Our Barbecue Adventure with Duraflame Instant Lighting Charcoal

Duraflamea few weekends ago, we headed over to the Newport Dunes to attend the Newport Beach Party, an all-out BBQ Competition where champion barbecuers grill to win the title of the best barbecue. the public was invited to attend and try out everything barbecue…and let me tell you, it smelled AMAZING!!!!! Duraflame invited our family to come and check out the contest, get some barbecue tips, eat some yummy grilled foods and also learn about their new Duraflame Instant Lighting Charcoal. the boys were super excited, especially the hubby who loves to barbecue. they all wanted to eat!Newport Barbecue FestivalBest Barbecuing Charcoalat the Duraflame booth, we met the Porketeers...pit masters and barbecue champions. and boy! they know how to grill. they gave us some great tips on how to barbecue and taught us and the kids how to grill some tasty items using the Duraflame Instant Lighting Charcoal.Grilling Tipsthe cool thing about Duraflame® Instant Lighting Charcoal is it’s unique hexagon shape and hole in the middle. the hexagon shape maximizes surface area and increases airflow both through the internal channel and around the charcoal. this allows you to getter a better sear on your grilled foods because it produces significantly higher heat than your standard charcoal. we learned that Duraflame® Instant Lighting Charcoal is the fast, easy way to get perfect steakhouse quality every time you grill.Duraflame Instant Light Charcoalyou don’t need lighter fluid, this charcoal lights instantly. in about 10 minutes, you can start to grill. it really is that easy.Best Easy Light CharcoalLighting Charcoal on fireonce the charcoal is white, you can put your meat or whatever else you want to grill on a grill over the charcoal. you will grill both sides over direct heat, searing in the juices on high heat. then move your food to the other side of the grill over indirect heat to finish the cooking process.How to sear meat on the grillGrilling Steaks on Duraflame Charcoalthe end result is perfectly grilled food that is juicy and flavorful. make sure to slice grilled meat against the grain, and don’t put pepper on until after you grill it or it will have a bitter taste. a dry rub is great to put on your food before you grill it, and wait to baste on barbecue sauce or any sweet sauces until last last few minutes of grilling.Charcoal Grilled MeatCharcoal Grilled Flank SteakPiece of Grilled SteakEating Bbqthe boys favorite part of the day was learning how to make grilled banana boats, which are really easy to make. just cut a slit crossed the top of a ripe banana, almost all the way through…but not through the bottom peel. then stuff with marshmallows and chocolate pieces.Making Banana Boats on the GrillKids Making Banana BoatsBanana Boatsthen place the stuffed bananas on the barbecue over indirect heat with the cover on. grill until the chocolate and marshmallows are toasted and melty.Grilling Bananas on the bbqbefore eating, sprinkle the banana boats with brown sugar and graham cracker crumbs. these banana boats were super yummy, probably the best i have ever had. i think it was because they weren’t wrapped in tin foil, and they got the toasty edges from the high heat of the Duraflame charcoal.Eating a Grilled Banana Boati learned so much about the important of having a high heat when barbecuing over charcoal. before i would have only considered using my gas grill, but now i am excited to try barbecuing over charcoal. it brings such an excellent taste to your food…you can’t get this flavor on a gas grill.Duraflame Event in Newport BeachDuraflame Charcoal for grillingafter learning some great tips on barbecuing and how to get the perfect sear on grilled foods, we were dying to check out the rest of the competition. there was so much barbecue to try – from chicken legs, to brisket, to ribs, to bacon covered bbq meatballs. there was something for everyone.Bbq tasting in Newport BeachBarbecue SeasoningsGrilled Hot Dogseven being a vegetarian, i was able to find something yummy. Vann and i love barbecued corn, and of course we enjoyed every bite.Eating Grilled Corn

the most exciting part of the day was leaving with our own bag of Duraflame Instant Lighting Charcoal. we can wait to try out our new grilling skills and getting the perfect sear on our meats and veggies. thanks Duraflame for the great new charcoal.Chad Parkin with Duraflame Charcoal

