Thursday Thoughts #18

Thursday Thoughts

This move to California was our second real military move. (Our first from Auburn to FL hardly counts as we had very little inventory to relocate and the distance was only 200 miles.) You can read about our move to Ohio here.

We left a small home in Ohio and were expecting something even smaller out in the Los Angeles area. In preparation for that we gave some of our furniture to my brother-in-law who just purchased a home with his fiancé, and my in-laws were more than generous in offering to store some other items until we return to the East coast. I begrudgingly left the majority of my fabric, quilting and scrapbooking supplies, and Monopoly collection behind with them. Stuart and I had many conversations about the “must-haves” in a new home and a third bedroom for an office/craft space was simply a “nice-to-have” as my free time with two little ones is quite limited and this blog is my hobby priority number one.

Unlike the previous move, this one was not a “door-to-door” move, meaning we did not have a destination address. With two boys under two and a husband in a grueling Masters program there simply wasn’t any time to take a trip to California to house hunt ahead of time. So, we booked a stay in Temporary Housing and used the 8 days provided upon reporting to find a place to live. As a result, we knew our items would end up being held in a storage facility until we could provide the moving company with our final address.

The moving company we were assigned to this move was incredible. A crew of three guys came the Monday after Easter to pack up everything. They were punctual, friendly, patient, and very courteous. They worked quickly and efficiently and while the team lead was inventorying every box, the other guys started to move everything into the garage to make loading day go smoothly. The same crew returned the following day to disassemble furniture, and along with the driver load the moving truck. We provided Subway for lunch on day one and tipped them on day two. Having the same crew for both days really helped things go smoothly.

We had a bedroom marked off as a “do not pack” room containing anything and everything that would be traveling across the country in the van. My parents came to attend Stuart’s graduation and while here, they helped us pack the other vehicle before the movers arrived. That car was loaded down with my grandmother’s antique secretary desk, quilts, and scrapbooks, along with all important documentation.

When there are young children involved, I highly recommend dropping them off with a friend while the movers are packing your home. Unfortunately that wasn’t an available option for us, but luckily my mom planned to stay and help us with the cross country drive. My mom and I were able to keep the boys occupied in the “do not pack” room and run errands. We handled the weighing of the van and returning of cable equipment to keep out of the way while my husband stayed at the house. We also handled the lunch pick-up and delivery.

That same piece of advice is even more important when the movers are unloading your belongings into your new home. This time we had my mother-in-law who flew out to California to help. She was able to keep Firecracker out of the house and at the park almost the entire day! I was able to wear Treat during his nap and keep him more easily contained as he was much less mobile. 

While our delivery crew didn’t start out as personable as our packing crew, they were quite competent and earned both the taco lunch and a tip for having to deal with our inconvenient location and countless stairs.

Because my mother-in-law stayed for the first week in our new place, I was able unpack our boxes myself instead of allowing the movers to do it. I had learned from our previous experience, when the movers unpack the boxes they essentially dump everything out on the floor, which I knew wouldn’t work well with two curious boys. There were a few exceptions to what we had them unpack – we wanted them to open up all of our wedding china and stemware and art boxes to ensure they weren’t damaged during delivery.

Unfortunately, a few boxes didn’t make it all the way to California including our bin of snowboarding gear and one box of our wedding stemware. At first inspection my husband’s weight plates didn’t make it either, but the team lead called the storage facility and they were found. He returned the next day with the weights and took away all of the boxes and packing paper that we had gotten through on that first night, which was over half of them!

One bookshelf, a desk, and our Keurig ended up in the “RIP” category.

Overall I am happy with our moving experience.

We moved many essential things ourselves because of the length of our trip and the unknown amount of time we’d be living in a hotel. Here are some of the things I wish we had added to our long list: vacuum cleaner, tape measure, scissors and/or exacto knife.

