Bring out your inner Leonardo da Vinci

One of our Dad/Daughter Dates that is becoming a tradition is Painting with a Twist. There are other similar companies if you don’t have a Painting with a Twist franchise nearby. It is an easy way to spend a couple of hours with very little planning. If you’ve never heard of this concept, they take non-artists (like myself) and turn you into an artist for the day. An instructor gives you step -by-step instructions on how to turn a blank canvas into a masterpiece.

When you log onto the website you will find a calendar that shows the painting that is being offered that day. Choose the painting that looks like the most fun, register online, and you are ready to go. There is no preparation needed! When you show up, you are given a canvas and a palette of paint. You’ve got every brush you’ll need, your cup of water for the brushes, and your painting apron.

A couple of tips that have come in handy:

  1. Make sure you check the age of the event. Each painting has a minimum age level. Some of the paintings you can choose from might look difficult, but if it says 7+ then the instructor is able to help a 7 year old (and you) paint it.
  2. If you live in a larger city and you don’t find a painting that your child or spouse would find interesting, check the surrounding area. We have five or six places within a thirty minute drive and they each have unique painting calendars.
  3. “A Twist” is a drink. When we aren’t in a pandemic, people buy wine or other drinks while they paint. If you have strong feelings about alcohol, this may not be the place. I’ve been multiple times and have never seen one person intoxicated.
  4. Paint stains. Most of the time you are using paint that will not come out of your clothes. With the apron that is provided, you shouldn’t get paint on you, but there is always a chance. Don’t wear your brand new outfit you just bought.
  5. They will do paintings that connect. Amanda and I painted an Austin cityscape on a date night. We each had our own canvas, but at the end of the session, our two canvases were put together to form one large painting.
  6. In the Covid world, many of these franchises are doing “at home kits.” You pick up your supplies from the store and watch a video online. I would not recommend this. Every time I’ve been, I’ve needed more paint to finish my painting. If you run out at home, you run out. Also, you can buy a canvas and paint at Hobby Lobby and find a YouTube video to have the same “home experience” for much cheaper.

I don’t have an ounce of artist in me, but painting is somewhat therapeutic for me. Both of my daughters have enjoyed it and they like taking our paintings home to let people pick whose is better (we may have a competition problem in our home). Amanda and I have been twice and I don’t think we’ll go back. It’s not fun for her. She wants her painting to look like the painting that the teacher made. It doesn’t matter that the teacher is a professional artist. Since it looks different it drives her crazy (again, we may have a competition problem). Go for the fun, don’t go looking to come out with a painting that’s going into a museum.

Total cost for two people will put you at $75 – $90 for the date.

Weekend Getaway: Frisco

Every now and then you just need to get away. A few weeks ago, we took a few days and headed up to Frisco, Texas. Just in case you need some help in planning a short trip, here is what we did while we were there. I talked to a few friends up in the area for ideas and also need to throw a shout out to The Daytripper for some ideas and inspiration.

This trip was a Christmas present from my wife. She knows I love the Dallas Cowboys so she booked a stay at the Omni Frisco Hotel which is located at The Star. The Star is the home of the Cowboys and has a practice facility that is full of Cowboys history. Due to Covid, we knew that there were no tours at The Star, but we planned on doing the walk around/self-guided tour ourselves. Well . . . that doesn’t exist. It was all shut down, so if you do this trip later, take a lot of pictures for me!

The hotel is very nice (and it’s not cheap). There were very few people there during our stay so they upgraded our room which was very nice! We spent the first evening walking around outside of the hotel. There is a football field that is always full of kids playing on it. There are a few interactive games that you can play (like Cowboys trivia or a game that measures your passing ability), but they don’t work very well. There are a few shops around the area, but the best thing is the Cowboys Ring of Honor Walk which was built to honor the best of the best of Cowboys lore. We finished the night at Cane Rosso for some pizza. It was a great pizza and I highly recommend it.

The next morning we visited the Frisco Heritage Museum. It was free, but had a paid tour if you wanted to dive a bit deeper into the history of the city. It was very interesting and well put together. We decided to try Hutchins BBQ for lunch because it was listed in the Top 50 BBQ places in the world by Texas Monthly. It was a homerun and I’d have said that even if they didn’t have free cobbler and banana pudding. A few hours later my wife said, “I’m still thinking about that chopped beef sandwich” so that tells you a lot!

