Back To School Tips & Tricks I’ve Learned To Keep Us Organized

Back To School Tips & Tricks I’ve Learned

If you know me personally then you would know the following things about me: everything in my house has a label, my meals are planned by the month, I’m extremely structured, and I live by my to-do list daily. I will even go as far as to write an extra to-do down that I accomplish just so that I can check it off. Anyone else like me?

Anyway, a few weeks ago – I posted about how everything is ready for back to school at my house. That post ended up having quite a big reach on Facebook and Instagram, so I figured maybe I should share my tips. Maybe just maybe my tips will help you make things easier this school-year for you! So today i’m opening up my brain and pouring all my info out to you! This post is going to be long, so I apologize for that in advance. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me anytime. I’m always happy to help.

Please note: These ways of living work best for me and my family. All of them won’t work exactly the same for you. But please take these tips & tricks and implement them in your home the way that’s best for you and your family! Also, I don’t want you to read this article and think that I have a perfectly run household. Because that is NOT true! I just have these items set in place to keep us running more efficiently. 

Meals

  • Breakfast: As far as breakfast goes, I believe it depends on your family’s preference. We are breakfast lovers in this house. I usually cook up a batch of bacon or sausage on Sunday for the week. Then every morning I make either egg sandwiches or scrambled eggs and warm up the meat I made on Sunday. I will also sometimes make a casserole or muffins on Sunday and we will eat off that during the week. If you’d really like to prepare, you can cook breakfast and store it in your freezer. Click here for some ideas on breakfast freezer meals. 
  • Lunch & Snacks: This year for lunches and snacks I’m doing things a little simpler. I got two bins. One bin went in the fridge and other one went in the pantry. I’ve encouraged my kids (ages 5 & 7) to pack their own lunch every night. They are to pull 2 items from fridge bin and 2 from the pantry bin. For the first month of school, I help them to pack a healthy and complete lunch. The bins are filled with items like: fruit cups, sliced fruit, apple sauce, hummus, guacamole, cheese slices, pepperoni, deli meat, yogurt, crackers, pretzel, peanut butter, chips, trail mix, etc. (See picture below)

  • Dinner: I like to plan a month at a time so my month has balanced meals. I always grocery shop on Fridays using Kroger ClickList. And I make a monthly trip to Costco to load up on staple, snack, and bulk items. Disclaimer – As a family we eat mostly paleo style so I plan dinners that way. I use a combo of cookbooks (Danielle Walker) and Pinterest to create our monthly meal plan. I love to meal plan & cook so this works for me. If you don’t like to plan, check out either Eat at Home (provides weekly meal plans and a color-coded grocery list) or Dream Dinners (local company that works as your prep kitchen and fills your freezer with meals that just need to be cooked).
{This is my August meal plan}

House Preparation

  • All the Incoming “Stuff”: In the area between my kitchen and living room, we have a dresser with three baskets labeled as Inbox, Supplies, & Greg (see photo below). All incoming “stuff” goes in the inbox and weekly I sort through what is trash, what needs to be filed, what are bills to pay, etc. In this same inbox bin, I have a folder for receipts to go in. Each week I go through and enter them in our budgeting tool. We use You Need a Budget (YNAB) because it syncs with your phone and/or web. The second bin labeled “supplies” is for post-its, morning devotion books, pencils, markers, etc. This bin also contains a homework folder where I place activities for homework. My kids will typically do their homework at the kitchen table while I prep dinner. The third bin is for my husband. In it, he  puts whatever he needs to. He needed a place so I gave him one!

  • Communication: Above the dresser mentioned above, I have a chalkboard that I created (See image below). It’s simply a window that I painted the glass with chalkboard paint. I update this board every Saturday evening. It keeps everyone in the “know” as to what’s going on during the week and what we are having for dinner each night. On Sunday, we do a family meeting during dinner. During that meeting we all share compliments about one another and then I tell everyone what we have coming up the upcoming week.
  • Laundry: Laundry has always been my nemesis. I have tried doing it daily and also doing it once a week. After some trial and error, I’ve found for me it’s works best to do laundry every other day. On a laundry day, I try to see it all the way through. That means that I wash, dry, fold, and put away. I loathe ironing. Like seriously loathe! I only iron every other week on Saturdays. And I took the summer off from ironing. It was glorious!