I’m going to reiterate: The biggest piece of advice I have for anyone moving with children – get help! My mom helped us get out of Ohio and traveled with us all the way to California. Having a third set of hands was invaluable. My mother-in-law was able to fly out to California the week of our delivery and she was able to take Firecracker to the park and on walks while the movers were unloading the truck. My sister-in-law came down the day after delivery and was a huge help with both boys keeping them entertained while we did a lot of unpacking and organizing of our home. She and my mother-in-law were able to share the brunt of the kids’ energy, too. If they weren’t able to provide so much help I know that I’d still be living in a house of brown cardboard boxes over one month later. I look forward to their next visits when things aren’t quite as hectic and more valuable time can be spent with them. I know their presence was much appreciated by the boys too, if their behavior after their departure is any indication!

Thursday Thoughts #17

Thursday Thoughts

Now that you’ve read about the toys and gadgets that got us through a cross country road trip, I’m going to share the more exciting story of our journey, with lots of pictures!

Because we were moving two vehicles and two children my mom more than generously volunteered to help us. If she weren’t with us I have no doubt that the timeline you see below would have had another day or two added to it, and a whole lot more frustration. Being able to have two people in the car with the boys was amazing.

We planned the general idea of our route from Ohio to California but the details of each day’s drive weren’t hammered out until the night before. I was hesitant to book hotel rooms in advance because, truth be told, there wasn’t any way to predict how the boys would handle the long stretches of driving or how long 6 hours would actually take. We knew we wanted to start out on the North route to see friends from Auburn located in Omaha and Denver. After that we knew we wanted to stop at the Grand Canyon and I wanted to add a second detour to the Four Corners.

Day 0

Our movers showed up on the Monday after Easter to pack up our belongings and on Tuesday they loaded everything onto the moving truck. (I’ll do another Thursday Thoughts on handling the move later.) We knew we wanted to turn in our house keys that day and get started on the drive.

Day 1

To our surprise, loading day took under 5 hours and we were on the road a little before 3 pm ET after having grabbed lunch at a diner in town. After the boys napped for 2.5 and 3.5 hours we stopped at a Pilot for gas, bathroom breaks, diaper changes, and water. We let Firecracker run around in a grassy area and he had a blast running races against Daddy. Cross Country Move (1)

Another two hours later, at 8 pm CT, and we stopped for dinner in Bloomington, IL. We picked a pizza bar, Lucca’s, but almost had to search for something else. This place was the kind of restaurant where you need reservations. Not because it’s fancy, but because it’s that good. To our luck the reserved table of 6 dwindled down to a party of 2 so we were given their table and the two gentlemen sat at the bar. When we walked in I was surprised to see a fair number of children! They had highchairs, but no changing tables. Firecracker was provided two coloring books and a cup of crayons for use while we waited on our order. The pizza was incredible – thin crust, crispy, and cut into square, as all good Illinois pizza should be! Their sausage was easily the best I’ve ever had.

While at dinner we looked ahead at the map and called a couple of hotels less than an hour away. We ended up spending the night in Morton, IL. Both kids fell asleep after dinner but only Treat transferred to the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper without waking up, and he slept through the night! Firecracker ended up waking up on the walk into the hotel and picked up a burst of energy. He did not end up in the port-a-crib and instead had to be pinned down between us in the king size bed, where he did eventually sleep through the night.

Day 2

WDE 5 monthsBefore getting started back on the road I had to take Treat’s 5 month photos in the hotel room!

IMG_0742We got going at 9:45 am CT and drove until noon for lunch and gas in Iowa City. There was a big hill by the parking lot and Firecracker got out some energy running up and down it. Our next break was a rest area just outside of Des Moines where there was a small playground! Firecracker preferred to play with the rocks and mulch while I nursed Treat.

The early evening drive was fairly smooth; almost every toy was pulled out, and Scout
was a favorite. But, nearing our destination, Firecracker let out some crying outbursts of “Dada!” Thanks to the wonderful technology of Bluetooth, I was able to give Daddy a call and have his voice broadcast through the van’s speakers. It worked beautifully and we made it to Omaha a little after 5:30 pm CT.

We had a great visit with one of my best friends from college and his wife. Firecracker loved playing fetch with their dogs before we went to dinner where conversation was flowing as if 2.5 years hadn’t gone by without seeing each other.

