5 Reasons New Orleans Must Be on Your Bucket List

There are so many amazing things to do in New Orleans and it has long been on my bucket list of places to visit because it’s full of rich history, delicious food, and so much more. If you haven’t been to New Orleans, you must go. And take the whole family because everyone will enjoy it!! 

5 Reasons New Orleans Must Be on Your Bucket List

*Many thanks to the New Orleans CVB for complimentary tickets and discount passes which allowed me to try many of the things in this post.* 

5 Reasons New Orleans Must Be on Your Bucket List

From above-ground cemeteries to streetcars to museums and zoos, there are so many family-friendly and educational things to do in New Orleans. Yes, New Orleans is infamous for Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras, but it’s also a great place for the whole family, kids included.

The French Quarter
The French Quarter New Orleans

Founded in 1718, the French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans and the whole district has been designated a National Historic Landmark.  In addition to stunning and colorful buildings, history lessons abound here. For instance, prior to the Louisiana Purchase, all residents of New Orleans were required to be Catholic – religious freedom was not a right! Slaves were also allowed to buy their own freedom (something they were not permitted to do elsewhere) and the Creole culture is really fascinating. Ghost and voodoo stories are everywhere and so interesting!

Beautiful buildings in the French Quarter in New Orleans

The French Quarter is full of beautiful architecture, educational museums, unique shopping, and lots of delicious food. Make sure to stop in the French Quarter for a beignet and a crepe! More on them later, but no trip to New Orleans is complete without a walking tour of the French Quarter.

The Garden District

The Garden District was developed between 1832 and 1900 and is home to so much amazing architecture. We took the streetcar down St. Charles Avenue to get to the Garden District because we wanted to see the beautiful mansions and the above-ground cemeteries. The Garden District did not disappoint!

beautiful architecture in the Garden District

Also called Hollywood South, Nicolas Cage, Anne Rice, and Sandra Bullock all have homes in this beautiful neighborhood. The original cafe from the Eiffel Tower is also in the Garden District on St. Charles Avenue. It was a restaurant for three years in the 1980s, but didn’t make it financially, and today it houses event space.

lafayette cemetery

Lafayette Cemetery #1 is another must visit destination in the Garden District. There aren’t very many above-ground cemeteries in the world and they are fascinating to tour. If you can, go with a tour guide to learn more about the historic significance. The tour guides work for tips and are very fun and knowledgeable.

Street Car to the Garden District in New Orleans

So Many Family-Friendly Attractions in New Orleans

In addition to exploring the French Quarter and the Garden District, your family will find many more family friendly attractions! I love visiting history-rich locations and New Orleans does not disappoint. So many museums sneak in interesting history and science lessons, and I love that when I’m touring with my kids.

Things your kids will love:

Mardi Gras World – call for a free shuttle to pick up your family so you can explore Mardi Gras floats, costumes, and masks!

Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium – kid friendly museum with thousands of butterfly and interactive insect exhibits.

Audubon Aquarium of the Americans – over 15,000 different types of sea life live in this famous aquarium! Both young and old folks will find plenty of fun things to marvel at here.

Louisiana Children’s Museum – 30,000 square feet full of interactive and hands-on-learning suitable for children from birth to 11 years of age. If you’ve ever been to a Children’s Museum as an adult however, my guess is even older guests will find fun things to do.

National WWII Museum New Orleans

National Wold War II Museum – Older kids might enjoy learning more about World War II at the World War II Museum. It’s another interactive museum where visitors follow the life of a real WWII soldier and see how he or she fared during the War. I really enjoyed this museum and would love to spend more time there on our next visit.

Transportation is Easy in the Big Easy

Ride a Street Car in New Orleans

I loved pretty much everything about New Orleans, but one thing that is especially nice is how easy it is to get around the downtown area without a car. Once we got from the airport to our hotel (via Uber) we walked, took the streetcar (a steal at $3 per person per day!),  and also enjoyed the Hop On Hop Off Bus

Hop On Hop Off Bus New Orleans

The Hop On Hop Off Bus was fun because it was more than just transportation. The knowledgeable tour guides shared personal stories and insights into the city, and funny stories as well. It costs a little more than the streetcars, but it’s also a great way to see the city, and tickets are valid for three days.

