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4.26.2016

Balancing Work, Life, Travel, and Family: A Long Layover at DFW with the Kids

 
For those who ask me how I balance it all (kids, a full-time job, travel, and trying to maintain some fabulousness in life), my response is generally that it takes prioritization and planning.  You have to look at the things that are most important to you, make a plan for how to accomplish them, and let go of the rest.  Doing this ensures that you can get it done.  You can't have it all, but you can still have the things that are the most important. 
 
One recent example of how this manifesting for me in real life was during our trip to Puerto Rico (more on that trip later).  We were taking a long weekend to visit family and celebrate my sister's 50th birthday.  Given our upcoming trip to Kenya, I decided to take advantage of our long layover at DFW airport to get some work done and save some PTO.  Another benefit to getting a little bit of work in at the beginning of a vacation is that I felt less stressed coming back to work the next Tuesday.  I felt more caught up than I usually would after a vacation, thus avoiding that feeling of being behind and needing to work extra when I got back.  I think a lot of you know that struggle!
 
Planning ahead helped me realize that I could get a half-day's work done while on layover.  I also knew that DFW had several kid's play areas (the Junior Flyers Club, located in the A, B, and C terminals - learn more about the family-friendly facilities at DFW here).  With my Mi-Fi in hand, I was able to connect, plug-in (plenty of outlets in the Junior Flyers Club), and work on my laptop while my kids played and made new friends.  I was able to take conference calls (hands-free phone headsets are a dream), write emails, accomplish tasks, and have a pretty productive few hours while the kids entertained themselves.
 
One challenge was when someone needed to use the bathroom.  It required me to gather all computer equipment plus our carry-ons to escort our young boys to the restroom.  Thankfully there was a family restroom close to the Junior Flyers Club in terminal A so we could all go in together without leaving any of our items unattended.
 
Once the layover was done and we were ready to board our flight to San Juan, I considered the work day over, and the vacation weekend begun.  All my attention at that point went to family fun.  Balance in action!
 
The Junior Flyers Club at DFW has several activities for kids - enough to keep them entertained for a long time while on a long layover.
 
My curly-top boys posing for a photo.  Pardon the awful back-lighting!

We had lunch at Ling & Louie's, an Asian fusion restaurant right next to the Junior Flyers Club in terminal A. Pictured here are the delicious ahi tuna poke tacos that I had.

 
What other tips do you have for keeping kids entertained on a long layover?  How have you balanced work, life, and travel?

4.22.2016

Tropical Pineapple Party - Destination Birthday Party in Puerto Rico

 
The Fab Fam just got back from Puerto Rico, where we celebrated my sister Lina's 50th birthday party with our family.  I am so grateful for the hospitality of my Puerto Rican cousins, aunts, and uncles, who helped make the experience really special for Lina.  It was an amazing, whirlwind weekend of sight-seeing and soaking up sun (more on that on the blog soon), but one of the highlights was Lina's party!
 
As the family's go-to party planner, I was tasked with finding a theme to make the party as special as the fabulous destination location.  I decided to work with the recent pineapple trend and do a tropical pineapple and palm tree party.  The color scheme was metallic gold, green, and pink.
 
The party was at night, so I didn't have the benefit of natural light for my photos, but here are the party details.  I hope this inspires you for your own pineapple birthday party, bachelorette party, shower, or destination wedding!
 
Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a commission.  This does not cost you anything additional, and helps me to keep the rest of my content free, so thank you!
 
19 of our party guests were family and friends visiting from the continental US, so the theme was introduced with welcome bags for the out-of-town guests as they arrived.
 
The out-of-town guest bags included a customized bag from Dunkirk Designs on Etsy (my custom order included the bag, tattoo, and personalized lip balm), personalized sunglasses from Etsy, personalized pineapple lollipops from Etsy, a mini bottle of Bacardi for the adults' bags, and sunscreen and aloe from Amazon.



The party itself was a festive and sparkly pool party! Aside from the great company, delicious Caribbean food, Puerto Rican rum, and cerveza kept the guests happy while salsa music played in the background.  Here are the décor details:
 
 Large inflatable palm trees and gold Mylar number balloons decorated a central area of the party (and yes, those numbers are two different sizes - don't get me started on that one, but there is a reason I am not linking to the retailer where I got them).
 
The cake table was sprinkled with gold pineapple confetti and decorated with fake palm leaves (these from Oriental Trading, and these from Amazon) and tissue pineapple centerpieces.

 
Foil palm centerpieces were also placed around the party.

The first party favor was a pineapple cutout treat bag filled with local Puerto Rican candies and cookies.
 
The second party favor was a gold pineapple bottle stoppers from Wedding Favors Unlimited.

 The gold cups were purchased from Party City.  The pineapple and palm tree straws were both from Etsy.
 

