Gift Ideas: College Survival Kit

One of my nieces made the transition from high school to college this year. Unlike many young people at this stage in life, she wasn’t dying to get out of her parents house and move far away. So, instead of “going off to college,” she stayed put living at home and started school at a local university.

For her birthday (end of July, so perfect timing), I put together a College Survival Kit for her. Since she opted to stay at home, and already had a fully set up bedroom, there were many of the traditional college student gifts that just wouldn’t apply to her (mini fridge, tv, extra long twin size bedding, fun chair, etc.). Instead, I focused this gift on the essentials she would need to survive the commuter life.

Here’s what I included:

  • Starbucks coffee drink – I opted for this to fit my basket budget and because I know she likes these, but you could also go for a coffee gift card, their favorite k-cups or a cute travel mug
  • Power bank – this is a must have for any technology addicted college student; charge it up and take it on the go to recharge your phone or tablet as needed without having to hunt down a free outlet. The one I purchased is no longer available on Amazon, but I also really like Anker products and they offer a number of options at a variety of price points
  • Planner – like most high schools provide for their students, this is an essential to help keep a student organized; between class schedules, assignments, campus events and work, there’s a lot going on
  • Pens – to go with the Planner and notebooks (below); I opted to get a set with a variety of colors. Research shows that using colors while note-taking, and then using the same color to take a test, actually helps with remembering the information
  • Notebooks – for taking notes and/or doodling in less engaging classes
  • Post-it notes – I’m always a fan of these – they can be used as makeshift tabs to mark a place in a textbook, they’re great for passing notes or can even be used in a planner when there’s a lot going on in a given day; as a fun bonus, purchase a couple of different sizes of these (in different colors, of course)
  • Gum – similarly to note-taking and completing a test in the same color of pen, research shows that chewing gum while studying, and then chewing the same flavor of gum during a test, can help students better recall the information
  • Tylenol – headaches are bound to happen with late nights, studying and stress
  • Hand sanitizer – so many doors, desks and public bathrooms with germs abounding. Help protect your favorite college student

What’s great about this basket (and really any gift basket) is that you can customize to your budget. Some other ideas that’d be appropriate to include are:

  • Hat, sweatshirt or mug of their new school – if you don’t live local to the school, these items are typically available online as well
  • Gas gift card – lots of driving!
  • Snack or energy bars – think Cliff or Kind bars, nut packs, etc.
  • Reusable water bottle or tumbler
  • Reusable straw – this is a nice telescoping one I purchased on Amazon

Good luck putting together your basket, and remember, college students are usually broke so they’ll appreciate anything!

Pregnancy + Post Partum Advice From a 1st Time Mama

You may have heard… I recently birthed my first child. As the youngest of 5, I’ve had a lot of experience with babies, but almost none of that prepared me to become a mom myself. So, should you find yourself knocked up, whether you have a clue what you’re doing or not, here are some helpful tips that I learned firsthand along the way.

*I’m not getting paid off of any of the recommendations or links in this post. These are truly just what I used / use and found success with!

If you’re planning to get pregnant…

  • Establish a healthy diet and exercise routine. This is crucial. Before getting pregnant, I had been on about a year-long journey to clean up my caloric intake and fitness routine, which resulted in losing about 28 lbs. This made staying fit while pregnant and feeling good physically post-baby soooo much easier. I also never found myself in a situation where someone said I looked huge or ready to pop, both of which are terrible things to say to an expecting mama. I used the MyFitnessPal app to track what I ate and went on daily walks around my neighborhood. I also practice yoga regularly via YouTube with Yoga with Adriene (THE BEST). Both walking and yoga are great things to continue throughout pregnancy until you pop!
  • Take folic acid while you’re trying. Your doctor will tell you this too, if you discuss trying to conceive. It helps with early fetal development before you even realize you’re pregnant and get on prenatals. Folic acid is not expensive and is easily found at most grocery or all-around stores.
  • Remember to be patient. Stress makes it harder to conceive so if you’re all worked up about how you haven’t gotten pregnant yet, it will only make things worse! Try to relax (easier said than done) and enjoy the act of trying to make a baby! (because you won’t have as much time for it once baby arrives!)

