Insiders Guide to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Insiders Guide to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

We’ve been members of the San Diego Zoo since Big Nugget was a baby. While the main zoo in Balboa Park is well, amazing, you can read our how to here, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is our favorite. Here is my insider’s guide to maximizing your day at the Safari Park.

New Safari Park Exhibit

The new Walkabout Australia Exhibit at the Safari Park is a must see. Even if you’ve been to the Safari Park before, it’s worth the trip. The kangaroo and wallaby trail brings you as close as you can get to the animals. It’s also a great example of what the San Diego Zoo does so wonderfully on a grander scale, educating it’s visitors on the importance of conservation and our impact on a global scale.

Our Route and Secret Stops

My biggest advice, get here early. That’s my biggest advice for any amusement park really. Better parking and the crowds are way smaller. When we get to the Safari Park, we go straight to the tigers. Then we trek back to the gorilla’s and end up spending a lot of time hanging out watching them. They are pretty active in the mornings and so entertaining. After we are done there, we cross back through the park and go to the elephants, loop through to Kilima Point (lots of giraffes and rhinos). Then it’s on to the lions, ride the free tram if there is time, finish the Africa Trail and take the elevator up. Cruise through the Nairobi Village, brush the goats and see the baby animals in the nursery.

Safari Park Lion

What I love most about the Safari Park is the amount of shaded playgrounds. They are spread out around the park so you can easily pull off and let the kids out of the stroller to burn some energy. There are also a couple splash pads. They are a great way to beat the summer heat but be prepared to either avoid them or have a change of clothes.

The Safari Park is also great for nursing moms. One of my first solo outings as a mom of two was there. There are ample benches and private spots you can stop and nurse. Some of my favorites are at Kilima Point overlooking the open range, the hidden playground near on the Tiger Trail and the tables on the Samburu Terrace. There is a great playground there, a restroom and an incredible view.

safari park selfie

Safari Park Experiences

There are so many ways to make the Safari Park different each time you go. I will alternate our fun activity each time we go depending on what the kids feel like. Most of the time, we ride the carousel a handful of times.

safari park carousel

Other times we get Big Nugget’s face painted, feed the lorikeets or ride the balloon. There are also seasonal exhibitions too, like the Butterfly Jungle. I’m really looking forward to when our girls are old enough to do one of the safari excursions or even spend the night there. Yes, you can actually sleep there in safari tents. So fun.

Food options at the Safari Park vary and you can always bring your own snacks and lunch, which we do often. Our favorites are the gluten free chicken tenders and the pizza. We’re not even gluten free but they are so good and come with a side of fruit. The kids meals are wonderful and come in great souvenir reusable bags. Plus there are various local craft beers on tap at most of the restaurants. Some days, ya just need a beer with your lunch to get ya through the rest of the day. No judgement from me.

We are proud to be Curator Club members and have been for years. All of the things that the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park stand for and teach are important lessons I want to instill in my girls. Looking through all the pictures for this post, I’m watching my girls grow up there. It’s no wonder that when you ask Big Nugget what she wants to be when she grows up, she has always said “a zookeeper for rhinos and elephants”.

SAFARI PARK Insider's Guide



9 Whole30 Gadgets Essential for Success

9 Whole30 Gadgets Essential for Success

Another week done of the Whole30 challenge. I have mixed emotions about it. A lot of the changes that we’ve made have gotten easier. Pulling together a full breakfast, adjusting my coffee to a non-sweetened creamer (don’t get me wrong, I still miss my Ripple Vanilla creamer), not having mac and cheese as an easy side dish. There were parts of this week though that were infinitely harder than the first 7 days. Pizza night this week was torture. I miss having a bowl of popcorn while the girls are napping and I get some work done. I MISS WINE.