  • House Cleaning: Because I work full time now I have a house cleaner that comes every other week. 😊 The only cleaning that gets done is on Sunday evenings, we all pick up our areas to make sure everything is tidy. I also always clean up the kitchen and living area most evenings so we start the day with a clean living space. Before the house cleaner, I used Clean Mama’s method of cleaning 15-20 minutes a day so your house stays clean and a once a month deep cleaning.

Family Schedule

  • Abide by Boundaries: It’s important to set boundaries with your family’s time. If not, you will be a frantic family all over the place. I know because I’ve been there and done that! For us, we only allow one extracurricular activity per kid. For the fall season, Finn chose West Forsyth lacrosse and Selah chose ballet. We will discuss spring as we get closer. As for us (the parents), we’re in small group through Browns Bridge Church and like to go to the gym. So between all that we stay pretty busy.
  • Family/Rest Time: “The days are long, but the years are short.” I know there will be a season where we won’t be able to do this. But for now, we try to eat dinner together every night. Some of the best conversations we’ve had have been around the kitchen table. We also incorporated a weekly game night into our schedule a few years ago. The kids love it! During that time, we play board games, cards, hide and seek, etc. We just rotate between each of us to be the one that makes the decision on what we do. Recently, we found a locally made box (PLAtime) that provides the activities and supplies. You can read more about that here. This year we decided to implement a rest day each week. It usually falls on Sundays, but the day fluctuates each week. During the rest day, we just chill at home. By chill I mean we relax – that means no work is done on these days.
  • No Technology: Last but not least, we put all devices away around 5pm and it stays that way for the remainder of the evening. This is a hard one – especially for me. But I’m really committed this year! Family conversations are much richer when technology isn’t in the mix. We keep a copy of Here’s a Question around dinner time if we need help stirring up conversation.

And that’s all my back to school tips in a nutshell. Now I need to have a glass of wine after all that typing!  Hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere. I hope this post was helpful to you! Cheers to being more organized this year, Rachael


Rachael Walkup is a wife, mother of two, and owner of CummingLocal.com – a website dedicated to promoting events & small businesses in Forsyth County. Coffee, good food, and wine are the way to her heart. She’s a lover of comfy clothes and deep conversation.

Tellus Museum Is Worth The Drive From Forsyth County

Tellus Museum Is Worth The Drive From Forsyth County

Contributing writer, Ashley Jansen, shares with us why Tellus Museum is worth the 45 minutes drive from Forsyth County. Thank you Ashley for such an informative article!

Well – if you don’t read anything but this first sentence… I want to go ahead and give you a spoiler: You’ve got to visit Tellus Museum ASAP!

Location & Tickets

Ok, so if you are still reading let me tell you the details as to why! If you have followed along with any of my other reviews you know I have 3 boys ages 10, 5, & 2. My 5 year old is a HUGE dinosaur lover. We left on a Saturday morning at 10 am and got to Tellus around 10:45. The grounds are absolutely stunning. Really beautiful. I even mentioned to Mark (my hubby) it would make a beautiful place for bridal portraits.

Tickets are $16 for adults, $12 for children, and 2 and under are free so it was $60 for our family – but it was worth every penny.

There is an orientation theater with a 12 minute video introducing all the exhibits of the museum. {TIP: It’s sorta out dated and not worth your time and not necessary to enjoy your visit.}

Planetarium

There is a planetarium that I wished we could’ve enjoyed, but we missed the show. I would have loved to show my boys what the night sky looks like and all the constellations. My son saw it on a field trip and said it was excellent. {TIP: Call the day before you go (or the morning of your arrival) and ask the times of the planetarium shows. It’s only $3.50 per person.}

Mineral Gallery

We started in the Mineral Gallery. It was so beautiful. Very interesting to see all the different sizes, shapes, and colors of minerals from around the world. They had a life size periodic table where examples of each mineral was displayed as well as what it is used for. I wish my chemistry teacher had done something like that for me in high school!

Fossil Gallery

We moved onto the Fossil Gallery. It was WONDERFUL!! There were more than a dozen HUGE dinosaurs. It was amazing. Something they had I had never seen before was marine dinosaur fossils. I really can’t say enough about this exhibit and I’m leery of sharing too many pictures because I want you to truly experience it for the first time.

It was onto the Science in Motion Gallery. They have a Wright Flyer, vintage cars, and aircraft. There was a neat section on space ships and as well as a piece of moon rock from Apollo 11!

Gem Panning & Fossil Dig

Off to the side of this gallery was a real treat so make sure not to miss it: Gem panning and Fossil Dig. They give you a pan and a tiny zip-lock baggy. The guide shows you how to pan for gems and you can keep whatever gems you find. Just behind this is the Fossil Dig. You get a brush and can “find” fossils. But as you brush there are real fossils within the sand which you can keep one per person. They are all different types of shark teeth. My boys got a huge kick out of this!

