Dallas Mom Blog and Fort Worth Mom Blogger: Trendy Mom Reviews
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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Easy Apple Cobbler in the Crockpot with Real Apples (Not Canned Apple Pie Filling)


Easy Apple Cobbler in the Slow Cooker with Real Apples (Not Canned Apple Pie Filling)
This is an easy recipe that tastes delicious. It also smells amazing while it cooks. This is a great recipe if you are looking for ways to use up fresh apples. Personally, as Texans, we cook this recipe on our patio in our slow cooker in summer months when we don't want to use the oven. 

Ingredients

  • 7 apples (we used a variety as shown in the photo above)
  • 1 box of white cake mix
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1/2 butter
  • Optional: serve with ice cream and/or whipped cream 
Directions
  1. Spray the slow cooker with cooking spray.
  2. Peel and chop the 7 apples into slices.
  3. Mix apple slices with 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
  4. Separately, mix the white cake mix with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
  5. Cut the butter into pea size pieces and mix with the dry cake mix.
  6. Add the apple mixture to the slow cooker.
  7. Pour the cake mixture on top of the apple mixture in the slow cooker.
  8. Cook on high in the slow cooker for 2.5 to 3 hours until the top and edges are golden brown.

Optionally serve with ice cream and/or whipped cream!


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Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Gaylord Texan is Open for the 17th Annual SummerFest!


Disclosure: This post contains my personal opinions for my family. 

We recently had the opportunity to visit the Gaylord Texan for the 17th annual SummerFest!  If you follow regularly, you know that we love this iconic Texas resort that is located just minutes from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.  This year was spectacular as usual, but with some changes due to COVID-19. Spoiler alert - We had a fun vacation and created memories together as a family. We felt safe and relaxed because they have many new protocols in place and an extensive amount of staff who are very visible to continuously sanitize the resort! 

Let's start this vacation post by discussing the COVID-19 issue since I know that this is a tough topic right now. Personally, we have been at home throughout the quarantine and this was our first getaway.  My husband and I were conflicted about going on a vacation. On one hand, we've been at home for 24/7 with our children for months and really needed a vacation. On the other hand, we worried about whether it was safe to go on a quick vacation.  We visited different resort websites and found that the Gaylord Texan has an extensive plan to keep the resort clean. After reading through the many measures that they are taking, we were excited and knew that it was the perfect vacation destination for our family. For instance, here is a snippet from their website:
To help ensure proper social distancing, each of the resort’s events, restaurants, and pools now offer spaced seating arrangements. And in accordance with Marriott’s “Commitment to Clean” practices, we are providing enhanced cleaning technologies, hospital-grade disinfectants, attendants dedicated to sanitizing frequently throughout the day, and hundreds of new cleaning processes to take care of guests while they enjoy the resort’s amenities. 
Additionally, Gaylord Texan’s ownership group, Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc. (NYSE:RHP) selected Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), a leader in medical research, as its official wellness advisor. These combined efforts further support Gaylord Texan’s multi-phased health and sanitation plans, procedures, and staff training.

Throughout our stay, we witnessed their dedication to cleanliness.  Hardly a minute went by when we didn't see energetic cleaning crew members meticulously cleaning.  They even cleaned the railings and other surfaces in the water park! We also noticed that all of their employees, not just the cleaning team members, were trained to make efforts for our comfort and safety.   For instance, we rode the shuttle twice. Both times, the shuttle driver allowed everyone to exit and then we saw him clean before letting more passengers on.



They also encouraged visitors to wear masks and to stay 6' away.  Everyone that we saw was very respectful.  We felt comfortable and enjoyed our stay. I know that vacationing is a personal decision that each of us has to make based on our personal circumstances, but for us, we made the right choice to visit. It was a much needed vacation at a time when we needed it the most!



We stayed in a beautiful room with an atrium view room that overlooks lush indoor gardens and waterfalls. It was nice to sit on the balcony to look at the atrium.



On our second day, my husband woke up before the rest of us because he wanted to enjoy the view from our room. He went downstairs to buy breakfast and then sat on the balcony for a while before the rest of us woke up.


My children were thrilled to visit the Gaylord Texan's Paradise Springs waterpark. This iconic Texas-themed waterpark is a big part of their happy childhood memories. Hotel guests can make a splash at Paradise Springs, the resort's 10-acre outdoor waterpark. Adults can grab a cocktail and tube down the relaxing 600-foot long lazy river while kids play in a giant water treehouse, four winding waterslides, and a 6,000-square-foot family lagoon.



My children especially love the giant Texas-themed bucket of water that spills on everyone!