Both boys again fell asleep after dinner and this time they both stayed asleep. Our hotel room had two queen beds this time and we put Firecracker in the center of one surrounded by pillows. He slept all night. Treat woke up around 2 am and stayed awake for 2.5 hours.

Day 3

We got a little bit of a late start owing to the need to give the boys baths. At 10 am CT we started the drive, this time Stuart joined me in the van and my mom drove our other vehicle. There weren’t a lot of opportunities to stop, and with 7-10 miles between exits every child meltdown got harder to stop. Around lunch time Firecracker really wanted a turn behind the wheel so after a very loud 5 minutes we took a break at 1:40 to eat.


IMG_0794It was my turn for a meltdown when we missed the Welcome to Colorado sign. We pulled off at the Welcome Center rest stop so I could calm down and decide if I was actually going to turn us around so we could cross the state line again. Thankfully they had the same signage at the Welcome Center and backtracking was not necessary. This Welcome Center was insanely hospitable, there were countless pamphlets for what seemed every city in the state and we were given a free state map. The volunteer staff tried to help us plan our route to the Four Corners, too. We spent an frighteningly long break at this rest stop.

Middle of Nowhere Emergency Diaper ChangeAbout an hour outside of Denver, Treat had a major diaper blow out. We literally stopped in the middle of nowhere to make a diaper and wardrobe change. I was quite thankful for the bed pad I’d put down. I was also quite thankful for deodorized diaper disposal bags!

We got to Denver around 7:30 pm MT.

The hotel had a full sized fridge in the room and I was able to completely refreeze the breast milk I was hoping to transport to California with us. (Spoiler alert, it didn’t survive…) Staying in the city meant our vehicles had to be valeted during our stay. I felt the pressure to unload the 50 million items we need each night quickly, I absolutely hate holding people up. Unfortunately in my rushed state I failed to grab food for Firecracker. Before we walked to dinner we had to ask the valet to bring the van back around so I could make him a sandwich. We met up with another friend from college and we got to meet his fiancé. We’re looking forward to seeing him some more, as we were stationed in FL together. His job sends him out our way every now and then and my husband’s his way. And of course we’ll see him for their wedding in the Fall!

Day 4


The night was really rough. The time difference really got to Firecracker and he was overly tired, which meant next-to-no sleep. I woke up with him at 5:30 am MT and we took a quiet stroll down the hall until breakfast was served at 6.

We booked a hotel for the night and got an early start and walked to Starbucks before leaving Denver at 9 am MT. Firecracker absolutely loved riding on each and every luggage cart we needed to use.

The stunning drive took us through mountains and plains and very few places to stop. Good thing my boys (husband included) took long naps! It was an interesting drive leaving Denver – there were stretches of road where I was in the only lane headed West with three lanes of traffic heading East – and no median! Down mountains! I would have loved for Mom to have been the lead vehicle at that moment.

IMG_0846With stomachs growling we stopped in the tiny town of Saguache, CO. The diner where we ate was a great find. All of the food was fantastic. Mom got a BLT on homemade jalapeno cheddar bread. After tasting hers I regretted not doing the same. With breakfast served all day Firecracker enjoyed the fluffiest blueberry pancakes ever and I had French toast (because who can resist homemade bread!?). I don’t recall what they named the dish that Stuart ordered, but it was a flour tortilla topped with refried beans, potatoes, onions, cheese, a gravy-type sauce, and sour cream. I loved it! Mom also got a slice of homemade mixed berry pie.

Overall, we took a two hour driving break and did some walking down the main street and popped our head in some of the shops. They actually had a working paper press for their local newspaper which was neat to see!


We made it to Cortez, CO at 7:30 pm MT. We did laundry and went to bed.

Day 5

Today was a fun day. Our first stop was to the Four Corners! I was the only person excited about this pit stop on the drive, but by the time we left everyone was wishing we’d had more time and can’t wait to go back. We had a lot of fun taking pictures at the corner and we even got to do a little hiking nearby.

Four Corners Monument            Four Corners Hiking

At the Four Corners there are local vendors selling lots of jewelry and pottery. I got an ornament to commemorate our trip. There was also a stand selling fry bread. This pastry was delicious! We tried a few different toppings: apple butter, honey, and cinnamon sugar. (You can probably guess which one was mine!)