{ Disclosure: this is a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. }

Fruit Salad Popsicles with Simply Orange

Orange Juice Popsicle Recipeas you may recall, earlier this year i shared with you, that last year i began to have a lot of stomach issues. i had to start being very careful with what i eat…which means only eating foods that are easy to digest and low acid. i decided to go vegetarian because meat was hurting my stomach. this also meant i couldn’t drink a lot of juice….especially orange juice. anything with acid upsets my stomach. it’s been tough, as i miss a lot of foods that i used to eat. being pregnant has made my stomach even more sensitive. but, i am feeling lucky because i just partnered with Simply Orange to share about their new low acid orange juice called Simply Orange Low Acid which just launched this year.Simply Orange Low Acid OJSimply Orange Low Acid is 100% pure squeezed orange juice with calcium and is just as yummy as the other Simply Orange varieties. but Simply Orange Low Acid has reduced acid for a smooth, mild taste – a great choice for anyone who loves the delicious taste of orange juice, but may be sensitive to acid. it is never sweetened, concentrated or frozen, and has no preservatives, colors or artificial flavors. it’s the next best thing to freshly squeezed.

Simply Orange Low Acid Orange Juicei have really been enjoying Simply Orange Low Acid…i have missed drinking orange juice. and because it is summer, the boys and i thought it would be fun to make some Fruit Salad popsicles. all you need to make them is your favorite fruit, orange juice and popsicle molds. we made them with the Simply Orange Low Acid, so that i could enjoy eating them too. wow…they are good, especially on hot summer days.

Simply Orange Low Acid Orange Juice PopsiclesHomemade Popsicles

to make the Fruit Salad Popsicles

you will need your favorite fruit, Simply Orange Low Acid, and popsicle molds. first, chop up your fruit into bite sized pieces. next, place the fruit inside the popsicle molds (you can also use small paper cups)

How to Make Orange Juice Popsicles

next, pour the Simply Orange Low Acid into the popsicle molds till it fills to the top of the molds. freeze overnight or until completely frozen. use warm water to loosen them from the molds. enjoy.

Easy DIY Fruit Salad PopsiclesOrange Juice Popsicle

i hope you love these popsicles as much as we do. and don’t forget to try Simply Orange Low Acid. it’s great to drink anytime of the day and very refreshing!

Easy Homemade Popsiclesyou can learn more and get additional Simply Orange inspirations and recipes by liking the Simply Facebook page  or visiting the official website

{ This post is sponsored by Simply Orange, but all opinions expressed are my own and are unbiased and based on my personal views.}

I Tried HopSkipDrive Children’s Car Service

Safe Driving Service for Kids in Orange County

when i was contacted by HopSkipDrive to possibly try out their service and share it with my readers, i’d have to say, i was really hesitant at first. the idea of someone else picking up my child and driving them to a destination without my supervision put my mom nerves into gear. however, having three kiddies with three different schedules has been a real struggle at times. i can’t always find someone else to drive one of them while i take the others to their extracurricular activities. and how do i choose which kid gets to go, and which kid doesn’t? i’ve done my best to schedule things in a way that i can take them all myself, but it doesn’t always work. so i thought, HopSkipDrive could really be helpful on certain days of the week. especially on my wednesdays when the boys have swimming, water polo, dance class and Boy Scouts. i know that sounds like a lot, but three kids means a lot of different commitments. i know there are a lot of moms in my situation that could use a service like this, and that maybe it would be the answer to my crazy wednesdays. so, i decided that i really needed to try this service out.

HopSkipDrive is a car service for kids ages 6 and older who need to go when their parents can’t. it was created by three moms who understand the stress of driving kids to all of their activities, and the safety concerns parents have putting their children in someone else’s car.  it’s available in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco and East Bay.


i was able to try the whole process for myself, and additionally, talk to one of the founders of HopSkipDrive, and also interview a driver so that i could become very familiar and knowledgeable about the company. i wanted to make sure it would be something that i would recommend…which means that i myself would have to be comfortable with the service.