You'll also enjoy plenty of lunch and snack options at the pool. The photo below shows a kids meal and ice cream sandwich.  My sons appreciated that the kids meals included rubber duckies!


Once our food was brought to us, they marked our table as, "Waiting for sanitization."  I really liked the proactive approach to marking our table so that no one else would accidentally sit at it if we suddenly got up and left. I also loved that Paradise Springs was buzzing with cleaning staff members.  They were so energetic and thorough, taking multiple passes on everything within sight!



The SummerFest Activities were another highlight of our trip. 


The activities vary slightly by day of the week, but the list includes:
  • Hank's Outlaw Scavenger Hunt
  • Sunrise Yoga
  • Canvas Painting
  • Interactive Trivia
  • Family Movie Time
  • Bingo
  • Animal Encounters
  • Duck Races
  • Paradise Springs (water park)
All of the activities were fun! I love that their activities are family friendly and include a variety of high energy activities, as well as, calmer and more relaxing activities.  My children used up their energy at Paradise Springs and on Hank's Outlaw Scavenger Hunt!  I won't share a photo of the scavenger hunt booklet, but I will show you a sample clue in the photo below so that you have an idea about how it works. The booklet contains clues. You visit the respective locations to find letters to spell out a surprise that solves the mystery.


The Canvas painting was very peaceful. Everyone was spaced  far from each other along the Riverwalk Cantina. We felt like we were in another world as we painted next to the stream.


For the Canvas Painting activity, they provide canvases that are either blank or with a SummerFest logo or butterfly. Personally, I used a blank canvas to create a painting for my husband's office. My children painted canvases to hang in their bedrooms.


We also had fun at Trivia and Bingo sessions. Again, everyone was spaced far apart and we were able to have fun. I liked that the trivia questions were family friendly.  Of course, the bingo games also provide fun for all ages!


In addition to the activities that I mentioned above, they also offer Sunrise Yoga, Movie Times, Animal Encounters, and Duck Races.  The Gaylord Texan has something for everyone!


In addition to activities, the Gaylord Texan is also well known for their delicious dining options.  We enjoyed dinner at Texas Station. My husband and I split a variety of Texas BBQ foods, including pulled pork, chicken, and sausage.  We also shared roasted Brussels sprouts and macaroni and cheese.


My children loved the kids meals. For instance, my youngest son had a child-friendly meal with chicken fingers, fresh fruit, and milk. My other son enjoyed a hot dog and Doritos with milk. 



I hope that you enjoyed this glimpse into our family's summer vacation at the Gaylord Texan.  I know that COVID-19 is a sensitive topic right now and that every family has to make a decision that is best for them. Personally, our family made the right decision to visit the Gaylord Texan because this luxurious resort put many protocols in place for our safety and comfort. The vacation helped us to recharge after months of being at home for 24/7.  


If you want to learn more about the Gaylord Texan, visit their website here for the latest information, schedules, and updates.


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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

(Win it!) National Geographic Kids Books Offer Summer Fun, Facts and Fantastic Adventures!


My children enjoy reading, but some of their books are only read once while others are read many times. I know that good books are critical at the moment with children at home. No one wants to buy books that only half hold their interest.  In today's post, I'll share some of their books that they have multiple times because they are that good! They are true page turners and worth reading more than once. We'll also give a chance for a lucky reader to win copies of all of these books!

Let's start with a couple of books that my children share and love. I have a preschooler and a middle schooler who enjoy both reading together and individually.  My preschooler can't read quite yet, but he loves when we read to him and is pretty intense when he looks through the photos in the book on his own. My middle schooler has read and reread these two books at bedtime to soak up the fun facts. The books include:

  • National Geographic Little Kids Big Book of Why (ages 3-7, $15) - What makes a car go? How does mushy dough become a crispy cookie? What does the doctor see in my throat? An essential parent reference, The Big Book of Why invites children to ask big questions, think big thoughts, and get answers that are accurate, engaging, level-appropriate, and based on sound educational findings. This book helps parents share fascinating, accurate answers, and inspires kids to be curious, ask questions, and explore the world around them. Games and parent tips encourage interactivity and extend the experience of the book beyond its pages. Highly photographic and playful, this big, sturdy book is an adventure in exploration.
  • National Geographic Kids Almanac 2021 (ages 8-12, $15) - The latest installment of the New York Times best-selling almanac features amazing animal stories, explorer profiles, and outrageous attractions, plus more of the incredible inventions, awesome games, and fresh challenges for curious kids who want to learn all about the world and everything that's in it! Tons of fun facts, crafts, activities, and fascinating features about animals, science, nature, technology, conservation, and more is why this is the number one selling kids almanac on the planet. There's a whole chapter full of fun and games, including activities, jokes, and comics and the colorful compilation also includes an Almanac Challenge 2021 — which inspires kids to reduce their plastic waste and encourage others to do the same — and also highlights the winner of the 2020 Almanac Challenge.