Once you’re pregnant…

  • If your prenatal makes you sick, take it at night before bed. My oldest sister gave me this advice and it changed the game.
  • Eat small, frequent snacks to curb nausea. I often found myself eating every hour, on the hour. My go to snacks included fruit, pickles (both because of cravings and their 0 calorie-ness), low calorie popcorn, pretzels, applesauce and nuts.
  • Get prepared for the big day. I cannot stress this enough and I don’t just mean the basics like having a shower and setting up the nursery. Here are a few other things I did (and didn’t do but wish I had) to get ready:
    • Make some meals to stash in your freezer for post baby. In case you didn’t know, cooking can be tough with a newborn. Having meals that just require you to pop them in the oven or dump them into a crockpot can be a lifesaver and will help ensure you don’t just find yourself in the drive through line every day. I’ve included some recipes below that I made ahead of time and were delicious.
    • Make lactation cookies. If you’re planning to nurse, these will help ensure you have a healthy milk supply. I used this recipe. I would also recommend lactation smoothies. My favorite recipe calls for 8 oz chocolate almond milk, 1 tbsp brewers yeast, 1 tbsp ground flax seed, 1 frozen banana, 1/3 cup oats and 1 tbsp peanut butter. You can do some prep for these too by making small containers of the dry ingredients pre-measured out, as well as freezing some bananas.
    • Clean (or get someone too). You will not want to, and should not, clean post-partum so try to keep your house tidy leading up to the big day (especially since babies don’t always arrive as scheduled).
    • Ensure your registry has stuff to make life easier:
      • Baby wrap – by this, I mean the thing that you use to wrap the baby onto your body. This was hugely helpful for me when my babe wanted to be kept close to me, but I wanted to get some things done around the house. I’ve also read this is very beneficial for baby as a way of engagement. I use this one.
      • Baby aquaphor + bum brush – my niece, who is a nurse, gave me the advice of using aquaphor with every change (she learned this working in the NICU); this helps prevent diaper rash from occurring and protects sensitive skin. The bum brush made this so easy. You use it to apply the ointment, keeping your hands clean!
      • Pre-made swaddles – SO MUCH EASIER than following the steps with a regular blanket. You can also get them in heavier fabrics which are great for winter. Just think… It’s 3am and you’ve already been up a few times to feed and diaper change. You want to get back to bed quickly but you can’t get the wrap quite right… Just skip that stress! I have both SwaddleMe brand and Halo (Halo has some great fleece options for winter and can act as both a swaddle AND sleep sack for when baby can no longer be swaddled).
      • Lots of changing pad liners OR just get a waterproof, wipeable changing pad. Your baby will pee and poop on you. It’s inevitable and doesn’t matter if you have a boy or girl… It’ll happen, so be prepared.
      • Good water bottle – if you’re nursing, you will be parched! And, water intake impacts milk production so stay hydrated! Highly recommend getting a dishwasher safe one because no one wants to do more dishes with a newborn than you have to!
      • Baby lotion – so, this is obvious, but I’m actually recommending it for YOU, not just baby. You will be washing your hands A LOT, which means they are going to get dry. Use baby lotion to prevent dry skin and not worry about affecting baby with unsafe ingredients or fragrances. I like the Baby Aveeno.
  • Get your post-partum essentials ready. Here’s what I’m glad I had:
    • A haakaa (for my breast feeding mamas) that’s been boiled to sterilize; this is great to get a little milk out while nursing or to save any milk from leaking if you have an overflowing supply
    • Nursing bras / tops – I would highly recommend a few nursing bras (regular and sports bras), camis and then lots of button downs or nursing shirts. Also, flyaway cardigans or jackets are great (no buttons or zippers) because you don’t want to scrape or poke baby. If you want to shop for nursing bras, check out Target. They usually have a couple in stock that you can try on vs. trying to pick one out online. AND, if you register with Target, you’ll get some coupons that you can use for these as well!
    • Breast friend nursing pillow – highly recommend this rather than a boppy pillow, specifically for nursing
    • Comfortable regular underwear
    • A few heavier pads and lots of panty liners. One things I did was make “padsicles” because I saw a lot on pinterest about them. Honestly, I barely used them and didn’t even need them because I was sent home with witchhazel rounds from the hospital which were very nice. I also bought WAY too many heavy pads. Don’t make the same mistake I did!