My Big Backyard

I couldn’t believe that after this there was still a Family/Kid area to go explore: My Big Backyard. There were a lot of fun experiments for the kids to do all relating to sound. {TIP: It can get pretty loud so if you have sound-sensitive children just be aware.}

We left around 1:30 and we couldn’t believe we had been there almost 3 hours – it had flown by and the kids were never bored. We will for sure be back and I HIGHLY encourage you to put Tellus on your upcoming activity list.

Upcoming events:

  • On August 21 there will be the first total solar eclipse in the southeast since 1970. From 1-4 pm Tellus is hosting a viewing in their observatory and on the front lawn through smaller telescopes. They will also have a live feed in the Theater from the best possible location. A Tellus astronomer and WSB TV meteorologist Glenn Burns will also be there. For more information on this event, click here.
  • On August 23, Tellus Museum is hosting a Lunch and Learn about the “Beautiful and Exotic Places That Should Be On Your Bucket List.” For more information on this event, click here.

More events at the Tellus Museum can be found here.

Connect with Tellus Museum: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Address: 100 Tellus DriveCartersville, GA 30120

Phone: (770) 606-5700


Ashley Jansen is wife of 14 years to Mark and mom to three boys, Hamilton (10), Luke (5), and Garrett (2). Originally from Texas, she has lived in Forsyth County for the last 13 years. She loves Mexican food, watching football and baseball, reading a good book, making Excel spreadsheets, and prefers candy over chocolate and Dr. Pepper over Coke. She is a recent breast cancer survivor, but still prefers purple over pink.

To learn more about Ashley and our other contributing writers, click here.

Flavors by Julie: Simply Seafood

Simply Seafood

Simply Seafood

Today’s guest post comes from a new contributing writer,  Julie Brennan. She is sharing her love of delicious food with us! This recipe can be easily adapted to be gluten and dairy free. I hope you enjoy!

There’s something about the ocean that makes me a happier person – the water, the smell, the sounds, colors and rhythm of the waves. I just love every part of it! Well, except stepping on seaweed, going in when the water is cold, and swimming with barracudas. I do try to avoid those things.

Though we may not live close to the sea, we do have the ability to buy wonderful seafood at local markets. Numerous restaurants and markets alike often offer a wide variety of seafood from the deep flown in fresh, sometimes daily.

Chef Tony Casino was kind enough to share his expertise with me during a recent getaway to visit my parents in Vieques, Puerto Rico. Originally from Chicago, Chef Tony finds fish “fun to cook.” His repertoire includes tuna, cod, mahi-mahi, scallops, and salmon.

A delicious appetizer I tasted was Plantain Crusted Scallops. The recipe is easy, the taste marvelous.

Plantain Crusted Sea Scallops

  • 3-4 large fresh scallops
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green plantain
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup flour (use an all-purpose gluten free flour to make this dish gluten free)

Place the chopped plantain, egg and flour in three separate bowls. After thoroughly cleaning the scallops, garnish each piece with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Pass each scallop through the flour, then the egg and finally through the plantain.

In a frying pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and sear each scallop for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown. Serve on a platter garnished with your favorite sauce.

Another tasteful recipe that Chef Tony shared can be served with your favorite piece of fish, whether grilled or fried, steamed or raw. I love this Coconut-Ginger Rice as a delightful side.

Coconut-Ginger Rice

  • 1 cup cold, cooked rice
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped ginger
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

In a hot pan, place 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and heat. Add the rice and enough coconut milk to wet the rice. Add the garlic and ginger. Toss and cook until the liquid is absorbed.

A great sauce to try with your favorite piece of fish is Mango Salsa.

Mango Salsa

  • Mango, 1
  • Red pepper, 1/2
  • Red onion, 1/2
  • Chopped cilantro, 2 Tbs.
  • Orange zest, 2 Tbs.
  • Salt/pepper

Dice a green and a ripe mango to make 1 cup (1/2 of each works well). Add red pepper and red onion, finely chopped. Add chopped cilantro and the zest of an orange. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

The next time you are looking for a little something different to serve your family or dinner guests, try serving an entrée with seafood. You can often get recipes at the market where you purchased the fish. With a little imagination and the right ingredients, you’ll have an island treat in your own kitchen.