You really don’t need a car for visiting downtown New Orleans. That said, a car would have made visiting the plantations easier, something we didn’t get to do on this trip. That just means I have to go back, right?!

The food is delicious in New Orleans

Food is Delicious in New Orleans

Let’s not forget about the food, because the food in New Orleans is delicious and plentiful. Everywhere we went, there was something else to try and everything we ate was better than the last. From beignets, to beans and rice, to muffulettas, to crepes, everyone in your group will find something amazing to eat. Food you must try while you’re in New Orleans:

Beignets from Cafe du Monde in the French Market – because you can’t go to New Orleans without eating beignets…

Charbroiled Oysters from Drago’s Seafood Restaurant – they were really tasty, a great way to eat oysters if you don’t really care for them!

The Works Crepe  from the Crepe Cart at the Farmer’s Market in the French Quarter – this crepe was my absolute favorite lunch during our trip. I wanted to eat another one every single day. 

A Muffuletta at Central Grocery – followed closely by the muffuletta. I could have eaten this every day too.

Jazz Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters - one of the many fun things to do in New Orleans

Jazz Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters – such a fun experience. The food, service, and ambiance were all really neat.

And there you have it – five reasons you must put New Orleans on your family bucket list. I took this trip without my kids, but I know they would love the city as much as I did. And since I didn’t get to visit any of the plantations or many of the museums, I am excited to return, hopefully sometime soon, and with my family!

 If you haven’t yet made it to New Orleans, put it on your list! If you have been, I’d love to hear what you most enjoyed!

Find out all of the many things to do in New Orleans and add the city to your family bucket list.

5 Tips for Making Amazing Stop Motion Animation at Home

 Stop motion animation is a fun way to engage your children in creativity and learning.  My kids really enjoy making stop motion animation at home and are sharing their five best tips for creating fun videos with you today!

5 Tips for Making Amazing Stop Motion Animation at Home

The struggle to limit time on electronics is real. But sometimes, we can find great ways to incorporate electronics into learning and family fun. One way to do that is to create stop motion animation with your children. I don’t mind my kids using electronics as much if they are engaged in learning and so we’ve had a lot of fun this last week working on stop motion animation videos. Here are a few tips to help you make your own amazing stop motion animation videos at home too!

5 Tips for Amazing Stop Motion Animation

stop motion animation - simple backdrop

Gather props and make a backdrop

Stop motion animation usually uses small items. Little animals, figurines, doll house accessories, and other small props you may have around your house make great props. We made several different backdrops using string, construction paper, tissue paper, sticks, and yarn. Gather what works for you and make something pretty!

Stop Motion Animation made on iphone

Come up with a story line

This is where your imagination comes into play. We came up with a lot of different angles – Goldfish crackers making a snowman. Goldfish crackers being eating by a dinosaur. Goldfish crackers racing in toy cars. We finally settled on Goldfish crackers racing themselves around a track made out of yarn. Get creative and have fun!

Download helpful apps

There are many helpful apps that make the stop motion animation process pretty easy.  Goldfish Smiles lists several apps you can choose from as well as sources for free sound clips. We used Stop Motion Studio which is a free download. We did pay $4.99 to unlock the bonus features like sound clips, though. The kids had a great time playing with the sound and adding it to the video (I did too!).

