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Not much to say

Ok, so there just isn’t much going on right now.  I guess it is a product of the winter duldrums, but really, even the library doesn’t have a lot of programs!  So, here are the things I can find:

1/11 – South Slidell library has New Year’s crafternoon from 4-6.

1/14 – From 12-4, the library in Madisonville is hosting their annual LibraryCon.  I have copied their description for you but this just looks fun!  Get your costumes ready and double check your fan fiction!  This looks like a great way to spend an afternoon!!!

  • Join us for our 3rd Annual Library Con! For kids, teens, families and adults who are into Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Manga, Anime and Fandoms from Harry Potter to STAR WARS! Costumes are encouraged!
    There will be events held all day including costume making forum, a photo booth, crafts, games, free comics, sword fighting demonstrations, book/comic/game/DVD swap, Harry Potter yoga, Quidditch, a fan fiction contest and a fan art show. The afternoon will end with a dance party for everyone at 3:00 P.M.

As always, keep up to date with the Facebook page.  I will add events or fun things as I find them.  Have a great week!!!

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New Year, New Experiences!

I don’t know about you, but Christmas almost does me in every year!  By this time of the break, I am exhausted and ready for school to start again.  I guess I am not alone, because really, most of our fun free stuff also takes a mini break during this time of year.  Library storytime is off for another 2 weeks, although there are a few things going on there.  And, other than a few select activities, most everyone is gearing up for the largest free party in the world, Mardi Gras!  Still, here are a few things happening around our area:

Little Creek campus of Church of the King has their Tube Zone open for free play every weekday (except Wednesday) from 11-2.  No food or drink is permitted, so don’t bring lunch, unless you want to picnic by their pond.  During this dreary season, it is a nice place to run off some preschooler energy!

Public schools go back on Wednesday here in Slidell.  This is bittersweet, because I always miss my big kid when he is at school, but he really needs his friends.  And, he honestly LOVES school!

1/4-1/8 – Starting Wednesday evening, The National Park Service is hosting all sorts of events around the Battle of New Orleans.  Both Friday and Saturday at the Chalmette Battlefield, there are family friendly events all day long, including firemaking demonstrations, Indian games, basket weaving, musket firing, and lots more!  Best of all, it is all free!  Parking is off site with a free shuttle.  Go to http://www.nps.gov/jela for more information.

1/6 – The Ninth Annual Joan of Arc Parade runs in the quarter starting at 7.  Here is the route:  http://joanofarcparade.org/who-we-are/parade-route/   This is not a Mardi Gras parade, this is celebrating Joan of Arc.  We’ve never been but this looks fun!

And, that is it!  There is plenty of stuff happening that I didn’t list, but it all is fairly expensive.

Plus, as promised, here is another of our favorite, easy recipes.

Coca Cola Chicken

  • 1 12 oz can or 1 1/2 cups dark soda (works best with non diet soda)
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • your choice chicken cuts (we like boneless skinless thighs, but any cut works)
  • Mix the soda and ketchup in a deep skillet.  Place the chicken in the sauce mixture and cover.  Cook over medium to medium high heat for approximately 30 minutes or until the chicken is done through.  Remove the chicken from the sauce and thicken using cornstarch (mix a little cornstarch in water and whisk it into the sauce.  It will thicken quickly).  Serve with rice or pasta.

It’s almost Christmas!

I know it is still almost 2 weeks away, but I likely won’t write a blog post next week.  So, this will take us to Christmas!  I will be updating my Facebook page with events, so make sure to follow there!

Strangely, there isn’t as much going on this week and weekend.  Not to say there isn’t anything, but I think most places host their events earlier in the month to leave Santa plenty of time to go back to work and prepare his sleigh!  Still, there is PLENTY to keep busy so never fear!

12/12 – Picayune Christmas parade rolls at 6 pm!

12/14 – Pajama storytime at the Slidell library at 10:30 am.  This is a special digital storytime for preschoolers.

