How to Turn Your Home in to a Living Legacy – Vacation Memory Bottles

If the house goes up in flames, I want my people, my scrapbooks and my sand bottles. Forget the jewelry, just grab the sand.

My sand bottle collection represents memories I’ve gathered over the past decade of my life. The 46 unique bottles grace our master bedroom fireplace mantel and represent travels I’ve made near and far with my family, husband, girlfriends or by myself. Each and every bottle is full of earthly treasure attached to stories of travel and exploration.

Our homes are a haven where our family story is told through what graces our walls, shelves and mantels. Everything we choose to display in our house is a reminder of what we deem important.  Our homes are a tangible way to tell the story of who we are and where we’ve been. Look around. This is us.

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Spring Break plans? Try Camping at the San Diego Metro KOA!

Home sweet KOA. It’s been awhile since I’ve been at the campground but it still feels like home to me. Even though this was my first time at the San Diego Metro KOA, the KOA campground brand simply brings me joy. Our family spent 6 months of 2014 living in and out of their campground locations all across the USA. I can absolutely see why this location was named KOA’s 2013 Campground of the Year!


Now that the Carneys’ are no longer traveling by RV, the deluxe cabin is our camping accommodation of choice. We met the owners, the Bell Family, at their St. Louis location while on the road and they graciously invited me to stay for their Wellness Weekend last weekend. Unfortunately, I had to head home earlier than expected but I can’t wait to bring the entire family back here soon. It’s honestly a slice of campground heaven.


There are so many unique things about the San Diego KOA. Let’s start with the farm to table food at the Sand Castle Cafe. For dinner I ordered a turkey burger, that came with fresh fixings and delicious fries. This bowl of homemade granola was a treat for my breakfast. I just love the outdoor seating area too.


I don’t think a lot of people get that camping isn’t like it used to be. You can be nearly as comfortable in the campground as you can at a hotel. This deluxe cabin features two bedrooms and a fun loft upstairs for the kids.


The kitchen and living area are spacious, nicely decorated and clean. I loved waking up to the Keurig coffee maker!


This was the first time I’d ever seen the Safari Tent accommodations. There are four of them on the San Diego property and I definitely want our family to try this out one day.  There are two of them together toward the back of the park that I already told a friend that our families need to book together.


The jumping pillows are my kids favorite KOA amenity and this location has two of them. There’s also laser tag and a rock climbing wall on the property too. The activity schedule at the San Diego Metro KOA is packed with fun things to do.


The pool area, arcade, laundry and store are all well kept and clean.


The playground, basketball and bike rental area at the front of the park calls out fun from the moment you enter the campground! There is also a four person unique ping pong table under the gazebo that looks like a lot of fun too.


If you haven’t made spring break or summer getaway plans yet, try camping here. Your kids will thank you! Book your spot now as all accommodations are filling up fast and you can see why!

Check out San Diego KOA’s upcoming camping events for the rest of 2016! Happy Spring Break to all!


Why Your Family Needs to Visit NYC on 9/11

We will never forget.

As Americans, we will never forget the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001, and our family will never forget spending the 13th anniversary of this day in New York City.

I never truly understood the depth of the physical and emotional devastation here until finally witnessing it firsthand in 2014 during our RV trip around the USA.

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Love Goes

I truly thought the book I’ve been reading was called Love Goes. I even told friends they needed to go buy it. Bob Goff’s bestseller is actually titled Love Does. I didn’t even realize that I had switched a letter to make the title my own. Obviously I believe that Love Goes too. Where does love take you?

Love is why I head to Valladolid, Mexico. I go because I love the people there. I love who I’m there serving with and I love seeing my kids serving alongside me. Love is a good reason to go.


Our first mission trip to Valladolid back in 2011.

Our family closed out our summer with a week long mission trip to the Yucatan. Unlike the two other times I have gone on this trip, I had a moment where I questioned my significance. I wondered whether my presence there was really important. Was I truly making an impact?What am I doing on a medical mission trip in a country who’s language I can’t fluently speak?

In the past I led Vacation Bible School in the villages all day long. Sometimes when we are busy, it’s easier to feel like we are making a difference. With such a large group from our church on the trip this time, I was “just” part of the soccer camp crew. I try my best to never question any role I’m given because I do believe that God puts us exactly where he wants us and it’s our job to just follow. One morning I simply felt lost without a real role to cling to. Why am I here?

Immediately the Lord quieted me and whispered, stop and look around you. Take a look at your children and husband. These five amazing people wouldn’t be here serving without you. Relax and take it in. I did and you know what, I was immediately humbled.