One problem we had with the app was that we couldn’t tell what part of the video would be cut off in the final version. As we were making the videos and reviewing them on the app, everything looked fine. But when we created the final video and shared it, we realized that part of the video was cut off – the left side. We made our videos using an iphone and I think perhaps we would have seen more detail had we used a bigger screen, like an ipad.  This is just a practical tip we learned that may help you.

stop motion animation - stabilize the camera

Find a way to stabilize your camera and take lots of pictures

Stabilizing the camera is tricky but oh so important as the camera needs to stay in the same spot or the video ends up distorted. We used a bendy tripod to attach my iphone to the large tripod. But honestly, my big iphone is too heavy for the bendy tripod and we had a lot of trouble keeping it still. We took almost 200 pictures to make our video, so this part requires some persistence and patience…   {I’m in the market for a new table top tripod for my plus sized iphone if anyone has any recommendations. }

Another thing Anna did as she created this video was to make it in reverse. She wrote out the words GO! with Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and started the video at the end. Then, we filmed the Goldfish crackers racing around the track backwards. After that she made the words disappear by removing one row of crackers at a time. And finally, we reversed the order of the pictures so it looks like we filmed the words appearing first. For tips about how to make your props move fast or slow, head over to the Goldfish Smiles website. They have so many helpful videos with useful tips and tricks.

Have fun! 

This is where you need to step back, mom, and let the kids work together. AHHH – I struggle so much with this because I want to take control. In my experience, my kids do better and fight less when I step back and let them take charge. They always have fun making stop motion animation videos but they really enjoyed making these because they also got a little snack in the process. Pepperidge Farm Goldfish are baked without artificial flavors or preservatives, using colors sourced from plants.

Goldfish Tales Stop Motion Animation Contest

Enter your video to win $5000!

Once you have created your video, head over to Goldfish Tales Animation Experience and enter it to win! Twelve films will be nominated across four categories and the best in each category will win a $5000 grand prize. Judging begins on February 28 and the winners will be announced on April 21.

What are you waiting for? Head over to GoldfishSmiles and learn how to create your own stop motion animation movie with your kids!

Stop motion animation is a fun way to engage children in creativity and learning. Check out these 5 best tips for creating awesome videos with your kids!

 

Family Game Night Stocking Stuffers Gift Guide {And Giveaways!!}

If you’re looking for ideas for fun family game night stocking stuffers, you’ve come to to right place. All of these game ideas are affordable and fun. Plus, they’re easy to learn!

Family Game Night Stocking Stuffers Gift Guide

*This post contains referral links. Thank you so much for clicking through to support this site.*

And even better than me sharing ten awesome game ideas, I’m giving away four different games at the end of this post! Enter one giveaway or enter them all.  I hope these giveaways help make your Christmas a little bit easier. You’re welcome. 🙂

Family Game Night Stocking Stuffers Gift Guide

Family game nights are great ways to connect with your kids and have a little fun as a family. In our multi-age family it is sometimes hard for all of us to come together to have a great time. But we all love these games and when we pull them out, the laughs and family fun begins.

Here are a few of our favorite little games – games that will make perfect stocking stuffers for your family – and rest assured, the learning curve is very small on these games. It won’t take you long at all to learn the rules for any of these games.

ruckus

Ruckus

We’ve had this game for a while. It’s a really easy game that all of my kids can play. It’s a fast-paced card game with very little reading ability required. This game claims to be for 8+, but my 5 year old played it quite successfully as well.

happy-salmon

Happy Salmon

We just got this game over the weekend at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair and everyone loved it. Be forewarned, this game gets pretty loud {unless you play the silent version}, and you have to play it standing up because you need to be able to move around. It’s another game that’s really easy for kids of all ages – very little reading ability is needed to play this game. It claims to be for ages 6+, but I think younger kids can play it too as long as they can figure out the four different cards, pictured above.

tutti-frutti

Tutti Frutti

This is another fun game that we got at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair.  The goal of this crazy game is to match and collect reversible fruit pieces. This game is for ages 4+ and I think that’s pretty accurate. 🙂

show-me-the-kwan

Show me the Kwan

A fun and educational game that we also learned about at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair. This game is a fast-paced, dice rolling, word game that can help with vocabulary, phonics, and spelling. This game is for ages 10+, but I think younger kids can play also if you scale the game down and there are several easy ways to scale it.