12/14 – Read with a pup at the South Slidell library starting at 3 pm.  Reservations required so call the branch before you go!

12/15 – Visit with Santa at the South Slidell library at 10:30.

12/15-12/26 – Slidell’s Bayou Christmas Fest starting at 6 pm in Heritage Park.  Free pictures with Santa (they give you a print copy), lights, food to purchase, crafts, and more!  Last year they had rides but I haven’t driven over there lately and there is very little info online.

12/17 – Slidell Movie Night featuring Home Alone in Heritage Park.  The movie starts at 7 pm!

12/18 – Caroling in Jackson Square – No, it isn’t in Slidell, but some things are worth a drive!  Gates open at 6:30, caroling starts at 7 pm.  Candles and song sheets are provided and it is recommended that you arrive early, as they do exceed the capacity of the square some years.

12/21 – Drive in movie at the Slidell libary at 10 am.  There is already a waitlist for this event where kids will decorate a cardboard “car” and watch movies but you can add your kids and hope for the best.

There are plenty of light displays to visit between now and Christmas though!  Make sure you check out a few of them.  I am going to list some, but these are just a few.  If you have favorites, please share with me so I can add them to my list!

The Morris Family Christmas Light Extravaganza  – Located at 125 Chamale Drive, this is a light show that shouldn’t be missed!  The closer we get to Christmas, the busier it gets, so try to go early (and maybe on a week day).  The lights come on at 6:30, according to the family.  Tune in to 88.5 FM on your car radio to hear the music that accompanies the show.

Miracle on Fulton Street, Harrah’s Casino lobby gingerbread display, Roosevelt Hotel lobby, Royal Sonesta hotel, Canal Street lights, and French Market lights – all in downtown NOLA and all gorgeous.

Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival – starts at 5:30 each night.  This one isn’t free, but I watched a little video on it and it looks like it might be worth the $5/person admission fee.  The light show is pretty awesome (we saw a portion of it 2 years ago before they started charging admission) and has grown every year!  But, the rides do cost extra, as do the concessions.  So, maybe not the best deal, price wise.

Celebration in the Oaks – Ok, we all know this is the absolute most amazing light show around.  There are no doubts in my mind that this one can’t be beat.  It is very much worth the drive to see, if you haven’t been before.  However, if I am completely honest, we quit going several years ago.  We used to go every year but it seems more crowded each time.  There are days during the season that are better than others (after Christmas is the best, crowd wise).  And, if you purchase tickets online ahead of time, you will save a ton of time.  But, for my impatient twinsies, we just skip the drama and head for the free light shows.  Nope, they don’t come close to the amazing-ness of CITO, but we are going to wait until the twins are old enough to discern the difference.

Lastly, I shared a favorite recipe last week and will do it again here.  This is not as cheap, but more tasty!  And, it is a crockpot recipe so you can put it in and eat when you get home!

My Italian Beef

  • 1 beef roast (however big you want, but for anything over 5 lbs, double the rest of ingredients)
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 1 package Italian Dressing/Seasoning mix
  • 1 jar pepperoncini peppers (found near the pickles in the grocery store)

Mix the Italian Dressing mix into the beef broth in the crockpot.  Place the roast in and cook on low 6 hours or until it can be shredded easily.  Pour the peppers and juice on top and continue cooking 1 hour or longer.  Serve on crusty bread (or Zac likes hawaiian rolls).  (If I want it to be done when I walk in the door, I put the peppers in when I start it.  It turns out a bit more spicy, but wow, it is YUMMY!)

 

 

Are you ready for this week? It is BUSY!

Last weekend was so busy, I can’t believe all the things that were going on!  I don’t think anything got rained out, but it sure was yucky on Sunday.  We came home from church and watched Christmas movies all day.  What a nice relaxing time before this CRAZY week!  There is so much happening this week and weekend.  I hope you are all ready! And, as promised in my first post, I am including one of my family’s favorite quick and easy (and cheap!) recipes at the end, so keep reading!

