(Giveaway!) A Fun Fall Family Adventure Awaits in Gulf County, Florida

This post brought to you by Visit Gulf County. The content and opinions expressed below are that of Stuff Parents Need.

In May my family decided to take a risk and try out a new (to us) part of Florida for our summer vacation: Gulf County.

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We loved it so much that we have plans to return every year. It’s now our go-to place for an amazing retreat and a fun way to get rejuvinated.

What I really love about Gulf County, Florida is the relaxed vibe and the focus on nature. You won’t find tower after tower of condos or a crowded beach strip full of souvenir shops. But you will find some really cool stuff there, especially as it relates to nature.

My oldest, for example, spent an entire day playing with a tiny little clam she named Clammo. She used her pails to build him a little ecosystem, and even gave him a teary-eyed goodbye when the sun was setting and it was time to return him to the wet sand.

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Fall may not seem like the best time of year to head back to the beach, but I actually think it’s a glorious time of year there. And Gulf County has a few fun adventures that I think would be just perfect for the month of October.

If I could go back this month, I’d be sure to go for a kayak ride on the Dead Lakes. Just look at how amazing (and yeah, spooky!) they look, especially when the fog comes off the water in the early morning!

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Another “gentle thrills” option would be to go shark fishing. Fish’N Xpress offers a 3 hour experience with all the logistics handled for you, including the equipment, bait and licenses. You can snare a tiger shark and get your photo taken with it before releasing it back into the water. Just imagine how your kids will love to tell the story of the time they caught a shark! :-)

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Finally, we’d head over to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park to see some wildlife. Deer, bobcats, squirrels, raccoons, Kingfishers, owls and otters call the park home and can be spotted by the watchful eye.

Take a moment to check out the Gulf County Adventure Guide to see what fun fall adventures might be right for your family, as I’ve barely scratched the surface with my ideas. There’s really something for everyone there, and I can tell you from experience that if relaxation is on your list, it doesn’t get any better than this place.


From now through 10/25, ten winners each week will win a $50 Visa gift card! You can put it toward a family adventure in your own community, or save it for your next trip to Gulf County! Be sure to share this great giveaway with your friends to spread the love around (and to give yourself a little good karma!).

Talking #WithMalala about Secondary Education as a Right for All Girls

Last week I had one of the most awesome opportunities that has ever come my way as a blogger (and that’s saying something, becasue this job is one big adventure!). I got to spend half an hour on a conference with Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. She’s a bright and energetic 18-year-old girl who, 3 years ago, saw an injustice in her community and spoke out against it. She did a very hard thing, and she almost lost her life by standing up for what was right because the Taliban shot her in the head in the attempt to silence her forever. But she didn’t back down and she didn’t stop speaking out for the need for education to be a RIGHT, not a privelage, for every single child, no matter their gender, race or economic status.


Friends it was such a moving phone call! Malala is very clear about the fact that she is just one person, and she can only do so much, but that if others will join her, the collective power can topple over centuries-old institutions and traditions that exclude certain children and deny them opportunities to receive an education. She challenged us all to imagine for just a moment what this world would look like if every single child could receive k-12 education, which is something I admit that I take for granted here in the United States. That image of an entire generations and all the generations that follow being educated blew my mind, an in a really good way. It felt SO right. 

In the next week, a new film will be released in theaters all over the nation called  He Named Me Malala. This film is about Malala’s story, and more broadly, it’s about the importance of girls’ education. Take a moment to check out this quick trailer:

I mean…woah. I CANNOT WAIT to go see this. And I am really excited about sharing Malala’s story with my girls. My children already have access to k-12 education, but if they had been born in a different part of the world their options could be SO much more limited. And in those places, right now, there are mothers and fathers with precious little girls who are being denied that opportunity. And in other places in the world, boys and girls alike are being denied education based on their family’s income (or lack of sufficient income). I try to put myself in the position of those parents who aren’t allowed or just aren’t able to give their little ones something that is so critical for success in life.

This is heartbreaking. And it’s wrong. And it doesn’t have to be this way. 

Please be watching out for when He Named Me Malala will be released in your community and gather up a group of your friends to go see it together! And if you want to have some great discussions with your kids about the issues Malala is fighting for, stay tuned because I’ll be posting soon about some ways you can engage your kids in thoughtful discussion.
Follow Malala’s work on social media by searching for #HeNamedMeMalala and #withMalala. You can find her on instagram at @malalafund, and on Facebook, too!