How Does HopSkipDrive Work?

using the HopSkipDrive service was very simple. you download the app on your phone, and then you register your child via the app or online on the HopSkipDrive website. when you register, you can add locations, special instructions you need the CareDriver to know and also give your child a special security question that only you and your child know. once your child is registered, then you can start to schedule rides.

i scheduled a ride for my oldest, who is thirteen, to be picked up at my home and dropped off at swim practice at a local high school about 3 miles away. the morning of the scheduled ride, i received a confirmation email with the name of my CareDriver, her picture and a bio about her. she happened to be a local mom who homeschools her children who are about the same ages as my kids and lives in my same city. she looked like she could be one of my girlfriends…so i began to get more comfortable with the idea of using the HopSkipDrive car service.

when it came time for Jackson to be picked up, i got a knock on the door at the correct time. our CareDriver was there to pick him up. when you set up your child’s ride, you can specify whether you want the driver to knock on the door, just pull-up and wait, honk or text your child to let them know they are there.  since i wanted to learn more about HopSkipDrive, the company had scheduled some extra time for me to interview our driver so that i could get a feel of who are picking up our kids. i have to say that i was impressed with everything she told me. the screening process for the drivers is very thorough to make sure you are getting the safest of drivers. she told me everything she had to go through just to qualify – which included background checks, personal reference checks, vehicle safety checks and in person training. I also got to know her a little and found the she graduated the same year as me in the next high school over, we have mutual friends, her son is involved in the same activities as my son and she lives less than a mile away from me. i really felt that Jackson would be in good hands.

Hop Skip Drive Car Service for Kids in ORange County

before she left with Jackson, she told him his security word so that he knew she was the correct person to pick him up. it was a match, so Jackson was on his way. his driver made sure he was buckled up and ready to go. all cars used to drive the children have to be inspected for safety. and everything looked good to me. Teen Uber Sevicethe HopSkipDrive cars have these colored flags on them so that the kids know the correct car. but my driver told me that if your child is uncomfortable with having a car pull up with the flags, you can request for them to be removed in your notes for the driver. CareDrivers also will be wearing a bright orange HopSkipDrive t-shirt.Hop Skip Drive Flag1and then they we were off!

for the purpose of this post, i actually followed them to the next location so i could see for myself the entire process. of course, i would not normally follow them in my car….i would be able to follow them on their route via the HopSkipDrive phone app, where you can see them being tracked by GPS to the destination. drivers are not allowed to use their phone while driving, but they do text when they arrive for pick-up and when they drop-off your child to et you know they have made it.Hop Skip Drive Driver i followed along all the way to swim practice. our CareDriver made sure that Jackson was inside the pool gate before she left…per my instructions, and Jackson made it safely to practice. Orange County Kids Taxi Service everything went perfectly…even better than i imagined. i asked Jackson what he though about the experience, and he said it was great, the CareDriver was very nice and the he would be comfortable taking a ride with HopSkipDrive again.
Hop Skip Drive Car Uber Service for Kids in ORange Countyand best of all, i figured out a solution to my wednesday driving problem. now i can take the little ones to their dance class, and Jackson will still be able to get to his swim team and water polo practice by taking HopSkipDrive. all my children will get to attend their extra curricular activities. win win!
High School Swimming PoolJacks on Swim TeamOrange County Swim Team1

Facts about HopSkipDrive

not only did i interview my HopSkipDrive CareDriver, follow the whole process in person, but i also interviewed one of the three founders of HopSkipDrive so that i could get every question i had about the service answered. i really needed to be 100% comfortable having my child leave with someone other than myself or a family member. and i want to share some of the facts that i learned about HopSkipDrive and why i ultimately decided i would try it.

• Drivers are screened in person, receive background checks, their personal references are checked as well as their driving records. they are also finger printed and given in-person training. they receive more screening than a school bus driver.

• Each vehicle is inspected regularly by a licensed mechanic who certifies the vehicle has passed a 19-point inspection. CareDrivers are only permitted to drive the vehicle that passed inspection.