  • Make sure you have the essentials in your hospital bag. There are so many posts and blogs about this, so I’m not going to go crazy but I’ll tell you some things you may not think of that I was glad I had:
    • A cute, two piece pajama set with a button down top. This was so helpful for nursing and it was nice to feel like I was wearing semi-real clothes. I also wore this a lot after we got home from the hospital since I didn’t have many nursing tops or button down shirts (lesson learned!).
    • Frida mom disposable underwear – the hospital will give you disposable underwear, but they are loose fitting. I like the Frida moms to keep everything in place, especially when I had visitors.
    • A robe – when you want to go raid the snacks in the kitchen, you’ll want something to throw on over whatever you’re wearing.
    • Your own snacks – my daughter was born at 7pm on a Sunday. The cafeteria was closed and I was STARVING. The nurses hooked me up with a small bento box but I was very glad I’d brought some snacks as well.
    • An extra bag to bring home hospital goodies. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take full advantage of the goodies available to you. Anything you ask the nurses for during your stay is yours to keep! You’re already going to pay for the stay so you might as well milk it!
  • Remember you’re in charge. I mean this in so many ways. First, listen to your body. Even though this was my first baby, I just knew when it was time to go to the hospital and then when it was time to push. Advocate for yourself and trust your body. Second, don’t be afraid to say no. If you aren’t ready for visitors, say so. You need to do what’s best for you and your family and that may mean having alone time. Thirdly, don’t be afraid to ask for help – from your doctor or nurse, your partner, and your family.
  • Live in the moment. It’s such a special time and goes by so quickly, so try not to think about what’s next, but be present. A great way to help with this, and your memories, is to write down what’s happening as it happens, especially for your “birth story.” Then, you’ll be able to tell your child how it all went down for years to come!

Post partum…

  • See a Lactation consultant AFTER you leave the hospital. One will likely visit you while you’re there, but you get so many people who come by to tell or ask you things, it can be overwhelming. A visit with a consultant after that’s all over can be really beneficial. Also, I wish I had taken my breast pump flanges with me when I met with a consultant to make sure I was using the right size. (Yes, your pump comes with 2 standard sizes, but it can be tricky to determine which is the right fit or if you need a different size entirely.) I ended up going for a second visit to do so, so learn from me and take them the first time!
  • Take advantage of online grocery ordering and pickup (or delivery!). My doctor recommended avoiding stores until babe was 2 months (and vaccinated). However, I still needed some essentials each week. Online ordering and pickup made it easy to get what I needed without setting foot in a store.
  • Get a baby tracker app to keep a record of feeding, changes, sleeping and other activities or milestones. You want to make sure your babe is getting enough food / hydration, which you can determine through the number of wet and dirty diapers. Also, your doctor will ask about eating and changing frequency and sleep patterns at your appointments, so it’s just easier if you have it all tracked! I’m using Baby Tracker and it’s great.
  • Do something with all the baby pics you’re taking. As of August 2019, the Shutterfly app offers a free 6×6 soft cover photo book each month (just pay shipping). As I take babe photos, I stash them in a folder by month and then create a free book each month to catalog how she’s growing. By the time she’s one, she’ll have 13 books – 1 with my pregnancy photos and 12 chronicling each month of her first year of life.
  • Combat baby poop blowout stains with the sun. Out of everything I read, I didn’t come across this anywhere. If you have some clothing with breastfed baby poop stains, put it through a wash cycle and then lay it out in the sun. The stain will totally come out like magic. You can then re-wash + dry as normal.
  • Avoid baby scratches by trimming their nails while they’re sleeping. I’ve found that this is easiest when I’ve got her in her car seat after a nice walk when she is snoozing. When she’s sleeping, she isn’t squirming and there’s a significantly lower chance that I cut any of her nails too short!

There you have it. I hope you find these tips helpful, but remember… Every experience is different so you just have to find what is best for you!

Gift Ideas: Daddy Kit

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know that you get a TON of gifts for your impending baby. During my pregnancy, I also found that I got a fair number of “mommy” gifts to pamper myself or make it through pregnancy (which, I actually really enjoyed – both the pregnancy AND the gifts).

The one person who seems to be forgotten in the gift giving occasion is the dad (although my hubs did get one gift solely for him at our shower). So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make him a little Daddy Kit. The goal: stock him up with snacks and treats for the hospital, along with a few other essentials and fun things to make him feel special.

