8 Reasons to Visit the Zoo During the Winter

If you know me, you know that one of my favorite places in the whole world to visit is the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha.  This is where my husband “asked me out” on our 8th grade field trip and where he proposed on the same day five years later.  We make sure to visit at least once a year.  This year for Christmas, we were gifted a year-long family membership.  This past weekend, we decided to take a mini-vacation to Omaha and see what the zoo has to offer in the winter.  The day we went, the temperatures ranged from 32-40 degrees. We had no idea what to expect or if it would even be worth going.  Well I’m here to tell you, YOU MUST TRY IT!  Heres my top 8 reasons why:

1. Parking

If you have been to the HDZ in the midst of summer you know how crazy the parking lot can be.  We have seen people parked on the curbs and in the landscaping before.  It is such an unfortunate way to start a day that should be full of fun and minimal stress. When you go in the winter, you can pull right into the first parking lot and park in whichever spot you choose!  No tight squeezes or mile-long walks to the entrance here!

2. There are No Lines

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  I couldn’t stop thinking about all the time we saved in the admission line, bathrooms, Sea Turtle Cafe, touch tank, etc.  This was also great when our son was playing on the helicopter and Jeep in the African Grassland area.  He had the entire area to himself which I have never seen before.


3. Packing a Bag

Sunscreen- check. Hat- check. Beach towel- check. Swimsuit- check. Packing a bag for the zoo in summer with kids can be a daunting task.  All we brought with us this weekend other than my standard diaper bag items was our stroller (which we didn’t even end up using), a bottle of water, sunglasses, and our coats (which we already had on anyway!).


4. Up Close and Personal

As I mentioned before, there were no lines for anything.  This means there was also no wait time to get to see the animals up close.  We kept saying we felt like we had the zoo to ourselves because there was rarely anyone else viewing the same exhibit as us.  Our son was able to see so many animals up close for as long as he wanted.  This can be a challenge if you go in the warmer months.



5. The Large Animals are Indoors

The African Grassland area of the zoo hosts some of our favorite animals to visit- the giraffes and elephants.  However, they can sometimes be so difficult to see in the summer because they have such a large area to roam around.  When we walked in the indoor viewing area, we were greeted by a huge family of giraffes within 20 feet of us.  It was truly amazing!  The same thing happened with the elephants.  I believe it made it much more memorable for our son to be able to see them up close.


6. Avoiding Extreme Heat

Obviously you don’t want to take small children when it is too cold or windy, but we have all been to a zoo/amusement park/fair/etc. where there is a small child being cared for by a paramedic for heat exhaustion.  The zoo can be so hot for small children in the summer. Our son wanted to walk the entire time at the zoo and we didn’t have to worry about him overheating.  This is nice for family pictures too because everyone isn’t flushed and sweaty!

7. You Don’t Feel Like you Have to See it All

The Henry Doorly Zoo is absolutely huge.  If you were able to go last summer, you know that there is the new splash pad and large kids playing area.  That can take an entire day in itself.  You almost feel like you need two days to be able to experience everything.  This weekend, we felt like we were able to squeeze in everything we wanted to see because several animals were off exhibit and some attractions weren’t running for the cold months (petting zoo, Skyfari).  I know that when we go back in the warmer months, we will be able to spend more time doing those things without feeling like we are missing out elsewhere.

8. You get to be Outdoors

Winter is (hopefully) coming to an end soon and I’m sure, like me, you are getting a little stir-crazy.  It was so wonderful to walk around the zoo and make frequent indoor stops.  I loved getting to enjoy some fresh air without getting too cold.


Have I convinced you yet?!  I am so happy we decided to give it a shot and I know we will continue to visit the zoo in the warm months as well as cold months from now on!

For more information on the Henry Doorly Zoo, visit www.omahazoo.com.


Christmas Gift Guide

We are quickly approaching Thanksgiving, which always brings up the question, “What do you want for Christmas?”  This usually leads to a big family circle of people shuffling through Black Friday ads searching for anything to write on a list.  I usually end up asking for new socks because it is such a difficult question to answer. Well this year, I have decided it will be no more!  I am here to take away the stress of list-making as well as gift-giving for just about anyone!

