Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bucket List Budget Tips

Do you have any dreams or goals in life? Perhaps you want to travel more, meet a celebrity, or pass that exam? Sometimes we list our aspirations and wants as a way to motivate us to achieve them. You might call this a bucket list or even a to-do list. Whatever you call it, ask yourself when you’re going to cross everything off. Keeping a list isn’t the same as completing the list!

Of course, most of the things we tend to put on a bucket list cost a lot of money to achieve. This can be a huge obstacle, and that’s why bucket list items rarely get crossed off. So what are you going to do about that? If you’re looking for ways to fund your dreams, then why not create a budget that will help you save up to achieve them?

Budgeting Basics

Always start with what you NEED to spend. Sure, you might want your hair colored at the salon each month. And maybe you like having a new outfit for Saturday nights in town. But if you don’t NEED those things, don’t put them in your budget just yet. Stick with the basics. Groceries, rent, heat, light, essential travel, and loan repayments all need to be budgeted. Many of these costs could be reduced a little too. Use discount opportunities like coupons and promo codes from CouponSherpa.com, turn the thermostat down, and walk instead of driving.


Now you know how much you need to spend, figure out how much more you want to spend. This can be as much or as little as you have left from your salary. What you have left over after that can go into a savings account to fund your bucket list items. Sounds easy? Always plan for emergencies. Have a small pot leftover to cover those unexpected expenses. Things like the car breaking down, and appliances needing to be replaced, or a big birthday bash always creep up.

How Long Is This Going To Take?

To find out how long it will take you to save up enough to cross something off your dream list, you need to know how much it will cost. It’s going to cost you more than the ticket price. Many bucket list items like vacations and buying a house always cost more than the purchase price. There will be excursions, souvenirs, food and drink to consider while you’re away. And moving house comes with lots of additional expenses like property lawyers, survey costs, and removal vans.

Once you’ve figured out how much you need to have to achieve your goal, divide that figure by the amount you’re putting into your savings account each month. This is the number of months it will take to save up enough. If you feel it’s too long to wait, then see if you can save a little more each month. You might get a second job, or sell some unwanted items to boost the pot. Don’t forget you may be eligible for pay rises along the way to help you save a little more too. What’s on your bucket list?
Monday, May 22, 2017

7 Delicious Ways to Stay Hydrated

The days are getting warmer. Let's cool off with an infused water recipe that will hydrate you and offer a delicious fruity flavor to your summer days!

Infused water is the perfect way to beat the heat while adding a delicious touch of flavor to your summer drinks. These recipes are some of my favorites and I couldn't wait to share them with you. With recipes as easy and delicious as these, drinking more water is just a tasty sip away

Strawberry Basil Lime Water
Kiwi Blackberry Water
Chia Lime Water
Cucumber Watermelon Mint
Apple Cinnamon Detox Water
Cucumber Lemon Water
Strawberry Lemon Water

Which of these is your favorite? Do you ever make infused water to keep your family hydrated? I would love to hear what fruits you like to include!
Saturday, May 20, 2017

Easy Rain Drop Craft

Spring is here and we have been trying to make the best of the rainy days that comes with the season. Harper and I thought a raindrop craft would be the perfect way to spend the last rainy day we had. This was perfect for my 3 year old. Oh, who are we kidding?! I had a lot of fun with it too. I mean, there is glitter involved!

This craft was so easy, yet so engaging!
All you need is:
A pair of scissors
A few sheets of blue paper

Begin by cutting a drop shape 

Next have your toddler or preschooler liberally apply glue to the paper.

Next invite the child to shake some glitter on the drop!

And there you have a way to add a little sparkle to any rainy day, regardless of the season!

This was a 5 minute craft, it took very little time to assemble, but it completely engaged my little one! We love easy paper crafts for those hey, let's make a craft moments.

