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Summer Reading Programs & Contests For Kids

Summer Reading Programs & Contests For Kids


Encourage your kids to read with these fun reading incentives.  Earn books and prizes online or your local bookstores.  I’m sure there is more to this list, so please comment if you know of other places having reading programs.  Local libraries often have a reading program too.  Some give prizes by how many hours read.  Other how many books.  If you have a few libraries nearby you can join a few.  Great for reluctant readers and a way to give kids some quiet time during the day and off of multi-media.



  1. The 2017 Summer Reading Adventure by Dogobooks.  Sponsored by Beauty and the Beast.  Runs May 26th-Sept 15th.

Sign-up at and create your avatar!

Select books to read from a Reading List of 45 books

Read books and write reviews of 30 words or more

Win Prizes.



2. Barnes & Noble. Kids grades 1-6th earn a free book. Runs May 16th-September 5th.

The Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program is here to help you on your way, encouraging you to read books of your own choosing and earn a FREE book, simply by following these three easy steps:

Read any eight books this summer and record them in your Summer Reading Journal (English or Español). Tell us which part of the book is your favorite, and why.
Bring your completed journal to a Barnes & Noble store.
Choose your FREE reading adventure from the book list featured on the back of the journal.


3. Half Price Books. All ages.  Runs June 1-July 31st.

The Half Price Books is called Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program.

They have two sections.  Ages 14 and under and Teens.  Read 300 minutes and earn Bookworm Bucks.


4. Scholastic Summer Reading Program works with kids, parents and teachers to earn books.  Runs May 8th- Sept 8th.

Simply go to Scholastic Books and register.  For ages 0-young adult (parents can read to kids that are not able to read).  You have to read from their reading list.


5. Chuck E. Cheese Reading Program. *Runs all year long.

Chuck E. Cheese gives kids 10 free tokens for reading, doing chores and other tasks.  Parents can print reward sheets to fill out.


Hints & Tips For A Wild Camping Experience With Family

Hints & Tips For A Wild Camping Experience With Family

If you really want to see the country in all its glory, nothing can give you more insight than a wild camping experience. Forget about the comforts of a campsite and the luxuries of a hotel, this experience will be raw, visceral, and can be uncompromising – but ultimately, it’s a lot of fun for all the family.

However, there are a few dangers involved with wild camping, of course. And we’re going to go through a few of the essential things you must do and check before you take your family away into the great outdoors. Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about taking a safe and secure wild camping vacation.

Choosing the right spot

Be careful that you go through your potential destinations carefully. The last thing you want on your wild camping trip is to get into trouble with the law or a landowner who doesn’t appreciate your presence. Just because a beautiful site is in open land doesn’t mean it won’t belong to someone, unfortunately. At the same time, be wary of pitching up too close to any wildlife. Bears, coyotes, and other dangerous animals are a big issue for campers across much of the country that will have their interest piqued by the smell of your food.

Bring the right kit

There is a lot to bring with you for your wild camping experience – too much to list in this particular post. In simple terms, however, the idea is to bring as many of your home comforts you think you will need for everyone – particularly the kids – to enjoy their trip rather than endure it. Check out this list of camping essentials to get you started, and always remember that this experience should be about having fun, not an endurance event.


Upgrade your vehicle.

As partsengine explain, you need to consider a different way of driving when you try and take on the great outdoors. You will need to look at upgrading your suspension, swapping your tires for something more appropriate to rough terrain than roads, and you should never assume that just because you own an SUV or Jeep, it can take you anywhere. Most of the new SUVs you see on the streets these days wouldn’t last five minutes offroad. Don’t forget about buying or hiring a trailer, too, especially if you have a lot of camping gear.

Leave everything as you found it

Make sure you are keeping the site as clean as possible, and always clear up after eating, dispose of waste correctly, and keep food covered to avoid giving off scents to the local wildlife. It’s a good idea to pitch up near fresh water, too, so you always have access to hydration – but stay around 200 yards or so from the banks as the environment around water can be a little on the delicate side.

Communicate your location

Finally, always tell people exactly where you are going. In the event of an emergency, it could make a big difference to the health and safety of you and your family. Have a great trip!



Disclosure: I received one or more products for review purposes only. Despite the free item, my opinions remain 100% Honest and my own.This post may contain affiliate links, if clicked I may receive compensation. If a giveaway is being held: No purchase is necessary to enter. Void where prohibited by law. Odds of winning are based on number of entries received. Giveaways on this blog are in no way affiliated with Facebook or any other social media networks.