Fry Bread

We weren’t entirely sure how long it would take us to get to the Grand Canyon and at one point we pulled off on the side of the road to double check the maps. My car’s GPS was taking us to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which would have been closed at this time of year. Thankfully we thought something was fishy about how long it was supposed to take us and we re-consulted with Google. We needed the East Rim, cutting 3 hours off the travel time! There weren’t any good places to stay along the way past the Grand Canyon so our options were to spend the money in the tourist area or backtrack to Flagstaff. We called a Holiday Inn Express at the Grand Canyon and they had one room available, and at a decent rate. My mom was going to have to bunk with our family of four for the night.

As we approached the Grand Canyon we saw a sign that said $30 per vehicle. Well, we had 2 vehicles! I started to fret over the price and convinced myself that instead of thinking of it as a “per vehicle” cost, to divide that number amongst our party and look at it as “$20 per person and kids are free” which seemed much more reasonable.

Upon arriving at the entrance to the Grand Canyon I was reminded that as an active duty military member, we get access to all National Parks for free!

Both Stuart and I had been to the Grand Canyon as children with our families, but it was a whole new experience going as adults. Pictures can’t illustrate the sense of awe and wonderment that one feels looking at the expanse, seeing the reds, oranges, and browns. If the boys were older we would have planned to spend much more time at the Grand Canyon, but our couple hour visit was well worth it and we can’t wait to go back. I don’t know if we’d ever camp in the canyon, but we’d definitely love to do some actual hiking. Firecracker kept wanting to go “down” and I definitely watched my husband’s hold on him tighten the closer they got to the edge.

Grand Canyon National Park

Day 6

Somewhere still in Arizona (I believe Seligman), Firecracker got to watch his first real life train at one of our stops. There were a lot of train sightings along the way and he had fun spotting them from the car window.

This final day of driving was the hardest on me. I wasn’t mentally prepared for the expanse of desert after crossing the California border and there were only a handful of places to stop on I-40. Time seemed to stand still while we drove on a never ending highway of sand.

Day 7 & 8

We spent our first two nights in Los Angeles in a hotel by the airport while we waiting for our temporary housing to be available. Firecracker loved watching the airplanes land and take-off. My mom flew back to Florida on day 8. There aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to indicate how much we appreciated her taking so much time out of her hectic schedule to help ours.

Days 9 – 22IMG_0995

Two weeks were spent living in temporary housing while we explored the area and did some house hunting. The small space was equipped with a little kitchen, in which I made my Cali inspired Fish Tacos. While the boys learned how to share a room in hotels on the drive, they really started their co-habitation in our temporary living quarters. Firecracker discovered the joys of a community laundry facility and had great fun pushing the baskets across the room and being pushed in the baskets. Treat even learned how to roll over during our stay! The location of the temporary housing was 30 minutes south of where we ended up finding a home in which to live, and my boys definitely became less than enthusiastic about the traffic. Firecracker learned the phrase “slow traffic” from the van’s GPS.

I am grateful for the availability of temporary housing and the permissive time off provided to Stuart for house hunting. We were able to explore the surrounding neighborhoods and find the perfect fit for our family.

On day 24 the movers delivered {almost} all of our belongings. Stay tuned for that grand adventure next week (or the next chance I get to use internet)!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday Thoughts #16

Thursday Thoughts

Last week I shared our favorite kid-friendly activities to do in the Southwest region of Ohio. Today I’m sharing our favorite dining destinations. … And my favorite quilt shop.

Best Places to Eat in the Dayton, Ohio Area

Oregon Express

We didn’t get to check out a lot of the restaurants in Downtown Dayton because of the kids, but we made an exception for this bar! For Christmas 2014 my parents gave me tickets to see Wicked at the Schuster Center, with the promise that my mom would travel up and baby-sit Firecracker. We searched for a place to go do dinner before the show and settled on the Oregon Express for pizza. This was some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. Thin, crispy crust with a lightly sweet sauce and cut into squares like all thin crust pizza should be! We loved this pizza so much that we had to go again, so we chose a random time (2-3pm) when a one-year-old wouldn’t be a bother. It’s a bar so there wasn’t a highchair in sight. The waitress was very kind and patient with the toddler running around the empty establishment.