Some not to miss restaurants in Manchester

Some not to miss restaurants in Manchester
The restaurant scene in Manchester is as upbeat as before even though some may wonder why the Michelin award has remained elusive. There were 1800 restaurants in Manchester in 2015, and by the end of 2016 another 125 have come up in Greater Manchester. Surely, there are many new places that you might like to visit and could find it somewhat difficult to make a choice. To help you in selecting the restaurants of your choice, go through the ones that get a mention in this article. These are some of the best restaurants in Manchester, and you should step in to verify what makes these places so much attractive.
Scene Restaurant
Spinningfields, the premium district for food and drink has added a new restaurant to the long list of food joints. The Scene Restaurant that opened barely two years ago is exclusively a place to enjoy the vitality and energy of the Indian sub-continent. Be ready to pamper all five senses when you visit the area. The smell, touch and looks of the place, as well as the delicacies served, will excite your nerves, as you get ready to pamper your taste buds with the tongue-tingling dishes. The freshness of food, its vibrant colours and the aroma of spices are irresistible attractions. Get a taste of Indian street side food that finds a place of honour in the menu albeit slightly modified.
The Restaurant Bar and Grill
The sprawling restaurant spreads over three floors including the terrace and is located near Albert Square on John Dalton Street in the heart of the city. The view of the suspended staircase is an architectural wonder that takes off from the long bar. The ground floor is for casual dining, and the formal restaurant is on the first floor. The attraction of the terrace has increased ever since the construction of a retractable roof to allow guests enjoy the place without having to worry about weather conditions. On the second floor, you will find the Private Dining that gives you all the exclusivity that you expect.
La Bandera
This restaurant specialises in Spanish food that is not only authentic in its cooking and taste but is prepared with the traditional philosophy of Spanish food that revolves around keeping it simple, maintain freshness and make it delicious. Located in Manchester City Centre, you can get the traditional Spanish dishes that will take you to the sun-soaked sea sides of that country that are storehouses of mesmerising foods.
Mr Cooper's House and Garden
This restaurant is a different place altogether with a dining room that offers different dining experiences under one roof. The dining room design has recreated a garden complete with a gazebo, birdhouses and trees and the use of green and white in the colour scheme provides the naturalness to the place. The menu is as imaginative as the setting and the decor of the site and keeps changing with seasons to maintain its freshness. The making of drinks by using a Rotary Evaporator adds to the uniqueness of the bar.
About the author – Sam Kingsley is a foodie first and then an author. His penchant for food has resulted in his writing a few cookbooks. He is on the advisory board of Gourmet Guide UK that lists all restaurants in the UK.
Monday, May 15, 2017

The Foodies’ Cheat Sheet For Preparing Ingredients Like A Pro

For anyone who’s a keen cook, a big part of cooking is preparing the ingredients to go in the dish. Of course, you can pick them up from the supermarket ready-prepared, but this costs more and takes away from the experience of cooking from scratch. This means that for anyone with a passion for food, learning to chop, slice, and dice ingredients with speed, ready to put into a recipe is of the utmost importance.

The good news is that preparing foods, from herbs and vegetables to meat and fish is much easier than you would think. It’s just a case of understanding how to use your kitchen tools properly, from your knives to your food processor, to ensure that your ingredients are properly prepared and ready for you to cook with. With that in mind, below are some handy cheats that will get you preparing food like a pro.

cutting veg.jpg

What tools are a kitchen must-have?

To be able to prepare ingredients like a pro, having the right tools is a must. So if you don't’ already have a selection of tools for preparing your food with, it could be time to do some investing. The question is, what does every kitchen need?

A quality set of knives and a knife sharpener are kitchen essentials. If you watch any professional chef prepare their food, you will notice that they always use quality knives, like the ones that Kamikoto create. Top chefs don’t settle for any old tools; they ensure that they have access to the very best pieces of kit, and so should you.

No cooking enthusiast should be without a food processor. Sure, some people see using a food processor as cheating but it’s not, it can actually be an incredibly useful tool to have in the kitchen, as it can really help to speed food preparation up.