The next series of books are for my middle schooler.  They are fantastic for ages 8 through 12.  These books offer fun adventures and keep him turning the pages.  Plus, they have an amazing variety of online resources to accompany the books!  The books include: 
  • The Explorer Academy series by Trudi Trueit (ages 8-12, $17 each) — Adventure, danger, and a thrilling global mission await Cruz Coronado at the elite Explorer Academy, where he and 23 other kids from around the globe train with the world's leading scientists to become the next generation of great explorers. But for Cruz, there's more at stake. No sooner has he arrived at the Academy than he discovers that his family has a mysterious past with the organization that could jeopardize his future. In the midst of codebreaking and cool classes, new friends and augmented reality expeditions, Cruz must tackle the biggest question of all: Who is out to get him, and why? Deemed “captivating” by the editors at Parenting.com and “exciting, fast-paced” by Booklist, the series is filled with thrilling adventures, high-tech cadets, cool science, far-away lands, and codes to crack. With four critically acclaimed titles in this series now available, two companion nonfiction activity books and literally hours and hours of videos, games, and info on real-life explorers at ExplorerAcademy.com, Explorer Academy is the perfect way to keep kids learning, reading and engaged this summer.

You will find all of the Explore Academy series books here, plus you will want to visit their website here for videos, games, “truth behind the fiction” features and more.  You may also want to check out an illustrated spread from the newest book in Explorer Academy series, The Star Dunes which may be viewed here and the first chapter from The Star Dunes can be read here.


I know how important it is to find good quality books that keep little ones busy in summer. 
I hope that sharing our personal experience with these books is helpful to your family! 

Win it!
Thanks to National Geographic Kids for sponsoring a giveaway for our readers! One lucky winner will receive a "Summer Fun, Facts and Fantastic Adventures Grand Prize Pack" which consists of: 
  • National Geographic Little Kids Big Book of Why, 
  • National Geographic Kids Almanac 2021, and 
  • All FOUR titles in the Explorer Academy series (total ARV $98). 
The winner must have a U.S. shipping address. No P.O. boxes. The winner will have 72 hours to respond to our email with their shipping address. Otherwise, we will select a different winner. Good luck!

Learn More
Visit National Geographic Kids Books on their website!
Follow National Geographic Kids Books on Twitter and Facebook!
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Friday, June 12, 2020

The 2020 Father's Day Gift Guide (Updated TODAY on June 19th!)


Father's Day is on Sunday, June 21st this year.  In today's post, I'll share trendy Father's Day gift ideas that are sure to be popular this year.


The Husqvarna Automower is a game changer! We recently received this hard working robotic mower that reduces my husband's weekly chore list. He saves over an hour each week now that he doesn't have to mow our lawn in the Texas heat and humidity. We've been testing it out for a few weeks and love it. T
he Automower's advanced technology also improves the health of our lawn. We are already starting to see a difference! We'll share more details soon, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity to recommend it to you as a wonderful Father's Day gift. Visit here to learn more about our favorite robot who happily mows our lawn without complaining about the hot Texas weather.



The iconic Berkshire Blanket & Home Co. brand offers cozy items throughout the year. Almost every father of young children treasures a good night of sleep, especially if their children wake up before the sun. The Berkshire Blanket & Home Co. has dads covered when it comes to a good night of sleep thanks to their incredibly soft and cozy line of bedding, blankets, pillows, and other home goods. We love the New Englander Reversible Blanket
This Sweater knit Sherpa blanket is reversible. Each side is incredibly soft and cozy.  The blanket is also heavyweight which is soothing for many people who like the sensory experience of  a heavy blanket.  




We use this blanket on our bed, but it's also fantastic to use in the living room for family movie nights.  Check out Berkshire Blanket & Home Co. to browse their cozy gifts for dads!





Bake Me a Wish offers delicious cakes, brownies, and other desserts for Father's Day.  This New York based company has been around for over a decade and has the sweetest story. The founder had just moved to Manhattan and wanted to send his mother a Tiramisu cake. He searched all over town, but no one provided the service to mail a cake.  After realizing the need to for a hassle-free service to send delicious cakes to family and friends, he got together with friends and created Bake Me a Wish. This company was created by perfectionists who pay meticulous attention to detail as they strive to provide a top quality service for sending cakes and other treats to loved ones. They use premium ingredients, amazing recipes, and decorate cakes with messages. The vanilla cake for my husband says, "Happy Father's Day!" It arrived neatly packaged and in perfect condition. This cake is two layers with creamy vanilla frosting. We loved the combination of the moist vanilla cake and creamy frosting. We could taste the high quality ingredients. You'll love their Father's Day line up here. Visit Bake Me a Wish!  