Creating Some New Fall Routines (and Drinking Awesome Coffee While I Do Them!)

Thanks to Starbucks for sending along some seasonal flavors and products. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

My girls have been back in school for over a month now, and yet I am continuing to struggle with the hours of 3-5pm everyday, trying to fit in preparing a healthy meal for my family, making sure all Darah’s homework gets finished (including 20 minutes of me reading to her…we are loving all the Disney Fairies chapter books), and dealing with the emails that seem to pour in during the late afternoons when marketing and PR folks are trying to wrap up their to do lists at work.

I seem to get it all done, but I also seem to completely wear myself out, so that by the time Tim walks through the front door at about 5:15, I am ready to take my plate of food upstairs and go hide in my room. Which I often do. And this is not how I want my dinners to go, friends. Burning the candle at both ends of the stickbjust isn’t working.

So…I decided to get that whole “once a month cooking” thing a try. I spent a little bit of time each day last week physically and mentally preparing. And to help me keep my mood elevated and not give up before I started, I enlisted a little help from my Starbucks friends.

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Isn’t that Starbucks fall tumbler just the cutest? It was my constant companion, filled with the fall blend K cups, as I selected recipes an created my shopping list and cooking strategy. I treated myself to a Starbucks VIA Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) as soon as I got home and unloaded my once a month ingredient haul. And it certainly was a haul; you’re only seeing about half of it in the shot!

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In order to make the very most out of my tiny kitchen counter space, everything that ordinarily lives there had to be removed, including my precious coffee maker. But I knew that was going to be the case, and I was prepared, with some Starbucks Iced Espresso waiting for me in the fridge. Have you seen these in grocery stores? You can find them right next to the cold coffees. I reached for it frequently through the morning, early afternoon and yes, even the evening, as the slog of this work continued on.
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In the end, two of the recipes were ruined by the wrong ingredient being used and one recipe couldn’t be made due to a shopping list oversight. I’m not going to lie, you guys…it was hard, sort of awful, incredibly time consuming (they aren’t kidding when they tell you that you will be cooking ALL DAY LONG) and at this point, I’m not really sure it was worth it. With that said, though, I did make a heck of a lot of food that is now waiting to simply be thawed and reheated, and as I make use of these dishes during those crazy busy weekdays, I may start to feel as though the pain was actually worth it.

I’m glad I tried a new thing. I’m still not sure that I’ll ever do it again. But I do think trying out this system has pointed me to a routine I DO want to get into this year: finding one freeze ahead recipe each week to make for my family. We can eat half of it on the day that I make it, and enjoy the other half of it on a busy weekday later on. Making one freeze ahead meal each weekend is totally doable and I can see how it will make a difference. And maybe, just maybe, once a month I might be willing to make 4 recipes at once. But not 10 or 12.

My weekend was rough, friends. But the coffee was on point. Gotta find those silver linings (or in this case, pumpkin spiced linings). 😉

Have you tried once a month cooking before? I’d love to hear about your experience! And what are you rockin’ in your coffee cup during this most wonderful time of the year? Is it pumpkin flavored or do you have a different #coffeepassion? 

Scooby Doo Costume for Kids: Layah’s Halloween Pick (Zoinks!)

Thanks to Costume SuperCenter for providing Layah’s Scooby Doo costume. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Last month I sat my girls down and we had a brainstorming session on Halloween costumes. Darah flipped through a costume catalog, cut out ideas, and created an entire vision board full of possibilities.

Layah’s brainstorming session, on the other hand, took 8 seconds. She thought for 6 of those seconds and then yelled, “Scooby Doo!” and marched right up to her room without so much as another word on the subject.

I asked her again a week later and she promptly said, “Mom you already know! Scooby Doo!”

There was a time when Layah was interested in Scooby Doo, but that was maybe a year ago, so this request really did seem random to me. And yet, she was quite decided about her choice! So I found a Scooby Doo costume at Costume Super Center and I was really pleased to see the price point (currently $23.99 AND an additional 20% off with a coupon code!). Last year Layah wanted to be Jasmine, which was just as random. I paid $50 for that costume, which she wore on Halloween night, but has NEVER worn since (despite the fact that my girls play dress up all the time). I’ve been down this road before, so I was really happy to see that her choice this year wouldn’t be nearly as expensive.

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The costume is not one I would expect to endure constant play for too many months, which I think you can expect based on the price. I was a little disappointed to see that the entire back is open. Layah will need to wear some sort of brown shirt underneath, but it’s a very hard color to match, so we’ll also be safety pinning her into the costume.