What are the best methods for preparing food?

Mincing: Mincing vegetables and herbs, from garlic and basil to ginger and onion, helps to infuse flavor into the entire dish. There are various ways that you can mince herbs and vegetables; you can use a garlic crusher to mince garlic, for instance, while you can use a fork to mince larger ingredients, like onions. All you do is press the fork down onto the vegetable until it splits into pieces, then turn the fork the other way around and do it again - simple.

Julienning: This type of vegetable preparation means slicing the vegetables into long, thin batons. This cutting technique is actually much easier than it seems, it’s just a case of getting the movement and angle just right.

Chopping: Adding chopped vegetables to a range of different dishes can help to not only add flavor but also to change up the texture of the dish. When it comes to chopping vegetables, there’s a different method for each vegetable. Take onions, for instance, peel off the skin, chop off the neck of the onion and slice it lengthways down the middle. You can then place the flat surface down and slice each half following the natural shape of the onion's layers.

Dicing: For adding a little extra texture to your dishes, dicing is the perfect way to prepare ingredients for your food.  And it’s easier than you would think, you use the same process as chopping, you just continue to cut the vegetable into smaller and smaller pieces, until you are happy with the size of them.

There you have it, a cheat sheet for preparing ingredients like a pro.
Thursday, May 4, 2017

7 Appealing Asparagus Recipes

Asparagus is one of those veggies that brings a lot of flavor to any meal! Discover 7 new ways to cook this favorite green!

I could eat asparagus for every meal and never regret a single bite of it. I love it every way you can serve it and if I dine at a restaurant that has it on the menu, please bring me 2 sides of asparagus!!

I found 7 recipes that I can't wait to try and I think you are going to love too! From a delectable bacon wrapped asparagus to a yummy creamy version with rice! If you have a great recipe for asparagus, please share it with me in a comment!

Cheesy Asparagus Straws
Cream of Asparagus Soup
Creamy Asparagus Rice
Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
Shaved Asparagus Pizza
Ham and Asparagus Spaghetti
Asparagus Salad

As if that isn't enough delicious ideas, you also might like my fully loaded breakfast burrito recipe, it has asparagus in it too!!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Easy Dipped Shortbread Fingers

This post is part of a sponsored collaboration with Walker's Shortbread.

Spring is here and that means it is time to pack dinner into a picnic basket as often as possible and head out for an al fresco meal with the kids! We usually take cookies along on these occasions for dessert, but last week, I wanted to take that to the next level of delicious.

Walker's Shortbread is the natural choice for my family, we love the buttery flavor of shortbread, but spring days require something super special; after all, we are celebrating the return of feathered friends, the sunshine, and shorts, and we are sending our bulky coats back to the closet from which they came!

Within a few moments time, I took our favorite shortbread to new heights with 3 simple ingredients and very little effort! To make our picnic a nutty sweet affair after the meal had ended I offered my family Walker's Shortbread dipped and drizzled with white and dark chocolate and coated in crunchy walnuts. This was maybe the best ending to a meal that I have ever whipped up in under 3 minutes!

To begin, I laid out parchment paper and spread my shortbread fingers on it.

Next, I melted a fine brand of  White Chocolate and a decadent brand of dark chocolate. I drizzled the melted goodness directly on to my shortbread.

Next, I sprinkled on chunks of raw walnuts and followed up with the dark chocolate.

Allow this to cool and harden for about 30 minutes. If you are in a rush, pop the cookies in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Serve or store in a sealed container for up to 4 days.

Bucket List for Icelandic Adventures

As spring fades into summer; I seem to have developed an itch to travel. My daydreams lead me to plan trips I may or may not take. My suitcase seems to be calling for me to pack and set out for an adventure. My feet long to touch unfamiliar lands, my ears are eager for new accents, my palate pleads to taste undiscovered cuisines.