Our next stop was the National Video Game Museum. Between Covid and the age of the museum, it is starting to fall off. Some of the exhibits didn’t work or were shut down. Without some TLC, this museum may begin to fall off, but at the moment it was a lot of fun. I can’t tell you how many times I said, “I used to have that!” as I pointed to something from my childhood that I had totally forgotten about. They had you several tokens to use on some old video games, but be aware that there are two different rooms (one about 2/3 of the way through the museum and the other at the end of the museum). By the time we got to the end, we were out of tokens because we didn’t know we needed to save a few.

We wanted to get some exercise so we spent the afternoon walking in the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve a few miles over in Plano. It was a great place to walk outdoors in the middle of a booming metropolis. It was very crowded (felt like a full parking lot), but it didn’t seem crowded on the trails.

We finished our night at La Hacienda Ranch. We had tried to eat there the night before, but when we arrived at 7pm, it was a 90-minute wait. We purposefully got there at 5:30pm on Saturday and it was still a 25-minute wait. The place is HUGE and every table was full. A local had told me that it is the only place he’ll eat beef fajitas now. I took his word on it and they were delicious. We had read that the ice cream at the Cow Tipping Creamery was phenomenal so we stopped there for dessert. You need to order the NOLA if you go. It was one of the best desserts I’ve had in a while. We also found out while we were standing in line exploring places you can only eat in Frisco, that the Cow Tipping Creamery was started in Austin. We also found out Cane Rosso is in Austin as well . . . so if you don’t want to drive to Frisco, you can check them both out close to home.

If you take a weekend trip to Frisco, I’d love to hear about your trip!

Standup Paddleboard

This may be the first date idea blog that I’ve done that I tagged for “Dad/Daughter,” “Family,” and “Spouse.” It was a date with my wife, but would definitely work with kids who love the water. Ironically, today is January 10, 2021 and it is the largest snow that we’ve seen in the Austin area in about 10 years. It’s making miss the summer. It is pretty cool to look out the window and see a winter wonderland of pure white snow, but I’m definitely a summer person! So this is my “longing for summer” date idea.

Our standup paddleboard date was a Groupon idea, but you can both get out on the water for about $30-$40 per hour (for two people) or $60 – $90 for the entire day. If you’ve never done standup paddleboarding before, I’d recommend just trying it out for an hour. It isn’t overly strenuous, but it will more than likely work some muscles you aren’t used to working.

My wife was a natural at it! She jumped on the board and it seemed like she had perfect balance. She just floated across the water like there was nothing to it. I, on the other hand, did not have the same experience. When I stood up on the board, I was heavy enough to see water crest over the top of my board. We weren’t in shark infested waters by any means, but I still didn’t want to fall off the board and have to exert the energy to climb back on.

I ended up inventing a new recreational activity called “kneeldown paddleboarding.” We were on a river that had boats come by fairly often so lowering my center of gravity helped navigate those waves. The guy at the dock who rented us the paddleboards even mentioned that the lower your center of gravity, the better you would do. Once again, having a large head has come back to get me!

If you are anywhere near a body of water, you can probably find a standup paddleboard rental near by. Some of them will require reservations and some will let you do a walk up rental, so check before you go. Make sure you take towels and a change of clothes.

Standup Paddleboarding is a great way to get outside together, experience something new, and if you are lucky you can cool off in the water (of course, you might be unlucky if your cooling off comes because you fell off).

If you are in the Austin area, make an appointment in your calendar for when the warmer weather shows up and check out one of these places:

Epic Sup

Texas Rowing Center

Austin Paddle Shack

Live Love Paddle

Cooking together

Here is an easy win for next week! I’m posting this during the Christmas break so you can do breakfast, lunch, or dinner with one of your kids. You might have already had your kids help cook a meal, after all, it’s a good life lesson to teach, but have you done it intentionally? Have you done it as a way to spend some quality time with one of your kids and plan it from start to finish?

You’ll need to clear some time on the calendar, not only to cook, but to shop for what you need. First, decide on the meal. You could do this on your own and already have gathered the supplies, but deciding together is part of the fun. Look through cookbooks, if you have those, or google some recipes. Let you daughter come up with some ideas that she thinks would be fun and taste good. If she has a strict macaroni and cheese palate, then look for a great recipe and make it from scratch. You’ll still need to weigh in on the final menu. Letting the kids have input is one of the main things, but you also need to be able to pull it off. Baked Alaska may not be an ideal choice (side note: I don’t know what Baked Alaska is, but it’s supposed to be hard to make).

Going to the grocery store is going to be part of this journey. Sure you could have it delivered or order online, but part of the fun will be finding the ingredients together. This can also be a great life lesson about the cost of food for a family!

