Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The History of Challenge Coins

The History Of Challenge Coins

The phenomenon of challenge coins particularly rose in popularity in the last couple of decades. Coins themselves are often associated with the military and it is widely known that these are given to the individuals who presented outstanding courage and valor while on service.

Therefore, having a challenge coin represents a great honor and in a certain way shows an individual’s affiliation with the certain organization.

But, they are not exclusively associated with the Army. Nowadays, challenge coins are also finding their use outside the military. Many non-military organizations (and not only the police departments) have adopted the practice of presenting coins to members that earned them somehow.

So today we have proud owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles wearing their own challenge coins as a way of showing affiliation to the club, or we have coins of NASCAR drivers that are predominantly used as collectibles by NASCAR fans for example.

It’s pretty easy and simple to make your very own challenge coins with a number of companies offering services of making beautiful custom challenge coins today. Embleholics is one such company for example.

And with all the buzz surrounding this whole coins madness, one questions will always linger:

When and where challenge coins originated?

Origins of Challenge Coins  
It is believed that practice of giving coins to people who showed outstanding performance of duty dates back to the Roman Empire. The Emperor used to give these to the soldiers as a form of payment. Because the coins themselves had the insignia of the Empire engraved on them, soldiers often decided to keep these to themselves rather than spend it on food and necessities.

But perhaps most common story of challenge coin origins is the one associated with the US stepping into the World War I. Namely, before the US aircrafts took off to Europe, one of the flight lieutenants ordered for coins to be made in bronze with the US Army flight squadron emblem engraved on it, and gave coins to every member of the unit.

When one of the planes was gunned down by the Germans, American pilot was captured and stripped of his possessions. He was held captive behind enemy lines but somehow managed to escape and made it to the other side of the battle front where French troops were holding ground.

Because he had no ID on himself and because of his funny accent, the French thought that he was a German spy so they ordered for him to be executed. Luckily enough, a coin he kept in his leather bag saved his life in the end as the French suspected he was an American after all. That gave him just enough time to contact headquarters and to prove his identity.  

Although this story may sound like a fairy tale or story from some book that could be exciting to your child maybe, it pretty much pinpoints the significance of challenge coins. Those who have a challenge coin or collect them, cherish them with great pride. They use every situation possible to acknowledge that they are proud owners of one such coin, just like an airborne lieutenant did years ago during the World War. 

About the Author
Hellen McAdams is a blogger at Bicycle On Fire and a writer that loves to tackle all topics related to every day life of military professionals and their families. If you have any comments or questions, shoot her a question at @hellen_mcadams.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Our Favorite Travel Items for Baby

As a military family, we travel a lot - especially to see family. We currently live fourteen hours away from both sides of our family. We try to see our families as often as possible and this year was no exception. Even with a new baby in the picture, we set out to make the fourteen hour trip to see family. We discovered a few products along the way that made travel with a baby so much easier.

*Amazon Affiliate links are used in this post. They help you find the products that we mention and they help us earn a little bit of money to keep this blog up and running.*

When we first decided to journey fourteen hours to visit family, we knew this trip would be much different because we now have two dogs and a baby. So, the first thing we did was trade in one of our cars and upgrade to a minivan. This made a world of difference - we had so much more room for everyone! In addition to the minivan, we also found several items that made our trip much easier than for everyone involved.

Portable Bed
When we travel to visit family, we have a place to sleep in the guest room. However, there are no babies in the house and therefore, there are no baby beds. Baby Fox currently sleeps in his own room in a crib, so we needed a portable solution that could be set up in a separate room (everyone sleeps better). Sleeping with us was not an option as we none sleep well that way. This was one of the easiest solutions - we simple packed up our pack n play and took it with us. We highly recommend investing in a Graco Pack n Play to take along on your trips..

