how to earn a Junior Ranger badge at Yosemite National Park

One of our country’s pure treasures, the National Parks, celebrate their 100-year anniversary this week! We got out and celebrated the occasion a few weeks ago with a weekend trip to my favorite National Park, Yosemite National Park. Now we’ve been to the park before as a family, but now that Miss L turned six, she got to participate in a great program offered by the parks: the Junior Rangers!

What exactly does it take to become a Junior Ranger at Yosemite National Park? Just these 4 steps!

  1. Purchase a booklet published by the Yosemite Conservancy for $3.50 at any of the following stores:
    • Yosemite Valley Visitor Center
    • Nature Center at Happy Isles (May through September)
    • Wawona and Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Centers (June through September)
    • Big Oak Flat Information Station (May through September)
  2. Complete the set number of activities in the book
  3. Collect a bag of trash
  4. Attend a guided program

We went on this weekend excursion with our friends, the great S Family, so we had two additional Junior Ranger-trainees in our camp: Miss M and Miss E! 

We stayed in the Lower Pines campground in Yosemite Valley for the three nights, which happens to be the location of the Lower Pines amphitheater and many guided programs. We attended two nighttime Ranger Programs: a Ranger talk on Friday and a “Who’s scat is that?” ranger talk on Sunday night. The girls loved both of them, and it was so nice having the whole experience just steps away from our campsite! (For a list of all the guided programs, check out the Yosemite Guide when you arrive)

Technically, the Ranger Talk on Friday night was our first step to becoming a Junior Ranger, but we didn’t know that just yet! The next day, we picked up three Junior Ranger booklets from the Nature Center at Happy Isles after our Saturday morning hike to see what the program was all about!

The booklets have a range of activities for younger and older kids to complete, but parents may need to provide some writing assistance to the 6-7 year olds. The girls had fun with the activities and filled out their books that afternoon and the following morning.

Then it was time to pick up some trash!

We packed the trash bags (and gloves that they give you!) and started off on a hike to Mirror Lake on Sunday morning. Who knew this would turn out to be the greatest decision ever! You’ll never have a bored hiker as long as you have a trash collector in your group!

The girls truly took pride and did an amazing job cleaning up the 1-mile trail in both directions, and each had a full trash bag to show for it!

Once their bags were properly disposed of, we hopped on the shuttle bus and went over to the Yosemite Valley Visitors Center to turn in their books.

The Visitors Center is usually quite crowded, so we decided to go around the lunch hour and hope to miss the crowds. The girls presented their books and the Ranger quizzed them on what they learned during their guided program, and other questions from the activities in the book. This definitely wasn’t a participation patch that everyone just gets for $3.50 and the rangers took it quite seriously!

After the quiz, the girls raised their arms and were administered the Junior Ranger oath!

They were each given their patch, and we walked away from the Visitors Center with three extremely happy and proud Junior Rangers!

As you can see, the program is quite easy to complete, but more importantly, it really does pass on the lessons of being a good National Park steward to children. I know that we’ll always keep trash bags and gloves with our hiking gear from now on, and hopefully this is just one of many patches that Miss L, Miss E and Miss M will be gathering in their Junior Ranger lifetime!


upgrading my daily routine

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by CLEAR CARE® PLUS as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising.  I received financial compensation for my participation and endorsement.


It was exactly 16 weeks ago that I decided I needed to upgrade my routine. I was tired, stuck in a bit of a post-winter rut, and just doing the same thing day to day. I wasn’t getting out for those runs that I told myself I’d go on each morning. And I was skipping breakfast in favor of coffee, working through lunch, then devouring everything in sight when dinner came around.

The shake-up came from Facebook. I saw a few people talking about a new gym program opening in the neighborhood.

“Ooh! I’m so excited!” they all seemed to say. It was a female-only program… but it looked intense. The pretty people in the photos looked intense. I decided to keep scrolling.

Then an ad popped up in my Facebook feed a few days later and I noticed that a long-time friend liked the photo… and that she had belonged to a similar program for about two years.

But she’s a runner. And she’s in-shape. That’s what I told myself and closed the ad again.

Then came the final straw. A close friend told me she had done something crazy. She had signed up for this new intense gym program because she needed to do something for herself.

And that’s when I realized I needed to stop making excuses and give myself an upgrade too!

It’s been 16 weeks since I started the program: one 6-week 5/days/week session and 2 5-week 4/days/week sessions. And this upcoming Monday, I’m back to where I started 16 weeks ago with another “bootcamp” session. And I couldn’t be happier with my decision!