Pin this recipe:

Simply Seafood


Julie Brennan has been publishing My Forsyth magazine since 2010. She volunteers as part of the Kick It Up and REACH programs for MentorMe North Georgia, South Forsyth High School Culinary School Program, and the Forsyth County Schools College and Career Development Program. Julie was born and raised in the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. We like to refer to her as the Forsyth Foodie full of local flavor!

Follow Along with Forsyth Foodie: Facebook | Instagram 

To learn more about Julie and other contributing writers, click here.

Tips To Lower Your Auto Insurance Premium

Auto Insurance Premium

Four Tips To Lower Your Auto Insurance Premium

The following is a post from Craig Crawford of Southern Way Insurance Agency. Craig has been a contributor to Cumming Local since the creation in 2010. We are blessed to have him share some insurance tips with us today!

I think we can all agree that we’d like to save money on our monthly bills. Some bills we aren’t able to lower. But there are some that we can have control over. Your auto insurance premium is one of those bills. And we all want to have lower auto insurance costs, right? I have been in the insurance industry for over 25 years. Today, I’m taking my expertise and sharing with you a few ways that you lower your auto insurance premium right away.

Combine Your Auto Policy With Your Homeowners Policy

My advice would be to use the same company for your auto and homeowners policy. In fact, in our office we have companies that offer up to 35% savings if you combine your home and auto coverage. If you have two separate companies covering your auto and home, you could be paying way too much!

Auto Insurance Premium

Increase Your Comprehensive And Collision Deductibles

If you have comprehensive and collision coverage your vehicle(s), you could look into increasing the deductible you’d pay. I tell my clients that my recommend action is a $1000 deductible at a minimum.  By doing this, you are not only saving money on the overall auto insurance premium, but you are also eliminating filing smaller claims. You see, when you file small claims (i.e. less than $1500) you are going to have your premium increase at the time of your renewal. And a little insider information for you – these small claims can stay on your record for up to 5 years!

Pay Your Premium In Full For The Year

I recommend paying your auto insurance premium for the full year instead of monthly, if possible. Did you know that some companies are charging up to a $12.00 fee each payment made? If you can’t do the full year at one payment, you could possibly look into paying quarterly.

SHOP SHOP SHOP!

This is one of the most important tips I give my clients. Shopping around is so important! If you have been with your current company for several years without shopping you most likely paying too much! You don’t have to do the shopping around yourself. Give me a call or email anytime and I’d be happy to look around for you. My office number is 678-965-4243.

Southern Way Insurance Agency is an independent agency.   We can shop your coverage for you with several different companies to make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck! Call me anytime for a free quote – 678-965-4243


Craig Crawford has over 25 years in the insurance industry.   He graduated from Georgia College and State University in 1994 with a  major in business.   He joined Southern Way Insurance Agency in 1999 as an owner in the agency.   Craig became an Accredited Adviser in Insurance in 2006  (AAI).

 

Connect with Craig online: Facebook | Website

To learn more about Ashley and our other contributing writers, click here.

Back to School Supply Shopping

school supply shopping

Today’s article comes to you from Ashley Jansen. She is getting ready for the new school year and wanted to share some ways to shop for school supplies. She also shares a spreadsheet list she created as well as ways you can give back to those in need of school supplies this year. 

I know, I know – “School Supply Shopping” is probably the last thing you are wanting to see the second week of July. I promise you I’m not trying to make your summer feel shorter – I’m just trying to save you money & time!

School Supply Lists are already posted on your school’s websites. Please note – each school may be a little different so make sure you go to your school’s specific website. If you are like me, I have 3 children across 2 schools and in 3 grades. It was hard for me to keep it all straight of just how many folders, glue sticks, etc. I needed. So I made this simple Excel Spreadsheet that I’m sharing with you here. It should be easy for you to manipulate for your specific supply lists. Note: The yellow column is the one that has the formula in it so don’t clear that one. I’ve added some extra blanks at the bottom for you to add yours.

school supply shopping

You can download Ashley’s spreadsheet for free, by clicking here – School Supply Checklist

You might notice at the top I have BBC, H, L, & G. The last three initials are my son’s names. But the first, BBC, is our church. They do a backpack drive each year and put out their own list of supplies that are most needed by the schools and children in Forsyth and Dawson counties. These are the kids that need assistance in fulfilling their school supply shopping. So I add them to my school supply shopping list each year to give back.