We had a pretty simple dinner when we did this. We grilled some chicken (which was another life lesson of how to use a grill), made a salad, sautéed some broccoli, and made garlic bread. For some reason it just tasted a little better than normal!

Finally, there is the dreaded clean up. We did a lot of clean up along the way while we were cooking which made it a bit easier. One pro tip I can offer is to make sure your kids know before everything begins that cleaning up is part of the process.

This is such an easy dad/daughter date and you can do it this week! Have fun and if you decide to go ahead and make the Baked Alaska, send me a picture!

Miniature Golf

It’s been a while since I posted a blog. We have continued to do things, but when Covid locked everything down, we had to get more creative. We couldn’t do as many ticketed events. My music-loving daughter and I have already had two different concerts postponed, so it’s just made things different.

I’ll still post some of the things we did during this crazy 2020 year, because most of what we did has been transferable to any time. This past week we did something really easy. Mini golf (or if you grew up with the brand . . . Putt Putt). When I was a kid, my biological dad would come pick me up from time to time and ask what I wanted to do for the day. I’m not sure why he asked, because he said “No” to every one of my ideas until I got to Putt Putt. That was how we put the “fun” in dysfunction 🙂

So it’s a third generation thing now in my family

You probably didn’t need this blog to give you the idea, but the hope is that if you haven’t done something together as a family or with your kids one-on-one that this could inspire you to an easy win.

My family tends to be pretty competitive so here are some thoughts if your family is like ours:

1. Play against yourself

I have a distinct advantage over my elementary school kiddo. I’m older. I’ve played a lot more. I didn’t line up for my first putt with the club backwards like she did. She was convinced she was going to beat me though, so we had to do a little redirection. We played the course twice and set the competition at doing better the second time than we did the first time.

2. Incentivize some holes

  • You win $1 for every hole you par, $5 for a birdie, $10 for an eagle.
  • Every hole that Dad doesn’t par gets the kid a stroke off of their score.
  • Kid gets par and dad has to play the next hole with his weak hand.
  • Hole in one wins a car (They do it at golf tournaments so be the greatest dad ever)

3. Come up with a different rule for each hole

  • Play left handed
  • Use the club like a pool cue
  • Hitting the edge is a penalty stroke
  • Ball has to hit four things before it goes in the hole
  • Stranger has to putt for you

Here are some questions to ask after you finish playing:

  • What was your favorite hole?
  • What was the most difficult hole?
  • What do you enjoy most about miniature golf?
  • If you could design the most epic miniature golf hole what would it look like?

Shelter In Place Ideas


This is the second blog since the Coronavirus put us in our homes with limited ability to do creative dates outside of the house.  This may not be as much of a creative idea as it is just telling you some of the things that we’ve been doing to spend time together and to be intentional.

For the next three weeks our church will be in a family initiative called “Ready, Set, Go.”  We are focusing on being a ready bride, setting the table of discipleship in the home, and going into the places we work with the Gospel.  This is all coming out of the second half of the book of Colossians.  This emphasis has a family guide to help parents disciple their kids.  Even if you are reading this later, with no guide, and no context from the sermons, you can still do some of these things together.

We each decided we would secretly do something for every member of our family this week to show them love.  Here is what I did.  You can do the same thing over the next few weeks or tweak it to fit your family.

  1. Ice cream for the wife – We went by Shakes one night while we were out, but the line was about seven cars deep and she didn’t want to wait. Dairy Queen had the same type line. Later in the week I went and got Shakes for her and Dairy Queen for the girls.  Frozen custard isn’t really ice cream, so I had to take care of the rest of the family, but since it is my wife’s favorite, I made a special trip just for her.  Take 30 minutes out of your night and spend $20 on ice cream for the family!
  2. Cleaning with no complaining – We have two daughters. One of them is a fairly clean and organized young lady. Her room is rarely messy and you don’t find much of her stuff around the house.  The other child is half-human and half-tornado.  Her room is always a wreck of epic proportions.  She can’t get her clothes from the bathroom to the hamper and can rarely get her towel from her room back to the bathroom.  She also doesn’t have the motor skills necessary to put a toilet seat down.  I haven’t gotten on to her all week (but you can tell I’m venting now).  Every night before she went to bed, I picked all her clothes up off the bathroom floor and put them in her hamper.  If the toilet seat was up, I put it down for her.  Find a chore or a way to serve one of your family members for a week.  Do it without telling them and see if they notice.
  3. Watch a movie together – One of my girls loves movies. I’ve been talking to her about watching the Marvel movies with me. She initially agreed and was excited about it, but that feeling waned.  I told her that we’d watch a movie together this week and it would be her choice.  Tonight was the night, but she said, “Dad, I’m sorry, but I don’t want to watch Captain America.”  I told her she got to pick the movie.  She picked The Incredibles.  The irony that she didn’t want to watch a superhero movie . . . and then picked a superhero movie, was not lost on me.  Let someone in your family pick a movie this week and watch it together.

