Florida Mural Trail

CJ and I went to Florida for the month of May and though it was full of family time, we headed out for adventures of our own. I grew up in Vero and though she may not remember this trip, I wanted to show her my hometown.

One thing that Vero Beach didn’t always have was the mural trail. Florida has this huge mural trail and it was nice to see Indian River County join in on the fun. We made it to all but 3 murals in IRC. We didn’t make it to the ones in Sebastian, but we hit up all of the others.

We broke the adventure up over a couple of days to keep from being overwhelmed…. because you know, toddlers. A lot of them are located right in downtown Vero and down Old Dixie Hwy. There are a couple on the beach side and one down the dirt road part of Oslo, towards the river.

It was nice revisiting some of my favorite spots, but it was especially nice doing it with my daughter. She had a lot of fun taking walks and posing in front of the murals. She had so much fun at the bird mural that she didn’t want to get back into the car.

Click here if you want a quick list to IRC’s mural trail *or* keep reading my version for recommendations of what to do in those areas! Almost all of them are done by different art clubs, schools, and artists. They are credited on the link above!

Audubon Center, Oslo Road

Audubon Center on Oslo Road – The first one I want to share with you is this gorgeous mural full of Vero’s wildlife! Check the hours before to go – we did show up when they were closed, but you can still walk in and see the mural. They also have a little wildflower garden in the back! Afterwards, head on over to the Oslo Shopping Center for ice cream at Smiley Riley’s. Totally kid friendly, but if you are over 21 they have a special menu for you!

Mr. Smokes, 20th Street

This one is close to downtown, but set off from the others. It’s such a cute mural and it’s located right on the side of the Mr. Smokes on 20th Street.

Downtown Vero

The next collection of murals are all located on 14th Ave and Old Dixie Hwy. The Vero Beach Mural is across the street from Southern Social. The Native Indian/Citrus Mural and the Firefly (first pic of the blog post) are in the alley next to Southern Social. The mermaid is on the entrance to the amazing Kilted Mermaid restaurant – great place to grab a beer and some roasted olives. They also have cheese AND dessert fondue. The hibiscus mural is located next to the railroad tracks, right across from the Blue Octopus (great place of unique artwork & furniture). The floral mural is on the side of The Hazel House. Another great home decor store. And last, but not least, the restaurant mural is located across from Kountry Kitchen.

Downtown Vero has a lot to offer – shopping, food, beer, and businesses. I totally recommend walking around some time and checking it all out.

Riverside Park

This one was by far our favorite! It’s located in Riverside Park right by the tennis courts. Charlotte had a blast here. We actually saw a blue jay and a wood pecker in the trees approaching this mural! There is a walking trail right in front of this mural, so it’s a great place for a walk with a view!

Sticking with the beachside for a second! Here are two more murals located in East Vero. These are so close to the beach that you’d be totally missing out to not make this apart of a beach day. The first is located on azalea lane, between cardinal drive & ocean drive. Fun fact! The second mural, the beach scene, is located at Bethel Creek House – where my husband and I held our wedding reception back in 2009!

There were several murals by Christopher Sweeney and they are all similar to this mural. This one is located on 14th Avenue in Vero, right near the FLC. He has several other murals located up and down Old Dixie Hwy and I believe I even saw one in Ft. Pierce. Keep a look out for these in Vero! If it isn’t a heart, it may be a cute little robot.

I’m throwing in some honorable mentions that weren’t on the list provided by VisitIndianRiver.com.

Hidden Valley Orchards

The sunshine was working it today! It has been a whole week of clouds, thunderstorms, and dreary days, but we finally woke up to total sunshine this morning. I immediately decided that CJ and I needed to get out of the house for an adventure that didn’t involve a grocery store.

So we headed out to Hidden Valley Orchards, which has been one of our favorite places to visit since we moved to Ohio. HVO has changed a lot since the beginning, but it’s still an amazing family adventure.

