Antique, Parade, Road trip, Texas, Travel

Nine Flags Festival + Lighted Christmas Parade: Nacogdoches, Texas

We always love going to this parade. We have been several years in a row now. This takes place the first weekend in December in the picturesque downtown square of Nacogdoches, Texas, home to a long Texas history and Stephen F. Austin State University.

Get parade seats early. This year’s parade began at 6:30 so we claimed our seats at about 5:00. If you have small children, the easiest thing to do is bundle them up in their stroller so you can peruse the shops (before you get seated) and then park their stroller next to you to watch the parade. There are a LOT of quirky antique shops, Texas-themed shops (Heart of Texas), Coffee shops, art galleries, and a museum (among other things) downtown so you can easily spend 3-4 hours just exploring downtown Nacogdoches. If you are making a trip of it, one day can also be spent at SFA’s arboretum, azalea trails, and museum.

The festival gets its name from the 9 different flags that have flown over Texas- French, Spanish, Mexican, Fredonia Rebellion, Magee-Gutierrez, Dr. James Long, Confederate, Lone Star, and USA. Any history buff would enjoy this festival greatly. The main event, however, is the parade. Rightly so, as the floats are truly spectacular and the community comes together in a big way to make it happen.

Santa Clause makes an appearance at the end, much to the excitement of all of the kids

The night ends with a SPECTACULAR firework display. I have seen a lot of fireworks, and these rank right up there with some of the best I have experienced, (including those ones on Santa Rosa Beach/Seaside, Florida).

To sum it all up, some helpful, insider secrets:

  • Claim parade seats early
  • Bring chairs
  • Bring blankets
  • Bring cash for vendors (hot cocoa is amazing)
  • Be sure to visit all the shops
  • After the parade, hurry over to watch fireworks!
  • Strollers for children
  • Make dinner reservations for afterwards (Clear Springs does not offer reservations but they usually seat you quickly.
  • Park in the lot directly behind the square



Clayton Lake SP + Tent Camping With an INFANT

SO.. My brave sister and I (along with husbands, grandparents, and a very helpful aunt, took my 3 month old (Dax) and his then-8 month old cousin on the trip of a lifetime (only because we thought we were the only ones crazy enough to take infants on a full-blown tent camping adventure.) Turns out, lots of people do it but you still feel accomplished when it is all over. So, without further ado, I would like to offer some advice and pointers on surviving the unthinkable (tent camping) with an infant and give a very brief (because we were there only as a night/day stop on our way to Grand Mesa National Forest, CO) review of Clayton Lake State Park in New Mexico. First, pictures:


The Packing List for Tent Camping with Babies:

  1. Diapers (cloth + disposable)
  2. Extra formula and food
  3. Approx 2 billion onesies
  4. Cold weather pajamas
  5. Pack ‘n’ Play
  6. Waterproof, reversible picnic blanket
  7. Trash bags/ store bags for trash + diapers
  8. Mosquito netting (or shelter)
  9. Baby bug spray + sunscreen
  10. Sayman Salve
  11. First aid kit
  12. Baby tylenol/ advil
  13. Hats + cold weather gear (if going to cold-weather climate)
  14. Galvanized tub (can be used for bathing, holding tableware, ice, etc… Very useful
  15. Ice chest
  16. Clean water in jugs for bottles
  17. Portable Bottle Sanitizer (boiled water works also but these are amazing)
  18. Bottles, pacifiers, sippy cups (if appropriate)
  19. Stroller/backpack for carrying child
  20. Blankets
  21. Portable fans
  22. Bottle warmer

*If you think baby MIGHT need it- take it.

The most challenging thing about this trip was the car ride. We made frequent stops and got the babies out to “stretch their legs.” It is very doable, very fun, and totally worth it.

Now, Clayton Lake State Park:

Fish jumping out of the water in the early morning hours, birds singing, absolute stillness… That is literally what you can expect when you camp at Clayton Lake State Park. The view we had when we woke up was amazing- it literally took my breath away. We stayed mid-summer and there were a few people there but we had our pick of spots. It is pretty far away from any towns but that is definitely a good thing. I wish we had had more time here but we had just enough to inspire us to plan a trip again next summer. Keep wandering!



My Meal Prep Method + Delicious Chia Pudding

People often ask me how I ‘meal prep’ for the week. Easy! #MealPrepSunday

Yesterday I bought (for meal prep purposes):

6 Chicken breasts
1 package frozen corn
1 package frozen broccoli
1 Canister of chia seeds
1 bag of flax seed
1 box of strawberries
1 box of blueberries
1 box of blackberries
1 package of lower-sodium taco seasoning
2 bell peppers

I already had:
almond milk
1 onion
garlic salt
olive oil
smoothie packets (I’ll post my smoothie method soon.)
whole wheat tortillas

First, I grilled 4 of my chicken breasts on an indoor grill. I sprinkled with garlic salt and drizzled with olive oil. I sautéed the rest of the chicken breasts with taco seasoning, bell peppers, and onion for fajitas. Next, I spread the frozen veggies out on two baking pans, drizzled in salt, and baked them at 400 for about 10 minutes, or until tenderness is achieved. I boxed and bagged all of this (except the fajita meat- I never pre-make fajitas, it causes the tortillas to be soggy) and placed it all in the fridge. Lunch meal prep was done!