A trip to Iceland has been on my bucket list for as many years as I can recall. As a little girl, I would sit at my globe, letting my fingers spin and my eyes land on a new place, when Iceland blinked on my radar, my curiosity was piqued and has lingered over the decades.

Iceland is a unique island close by the arctic circle. The Gulf Stream location gives Iceland surprisingly mild winters and picturesque summers. The temperature is cool year round in a deliciously refreshing way! In the summer the temperatures range from 55 to 77 degrees, which sounds decadent to this girl from a hot and humid region!

Iceland brings glaciers, snow, and ice to mind, naturally. While taking in these sites are likely at the top of your agenda, the options for fun that await you in this beautiful land appear endless. They are so varied that I am convinced anyone and everyone can have a blast in Iceland!

To give your vacation a great variety of extreme sport and leisure, I have compiled a Bucket List for Icelandic Adventures that you will want to pin to your travel board to refer back to later!


1. Take in the Northern Lights
From September to April the extreme dark of the Icelandic skies offers a light show unlike any other, as it is put on by mother nature! Several hotels in the area feature special wake-up calls to help you take it in, without giving up a full night of sleep. Setting your camera at a ten-second shutter is a great way to capture the moment with lovely photos.


2. Horseback Riding
The Icelandic horse has been preserved through isolation for many years. This is a breed of horse unlike any other as it is smaller, sturdy and surefooted on the rough terrains of Iceland. This is the perfect way to take in the landscape while enjoying the big personalities of these unique animals!

3. Get Festive
In the summer months, Iceland basks in long hours of daylight. The locals take the opportunity to gather and celebrate. You can find festivals all summer long dedicated to music, fashion and film. This is a fun way to take in the culture.

4. Go Whale Watching
The cold water of the ocean is home to some amazing marine animals. A trip to Iceland almost requires a whale watching excursion! During the summer months, more than 20 species of whales are visible in the oceans on either side of the island of Iceland. You can also expect to see sharks, birds, dolphins, seals and more.

5. Take a Glacier Tour
Iceland has an ice cover of 10%, which means that you can get out on the ice for a tour that will take your breath away and inspire so many future daydreams at any time of the year.  You can go for as little as 2.5 hours, or spend a week and a half exploring the glaciers and gems on Best Tours of Iceland.

6. Hit the Pools
Iceland is known for its amazing geothermal pools and spas. It is a tradition and a total treat for your mind, body, and soul. It seems so unlikely, but Iceland sports a beach with white sand and warm, geothermal water. It is a must see and must experience, especially after you have been on a glacier tour or horseback riding!


7. Cast Out
If there is a fishing enthusiast in your traveling party, you must make time to cast out in Iceland! The fish one might catch include: trout, salmon, and arctic char to name a few. From pond fishing to river fishing to cold water ocean fishing, Iceland has it all for the angler in your life!

8. Savor Local Flavor
Icelandic cuisine has changed over the years, but you can still find and expect classics like head to tail fish with cabbage, a lot of lamb, and so many delicacies! To keep with modern times, vegetarian options are plentiful in Iceland too.

If you have visited Iceland, please be sure to leave a tip with your suggestions on what you would add to our Bucket List for Icelandic Adventures. If you are planning a trip, what are you looking forward to the most? The food, the extreme sports, or the weather? For me, it would be a combination of those things with a healthy dose of shopping and maybe an extra day at the Geothermal Pools and Spas!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Making Motherhood Less Messy With Dyson

I was compensated to write this feature with a sample from the manufacturer. 

As a busy mom of 2 kids, 2 dogs, a cat and a few small animals, let me tell you that life can get busy and messy! Having the right tools on hand to clean up all of the aftermath of family life is important to me because it makes the job easier and it helps me to stay stress free.

We are a crafting family so, scraps, sprinkles and sparkles are frequently an issue to contend with. Not to mention general dirt, ever present pet hair and kid schmutz.

My husband often comments that in my hands, a vacuum stands no chance at survival. I will work it to death in record time. He isn't joking either. With a herd of goblins in tow, things get out of control fast here. My vacuum is put to work 2 times a day, at least!

