Archive for category Life

Too Young for Disneyland? No way!

We recently had the opportunity to join family in Southern California and take our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to Disneyland.  We considered this trip a while back and decided it would be best to wait until she was over the age of four so that she would hopefully remember most of the trip.  However, we decided “why not” when the opportunity presented itself again and it also meant that our daughter would get the chance to spend some quality time with cousins and relatives she doesn’t get to see often.  So we went….and had the BEST time!

I have to admit, I was a little worried how our daughter would respond to all the excitement of the park.  Was it going to be too overwhelming with all the characters, rides, noise, crowds, and was she even going to appreciate meeting any of the characters?  I couldn’t have been more wrong about this judgement.  She LOVED every minute of it!  I was even surprised to find out she actually knows all the characters and was thrilled to meet the Disney Princesses.  It melted my heart to see her smile with excitement whenever we had an opportunity to meet a princess.

Standing at only 38″ tall, there were definitely limitations to what rides she could participate in.  However, there were plenty of activities to keep her entertained in a two day experience.  The Nemo submarine, Winnie the Pooh,  Buzz Lightyear, Autopia, the Tea Cups, the Carousal, and the Jungle Cruise were among a few of the favorites!

Although, we know at her age she probably won’t remember much about the overall experience, we have absolutely no regrets in taking her this young.  To see the joy and happiness the park brought to her face was worth every penny spent.  Personally, I have been to Disneyland a handful of times and had a different experience every time considering my age and who I was traveling with.  This visit to the park, was by far the best experience I’ve ever had.  It’s not about the rides I partook in or the shows I witnessed, it was about the joy in my daughters eyes.

It’s true what they say about Disneyland, “It IS the happiest place on Earth!”  It’s magical, it’s unforgettable and it’s for ALL ages, young and old.  If you are like us and contemplate when the best time to take your kids to Disneyland is, I hope this post helps your decision.  Good luck and happy travels!

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Ice Cream Theme Birthday Party

I know this post comes to you a little late, considering my daughter’s birthday party was held in mid-July, but I loved the theme and wanted to share it with all of you.  Better late than never, right?

My daughter, Kelly loves ice cream (who doesn’t right?) and therefore, the theme was an easy pick.  It was great for the kids.  They had a blast building their own sundaes and snacking on ice cream themed snacks all day.  Not to mention, it was the middle of summer and it just so happened to be one of those days you can’t eat your ice cream quick enough before it melts all over the place.  It was a perfect day for ice cream and everything cold.

We held it in in the back yard and set up activities for the kids to play, such as a water sprinkler, bubbles, sandbox, fishing pond, water table, balls, and toys.  And as far as the decorations and food went, I was inspired by Pinterest once again.  There are so many ways to search for things on the internet and yet, I still find the most creative and inspirational ideas through Pinterest.  Check it out if you haven’t already!  It’s a cataloging site so you can easily find and ‘bookmark’ where your favorites are in cyber world.

Decorations: I stuck to pretty basic pink decor (table clothes and streamers).  However, instead of just having helium balloons around, I added a cone to the base of each balloon with brown packaging paper to transform the balloons into ice cream cones!

Food: We simply ordered pizza for the main course of the day and then splurged on the sweets!  Of course…it was an ICE CREAM party!   For a snack I had chopped fresh fruit stuffed in waffle cones and for cake I made a cake out of cupcakes in the shape of an ice cream cone as well as a special cake for the birthday girl.  And if we’re gonna load them up with sugar, why not go all out with a full fledge sundae!?  I laid out bowls with different toppings for the kids’ ice cream and they went to town decorating their sundaes.

  

 

Favors:  This was one of my favorite things from the part and I completely forgot to get a photo before handing them all out.  Go figure.  I found fun ice cream sundae plastic glasses and filled them with ice cream themed candies and toys.  I also included a tooth brush :).

Not only was this theme easy for  a mid-summer birthday party, it was fun for the kids too.  I was surprised at how many ice cream themed toys, treats and activities there are in the stores during the summer months.  It certainly made this a very easy party to put together.  There were so many other ideas I wanted to incorporate however, I did my best not to go overboard.

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The “Big Cook” is a Mommy Lifesaver

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We have all been there before.  Whether you’re eight months pregnant or have your hands full with extracurricular activities and busy kids at home, we can all benefit from a “Big Cook!”  Not only is a Big Cook a great excuse to get friends together, but by the end of the day you have a fully stocked freezer of ready to pop in the oven meals.  Personally, I know there are several days where I get busy during the day and realize around 3 o’clock that I forgot to pull something out of the freezer for dinner.  Then I’m stuck quickly de-frosting something in the microwave or calling my husband and suggesting it’s a good night to eat out.

I had the opportunity to join some girlfriends yesterday for  a Big Cook.  It was my first experience doing one, but some of the girls were well seasoned in this area.  One of the girls emailed us a grocery list a couple of weeks in advance and we were all assigned items to bring the day of the Big Cook.  We met at 10a.m. and had successfully prepared 80 meals by 4p.m.!  BBQ Pork, Tricolor Chicken and Pasta, Taco Toss, and Zippy Pork Chops were just a few among our menu.  Our day began by organizing all of our ingredients into one area.  Then we came up with a game plan as to what we were each going to be doing.  I browned 15 pounds of hamburger, while some were mixing the sauces for the burger meals and others labeling the bags the meals were being placed into with the meal title and cooking instructions.  We continued this system through the pork and chicken dishes as well.  Throughout the day, we took turns washing dishes and dividing the meals among everyone.  At the end of the day, we each had 10 different dishes and 20 meals for four people (two of each dish)!  When it was all complete and clean up was over, we sat down with our receipts and added all the expenses together and divided by how many people were taking food home.  The average cost came out to about $9 per meal.  Not too bad when you consider the fact that each meal is for four people.  That’s about $2.25 per person per meal!