Nothing that creative here, but a couple of ideas you can do with a little intentionality.

Easter Egg Hunt

easter eggs

I asked my wife to write the blog about what she did today for our family.  Obviously you’ll be reading this AFTER Easter and hopefully, we’ll never have another Easter like this one, but I’m posting it for you to adjust.  You can do something very similar while you are locked up for CoronaPalooza.  Here are her thoughts . . .

“This is a unique Easter for everyone due to COVID-19.  As bummed as we were not to see the whole family, do a big egg hunt, and eat tons of candy, I felt we needed to do something that would be fun with just the four of us.  High hopes that we could do something that would appeal to our teenager.  We have a 10-year-old and 13-year-old and without younger ones here, I wasn’t sure how excited they would be about Easter celebrations and egg hunts.

So, our oldest opted out of dyeing eggs, but our younger one was excited to do it.  Side note…I have been dyeing eggs since I was little and in all those many years, this is the best option I have found for getting a bright, shiny egg.  A little messy, but we discovered this a couple of years ago and will never go back to the dyeing kits you get at the store.  We put on an Easter playlist and dyed some eggs on Saturday.

Sunday, we did an egg hunt with those boiled eggs and some plastic eggs.  In each plastic egg I put a piece of paper in it with a word or two from Matthew 28:2-6.  They went hunting for all the eggs, then brought them inside and worked together to put them in order.  I had a couple of the words printed in bold so when they finished putting it together, the words STONE and HIS CLOTHING were in bold print.  Those bolded words were clues to where their gifts were hidden.  One was near some rocks outside and the other was in Brett’s closet.  Inside the prize eggs they found their favorite thing in all the world…cash.  Lots of times I get cutesier and get stuffed animals, candy, bath bombs, etc.  But this year, with all this craziness, I wanted something that, without question, they would love.  $40 each did the trick.  Am I buying my children’s love?  Maybe.  Do I care right now?  No.  I wanted it to end happy and I knew cash would make that happen.

I was talking to my oldest a few minutes ago and I mentioned that this Easter wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and was kind of nice.  She commented that she had a surprisingly good day too and it was kind of a nice change from running from family to family during a holiday.  Again, a good reminder to me that change is not a bad thing and sometimes we can make good out of a bad situation.”

Stuck at home?


Are you tired of Coronavirus posts?  I am, but it didn’t seem to make much sense to post a blog about taking your spouse on a date or taking your kids somewhere when we’ve been asked to “social distance.”  Speaking of social distancing, I’m predicting right now that at the end of 2020, it will be the “phrase of the year.”

Since you are stuck inside, how about a Family Obstacle Course?  We made one this week and it ended up being a lot of fun.  Each person took a room to set up totally on their own.  Then once all four rooms were ready, we strung them together into one big obstacle course.  If you wanted to get competitive, you could time each other, or you could do it more than once and try to beat your own time.  We just did it for fun.  The win was that when everyone had completed the course, both girls wanted to do it again!

Get creative.  Use things all around your house to make it fun.  You don’t want to recreate ours, but I’ll show it to you for inspiration.  Also, whenever a person was blindfolded, there was a person coaching them through the obstacles.


Room 1 – Emerson

You started blindfolded on her bed and you had to crawl under one string and pick up the giant teddy bear.  While holding the bear you had to step over the other string and then toss the bear to the side.  The you had to find five bells and put them in a cup.  Then you had to transfer the cup full of bells into another cup.  From there you left her room and headed down the hallway to Raley’s room


Room 2 – Raley

In this room you had to go under a string, over a string, under a string, and then over three strings.  After touching the wall, you had to work your way back through the room the same way you came in.  Then you went down the hallway to the living room.


Room 3 – Living Room (Amanda)

You had to put on a Christmas elf hat and crawl under a string to a stack of letters (Xs and Os).  Still blindfolded you had to pull three X’s to the side and then move to the couch.  Once you got to the couch you had to find a balloon, blow it up, tie it, and then get to the end table.  There were pins on the end table and you had to pop your balloon.  After that you made your way to the back door where there was a pillow you had to jump over.


