About Ashley

Ashley is very happily married and the mother to a beautiful little girl and handsome little boy. She is the main voice behind Embracing Homemaking.

How to Start Identifying Birds By Their Songs

Going bird watching can be a very fun experience for anyone. People of all ages really enjoy watching what birds land in their backyard or sing from the trees up above. While this is a fun way to get in touch with nature and the world around us, I often wonder how to identify birds by their songs. This idea really had me thinking and so I did some research to figure out a way to help my kids learn this concept of identifying birds by their songs. I wanted to share some of the information with you today so that you can start naming that bird by their song, a concept that’s called “birding by ear”.

How to Start Identifying Birds By Their Songs

How to Start Identifying Birds By Their Songs

Focus and Analyze

Since there may be many birds singing at once, it may be difficult to hone in on one bird song over the rest. That’s why it’s important to really open your ears when you’re “birding by ear”. Learning the various songs of the most common birds that frequent your backyard will take a lot of focus at first as you figured out which bird is singing which song.

Figured Out the Syllables

One of the more common birds to identify is the Barrel Owl as their song sounds much like “who cooks for you”. The syllables of the bird songs will help you to identify birds by their songs. Take a moment to listen to the number of notes, also referred to as syllables, and the tone of each note to help you identify your backyard birds by their songs.

Make a Memory Hook

Once you’ve figured out the syllables of each bird song you can easily make some sort of memory hook, such as the Barrel Owl’s “who cooks for you” as a means to remember which bird song is related to the specific bird breed. The Common Yellowthroat bird has a note that sounds like “witchity-witchity-witchity” but you may find another memory hook helps you remember this bird breed when identifying this bird by its song.

Download Song Sleuth

This app is available for both Apple and Android devices here. Song Sleuth will help you learn the bird songs so that you can better identify your backyard birds by their song. You simply use Song Sleuth to listen to the birds around you and the app will use your recording to help tell you what bird species you’re hearing so that you can save this identifier to help get used to what bird songs belong to which bird breed.

Being able to identify birds by their songs is a fun way to spend quality time with family outside. Not only does this “birding by ear” concept help you enjoy more of your backyard together, but it’s a fun way to help teach your kids about the bird species that frequent your local region. Using my tips to help you start identifying birds by their songs will surely help you and your kids appreciate the birds on a deeper level as you learn their songs and more about their singing habits.

5 Ways to Keep Kids Busy in the Backseat

With the holiday season approaching many parents are wondering how to keep kids busy in the backseat. This is such a challenging concept for parents with kids of all ages. While you’d think preteens and teens can self-entertain, just take them on a long road trip to visit family and see how well that truly entertain themselves. Since kids of all ages may need some entertainment options during a long holiday travel road trip, I wanted to share some of the best ways you can keep these kids busy in the backseat.  This post is brought to you by Easterns.com.

5 Ways to Keep Kids Busy in the Backseat

5 Ways to Keep Kids Busy in the Backseat

Printable Games

There are so many printable games that kids of all ages can enjoy in the backseat. Car bingo and i-Spy come to mind as two childhood favorites that kids can enjoy playing while they’re patiently waiting to arrive at your next family holiday gathering.

Portable DVD Player

Whether you love or hate electronics, the sad reality is that our kids are growing up with technology all around them. A two-hour movie or two will keep your kids busy in the backseat. Have the kids take a vote before leaving what DVDs will be played in the backseat to avoid sibling rivalry on the road.

MP3 Player

Grab an MP3 player or a smartphone with a music app downloaded for use in the car. Have your kids create their own holiday travel playlist that they can listen to during the long haul to visit family. If you don’t have a device for each kid, consider playing each list over the car radio during your travels.

Paper and Drawing Utensils

Get a little holiday travel tote bag that’s full of drawing utensils like crayons, markers, and pencils as well as pads of paper. This will give your kids plenty of supplies to draw on and enjoy playing games like Hangman or Tic Tac Toe together in the backseat during long road trips.

Bring Audiobooks

Take this time to give your kids a little homeschooling on the road. Download audiobooks that will help your kids learn about your current topics you’ve been studying. This allows you to do some homeschooling on the road during the heavy holiday travel season.  Check out our Family Audiobooks.