Here’s what I put in my kit:

  • Snacks / treats – I decided to go a little overboard with this (shocking, I know) and themed the snacks as a rainbow; I chose 1 healthy snack and 1 less healthy snack for each color of the rainbow. This could be a fun gift idea in itself for anyone in your life!
    • Red: trail mix and cheese crisps
    • Orange: almonds and kinder joy
    • Yellow: Sunsweet dried mangoes and peanut M&Ms
    • Green: chia seed bars and Mountain Dew
    • Blue: coconut water and gummy worms
    • Indigo: nut & dried fruit mix and truffles
    • Violet: oatmeal and Double Bubble gum
  • Tylenol – for any headaches from sleep deprivation or a crying baby
  • 5 hour energy – ’nuff said
  • Chapstick
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Ear plugs
  • Mini pack of Tissues
  • Matching Daddy/baby shirts – there are lots of cute ideas for this on Pinterest. I opted to do copy/paste as my husband is a software developer and would appreciate this. I used my Cricut to cut the design out of iron-on vinyl and applied it to a white tee for Dad and white onesie for baby.
  • I assembled the kit in a handy tool box/bag with structure and lots of pockets. It gave it a great look and also gave him a cool new tool storage solution.

Other ideas you could consider including are:

  • Mini bottle of alcohol (a “shot”)
  • Cigar to celebrate
  • Reusable water bottle (and you could customize it with permanent vinyl!)
  • Coffee / coffee drink

He really loved it and the snacks were great for him to pack in his hospital bag. Plus, it was fun for me to pick out snacks I knew he’d enjoy and put it all together. Win, win!

Gift Ideas : “Oh shit” Baby Kit

Although I recently had my first child, I made this kit for my SIL (but I’m thinking I’m going to have to make one for myself too). I got the idea from Pinterest (no surprise), where you can find lots of additional ideas of what you can include in your kit, but I’ve got a pretty solid list below for your consideration.

Ultimately, the point of this kit is to throw it in your trunk and forget about it until you need it… Maybe you run out of diapers, your kid has a major blowout, spits up, etc. It’s essentially a backup to your diaper bag for when things go awry… And as I’m learning as a new parent, they WILL go awry at some point. (I’ve already been peed and pooped on so many times…)

So, what are the essentials you should include? Here’s what I put in the kit I made:

  • Diapers size 1-4 – since I was stockpiling diapers for myself, I was okay buying packs in a few sizes and taking a couple out of each to include in this kit. If you don’t have a baby, you could buy very small packs and give the rest to your expecting recipient separately from the kit. They will be appreciated!
  • Outfits size 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-12 months, 12-18 months – hit the clearance section for these so you don’t blow your budget. And remember, for babies, a onesie can totally count as an outfit. Also, as a nice touch, I opted to wash all the outfits in baby-safe detergent so the kit would be totally ready to use.
  • Plastic gallon bags – these are nice to stash dirty clothes in. I made little packages of diapers and an outfit in plastic gallon bags to organize the kit and make the sizing easy to find (frazzled moms and dads will appreciate this!)
  • Mini trash bags – get scented ones if you can (for stinky diapers); I found a small roll at the Dollar Tree
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bib
  • Pacifier
  • Boogie wipes
  • Tissues – I just included a small pack rather than a full size box
  • Clean shirt for mom – I went with a nice, neutral white so it could match almost anything she might be wearing in case of emergency
  • Paper towels
  • Clorox wipes
  • Bandaids – this is great for parents with multiple kids, especially some that are older
  • Ointment – see note above
  • Tylenol
  • Car freshener
  • Lint roller

I assembled the kit in a reusable shopping bag that had a stable bottom so it’d be easy to transport but could easily hangout in the trunk until needed. It was a hit and I’ve heard from my SIL that she’s already put it to good use!

Gift Ideas: Craft Basket

Wow – I can’t believe how long it’s been since my last post! Needless to say, I’ve had some other things going on (namely, a baby, which you can read related posts about here).

If you’re up to date on what I’ve written about so far this year, then you probably know I’m on a gift basket kick (and it doesn’t stop with this one… A coffee basket, “oh shit” baby kit, number of prize baskets, little explorer set, college survival kit, and local flavor basket are still to come!).

This gift was for my niece who turned 4. Kids get SO MANY toys these days that I wanted to get her something that’d be fun and she could get excited about, but that wouldn’t just be yet another thing she’d outgrow and would clog up her bedroom or playroom.

This is also a great gift if you have a set budget for two reasons:

1. You can get as few or as many things to go in it as you can afford. It’s totally customizable.

2. You can get lots of great additions at pretty cheap prices without sacrificing quality. I made this entire basket from a trip to the Dollar Tree.

Below is a list of items I put in my basket, but remember:

  • Customize it for the recipient – I wanted easy to work with materials for little hands; for an older recipient, you could get paints, brushes, and other more advanced craft tools and supplies. Or, if you know your recipient has specific craft passions (like using a cricut or a sewing machine), you could get items that specifically work with that.
  • These are just a starting point – if you see something that speaks to you, go for it!
  • Present your collection of items in a usable basket or container and finish it with a cellophane wrap and some ribbon.