5 Unique Attributes to Living in Austin

5 Unique Attributes to Living in Austin


Being in Austin is close to being in a place of diverse of things to do and experience. Considered as one hot city in Texas, the place seeks coolness and entertainment, paired with gastronomic ventures all year round. Being in a place like Austin is distinctly different from other cities in the Texas state.  But you are probably living in it when you see and observe these five things.


  1.    Barbecue everywhere

Living in Austin means you are also living with barbecue. In this side of Texas, barbecue is a way of life. Smoked meat in various joints are everywhere! You should try out and review each to know where is the best and the worst.

After indulging in barbecue, the next thing about an Austinite’s diet is Tex-Mex and margaritas.

The most popular names in this business are Matt’s Famous El Rancho, Chuy’s, Trudy’s, Vivo, and Maudie’s. Also watch out for food trailers offering these.

  1.    Mini cars for transportation

Many believe that Austin is not good for city walking. While it is also known that Austin houses a lot of big tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Dell, it has made transportation a little difficult. Biking is one way to travel from point A to B. Because Austin is a spread out city (it has been dubbed by Forbes as one of the fastest growing cities as well), many busy people rely on mini cars for a better transportation system. Mini cars are vehicles you can use within the city and just leave it parked wherever for the next user. You need not return them after picking up.

  1.    Parks and fitness centers

Austin living can be associated with getting fit. The place is known for more than a hundred parks where you can have an afternoon walk or an early morning jog. All in all, Austin has 220 parks. It also has lakes for water sports. Establishments offering fitness services also sprout within the city—there are about 250 gyms, restaurants serving healthy meals, and yoga studios for the fitness buff.  Bike tours regularly happen too, with many tourists flocking to the city to witness.

  1.    Barton Springs

Everyone knows that Barton Springs, a swimming pool, is being flocked to by people during summer time when the scorching heat of the sun embraces the city. Austin is known for its very hot temperatures during summer which can last up to six months. It is known for men and women who frolic by the pool and the grassy hill beside while half naked.

  1. Going to the movies is a lifestyle

Just like eating barbecue, moviegoers in Austin take films seriously. Live comedy, singing performances, and films are being celebrated like a special occasion. One popular movie house is the Alamo Drafthouse. Theaters like the Moody Theater, One World Theater, Zach Theater, and Austin City Limits Live are known for regular show performances.

Austin is also recognized as a haven for many artists with quite a number of galleries spread across town. Few art museums like Blanton Museum, Austin Museum of Art, and Umlauf Sculpture Gardens, are also some of the must-see establishments.



Disclosure: I received one or more products for review purposes only. Despite the free item, my opinions remain 100% Honest and my own.This post may contain affiliate links, if clicked I may receive compensation. If a giveaway is being held: No purchase is necessary to enter. Void where prohibited by law. Odds of winning are based on number of entries received. Giveaways on this blog are in no way affiliated with Facebook or any other social media networks.

7 Ways To Avoid The Summer Slip: Fun & Educational Ideas For Kids

7 Ways To Avoid The Summer Slip

Fun & Educational Ideas For Kids

Summer is almost here. That means lots of free time and no school. homework, labs, workshops, etc.  I know my kids will still have music and sports plus volunteering at the library.  But besides that, I don’t want them to slip in the summer and have to relearn some of their subjects.  Depending on the age you can do a lot to keep them interested in learning this summer and their brains active.  Don’t let them sit on their computer, tablet, X-Box or iPhone wasting the day away.  Here are a few toys, games and ideas to help your kids avoid the summer slip.


Get Hands-On-Fun with Little Passports Science Expeditions.  You can get a monthly box with a new science kit in each one.  Depending on the age, most need adult supervision but kids can do the projects.  Most are geared ages 9+, or good for younger with adult help.  Kits include topics like Hydrology and Forensic Science.  Kids can do experiments like extracting the DNA out of a strawberry, understanding fingerprints or learning how scientists user splatter to determine events that occurred at a crime scene.  Kids from Little Passports can be purchased as gifts as well.    Science Expeditions: Berry DNA Video  They also make kits for preschoolers.  Teachers love the Little Passports Classroom Subscription! Every month, packages arrive for the classroom that reinforce geography, reading, and problem-solving skills with our award-winning materials.

little passports

Hand-Eye Coordination:

Sunk!  Is a fun social skill and action game by Winning Moves Games.  Each round takes 15-25 minutes and is for kids ages 10+.  It is a 2 player game.  Players try to ad only 1 drop of water at a time to a cup floating in water, trying to not sink it.  The game is fun and instructions are easy.


Math can be learned, relearned, studied and practiced in many ways.  Have kids play Sudoku, Monopoly (taking turns being the banker), do chore charts and have them figure out their own earnings for the week.  There are also apps with math problems-of-the-day.