There you have it, my top 5 ways to keep kids busy in the backseat. As you can see my ideas will work for most any age group and will help your kids remain calm so that you can arrive at your destination in one piece.

How Do You Take Care Of Your Car In Extreme Cold Weather?

With cold weather approaching, you’re probably wondering who to keep protect your car during the extremely cold weather season. Living in a world that has changing seasons isn’t easy for car owners, you always have to check your car to ensure it’s going to survive the next change of seasons. Whether you use your car for family road trips, business or just casual drives to run errands, it’s important to keep your car in tip-top shape during the cold weather season.

Since we all have our own daily to-do’s to check off before the cold weather hits, I wanted to share some tips to keep your car safe this winter, before the extreme weather hits and your car experiences a breakdown.  This post is brought to you by GatorChrysler.net.

How Do You Take Care Of Your Car In Extreme Cold Weather?

How Do You Take Care Of Your Car In Extreme Cold Weather?

 

Invest in Winter Tires

Living in an area that gets hit hard with snow and blizzards means that your tires must be in shape to handle such treacherous conditions. Consider investing in a set of winter tires that you use during extremely cold weather. The investment will pay off after just two seasons of using them to drive during the winter season.

Keep Fluids Up

Visit your local car dealership to have them perform service maintenance on your car. This service will check your tires, the fluids, brake, and all other important maintenance features to ensure your car is ready for extreme cold weather. If you want to do this at home, that’s fine, just check all fluids such as oil, antifreeze, power steering, brake fluid, and air pressure level as well as the tread on your tires.

Check Your Battery

A tired battery will surely make it difficult to get your car started during extreme cold weather. Most car dealerships advise a change of your car battery every three years, or when the warranty runs out. Check to see what you have going on with your car battery, such as a warranty, erosion and how much power it has to ensure it will last through the winter season.

Grease Car Locks

Some car locks can freeze in extreme cold so make sure you have you inject lubricant spray into the gears and locks of your car if they’re older and not moving as solidly as they did the day you purchased your car. Greasing all locks and other gears in the car is usually something older vehicles need, so call your mechanic to confirm this is a necessary step to take care of your car in extreme cold weather.

At the end of the day, it’s all about being proactive so that you can keep your car running smoothly without any major mishaps during the extremely cold weather that arrives when winter comes your way.

How Do I Decide What Car To Buy?

Whenever we need a new family car, it’s always a stressful time. I never quite know how to best choose the right car to buy. I know we spend a lot of time on the road, we enjoy family road trips and homeschooling on the road, but what happens when you simply have no idea how to choose the best car for your family? Well, you read a blog post like this where I share some tips to help you decide what car to buy. Continue reading to hear my reasonable tips to help you make the right decision for a car that suits your family’s needs.  This post is brought to you by CerritosDodge.com.

How do I decide what car to buy?

How Do I Decide What Car To Buy

Review Household Income

The first step to deciding what car to buy is to know what you’re working with for funds. Review all income and expenses that are flowing within the household. Figure out how much money you’re able to designate towards a new car down payment and monthly bill. Take into consideration the cost of car insurance and any applicable taxes so that you can figure out a solid new car purchase budget.

Assess Your Needs

Figured out what you’re going to use this new car for. Will you need a car that can drive a lot of miles with ease through a variety of weather patterns? Do you live in an area where four-wheel drive is important? Assessing your needs for this new car purchase will help you narrow down your options based on what you use a car for while still keeping your car-buying budget in mind.

Consider Other Cars

Perhaps you have your heart set on a specific class of car, but your budget and needs says you need to pick a different car. This happens to the best of us! The good news is that when you’re deciding what car to buy, it’s easy to find a similar car of our dreams without spending as much money. Visiting your local car dealership will help you use a salesperson to determine what car options are available.

At the end of the day, you’ll want to decide to buy a car that will suit your budget and needs. You’ll also want to take into consideration reliability and the car’s ability to drive in the weather conditions that your local area has in store for you.

Road Trip Audiobooks For The Whole Family

Audiobooks are game changers for car trips.  It allows the whole family to bond together through the story.  You’ll all groan when it’s time to stop for a restroom break.  You’ll talk about it for days, maybe weeks after the trip and the memories you’ll share over the books may last a lifetime.  This post is brought to you by Jeepcheap.com and contains affiliate links.