These metallic gold plastic utensils were purchased from Amazon.

Adults and kids alike had fun with these pineapple cups from Oriental Trading.

I ordered cupcakes from The Little Cupcake Shop in Guaynabo.  We tried several different flavors (chocolate, red velvet, vanilla, tres leches, Reese's, guava, carrot, and Nutella), which were all delicious.  The gold cupcake stand was from Party City, and the pineapple garland was from Etsy.

The flamingo, palm tree, and pineapple cupcake toppers were all purchased from Etsy.

The palm leave napkins were from Oriental Trading and the gold plates and cups were from Party City.
 
 Our family coordinated a delicious paella as the main entrée for the party.  It was sooo good!

Don't forget to follow Fab Everyday on Pinterest for more party inspiration!  Next up is S's Halloween-themed 4th birthday party (in April)!

4.14.2016

Groupon Coupons... because who doesn't like saving money?

 
This is a sponsored blog post, but the opinions are completely my own. 

If you're like me, you Google for online or in-store coupons whenever you are shopping.  You also search Groupon first when you want to try out a new local restaurant, spa service, or tourist attraction.  Then if you're like me, you may be surprised to learn (like I was) about Groupon Coupons - a free service that gives an all new meaning to Groupon's slogan of "check Groupon first." 

Groupon Coupons is a part of Groupon where you can search and find online promo codes, in-store coupon codes, and information on current sales from your favorite stores and brands (hello, Nordstrom coupons... hi there, Disney Store promo code!).  They even have travel deals (like this one from Travelocity)!  Tomorrow's tax day... fancy a TurboTax sale?

One thing that sets Groupon apart from other online promo code sites is that you can leverage all of Groupon with one search.  For example, searching a retailer's name in the Groupon site will bring up all the possible deals for the retailer (the paid Groupon deals, the retailer's current sales, and the FREE Groupon Coupons that may be available).  One and done.  This basically combines three things that I love: shopping, saving money, and saving time.

Have you used Groupon Coupons yet?  Comment below or hit me up on social media to let me know.  In the meantime I'll be checking out the last call (Neiman Marcus) sale...

4.05.2016

Travel Tuesday: Southern U.S. Family Road Trip Route and Recommendations




The Fab Fam just took another successful road trip!  This was a Southern U.S. road trip, taking us from Texas through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.  We then looped back by going through Georgia, Tennessee, and Arkansas before making our way back home to Texas.  Overall we covered eight states, about 3,000 miles, and 46 hours of drive time over the course of nine days.  I am pleased to say that the whole family did great.  If you want to see my tried-and-true tips for surviving a long road trip with young children, click here

Last week I shared our driving playlist for the journey.  Today I am sharing our itinerary and reviews of the sight-seeing and food stops we made along the way. 

Day 1
Begin: Home (Austin, TX)
End: New Orleans, LA
Total Drive Time: 8 Hours
Total Miles: 525

The Fab Fam hitting the road!
Drive to Lafayette (6 hrs.)
We had the chance to see my granddaddy in Houston on our way from Central Texas to Lafayette during the first leg of our road trip

  • Lunch: Olde Tyme Grocery (218 W St Mary Blvd, Lafayette, LA 70506) - Note: cash only
    • Recommendations: Po-boys


You haven't had a po-boy until you've had one in the heart of Cajun Country.  One of the best I have had to this day is at Olde Tyme Grocery in Lafayette near the U-La-La campus.

Drive to New Orleans (2 hrs.)
  • Check-in to hotel: Hilton Garden Inn New Orleans French Quarter/CBD (821 Gravier Street, New Orleans, LA 70130)
  • Misc. sight-seeing opportunities: Jackson Square, Mississippi River, cemetery, Voodoo Museum, French Market, etc. (for more detailed reviews and tips for a trip to NOLA, click here and here)
  • Dinner: Mr. B’s Bistro (201 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130)
    • Recommendations: BBQ shrimp (see my review of Mr. B's in this post)

Day 2
Begin: New Orleans, LA
End: Tallahassee, FL
Total Drive Time: 6 Hours
Total Miles: 400

New Orleans
  • Breakfast: Café Du Monde (800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116) - Note: cash only
    • Recommendations: Beignets and chicory coffee (see my review of Café Du Monde in this post)

Drive to Mobile (2 hrs.)

The USS Alabama battleship is docked in Mobile at a Memorial Park decked out with WWII military vehicles

The boys could barely contain themselves when we arrived at the Memorial Park
 

 
 
  
Self-guided tour options help you navigate the battleship, from the highest to the lowest points of the ship.  Be prepared for lots of stairs!