The number of vacuums I have worked to death over the years is at about 10. With a track record like that and knowing in my heart, if it can suck up dirt, I will push it to the cleaning limits, I am a hard sell on any vacuum retailing at over $200.

Then I got to try the Dyson Animal Ball. This vacuum is priced much higher than my cut off of $200. I had never used a Dyson, so I wasn't sure how I would feel about this unit. I know this is the brand my peers all cheer for so it had a point in its favor with me.

The vacuum was easy to assemble. My husband had it together in a few minutes time. He reported the instructions were easy to follow.

When I turned it on to start my daily cleaning, I was immediately taken by the power of this unit. This vacuum really sucks. And it sucks up dirt you didn't know was there, left behind by my old vacuum! Pet hair? Where? I can't find any on my floors after running this.

It is easy to clean with, easy to empty and has a whole lot of power. No matter how much dirt the family tracks in, they can rest assured I am nearby with my Dyson Animal Ball in hand.

I tested this unit for a full 4 months. I wanted to form a complete opinion on how it preformed compared to the cost. First, the vacuum looks good. The purple color is appealing. The canister is easy to see, making it obvious when to empty.

The unit has a lot of power. It really sucks up well, but I have found that on occasion I need to release hair and small debris that might become lodged inside the vacuum. This has been easy enough to do, but is a problem I haven't encountered with other vacuums. I love how much hair and dirt it can suck up quickly, making cleaning time less time consuming for me.

I like the lightweight features of the Dyson Animal Ball. It is easy to push and carry as needed. It is compact enough to easily store in a small closet when not in use, which is another bonus for me.

Overall, I liked this vacuum very much. It is one of the best ones I have used in terms of cleaning power and durability. I think it is well worth the price and would happily recommend the Dyson Animal Ball to other parents looking to make clean up time a breeze!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Saving Money All Summer Long with Groupon

My family has a unique situation; in the summer months, all 4 of us are home! We sleep late, stay up later and try to fit as much in as we can. From a weekly movie with the kids to a monthly trip to Lake Erie, we set out to see, experience, complete and capture all that summer has to offer!

Thanks to my sponsor, Groupon, who inspired not only this post but also a few previous summers of fun, we can see and do it all, while saving a ton of money in the process.

From saving cash on concerts, sports events and experiences that the kids will dream about long after summer fades, to saving cash on swimsuits, beach towels and sand toys, Groupon has it covered. You can even score super sweet deals on preserving those moments that become memories with Shutterfly through Groupon.

With 3 months of time and a list that never ends, it is safe to say our summers are spent seeing, experiencing and creating memories. Summer is busy for my family, thanks to an ambition to give my kids a childhood full of fun to inspire their adult lives. Groupon has been playing a crucial role in helping me to smartly fund the endless summer fun.

Have you ever used Groupon? Tell me what you bought! If you haven't used Groupon what are you waiting for? Major retailers like Target and Starbucks are on there, as well as experiences unique to your part of the world. They are all waiting for you to discover the savings to fund your summer fun too!

If you have a great tip to help my family soak up as much summer while saving money, please make sure to leave me a comment! We always love to hear from you!

A Checklist for Mountain Biking in Punta Cana

A trip to Punta Cana is a dream for many travelers. The location is stunning and the atmosphere makes even the weariest traveler feel at home. The lush landscapes and ample opportunities to relax or embark on an adventure make this unlike any other place on Earth. A trip to Punta Cana is not complete without a mountain bike tour of the area.

A mountain bike tour is the perfect way to see the real Punta Cana. You will glimpse the daily life of locals, pass through villages and learn so much about the country simply by passing by on your bike!

To help you prepare for an excellent trip through the modern foothill trails that can take you off the beaten path or the ancient coastal path, or wherever your legs may pedal you I have a checklist to help you make the most of your Punta Cana mountain bike excursion.