Portable High Chair
We were sitting at dinner one night and I realized that we were going to have a problem on our trip. There was no way we could fold up our high chair and take it with us. Baby Fox loves eating dinner with us, so I set out to find a solution. I found this Portable Booster on Amazon. It was cheap and game highly recommended so I ordered it in plenty of time for our trip. It has been super easy to use at rest areas and during meal times. It also folds into a small bag, making it easy to pack and take with us as we visit different family members.

Toy Bag
When we packed up some toys to take with us, I grabbed a utility tote from my collection of Thirty One bags. (I used to be a consultant so the collection is quite extensive.) The bag is similar to this utility tote. At the time, I didn't think anything of it, but this has been a great solution for travelling with toys. It keeps all of the toys in one spot and all we have to do is grab it when we head to someone else's house for a visit. There's no need to pick and choose among the toys we brought. We simply take them all with us.

We have this Graco travel system, which we packed to take along on our trip. Baby Fox still fits in the car seat, but we no longer attach it to the stroller. The stroller is lightweight and easy to fold, making it ideal for travel. It also takes up a lot less space than our jogging stroller which was super important so that we could maximize space.

Collapsible Walker
We have this walker, which is easy to fold down and take with you. Baby Fox loves to play in his bouncer and walker at home. In fact, he loves standing in almost any form. His bouncer was much too big to pack. However, I remembered that our walker folds flat and decided that it would be a great option for those moments when he wants to stand. I was right - it has been a great item to have along on our trip!

Hanging Toys
We have several different car seat toys, which made our trip a little easier. When we would stop, we would switch out toys to give the baby something new to play with. This kept him from getting bored as quickly. I also bought him a brand new toy before we left so that he would have something entirely new to explore on the car tip.

A mirror that attaches to the seat is a great way to keep an eye on your baby during the long ride. Our mirror helped us know that he was safe. It also allowed us to take a peek and see if he was sleeping or not when he would get silent. This was helpful at the end of our trip when he decided to sleep for several hours straight and we were able to power through the last leg of the trip without stopping.

Overall, our first trip with a baby went relatively smooth. There was one or two crying fits from boredom but we all survived and arrived with smiles on our faces. We'll be sharing some of our tips for long car trips with a baby in a future posts. Until then, we'd love to hear about your favorite baby products for travel in the comments below!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Happy Hour: Sam Adams 20 Pounds of Pumpkin

It's time for another edition of Happy Hour! If you're new to the blog, Happy Hour is our beer (and wine) review series where we (mainly the husband) give you our opinion on the different beers and wines that we try. We're big fans of craft beers and love finding local breweries to try out. Today's beer is often classified as a craft beer; however, it's from a much larger company than the local places that we tend to review.

Today’s review focuses on the 20 Pounds of Pumpkin beer from Sam Adams Brewing Company. We came across this beer in their fall variety pack. In fact, the only way we’ve been able to find this beer is in the variety pack. So, if you’re looking to try out this pumpkin beer, you’ll have to try out the other flavors as well.

This beer is a smooth, medium bodied beer with no hoppy flavor at all. The pumpkin isn’t some forced pumpkin spice like you might find in your coffee from major chain stores. It’s a more true pumpkin flavor. This legit can’t even count as a beer. Sam Adams has perfectly melded a natural and subtle flavor of pumpkin that abandons the grains to slap you with a lingering pumpkin aftertaste. The smooth and medium body of this pumpkin ale brings a flavor of fall that will leave you crying for more. With an easy going alcohol content, you can sip responsibly for a long while.

I award this epic masterpiece of pumpkin shenanigans a whopping 9/10 bottle caps. Want to see more of our reviews? Just click here to view more of our Happy Hour series. Do you have a favorite beer or brewery that you'd like to recommend? Leave it in the comments below!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

From Husband to Daddy

Happy October! We like to call October "birthday month" around here since we both celebrate our birthdays this month. In fact, October 3 is the husband's birthday so I thought I'd share a little bit about the transition from husband to daddy that was made this year. (Yes, he's still my husband, but he's now affectionately called "Daddy" in our household.)