My oldest felt compelled to say the Pledge of Allegiance to this flag displayed below deck


My favorite things to see were the living, cooking, and dining areas on the ship, which could accommodate a large amount of men


    
The boys had fun role-playing in the corridors and in the ship's brig






 
 




The battleship and park were so much fun for the whole family to visit.  We'd recommend it for sure!

  • Lunch: The Hungry Owl (7899 Cottage Hill Rd, Mobile, AL 36695)
    • Recommendations: Seafood pizza, gator cakes

Drive to Summerdale (30 min.)
  • Visit Gator Alley Farm (19500 Co Rd 71, Summerdale, AL 36580) - Note: Alligator feedings at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, 4:00 pm
Alligator Alley is a farm and sanctuary for rescued "nuisance alligators"

 
The gators ranged from tiny to huge!  Little gators lived in pools with other gators in their age range, and the bigger gators lived in the farm's swamps.

I recommend purchasing some of the alligator chow so that you can feed the gators.  The boys absolutely loved tossing the chow to the gators.


 
Alligator Alley offers "encounters" where you can safely hold an alligator.  Even with his mouth banded shut, this feisty little guy still spooked the kids!  G was very proud of himself for being brave and facing this fear.




The swamp at the farm was very picturesque... though it was crazy to think of all the large predators living in the water just below you!
 
Drive to Marianna (2.5 hrs.)
  • Dinner: Beef O’Brady’s (4944 Malloy Plaza, Marianna, FL 32448)
    • Recommendations: Burgers, wings, nachos, craft beers

 
Loaded nachos and garlic wings at Beef O'Brady's

Drive to Tallahassee (1 hr.)

Day 3
Begin: Tallahassee, FL
End: Orlando, FL
Total Drive Time: 4.5 Hours
Total Miles: 275

Tallahassee
  • Breakfast: CanopyRoad Café (1913 N Monroe St, Tallahassee, FL 32303)
    • Recommendations: Breakfast skillets, sweet potato pancakes
  • Drive around FSU campus

 
The hubs is a huge college football fan, so we took the opportunity to see a few college campuses during our road trip. He couldn't resist putting his horns up at Florida State!

Drive to Lloyd (30 min.)
  • Visit Johnny Donutseed roadside attraction (2804 Gamble Rd, Monticello, FL 32344)

The kids and I love to seek out unique roadside attractions during our road trips.  This is "Johnny Donutseed" in Lloyd, Florida
 

Drive to Gainesville (2 hrs.)
  • Planned lunch: Satchel’s Pizza (1800 NE 23rd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32609) - Note: Cash only
    • Recommendations: Eat in the van
  • Actual lunch (Satchel's was closed): Crane Ramen (16 SW 1st Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601) 
You can always count on there being some good ramen near a college campus, and Crane Ramen (near the University of Florida) was no exception

 
The boys slurped their ramen up in record time, savoring every bite
  • Visit University of Florida campus

Statue of Albert and Alberta Gator at UF
This museum is such a gem!  The kids loved it before they even got inside!
 
A mammoth skeleton greets you in the foyer of the museum
 

 Before you get into the main exhibits, there is a room of hands-on exploration that was incredibly engaging for the kids.  We had fun doing this 3D puzzle together.
 
The museum also showcased historical and cultural information about the native peoples of the region


More hands-on activities on energy-efficiency in the home


We couldn't leave without playing on the ant sculptures one more time!


Drive to Santos (1 hr.)
  • Visit concrete monoliths roadside attraction (park at Sheriff's South Multi District Office, Ocala, FL 34480).  The remnants of supports for a bridge that would have crossed a never-built cross-Florida barge canal stand over-grown in the woods.  More on this project from the 1930's can be found in this article.

 



The abandoned bridge support stands tall among the trees and Spanish moss in Santos, FL


Drive to Orlando (1 hr.)

Day 4
Begin: Orlando, FL
End: Orlando, FL

Orlando


Everything is awesome!




The kids really loved the Lego Movie 4D experience...
 

...and getting to meet Wyldstyle afterward!


It was a warm day, but ice cream definitely helped!

 
The Chima ride was another way to beat the heat - you get literally soaked with the ride's water features, and other riders spraying you with water guns!


One of the things I appreciated about LEGOLAND was their mix of rides for both younger and older children, along with many fun interactive displays and Lego brick sculptures





A preview of our upcoming safari... Lego style! 


Day 5
Begin: Orlando, FL
End: Savannah, GA
Total Drive Time: 4.5 Hours
Total Miles: 300

Orlando
  • Swimming and enjoying the hotel amenities

Drive to Jacksonville (2.25 hrs.)

Beach Road Chicken Dinners is legit!  S ate his bodyweight in fried chicken and gravy.  The chicken was great, but it was the side dishes and gravy that won me over!
Drive to Savannah (2.25 hrs.)
  • Spend the night with friends
 

Day 6
Begin: Savannah, GA
End: Savannah, GA

Savannah
 

My boys reunited with friends to celebrate Savannah-style!