Items in my craft basket:

  • Ribbon
  • Double sided tape
  • Glue stick
  • Washi tape
  • Glue dots
  • Pop up dots (for 3D crafting)
  • Sticky note pads (I got one that is shaped like the letter of her first name and a few others in fun shapes and colors)
  • Crayons (neon and glitter – all kids need both, let’s be serious)
  • Kid scissors
  • Pompoms
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Mini clipboard and notepad
  • Ruler
  • 3 Hole punch
  • 2 colors of glitter paper
  • A pad of colored paper and half sheets of colored paper

And the best part… The shopping! This gift is not only great for your recipient but will be enjoyable for you to put together too. Have fun!

Gift Ideas: Adult Easter Basket

I don’t know how you were raised, but in my household, Easter baskets were primarily filled with candy and maybe a few springtime fun items (bubbles, sidewalk chalk) and 1-2 “big ticket” items (and by big ticket, I mean $10-$20 MAX). Nowadays, I see kids getting bikes or scooters for Easter gifts (if that’s how you roll, more power to you).

Anyway, a few years ago, my sisters and I started a tradition of putting together an Easter basket for my mom and step-dad. My mom does all sorts of fun Easter things for the kids in our family (and for us), so we figured this is a fun way to treat her in return. We all go in together to compose the basket, so it only comes out to about $15-$20/person, but you could easily simplify the list of items you include to keep it on the more “cost effective” end depending on your target spend.

Here’s what we included this year:

  • Healthy snacks – both my mom and step-dad are or have recently been watching their figures, and in general, want to eat healthier, so we included a variety of “better for you” treats, including:
    • Nut packs: we picked up individual packs of cashews, pistachios and almonds (funny story: we each bought one of these packs and coincidentally ALL bought the same brand…aren’t we cute…)
    • FiberNow Cinnamon Coffee Cakes: these little delights are great for when you need a fiber boost and come in at only 90 calories, which isn’t bad when you’re looking for a sweet fix; I get this off-brand from Aldi and they also do a really nice chocolate brownie and lemon bar
    • Whisks Parmesan Cheese Crisps: my sister got these as salad toppers for one of our family gatherings and my mom absolutely RAVED about them, so we figured it’d be fun to include
    • Skinny pop: there are lots of flavors of this or the Boom Chicka Pop or the Simply Nature Sea Salted Popcorn (Aldi) that you can choose from; they even have poppable bags now!
  • Fun drinks – my mom used to always include a 20 oz. bottle of pop in our Easter baskets since this was a “treat” we didn’t typically get; since neither are pop drinkers, we included:
    • Mini wine bottles: my mom is a sweet white drinker and my step-dad is more into dry reds, so we got the mini 4-packs from Target in each flavor; this also helps them with portion control to not overdrink their calories – much easier to open one of these for a glass than open a bottle and feel like you should drink the whole thing in one evening.
    • Moose Munch Coffee: this is my mom’s FAVORITE coffee, but is definitely on the more expensive side (best bet is to buy from Harry & David), so we try to get this for her every year
    • Major Dickason’s K-Cups: these are my step-dad’s preferred k-cups, but he tends not to buy them because they’re a little more pricey, so again, a nice little treat (plus then they both get some of their favorite coffee to enjoy)
  • Big ticket items – usually we try to come up with some “thing” that either they can both enjoy, or a bigger ticket non-food item for both of them. This year, we were light on ideas, but included the following:
    • EnerGel Pens: my husband actually bought these on impulse as they are my mom’s favorite (they weren’t in the original plan)
    • 3-wick Bath & Body Works Candle: you can’t really see it in the picture, but it’s there! We get one of these EVERY YEAR for my mom because she loves them. And, technically it IS for both of them since it makes their house smell nice.
    • Mini hand lotion from Bath & Body Works: this was an impulse add – I had a coupon for a free item, so why not get a little bottle of creamy lotion in her favorite summer scent?!

And that’s it! What I recommend for you is to do some brainstorming within the above categories to build your own Adult Easter basket:

  • What snacks / candy does the recipient love? (think about including both salty AND sweet)
  • What drinks could I include?
  • What other $10-$15 gifts could I throw in? (Note, gift cards are always an easy idea for this and stores may even have cute Easter themed-cards too!)

And, finally, I snagged the basket, which is MASSIVE, from Target for only $5 (they have TONS of options right now).

The final countdown is on – you have 1 week until Easter, so you better get your baskets ready. Happy basket building!