If you are interested in helping provide school supplies to those unable to do so for themselves here are few options:

  • Backpacks of Love at Morrow Family Medicine
  • Forsyth County United Way – Stuff the Bus
    • Drop off is from 6/1-7/31 at the UW County Office (240 Elm Street) Monday thru Friday 9-5. You can CLICK HERE to see the supply list
  • Publix – School Tools for Cool Kids
    • Drop off is thru 7/31 at all local Publix stores. See each specific store for their specific supply list needs.
  • Browns Bridge Church – Back to School Backpack Drive
    • Drop off is 7/16 & 7/23 before and after all services (Services are at 9, 11, and 4:30) just inside the main lobby (3860 Browns Bridge Road). You can CLICK HERE to see the different supply lists for different age groups. (Because their labels are a little different I wanted to let you know: WaumbaLand = PreK; UpStreet = Elementary School; Transit = Middle School; InsideOut = High School). TIP::I have 2 boys in PreK and 1 in Elementary so I usually will match for each boy so they are a part of the giving experience. They each get to pick out the backpack and fill it with the supplies and turn it in to church – it’s a great learning experience.
    • Vickery Village Backpack Drive
    • Stuff the Bus at Northside Forsyth

So what about that promise at the beginning of me saving you money? Well here you go…I actually usually do all of my school supply shopping at Staples. This week they are having a great sale. If you buy a backpack you get all school supplies 25% off the already low sale price. My boys don’t need new backpacks, but because I will be buying one for the Church drive mentioned above I get to take advantage of the sale for all my boys as well. There are also great sales going on this week and next. TIP: I would recommend you pay close attention to this website – it always helps me with sales.

We would love to hear from you on this. Please post a comment with any school supply drives/donation centers you are supporting so the rest of us can help. And if you find any great sales and/or deals inform us of those too!

Happy Back to School Supply Shopping!!! (21 days and counting…now see…that was intentionally trying to make your summer sound shorter)

school supply shopping


Ashley Jansen is wife of 14 years to Mark and mom to three boys, Hamilton (10), Luke (5), and Garrett (2). Originally from Texas, she has lived in Forsyth County for the last 13 years. She loves Mexican food, watching football and baseball, reading a good book, making Excel spreadsheets, and prefers candy over chocolate and Dr. Pepper over Coke. She is a recent breast cancer survivor, but still prefers purple over pink.

To learn more about Ashley and our other contributing writers, click here.

An Experience with i9 Sports Forsyth County

i9 Sports Forsyth County

An Experience with i9 Sports Forsyth County

A few disclaimers as you read this review:
• We have three boys: 10, 5, & 2
• My husband is a previous college/professional athlete
• We have participated in Forsyth County, Church (Creekside & First Redeemer), and i9 Sports teams over the last 6 years.

So as I stated in my disclaimer we have participated in a wide variety of youth sports programs, but for the last three years we have chosen to stick with i9 Sports Forsyth County exclusively. We have played t-ball, soccer, and flag football with i9 and each time we have walked away having a very enjoyable experience.

Cost

It is typically about $140 per child and it is usually an 8 game season. You get a reversible [home(white)/away(gray)] uniform jersey and hat (with baseball only) with your fee. The first day you receive your jersey and if you want to have a name put on the back of the jersey you can turn it back into them and they will put it on both sides (white & gray) of the jersey for $7.

i9 Sports Forsyth County

Coaching

My husband has always coached my boys’ teams. As a coach the i9 Sports’ website is incredibly comprehensive which has practice plans and tips, rules, team roster, you can email the entire team from the site, parents can sign up for snacks, view the schedule, and all i9 communications come into the coaches ‘inbox.’ NOTE: To be a coach with i9 you are required to do an online coach training program as well as do a background check. This is not always something that he experienced through other programs in Forsyth County.

Time Commitment

As a parent, I love that practices and games are on the same day back-to-back. Nothing for i9 Sports Forsyth County happens throughout the week – it is all on the weekend. We have always done Sunday afternoon sports, but they do have Saturday offerings as well. The length of the game gets longer as the age increases. For example, the 3-4 year-old team will be a 30 minute game but the 5-6 year-old team will be a 60 minute game. With a 30-minute practice before each game (no matter what age team you are on).