My eyes welled up as I walked into the room where my middle triplet was quietly cleaning the feet of local men and women as they entered the diabetes clinic. I never coerced him to go take on that role. I didn’t even know that was where he ended up until I walked in and saw him at work.


Next, I walked out back of the clinic to see my other sons serving in the hot Mexican sun, testing all the urine of the locals. I refilled my boys waters, made them laugh and gave them sunglasses. Pride filled my heart as I watched them work together on this thankless job.


I then went out front to see my husband tirelessly shoveling and moving gravel. The men were covering the bare land that surrounded the colorful new playground that our church had just built. They were working hard, sweating profusely and forming bonds through their teamwork. I felt pride watching my husband always working to fill any need day in and day out on his first mission trip.

My daughter was constantly loving on the village children. She helped in the diabetes and eye clinics as well as in VBS and soccer camp. She was a roamer and filled whatever need there was at the time. Here she is handing out cookies to the local kids.


One day I chased the kids up and down and all around the hot playground as they chanted over and over… Jugar! Jugar! All they wanted was for me to play with them. At one point I was so overheated and needed a spot in the shade to cool off. The language barrier between myself and my new friends caused them to follow me to my resting place and surround me. My first thought was, how am I going to be able to cool off? And then this happened.

I honestly don’t even know what the kids are singing. I asked one spanish speaking friend to translate it for me and what he told me was beautiful. I hope that you can understand it, but even if you are like me and can’t, you can still feel the love of the moment. The time I couldn’t catch a break was the time that spoke the most to me on the trip. I was loved just for being me and showing up. I sat in awe.


We may have times in our lives that we question our significance when our roles may not seem important enough. But, sometimes all we need to do is look around and realize that showing up in love may be all that’s required of us.


Back to Branson and the KOA

What’s summer break without a little camping action? We have such a fondness for our KOA brand after their sponsorship of our RV Family Sabbatical last year! Last week KOA put us up for a couple of nights at their Branson, Missouri location after picking up our foursome from Kanakuk Summer Camp. It felt good to be back with the yellow shirts we know and love!


Manager Angie Dickerson with new Branson KOA owners Greg and Karen Wright.

At the Branson KOA, you can expect super friendly staff who are there to help you from the moment you check in to the park. They will also be in the convention center serving up free pancakes every summer morning. This perk is a huge bonus for our large breakfast loving family!


Not only did we love going for our complimentary morning pancakes, but our commute to breakfast was quite short. This was the view after walking out the door after stuffing ourselves- our home sweet home on wheels, Ally B. Our premium RV site was just perfect and we had a lot of room outside to sort through all of the kids trunks and bags after picking them up from camp.



The Branson KOA is in a beautiful location just half a mile from all of the action on the main street. The pool was a well loved spot during our days there. Adjacent to the pool, was the beloved laundry room that I spent lots of time in getting all of the kids camp laundry done. I don’t know what I would’ve done if we were in a hotel with all of the stinky and wet clothes that they brought back with them! The KOA was the perfect place for us to regroup and unwind together before heading back home to Arizona.


The Branson Main Street traffic is crazy! It is always bumper to bumper like this as most all of the live shows, attractions and restaurants lie along this road. Remember patience is a virtue and there are plenty of shortcuts from the KOA to keep you off this road! Branson is a unique family vacation destination known as the “Live Music Show Capital of the World.” I’m sorry to say that our family didn’t actually head to any of the shows this visit. KOA will recommend their favorites and can get you discounted tickets right there at the campground. Our family headed to Silver Dollar City Theme Park as well as did some go karting at the Track and mini golfing at the coolest Hollywood themed course we’ve ever been to! Check out my posts on the not to be missed Sunday brunch at College of the Ozarks and the tour of Top of the Rock as well.

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7 fun tips for family life in an RV!

Camping season is upon us! How many of you are out there enjoying the great outdoors in your RV? We’re gearing up to spend July in dear Ally B, so I compiled a list of some handy ideas for making RV life perhaps a bit easier and less expensive!


1. Most campgrounds unfortunately come with bugs. Bring along hotel shower caps to cover your dishes for your outdoor meals! Don’t forget your cute, water-stain resistant table cloth too!


2. Use old comforter bags to store kids shoes while driving to keep dirt out of your motorhome!


3. Buy (or make your own) shower lanyards for kids to take to the campground showers! We ordered ours off of Amazon!


4. Keep your RV bathroom clean and toughen up the kids by sending them to the nice campground showers! Get plastic baskets for each child to take with them containing their own shower lanyard, pajamas and towel. Be sure to get a different colored towel for each kid too!