Gift Ideas: Nursing / Pumping Basket

I (semi-recently) learned that I’m pregnant with my first child. That probably means you’re about to start seeing a lot of baby-related posts on here, but I’ll try to keep it under control.

Today is all about a gift idea for someone else though (but not a bad idea to build this for yourself if you’re also expecting/a new mom). My SIL is 10 weeks ahead of me in her 3rd pregnancy. Since it’s #3, she’s not having a shower, but I still wanted to give her a gift as she’s about to undertake a massive task – bringing another human into the world.

We’ve been talking a lot about pumping / breastfeeding, so I decided, why not put together a little pumping / nursing basket for her.

Here are the essentials I included:

  • Drink bottle – apparently nursing makes you incredibly thirsty (note, I didn’t get a water bottle, but rather got a bottle that can be used for hot OR cold beverages, has a straw and also is spill-proof); I’m thinking about customizing it with my cricut, but not sure what I want to put on it. Leave any ideas in the comments!
  • Healthy snacks – when you’re sitting there pouring yourself into another human, or into a baggie, I guess you get hungry. I included some healthier, low calorie snacks including:
    • Bentons breakfast biscuit bites (chocolate) – Belvita knockoff from Aldi
    • FiberNow coffee cake brownies – FiberOne knockoff from Aldi
    • Simply Nature Sea Salted Popcorn – Smartfood knockoff from Aldi
    • Pretzel Slims (Everything flavor) – you guessed it – knockoff brand from Aldi
  • Diapers – in case you need one before or after your feeding
  • Wipes – see above
  • A onesie – in case of emergency / blowout
  • Tissues – just a nice-to-have for a variety of reasons
  • Nipple pads – things may get a little leaky on the not-in-use side
  • Nipple cream – well, because your nips are about to go through it…

All in all, a useful little basket that is thoughtful and more focused on mom. So often we go all out buying clothes and toys and things for the tiny human when there is a new baby on the way and we forget all about treating the adult humans who will care for them!

Hope you found this useful. Let me know what other essentials I may have missed in my basket in the comments.

Take A Trip: Moab, UT

You might be saying to yourself – hmmmm….never heard of such a place. Well, if you’re not into heat, outdoor activities and the wonders of nature, then this place is NOT for you. If you are, keep reading.

Moab is known for many things:

  1. Biking
  2. National & State Parks
  3. Canyoneering
  4. Hiking
  5. River rafting
  6. ATV riding / 4×4 driving

Basically, it’s the middle of the desert with not much around. It’s not particularly close to any major airports, although it does have a tiny regional airport (where you can pick up a skydiving adventure). It’s about a 4-hour drive from Salt Lake City and 6 hours from Denver (this drive is INCREDIBLE).

My husband and I are avid bikers, so we decided to head out and try our hand at some proper mountain biking. Here’s what we did.

Getting There

  • We were flying in from the midwest, so we had a choice – SLC or DEN. We opted for Denver (we’d previously gone mountain biking there and really liked the city) so we could spend a night there before making the drive out. Flight options were also better and cheaper going there, which was a pretty decent factor in our decision.
  • We rented a car in the city and hit the road; make sure wherever you rent from is okay with you taking the car across state lines – if not, you could get into hot water if something was to go wrong while you’re in UT.
  • The drive was ~6 hours, but super worth it. You go through incredible mountains, get to drive by Aspen and really just enjoy the scenic ride following the Colorado River for a decent portion of the trip. It’s almost a trip before your trip. Highly recommend renting an SUV for this, though. We went at the end of May and STILL encountered a pretty crazy whiteout snowstorm on our return back to Denver. We were thankful to have an AWD vehicle for this (and it’s nice for having in Moab as well).
  • Other tips to think about:
    • Download your driving directions / map before you hit the road, along with a decent playlist (or go old school with CDs). Going through the mountains, it’s highly likely you could lose cell service.
    • Be sure to bring snacks along for your trip. This is obvious for any road trip, but at various points along the way, it’s slim pickins for food.
    • Fill up at a stop OUTSIDE OF Moab before you get there. We made the mistake of not doing this and decided to get gas right before we got on the road to head back and we paid an arm and a leg at the only (and sketchiest) gas station available.
    • Bring all your essentials. There are obviously stores and everything you need in Moab, but prices are premium since it’s the middle of nowhere.