The boys got to walk in the parade with our friends' family




The Fab Fam!

  • Dinner: Green Truck Pub (2430 Habersham St, Savannah, GA 31401)
    • Recommendations: El Jefe burger
 
The El Jefe burger is topped with black bean and corn salsa, avocado and jalapenos
  • Go out for drinks on the Riverwalk
 

 
Day 7
Begin: Savannah, GA
End: Nashville, TN
Total Drive Time: 8 Hours
Total Miles: 515

Drive to Atlanta (3.75 hrs.)
  • Lunch: The Varsity (61 North Avenue NW, Atlanta, GA 30308)
    • Recommendations: Chili dog, onion rings, frosted orange drink
  • Drive around Georgia Tech campus
  • Visit College Football Hall of Fame (250 Marietta St, Atlanta, GA 30313)
  • Visit Georgia Aquarium (225 Baker St NW, Atlanta, GA 30313)
While the hubs went to the College Football Hall of Fame, I decided to walk the boys over to the Georgia Aquarium.  This aquarium was so epic, I barely have words to describe its awesomeness!

 
The quality of the exhibits and variety of animals were fantastic, but what was so cool was how interactive and immersive the exhibits felt.  The boys and I felt like we were right in the penguin habitat or on the ocean floor.

Yes, that is a whale shark!  At an aquarium!

 


 

Hands-on educational opportunities could be found throughout the aquarium


Did I mention they had dolphins?  At the aquarium.


Piranhas!  This reminded me of my time in the Amazon!


Drive to Chattanooga (2 hrs.)
Pardon me boys, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?
 
 
 

Drive to Nashville (2 hrs.)
  • Dinner: Mas Tacos Por Favor (732 Mcferrin Ave, Nashville, TN 37206) - Note: Cash only
    • Recommendations: Unique taco combinations, soups
  • Check-in to hotel: Hampton Inn Nashville/Vanderbilt (1919 West End Avenue, Nashville, TN 37203)
  • Misc. sight-seeing (Honky Tonk Row, Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, etc.  For more reviews and recommendations for Nashville, see this post)


Day 8
Begin: Nashville, TN
End: Arkadelphia, AR
Total Drive Time: 7 Hours
Total Miles: 440

Drive to Memphis (3 hrs.)
  • Drive by Graceland (3734 Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, TN 38116)
  • Lunch: Interstate Barbecue (2265 S 3rd St, Memphis, TN 38109)
    • Recommendations: BBQ pork sandwich, ribs, BBQ spaghetti
 
We had to have some Memphis-style BBQ!

S licking his chops while waiting to dig into his BBQ spaghetti 

The hubs ordered the ribs

I had to try their famous pork sandwich.  Spoiler alert: it was delicious.


Everyone should visit the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel given the chance.  Powerful, moving, devastating.  Yet also hopeful, as a celebration of the movement Dr. King and so many others stood (and still stand) for.


This art piece in the foyer was very moving. It depicts the uphill struggle of the African American, but also shows man lifting and pulling up fellow man.



Drive to Little Rock (2 hrs.)
  • Dinner: Cotham’s Mercantile (5301 AR-161, Scott, AR 72142)
    • Recommendations: Hubcap burger, onion rings, fried green tomatoes, fried pie
It doesn't look like much from the outside, but this is a dive that's worth the stop!

The famous hubcab burger (with my husband's hand next to it for size comparison) and fried green tomatoes

Drive to Arkadelphia (1.25 hrs.)


Day 9
Begin: Arkadelphia, AR
End: Home (Austin, TX)
Total Drive Time: 7.5 Hours
Total Miles: 455

Arkadelphia

Drive to Texarkana state line (1.25 hrs.)
  • Half-n-Half Post Office photo opp (500 Wood St., Texarkana, AR)
 
We love a good photo opp



Drive to Fouke (20 min.)
  • Visit Fouke/Boggy Creek Monster (Bigfoot of the South) roadside attraction at Fouke Monster Mart (104 US-71, Fouke, AR 71837).  Click here to learn more about this local legend.

The boys loved this legend and all the attractions at the Fouke Monster Mart


 
Drive to Ark-La-Tex Tripoint (30 min.)
  • Photo opp at tripoint monument (near Magnolia Club House, 22300 LA-1, Rodessa, LA 71069)

  
We got to stand on the tri-point of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas

Return home (5.5 hrs.)

 
The boys did so well, and we all enjoyed the trip!

We saw so many state license plates on the drive!  Though this is one of the activities from the boys' road trip activity folders, my husband and I enjoy this game more than anyone.  It became a mission by the end of the trip!
 
Until next time, safe travels!