Here are the audiobooks my kids would enjoy on a road trip and I hope yours will too!  If you’ve never tried Audible by Amazon you should look into it.  Their free trial gives you 2 free audiobooks that you get to keep even if you cancel your subscription right away.

Boxcar Children Audiobook

The first book I’d recommend is the beginning of The Boxcar Children Collection.  This series is a rich, easy read that my kids are hooked on.  My kids are 4 and 6 and they both enjoy these stories.  We haven’t enjoyed the audiobooks yet because we haven’t traveled since we’ve discovered this series but we’re already on book 38 of the series. 

This audiobook series includes 3 books for one price ($33.60) but you’ll get the whole set free plus another book if you sign up for the free trial.  I like how they’ve lumped the first three books together into one set.

Little House Audiobook

The Little House series is another great one that we’ve only had the pleasure of reading and not listening too.  It has great reviews on Amazon though so I’m sure the reader does a fabulous job.

Pippi Longstocking Audiobook

Pippi Longstocking has been a favorite of young girls for decades now and this audiobook will help introduce it to more children.

Mary Poppins Audiobook

What kids wouldn’t love a story about a nanny who could clean up their toys, dance with them on rooftops and hop into sidewalk drawings with them?  Mary Poppins is a classic and my kids adore her.  I love how drastically different the books are from the movie and yet how they are similar.  We’ve loved both movies and it’s fun to see what bits and pieces they’ve chosen from the books to include.

Peter Pan Audiobook

Peter Pan is another story that ignites a child’s imagination and takes them far away from home.  This is another one I think all young kids would enjoy.

A Bear Called Paddington

The bear from darkest Peru will surely warm heart young and old.  🙂  A Bear Called Paddington is another great classic book for young kids.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a delightful tale of fantasy.  I can still remember feeling my heart race as I first read this book and eagerly anticipated Charlie opening his chocolate to find the golden ticket.

The Little Duke by Charlotte Yonge, performed by David Thorn (This might be best for ages 7-10)

Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling Clancy Holling, narrated by Terry Bregy

Peter Rabbit Collection by Beatrix Potter, performed by Peter Batchelor

Don’t let anyone tell you that audiobooks don’t count as real books.  They absolutely do!

Tips for Traveling With Kids

Tips for Traveling with Kids

Fall is upon us.  Ladies, lock and load ‘cause we’re hittin’ the road. We are traveling with kids.  This helpful post is brought to you by Robertloehrchryslerdodgejeepram.com.

I thought I would share my tips and tricks for traveling successfully with the kiddos.

1.  Prep

I know this goes against the grain of the wild adventurer in every one of us, but seriously, you are cruisin’ for a bruisin’ if you don’t know where you’re going or what your doing on the trip. These are not the days of the road trip when we had the luxury of packing the essentials and hitting the road.

Most likely you are intentional about where you want to go and what you’re going to do, but the amenities of those places you will frequent are worth their weight in goal. Number one priority – a playplace. Have you planned a place to let your smunchkins out to roam, to get out the wiggles. Is there a good rest stop that can provide a run and roam area? How often do you need to stop on the way? Planning stops along the way can be crucial to a happy crew.

2.  Protect

If you still want your vehicle to be in one piece after your return home, I suggest that you use protective covers on your car’s fabric features. There are expensive seat covers to protect the car’s fabric from kids’ spills, but you can also use a fitted crib mattress sheet. This is cheap, probably something you have on hand, and can be easily thrown into the wash.

I also like to put down old towels on the floor areas where my kids might drop something or to catch the snack crumbs. I don’t do this all the time because I don’t like a junky car, but it’s nice when your car is home on a long trip.

3.  Pack

Pack your items in such a way that you can grab the essentials at a moment’s notice. You need to be able to get to your toiletries and an extra set of clothes in case junior decides to get carsick and go projectile on your clothes. Vivid but true…

Also, if room provides, make sure that you think through where you could change baby’s diaper if need be. If you’re tight on space, you can always change baby in one of the front seats when you’re not sitting in it. And pack those extra diapers. I’m constantly tucking diapers side pockets, nooks, and crannies like a little squirrel just in case we sometime forget to have diapers. Silly, but I’d rather be prepared.