Pies and Pints

Pies and Pints was another favorite {and kid-friendly} destination. Their pizza flavor profiles are unique and you can even do half-and-half on their large pizzas of the specialty pies. The Chicken Gouda (smoked gouda, chicken, bacon, and chipotle crema) was a staple and could almost never be beat by any other flavor we tried; though my husband always jumped at the chance to order a Thai when we had enough people for more than one pizza so that the coconut wouldn’t contaminate my slices. Their kid’s pizzas are a great size, usually yielding 2-3 meals, and they come to the table as soon as they’re ready rather than waiting for the full order. Turns out there are multiple location in OH, WV, and KY.


Keeping with the pizza theme here. You’d think that’s all we eat! And sometimes it seems like it. But you’ll never hear me complain about it. Spinozas is attached to the mall and therefore is another kid-friendly eatery. They’ll even provide some raw pizza dough for kids to play with while waiting on the meal. Their Spinoza “Swirl” Bread is my absolute favorite thing on the menu, and Firecracker agrees. Their pizzas are very unique and my husband’s favorite is the Yin Yang, a crazy combination of Chorizo, Gorgonzola, and glazed walnuts. They also have pizzas with bases of hummus or garlic oil instead of tomato sauce. I like their well-sized Baruch’s Favorite salad which contains dried cherries, Brie, and glazed walnuts tossed in a raspberry vinaigrette with a slice of cinnamon flat bread.


I can only speak to Meadowlark’s brunch menu, but I can tell you it’s amazing. We went twice, each after our sons’ baptisms. Their menus are seasonal and everything is made from scratch. Firecracker was baptized in May of 2015 and on the menu was a fried green tomato sandwich that changed my life (okay, not really), but I have been craving that perfectly crafted sandwich every day since. Treat was baptized in March of 2016 and that beautiful sandwich wasn’t on the menu yet. Their liver pate was sensational, though.

La Colombiana Restaurante 

When we had some previous coworkers from Florida travel to Dayton on business we met up with them at La Colombiana in Beavercreek. The food here is all made to order so be prepared to enjoy the company of your eating companions while you wait for your order. The staff is very friendly and attentive. I promise that the wait is worth it. We took my parents during our last weekend in the Dayton area and my Dad absolutely loved it. While the cuisine is different from Dominican cuisine, the flavors are comfortingly similar. The portion sizes are huge and very well priced. The Arroz con Pollo is large enough to feed two people and full of flavor. For a great assortment of traditional flavors try the Plato Tipico, it’s also enough to feed two. Their empanadas are great to share with the table or enough to be a meal for one.

King Garden

It took us a long time to find a good take-out Chinese place and King Garden in Beavercreek finally fit the bill. Their Mongolian beef is almost perfect, the onions are sweet and charred and the beef is tender, it doesn’t get a full 100 points, though, because the onion to beef ratio isn’t right, there isn’t enough meat! But maybe I think that because Firecracker ends up taking most of it.


Graeter’s is an ice cream chain in the midwest that began 145 years ago in Cincinnati, Ohio. My step-grandfather, Grandpa Ray, grew up in the Cincinnati area and his kids would ship him Graeter’s ice cream down to Florida after he’d married my Busia. I now know why! The black raspberry chocolate chip is my hands down favorite. To be fair though, I never got a chance to try the seasonal Cinnamon in November/December or the Key Lime in August.

101 Beer Kitchen

One of the reasons we preferred the Columbus Zoo to the Cincinnati Zoo is because of the 101 Beer Kitchen and their Loaded House Made Tater Tots. Their menu changes based on the season but their featured pizza was a hit according to whoever ordered it. And their steak, when on the menu, is cooked to perfection.

Fabric Shack

fabric shackAs promised, I couldn’t leave Ohio without finding a favorite quilt shop. The winner here is the Fabric Shack in Waynesville. This shop was worth the 30-40 minute commute. It has an impressive collection of batiks, a great children’s section, and other beautiful novelty fabrics I’d not seen anywhere else.