One thing that helped me get through it was to take it minute by minute and treat myself like I treat my toddler on the verge of a meltdown. I have mastered the art of distraction. I walked away from what I wanted or was craving and did something else. I made myself a bowl of cucumbers for nap time so I still had the crunch I was craving. I treated myself to a glass of sugar free kombucha in a stemless wine glass.

Another thing that helped me, is thinking of the end game. It’s only 30 days. I’m halfway through. I already did the hard part…starting. What’s another two weeks? Plus, in those first 14 days I’ve uncovered something completely unexpected. Something I haven’t since since, well, I can’t even remember….my abs. So something about this lifestyle is agreeing with my body, it’s motivation enough to keep going.

If I can do it, you can too.

Instead of giving you a daily play by play of what I was feeling, it think it would be more helpful to put together a list of essential Whole30 gadgets. Things that have made this month free of wine and popcorn a little easier.

This post contains some affiliate links – meaning if you click through the links and buy anything, the retailer will pay me a small commission at no additional cost to you! I never link to anything that I haven’t actually used. 

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Whole30 Gadgets

Immersion blender – I’ve used this daily. I’ve been making my own mayo – SO easy and SO tasty – and this gadget is essential. It’s also been great for other sauces, dips, ranch and butternut squash soup.

Mason Jars – These have been essential for my husband when he packs his lunch. It’s so easy to layer salads. I’ve also been making mayo in them. So easy to store anything and everything.

Water Bottle – I’ve been drinking a LOT of water. In an effort to reduce my LaCroix intake, I’ve kept a water bottle full and handy so I don’t reach for a can of delicious bubbly. This one has been great, I also love their kids size one. Read my full review of our kids water bottles here if you need ideas.

Spiralizer – When you are only eating fruit, veggies and protein, it helps to get a little creative. This spiralizer has been a favorite even before we started Whole30 but it’s been put into overdrive. I will spiralize anything -potatoes, sweet potatoes, zucchini, and even butternut squash. Even if I can’t have real noodles, I can at least trick my brain into thinking I’m eating it.

Glass Storage Containers – I’ve been trying to prep veggies and make a lot of leftovers, they are surprisingly perfect for breakfast. But that entails a lot of food storage and these glass storage containers are perfect. Why glass? I highly suggest you read my friend Leah’s book, Green Enough, and educate yourself on plastic and decide what you are comfortable with.

Salad dressing container – Ok, I know I just said no plastic but this is my exception. It the perfect container to pour oil slowly into the mason jar when you are mixing up mayo. Here’s the deal though, I don’t store food in it and I hand wash it.

Label maker – I’ve been using this label maker to mark up what is in each container and the date it was made. Although it’s not sticking well in the cold. Thankfully Mabel’s Labels has Date Mates, great reusable food storage labels that are going to come in VERY handy. I can’t see myself ever going back to store bought mayo  – seriously, it’s that good – so even after this Whole30 is done, these will be put to good use.

Cookbooks – My go to books for meal planning: The Whole30 Guide, Whole30 Cookbook and SkinnyTaste Fast and Slow. I am also LOVING The Whole Smith’s Good Food cookbook.

Silpat mats – These are my secret for great chocolate chip cookies (one of my random cravings during this round, I even dream about them) but they are also great for roasting veggies on. And trust me, you are going to roast a LOT of veggies.

Whole30 Gadget List (1)

5 Garden Tips for Great Vegetables

5 Garden Tips for Great Vegetables

It’s early in the year but it’s safe to say we have a successful garden. We planted our spring vegetable garden a few months ago, you can see the full garden plan here and we’ve already enjoyed spinach, figs, green beans and zucchini. We have lots of peppers, tomatoes, squash and onions on the way. It hasn’t been without it’s challenges. I’ve had to contend with some fungus and end rot…not to mention a toddler who doesn’t listen when I say “no touch”. Here are my top 5 garden tips for great vegetables.

Garden Tips

This post contains some affiliate links – meaning if you click through the links and buy anything, the retailer will pay me a small commission at no additional cost to you! I never link to anything that I haven’t actually used. 