Next, I spooned some chia seeds (5 tbsp in each container) into 3 different containers. I added blueberries and blackberries to the containers and then covered with almond milk. I also added a tbsp of vanilla. Chia seeds are so easy because you add liquid and stick them in the fridge. They set overnight and are delicious in the morning. I also did the same method with some rolled oats. (My husband drinks ensure shakes in the morning so I did not have to meal prep for his breakfast. However, I did make him lunches.)

This is a cheap and easy way to eat clean during the week!


First Day of Winter!

Winter Vegetable Soup

We made this tonight and it was delicious! Original recipe from Cooking Light but I’ve added my tweaks.

1 tsp Olive Oil (I did two)
2 oz Pancetta, chopped (I used regular bacon)
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced (I used garlic from a jar and did 1.5 tblsp)
2 cups cubed, peeled, acorn squash
2 cups diced, peeled red potato (I had to use a white potato)
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped (I used italian-style diced)
2 (14.5 oz) cans low-sodium, fat free chicken broth
4 cups chopped kale
1 15.5 oz Navy beans

In pan, heat olive oil. Add bacon and sautee. Add onion and garlic. Sautee for 2-3 minutes. Add everything from acorn squash to thyme. Sautee for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, fat free chicken broth, and navy beans. Bring to a boil and then add kale. Lower heat and simmer until kale, carrots, and potatoes are tender.

I served with regular french bread. As far as wine pairing goes, I would go with a Pinot Noir (red) but I can also see an argument for a light white wine. Either way, WINE!

Road trip, Texas, Travel

San Antonio- Coaching School


My husband is a football coach and one of my favorite things about his job is coaching school. This year was my first time to go so I didn’t really know what to expect. I hadn’t been to San Antonio since I was in 7th grade on a Texas History field trip- I was amazed! I felt like I was in a different country with all of the spanish influence. We stayed at the Hyatt on the Riverwalk.

A few tips:

-avoid the ‘traffic’ times of year when the Riverwalk is full of families with strollers. We were there in late summer when people were taking their last summer vacations before school started.

-eat early: go to breakfast early or sleep in and have brunch in the downtime before restaurants serve lunch. The ‘chains’ will not be open on the Riverwalk but there are lots of cafes in the downtown area that will be open for brunch. Eat dinner around 5-6 and then enjoy the night on the town!

-Get a hotel on the Riverwalk. The Riverwalk is close to the downtown area, the Alamo, the Alamodome, and the historic sites. You will pay more money, but you will be able to park your car and walk for the rest of your stay.


Eat lots of dessert! The cuisine is spectacular, and the BBQ is superb.


County Line BBQ was some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot (being from Texas.) Save some calories for this joint, as you’ll want all the bread and all the beef you can hold.


We got to preview ‘When the Game Stands Tall’ and my favorite part of the experience was the seats in the theater- they were recliners!


I felt like I was in Spain with some awesome BBQ and friendly fellow Texans.


The Beach is Calling.. {Santa Rosa Beach and Seaside, Florida 2014}


Seaside, Florida is about as picturesque as you can get. We were there over the July 4th weekend so we got to partake in the parade and the July 4th festivities. This was this past summer (see my New Orleans post for the explanation as to why I am just now posting) so I can’t do this place justice. My advice: see it before you die, and if you can get there on July 4th- even better.





New Orleans, Road trip, Travel

Our Visit to the Big Easy {New Orleans 2014}


I don’t even know exactly where to start with New Orleans. It is a fabulous city with a dark, twisted (and intriguing) past. This trip was taken this past summer and the school year has just now slowed down enough for me to blog about it. Between teaching, football season, cross country season, and graduate school, Dalton and I stay swamped during the fall. We are looking forward to a slower-paced spring and summer with our newest addition to our family: Dax Wyatt Murray, due April 11, 2015! I can’t wait to take our little man on our upcoming adventures.


Back to New Orleans- prepare to be amazed at the architecture. The city is old and the French Quarter (where we spent our time) is like walking around Paris in the heat of a Southern Summer. We arrived in the afternoon and found a parking spot (be prepared to pay generously for parking if you want a safe lot) and had a late lunch at Antoine’s restaurant on Saint Louis Street, a treasure for those looking for genuine French-Creole food. After stuffing ourselves, we walked around some nearby streets before checking into our hotel. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in the FQ and it was fantastic- aside from the breakfast bar which was outrageously expensive.


