbol of that day – we will each make 25 ornaments (one for ourselves and one to exchange with each person). When we are all done, we will have 25 different ornaments to open each day of advent along with a bible verse to read and reflect upon. I’ve done this before and decided that I’m going to give my set as a present to someone very special to me.

This year I drew the 24th of December – an angel. I used some techniques I learned at the mixed media art class I took while at Spark.

Sadie was my angel.

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Annie Got Her Ears Pierced

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks for my little five-year-old. Besides starting “big girl school” as a kindergartener last week – Annie got her ears pierced.

My sister and I had to wait until we were eight to get ours pierced when we were growing up. And I told Annie the same thing. But I’m putty in that little girl’s hands and after months and months of Annie asking, begging, pleading “pretty please with sugar on top”, I caved.

Annie brought her friend, Kerrigan, to hold her hand and in five minutes…she grew up before my eyes.

Before

During

 

After

It’s been an emotional couple of weeks for mommy. Annie’s taking it all in stride.

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