5. Long day on the road? Put dinner in the crockpot to cook in the sink while you’re driving, so it’s all ready for when you arrive.


6. Forget buying the expensive RV hangers! Cut a pool noodle in half and wedge on top of your hangers so that clothes don’t fall off in your closet while you’re driving.


7. Make a clothesline out of rubber bands to dry clothes outdoors or inside your RV. This clothesline is amazing because it’s flexible and takes up no room to store!

Want to make one? Here’s how:

If using regular rubber bands, buy the thicker ones. Don’t get cheap dollar store type.
Use appx. 20-25 bands and make into a chain by looping end to end.

Make 3 chains of equal length. Holding one end of each chain together in your hand loop the end together in a large knot, leaving a grouping of 3 bands at the end for hanging.

Take the loops formed at the end of knot and hang over something such as a knob and begin to form a braid with the 3 strands, stretching braid gently as you go.

When you get down to about the last 6 inches hold the end loops together again and loop into another large knot.

Happy Summer! Happy Camping! What are some of your favorite tips when traveling by RV?


Beauty at Top of the Rock near Branson!

Our two favorite places we found when visiting Branson, Missouri were the College of the Ozarks and our adventure at Top of the Rock. Ok- neither of them are exactly in Branson, but just on the southern edge.


At Top of the Rock we took a self driven tour by golf cart along beautiful paved paths and through Lost Canyon Cave. Not only is there an amazing waterfall inside the four-story cave, but there is a bar where you can toast to your once in a lifetime journey. The last tour does leave an hour or so before sunset and the bar was closed when we got to the cave, so you may want to head out a little earlier if you want to experience that.


We enjoyed seeing some deer and other little critters along the way. Be sure to bring a sweater or jacket if you head out in the evening as I was freezing, even in the humidity! It didn’t help that we got caught in some rain along our journey.


You will experience the beauty of waterfalls, natural rock formations and covered bridges along the trail ride.


The views of Table Rock Lake are incredible from the top! You will have to pay a $10 fee just to drive into Big Cedar Lodge (if you are not staying there) where Top of the Rock is located. You do receive a $10 credit toward anything you spend up top though. We put it toward our tickets for our cart excursion, which run $25 each. Kids under 12 are half price.


After our tour, we took a shuttle up to Arnie’s Barn for dinner and to enjoy the scenery from up there. The Chapel of the Ozarks is stunning as well as the golf course that it sits on! So happy we found this place and highly recommend you checking it out if you find yourself in the area!


Visit Hard Work U when in the Ozarks!

After dropping our kids off at summer camp in Branson, Missouri it was time to explore the Ozark region and check out what the area had to offer. At a time when there is much talk about what is wrong with the nation, College of the Ozarks, exemplifies what is right with America.


Founded in 1906, the College of the Ozarks is home to 1,500 students who work, rather than pay, for a quality liberal arts based education. All students who are admitted to C of O must demonstrate financial need, academic ability, sound character, and a willingness to work. 65% of these students come from the Ozarks region. One of the places for students to work is at The Keeter Center.


Located at the entrance to the campus, Dobyn’s Dining Room is in the Keeter Center’s Mabee Lodge. Not only can you enjoy lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch here, but you can stay in one of 15 suites in the Lodge as well. If you don’t have time for a full meal stop in and enjoy a treat from the bakery or ice cream parlor just outside Dobyn’s.


We were fortunate enough to have made reservations in advance for the Sunday brunch! As soon as you walk into the dining room you are greeted with this scrumptious assortment of desserts. Behind this table was the student musician playing piano throughout the meal and then just beyond him is a homemade root beer float stand. The room is full of various food options!


This is by far the best brunch we’ve had and for only $25 is a deal. Plus, you get to chat with your student server about the College and learn about his or her experience there. Our server, Graham, told us about how he is working the summer program to pay for his room and board for the school year. On top of his full accounting course load in the fall, he will have to work 15 hours a week on campus to pay for his tuition.


After brunch we decided to walk off the calories with a stroll around the patriotic campus. Be sure to walk all the way behind the Williams Memorial Chapel to the Point Lookout for a fabulous view of the Ozarks!


I just love the college’s slogan of Hard Work U. All of the signage throughout campus is inspiring!