Most of what you will find on my list is geared towards women, but husbands/boyfriends/brothers/fathers, take note. I know that most women I know would love anything on this list. To make this even better, you can get all of these items online so you don’t even have to deal with all of the “Christmas Spirit” (what my family likes to call mall traffic before Christmas time).

One last thing before I begin, take note that most items on this list are from small businesses. When you support a small business, you are supporting a dream. Without your support, we couldn’t be where we are today. Also, I am not being paid by any of these shops for my opinions. These are all my own ideas and honest thoughts. Shall we begin?!

Gifts $5-$15

Leather Tear Drop Earrings

I first got a pair of these from Inspire Handmade Jewelry a few months ago and I knew right away that I would be purchasing more. They are so lightweight since they are made of leather. Sometimes, I forget that I’m even wearing them! I think these would also make a great teacher gift. You can find these available for purchase on Etsy. You can see new arrivals as well as stay updated on promos on her Facebook page: Inspire Handmade Jewelry.

Homemade Wood Wick Candle

This fall, I ordered a candle from Dom’s Midwest Design in the scent “Hometown Harvest” and boy was I pleased. Just opening up this candle filled my living room with a beautiful fall scent. I was looking at her Etsy shop and saw she has new winter scents. I’m thinking “Home for the Holidays” sounds magical. She also has scents called “Mistletoe Kisses”, “Cozy Flannel”, “Mint Chocolate Chip”, etc. Ok, maybe my list is growing! They are available for purchase on Etsy. You can find these on the Facebook page: Dom’s Midwest Design as well.


Home State Outline Embroidery Hoop

These sweet little embroidery hoops are the perfect gift for a college student that went out-of-state, a person that recently made a big move, or anyone that is proud of their home state! I love the simple design that can compliment almost anyone’s style. This is available for purchase on Etsy. She also does custom hoops but that will bump into the next price category. See more of her amazing work on her Facebook page: Constance Clarke Art & Design.


Gifts $16-$25

“Gather” and “Welcome” Hand Lettered Cutout

Gale Nation was introduced to me through my friend Katie that makes the earrings posted previously. This shop is full of anything from custom ornaments to hand lettered maps as well as tons of home decor. It is also home to these adorable wooden cutouts that made my Christmas list. The site says they can be stained or painted your perfect color. I am loving how they look mounted with a basket and wreath. Check them out on her site here and follow along on the Facebook page: Gale Nation.

Midwest Belle Tee

No list is complete without a tee from Midwest Belle! Check out the website to see the inspiration behind each tee. All shirts are tagless for added comfort. *Psst* Use code: WISHLIST between now and November 22 to receive 20% off your entire purchase. Remember, all orders ship free! Go to the midwestbelle.com to purchase. Make sure to follow along on the Facebook page: Midwest Belle to stay updated on new arrivals and promos.



Letterboards are all the rage right now. I love how simple they are while still adding a touch of personal style to any space. I purchased my letterboard from Amazon but there are several other places you can purchase these. How awesome would it be to write out a meaningful message to the recipient on the letterboard!? I found these adorable letterboard flowers and succulents on Etsy made by bluewithoutyoukids. This can bring a basic letterboard up a notch. She has other amazing things for sale in her Etsy shop as well. Make sure to check her out!


Gifts $26-$50

Coordinates Pillow Cover

I have been wanting an item with coordinates for awhile now. I came across Willow Creek Company on Etsy and I saw that she makes adorable coordinate pillows. What I love so much about coordinate items is that when you see it, you know it signifies some meaningful location to you, but it is a mystery for everyone else. Some ideas for a coordinate location: your favorite vacation, place of engagement, place of first date, location of school, etc. The possibilities are endless! This pillow cover is available for purchase on Etsy or on the Facebook page: Willow Creek Company. *Psst* If you “Like” the Facebook page, you can contact the owner for a one-time use code for 10% off! You can also purchase 3 items for 10% off with the code SAVE10 or 6 items for 20% off with the code SAVE20. Pillows for the whole family!