HopSkipDrive now offers carpooling as a way for parents to easily organize rides with other families while saving money. Just like your regular carpool, parents can invite other families to carpool with them. CareDrivers can make multiple stops, so parents can arrange for CareDrivers to pick up two friends from camp or school and bring them each to a different home, or pick up friends from their homes and take them to camp or school together.

• CareDrivers can text your child or yourself to get a hold of you or let you know they have arrived. but they do not have access to your phone number or information. all phone business is done through the HopSkipDrive system to keep your info private. and once your ride is over, the CareDrivers can no longer contact you.

• You can leave special instructions for your CareDrive on how or where to pick-up/drop-off your child.

• Your child should not go with a CareDriver that doesn’t know their special code word.

• You can follow your child’s route via the HopSkipDrive app which is also monitored by live customer support.

• No one 18 years or older, except for the driver, is allowed to ride in the car with your child.

• Yes, you can carpool or send multiple children.

• There are special protocols if there is an accident…although accidents are very very rare.

if you have any additional questions about HopSkipDrive, they have a whole archive of FAQ on their website. hop over to read them.
Hop Skip Drive Cars

so would i use HopSkipDrive again? yes. now that i have done my research into this service, i am comfortable having my oldest two children use it. there are time when us parents just can’t make our schedules work to get our kids where they need to be, so i am happy that i now have an option for when i get in a pickle.

if you would like to try out HopSkipDrive, you can! use the promo code “POPSICLE” to get your first ride free (up to $20)

Hop Skip Drive Safety

{Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All thoughts an opinions are 100% my own. I would only share this service if I would personally use it.}

Extreme Dinosaurs at Discovery Cube OC

Extreme Dinosaurs at Discovery Cube Orange Countyi’ve got a couple of dinosaur lovers at home who were really excited to hear about the new exhibit that has come to Discovery Cube OC. it’s called Extreme Dinosaurs, and it will be at the Cube from May 28th – September 5th, 2016.  of course we headed over to check it out a few weeks ago, and it didn’t disappoint. the life-sized animatronic dinosaurs were amazing and HUGE!!!! this wing of Discovery Cube OC has been transformed into naturalistic landscape with 17 fantastic animatronic dinosaurs that can roar, snarl, move their limbs and more.

Extreme Dinosaurs at Discovery CubeAwesome Dinosuar Exhibit at Discovery Cube

it was great to enjoy a fun afternoon at Discovery Cube OC. late afternoons mean smaller crowds, and most of the school groups have headed home, so we practically had the exhibit to ourselves. we were able to step into the prehistoric world and observe some of the most unique creatures that have ever walked the earth at the Extreme Dinosaurs exhibit.  it’s a very family-friendly exhibit that transports you back to the Mesozoic Era to showcase the world’s strangest dinosaurs with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along side full-scale skeletons and real and replica fossils.

Dinosaurs at Discovery Cube OCDiscovery Cube DinosaursDiscovery Cube Dinosaur FactsDinos at the Cube

the dinosaurs look so real, and the boys really enjoyed reading facts about each of them. some of the dinosaurs have buttons that make them move or make noises. the exhibition features some of the newest, bizarre dinosaur finds from the current “Golden Age” of paleontology, so it was fun to see some dinosaurs that we aren’t as familiar with.

Discovery Cube Robotic DinosaursTriceratops at Discovery CubeOrange County Dinosaurs

in addition to the life-size dinosaur animatronic models, there are also life-sized skeletons, a variety of real and replica fossils, the exhibition features interactive activities including a children’s dig site for young paleontologists to explore. there are also “Make Me Move” consoles that boy were able to  initiate movement of the animatronics, and hands-on learning areas that have touch panels and a Dinosaur Detective quiz. it’s all very educational….but very fun too!