Locations

i9 Sports Forsyth County offers very convenient locations. We live in West Forsyth area and we have played at Fowler Park and at South Forsyth High School which are both centralized locations. They have other areas opening and sports being offered each season so just check the website and see what sport and what location best services your family.

i9 Sports Forsyth County

Philosophy

The philosophy behind i9 Sports is also incredible. Each week there is a different character quality such as sportsmanship, hustle, listening, positive attitude, etc. The coach is given guidance (again found on the website) and as part of the practice he talks about the word of the week with the team. Throughout the afternoon the coach reiterates the quality. You would hear things like “Ryan you are doing a great job listening to my instructions.” Or “Jack thanks for hustling back from your water break.” At the end of the game the coach has two medals and two free Chick-Fil-A ice dream cone gift cards to give to two of the kids that have displayed the quality of the day the most. Each week two medals are given so by the end of the season each child will have received a medal.

About mid-season individual and team pictures are taken. You do not get to pick your picture and they do not have retakes. You just choose your package and you receive them the next week. On the last game of the season no medals are given, but a trophy is presented to each child.

Don’t just take it from me why i9 Sports Forsyth County is a great place to kick-off your sports experiences with your kids – here are what other parents and coaches are saying:

“What I love about i9 Sports is that the practices are right before the game and not on a different day. I also love that it’s not very competitive and gives all kids a chance to just have fun!” 

“Our experience with i9 has been fantastic! We feel like it was a great introduction to baseball for our young son. We also appreciate the one day per week format, and the emphasis on character development. I9 is top notch!” 

“i9 Sports Forsyth County is the best sports program available for families looking to introduce their kids to a particular sport and for families who value learning the fundamentals of the game without the ‘win-at-all-cost’ mentality. They are kid and family experience focused whose mission is to ensure the player has fun while learning the game.”

What about you? Have you had any experience with different youth sports programs in the Cumming Local area? If you have been on an i9 Sports team share your experience with us!

i9sports in Forsyth County


Ashley Jansen is wife of 14 years to Mark and mom to three boys, Hamilton (10), Luke (5), and Garrett (2). Originally from Texas, she has lived in Forsyth County for the last 13 years. She loves Mexican food, watching football and baseball, reading a good book, making Excel spreadsheets, and prefers candy over chocolate and Dr. Pepper over Coke. She is a recent breast cancer survivor, but still prefers purple over pink.

To learn more about Ashley and our other contributing writers, click here.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Theme Park Day

theme park day

How to Get the Most Out of Your Theme Park Day

One of my favorite things about a theme park is it offers something for everyone. Little kids can ride colorful carousels decorated with their favorite cartoons. Thrill seekers can enjoy death-defying coasters. Funnel cakes and corndogs can satisfy those hungry for fun. And stage shows or nighttime fireworks entertain everyone.

All that fun comes at a price, and everyone wants to make sure their investment results in wonderful memories of grand adventures and huge laughs with family and friends. Use the following tips to get all you can out of your next day at your favorite theme park.

theme park day

  • Start early. Crowds will get larger and lines will get longer as the day goes on. If you can be at the park when it opens, you’ll be able to knock out a handful of rides before the crowds get busy.
  • Choose your priorities. Let each person in your group pick one thing that they really want to do that day. It might be a ride, a snack, a character meeting, or a show. Then prioritize those things as you choose what to do next. That way each person gets one special moment during the day.
  • Consider skipping the lines. All theme parks offer an option for bypassing the lines, usually at an additional cost. If you’re visiting during holidays or the summer, and it can fit in your budget at all, it really might be worth it. You’ll find your day will be more smooth and efficient.
  • Prepare for the weather. If there’s a chance of rain, take along a poncho or rain jacket and some dry socks. If it will be warm and sunny, wear a hat and sunscreen, and drink plenty of water. Taking a few precautions will help you be more comfortable and enjoy your day regardless of the weather.
  • Download the park’s app. Most theme parks have an app with real-time wait times for rides, park maps, and daily schedules. Download the app and get to know how it works. It can be very helpful during your day.
  • Familiarize yourself with the park schedule. Knowing when shows and parades are scheduled will help you know when to take breaks to enjoy them, or when to go to a different part of the park to avoid them.
  • Consider multiple days of park tickets. Most theme parks reduce the per day price when you buy multiple days of admission in advance. And often the daily tickets do not need to used consecutively. Additionally, season passes usually come with discounts on parking, food, and merchandise. Consider your schedule and budget, read the fine print, and then decide if more than one day’s worth of tickets might benefit your group.
  • Take breaks and have fun. Pause to laugh at your ride photos. Stop for an ice cream when the group needs to be refreshed. Play games while you wait in line. Resist the temptation to rush through experiencing everything and instead enjoy the togetherness of the day.

For personalized help planning your visit to your favorite theme park, contact your travel agent. Need an agent who specializes in Disney and Universal destinations? Email me at jessica@travelmation.net.