I’m usually not one to treat myself to little perks or upgrades… often preferring the generic brand or low-cost option among my choices. In this case, I kept thinking if I wasn’t running and working out already, then I didn’t deserve to upgrade to an actual class. In reality, I haven’t worked out this much in years thanks to the class and investing a little bit more in myself.

I’d definitely encourage everyone to invest a little extra into yourself in some way… because it really is worth it! And think of it this way, all that other skimping and saving can actually afford you these little upgrades along the way!

Speaking of upgrades, CLEAR CARE® PLUS (shout-out to my favorite contact lens solution! Love the bubbles!) is taking upgrades to the next level with the Bubble Upgrade™ Sweepstakes! From 8/10/16 to 9/6/16, a winner will be selected every Wednesday to win an upgrade experience (each valued at over $10,000), spanning categories from sports, travel, and self-improvement.


View the sweepstakes here to learn more, and discover the amazing prizes! You could win an upgrade experience worth over $10,000!

[No purchase necessary. Must be at least 18 and a resident of the 48 contiguous U.S. or D.C. Ends 9/6/16. Void where prohibited. Subject to complete Official Rules.]

I recently upgraded to  CLEAR CARE® PLUS for my contacts and I’ve been so impressed with how much better it deeps cleans the dirt and removes protein from my lenses. Let’s add that as another silly thing I should have done a long time ago! If you’re a daily contact lens wearer, I’d check it out as an upgrade option for you!

And if you’re not blind as a bat, then I hope you get a chance to upgrade something exciting or boring in your life soon!



mini boden for my mini me

This post was sponsored by Boden as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. I received complimentary products to facilitate my review.


The return to school is just around the corner (next Wednesday for us!), which means the best shopping season is upon us: back-to-school shopping!!! Miss L has definitely come into her own sense of fashion in the past few years, but it’s refining itself to a place that truly reflects her personality. That has never been more true than when I handed her the mail a few weeks ago with the Mini Boden Back to School catalog and told her to mark the items of clothing she liked.


“Momma! This owl is so cute! Can I pick out this shirt?”

The first item of clothing she picked out was this Pet Portrait Shirt (Navy Owl). It has actual buttons sewed on to the shirt, which just makes the detail that much cooler, as if the owl wasn’t doing the job on its own.  Next on the list were “fuzzy”  Velour Sweatpants (Navy) to match with the shirt.


“Can I get more than one owl thing? I just really like owls right now.”

And with that, this Sherpa Lined Anorak (Multi Snowy Owls) was in our cart as well. The second she put it on, she couldn’t stop raving about how soft and furry it was! I’m super excited to have a jacket for school that can keep her warm on those cold days and also one that’s water resistant! Oh… and it’s machine washable… which means this may just last for more than one season!


And then came the rainbows!

“Momma! Can I get a rainbow dress and rainbow leggings and rainbow shirts???”

As a child of the 80’s who also had quite the love affair with rainbows, there was really no way I could say no. The Stripy Dress (Rainbow Multi Stripe) & Fun Leggings (Rainbow Stripe) are both made of the amazingly comfy and durable materials that Boden USA is known for! She also picked out the Retro Stripe T-Shirt (Navy Stripe) to complete her rainbow trifecta!

Now it’s no secret that I’m a sucker for Boden USA in my own closet, but I love the cheeky, fun and trendy pieces that Mini Boden has for kids! I also really appreciate their durability, which seems to be a kids clothing trait that varies greatly from brand to brand. I’ve been so happy about every Mini Boden purchase I’ve made for L over the years!

Here’s the part though that makes me so excited to share all about Mini Boden‘s Back to School line… YOU have a chance to win one of three $500 shopping vouchers to Boden/Mini Boden!!! The contest closes on August 22, 2016, and you can enter by choosing a social media sharing option from the social media tool below!
#BacktoSchoolwithBoden Giveaway

 I-C will randomly select 3 winners from all program entries
and will handle fulfillment of the winning prizes.


And if you’re excited to buy your back to school needs RIGHT NOW… you can get 25% off your purchase using this link for Mini Boden/Boden!



The ‘skinny’ on Skinnygirl

“This post was sponsored by Skinnygirl as part of an Influencer Activation. I received complimentary products to facilitate my review.”