Dinosaur Bones at Discovery CubeDinosaur Education at Discovery Science CenterInteractive Dinosaur Exhibit in Orange CountyLearn Paleontology at Discovery CubeLooking at the Dinosaur Exhibit at Discovery Cube

we really enjoyed the Extreme Dinosaur exhibit, and if your kids love dinosaurs, i recommend taking a trip to Discovery Cube OC before it is gone. there are also lots of other great exhibits to enjoy, especially with the expansion.

Discovery Cube Dinosaur Exhibit Review

we will definitely be taking another trip back to visit this guy….he was our favorite, and was even able to scare me for a second. the boys would love to see that again!T-Rex at Discovery Cuber

Knott’s Berry Farm’s 75th Anniversary of Ghost Town

Ghost Town Alive at Knotts

there’s a whole lot of new things happening at Knott’s Berry Farm right now! i am so excited to share that Knott’s Berry Farm’s Ghost Town is celebrating its 75th anniversary!!!!! in 1941, Walter Knott set out to build a small diversion for hungry guests waiting for a table at his wife, Cordelia’s, Chicken Dinner Restaurant, so Ghost Town was created. the overwhelming popularity of the restaurant and adjacent Ghost Town led to the creation of the Knott’s Berry Farm that exists today, 75 years later.

Ghost Town has been spruced up to celebrate this special anniversary, and is celebrating in a big way this summer with the new interactive entertainment experience, Ghost Town Alive! now through September 5, guests at the Farm get to play a role in new stories and adventures unfolding daily in the old west town of Calico. plus, for the first time ever, the doors to the legendary shops and buildings around Ghost Town are opening to allow guests to explore locations like the Sheriff’s Office and Barbershop.

this summer during the celebration, an incredible line-up of all new summer entertainment is happening, including the explosive new Wild West Stunt Show, the high kickin’ new Calico Saloon Show, and the wild and wonderful Circus of Wonders on the Calico Mine Stage. there will be Hoe Downs in Calico Square, lessons taught in the old school house, and lots of interactive activities.

Ghost Town at Knott's

my son Kyle and i had a special date to visit the Knott’s Berry Farm’s Ghost Town 75th anniversary celebration, and when we entered the town, we were greeted by all the folks of Ghost Town.Ghost Town FunKnott's Characters

parked near the Sheriff’s Office, this cell serves as a photo opportunity for Guests until put into use by the Lawman or Deputies. we also visited with the oldest resident of Ghost Town and mentioned a few key words to unlock a few of the town’s secrets.


Ghost Town SherrifCharacters at Knotts Ghost Town AliveMiners Outfitting DeptKnitter at Knotts Ghost Town Alive
the folks of Ghost Town kept giving us notes and tasks to do, such as visiting the sheriff or guarding the jail.
Fun in Knott's Ghost Town

the post office is a center of activity on Main Street. this is where the working telegraph is located. guests may send and receive telegrams for Characters or for themselves, and may help the Post Master by decoding telegrams. pick up mail for Characters or write a letter that may be placed in a Character’s mailbox….and be sure to help the Pony Express Rider deliver packages and stay on time.

Ghost Town 75th Anniversary Fun

other fun activities include heading to the Newspaper Shop where you can press to create and etch your own copy of the town newspaper. guests may also be sent by the Editor to gather quotes from town characters for the next addition of the “Ghost Town Gazette” that is printed and distributed several times throughout the day. or interact with stable hands and live farm animals at The Barn, listen to a musical act that performs on a small outdoor stage as a part of the Town’s Celebration Festivities, volunteer at the Fire Department, or head to the Dress Shop where you can use tin templates to create and color dress designs, use fabric swatches to add to pre-printed dress designs mounted on the wall, or help operate an actual loom. plus help the stores spinner, and help the owner design a dress for her famous sister to wear at the town’s celebration party. how fun does this sound!