Also, there are some things that happen every week (story time at the library, playgroups, etc) that I don’t have listed unless they are special.  If you want/need a list of those things, email me and I will make sure to get you a schedule!

*Chick-Fil-A Gause is offering free cups of coffee every morning this month from 6-10:30 am.

12/5 – CANCELLED!!!!!! The parade is moved to next Monday, 12/12.  Tonight at 6 pm is the Christmas parade in Picayune.  I’m not sure the route, but GPS Goodyear Blvd and I’m sure people will be lining up.  **There is talk of this being cancelled due to rain!  They won’t make that decision until later today, so use your best judgement or contact City Hall of Picayune later today to find out if they are still rolling.

12/6 – Winter Crafternoon at the Slidell library between 4 and 6 pm.  These are advertised for ages 5 and up, but 4 year olds can participate (with lots of help).  This week they are making an ornament!

12/7 – Read with a pup at the Slidell library starting at 3 pm.  You must have a reserved time, so call the library to make a reservation!  This is an AMAZING program for kids who need help reading, or kids who would just like to read to a dog!

12/7 – Polar Express Story Time at the Lacombe library at 6 pm.  A reading of the Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg plus hot chocolate and sugar cookies!  There will also be a craft to make.  This sounds like a lot of fun!

12/8 – Family Dance Party at the Slidell Library at 6:30 pm.  This sounds awesome!  How much fun is dancing with your kids at the library?   I’m sure this is being held in the meeting room, lol.

This brings us to the weekend.  I’m not sure how to pick which things to do; there are soooooo many.  And, I know there are things I missed!

12/9 – Pearl River Christmas at 6 pm – Decorated trees, a fireworks display, live music and Santa and Mrs. Claus.  The celebration takes place at Town Hall, on Willis Alley.

12/9-10 – Christmas Under the Stars at Griffith Park in Slidell.  Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive at 6 pm each evening.  Bring your camera to take your pictures with Santa!  There are also decorated trees, a nativity scene, and Christmas cottages to enjoy.

12/9-10 – Holiday of Lights at Koop Drive park, Mandeville.  Starting at 6 each evening, there are kiddie rides, lights, and Santa!  The pictures with Santa are not free, and there is food available to purchase, but the rides and light displays do not cost anything!

12/9-11 – A Cajun Christmas! at Journey Fellowship Church in Lacombe.  You will need tickets to this event but they are free.  This looks like a real Christmas pageant about a little girl named Anabelle (so you know we have to go!).  Go to Journeyfellowshipchurch.com for tickets.

12/9-11 – A Mandeville Christmas Live Nativity at First Baptist Church in Mandeville.   Starting at 6 pm each evening, you can walk through a living and narrated Christmas Nativity tour with live animals.  We went a few years ago and found some scenes a little scary for Charlie (I think he was 5 at the time), but it was just at the very end so we skipped out before the last tableau.  I highly recommend this event!

12/10 – A Cajun Christmas at Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, 2-4 pm. This is where Wild Things is held in October.  Santa will be there for story time, cookies, and hot chocolate.  Santa will be available for free pictures.

12/10 – Dinner with Santa Cow at Chick-Fil-A Gause from 3-5 pm.  Santa Cow and Elf Cow will be there for pictures and there will be holiday activities.  I would assume that means crafts and games, but I’m not sure.

12/10 – Winter on the Water and Santa’s street parade in Mandeville along the Lakeshore.  The parade starts at 4 pm. on Lakeshore drive at the harbor and ends at the Gazebo with lighting of the oaks at 5:15.  After, there is a boat parade.  And, of course, pictures with Santa!  Bring your camera.