Let me take you on a quick journey of my crazy snacking patterns for a week…

It’s 2:55pm on a Friday afternoon. I’ve been working at a steady pace all day, but the weekend is in my sights and I’ve got a 90-minute meeting standing between me and freedom. I need something to keep me awake and alert, but also somewhat discreet and appropriate for an important meeting. And I’ve got just the thing…

Welcome into my life Skinnygirl! These Belgian Milk Chocolate Truffles were the first lovely treats I got to try…  and they spread like wildfire at my office once people saw me indulging. At only 100 calories a pack, it was the perfect little snack… and exactly the perfect serving size. 

Suddenly, I’m alert and happy in the middle of the meeting, and not counting the minutes until dinner.

10:30am on Monday morning. Since I started working out in the mornings, I’ve really needed to keep snacks all around me so that I don’t melt into a crazy hangry Kim. And while stocking up on apples and water works most days, it’s nice to have some other snacks around the office and home to keep things fun and exciting.

That’s where trying out a cup of freshly brewed Skinnygirl Sangria Hibiscus Herbal Tea helped kick in! See… I’m supposed to be limiting my caffeine intake and stay away from coffee on workout days, but sometimes I just need something hot that smells delicious and tastes good. So instead of plopping in a K-Cup of coffee… it’s this little K-Cup of tea! It was the perfect hint of sweet and fruity that I needed!

5:35pm on Tuesday night. I’m leaving work and jumping in the car for the ride home. It’s about 100 degrees outside and 110 inside the car… and all I want is something cold and refreshing! And unfortunately for me, there are about 3 coffee joints and 3 fast food stops on the way to pick Miss L up from camp….

So instead of stopping by quickly for ANYTHING cold, I grabbed a Skinnygirl Sparklers bottle I kept in the office fridge on my way out of the office. These are so yummy and full of flavor for only 5 calories and they’re all natural too! (p.s. You can order them online at after November 25th)

12:15pm on Wednesday afternoon. It’s lunch time and I’m treating myself to a delicious Mexican monstrosity of calories thanks to the morning workout and a giant desire to faint just a few minutes earlier. And I need water… lots of it. But sometimes drinking water is just boring, which then results in me not drinking it.

This time around I decided to throw a little bit of White Cherry flavored Skinnygirl Liquid Water Enhancer in the water… and magically I’m guzzling it down. Hmm… guess we’ll keep that around too!

2:00pm on Thursday afternoon. It wasn’t a workout day, but it was one of those where I went out to a quick and early lunch, and I’ve still got some pangs of hunger in the afternoon. Time to reach in my purse and try out the Skinnygirl Lemon Lime Sugar Free Mints.  I loved these mints because of their fun flavor: lemon lime! And the little tin was the perfect size to keep in my purse all the time.

And that friends… is what you call a good snack week! I wasn’t really expecting to fall in love with all of these Skinnygirl products, but in the end it was the taste that really won out. I mean, as long as it’s yummy, I’m in.

Let’s be honest… anyone that includes chocolate truffles as a snack gets a merit badge in my book!

Look for Skinnygirl products in your local area using the store locator and go treat yourself to some snacks!!!

family, travel

Spring break 2016: dc (part two)

[Catch up on the other Spring Break 2016 posts:  Palmetto Bluff, SC; Williamsburg; DC (Part One)]

On Thursday morning, we woke up bright and early (and grabbed some Dunkin’ Donuts of course!) and headed to Congress!

We had gone through the process of requesting tours with our local Congresswoman, Doris Matsui (CA-6), back in January. We had requested tours of the White House, United States Capitol and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Since we only gave about 2 months notice, we didn’t luck out with an appointment with the White House or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing during the very busy Spring Break week… BUT we did have a personal tour set up waiting with our Congresswoman’s office!


We didn’t have too much trouble finding her office location in Rayburn Building and met Andrew, the Congressional office manager and our tour for the day.


We left all of our bags in the Congresswoman’s office and then proceeded through security and over to the visitor’s center. It was PACKED with people waiting for their tours to begin, and it even took Andrew an incredibly long time to get our passes from the special “Congressional tour” line.


Once we had our official stickers, we could begin the tour through the Capitol!


Miss L was an eager tour participant, and was often leading the group through the halls so she could hear everything that was being said by our guide…


One of my favorite spots in the Capitol was the old Supreme Court chambers… it reminded me of what we saw in Williamsburg and having all of the branches of government in one large state house… and what the good/bad of that would be. (In other words… a spot for a political science geek like me to geek out)


When we came to the National Statuary Hall, there was a statue that Miss L recognized by name and face… Rosa Parks! She had recently read “I Am Rosa Parks” and when we saw this statue she just lit up and started telling us all about her.