We only stayed one night as we were on our way to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. However, we definitely made the night count. We had dinner at NOLA where the famous (infamous?) Emeril Lagasse serves up “creative, modern Louisianan food” per Google. It was fantastic! We ventured from there to Bourbon Street, something we had heard about since college but never experienced for ourselves. I wouldn’t suggest taking children, but it was a lot of fun. It’s basically one big party on the street. While Dalton and I are not big ‘drinkers’ we still enjoyed ourselves. There are lots of old pubs (mixed in between the new ones) including one that has been there for hundreds of years that is reportedly haunted by the pirate that once owned it back in the 1600’s. (COOL.)

After a very fun night out, we settled in at the hotel, wishing we had another day to explore. If you ever get the chance to visit and you are limited on time, I suggest you stay in the French Quarter for a true ‘New Orleans’ experience. Arrive early, have brunch, shop and take in the sights, take in the nightlife, and plan to get some rest in the close future. It’s a fantastic city and we can’t wait to go back!


{she's as bright as the dallas sky}

My little sister is a senior. Congratulations, Allie, and Axe ‘Em Jacks!


{she’s as bright as the dallas sky}


The Ultimate Tent-Camping Packing List


ImagePhoto from

If you are anything like me, when you pack you do it categorically, crossing things off the list as you go. This is how I have compiled the single-greatest list for tent-camping. If you are backpacking, I suggest condensing this list even further. This list is meant for people like me: semi-experienced-tent-campers-who-want-to-rough-it-but-not-really.

We manage to fit all of these items into one large tote (Walmart, $6.)


1 Skillet
1 Small sauce pan
1 Spatula
1 Pair of Tongs
1 can of Pam Cooking Spray
2 Plates (plastic)
2 Rolls of Napkins
10 Garbage sacks (aka Walmart Sacks)
1 Tablecloth
2 bags of charcoal
1 Salt and 1 Pepper shaker
2 lighters
1 Coleman stove
1 box of matches
1 roll of tinfoil
1 box of sandwhich baggies
1 roll of plastic wrap
1 oven mitt
2 mugs
1 case of folgers coffee
1 old coffee pot
1 bag of coffee filters
1 Tony Sachere’s Cajun Seasoning
1 Natures Seasoning
1 Vegetable Oil (for frying)
1 dawn dish soap
1 set of rags

We leave everything we can in the tub for pick-up-and-go convenience.


1 Coleman Stove
1 Small (beach-size) grill
1 Clothesline
2 tanks of propane (small, for stove)
1 case of liquid fire starter
1 Tarp
1 small tub for washing dishes
1 small tub to put water in in the morning to heat for ‘baths’
Stack those two together, no lids necessary
Sleeping bags
pads (for under sleeping bag)
Ice chest
Roasting spikes

Basic food items:

Water bottles or jugs
Granola bars (cliff bars or Bare Naked bars)
Candies (for cases of low blood sugar or quick-energy needs)
Water purifying tablets
Tortillas (they go with everything)
Peanut Butter or Almond Butter

Basic Clothing:

Rain slicker
Light Jacket
Heavier jacket
Sun shades
Reflective Gear (in case of emergency)

Personal Care (including first aid kit):

Athletic tape
Pre Wrap
Anti Histamine
Itch Cream
Aloe Vera
Eye drops
Ankle brace
Wrist brace
Migraine medicine
Lip balm
Baby wipes
Wisps (for teeth)
Pepto Bismol tablets
Epi Pen
Bug repellent

backpack for hiking
battery-operated fan





Friday Night Lights


A show that probably didn’t mean anything to anyone who wasn’t from Texas. Growing up down here changes the way you think about Friday night in the fall. Will the boys win? Will they lose? I know this is a travel blog, but travel is about experiencing other cultures, right? Texas football is a culture within a culture. Whether it is the high school game on Friday night that the whole town shows up to or the college game on Saturday that you budget money out of your paycheck to pay for as often as possible. Game day is holy. Game day means friends and family whether you are tailgating or having a watch party at home.

Friday Night Lights described how we felt during those months that the boys put on shoulder pads and helmets. We watched the weather go from steamy to frigid, and sometimes back to steamy, depending on how Mother Nature was feeling. We sit in the stands and grit our teeth, call plays, tell the defense something that the coaches have hopefully already told them. At halftime we listen to the band, we watch the dancers perform a kick routine, and then cheer the boys to victory or feel our hearts break for them as they lose.

Because that’s what happens when we lose. Our hearts break. We invest so much into the game, we believe so much in our boys, that we feel like we’re down on the field with them when the time runs out. No matter if they are our own or not.

Football in Texas is going back to your hometown on a Friday night and reliving it all. It’s gameday in Aggieland and wearing your finest maroon and boots. It’s tailgating in the backyard of the place mom and dad, and eventually you and your sisters went to college. It’s the fellowship with other fans, because it’s a holy day. Football in Texas is religion, and we believe.