Lived-in Tee

The lived-in tee is my current favorite tee from Midwest Belle.  It is a long sleeve with a relaxed fit and lived-in feel that anybody would love receiving! It pairs perfectly with leggings and cozy socks for a day at home or with jeans and a vest to run errands. They are available for purchase at midwestbelle.com. Follow along on Facebook at: Midwest Belle to stay updated on current promos! *Remember!* Use code: WISHLIST between now and November 22 for 20% off your entire purchase! Shipping is always free.


Hand Stamped Necklace

This summer, I ordered a custom necklace from MackMade. I have received so many compliments on it! I got a necklace with two discs with my wedding date and my son’s birth date stamped on them. She can also stamp letters on the discs. They look adorable with just one or a cluster. Message her on Facebook at MackMade to order!


Gifts $51-$100

Lisa Leonard Ring

I found Lisa Leonard rings on Instagram and right away, I knew they would be on my wishlist for Christmas this year. I don’t have one of these yet but the reviews say they are amazing. These aren’t just for mothers either. You could have them engraved with initials, special dates, or a word that is meaningful. Guys, take note. Nothing says “I didn’t wait until the last minute to buy your Christmas gift” like a personalized piece of jewelry! Find these on her website here and follow along on Facebook at Lisa Leonard Designs.


Joyfully Said Sign

I’ll take one of each please! These signs are handmade in Indiana and I don’t think I have seen one that I wouldn’t love receiving! Some signs are in a different price category, but many that I love are around the $70 mark. If you find one for someone you love, you might want to consider ordering a gift card so they can order exactly the color options they want. Just be aware, if you order an actual sign, it might not make it to them by Christmas time. Fun fact: do any of you follow Living in Yellow? It is her sister that runs this company! Find all of her signs on her website: joyfullysaidsigns.com and follow along on Facebook at Joyfully Said Signs.


Gifts $100+

Photoshoot with Print Package

This gift can be carried out in two different ways. A few years ago, I helped my mom pull off a wonderful surprise for my sister-in-law. While we were watching my nieces, we had Infinity Photography from Sheldon, IA come and take pictures. My mom then selected her favorite images and had canvases ordered. It was so fun to see the expression on my sister-in-law’s face when she saw these beautiful images that were captured without her even knowing it had happened! If it is not an option to have images done as a secret, contact a photographer and ask them if they do gift cards or if you can book a session and print package as a gift. Located near Northwest Iowa? I highly recommend Infinity Photography linked above as well as Heaven Sent Photography which you can find here.

Yearly Memberships

This gift has unlimited possibilities. My list this year includes a family membership to the Henry Doorly Zoo. Some other ideas for yearly memberships include Netflix, local swimming pools, family memberships to science centers, museums, aquariums, etc. This is a gift that keeps on giving all year long!

Stocking Stuffers

Essie nail polish

There’s not much I need to say about Essie polish other than I wish I wouldn’t have waited so long to try it. After I first gave it a chance, I ordered three more colors and threw the rest of my polish away. You can get Essie polish at Target, Walmart, Amazon, and most places that sell beauty products. My current favorite colors are chinchilly, merino cool, and angora cardi.


Braided Hair Ties

I can’t finish this post without mentioning braided hair ties. They work for all types of hair and they are loose enough that you can sleep with one on your wrist without waking up with grooves in your arm. If you like to wear your hair in a messy bun, these are perfect. The little loops of elastic are perfect to tuck an escaped hair into. I posted a picture of the colored set so you can see the detail, but I own the black set.hairtie

Thank you so much for checking out my gift guide for 2017! I hope this list has helped you generate plenty of ideas for your list as well as for those you are shopping for!

Standing at the Top

If I could pick one type of weather for it to be for the rest of my life, it would be the weather we had last evening in northwest Iowa.  Like my mom describes it, it was the type of air that you can’t feel.  Everything was so still and the temperature was absolutely perfect.  We are right on the edge of fall where we are being teased with cool air but can still enjoy what we have left of summer.