Water in the morning and at the roots. Sounds a bit obvious but to prevent fungus and other diseases, you should make sure that you are watering at the root of your plants. Avoid spraying their leaves. Unfortunately, my neighbors have their sprinklers run in the late afternoon and they spray all over our raised beds. My squash plants have all developed a white fungus and I’ve had to use this spray to keep in under control. I’m also a huge fan of Captain Jack’s Dead Bug to keep other pests at bay. I spray everything once a week.

Garden tips mildew.jpg


Check on it daily. Sometimes the garden can be a bit out of sight, out of mind but if you check in once a day, you’ll be able to notice if things are going array. I noticed that some of the pumpkins and a zucchini had developed an end rot so I added this to the soil to help them absorb the water and fertilizer. This is a common problem if you have a lot of clay in your soil or a lot of salt water. We are very close to the coast so this is an issue for us. Adding this to the soil solved the problem and we’ve had a ton of zucchini now. Plus how cute is this tiny little butternut squash!

garden tips baby butternut squash


Protect your crop. Last year, I was so excited when my figs started to come in but I wasn’t alone. As soon as the got close to ripe, all of them had tiny bite marks in them. This year, I wasn’t going to lose the fight and as soon as the figs were big enough, I put them in these bags. We did find one bag with a fig in it in our yard but it kept the critter out of it and I’m hoping it’s given up on our tree. One of my favorite garden tips was to keep pinwheels in the raised beds to keep birds away from young fruit. So simple and brings a fun pop of color to the garden.

garden tips fig tree


Feed your plants. Adding a good vegetable fertilizer is so important to growing big healthy vegetables. I’ve had great results with this organic fertilizer. Make sure you spread it evenly and work it into the first inch of soil, then water. I do this every other week.

garden tips pumpkin


Go with it. In our original garden plan, we didn’t account for just how big and robust the plants would get. I’ve had to pull out some spinach because there just wasn’t enough room and sun for it to do well. That’s the fun about gardening, you set out with the best of intentions and never know who it will flourish. Now that I pulled back some of the spinach, the surrounding peppers and the green beans have plenty of room to expand. We’ve also had mixed luck with our vegetables and sunflowers we started from seed. About half of them germinated and I’ve placed them in containers around the yard under a drip line.

garden tips squash tower

What are your best garden tips to get amazing veggies all summer long?

Garden Tips Pinterest It

Keeping a Loved One’s Spirit Alive

Keeping a Loved One’s Spirit Alive

I lost my Dad almost 6 years ago. The pain is always there. Most of the time it’s a dull ache, a whole in your life that you can’t fix. Sometimes that pain will turn sharp and smack you in the face. You expect it on milestone days, weddings, holidays, and birthdays. It can happen without notice too. Hearing a song. Seeing a stranger that reminds you of that person. Or buying Father’s Day cards at Target.

I lost him before I got married. Before I became a Mom. It seems like he’s missed so much already in that short amount of time. I feel an obligation to keep his spirit alive, not only to my Dad but to my girls. They missed out on knowing a great guy and he would have adored them. I think it’s still possible for them to get to know Papa Pete, even if it’s just through me.

It seems to be that time of life where my friends are starting to lose parents as well. It’s transformed conversations from catching up on life and kids and jobs and husbands….to remembering loved ones and sharing how we are all dealing with our grief.

I was having one of those conversations with my friend the other day – who had lost her Mom – about keeping a loved ones spirit alive. We both were struggling with how to do that and if we were doing a good enough job with it.

This is what we do that makes remembering loved ones easy and natural.

This post contains some affiliate links – meaning if you click through the links and buy anything, the retailer will pay me a small commission at no additional cost to you! I never link to anything that I haven’t actually used. 