IQ xoxo

IQ XOXO

This is single person brain game that we saw in Chicago. I don’t actually have one, but we played with it there and it looks like a lot of fun and a great way to work some logic practice into your day. It’s also magnetic so it’s fantastic for road tripping! For ages 6+ which I think is pretty accurate.

scrabble-slam-card-game

Scrabble Slam Cards

I picked this game up at ALDI last year and we really like it and take it on road trips with us. It’s an easy card game version of Scrabble that builds vocabulary and spelling. this game does require a little more ability than some of the others I’ve listed here, as some spelling ability is very helpful. 🙂 This game is for ages 8+ and that’s probably about right. If younger kids are good spellers, they might be able to play too.

differencer-juinior

Junior Difference Board Game

This easy game is about spotting the difference on cards. It’s a speed game to see who can find the differences first. My younger two daughters really like this game a lot. It’s for ages 4+ and that’s about right!

mad-libs

Mad Libs

Who doesn’t like Mad Libs? They were some of my favorite activities when I was younger and are another fun way to work on vocabulary and spelling. For just a few dollars each, Mad Libs are great additions to kids’ stockings and a fun way to spend a few minutes together as a family.

professor-noggins-card-games

Professor Noggins Trivia Card Games – Outer Space

Trivia games are always a fun way to sneak in some education, and Professor Noggins sells many different versions of their trivia games from cards on Outer Space to the History of Art to US Presidents. You’re sure to find something interesting and educational to slip in your kids’ stockings from Professor Noggins. think-fun-fifteen-puzzle

ThinkFun Fifteen Puzzle

This is really a one-person game, but my eight year old loves it! You might remember them from your childhood – it’s just ordering the numbers correctly. They’re great little brain teasers and fit really nicely in a stocking.

Giveaway! Giveaway! Giveaway! Giveaway!

How about some giveaways! Enter to win one or them all, your call! Giveaways end on Dec 4th are open to US residents 18 years of age and older. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you’re looking for more fun game giveaways, head over to my friends at SAHM Reviews. Find their giveaways on the right hand sidebar.

Family Game Night Stocking Stuffers Gift Guide

Chocolate Peppermint Sheet Pan Cheesecake

This recipe for Chocolate Peppermint Sheet Pan Cheesecake is for you if you love homemade cheesecake but hate the fuss of spring form pans and cracking cakes! It’s easy and makes either one big sheet pan dessert, or two 9x13s, so you can eat one and freeze the other for another day!

chocolate-peppermint-sheet-pan-cheesecake

*This recipe is sponsored by Blake’s All Natural. All opinions are mine.*

family-style-chicken-pot-pie-from-blakes-all-natural

During this busy time of year, it’s more important than ever to make the most of your time in the kitchen. That’s why I’m happy to partner with Blake’s All Natural on this recipe! Blake’s understands the importance of quality, homemade food shared with family. They’re helping you in the kitchen by taking care of dinner while you make a holiday dessert. Read to the end of this post for a giveaway where five winners will each win two coupons for two delicious Blake’s Family Size Meals!

peppermint-sheet-pan-cheesecake

Chocolate Peppermint Sheet Pan Cheesecake

My family always begs me to make cheesecakes, but I rarely do. Primarily, because I don’t want to find my spring form pan and deal with the disappointment of another cracked cheesecake. Luckily, this recipe is much easier than a traditional cheese cake. Rest assured, though, it certainly doesn’t sacrifice taste! Three simple steps will have this wonderful sheet pan cheesecake on your table without too much effort.

Gather Tools & Ingredients

First, gather tools and ingredients. You’ll need either a sheet pan (18 x 13), these are my favorite, or two 9×13 pans for this recipe. You’ll also need parchment paper. I like the brand If You Care’s Unbleached & Chlorine Free variety. It also helps to have a food processor and a stand mixer, though neither are necessary. Make sure you let the cream cheese come to room temperature for about an hour or so before you’re ready to mix it or it won’t cream as nicely.