Jessica McKee 

As an Authorized Disney Travel Planner, and a mom to two tween boys, Jessica has fully experienced every thrill attraction and enjoyed everything Star Wars at Walt Disney World. She knows how to save the day with the Marvel heroes at Disneyland. And she knows the award-winning service and relaxed fun aboard the Disney Cruise Line. Plus, outside of Disney destinations, she’s even cast a magical spell with Harry Potter in Universal Studios. And she loves helping other families create magical memories of their own.

A Family Friendly Experience at Gwinnett Braves Coolray Field

Gwinnett Braves Coolray Field

A Family Friendly Experience at Gwinnett Braves Coolray Field

Experiencing a Gwinnett Braves Game is a must do for any family in our area. Obviously it’s not Forsyth County, but it is just a short 30-minute drive from downtown Cumming. (TIP: We took a MUCH shorter alternate route using the Waze app. It took us Old Atlanta to McGinnis Ferry over 85 to Horizon and then taking Old Peachtree Road NE. This saved us literally 30+ minutes of travel time). This was our third Gwinnett Braves game to go to as a family. This time we chose to go to a “promotional” game which was Star Wars Night. Let’s just say it wasn’t our previous and normal experience.

NORMAL EXPERIENCE:

Parking is easy and a simple walk to stadium (It is $5 for parking). Usually the concessions have no lines and really purchasing seated tickets doesn’t really matter because it is pretty open and relaxed. Kids can run up and down the aisles if they want. The game is the game. There are lawn seats behind the outfield that is just an open lawn that we take the kids to run around, body roll down, and get the wiggles out during the 7th inning stretch. We have gone just the four of us and we have gone with a large group of 50+ and both times it was fantastic!

PROMOTIONAL NIGHT EXPERIENCE:

Parking was abysmal. We parked in beyond overflow and still paid $5 when we were no where close to actually being on property. We arrived at 6pm for a 6:05pm start & were not all seated together as a family until the bottom of the 6th inning because the lines were SO long for the concessions. Good to know: The promotional opportunity of pictures with Star Wars characters was not worth it. My boys didn’t want to wait in those lines either.

The game lasted exactly 3 hours. The element that saved the entire evening was the excellent firework display that occurred 20 minutes after the end of the game. It was A-MAZE-ING! It lasted just under 10 minutes and really felt like a ‘finale’ show the entire time the fireworks were going off. They were shot from the outfield of the stadium so they were very close. It was so wonderful and enjoyable that we already have tickets to attend the July 4th game as our holiday fireworks show.

Gwinnett Braves Coolray Field

Recommendation

My recommendation is to take your family to a Gwinnett Braves game! Tickets are as cheap or as expensive as you desire (ranging from $7-$40 a seat). {TIP: We have always sat in the $13-$15 seats behind the visitors dug-out. It’s under the overhang. The reasons we choose to sit there is because it’s always shaded and has a great view.} There are inflatables behind Left Field that are $2 per ‘ride’ or $10 for a wristband that is unlimited but only until the bottom of the 8th inning. Concessions were typical concession pricing = pricy! For dinner we paid almost $60 for the four of us to eat (hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, & drinks). Then an additional $20 on snacks (ice cream, pretzel, & popcorn). However if you compare the total pricing of an experience at the Gwinnett Braves to the Atlanta Braves, you will most likely end up spending a lot less at a Gwinnett Braves game.

Gwinnett Braves: 2017 Schedule | Tickets

Have you been to a Gwinnett Braves game? What has your experience been? We’d love to hear your feedback and please share any other tips you may have.

Gwinnett Braves Coolray Field


Ashley Jansen is wife of 14 years to Mark and mom to three boys, Hamilton (10), Luke (5), and Garrett (2). Originally from Texas, she has lived in Forsyth County for the last 13 years. She loves Mexican food, watching football and baseball, reading a good book, making Excel spreadsheets, and prefers candy over chocolate and Dr. Pepper over Coke. She is a recent breast cancer survivor, but still prefers purple over pink.

To learn more about Ashley and our other contributing writers, click here.

What is Character?

The following article is written in honor and in memory of Mike Brennan. He was a man of great character and is truly missed. Today we celebrate the life of Mike… 

Also a BIG thank you to Julie Brennan of MyForsyth Magazine for sharing Mike’s powerful words with all of us!

What is Character

What is Character? Character is…

-the calm ability to stand against the opinion of the mob, not from obstinacy, but because the facts are on your side.