1. Get fitted for equipment. A helmet and a good bike are essential and you don't want to find your bike is not the correct size, or your helmet is too small after you start pedaling!

2. Pack gloves, glasses, sunscreen, and water! These are essential items for any ride!

3.Create a repair kit. Get a spare tube for your bike, or a patch kit. Should an issue arise, you will want to continue the ride! A compact pump is also a good choice for an adventure!
4. Pack a few small personal items for comfort. A change of socks, lip balm and an energy bar make good options for staying fueled and comfy on any ride.

5.View maps of the areas you wish to explore to gauge distance, terrain, difficulty of the ride and more. Be sure to let someone know where you are headed before you pedal off into the sunrise!

After you return, get ready to rest your sore muscles at a great home away from home, like one of these Punta Cana Hotels. You might take in a massage to rejuvenate your body and spirit after your mountain bike tour, or grab a bite to eat at one of the exquisite restaurants.

Of course, after seeing the sights of Punta Cana by bike, there is no shame in heading to the beach, where a serene surf awaits you. Punta Cana is known for its gorgeous stretches of beach with clear blue seas. Snorkeling, wind sailing, kayaking and more await for you for a seaside adventure unlike any other! If you feel like relaxing with the soundtrack of the ocean to soothe you, that is a completely possible goal too!

Punta Cana is the perfect place to mix adventure with relaxation. The offerings of this popular vacation spot for luxury travel are vast and varied, making it possible to explore the area on a mountain bike, pamper yourself at the spa, indulge your preference for local fare and gourmet flavors and to soak up the sun poolside or seaside on any given day.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Bus Driver Thank You

I have a certain appreciation for the people that work with my son, to make sure he gets the most out of his education. This includes the bus driver. I admire her maybe the most of all, because she has sparked my sons dream of driving the bus someday when he is a grown up. To hear my 6 year old dream of a life behind the wheel makes me smile from ear to ear!

As the school year is winding down, I wanted to offer a token of appreciation to the bus driver and let her know how much we appreciate her devotion to getting the kids to school, on time and safely!

What better way to do so than to share the joy of a Hagensborg Truffle Pig!?

This treat is so simple, but the treat packs a delightful surprise of the best chocolates ever, hands down! We put a few truffle pigs in a baggie with a hand written note, signed by my kids. 

It might be a small gesture to make, to say thank you, but we love to share the finest things in life, so chocolates were the natural choice for saying, "Thanks for the sweet ride to school this year!"

A Weekend In Wayne County

This post was written by my husband Adam to reflect on our visit to Wayne County Ohio. Special thanks to the Wayne county Visitors Bureau for hosting our trip!

Sara made arrangements for us to meet Marty ,with the Wayne County Visitors and Convention Bureau, at the Barn Restaurant just on the outskirts of rural Smithville, Ohio. The trip out provided us with scenic vistas of rolling hills and gentle farmlands. This in itself was a treat for our family, who are used to the more flatter regions of north central Ohio. The kid’s joy of the ride was apparent by both my daughter’s exclamations of passing wildlife as well as my son’s frequent reminders that he could smell cow poop.

I stubbornly refused Siri’s suggestions as I pulled into the parking lot ten minutes late for our scheduled rondevu (a slight that I would shamelessly blame the robotic-voiced assistant for). As is almost always the case with small children, one cannot simply arrive at a location, pop out of the car and expect to be in “touring mode”. It seems that one challenge or tragedy begets another. Today's rear-tragedy consisted of a chocolate covered little girl and a “hangry” little boy who was still sore with us for cutting into his Angry Birds time.

A beautiful walkway led us past roaming geese and ducks looking for handfuls of feed from quarter machines spaced strategically throughout the property. The path diverted us onto a small covered bridge, which spanned an equally small creek that was the early afternoon hang out of several awkward and furry goslings. The quiet waterfowl were taking advantage of the shade the bridge provided, as well as bobbing along a babbling little waterfall just beyond the span. An assertive mother goose reminded us that she was aware of our presence and would gladly nip us in an uncomfortable place (say the pinkie toe, nostril or webbing of the hand) if we got too close to her brood. We respectfully declined her bites for the restaurant's main entrance.