  • We opted for a tiny house (this one); there are actually a few of these in the little trailer park we stayed in. It was the perfect size for the hubs and me. It had a full kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living room. This was great because we didn’t want to eat out for every meal being there for almost a week, so we hit the grocery store on day 1 to stock up for house snacks, lunches, etc.
    • TIP: Bring a box of ziploc bags and a lunchbox or small cooler with you. This was AWESOME for packing lunches to take on the trail with us and have mid-ride. It meant we could spend more time in the parks while we were there without having to trek back off the trail to hit the snack shop or head out of the park to find food.
  • It’s also worth noting that our AirBNB host, Richard, was great. We had a totally dumb situation happen – the key to the house fell between the slats of the porch and we got locked out around 9pm. We called Richard and he had someone over within about 15 minutes to let us in and give us a new key.
  • There are tons of other options for lodging (a few hotels, hostels, other AirBNB rentals, etc.) or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could even bring gear to pitch a tent for your trip or rent an RV. I think you may even be able to rent a yurt.

Things to Do

  • One of the first things we did was to rent hybrid bikes for our trip. There are a number of bike shops in Moab (due to the aforementioned claims to fame of the town), but we opted for Chile Pepper bike shop. They were super friendly and helpful. We even ended up setting up a trip transport with them for the end of our trip to get to the top of the epic Porcupine Rim trail and ride it down. Their prices were also reasonable AND we were even able to rent a bike rack from them to put on our rental. It was a great experience.
  • Moab also has some really cute shopping in the “downtown” area – there are lots of art galleries and handicraft shops you can check out. You don’t need a ton of time because it’s pretty small (maybe 10-15 shops, tops), but if you have an afternoon where you want to get out of the sun, it’s a great option.
  • Parks & trails – there are tons of options for all sorts of activities, but our focus was biking. Here’s where we went:
    • Dead Horse – this was probably my favorite park. They had a fantastic trail system that was clearly marked and easy to follow. It also had some really great rides and incredible views. Even on the drive into the park getting to the main parking and trailheads, there were tons of scenic stopping points to get a good look at the wonders of nature. The Colorado River runs through Dead Horse (it’s what caused the uniquely shaped cliffs) and it’s worth the trip to see it. It’s about a 40 minute drive to get there from Moab, but well worth it. However, definitely recommend you pack a lunch and make a day of it. Also, I’m pretty sure we had to pay $10-15 to get into Dead Horse for the day.
    • Klonzo Mountain Bike Area – this is about 35 minutes from Moab and a cool little trail system. There isn’t much else here (maybe some camping), but there are quite a few trails you can check out. What’s great about all the trail systems out there is that they’re labeled with skill level markers. If you aren’t up for expert level work (big drops, massive rocks to climb, uphill for miles), then you can choose an intermediate or easy path. One TIP for Klonzo – we couldn’t find a bathroom once we got there, so make sure to stop before you arrive…
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    • Moab Brands – this is the trail system that we returned to over and over again. I’m not sure it was our favorite, but it was really good and also super close to Moab. You actually pass it on your way in if you’re coming from the east. It’s only about a 10 minute drive on the main road/highway that leads into / out of the town. Unfortunately, this is also where I had a massive crash on our 2nd to last day that took me out of commission, but I wouldn’t not ride here. Just maybe would have been more careful crossing the cattle bridges 🙂
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    • Arches National Park – we didn’t spend a ton of time here. You can park and walk around and make a whole day of it. We chose to just drive around and see everything from the car, for the most part. The drive getting into the park is really cool – you go up and around a winding road. It’s also worth noting that you have to pay to get into Arches (I think $20) UNLESS you arrive after 4pm. Beware that it gets super busy during the day too, so you may sit in line to get into and around the park. We did park at one point to get out and see the famous Utah license plate arch, which was cool, but since we went here after my accident, my knee wasn’t feeling super great, so I wasn’t up to walking a ton.
    • Sky diving – this was a really cool experience that we decided to try for the first time while in Moab. There is a very small airport where you can tandem dive with an instructor. Since we were celebrating the hubs’ birthday, we went for it and had a great experience. I even still have the certificates hanging on my office wall. We jumped with Skydive Moab and the whole experience was easy and fun from start to finish. I jumped with Nick and he jumped with Adam and both guys were great. It really is breathtaking (quite literally) to see all the beautiful mountains and desert from that high up with absolutely no obstructions – just you and the air (oh, and a person on your back…)!
    • Eat – Moab has a number of cute cafes and small restaurants you can try. Our trip was a few years ago now, but I’ve done my best to remember where we went and what we thought of each place:
      • The Blu Pig – pretty sure we went here and got takeout. I remember it being pretty good if you are into BBQ.
      • Sunset Grill – this was a super neat spot we went to on our ‘fancy’ night. It’s definitely a little finer dining than some of the other spots in town. It sits up in a mountain in what used to be the home of the “founder” of Moab. It’s a really neat story that you can learn about the place and it has really amazing views of the mountains. Definitely a nice place to go if you’re celebrating something or want a nice evening out.
      • Eklectica Coffee & Collectibles – we had breakfast here one day and stopped for coffee another day. It’s a tiny place, but the food is good and organic and they also have cute stuff for sale in the cafe.
      • Quesadilla Mobilla – this is a food truck that has a semi-permanent location set up with some outdoor tables and chairs. We had delicious burritos here on the day we did some walking and shopping around town.
      • Moab Coffee Roasters – we got delicious iced coffee here one day when we were walking about town. It was a great treat on a VERY hot day.