My husband and I had to take advantage of this perfect night, so we took our son to the park.  It is so fun to watch him explore and play.  The park we went to had a tall slide with three big bumps in it.  We started talking about how long it has been since we have gone down a slide like that.  Well after a few moments, my husband was standing at the top of the slide.  He hit the first bump, the second one launched him up in the air, then for the third bump, he grabbed the sides to maintain control!  How could I not take a turn after seeing that?!

I climbed the stairs to get to the top of the slide, feeling like I was a little kid again.  However, when I was at the top, I actually felt a little scared.  Obviously that sounds ridiculous but it had been so long since I had done anything like that.  There I was, standing at the top of this slide, feeling nervous to go down.  This is something I wouldn’t have thought twice about when I was younger.  Why is something that was so fun before seeming intimidating now?  What happens to adults that make us less willing to seek out adventure and try anything new?  I’m sure the answer is different for everyone.

I ended up going down the slide and I was sure glad I did.  Sometimes it’s fun to let loose and do things that spark a little childhood nostalgia.  We both went down with our son and he squealed and smiled the whole time!  These are the moments I will cherish forever.

Next time you see a slide, I hope you will run to the top and go down without hesitation.  I promise it will be as fun as you remember it being as a child!  I am sure glad I did!




Sometimes, the Ceiling Will Fall Down

I bet I know what you are thinking, “Hmm, this title must be a beautiful metaphor resembling hardships and struggles.” Boy do I wish that were true because guess what? Sometimes the ceiling LITERALLY falls down!

I need to backtrack a little bit to give you some more information because ceilings don’t typically just fall down without warning. When we moved in to our house, there was a little crack in our living room ceiling. It was so small, that we didn’t even take the time to repair it before we painted over it. More recently, we had noticed that this teeny crack was starting to grow. It was a couple feet long and started looking a little saggy. We weren’t too concerned because it was still minor.  If you live in an old house as well, you know that things crack and shift but you don’t really think much of it.

About a month ago, we noticed a small section looked like it was going to drop. We always made sure to avoid playing with Lincoln around the crack and sitting on our furniture under the crack.  A few weeks ago, while eating supper (way earlier than usual, thank you God!), we heard what sounded like a car driving through the front of our house! We saw a huge cloud of dust billowing into the dining room.  Part of our plaster ceiling fell down in one solid sheet. Of course, it crumbled upon landing as the pieces of plaster between the lathe continued dropping. The crack had finally prevailed.


At first, I was really disappointed.  I instantly had so many thoughts go through my head.  We have some other projects we are working on right now so we won’t be able to do anything about this ceiling situation for about a month.  Now we have a huge hole in our living room ceiling that everyone will have to see when they come over.  Nobody wants their ceiling to look like that.  I started to get really complain-ey really fast.

Then, I realized how wonderful it was that the ceiling fell down.  We weren’t in the living room when it happened.  The hole is only through the living room ceiling, and not the floor above it.  We can finally quit worrying about when it is going to fall down.

I was watching HGTV and realized that with a little bit of imagination, our ceiling kind of looks like it was planked or shiplapped!  What do you think?



Ok so it’s a bit of a stretch, but I am trying to make the most of it. Why? Because there is nothing I can do about it. Sometimes the ceiling will fall down and you are left with a hole in the ceiling, and sometimes you will have much more challenging things that get dropped on you when you aren’t expecting it.  While it can be tempting to sulk in the bad, I need to remind myself that although this is frustrating, there are so many things I should be thankful for.  I hope that if something is weighing on you today that you are able to find something positive as a result.

Well I’m off to go read the latest issue of The Magnolia Journal to see what I should be doing with the walls to make sure they coordinate to my new shiplap!  Until next time!