Room 4 – Backyard (Brett)

So, it isn’t a room, but you get the point.  Now you could take the blindfold off.  You had to go past the hammock, but you got to choose if you went over it or under it.  That was followed by a front somersault.  After getting up you hopped over all four pillows and run to the fence.  As you are getting to the fence a football is being thrown and you must turn and catch it quickly!

There it is . . . the first annual Home Obstacle Course (and if my front somersault shoulder injury has anything to say about it, it will be the last Home Obstacle Course)

Photo Scavenger Hunt


One of the things I love about a Photo Scavenger Hunt as an idea for you family to spend time together, is that it is customizable to the ages of your kids.  We did ours when the kids were both young, but if I was doing one now, I’d have some sort of TikTok dance involved!

Coming up with a list of things to look for can seem daunting, but it is an easy search on the internet these days.  You can find hundreds of them online that you can simply print off.  I wanted to customize one, so I download a couple from the web, took the best pieces of them, and then added some of my own ideas.

We are a family of four, so we split up into two teams.  We set a time of when we had to be back and then headed in different directions.  Although, I’m competitive, my goal wasn’t to win this time.  My goal was to put the camera into my daughter’s hands.  It was not going to be fun for her to ride in the back seat while I drove as fast as the law would allow to site after site, slowing down to snap a picture and then take off again.  It was about having her look out the window for things on the list or telling me where she thought we should go to find the pictures.  I’d have to pull over on the side of the road, she’d have to get adjusted, roll the window down, take the picture, get situated again, and then drive off.  It was not a fast process.  Now that I have a teenager and an older elementary school child, I can imagine it would probably be MUCH more competitive if we did it again.

If you want to add some flair to your scavenger hunt, you could use the GooseChase app.  You’d want to ask someone to help you out and run the game.  If they really like you, they can add all the scavenger hunt items into the app so that you don’t have a competitive advantage by knowing everything you need to find before everyone else.  On the GooseChase app, you can also set a time where the game ends, so you don’t have to try to manage being back at a certain time.  When the timer runs out, the app won’t let you add anymore photos.  The game manager could also approve or disallow photos, award bonus points, and allow you to have a live scoring system.

Cost: Free (GooseChase will let you have three teams in a game for free)

Time: 90 minutes of prep and 60 minutes of fun

City Scavenger Hunt

operation city quest

There are hundreds of ways to do a scavenger hunt.  Our family has done a photo scavenger hunt (a blog for another time), scavenger hunts around the house, and in our neighborhood.  Recently, we did one in downtown Austin.  This was another of my finds on Groupon that we purchased.

We used Operation City Quest because they had one for Austin.  There were some pros and cons that we’ll get to in a moment, but one of the things that made this day fun was the people with us.  Obviously, the whole family was there since it was a Family Day for us, but we also let both kids invite a friend.  We loaded up the car with four kids and headed to lunch at Home Slice Pizza.  I’m not a big fan, but everyone else loves it AND it occasionally shows up in the “best pizza” lists so you should probably not take my word for it and check it out yourself.

After lunch, we drove downtown to the “starting point” which was about a block in front of the Capitol.  We sent a text to a number to let the unknown person running the hunt that we were ready.  We were then given a link to a scavenger hunt through the GooseChase app.  This wasn’t a Scavenger Hunt where we were competing against each other.  We were all on the same team trying to get as many points as possible by finding as many things on the list, and taking a picture of it, and uploading it to the app.  You could compete against other people playing around the United States.

That is where the major downside was for me.  You would think that if we were in Austin and another team was in Philadelphia that it would be impossible to compete against them.  After all, it is two totally different cities with different places to visit/find.  That would have been true except all the scavenger hunt items were so general that we could have stayed at home and not driven to Austin to play.  In fact, they were so general you could play in any city.  The other problem with the scavenger hunt is how it is scored.  When you take a picture and upload it you get the points assigned to the item.  The GooseChase app is awesome!  I’ve used it before when I was running a hunt.  If you are asked to take a picture of a frog and you upload a picture of a car you get the points, but the person running the game sees what you uploaded and then will kick your picture out and you don’t get the points.  The person running the Operation City Quest hunt doesn’t do that.  So, if you want to compete, you are competing against people across the United States who can beat you by taking pictures of literally anything they want.

On the bright side, if you are out with a bunch of kids just enjoying trying to find things on the list and those same kids get tired after about an hour . . . you can still have a good time with it 😊

Groupon still had it offered at the time of this blog.  The cost for two adults and four kids was $21 which wasn’t bad at all.  I’d just suggest you save the trip of driving to the big city they tell you to go to.  You can also make your own scavenger hunt for your family for free, but I wanted to give you an easy, no work included option to try out.