Younger kids need to learn skills like telling them, counting to 100, skip counting.  You can do these with outside games, have them help with recipes in the kitchen, reading the recipe outloud (reading skill) and doing the measurements themself. I love this clock for learning to tell time, called Telly the Teaching Time Clock.  It has a analog display as well as hour and minute hands that tell time.

Kids can also learn math with make believe.  You can create a grocery store with pretend foods using empty boxes and cans.  Buy fake money and a cash register.  Kids can shop in their own store, have prices on all the food items and then figure out the total for their purchases.  My kids loved pushing around toy grocery carts when they were little, making plates of food to eat too.

toy shopping cart with pretend food


Kids of all ages can get library cards and join summer reading programs.  Get kids into books, audio books, podcasts, etc.  Anything to encourage reading.  Some bookstores, like Barnes & Noble, have reading programs where kids can earn a free book.  Other programs are prizes.  Join one or a few.  Make it a part of your routine.  Set aside a certain time each day for reading.

Explore and Travel!

Find local museums, community events and shows that offer fun and education for kids. I love our history museum’s Butterfly Pavilion, the animals at the Aquarium of the Pacific, the rotating exhibits at the California Science Center, etc.  In California we have a TON of museums to choose from plus events like the Cajun Festival, Strawberry Festival, Civil War Reenactment, etc.

Look for a map of all the parks in your city and visit all of them.  Have your kids help map them out and check them off.  You can even grade each one and discover new favorites.

Older kids can look into higher education classes.  Summer school at the school district, local Parks & Rec or community college.  If their high school requires volunteer hours for graduation than summer is the perfect time to get some of these hours checked off.

What are fun ideas you have to help kids avoid the summer slide?

Disclosure: I received one or more products for review purposes only. Despite the free item, my opinions remain 100% Honest and my own.This post may contain affiliate links, if clicked I may receive compensation. If a giveaway is being held: No purchase is necessary to enter. Void where prohibited by law. Odds of winning are based on number of entries received. Giveaways on this blog are in no way affiliated with Facebook or any other social media networks.

Road Trip To Hearst Castle & More

Road Trip To Hearst Castle & More

We recently took a new Mazda CX-9 on a road trip!  It was an adventure getting there.  Mud slides, road closures, heavy storms through out California.  Took a lot longer than planned too.  But we were comfortable and safe in the CX-9.  Our trip included travel around the cities of San Simeon and Cambria and on the ‘must see’ list were Hearst Castle, the Elephant Seal Beach Sanctuary and NitWit Ridge.  We saw a lot more and had a fantastic time.  I hadn’t been up there for almost 20 years and the kids had never been.  I love taking them on fun trips around California and making it educational is always an added bonus.

 The drive was about 200 miles but with the storm that hit California all week we took it easy and gave ourselves plenty of time to get there and my friend and I took turns driving.  We had fire trucks passing us on the freeway, a ton of car accidents on the road and even saw a car go off the side of the highway.  It was definitely crazy weather for California.

We had an awesome navigation system in the Mazda CX-9 plus Serius radio with a ton of stations to choose from.  We didn’t always agree but co-pilot had control of the radio.

Seals, The Beach & A Castle

When we got there we checked into the Silver Surf Motel, unloaded the car and went to the Elephant Seal Sanctuary (we visited here a few times).  The motel had the cheapest rates in the area, was right by the beach and a few restaurants nearby.  The peak of the season for the elephant seals is February so we were there in time to see a lot of them on the beach and a few males fighting.  It was quiet wet outside and out umbrellas blew inside out but we made the best of it and enjoyed the sites. I love the backup camera on the Mazda!  The parking lot was huge puddles and potholes from the rain and we had to navigate through it and around the other cars. We saw a few of these ‘Cow Art’ pieces too around the city. Not sure the name of them but they were interesting. I love the details, like the sand stars and barnacles on the legs.
cow art san simeon View from the hotel.  Looks like we could drive straight into the ocean.silver strand motel The car got wet, muddy and dirty and still looked great! If you drink wine you must drive up the coast to san Luis Obispo.  They have a ton of wineries to visit. san luis obispo wine trail Next day we took a tour of Hearst Castle.  They have four regular tours plus a nighttime tour to choose from and the tickets can be purchased in advance online.  Parking is free and tickets are picked up inside the Hearst Castle Visitor Center.  Inside there is a 30 minute movie about Hearst Castle and how it came about, gift shops and restaurants.  After that we boarded a bus to go five miles up the hill to the castle.  The weather was cloudy and a little cold but the rain held off and we had a fantastic time exploring the grounds and inside the main buildings.   Beyond the clouds is the beach. Statues were everywhere on the grounds and inside.  The whole place was amazing.  Fascinating architecture and art.  There was so much to see.  I could easily have spent a few more hours there but the kids were going through it at a quicker pace.  The outdoor pool, Neptune Pool, was being repaired and was drained but we saw the indoor pool.  Above it is the tennis courts.