Ghost Town General StoreOld Fashion Candy Store at Knott'sKnott's Ghost Town Decor

on June 11th, the new GhostRider opened with new coaster trains galloping over 4,500 feet of new track. since 1998, GhostRider has been giving white-knuckle rides to even the toughest cowpokes. it looms over Ghost Town as the tallest, fastest and longest wooden roller coaster on the West Coast. all 4,533 feet of track have been replaced and many of the curves and banks re-profiled to deliver a pulse pounding ride across the western sky. when riders accelerate down the first 108 foot drop in one of three all new “ore car” coaster trains and hit speeds of over 55 miles per hour, they’ll understand why the west just got a whole lot wilder!Ghost Rider at Knott'ssince i can’t ride roller coaster…boo hoo, i sent Kyle on Ghost Rider. he normal doesn’t love roller coasters, but he said he loved the ride. it’s now smoother, super fast and extra fun…according to his description!
Newly REfurbished Ghost Rider

we also became genuine citizens of Calico Ghost Town. the Calico Town Hall is the gathering spot for elections and other politically based functions at Knott’s. guests can participate in Town politics by voting, campaigning, drawing a campaign poster, and even registering as a Citizen of Calico.

Calico Ghost Town Town HallHaving Fun at Ghost Town Alive at Knott'sBecoming a Citizen at Knott's Berry Farm then we headed of to the bank. we met the banker there and he asked if we could help him solve a problem he had. he lost the code to his safe and couldn’t get any money out. he gave up a card with clues, and then we ran around Ghost Town trying to solve the code. i have to say…it way a lot of fun, and Kyle really got into the game.

Knott's Miners BankMeeting the Banker At Knott'sKnott's Bankerthe clues took us all around Ghost Town – including the old cemetery, Boothill Hideout, the museum and Calico Saloon. it was quite exciting.Knott's Scavenger HuntKnott's CampCalico SaloonSaloon Girls at Knott'sGhost Town SaloonGhost Town Vaultyou will also notice something new near the entrance to Ghost Rider. the area where you pan for gold has now moved to the front of Ghost Town. this has always been a favorite of my boys and we love panning for gold at least once every year. you actually get to take home the gold you pan for…and it is real! you can bring your bottle of gold each time that you pan and add to it, or get a new bottle each time. i know this will always be something my boys remember from their visits to Knott’s.New Panning For Gold Area at Knott'sGold at Knott'sHow to Pan for Gold at Knott'sPanning for Gold in Orange CountyKnott's Panning for Goldthe Shooting Gallery is also a new attraction in Ghost Town. guests may participate in duels to settle feuds and disagreements between citizens of Calico. you can choose from a bunch of different guns and shoot bottles and fun decoys around the saloon. it is the perfect addition to the town.

Knott's Shooting Gallery

our time at Ghost Town was coming to an end, but before we left, we stopped at the Calico Candy Shop. it smelled so heavenly and we almost couldn’t resist the homemade fudge and salt water taffy.

Knott's Candy StoreKnott's Fudgethere was just one last thing we had to do before we headed out for the day. just outside the park, the historic Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant has reopened following an extensive restoration. i am so impressed with how it came out. it really is beautiful and i am sure that you will love it just as much as i do.

Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant ReviewNewly Remodled Chicken Dinner RestaurantNew Knott's Chicken Dinner RestaurantKnott's Chicken Dinner Dining Roomthe new Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant now has a bar area where you not only order a drink, but food too.Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant BarKnott's Succulentsyou can also request to eat outside. for the first time ever, Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant offers outdoor dining.Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant Outdoor Seatingand despite updates to the building’s look and dining room decor, the time-honored classic dishes and home style cooking remains unchanged. it’s still as delicious as ever!

Knott's Chicken Dinner MealKnott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant DessertsKnott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant Remodeli am so happy to be able share these newest updates and all about the Knott’s Berry Farm Ghost Town 75th Anniversary with you. as you know, i’m a huge Knott’s fan and its always exciting when awesome improvements are made. the newly remodeled Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, the shooting gallery, Panning for Gold area, Ghost Rider and all the improvements will all remain at Knott’s for guests to enjoy, but the Ghost Town Alive celebration will only continue thru the end of summer. so make sure to get out to Knott’s Berry Farm soon before it is gone.
Ghost Town