During the summer, they host holiday events, Fruit festivals, petting zoos for kids, and u-pick events. Everything from grapes to apples! They also sell small home decor, fresh fruits & vegetables, baked goods, and canned items. They also just opened a bar and huge patio area this year!

So today CJ and I headed out to pick some blueberries! We got a pint sized buckets for five bucks and ventured out to the fields in search of something yummy.

I love to do stuff like this with her. We went strawberry picking last year at HVO and apple picking in the Fall at another orchard in Yellow Springs. Much like last year and my tomatoes though, she picks the ripe berries AND the tiny little green ones too.

After we filled up our pint-sized bowl of blueberries, we headed inside for lunch. Hidden Valley Orchards has a huge and delicious menu! Burgers, sandwiches, salads, flatbreads, and so many delicious baked goods.

I got CJ a burger with a side of fresh fruit and I got a bacon grilled cheese with green beans. We also got a buckeye brownie, which is less of a brownie and more of a small sized cake.

It was a gorgeous day and totally something we needed after such a gloomy week. We’ve been having a hard time getting back into a routine since we got back too, so even though it’s quite opposite of routine, the spontaneity of today was just what we needed.

And now we’ve got some delicious and as fresh as they get blueberries for the weekend. I’m thinking blueberry pancakes? Muffins? Cake? Or all of the above!

HVO is located at 5474 OH-48 in Lebanon, Ohio 45036

Click here for their Facebook for more info

Toddler VS Tidy House

I’m just gonna say it…. toddlers are gross. You guys know that I adore my daughter and her curiosity for the world, but toddlers are gross and she is no exception.

I’ve always kept a tidy house. Becoming a mom didn’t change that for me. I like things picked up and in their place. It’s just how I function. I actually tend to get a bit of anxiety when things aren’t clean, so tidy just works for our family.

It is not for everyone and that’s okay.

Today I pulled the couch out after I tossed the cushion covers in the washer and I found a collection of toys beneath it – plus some dried shredded cheese and a couple of stale Cheerios. Oh and crumbs. Crumbs everywhere.

Should I be embarrassed to tell you that? Because I’m not. A toddler-sized traveling snack eater lives here and it’s probably not allllll her. I also like to eat popcorn on the couch while I catch up on my shows. And honestly, if the less than desirable couch treasures are the messiest things in my house than I feel like I’m doing a decent job.

I do want to briefly touch on the stigma of tidy vs less than tidy. I saw some comments on an article I read recently and the article talked about tidiness. The comments ranged from wholeheartedly agreeing to subtlety judging the author’s lifestyle. I just want to say that if your kids are happy, tidy or not, then you are doing a good job. There is no need to compare your home to anyone else’s. You don’t live there and you shouldn’t make anyone feel bad for their choices.

Back to tidying up, guys. I want to leave you with a quote and a couple of quick tidying up tips that can fit any parent’s lifestyle. I read this quote about a year ago and it still really shapes the way I do things on a daily basis.

“You have time for what you make time for.”

And with that, here are a couple of my favorite 5 minutes or less daily tidy-tips!

1. Fold the laundry. You’ve done the washing. You’ve done the drying. Now do the folding!

2. Put away the toys before bed. This one really only takes 2 minutes, if that. Each night before I whisk CJ off to bed, we put her books on the shelf. We toss the puzzle pieces on top of the puzzle boards. We line up her impressive collection of cars and everything else gets tossed into the toy box.

3. Make your bed! It might seem silly to make your bed when you are just going to climb into it later, but it’s worth it. Wouldn’t you rather easily climb into those pre-made sheets when you are tired rather than having to zombie your way through straightening out the pillows, sheets, and blankets in the moment that you really just want to lay down?

4. Toss the junk mail. You don’t really need those food coupons that you probably won’t use before they expire anyway. Plus, in the world of technology, you can mostly likely get a better coupon directly on the website. Old bills that you’ve already paid? File or toss. Ads you think you’ll need? Take a picture and make a special file on your phone! Junk mail is called junk for a reason. Don’t let it clutter your coffee table or counters.