The outdoor walls, staircases and planters even had statues, decorations and more.Group photo of the four of us outside the main building at Hearst Castle.hearst castle We ate lunch in Cambria at Linn’s (famous for their pies) and dinner at Big Sur Restaurant.  All of the diners in Cambria are small, non-chain restaurants, mostly family-owned.  Same with the gift shops and ice cream parlors.San simeon beach

The next day we went to the beach and explored.  The tide was coming in and the waves were crazy from the storms. It was amazing to see that some beaches had no elephant seals at all and others had hundreds of them.  I wasn’t sure what made the seals stay on certain beaches.Kids in the sand while the water was ebbing out.We drove back to the Elephant Seal Sanctuary and took the path the opposite way (day before we went left, this time we went to the right) and we hiked to the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse.  Tours are given at 9:45 am on Wednesdays and Sundays in the summer.  We missed out on a tour but still had a fun 3-mile hike.  I love how well the car navigated in these cities where I didn’t know the streets or how to get anywhere and the roads were a bit crazy.

That evening we had dinner at Robin’s Restaurant.  The building, like most in Cambria, is an old house.  The menu is a mix of all types of cuisines.  They consider themselves a ‘handcrafted global cuisine’ and they aren’t kidding. I would love to go back there for their Sunday brunch. Their menu is a mix of Indian food, like naan and curry dishes, seafood dishes, kid-friendly, like pizza, and even Thai food.  The prices weren’t cheap but the food was amazing and service spectacular.  They have outdoor dining on a small patio too.robin's restaurant Robin’s compensated us a free appetizer for dining here.  I picked the cheese platter that included nuts, cheese, breads, fruit and local honey.   My son ordered a Iced Mocha Float that included a fresh rose petal.iced mocha float The adults ordered the Cioppino, a seafood soup and the kids ordered pizza.  Fresh bread was also served for everyone.
cioppino There was a line to get in as we were leaving.  If you plan to dine here it is a good idea to make reservations.Robin's Restaurant in Cambria Cambria seems to have an abundance of ice cream shops too.  Some service homemade fudge and trinkets too.cow tipping The hills surrounding Hearst Castle have cattle on them from a ranch the castle runs and the hills in San Simeon and Cambria have more ranches.  It is said that the Hearst Castle herds also have zebras in them, from when the castle once had a zoo (and the zebras were released).  I looked the whole time we were there and never saw a single zebra. Water run off coming down the hills.  California isn’t used to so much rain so a lot of it was running directly to the sea.

Historic Landmarks In Cambria

Cambria had a ton of small stores for shopping.  Clothing, art, even a yarn shop. This one, Gallery of Wearable Art (GOWA) was once a house, built in 1880.
Up in the hills is a one-of-a-kind house, called Nitt Witt Ridge.  It was built by Arthur “Art” Harold Beal (now deceased) over 50 years and is now owned by Michael O’Malley.  For a $10 donation you can get a tour of the house and outside grounds.  You won’t find this attraction on all the tour maps, since it is not a favorite among the locals, but it is worth the money and time.  Beal took items from the dump and around town to build his house.  It is upcycling and recycling before it was in and the arches and walkways are very unique.
Most of the house is built out of wood, rocks and stone, old beer bottles and tires.  It is said that Beal carved the whole thing out of the mountainside with a shovel. Staircase with abalone shells. Nitt Witt Ridge was a maze or rooms with random toilets in odd places, including one on a rooftop.  We really enjoyed O’Malley’s tour and hope he is able to maintain this landmark historic attraction for generations to come.
On the way home we pulled over at Peachy Canyon Winery just so I could sit in this chair.  Check one thing off my bucket list. The drive back was a lot of traffic and more rain but the Mazda got us in comfort.  Did I mention how roomy this car is?  We enjoyed the scenic drive and hope to go back up there again soon.

Disclosure: I received one or more products for review purposes only. Despite the free item, my opinions remain 100% Honest and my own.This post may contain affiliate links, if clicked I may receive compensation. If a giveaway is being held: No purchase is necessary to enter. Void where prohibited by law. Odds of winning are based on number of entries received. Giveaways on this blog are in no way affiliated with Facebook or any other social media networks.

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