Baja Jerky offers unique jerky flavors that are sure to please many dads on Father's Day.  We love Baja Jerky because they are a health conscious company that offers lean protein snacks that are minimally processed and do not contain artificial ingredients, added hormones, preservatives, added nitrates, msg, or gluten.  They offer unique and crave worthy flavors such as Salsa Fresca (continuously rated as the Baja Jerky favorite flavor), Lime & Serrano Pepper, Traditional, Sweet Orange, and Churro.  They come in 2.5 ounce and 1 ounce bags that are great on-the-go snacks.  




We love all of the Baja Jerky flavors, but my husband's personal favorite is the Sweet Orange variety. He's obsessed with it!   



They offer a variety of sizes that are great for Father's Day. The Baja Jerky Variety Pack contains 2.5 ounce packages of each flavor so that dad is able to have fun sampling the different varieties. We also recommend the Snack Packs that contain ten of the 1 ounce packages because they are great for active dads to enjoy on-the-go!




The MEATER combines my husband's love for technology and barbecuing with their brilliant wireless smart thermometer for meat. My husband is a Texan who loves to grill, so I knew that he would love this invention.  I initially thought that it was a wireless thermometer, but there is actually more to it. Their design team seems to have thought of everything. This thermometer works with an app. The device itself has two sensors and one probe. The dual temperature sensors are able to monitor the internal meat temperature and ambient heat. Now this is where they really surprised and impressed me - the guided cook system walks you through every step of the cooking process to help you with good results.  The advanced estimator algorithm also estimates how long to cook and rest your food. This is really helpful when preparing food for our family and managing time.   Between the Automower mowing our lawn and the MEATER helping my husband to optimize his grilling experience, my husband is going to be more efficient than ever!



Zuru offers fun toys for fun dads who enjoy water battles with their children.  The Zuru X-Shot Water Warfare Fast-Fill Water Blaster will give dads an advantage thanks to a clever design that makes it easy to refill the water blaster in a second! The rapid sealing technology is really cool! The reservoir holds up to 24 ounces and dads are able to blast water up to 30' feet.  


Of course, the Zuru Bunch-O-Balloons are another must-have gift for dads. As a Boy Mom, I know that some of my children's favorite memories involve water battles on hot Texas evenings.  We love the convenience of the colorful Zuru Crazy Bunch-O-Balloons. It's nice to be able to fill 100 water balloons in 60 seconds.  These balloons are self sealing and really easy to use. If you haven't tried them, check out my post with tips for preparing water balloons. I wrote the post last year and it is quite popular with traffic coming from Pinterest. I didn't realize that this parenting hack would be so popular, but in retrospect, it makes sense that parents don't want to spend time tying individual water balloons and love using Bunch-O-Balloons to help create fun and whimsical summer memories.


Hats from Alchemi Labs  feature technology from the space industry so that they reflect up to 80% of the sun's heat waves. While most other hats absorb heat, Alchemi Labs understands the extreme heat and humidity in Texas and the need for hats to reflect heat.  These hats from Alchemi Labs block 99.8% of skin damaging UV and offer aggressive ventilation and moisture wicking sweatbands to keep Dad cool, comfortable, and protected. My husband is a runner, so he appreciates the Sun Hat on his runs.  At the pool, he wears the Expedition Hat that gives good coverage and keeps him cool. He also loves the Bucket Hat for nearby hikes. (My son also borrows this hat for runs and hikes!) Check out Alchemi Labs here!



Poptime Snacks offers healthy snacks, including options that are free of dairy, nuts, cholesterol, trans fat, GMOs, preservatives, gluten, or artificial flavors. We are obsessed with their delicious popcorn and pop chip varieties. 



The Poptime Creations Popcorn is their most indulgent line where they blend two flavors that complement each other. These include Truffle Herb & Parmesan Cheese (my husband's favorite), Chocolate and Vanilla, Sriracha & Lime (perfect for Texans), and Marshmallow & Cinnamon (my personal favorite).