For Father's Day, Baby Fox and I picked out a shirt for Daddy that said "Real men change diapers." (Okay, I picked it out and Baby Fox is the one wearing diapers...) I expected us to have a good chuckle over this shirt since the husband changes diapers as much as I do when he's home. Neither of us expected the reaction that we get when we go out and the husband is wearing this shirt. People have given him the thumbs up, high fives, and tons of praise. It's definitely a conversation starter. For us, changing diapers comes with the roll of being a parent, regardless of gender.

Changing diapers is only one of the things that Daddy does for Baby Fox though. I've shared just a few of the ways Daddy has been there for Baby Fox this year.

Daddy was there from the beginning.

Daddy takes me to the zoo.

Daddy taught did tummy time with me.

Daddy is a pro at babywearing and makes a great teething toy.

Daddy makes me taller so that I can see new things.

Daddy teaches me about science and animals.

Daddy taught me about farm animals at the 4H fair.

Daddy plays music for me.
Daddy shows me the world.

Daddy pushes me on the swing.

Daddy shows me off at the zoo so that Mommy can get a photo for her blog post.

Daddy teaches me about history and lets me hold tools from long ago.

Daddy makes boring outings (car shopping) more fun with a balloon.

Daddy teaches me about his hobbies and lets me hold his bow.

Daddy makes sure I'm protected from the sun.

Daddy makes a great seat! He even comes with a built in arm rest.

Daddy shows me the animals at the zoo - even when I'd rather look at the plants.

Daddy makes sure we have fun in the corn maze and keeps me from eating the corn leaves.

Daddy reads me bedtime stories. He even makes up his own stories sometimes.
Happy birthday Daddy! I hope you enjoy the mini surprise party we planned for you. :) Don't worry - I won't tell anyone how old you are...unless they guess. Then, it's fair game!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken and Baked Potatoes

Some days you just need an easy recipe that will turn out a delicious meal. That's exactly why we're sharing this delicious recipe. You'll need minimal ingredients and it cooks all day in the slow cooker which makes it even easier!

We love exploring new places around us. Unfortunately, these outings can take all day and when we return home, no one really wants to cook. Those are the days we seem to turn to eating out, which isn't always the healthiest. While we do like to eat out occasionally, we try to eat most of our meals at home. It's healthier and cheaper. Slow cooker meals have become one of our go to options when we know we're going to be out and about all day. This way no one has to cook but we still get to eat a delicious meal at home.

Today's recipe is one of our easiest ones. It's perfect for days when you're rushed and don't have time to prep a lot of stuff for the slow cooker. All you need is chicken, barbecue sauce, potatoes, aluminum foil, and of course your slow cooker. You can make this recipe with any type of potatoes. When we fixed this meal for the blog photos, we chose sweet potatoes but you could just as easily pick white or red potatoes as well.

Your first step is to spray the slow cooker with cooking spray. We like to us an olive oil spray but you can use whatever type you prefer. This will make clean up a lot easier. Then, place 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the bottom of your crockpot. Pour barbecue sauce over the breasts until they are covered.

Wrap your potatoes in aluminum foil and set them on top or beside the chicken breasts. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook it on high for 4-6 hours or low for 6-8 hours. (Extra tip: This recipe can be done with frozen breasts if you forgot to thaw your meat in advance! I recommend going with the longer cooking time if you're using frozen breasts.)

When you're ready to eat, shred the chicken using two forks. It should be easy to pull apart. You can serve the meat by itself or with buns. Unwrap your baked potatoes and serve with toppings of your choice. We like to steam a bag of frozen vegetables (brussel sprouts shown) to eat with our meal.

There you go! It's an easy and delicious home cooked meal that you can enjoy on a busy day!