12/10 – Lights at the Lake at the New Canal Lighthouse on Lakeshore Drive (in New Orleans) from 4:30-8 pm.  There is a boat parade, lights, local school choir performances, and Santa.  Free admission

12/10 – Kids Christmas Party at Christ Episcopal Church of Slidell from 7-8:30.  There will be crafts, games, music, stories, snacks, and more.  RSVP at 985-643-4531.

12/11 – Santa Sunday at Nonna Randazzo’s Italian Bakery at 10 am.  If you haven’t already talked to Santa, here is another chance!  Free cookie decorating, face painting, coffee, hot chocolate, donuts, and pictures with Santa (according to their website).

12/12 – Milk and Bookies at the Slidell Library at 10 am.  Meet with Santa and enjoy milk and cookies, do a craft, read a holiday book, and sing some songs.  Everyone is encouraged to bring a gently used or new children’s book to donate to a local nonprofit.

12/12 – Tonight at 6 pm is the Christmas parade in Picayune.  I’m not sure the route, but GPS Goodyear Blvd and I’m sure people will be lining up.

12/14 – Pajama storytime for preschoolers at the Slidell library at 10:30 am.

12/15 – Visit with Santa at the South Slidell Library at 10:30 am.  Seriously, please don’t say you haven’t been able to meet Santa!  But, if you still haven’t, he will be at the South Slidell library for a meet and greet and photo session.  Bring your camera!

Finally, the whole month of December – Miracle on Fulton Street, New Orleans.  Daily snowfall, twinkling lights, a giant tree, and gingerbread display.  Santa and live music on the weekends.  Plus, lots of the hotels have phenomenal light displays!  If you have a free afternoon, you could definitely do a walking tour of the quarter and get in the holiday spirit!

Phew.  I am tired just thinking about all the stuff on my calendar.  It is a bit overwhelming!  So, what about eating?  Yes, the events are free, but my family still has to eat.  And the twins don’t appreciate going more than 2 hours without food!  I am always very careful to plan ahead before we begin our day.  I pack snacks and a picnic lunch so we don’t have to hit fast food.

I also make sure I always have the ingredients for my chicken tortilla soup at home!  It can go in the crockpot or on the stove, and it takes no more than 5 minutes to put together.  And, you can customize it to fit your family’s taste!  You can use low sodium/low fat soups to make it a bit more healthy also.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 1 can Cream of Chicken soup
  • 1 can Cream of Potato soup
  • 1 can Chicken Broth
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1 can Corn
  • Chicken (I use left over chicken or a can of chicken)

Put all the ingredients in a pot and heat thoroughly.  This is some of the best soup I have ever made or had.  Seriously, try it.  I serve it with flour tortillas or chips and I like it best sprinkled with cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

The next two weeks are PACKED with activities!  There are so many to choose from that I can’t even begin to list them all.  But, I will list as many as I can and hope you find something interesting to do.  And, this weekend is the weekend of PARADES! By this time of the year, I have almost forgotten the weariness of last year’s Mardi Gras and I am ready for another parade.  The Christmas parades are super fun!  8*)

11/28 – 3-5 pm  Free small cup of chicken tortilla soup at Chick-Fil-A Gause!!!

11/30 – For the preschool crowd, there is messy art at the library at 10:30.  Best not to dress in your finest clothes for this one!

12/2 – 5-8 pm.  Shop by Candlelight and Christmas on the Rails – Picayune, MS.  We are branching out this year, since my parents’ move to Picayune.  I have no idea how much of this event is free, but it looks pretty neat!  Santa and Mrs. Claus (take your own pictures), train, hay, and coach rides, music, and free refreshments!  And the Grinch from Whoville!  It takes place in the downtown shopping area.  Type Goodyear Blvd into your GPS to find it.  8*)

12/2 – 12/10 – Christmas Under the Stars at Griffith Park in Olde Towne Slidell.  This free annual event features the Parade of Trees, lights, The Christmas Cottages, and free visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus (who arrive in a fire truck at 6:15 pm each Friday and Saturday).  Be sure to bring your camera to take pictures with Santa and line up early!