4.  Pennies

If you have a child at the begging age, you know it’s important to have some money set aside. We collect our pennies and loose change for trips, and then hubby and I decide on what we’d like to use it on. Sometimes it’s what the kids are whining for… within reason ;), sometimes it’s something special we planned. Either way, it’s nice to have cushion change that didn’t come from the budget.

What did I leave out? Let me know what your essential traveling habits are!

Baby Shower Gender Reveal Pretzel Rod Recipe

Baby Shower Snack

Gender reveals are so much fun, aren’t they?  There is the anticipation!  Then the pink and blue decorations!  Plus, gathering all the family and friends together snapping dozens and dozens of pictures!  What’s not to love?!

If you’re having a hard time finding a baby shower gender reveal snack that suits your taste?  I think our baby shower gender reveal pretzel rods will fit the bill.  That is if your taste enjoys salty and sweet, with pink and blue chocolate!  These pretzel rods are tasty, well loved by young and old, and look oh so cute with very little effort.  That’s a favorite of mine!  Easy but looks super cute.  That could probably be my motto for life.  I like easy and cute.  This quick, to the point, give me the recipe and cut the dialog recipe, does include affiliate links.  I hope you’ll enjoy this fun, cute but not too cutesy, and yummy baby shower snack.

Gender Reveal Pretzels

 

Baby Shower / Gender Reveal Pretzel Rod Ingredients:

Baby Shower / Gender Reveal Pretzel Rod Instructions:

1. Melt the candy coating according to package directions giving special care not to overheat the candy. If the candy coating is overheated, it will be too thick. You can add 2 teaspoons of vegetable shortening or coconut oil to help thin the candy but do not add any other type of liquid as the candy will seize and harden.  To tell you the truth, I’ve tried to heat chocolate many times with all the tips and tricks and I can’t do it without the help of this Wilton Candy Melting Pot.  To me, it’s worth twice what it costs.  It allows me to do it slowly, to not stress, and to even allow my kids to help because I don’t worry that the chocolate will get too hot.  (At the time of this post, it’s available here on Amazon for just over $20 shipped)
2. Pour candy into feet molds if you’re doing that and allow them to cool completely before continuing.
3.  Pour candy coating over two-thirds of the pretzel rod and shake gently to remove excess. If applying sprinkles, do so immediately rotating the pretzel rods to coat all sides. Larger sprinkles work best if placed individually.
4. Place pretzel rod on waxed paper or cooling rack. (Note: Waxed paper makes for easier release. I love these deli wax paper sheets for regular use and because the kids use them to trace all kinds of maps and pictures. Plus, they’re affordable!!)
5. If dipping with additional colored candy melts, allow initial candy coating to set completely. Then, use a spoon or fork to drizzle candy coating over the pretzel rods. Before the pretzel sets, gently pick it up and move to clean wax paper.
6. Let pretzel rods dry completely before packaging or serving.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Placing in the refrigerator may cause the pretzel to soften.

Baby Pretzel Rods

Do you want to save this for another day?  Possibly for the next kid 😉 or a shower you’ll plan for a friend?  If so, pin the image below. 🙂  Enjoy!

Baby Shower Pretzel Rod Recipe

Shoes for Travel

This post is brought to you by Victorylaynechevrolet.com.

When it comes to travel you want to be as comfortable as you can be but it’s usually not possible or ideal to pack more than a few pair.  Here’s my list of my favorite shoes for traveling.

Travel Shoe Categories:

  • – Flip flops – I love these for the beach, when sharing a bathroom, or for driving in the car.  I hate for my feet to be confined when I’m in the car for long trips so flip flops are my go to for car travel.  I love my Vionic flip flops.  They have a deep heel and a higher arch that just fit my feet perfectly.  I can walk a long time in them without my feet growing weary.
  • – Comfortable – Tennis shoes or running shoes can be great for hiking or when it’s wet out.  Sketchers can be wonderfully comfortable and not too expensive.  I personally, truly truly hate tennis shoes.  If at all possible I wear sandals or flats.  It’s a weird quirk I have.  Maybe it has something to do with being forced to wear them each year in elementary school.  …or maybe that just proves that I’ve always hated them.  My Sketchers however are very nice! They’re super lightweight and the ones I have slip on.  If you have a weird aversion to tennis shoes like I do, Sketchers are definitely the way to go!
  • – Casual – For a fall or winter trip this usually includes a neutral pair of flats.  These are my favorite because they pack up so small.  For summer or a warmer spring, I’ll take a cute pair of flat sandals.  Sperry boat shoes are also a great go to pair for just about any time.  I’ve just recently acquired a pair of Tieks flats and they do feel very comfortable.  They have a thicker than normal sole which is quite comfy and I love how they have a larger toe bed than any of my other flats.  I’ve heard that the Lucky Brand Emmie flats are nice as well but I haven’t tried them out yet myself.
  • – Long wear sandals – Birkenstock sandals (or my nicely made knock off pair), Chacos, or Vionics are my favorites to wear when I have to be in my shoes for a long time.  I could walk miles (and have) in these shoes.  Chacos are even waterproof…you know, in case you like hiking around waterfalls.

There you have it!  Those are my top travel shoe picks.  Depending on where you go you might need rain boots, winter boots, or hiking boots.  You’ll want to take my list with a grain of salt but I hope it inspires you to rethink comfy traveling shoes.

Fall Foliage Across America – Hit the Road

This post is brought to you by Kingbgmc.com.

Fall Foliage Across America

From orange pumpkins and yellow mums at farmers markets to the brightly-colored foliage that graces the woodlands of America, just about any family can appreciate the beauty that fall has to offer through the great outdoors.

Pick a sunny weekend, pack the car, invite the family along, pack a picnic lunch, and bring the camera to ensure that the fall scenes freeze in time to enjoy for years to come.

Here are just a few popular fall foliage sites and destinations across America where families can enjoy nature its fullest this time of year.

State Parks and National Forests

State parks and national forests boast some of the best nature and hiking trails out there, as well as some of the best foliage and family fun.

All across Vermont, one thing is clear this time of year – fall is here. Woodford State Park in Vermont is a 398-acre park that borders Massachusetts and offers several hiking and nature trails to please the nature-lover and foliage enthusiast.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington State contains a West Coast version of fall’s array of color. The park’s trails span over 1,200 miles and go through woodland areas with scenic views. The U.S. Forest Service recently reported positive fall color around sites such as the Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams Ranger Districts.

The Minnesota Valley State Park in Jordan, Minn. is a mid-westerner’s destination. During fall, there are 41 miles of hiking trail available to adventure-seekers and foliage enthusiasts. Enjoy viewing the reddish-orange-colored Sumac or other plant varieties.

Foliage Routes

Get together with family members to map out an individualized foliage routes or visit state websites that can provide routes for discovering the best places to experience fall’s beauty.

The Ozark National Forest in Arkansas has brilliant colors in the fall. Take a look at the state’s collection of candy corn-colored Maple and Dogwood trees. To find some of the best foliage, drivers are encouraged to tour throughout the northern part of the state, including Bull Shoals, Yellville and Flippin, along the tree lines of the Ozark Mountains.

Maine is also a state filled with lovely displays of foliage this time of year. To experience fall-tinged Maples and mountains, the Maine Office of Tourism recommends a driving tour through Naples, Sebago Lake State Park, and Grafton Notch State Park, into the White Mountain National Forest, and through Lovell and Fryeburg. Many regions in the state are already experiencing some of their peak times of foliage color.

Scenic Drives

The Natchez Trace, which is a roadway that cuts through the South between Natchez, Miss. and Nashville, Tenn., is one example of an area in the country filled with the colors of nature especially during fall. One portion of the scenic drive takes travelers through the northwest corner of Alabama with 33 miles of fall beauty.

Not far from the Natchez Trace in the northwest part of Alabama, Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville, Ala. is a southern sample of the array of foliage to find. Drive along U.S. 72 or meander through the park in Lauderdale County.

Fall in Love with Fall

No matter the time of year, nature across America is abundant with beauty, but especially in fall, the colorful foliage outside is to be appreciated. Take the time to bring the family together outdoors, take a nice drive, and discover all there is to love about nature during fall.