5. Vacuum! “What? That doesn’t take 5 minutes. Get outta here!” It does if you vacuum one room a night. Pick the room that needs it the most and go for it. It doesn’t have to be thorough, but it helps a ton when a busy parent finally does get to do a deep clean.

There it is! 5 things you can do in 5 minutes or less. That’s just 25 minutes if you choose to do it all in one night – that is a lot less time than most people spend clicking through social media or watching their shows. And a reminder! If tidying up isn’t your thing? That’s okay. If tidying up is your thing? That’s okay. If you want tidying up to be your thing? Then start with these tips!

It’s done. She’s two!

I’m sitting here on the couch with a heating pad shoved down my shirt because it is 16° degrees outside and with my daughter curled up on my lap under a blanket. All is right in the world. Why does this moment matter so much? Because she’s finally two and we conquered her birthday party on Sunday!

I’ve been planning her Bunny themed party since mid-January and my anxiety did not take a break. But alas, friends, it is done. She is two!

Some Bunny is Two was her theme! We had a garden of veggies, fruit salad, bunny t(r)ail mix, punch, and pizza. Oh, and those super cute cupcakes up above!

We had Peter Rabbit playing on the tv and coloring pages of bunnies and flowers out for the kids to color. I made a bunny bowling box will tissue paper. She and her little friends had a total blast running around. Her party was a success!

But I stressed about it hard. There were lots of 3am Pinterest searches because I couldn’t sleep. A lot of buying, returning, crafting, and creating games & decor that honestly…. two year olds don’t notice nor care about.

Moms, if you are like me when it comes to birthday parties, please stop, drop, and relax. It’s okay to want perfect and fun. It’s okay to do a little or a lot. Your kids will have a blast with their friends whether you nailed down those details or not.

Everything fell into place when her guests arrived. I immediately stopped worrying and joined in on the fun. I encourage you all to do the same! The moments that you are present for are all that matters.

Now does this mean I learned my lesson and won’t stress about future parties? Nope, not a chance. I do think I’ll be able to relax a little more though and make sure I’m present for the important stuff rather than stressing out.

Just remember to breathe and relax!

Here are a couple of cool things about my awesome toddler in celebration of her birthday:

  • She can count to 6
  • She loves to dance
  • She loves cars, trains, and planes
  • She can hear a candy wrapper 3 rooms away
  • She’s a professional tomato picker
  • She is obsessed with books.
  • Though she tried to blow out her candles, she wanted nothing to do with her cake.

It really is the little things. She is very loved by her friends and seeing the happiness on her face is something I’ll always remember – unlike the already fading memory of scrolling endless birthday themed searches.

Growing A Garden

There is nothing more heartwarming to me than watching my daughter learn and grow. I could compare her to a wildflower or maybe a prickly but sweet raspberry plant, but guys… she’s a whole dang garden. And everyone else is too.

Her second birthday is right around the corner and I’ve picked up some gardening supplies and little book about gardening for her as a gift. I am beyond excited for her to receive them and help start the upcoming season’s growth. Though almost two, she is no stranger to harvesting goodies from our garden or getting covered in dirt.

Last year, we planted a wildflower garden for her. We gave out seeds as a party favor for her first birthday (a tradition we will carry on this year) and planted any of the leftover seeds. She’d help me water them every day and patiently wait to stomp in the puddles as the water seeped from the bottom of the flower pot.

While watering her flowers last year, a beautiful white butterfly began floating around and her pure little one year old soul simply said “hi.” She wanted to strike up conversation with a butterfly. This purity with nature is the very basis of what I want to instill in her.

When our vegetables took growth, her ready little hands would help me harvest the morning picks – sometimes a little prematurely. She’s quick when it comes to tomato picking, so we had a fair share of green tomatoes sitting in the windowsill soaking up sun and trying to ripen without their vine. She loved it every bit of it. She’d even do a little happy dance as we headed outside every single day.

If you look at her bookcase, you’ll see a lot of nature, farming, and gardening books. This is no mistake. If I teach her anything it’ll be that nature is the most important thing in life and learning to grow your own vegetables is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself.