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken and Baked Potatoes

Total Time: 4-8 hours

Kitchen Items Needed: slow cooker, forks, aluminum foil

- 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- barbecue sauce of choice
- 2-4 potatoes of choice
- frozen vegetables of choice

1. Spray your slow cooker with cooking spray.
2. Place your chicken on the bottom of the slow cooker. (It can be frozen!)
3. Cover the chicken with barbecue sauce.
4. Wash and wrap potatoes in aluminum foil.
5. Place the potatoes in the slow cooker. (Either beside or on top of the chicken.)
6. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
7. Shred the chicken before serving.
8. Serve with toppings of your choice and a side of steamed vegetables.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Twenty Ideas for Your Fall Bucket List

Fall is coming quickly which means it's time to start thinking about the activities you'd like to do during this colorful season. One way to do this is to make a bucket list of the things you'd like to do during the season. We love exploring and trying new things so we're bringing you twenty ideas that you can add to your bucket list for fall!

We love trying new things and exploring new places. Fall is the perfect season for this because it's not too cold or too hot and there's a lot of events taking place. Today, we're sharing 20 ideas for your fall bucket list that we think you'll enjoy.

1. Locate a local orchard and go apple picking.
2. Find a pumpkin patch and pick out a pumpkin together.
3. Carve a jack-o-lantern for your porch.
4. Go to a drive in or movies in the park.
5. Find a local harvest festival to attend.
6. Go trick or treating.
7. Host a fall party (Halloween, Harvest, Thanksgiving, etc).
8. Go for a color walk among the leaves.
9. Dress up in fun costumes.
10. Enjoy a hot cup of hot chocolate or apple cider.
11. Cozy up around a bonfire.
12. Attend a Renaissance Festival.
13. Rake the leaves and then jump in them.
14. Explore a new trail with a hike.
15. Start your holiday shopping.
16. Try out new fall recipes.
17. Decorate for the season or the holidays.
18. Start a new tradition.
19. Complete a fall craft.
20. Read outside in the crisp autumn air.

What's your favorite fall activity? Did it make the list? We'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Happy Hour: Lexington Brewery

We love trying new craft beers which is why we started our Happy Hour, which brings you beer reviews every Thursday. We also love impromptu trips and discovering new places. This week, we're combining all of these loves into one. Last week, we randomly decided to pay a visit to Lexington, MI which is a cute village near us. (We still don't understand why Michigan has towns, cities, townships, villages, etc so please don't ask what a "village" is!)

Our original goal with Lexington was simply to enjoy a walk on a nice day. We took the stroller and parked at one end of the village before heading into the heart of things. On our way, we came up on the Lexington Brewery. We had noticed this place on our other visits to Lexington but this was the first time that we checked it out and we're so glad that we did.

Before we get into the reviews, I'd like to comment on the place itself. This is a small brewery set in a historic building. The owner and brewer were both on site when we visited. The owner was extremely friendly and we carried on a fun conversation about Zelda the moment I walked in the door. The brewer was just as friendly and stopped by our table to answer some questions that we had about the beers and their availability.

With a pleasant atmosphere and friendly staff, we were excited to share a flight of beers and we weren't disappointed. Below you'll find the five beers we tried during our visit. (A flight is four beers but somehow we ended up with an extra due to a mistake. Talk about accommodating!)

American Red Ale

From the menu - "American Red Ale is big, bold and hop forward. The citrusy hops balance the beer's higher alcohol level and specialty malts. The result: a beer flavor sensation. 66 IBU, 7.0% ABV"

This beer is medium to full bodied. To us, it was quite bitter and grainy. The description doesn't fail in describing the hops - it was indeed very hop forward. It's a red with a dry bitter taste afterwards. We recommend having a glass of water on hand! Once you got past the bitterness, there's a sweet overtone with the flavor of a typical red. In my opinion, the finish kills the red, so I can only give this one a 4/10 bottle caps.

Molly Malone Stout
From the menu: "Molly Malone Stout is an American Stout. This beer has a strong roasted flavor and aroma. 73 IBU, 7.2% ABV"

This beer has a full body and tastes like chocolate. It's very smooth and has a velvety mouth feel. There is an absence of hops in this beer. It would be good warm on a cold day - definitely a winter beer to sip on. It almost has a milkiness to it. In addition, there's a sweet aroma to be enjoyed. This has definitely made it among our favorites and deserves a solid 9/10 bottle caps.