Since we were here on a summer Sunday, campus was very quiet as everything is closed and very few students are around. There is a College Dairy, Fruitcake and Jelly Kitchen, Edwards Mill and various other attractions to tour if you come on a weekday. The students also run a farmers market every Friday!

Have you ever been to this special place? We can’t wait to bring the kids here after we pick them up from camp!


5 Top Doughnut spots around the USA!

Some people take a road trip around the country visiting all the baseball parks or seeking out infamous burger stands everywhere they go. Our family somehow started seeking out the top doughnuts across the country during our motorhome travels. It’s a good thing that my scale was broken when we returned home because I probably didn’t need to know how many pounds this little adventure brought on.

In honor of National Doughnut Day, I am compelled to fill you in on our top doughnut spots around the USA! 

1. Fractured Prune Doughnuts- Phoenix, Arizona


Gotta start with our hometown hero, Fractured Prune. This Maryland based franchise offers a fun variety of toppings for your cake doughnuts. You mark your selections beforehand, hand them in and wait on your freshly baked goods. These hot, fresh, made to order treats taste a lot like your typical mini donuts with whatever gourmet toppings you haven chosen such as French Toast or Key Lime Pie.


2. Glazed Gourmet – Charleston, South Carolina


In this post about my trip to Charleston, I mentioned how luscious the doughnuts are here at Glazed Gourmet. Hands down Glazed Gourmet is my winner of the tastiest donuts from our US travels. I’m still thinking about this place on upper King Street!


3. Top Pot Doughnuts – Seattle, Washington


There are several locations of Top Pot Doughnuts in Seattle! The glazed old fashioned may look familiar as this company originally made the donuts for Starbucks.

4. Astro Doughnuts- Washington, D.C.

No pictures of this one even though we made our way here twice! I wasn’t a huge fan, but my family loved the donuts served with fried chicken. I would say that it’s an interesting concept and for sure to check it out. You’ll have walked enough in this city to earn yourself a sweet treat and it can quality for lunch when you add the infamous chicken too!

5. Blue Dot Donuts- New Orleans, Louisiana


Yes, New Orleans is known for it’s own special doughnut, the beignet. Of course, our family had our share of those in the French Quarter before heading off to seek out Blue Dot Donuts! It’s a small place offering not very unique flavors, but definitely delicious nonetheless.



Arlington National Cemetery reminds us of service and sacrifice

On this 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, today is the day that we as Americans show our respect and honor all veterans who have given their lives to preserve, protect and defend our freedoms. Memorial Day is a time to truly appreciate and reflect on the sacrifices of war.

The Washington D.C. area is home to a majority of the USA’s top war memorials. No land in America is more sacred than Arlington National Cemetery. Our family had the chance to visit our Nation’s burial grounds during our motorhome journey around the United States. The 150 year old cemetery, across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital, is the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families.  “Service to country” is the common thread that binds all who are honored and remembered here.

Arlington Cemetary

Did you know that…

  • Arlington is the only national cemetery to hold the remains of those who fought in every war in U.S. History.
  • Americans everywhere are encouraged to pause at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day as a National Moment of Remembrance. Take one minute to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.
  • Nearly 4,000 former slaves are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
  • There are only two U.S. presidents who have been laid to rest here- John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft.

The eternal flame denotes President Kennedy and wife Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ gravesites, about halfway up the hill on which Arlington House stands. The grave was placed so that it had a view of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, and was aligned with them. (You can see that view in the last photo in this post.)

  • Arlington House, at the top of the hill, is currently a memorial for Robert E. Lee and run by the National Park Service. Junior Ranger booklets are available for children.
  • The partial remains of the seven astronauts who died aboard the Space Shuttler Challenger are buried here as well.
  • Soldiers plant flags in front of every tombstone in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend. The tradition is known as “Flags-In.”
  • Nearly 5,000 unknown soldiers are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days per year by The Old Guard. There is an elaborate ritual to change the guard every 1/2 hour (every hour beginning Oct. 1).


Arlington National Cemetery is a beautiful, yet solemn place to visit. If you are taking the kids, remember that there are sections of the cemetery where they will need to be completely silent out of respect.  The cemetery is very large and the main sites are not right next to one another. Wear comfortable shoes and plan to spend a few hours walking along paved roads and sometimes up hills. You may purchase bus tour tickets at the welcome center if you’d rather get around that way. Before your visit get the ANC Explorer App for a self guided tour or to locate gravesides and places of interest.


At Arlington National Cemetery, we Americans are reminded of the service and sacrifice of those who have defended and protected our freedoms. Happy Memorial Day to all of you!