12/2 – 12/10 – The Holiday lights at Koop Drive, Mandeville.  This free annual event features lights, Santa visits (pay for pictures), kiddie rides, food for purchase, and last year there was a tram ride.  The rides open at 6 each Friday and Saturday night.

12/3 – Home Depot kid’s clinic 9-12 am.  Free kid’s build, this month they are building a gingerbread man candy dish.

12/3 – Lowe’s Build n Grow – 10 am.  Free kid’s build.  Registration required (last I checked there were openings available).  This month they are building 2 photo ornaments.

12/3 – Deck the Rails – 10 am at the Covington Trailhead.  There is caroling, live music, and Santa!

12/3 – Krewe of Jingle runs in NOLA!  Kicks off at 1 pm.  Here’s the route:  http://downtownnola.com/parade-route-2016/

12/4 – 3-6 pm – Christmas at Terra Bella – I don’t know this one personally, because we have never been, but it looks very interesting!  Advertised to have live holiday music, hot chocolate, Christmas crafts, and a TerraBella Express (I think that is a train?), all for free.  And, of course, Santa!

12/4 – Merry Madisonville Parade!  Kicks off at 4 pm.  Here’s the route: http://townofmadisonville.org/blog/post/136/4pm-SATURDAY-DECEMBER-3-2016-MERRY-MADISONVILLE-COMING-TO-TOWN-Includes-Parade-Route#.WDsG_iSrG9k

12/5 – Annual Christmas Parade in Picayune, MS!  Kicks off at 6 pm.  Apparently, it follows the “traditional parade route”, but I cannot find a link or a map!  However, I imagine if you go to Goodyear Blvd, you will find people lining up and they will help you.

12/9-12/10 – 6:30 pm –  A Cajun Christmas by Journey Fellowship Church, Lacombe location.  I am putting this in now because you need to get tickets for the show.  It is free but requires tickets!  And Santa will be there!  Here’s the link for tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-cajun-christmas-tickets-29408027201

*Be sure to “like” my Facebook page (Free and Frugal Fun around Slidell) to keep up with events between blog posts!  I find stuff almost every day and I don’t want anyone to miss anything.

 

Trains?

Ok, so let’s talk trains.  Somewhere along the way, trains and Christmas became connected.  Now, it seems like they just kinda go together.  And, if you are like me and have a trainiac in your family, there is pressure to pay an awful lot of money to ride one around the holidays.

So, here are MY thoughts on the trains around town.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