Raspberry Apple Cider
From the menu: "Raspberry Apple Cider is an Apple Cider infused with raspberry goodness! 0 IBU, 7.0% ABV"

This is a cider with a definite apple flavor. It has a tart undertone that resembles that of a pear cider. It's crisp but you can still taste the fermenter in parts of it. It's light bodied and very clear. It's not overpoweringly sweet which is what earned it 9/10 bottle caps.

A Pilsner Please
From the menu: "A Pilsner Please is a classic American Pilsner with a clean, crisp, moderately hoppy taste. 35 IBU, 5.3% ABV"

This is the sample that we got by mistake so we don't feel that we can give it an honest review. We don't drink pilsners because they We did feel that this was exactly as expected for a pilsner. It seemed somewhat flavorless compared to the beers we normally select and had a grainy aftertaste. It has a dry finish that left us wanting water. If pilsners are your thing, then we recommend checking it out and letting us know your thoughts!

Sunshiny Day
From the menu: "Sunshiny Day is a lemon and peach flavored American wheat beer, just perfect for the summer. 20 IBU, 5.3% ABV"

The hoppiness in this beer is present but faint. It reminded me of a starburst when I first took a sip. It's light-medium bodied and very fruit. This is the perfect beer for summer. You can taste the citrus and peach in this one when you're drinking it. It has a cool refreshing wash in the mouth and you can't even tell that it was brewed with grains. This one is like a cider with the mildness and texture of a beer. It's definitely one for the back porch on a hot summer day! This one gets a solid 8/10 bottle cap rating.

If you have the time, hop over to the website of the Lexington Brewery and let us know which beer you would sample! Maybe we'll add it to our list for our next visit.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Michigan Museum of Natural History

When we move to a new area, one of our favorite things to do is explore and discover hidden gems around us. Our explorations of Michigan have been a bit slower since we bought a house and brought our little boy into the world. We're slowly getting out and doing things (with Baby Fox right alongside us). We're looking forward to sharing these adventures with you in the coming months!

*Affiliate links are used in this post. They help you find the products that we mention and they help us keep the blog up and running! We make a small portion of the sales from these links.*

It was an overcast day last week when we decided to head south to Ann Arbor. Our original plans for the day were a visit to the Detroit Zoo where we have a membership. The threat of rain made us change our plans though and we decided to check out the Museum of Natural History instead. It seemed like the perfect indoor option for our day.

After a not-so-fun search for parking (hello college town) and a pit stop at Hop Cat, we finally made it to the museum. From the outside, it didn't look like anything too special. It was essentially an older looking building at the end of a typical college classroom building. When we stepped inside, that story changed. The first thing you saw was the gorgeous round ceiling that added quite a bit of character to the place.

The museum was three stories tall and featured many different exhibits, including fossils, dinosaurs, taxidermy animals, and several other cool exhibits. One thing that I love a lot was their use of children's books throughout the museum. We're big fans of reading to kids and it made my heart happy to see that the museum included them throughout the exhibits. In fact, we first learned of the museum through his book, Night Night Michigan.

I honestly wasn't sure how Baby Fox would like the museum when I first suggested it. I figured that since the cost was low (recommended $6 donation which we gave), it was worth a try. It turns out that he loved the museum - especially since several exhibits invited you to interact and touch things.

While Baby Fox was quite intrigued by the sights of the museum, I can't guarantee that it would be suitable for every baby. I do think toddlers and up would enjoy the museum though - there were so many cool things to see! The museum also does a great job of showing and explaining how they find fossils and the process of taxidermy. It truly is a great learning experience for kids of all ages (and that includes adults!).

All in all, I would say the museum was a great choice for an outing! I'm especially glad we chose to go when we did because the museum will be closing down for all of 2018 as they move to a new location. I can't wait to see what the new place looks like in 2019!

Have you been somewhere cool recently? We'd love to hear about it in the comments below!