-telling the truth, not only when the lie may profit you, but when the truth may cost you.

-not turning your back on a friend when his foot slips from the straight path, or when hard times arrive.

-doing what you know to be right, without being coerced, even when it may appear wrong to others.

-acknowledging openly and readily when you have erred.

-being humble in victory, and gracious in defeat.

-helping a stranger in distress, not because it is your duty, but because it is the human and right thing to do.

-refraining from cruelty to people and creatures weaker than you.

-not cheating, even when you can get away with it.

-refusing to pass along scurrilous stories about others, even if they are true.

-a readiness to truly admire in others the talents and virtues that you lack.

-the willingness to do your work as well as you can, even with no reward or praise, because you know that excellence is its own reward.

-giving a hand-up to someone striving to improve himself, even if he will become better than you.

-not engaging in stupidity or mischief, just because “everyone else” is doing it.

-the habit of thinking of others at least as much as you think of yourself.

-realizing that learning is not only a lifelong process, but the key to understanding our existence.

-the determination not to acquiesce to intimidation.

-the understanding that evil is to be engaged and defeated, and that it is not overcome by fleeing from it.

-knowing that the first step in having a good friend or neighbor is to be a good friend and neighbor.

The character of any group, whether a family, a church, a community or a country, is determined for good or ill by the character of the individuals who comprise it. If we want a good country, we’d better be good people. It’s up to us.

Character isn’t something we’re born with, like the color of our hair or the size of our feet. It is something we consciously and unconsciously mold every day, even in our smallest actions and decisions.

Character is a matter of choice. Every day, let’s choose to be just a little bit better than we were yesterday. It’s just as simple as that.


 Mike Brennan passed away at the young age of 59 in June of 2014. He loved his country, his father, family, and friends – with true passion, tenacity and wit. He was an eloquent writer, avid reader, and opera buff. He loved life, in his own pithy sort of way. He is deeply missed yet his legacy lives on through his family, friends & anyone else who encountered him.


The mission of My Forsyth Magazine is to provide readers with stories and information about their communities & its people. Subscriptions are available for $25 per year.

Phone: 678.614.8583

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A Review of Disney On Ice Worlds of Enchantment

Disney On Ice presents Worlds of Enchantment

Picture this – The best parts of Mickey & Minnie and all their friends, Toy Story 2, Little Mermaid, Cars, and Frozen movies all being played out on an ice skating rink. Can you even imagine it? Today I’m going to give you a sneak peek into this amazing show – Worlds of Enchantment. We recently went to Disney On Ice Worlds of Enchantment at Infinite Energy in Gwinnett and it was fantastic! I took my 5 year old daughter and one of her friends to the show.

Watch this preview video that Disney on Ice has shared:

The show opens with Mickey and Minnie plus all their friends inviting us to come along to find out what happens when Andy (from Toy Story 2) leaves for college. This whole section of the show was my absolutely favorite. The Barbie and Ken fashion show was one I found myself singing along with.

After Toy Story 2, we were taken Under the Sea by Ariel and her friends. My daughter and her friend loved the bubbles that came down into the audience in this section of the performance. My daughter’s friend, who came along, was wearing an Arial dress and was on her feet this whole performance!

All the Cars blaze in with fire and we get to see a race right before our eyes on ice. It’s amazing how you really forget that they are on ice skates. What talented skaters! 

Last but not least, we are taken into a world of cold. The Frozen sights of Arendelle, Anna, Elsa, Olaf & more! Both girls sang along with the audience to every song. I also loved being able to see Prince Hans (Rhys Anderson) perform. He’s the performer that I was able to interview before the show. Great job, Rhys!

All in all, we had a blast and the kids were glued to the entire performance. Even at the intermission they stayed in their seats ready for action. I highly recommend you get tickets to this show in your city! There is nothing quite like entering into the Worlds of Enchantment.

Rhys Anderson

Connect with Disney on Ice online: Website | Facebook | Twitter


About Feld Entertainment: 

Feld Entertainment is the worldwide leader in producing and presenting live touring family entertainment experiences that lift the human spirit and create indelible memories, with 30 million people in attendance at its shows each year. Feld Entertainment’s productions have appeared in more than 70 countries on six continents and include Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®, Feld Motor Sports, Disney On Ice and Disney Live.

Disclosure: Phase 3 provided 3 tickets to the Disney on Ice Worlds of Enchantment show on April 21st at Infinite Energy. All opinions stated in this article are 100% my own.