Make the crust

I highly recommend lining the sheet pan with parchment paper. It just makes it so much easier to get the cheesecake off the pan. The crust is just crushed graham crackers combined with melted butter and pre-baked for about 5 minutes.

bake-the-crust-and-add-the-cheesecake

Make the cheesecake batter

To make the cheesecake batter, I busted out my Kitchen Aid stand mixer  and creamed the cheese and sugar before adding eggs one at a time. Finally, add the extracts and the peppermint candy pieces and pour the mix onto the crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until the middle has just set. After the cheesecake has baked, let it cool for 15 minutes, and then put it in the fridge for at least three hours.

bake-the-cheesecake-cook-then-add-the-ganache

Make the ganache

While your lovely cheesecake is cooling, make an easy ganache.  Yes, I made a ganache – doesn’t that sound fancy?! No, it’s not hard, don’t worry. 🙂 Just make sure you coarsely chop a cup of chocolate chips before adding hot cream. I used my food processor to chop the chocolate – easy peasy. Let the cream and chocolate mix sit for ten minutes, and then stir until the chocolate is melted. That’s it! After the cheesecake is completely cooled, spread the ganache on top.

cheesecake-with-chocolate-ganache

By the way, don’t let your son drop a grapefruit on the cheesecake after you’ve nicely smoothed out the ganache or it will look terrible. You can just trust me on that one. I was NOT a happy mama and I didn’t display very nice mama skills after that happened. How many times does a person have to tell her kids not to throw balls {or anything resembling balls} in the house?!

chocolate-peppermint-sheet-pan-cheesecake-vertical

Here’s the printable recipe

Yields 40 squares

Chocolate Peppermint Sheet Pan Cheesecake

An easy and delicious cheesecake - no spring-form pan or fuss required!

15 minPrep Time

40 minCook Time

55 minTotal Time

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Recipe Image

Ingredients

    For the crust:
  • 3 cups crushed chocolate graham crackers
  • 10 TBS butter, melted
  • For the cheesecake
  • 6 - 8 oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups raw sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 cup crushed peppermint candies
  • For the ganache
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup finely shredded semi-sweet chocolate, chocolate chips work fine

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. To make the crust, combine melted butter and graham cracker crumbs. Firmly press on a sheet pan (or two 9 x 13 if desired) covered with parchment paper.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, remove from oven.
  4. To make the cheesecake, combine cream cheese and sugar in a stand mixer over medium speed. Slowly add eggs one at time until combined.
  5. Add the extracts and candies and mix one last time.
  6. Pour the cheesecake batter on the crust and bake for 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool to touch, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
  7. To make the ganache, shred 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate. I ran a cup a chocolate chips through my food processor, but if you have mad knife skills, feel free to use your knife to chop.
  8. Heat one cup a cream over medium high heat until just boiling. Then, pour cream over chocolate in a heat safe bowl.
  9. Let the cream and chocolate sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes are up, stir the mixture until a nice ganache forms. Top the cheesecake with the ganache. Put the cheesecake back in the fridge for another 15 minutes or so.
  10. Finally, cut into bars (roughly 2" x 2") and top with a few more candies, if desired
  11. Store leftovers in the fridge.
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https://simplifylivelove.com/chocolate-peppermint-sheet-pan-cheesecake/

How about that giveaway?

Blakes Family Size MealsI was happy to let Blake’s All Natural make my dinner for me the day I made this cheesecake. I baked a few of their delicious chicken pot pies and served cheesecake for dessert. The best part? This recipe make so much, I’ve got enough to freeze for Thanksgiving! Woohoo. Thanks, Blake’s, for helping me get ready for the big meal. 🙂

If you’d like your own coupons for Blake’s Family Sized Meals, enter the rafflecopter form below! Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Nov. 27th! Good luck!

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I hope you like this cheesecake! It is a new family favorite. Happy baking!