The Barn Restaurant is perhaps one of the most aptly named businesses in the region. It is literally an old barn converted into a charming eating establishment. Interestingly, one of the barns shorter sides sports a glass facade, which provides dining visitors with a wonderful view of a farm pond and a hilly country backdrop.

A small visitor’s center greeted us just past the main entrance. I was of the impression that this area was created with children in mind. A miniature train located near the log ceiling would cheerily begin its circuits whenever a particular red button was pushed. Of course whenever the Lehman children were in this room, said button was depressed and the train was in perpetual motion! Similar activities included a beehive display, a gigantic, community built puzzle depicting the Manhattan sky, and various antique farm equipment with interpretive signs.

We were introduce to Marty Starkey, the kindly and informative Executive Director of the Wayne County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. I cannot stress enough the importance of speaking with a representative of a local visitor’s bureau when exploring an area for the first time. Of course this breaches the protocol of manliness, particularly where asking for directions is concerned. However, and this has been our experience, you will spend way too much time driving around aimlessly and turning around in frustration without knowledge of the area. Of course a popular alternative is to cram your glove box full of brochures whilst yelling at the poor person in the passenger’s seat who is only trying to make sense of the 1” x 1” map printed on the back of these little publications. I have suffered many a wicked paper cut from my wife who has used the edge of these brochures to swipe at me in true Game of Thrones-like fashions.

If you want to envelop yourself in the culture and feel of a place, one has to be willing to seek out a local. Otherwise, you are just an automaton marching in step with other families, window shopping the sidewalks of Main Street U.S.A. For us, Marty was just that local. A walking, talking, smiling plethora of  knowledge; here before us stood a lady devoted to getting our little family a well rounded taste of Wayne county. The fun little twist of our adventures, would be that most of our stops would be a bit off the beaten path.

Our nice talk with Marty only served to enrage the beast that is my son’s stomach. After exchanging “so longs” with the Director, it was time to turn our attention to the hostess. En route, we passed the establishments famous “Old Time Salad Wagon”. As I purused the conestoga wagon of culinary options, my daughter whom I was carrying at this point murmured something resembling “Mommy” through her binkie. It was then that I noticed that Sara and Rolf were being seated, while the kind waitress gave me a patient look.   

The Barn Restaurant has a menu full of country delights. As our visit fell in the lunchtime range, the entrees included large portions served with fresh local farm vegetables. Their kid’s menu (and accompanying crayons), provided quick, fun options for our goblins who typically chant “CHICKEN AND FRIES” when we are in an eatery. Of course this chant always seems amplified, particularly when we are seeking to minimize humiliation.

The wife and I have been working on a formula that baffles us, much like a mathematician struggles with 𝛑. The enigma is this: when is it best to order a meal for your children? When the day is long and the blood sugar is low, it seems wise to “preorder” your kids food so that the torture of them having to actually talk to you isn’t as taxing. The benefits of this choice is that your little ones get their plate a bit sooner than Mom and Dad. The downfall of this system is that your little ones get their plate a bit sooner than Mom and Dad. In other words, this gives them more time to declare that they hate what you ordered. Or, in the case of my son’s favorite stunt, eat his chicken and fries as if he is a competitive eater. This is always followed up with everyone’s favorite line, “let's go now, Dad.”

Fortunately, my children ate.
After settling the bill and tip, it was time to turn our attention to the outdoor activities that we spied on our way in, Similarly, the picturesque view of the restaurant served to tease us of the fun to come.

It wasn’t too difficult to discern that the local waterfowl are fed, and well! As I was bent over Harper, elbow deep in another diaper deposit, we were approached by both a wood duck and a Canada Goose. However, there expression soon registered something resembling confusion. They wisely chose to remain a few feet away, likely in fear of being diapered amongst their peers.