My dream is that even if she becomes a busy career woman or a stay at mom is that she’ll always have a certain respect for nature. I want Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle to be apart of her daily life. I pray that she is never the type to litter. I hope she has respect and love for all animals, plants, and trees.

Gardening, even at such an early age, is a beautiful introduction to nature. It teaches her patience and shows her that all things start small. A small seed can one day be a huge oak tree. I want her to learn that the world is ever-changing and you can grow through anything that you go through.

It’s a lesson I hope she learns young, but for those of you who are adults, it’s still a lesson you can adapt into yourselves. You don’t have to start gardening or talking to butterflies. Just start with 5 minutes a day to really stop and appreciate nature and all that it has to offer.

Grow through what you go through

Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers

I know what you came here for and if you are anything like me then scrolling through a ton of texts & photos for a recipe is super disappointing – especially if the page keeps reloading. So I’ll make this easy!

TA-DA

Look at that! I made a recipe template. Oh, and there is the recipe. Keep scrolling for photos and all that text that I initially saved you from!

For those of you that follow me on Instagram, you are more than aware that my food photography needs some SERIOUS work. For those of you that are new here…. well I’m sorry ?

We recently purchased a learning tower for the kitchen so CJ can help me cook. It safely puts her right up to the counter height. She helped me dice the onion and tomatoes for this recipe and insisted on trying raw onion. Her 23 month old taste buds were less than impressed.

She is also pretty obsessed with my DSLR. It’s got quite the mileage on it being a Canon Rebel t3i, so I do let her play with it from time to time. I’m not too worried because it is getting much older and I’m honestly day dreaming about a new camera. My husband is probably thinking “keep dreaming” as he reads this, I’m sure.

There is a shot of her cute little hand helping me to arrange a semi post worthy shot.

The learning tower is a lot of fun for both of us though. Her willingness to try food while we are up there prepping together has really improved. I can’t get her to eat a tomato in her high chair, but at the counter she’ll gladly eat extra pieces of the tomatoes as we dice them. She also gets a close up view of the clean up process. She has taken to wiping the counters down while I rinse the dishes.

I’m really hoping to engrain cooking into her. I didn’t learn how to cook as a kid and had to dive in after marriage. I’m hoping CJ will have those kitchen skills or just the general knowledge of where her food comes from & what she’s putting into her body. My dream is that she won’t grow up to live on ramen & takeout…. so I’m starting her young!

If you have made it this far and didn’t skip out post-recipe, I am truly appreciative of your dedication! I hope you enjoy the recipe! They were very delicious and we can’t wait to eat the leftovers.

Gift From The Sea

This book is a mystery to me – literally. My daughter plucked it from the bookcase and handed it to me. Gift From The Sea? Where did this book come from? I asked my husband and he wasn’t sure either. Oh well. I’m a strong believer in fate.

So I cracked it open. I always like to open a book in the middle and read a page before I decide if I’m going to read the whole thing. I was intrigued, so I determined that this book will be the first of hopefully many that I’d read in 2019.

What I didn’t know was that this book was exactly what I needed to read. From a vacation to the sea into the pages of this book, Anne Morrow Lindbergh provided thought provoking messages about relationships, marriage, finding peace in solitude, and balancing obligations we may carry on our shoulders.

In this non-fiction quick read, Anne takes us to the ocean. Each chapter is named for a shell she has found on her walk along the shore. These shells are symbols for different obligations that the author is currently pondering.

It was a humbling reminder that we, as women, shouldn’t lose ourselves in the role we are meant to play. Women have come such a long way, much further than when this book was published back in 1955. Yet we still struggle in the role of “the woman.” A role often portrayed as the ultimate home maker.

I would bet that this book caused a little uproar when it was first published. I found it to either be ahead of it’s time or possibly just still so relevant in the obstacles that women face daily.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any woman who is trying to find or re-discover herself in the throes of her marriage, motherly duties, or general life. It’s easy to lose ourselves in the daily hustle, but it’s imperative that we remember who we are.