Remembering Loved Ones

Display their pictures – I’m not saying build a shrine and it doesn’t have to be fancy. I have a picture of my Dad and I on the fridge and Big Nugget will often reference it while we’re making dinner or hanging in the kitchen. We have a gallery wall and there is a picture of my Dad and I from when I was about 3. It’s one of Little Nugget’s favorite pictures to point and look at.

remembering loved ones fridge

Tell their stories – When I was young, I loved sitting around and listening to my aunts and uncles tell stories about when they were growing up. My kids are no different. And we have some epic family stories to share. It’s fun to relive those happy times and see how my kids react to them. Big Nugget will even bring them up on her own – she especially likes talking about that time we drove through a zoo in our van…

Casually incorporate them – Someone asked me the other day how to help their sister in law who lost her father during their families Father’s Day celebration. I said just acknowledge him and her loss. Maybe make his favorite food to have at the celebration. Bring them up, tell a story. Remembering loved ones doesn’t have to be a sit down formal occasion. We talk a lot about Papa Pete and his love for sports on the way to t-ball or hockey. It feels natural and makes him a part of our every day routine.

Keepsakes – I have some things that my Dad loved around our house. I have his collection of mini classic cars hung up in our guest room. I also have a few amazing blankets and a quilt that my cousin made for me. She incorporated some of his old clothes into the design and it’s something that I will treasure forever. I know my girls will too. Check out her Etsy shop too!

remembering loved ones little nugget logo

Be open with your own emotions – grief is a nasty nasty unwanted friend that likes to sneak up on you when you least expect it. Regardless of whether the pain is new and raw or dull and familiar, it’s important to be honest with your kids when it affects you. Let them see it and see your vulnerability. You are modeling behavior that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Brene Brown talks a lot about this in Daring Greatly and it really resonated with me.

remembering loved ones 5 easy ways

Whole30 Week 1 Recap With Meal Plan

Whole30 Week 1 Recap With Meal Plan

Whole30 week 1 is done  and I’m pretty proud of ourselves. It was hard but it’s worth it so far. If you missed it, you can read why we decided to do the Whole30 Challenge here.

This post contains some affiliate links – meaning if you click through the links and buy anything, the retailer will pay me a small commission at no additional cost to you! I never link to anything that I haven’t actually used. 

Whole30 Week 1 Recap

Prep – I laid our a very detailed plan for this week. I have spread sheets and shopping lists. We went to Costco and our local Sprouts, the fridge is stocked. I made homemade mayo and ranch. I reread the book.

Day 1 – I woke up ready. Ready for the challenge. Ready for the change. I am ready to make this happen. Breakfast was great, a veggie frittata, even the girls liked it. Lunch was Big Nugget’s request, her favorite tuna salad that just happens to be Whole30 compliant. I was so hungry and scarfed it down so fast that it made me feel sick.

whole30 week 1 tuna salad

Day 2 – One thing that I noticed right away was that I did a lot of mindless eating. Filling up the kids snack bowls with veggie chips or Pirate Booty, I’d take a few for myself. I really had to stop myself, and deal with my mouth watering every time. Also, I already hate vegetables. I did my first HIIT workout and felt a little weak but nothing too bad.


Day 3 – I was super tired and had the worst headache of my life. I felt like I had the flu combined with a major wine hangover. Only it was just my body withdrawing from the sugar dependancy. Scary. Can we talk about the farts? Cause they are brutal at this point. Big Nugget told me that I was gross and I should just eat some bread.

whole30 week 1 leftover breakfast

Day 4 – I woke up with no headache. Horray. I felt really good during my workout and throughout the day, didn’t feel as ravenous as I had earlier in the week. How is it possible that I’ve already eaten half a Costco size tub of almond butter?????? Also, we’ve had to call audibles a few times on my meal plan for the week. Since the fridge was stocked, I have options for plan b.

whole30 week 1 steak salad

Day 5 – Feeling pretty accomplished but the big challenge is today. Pizza Night. The girls still wanted their usual pizza. It was SO HARD to not take a bite or eat a leftover crust. It was so nice to have someone else commiserate with me and I’m so thankful that my husband decided to do this challenge with me. Misery loves company.