The Poptime Kettle Cooked Popcorn offers healthy snack options in crave-worthy flavors such as Sea Salt, Sweet & Salty, White Cheddar, Spicy Jalapeno (my husband's favorite and the ultimate flavor for Texans), Butter, and Honey BBQ (my son's favorite). The Big and Bold Popcorn comes in large bags that are perfect for families and includes flavors such as Sweet & Salty Kettle, Sea Salt, Butter, and Salt & Pepper (another one of my husband's favorites).




Poptime Potato Popped Chips disappear quickly in our house.They come in savory flavors such as Jalapeno (perfect for Texans), Sea Salt, BBQ & Honey, and Truffle (our entire family's favorite). They are great for family movie nights!



Flathau's Fine Foods is an award winning Southern gourmet cookie manufacturer that is located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. You may have heard of their award winning Key Lime Snaps, Peppermint Snaps, Cheese Straws, or other snacks that have received honors.  Their products are perfect for Father's Day! They bake different flavored shortbread cookies that are covered in powdered sugar and contain crushed candy inside for a nice crunch. Dads will love a variety of these special gourmet cookies!  Personally, my husband's favorite is the Key Lime variety. Their award winning Cheese Straws are also amazing. These are a traditional Southern favorite, but you'll be surprised that they are blended with a tiny kiss of Chipotle.  Dads are sure to love these unique and award winning gourmet treats!



We hope that some of these gift ideas provide inspiration as you shop for Father's Day and that you have the opportunity to spend quality time with your family!
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Saturday, June 6, 2020

ProjeX has Provided Hours of Entertainment for our Family!



This is a sponsored post. All opinions are honest and our own.


As a Boy Mom, I have to admit that the quarantine has been a rollercoaster for us.  We've had highs and lows with the transition to homeschooling and spending 24/7 at home together. In today's post, I am excited to tell you about a product that is on our list of highlights -- ProjeX!  This trendy battery-powered and portable gaming arcade has provided many hours of entertainment for our family. It's an amazing way to relax and have fun together after long days of work and schoolwork. It has also been the ultimate toy to entertain our children while my husband and I have been in virtual meetings for work and we need our children to stay calm and play independently for an hour or more at a time.




Let's start with a quick overview. ProjeX is a projection game arcade that is portable and easy to move around our house.  The system projects onto walls instead of using a television or other screen, so it's convenient to use almost anywhere! Here is a quick list of features:

  • Portable and battery operated
  • Use on any light colored wall
  • No television screen or sensors required
  • Play inside or outside
  • Provides up to a 288" gaming area
  • Awesome lighting and clear projection
  • Intense sound effects
  • Beginner to Expert levels
  • Play solo, head to head, or co-op mode
  • 3 interchangeable target slides
  • Free sticker sheet included


ProjeX is perfect for family fun, but it has also been a lifesaver when my husband and I both had virtual meetings for work at the same time and needed our boys to calmly play on the opposite side of our house.  It's battery-powered and portable such that you play on any blank wall, including garage walls or even in on the side of your house. When my husband and I both have virtual meetings at the same time, we send our children to our bedroom closet to play with our ProjeX.  It may seem like an odd place to send them, but if you work from home with children, you probably understand. This puts three sets of doors between us while we are in meetings on one side of our house and they play games on the other side.  This is a lifesaver because our boys quickly get tired of each other when they are together 24/7, but suddenly become best friends again when they get to play the arcade games on ProjeX! 



ProjeX is recommended for ages 6+. We use it with our preschooler and middle schooler.  The system has three skill levels, beginner, advanced, and expert. There are five different built-in games to test your speed and skill at blasting targets. There are also three interchangeable image slides that are really cool, including ducks, targets, and UFOs. Each has unique sound effects!  Again, there are three levels of difficulty - blue (targets) are easy, red (UFOs) are medium, and white (ducks) are difficult. We are all pretty good at the targets, including our preschooler. The red UFOs and ducks are more challenging which is a lot of fun!  



We typically play in a "Co-Op" mode where two players team up to combine scores. A built-in screen displays the score.



You will also hear our oldest son playing solo in his room on some evenings when he is having trouble sleeping and needs a distraction. Indeed, it works best in the dark, so it's a great way for him to relax in the evening. It also works outside which we will probably do more often once the weather cools.



If you want to try ProjeX, it's a great deal at $49.99. It's self contained such that you don't need a television or even any extra cables. You just need batteries. You'll love that it's easy to pull out of the box and get started without much effort. ProjeX is available at Target, Walmart, and www.ProjeXGame.com.



Win it!
This giveaway is not hosted by us, but we have permission from our sponsor to share it here. Enter using the Rafflecopter below. One lucky winner will receive a ProjeX!  I hope that one of our readers is a winner! Good luck! a Rafflecopter giveaway
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