Thursday Thoughts #15

Thursday Thoughts

As some of you may know, we have left Ohio for California! We spent a year and a half in the Dayton area while my husband earned his Masters degree.

Here are some of our favorite {kid-friendly} things to do in SW Ohio.

Next week, I’ll share some of our favorite food destinations.


If you have any kids who love trains, or you’re an adult who loves model trains, this attraction is a must-see. With more than 2 miles of track in a 25,000 sqft space, this display is the largest model train display in the world! And it’s impressive. The path takes you through the history of train usage beginning with pre-Civil War and going all the way to modern times. There’s even a second floor loft area displaying Coney Island and providing an overhead view of the exhibit. They have scavenger hunts set up throughout the displays, too. Supposedly 10 dinosaurs are placed amongst the scenery, but in two trips we’ve only spotted 7. There’s also a large indoor play area which makes the trip ideal when the weather is cold and rainy. Two outdoor rides that are available Memorial Day thru Labor Day which we didn’t get a chance to experience. Another attraction we didn’t explore is the A-Maze-N Funhouse geared toward older kids.

EnterTRAINment Junction is located halfway between Dayton and Cincinnati on I-675 in West Chester, OH.

National Museum of the USAF

A great, free family destination is the National Museum of the Air Force. The meuseum is located in Dayton, OH. You should note that this museum is massive and it would be near impossible to see everything. If you have a longer trip to the Dayton area I’d suggest only one or two exhibits at a time. It’s a good place to “get your steps” on a cold day, too. During the week it’s not very busy and easier to let the little ones walk around a little more freely.

Young’s Jersey Dairy

Young’s Dairy in Yellow Springs, OH is a fun place to go on beautiful days. They have seasonal activities all year round. In the Winter you can cut your own Christmas trees, there’s an annual Easter Egg Hunt in the Spring, a vintage car show in the Summer, and pumpkin picking in the Fall. We’ve only ever gone to the Dairy in the Fall. There’s a miniature golf course on the property, too! In the evenings you can watch them milking the cows, an event I regret not seeing. During the day though you can pet and feed the goats, and whatever cows are around.

The food at Young’s is good, too. The buffalo cheddar cheese curds are quite delicious and their ice cream alone is worth a trip to the dairy.

Fruit Picking

At the end of the summer, we went berry picking at the Homestead Berry Farm. Firecracker was only 25 months old at the time and he loved running down the aisles of berry bushes and picking raspberries right off the bush! He’d not tried raspberries prior to that outing, despite my trying; now, they’re still one of his favorites! (Though, I don’t think anything will top blueberries.) We filled up a pint of fresh picked raspberries and one pint of fresh picked blackberries. My husband did the blackberry picking while I kept Firecracker away from those prickly bushes, he said it was fun searching for the treasure of the blackberries which grew hidden among the leaves. We also bought a jar of blackberry jam which was delicious on toast.

In the fall, my mom and I went apple picking at Monnin’s Fruit Farm. Once again, my son voluntarily took a bite of an apple that he himself plucked. It’s too bad apples didn’t have the same staying power as the raspberries did. We picked a half-bushel and split the bounty. So many apples! I used some of them in my favorite waffle recipe to date – Apple Pie Waffles.


The zoo is always a winner with little ones and we were located right in the middle of two great options: The Cincinatti Zoo and The Columbus Zoo. Both are about an hour drive from Dayton. We explored both zoos while in the Dayton area. While our personal favorite was the Columbus Zoo, I don’t have any bad things to say regarding the Cincinatti Zoo. The Columbus Zoo has a small aquarium on premises and a water park (which we didn’t get to explore, to my husband’s disappointment). General Admission to the Cincinatti Zoo runs at $16, for the Columbus Zoo $19.99. Parking at both attractions is $10. My suggestion for any zoo trip is to go on a less than perfect weather day. Our best animal viewing occurred on a slightly cool, cloudy day with a threat of rain. When it’s not hot the animals are active and the crowds aren’t overpowering either!