whole30 week 1 easy lunch

Day 6 – Breaking old habits again today. Usually Saturday mornings are spent at the ice rink for my daughter’s hockey. I hit up the concession stand for a latte and pretzel. Not today. Americano and Larabar get me through practice. We also skipped our usual Panera order and made a salad at home.

whole30 week 1 breakfast

Day 7 – So many dishes. So much cooking. But one week down and it was totally worth it.

whole30 week 1 recap

Whole30 Week 1 Meal Plan

This was my edited plan. Most of the recipes I pulled from the Whole30 book. Some I improvised. The fried rice is from the Skinny Taste cookbook – another great reference for some great Whole30 meals. I would make more than the two servings for most things so that we had ample leftovers for the next day. It made it a lot easier to have veggies and things prepped when I went to reach into the fridge for food and something was ready for me.

Whole 30 Week 1 Meal Plan


Summer Essentials for Beach Living

Summer Essentials for Beach Living

Living in coastal San Diego, we spend a fair share of time down at the beach. Through the years, I’ve learned what summer essentials are necessary for our beach life. Of course, you need a good bag, lots of towels and snacks….lots and lots of snacks. But this is my list of summer essentials beyond the beach bag.

This post contains some affiliate links – meaning if you click through the links and buy anything, the retailer will pay me a small commission at no additional cost to you! I never link to anything that I haven’t actually used. 

Summer Essentials – Flip flops

My two favorite brands of sandals are Rainbow and Reef. Each brand makes great options for both parents and kids.

Summer Essentials – Sunscreen

I put sunscreen on my kids every day so I’m VERY picky about what brands I use. We also are very conscious of how it can affect our environment. The sunscreen guide is a great place to educate yourself on ingredients and find products that you’re comfortable with. We always use Badger but I’ll also use Alba if we are going to the beach and I need to get the kids lotioned up quickly.

Also…rash guards and hats. Sunscreen shouldn’t be your only protection from the sun.

OK…getting off my soap box now….let’s continue.

Summer Essentials – Beach Supplies

Having chairs that you can wear on your back is a lifesaver. We’ve used these for nearly 10 years. Not fancy but functional and great quality. It frees up your hands and can hold a surprising amount of stuff. I always bring extra shade too. I’m old school and prefer an easy umbrella like this one. As far as toys, Big Nugget is responsible for bringing her own to the beach, this backpack makes it super easy for her.

Summer Essentials – Cooler and Cups

Keeping snacks cool on a hot day is almost as important as shade. One day I will justify buying this cooler but for now, this one works perfectly. I also bring water bottles for everyone – read my review of our favorite plastic-free kids water bottles. I also bring an extra water bottle for rinsing off hands or fruit.

Summer Essentials – Tula

If you have an infant or toddler, a Tula is essential (and not just for the beach). I always put Little Nugget in the Tula and then put my chair on my back. It’s also key for getting a good beach nap in for your little if you don’t want to head home for nap time.

Summer Essentials Tula

Summer Essentials – Baby Powder

Baby powder is the best and easiest way to get sand off your child. I keep small ones in each chair and a large one in the back of my car.

Summer Essentials – Vacuum

I don’t actually take this to the beach but it’s essential for keeping my car somewhat respectable.

What are some of your Summer Essentials?

Summer Essentials

OneBadger Sunscreen

TwoReef Kids flip flops

ThreeRainbow flip flops. I prefer the thin strap, my husband prefers the bigger strap.

Four – Kids beach toys with a mesh backpack

Five – Burt’s Bees Dusting Powder

Six – Rio Brands Backpack Beach Chair 

Seven – SNAIL 7 foot Beach Umbrella

Eight – My favorite handheld vacuum.

Nine – YETI soft-sided cooler

Summer Essentials for beach living