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We will also have to do a little safety pinning to help the Scooby Doo mask stay in the correct position. Both of these fixes are totally workable, but I wanted to point them out just in case you are looking for something that doesn’t need any adjustments.

Layah seems quite happy with the costume, and unlike last year’s costume, she’s asking to get to dress up in it frequently. I’m not allowing too much play with it, though, until after Halloween to ensure that we don’t find ourselves with a stained or torn Scooby Doo costume before the big night.

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If you want to get more information (and learn about deals) from Costume Super Center, like them on Facebook. And if you have a little Scooby Doo in your house and you want to dress up, too, know that the Costumer Super Center also has Shaggy, Velma, Daphne and Fred costumes!

A Fun Take on Souper Saturday: Weekend Lunch the Kids with Love!

This post brought to you by Campbell’s Soup Company . The content and opinions expressed below are that of Stuff Parents Need.

With my oldest being away from home during lunch on weekdays, I have really come to value our weekend lunches, and I try to make them as special and fun as I can (without requiring me to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, of course!).

Have you seen the new Campbell’s Organic Kids Soup line? This makes for a super fun surprise for kids who are still into characters (heck, I’m still into characters!) and it’s made with ingredients that I try to serve to my family (organic is my first choice whenever possible). But what is the most exciting to me is to be able to have a fun dish that nourishes my family by providing organic ingredients AND it’s super easy for me to put together. That’s like the holy grail of clean eating, people! And I promise you, it’s hard to find. Big thanks to Campbell’s for creating something so perfect for families like mine!

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Here’s the fun meal I put together for my girls this past weekend. The soup is delicious and that tear-away cheese bread is INSANE!!! I promise, it looks a lot more intricate than it actually is; I don’t do crazy-hard recipes!

So let’s take a look at what you need to make this awesome weekend lunch:

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  • 1 container Campbell’s Organic Kids Soup
  • 1 loaf of bread, preferably in a round shape
  • 1 cup shredded cheese of your choice (I used a mix of cheddar and monterey jack)
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp garlic seasoning (combo of garlic salt and garlic powder..diced garlic could work, too)
  • 1 package of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted

You’ll start this recipe by cooking your bacon (unless you buy the pre-cooked stuff! That would save even more time!). I want to show you a little trick for cutting up your bacon: use your kitchen shears! It makes the job so simple, and you can cut 2 slices at a time. Set aside about 1/4 of the bacon pieces to add into your soup.

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Next you’ll want to get your oven preheated to 350 degrees for your bread. While it’s warming, you can go ahead and cut the bread. This part is slightly tricky, but with the right equipment (a bread knife) you’ll be just fine. You are going to make slices into the bread that go all the way across the bread and all the way down almost to the crust. But do not cut through the bottom crust! You want your loaf to stay in tact. Your slices should be roughly 1 inch apart. Precision is NOT necessary! Just do your best and imagine this piece of bread turning into a blooming onion. That’s the look we’re going for, here. Once you have made your slices all in one direction, go back through in the other direction.

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Now it’s time to add those yummy ingredients. Stuff the cheese in between all the slots, and then do the same with the green onions, and then with the bacon, and then with the garlic seasoning, and finally with the butter. Oh mercy it’s gonna be good, friends!

Now just wrap up your bread in aluminum foil an pop it in the oven for 20 minutes.

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While you wait for the bread to cook, have your kids help set the table and then you can get out your Campbell’s Organic Soup. All you need to do is pour out those preservative-free ingredients into your pot and warm it up. Couldn’t be easier!

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Your bread is ready to go at the 20 minute mark, but if you want it a bit more browned and crisp, you can remove the foil and broil it for just a minute or two (watch it carefully, though!). Serve up your bowls of soup and add the bacon on top if you so desire.

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The soup will be yummy on its own, but now it’s time to wow your crew with an awesome tear away bread that is just begging to be dipped in that soup! I didn’t even have to make the suggestion to the girls; they immediately figured out what a great pairing bread and soup would make.

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And then, of course, they were delighted to find little crowns floating in their feast. What a fun weekend lunch that was pretty close to hassle-free, thanks to Campbell’s Organic Kids Soup.

Want more Delicious Campbell recipes? Click on the link to get plenty of great ideas for weekend lunches, or even for busy weeknight dinner ideas! And don’t forget to follow @Campbells on all  your favorite social media locations for more inspiration!


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