After touring all of the main attractions of the Capitol, we got to the highlight of our visit that day: walking the floor of the House of Representatives. I had been on the floor once before back in 1997 at JSA Summer School, so visiting 19 years later was a treat! And just like back then… there were still no cameras allowed inside!

While we sat there trying to reconcile the smallness of the room with the enormity of it on TV, Miss L discovered the voting buttons and wanted to know how it all worked. I figured it was the perfect time for a small civics lesson, so I explained how bills and laws were passed and how the debate and voting worked in as simple of a manner as I could.

Suddenly, she stands up and says, “Resolved, that kids have to do all the work and grownups get to play all day.” Then, her finger forcefully lands on the “Nay” button and she pushes it down with quite a bit of emotion. “So that’s how it would work?”  Yep, kiddo… that’s EXACTLY how it would work. (And the tears welled up a little in my eyes too!)

And with that…  our long tour day at the Capitol was complete!


We walked outside to admire the cherry blossoms that were blooming all around DC… then grabbed a cab to head on up to lunch at Momofuku CCDC.


Mr. M and I couldn’t resist ordering the same thing: Beef Noodle Soup.


And Miss L opted for the Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder. (Which was yet another place where they questioned if she would eat the food that she ordered. So I’m thinking that DC kiddos aren’t really eating out too much? And seriously… NEVER underestimate Miss L’s consumption of delicious PIG and pickles!)


For dessert… we of course indulged in crack pie. Because, let’s be honest, who knows if I’ve been making it properly at all these past years!


Miss L got Cereal ice cream… and she didn’t like it. Seriously. She put away that entire bowl of food, and was like “eh… this doesn’t taste good” about cornflake ice cream. So we ate it… and were very pleased!


We headed back to the hotel, but around 6pm we all started to get the munchies again. Miss L and I decided to walk down the street to Corner Bakery to grab a light dinner to bring back to the room, but we took a little detour to see the White House.

Then we all crashed hard after watching Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall and got ready for our final day in DC!


So what does one do on their last day in DC?  Why… let’s start out by visiting the National Archives! The weather had turned cold and rainy that Friday, so we figured a day around the museums was just perfect.

Mr. M had never visited the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, so we figured it was a must stop for the last day. Somehow staring at old pieces of parchment and faded ink really just gets your emotions going for the day… even Miss L couldn’t muster up many words inside the exhibit. There were many Hamilton fans in the Rotunda that day… seeking him out in the various paintings in the room. I think that was one of the best parts: realizing that being there and seeing our founding documents was “super cool” to hipsters from Brooklyn.

From the National Archives, we wandered down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Museum of American History. Sadly, we did not have an umbrella, and we underestimated the popularity of the museum that morning… which means we ended up SOAKED outside.

Once inside (and now the proud owners of a pretty Smithsonian umbrella), we once again indulged Miss L in her George Washington fandom.


A lot of the exhibits were closed due to some big ones coming in 2017/2018… but we did get to stop in my favorite First Lady’s display!


Miss L, ever the foodie, decided that we needed to have a fancier plate to eat our oysters on, like this one from Lucy Hayes. (I looked up the prices on eBay… so yeah… she can wait to register for that for her wedding!)

My favorite exhibit was the Star Spangled Banner exhibit… probably because when we walked into the dark room and saw the illuminated flag, Miss L put her hand over her heart and started quietly singing the national anthem to herself. (again, the tears… seriously…)

After a quick lunch at the museum, we hopped on the metro and decided to spend the early afternoon visiting Georgetown University.


I was the most useless tour guide, as my memory of the university from my summer there two decades ago was quite far gone outside of the general landmarks! Oh well… we at least made it to the bookstore where Miss L got a Hoyas baseball cap and Mr. M got some tennis shirts.


Instead of waiting in an insanely crazy line for Georgetown Cupcakes (really? aren’t we so over and done with cupcakes???), we went and got macarons instead at Olivia Macaron. And we didn’t regret that one tiny bit!

For dinner, we went to Burger Tap & Shake in Foggy Bottom… where Mr. M had the best bacon burger of his life, and I had a crazy boozy Oreo Speedwagon milkshake. That’s the way one should truly end all vacations!

When we hopped on the metro, Mr. M asked if we could make one more visit to the rock shop at the Museum of Natural History. And really… how could I say no at this point?

IMG_0307 (15)

So… we took one last museum photo… bought more rocks…


…walked back to the hotel amid the cherry blossoms…


… and said goodbye to DC early the next morning.


We definitely made the most of Miss L’s first official Spring Break… and I can’t wait to see what adventures await us in 2017!