Definitely a great trip all around. There is a TON to do depending on what you want. We didn’t even really explore options for canyoneering, rafting or anything like that, but there are plenty of choices if that’s what your looking for. If I can offer you any final tip – plan ahead. In the spring / summer months, tours, rentals and lodging book up, so you need to reserve your spot early. Otherwise, you may get there and find yourself with nothing planned and no way to get in on the action.


Gift Ideas: Vodka Soaked Chocolate Covered Strawberries and BONUS: Chocolate Covered Strawberry Martinis

As you may know, Christmas 2018 was a handcrafted Christmas. Some of the gifts I made were more family-friendly (like the homemade board game) and others were more geared toward the adults (like the Awkward Cat Calendar). As such, there were a few instances where I needed (well, wanted) a small gift for either the adults or kids in the family.

For my brother and his wife, they live across the world and are only home every 3 years. This can make gift giving tricky because I can’t do any of my obvious DIY gifts for the home since it’d be really hard for them to take back with them. So, I opted for a “disposal” gift – vodka soaked chocolate covered strawberries. First, who DOESN’T love chocolate covered strawberries, and more importantly, who doesn’t love a little booze in their dessert? I know I do.

This was a really simple recipe. Here’s what you need:

  • Chocolate flavored vodka – I used Van Gogh Dutch chocolate infused vodka; any kind will do, but this was oddly one of only 2 brands available in a chocolate vodka at my local grocery store (pic below)
  • Strawberries
  • Melting chocolate – lots of people will tell you to get the special wafers that are meant for melting; they aren’t wrong, but I prefer the taste of milk or dark chocolate, so I tend to get regular chocolate chips or chocolate squares, melt it and then cut it with a TINY bit of coconut oil to thin it up so it’s easier to dip
  • Coconut oil (optional, see note above)
  • Wax paper
  • A cute tin or tupperware for storing the strawberries

These are DEAD EASY to make:

  1. Soak the strawberries in the vodka overnight. I put them in a glass container laid out side by side (so the strawberries didn’t get any soft spots) and poured about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of vodka into the dish.
  2. Remove the strawberries from the vodka and dry thoroughly. Don’t SQUEEZE them (you don’t want to lose the infusion), but you do need them to be dry to the touch if you’re going to get the chocolate to stick.
  3. Melt your chocolate and cut with a tiny bit of coconut oil (if using) to thin to a nice, dippable consistency. I have a little chocolate melting pot, but you can use a double boiler or pot of boiling water with another pot with the chocolate in it sitting down in the water. Try to avoid just microwaving the chocolate if you can – it’s really easy to burn. Also, microwaved chocolate tends to cool more quickly, making the last strawberries that you dip a little ugly…
  4. Dip strawberries in the chocolate and place onto wax paper to dry. Put into the fridge to speed up the cooling process.
  5. Arrange in a decorative tin or “treet” yourself!

TIP: Save the strawberry infused chocolate vodka! A few days later I made really yummy dairy free chocolate covered strawberry martinis that I adapted from this recipe. Instead, I used the following:

  • Chocolate syrup – to line the glass; just get crazy and drizzle it all in there
  • Strawberry infused chocolate vodka (from above) – I used 1.5 oz. per drink
  • Pinnacle Whipped Vodka – I used 1.5 oz. per drink
  • Sweet Creme coconut creamer – I used 1.5 oz. per drink
  • Ice
  • Blended strawberries

Put the vodka, cream and ice into a shaker and mix well. Pour into a chocolate syrup lined martini glass and top with a glob of pureed strawberries. Stir them in just a little bit and serve!