We purchased feed from quarter machines and made our way around to a gazebo, a walkway of which, jutted out into a pond. The fish were as ravenous as the geese, and our little ones enjoyed the interaction. That is of course until the feed and quarters run out. Luckily, there was a toy store on the premises.

To reach Toyrifix, all one need do is put down that duck feed, and head a matter of yards across the parking lot. This was a stroll that was welcome by all. I lagged behind so as to discreetly adjust my belt one notch. In doing so, I saw in passing a farmhouse with signage proclaiming it: The Buchanan Place. This I would later read, along with an olde time confection store, The Oak Cupboard, as well as the aforementioned Barn Restaurant, served to compromise the Barn Restaurant Shops as a whole. Since we had just eaten and had no desire to chase children within a shop full of breakables, we kept stepping.

Toyrifix has a fun, museum-like atmosphere to it. Most of the toys had a sample for children to play with. A rather neat way to diminish purchase regret. Sara and I exchanged Clint Eastwood nods in appreciation. Here were toys we remembered from our own childhoods. As my son delighted in Legos and stuffed animals, Harper and I spent some time spinning a Snake Top. This throwback from the seventies features a toy serpent which disappears and reemerges from an old school wooden top. I spied my wife gleefully in the girlie aisle.

I also spent way too much time contemplating the purchase of a toy submarine. I fondly recall receiving one of these beauties in a box of cereal back in my youth. The idea is to fill the little U-Boat with a concoction of baking soda, vinegar, and approximately thirty-four other chemicals. The results were that said sub would sink and rise hauntingly in your water glass for half a minute. It was, of course, unfortunate that the craft would then live out the rest of its days amongst corn-on-the-cob holders in the dish drainer.

Of course, those weren’t the only “blast from the past” toys to assault our senses. The shelves are stocked with treasures such as the Uncle Wiggily Board Game, wooden Labyrinths, Frontier Logs, Ant Farms and Jack-in-the-boxes. The merchandise within harkened back to a simpler time, whereas devices with wi-fi connection hadn’t yet gained control over our children’s imaginations.However, it is interesting to note that a good deal of the toys within Toyrifix are scientifically themed. In other words, parents back in the day also wanted their children to have a fun playing experience, whilst learning something in the process.

In the end, our little ewoks chose a dolly and a Lego contraption as their souvenirs. As Sara squared up the bill, I grabbed the kids, gave the Snake Top another spin and headed for the door.

Overall, our experience at the Barn Restaurant Shops was good. We took some nice photos of our visit, and Rolf and Harper are (as of this writing) still fond of that Lego set and a doll baby. I could only hope that residents of nearby Wooster appreciate this little nook within their backyard.

As for the Lehmans, we were sold the minute we stepped into the restaurant lobby. As we took in the kid-friendly environment, my children were approached by the host. Until our entrance, this kindly man had been standing vigilant guard over the daily specials board. He asked Rolf and Harper if they would like to see the Queen Bee. He then proceeded to lead them to the Honeybee display, and sure enough, to the delight of our six and two-year-olds, he quickly pointed her out to us. This guy clearly did this not as a work requirement, but because he was a thoughtful person who wanted to share his knowledge with our kids. I like to think that this is a reflection of Wayne County Hospitality.

As for us? We packed up, took Marty’s recommendations and headed to the first stop on the list: Kid’s Day in Downtown Wooster. But that as they say...is another story.

The Barn Restaurant Shops are located at:
877 West Main Street
Smithville, Ohio  44677
(330) 669-2555

GPS Coordinates
Latitude: 40.85672109999999
Longitude: -81.8706656
Lehman: :{)

Our friend Martha Starkey is the Executive Director of the Wayne County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Located at:
428 West Liberty
Wooster, Ohio  44691
(330) 264-1800

GPS Coordinates
Latitude: 40.7970534
Longitude: -81.94697819999999

Lehman: :)