The Day He Turned Grey

So today, like most days, I opened up my notification from ‘On This Day’ with Facebook.  This usually makes me do one of three things: smile at old memories, cringe about previous style decisions (ex. shell necklaces), or suddenly realize how fast time is going.  For the past month, it has been reminding me that my tiny little baby isn’t much of a baby anymore.  While this sometimes makes me want to bawl my eyes out, it makes me happy at the same time seeing how much he has grown/accomplished/changed in the past year.

Well today, Facebook gave me a flashback of a trip I took two years ago.  I left my golden retriever, Hurley, in the care of my mom.  I might add that this trip was pre-child for me so I felt very nervous about leaving my “baby” for four nights.  He had recently had surgery on a torn ligament and had a lot of special instructions.  Luckily, like any good grandma, my mom sent me multiple pictures while we were gone and followed my list very carefully.


Fast-forward to July of last year.  This is when our son Lincoln was born.  We knew Hurley would tolerate him, but we hoped he wouldn’t feel too jealous or left out.  From a very early age, Lincoln would laugh at him, attempt to pet him, look for him, etc.  Hurley didn’t seem to have a preference either way for the first months of Lincoln’s life, but as soon as he learned that Lincoln would drop him treats during mealtimes and throw a toy for him, they became best buddies.

Fast-forward again to today.  As anyone with a one year old knows, life is busy.  Sometimes it feels like more of your day is spent cleaning up after a tornado more than anything else.  I find myself getting frustrated when Hurley takes food out of Lincoln’s hand, gets too excited and runs in to me, gets mud on my car seat when he hops in my car, or other typical things dogs do that are frustrating.  Today, though, when I opened up my Facebook notification, it stopped me in my tracks.  Who was this young puppy I have pictures of from just two years ago.  Suddenly, my Hurley is a grey-faced golden.



Now, I won’t get all sappy on you because I am the first one to turn away from any book that has a dog on the cover in fear that I will have to read a book with a sad ending.  I still have never seen Marley and Me for the same reason.  I just want to share what I realized today.  While I am so amazed by everything going on in life, I forget that time is also quickly passing for my big, sweet Hurley.  He turned grey right before my very eyes and I didn’t even notice.

It is so easy to get caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle and allow yourself to let the little things get in the way, but he is my son’s best friend.  I can’t imagine our lives without him.  Hopefully he has a lot of great years left in him, but I hope I can always remind myself that I need to make the most out of EVERY day!  With that, we are going to vacuum up a little more dog hair, wipe a little more mud off of our car seats, and squeeze our grey man a little bit tighter for as long as we are lucky enough to.


choose kindness.

So this past week, I went on a last minute mini-vacation to Omaha with my son, two nieces, and my mom.  This thirty-six hour trip included stops to the Omaha Children’s Museum, The Amazing Pizza Machine, as well as The Henry Doorly Zoo.  If you have been to any or all of these places, you know what a whirlwind this trip was but with school starting next week, we just had to squeeze every last drop out of summer!

Our first stop was the children’s museum.  Let me tell you, if you are looking for a great opportunity to teach your children the importance of waiting your turn and sharing, this is the perfect place to do so, especially if you go on a rainy day like we did!  Even with all of the crowds and chaos, all three kids had an amazing time!

When we were at the museum, I wanted to be comfortable but still look cute so of course, I wore my choose kindness. tee.  When I was walking around the children’s museum, I had one of the employees come up to me and say, “wow, I really like your shirt.  It truly is a choice we have to make, isn’t it?”  We talked a little bit about what an effect it can have on the people around us.

In the morning when I am deciding what to wear, I read that short little phrase, but I don’t think about that phrase all day long.  When you wear that message, maybe five people will read it, maybe five hundred people will read it.  Not everyone is going to think much of it, but maybe some will.  We have all heard of the butterfly effect, right?  When a butterfly flaps its wings, the small change in the air could cause a tornado continents away.  A small action can have such a big impact.

Maybe this is wishful thinking, but maybe somebody saw that message, and decided to be kind when they were going to choose something else.  Maybe this caused a ripple effect and spread kindness to more people.  Maybe those ripples are still traveling.  There is no way to know.  All we can do is choose kindness and hope that we can help leave a positive impact on those around us.