5 Tips for Preparing Your Home for the Real Estate Market

Preparing Your Home for the Real Estate Market

Homebuyers can be picky and rightfully so. They are making a costly investment by purchasing a home that they will likely live in for many years. Buyers want to eliminate any risks and potential buyer’s remorse. For this reason, sellers must view their home from the point-of-view of the buyer and make improvements accordingly. Even minor changes can go a long way when preparing a home to be listed on the real estate market. Here are five tips to assure your home is show-ready before homebuyers look at it.

– Maximize Curb Appeal

The exterior of your home is the first thing buyers will see. It is the first impression of the house and has the power to turn buyers away before they even step foot inside. Making improvements to the landscape is guaranteed to add value to your home.

Enhancing curb appeal includes regular maintenance as well. Sprucing up the outside of the home consists of cleaning gutters, trimming low-hanging branches, and power-washing the siding. The home may even need a fresh coat of paint if the siding is chipped or dull from the weather. Mowing the lawn, weeding, and planting seasonal flowers and other plants will make the home look well maintained.
In addition to keeping up with yard work, the entrance to your home needs to appear inviting. You can give your front door a facelift with a fresh coat of paint and new welcome mat. If you have a porch, consider flowerpots or a bench swing to add even more curb appeal.

– Make Any Repairs

Ideally, you have been making repairs within the home as they appear. However, we all have busy lives, so sometimes that crack in the wall or broken tile gets pushed down the list of priorities until we become so used to it, we don’t even see it anymore. Before listing your home on the market, repairing any breaks, cracks, or tears is a must.

Some home repairs are easy fixes, but others can be costly and require experts. For example, a faulty air conditioning unit, leaking roof, or cracked foundation can cost thousands of dollars. Some repairs are hidden, and homeowners may not be aware that these improvements need to be made. Any hidden repairs will come up during the inspection before the sale closes.

– Renovate and Update Outdated Features

Houses can withstand decades of wear and tear, especially with proper upkeep. However, one visible sign of the home’s age is the interior features and décor. Outdated features, wall colors, and appliances are just a few areas that may need renovating.

An entirely renovated and updated home will always sell faster than one that needs only small changes, but unfortunately, home renovations are expensive. Luckily, even minor touch-ups can go along way. For example, replacing fixtures, faucets, and hinges in an outdated kitchen will help it look more modern.

Every homeowner has a different taste, and this is revealed through the home’s wall color. However, bright colors can be distracting and turn off buyers. Neutral wall colors are the safest bet when selling your home.

– Clean and Organize

Before you list or show your home, you should clean and organize every room, closet, and drawer. Dirty and unclean rooms are yet another thing that will drive away buyers. You should give your home an in-depth cleaning, making sure all corners of the home are free of dust and all surfaces disinfected. Cleaning every surface of a home is a lot of work, so using a professional cleaning service will assure your home is in tip-top shape.

Decluttering and organizing will allow buyers to see your home and imagine what their things will look like in the space. Buyers will open closets, cabinets, and drawers so you will want to organize these areas as well. If you have a big family with a lot of things, a storage unit is a great place to house these items during the selling and moving process.

All homes will have both good and bad smells, but during a home showing, eliminating bad odors is more crucial than ever. Cleaning your home will help this, but you can go the extra mile by lighting a candle or baking cookies.

– Stage the Home for Showings

Once everything in your home is clean and organized, it is time to stage! When it comes to preparing your home for a showing or an open house, simple décor is always best. Getting rid of bulky furniture and exotic prints has the same effect on the home as neutral wall colors. Simplicity will give buyers the chance to imagine their furniture and belongings in each room. In addition to décor, getting rid of personal items, including family photos, will further declutter the space.

Let in natural light by opening all the windows to make the space appear bright and cheery. Give your kitchen counters one more wipe down and fluff the pillows, and your home is ready for even the pickiest homebuyers.

  • – Alternative Options

Most of these changes and repairs are expensive and time-consuming. If you are on a time crunch to get your home sold, there are less traditional selling methods. Working with a real estate investment firm minimizes the necessary work of the homeowner. Investors will make a cash offer to any home and will not demand any changes or repairs. This option is favorable for homeowners facing foreclosure or simply need to relocate quickly because they are able to close within a week. Whichever method you choose, you should know all the steps that go into preparing your home for the real estate market so that you can make the best choice for you and your family.