  • City Park train ($8 per person) – The cost is actually $4/ticket, but there is an admission fee of $4/person to the amusement park.  This is a 15 minute ride through City Park.  It is outdoors and really fun!  However, it is a bit pricey.  Kids under 36 inches are free though so if your trainiac is small, worth it!
  • City Park Holiday train ($5 per person) – This is really the same ride as above, but in conjunction with Celebration in the Oaks ($9 admission).  It is at night, with the Christmas lights throughout the park.  The lines will kill you, though.  Bring snacks to survive!  And, make sure you check out the train garden with all the miniature trains!
  • Lakeside Shopping Center miniature train ($1.50 per person) – A tiny train that runs in a small loop around the decorated center stage beside Santa.  I guess, technically, you CAN ride with your kids but it is a tight squeeze.  The line is a nightmare, only because it is horribly set up, but my kids loved the ride.
  • The Columbia Christmas Train ($18 per person) – Lots of people are curious about this one.  We went last year so I will share our experience and opinions.  First, it is a LONG drive from Slidell.  We left as soon as Charlie got off his bus (3:30) and made it there right in time for the first train ride of the night.  We didn’t wait at all!  There were 2 train cars (one was a flatbed car with a structure built onto it, so not an actual car) being pulled by a small switch engine.  The engine pulls the cars down the track for awhile then pushes them back to the station.  It isn’t a loop and you don’t ever leave the train.  There are mounted monitors which play a video about the creation and fall of man on the way out and the birth of Jesus on the way back.  I was a bit disappointed because I was expecting the story to be told outside the train (like a light display or something).  There really wasn’t much to see outside the train during the ride.  When we got off the train, the line was LONG (people at the end were waiting through 2 rides).  Thank goodness we got there early!  Anyways, there is a ton of other stuff to do.  We went for a pony ride, visited the petting zoo, bounced on inflatables for over an hour, and rode on a hayride through a light display.  There were little to no crowds through the rest of the area.  There are tons of places to take pictures and beautiful lights everywhere.  Everything is included in the price, except food, crafts, and Santa pics.  The downside to the whole experience is the distance and the price.  Columbia is not on the interstate so you will be driving down windy back roads after dark.  My take away:  I’m really glad we did this once, but I doubt we will go again.
  • The Polar Express ($52/adult, $37/child) – If you hadn’t heard yet, The Polar Express is coming to New Orleans!  Sadly, the tickets are sold out for every ride.  Which, in my opinion is CRAZY!  Look at the price!  Ok, so maybe I’m a grinch but for my family of 5, we would be paying over $200 to fight a crowd, have hot cocoa and bring home a bell?!?!?!  Still, it IS the Polar Express and would be an amazing memory.  What a tough decision!  I do have an idea…
  • Ok, so this will really take some planning on your part.  And it helps if you have a family member willing to help you pull it off.  BUT, there is an alternative:  Amtrak runs from New Orleans, through Slidell, to Picayune (and more stops further north).  It also runs from New Orleans to Hammond (and more stops further north).  So, my idea is to re-create a Polar Express ride for your family!  No, there will be no Santa on your trip, but the price is right.  For 2 adult and 3 child tickets, NOLA to Slidell Slidell to NOLA (approximately an hour on the train), it costs $42.  I plan to bring along a copy of the book, a thermos of milk, and donuts.   The biggest problems are 1. finding someone to drop you off in NOLA and 2. The timing of the trains isn’t the best (it leaves NOLA at 7 am!).  If you do it backwards (Slidell to NOLA), the timing is better (Departs Slidell at 6:07 pm).  Hammond is a longer ride, but a little more inconvenient for us Slidellians. Anyways, it is worth a glance, if your kids are into trains!

I hope this info helps some.  I will post later this week with some activities for next week, and there are tons!!!

 

 

Isn’t that always the way it goes…

So, I originally intended to write once or twice a week.  And, I try to have all my weekend’s activities planned well before the weekend.  But, as is usually the case, things show up last minute or I miss an original announcement and find out about more things that might be fun!  So here are a few more for this weekend that you might enjoy.

11/18 – Chick-Fil-A on Gause Blvd is giving away Frosted Coffee from 3-5 pm.  Seriously, Chick-Fil-A keeps my family going with their free stuff!  These give-aways are typically honored in both drive-thru and walk in; they are one per PERSON (they will count the people in the car); and unless stated, do not require a purchase!  If it is something like “Free when you wear Saint’s gear” or “Free if you dress like a cow”, you can’t use it in the drive-thru.

11/19 – Chick-Fil-A in the mall is having their November Kid’s Club event from 11-2 (but they usually shut down early).  This month they are advertising Thanksgiving crafts!  They ask that you pre-register at https://chick-fil-akidsclub.com/  but they have never asked our name or if we registered.  I guess if they get overwhelmed with kids, they might.

11/20 – There is a bake sale on Moonraker Drive from 12-3.  That’s a long road, so keep driving until you find it.  No, it isn’t free, but it is a great way to support a mom trying to teach her kids about giving!  All proceeds will go to a TBD charity (something involving feeding the hungry).

P.S.  I am still learning how to navigate this site.  So, I apologize if it is kinda wonky. And, I think there is a way to subscribe, if you want to see when I post new things, but I couldn’t tell you how.  I’m working on it!  8*)