The idea for The Big Cook came from three busy mom’s named Joanne Smith, Lorelei Thomas and Deanna Siemens.  They decided one day to get together and cook in mass in order to prepare meals to freeze for future evenings.  They developed fast and healthy meals that could easily be frozen for future use.  The idea took off and in 1997 they published the cookbook titled The Big Cook.  This is one of those products I saw and said to myself, “Why didn’t I think of that!?”  It’s such a great idea and there is an enormous market of mothers and fathers that would benefit from this style of cooking.

My husband and I are pretty adventurous with cooking and I wouldn’t go as far to say that we will rely on this method completely, but for those days you really just don’t feel like cooking or don’t know WHAT to cook, it’s great to know you have meals ready to go in the freezer!  Another great thing about this style of cooking is it allows us to focus more time and energy on the side dishes that surround the entrée.  For me, I usually spend most of my time preparing the entrée and then add simple vegis and rice or potato with it.  With The Big Cook in my life now, I can focus more on some new side dishes.

Overall, The Big Cook is a great concept for any family.  I am already looking forward to the next event and I hope that you adopt the idea among your friends and family and give it a try.  So fun and so easy!  Happy cooking!

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Nursery to ‘Big Girl’ Room

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Our daughter Kelly is fast approaching her two-year birthday and still wakes up every morning in our bed.  This is not something we are proud of however, we certainly don’t take for grant it the mornings we are woken with that sweet little voice and a warm hug and kiss to follow.  We were those first time parents that would go to put her to bed and had to rock, feed, or walk around with her until she was sleeping and then gently lay her in the crib, as to not disturb her or we’d be back to square one again.  After three months of maternity leave, I went back to work full-time while my husband was also working full-time, so getting up for feedings throughout the night became painful.  It was just easier, for the both of us, to bring her to bed and let her nurse in bed as opposed to sitting in the nursery during the wee hours of night.  This went on for months.  Then when we moved to Canada I was blessed with the privilege to become a stay-at-home mom.  Once we were settled, we began trying different methods of getting her to sleep through the night and in HER crib.  We tried everything, but it seemed like every time we would make some progress, she would get a bad cold that would wake her through the night or we had a vacation coming up where she was going to be co-sleeping for the duration of the trip.  For a while there it also seemed like she was terrified of the crib.  We even had family stay with us who also commented on the severity of her screams when she would wake at night.  So around the age of 15 months we put the crib away and set up a toddler bed for her (I know some will say this is extremely young, but we felt it was the right thing to do at the time).  She LOVED the bed and was super excited to sleep in it.  But to this day, she still wakes in the night wanting to come to mommy and daddy’s bed.  It’s a constant battle.

So our most recent attempt at accomplishing this transition from co-sleeping to her toddler bed consisted of converting her nursery into a “Big Girl Room.”  It took me about a week to finish and only about $100 and most importantly, Kelly LOVES it.  I made sure to include her in as many decisions as possible while putting the room together.  And as you will see, there are butterflies and flowers all over the walls because she was a big part of that task.  It’s been a couple of weeks and every time she goes to bed she comments on how ‘pretty’ the room is and points out all the butterflies and flowers to me.  We even put a Dora nightlight at the head of her bed and every night, as part of her routine, after story time she says “goodnight” to Dora and Boots.  However, she still wants us to lay with her until she’s sleeping and she still wakes up through the night wanting to come to our bed.  So on one hand, it’s been a great start to a new chapter, but on the other hand, we’re exhausted and anxious to get through this chapter.  Kelly loves her new bedroom and that’s the most important thing about this transition.  It’s a start and there IS a light at the end of the tunnel (that’s what I keep telling myself 🙂 ).

I made a canopy for her bed with some tulle from the sale rack at the fabric store, two curtain rods I got at the dollar store, and some ribbon.  Since it’s spring time, I didn’t have any trouble finding little butterflies to decorate the canopy.  We also found some wall stickers at the dollar store that were a cheap and temporary decor that was fun for her to help put up.  We found a couple of new pillows and a bean bag that she picked out to create a little reading corner.  And to add a few personal touches, I added a couple of canvas prints to her wall (DIY mod podge canvas prints); one with a picture of her and our dog, her best friend, Lilly and the other of some flowers I photographed in Europe this spring.

I changed her bedding by incorporating a butterfly themed quilt a family member made for her when she was born.  It matched perfectly, so there was no need to go out and buy something new and Kelly was excited to get to use the quilt on her bed.  Overall, the room came together really nice and it was highly affordable.  Now we just need to continue our work on getting Kelly to enjoy it ALL NIGHT LONG.

 

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An Iceland Gem

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Iceland Air recently joined Alaska Airlines family of partners and we decided to travel with them to Europe.  They were a fantastic airline with exceptional on board service.  One of the benefits of flying to Europe with them was the opportunity to ‘take a break’ in Iceland, as they make a scheduled stop in Reykjavik, Iceland in route to Paris and other European destinations.  We decided upon our return from Germany, we would stop in Iceland for a couple of nights and relax at The Blue Lagoon.  It was the BEST decision!  The Blue Lagoon was amazing!

The lagoon is world renown for its amazing therapeutic capabilities and aside from providing the ultimate relaxation for the common visitor, they do provide medically proven treatments to patients in need. Hot springs in general are good for the mind, body and soul, but this lagoon is well-known for its unique geothermal seawater and the healing powers it offers.  We stayed one night at the “clinic” which is what they refer to their hotel as.  The room was clean and modern.  We had access to a private bath (pool) at the clinic (the hot springs was a short 10 minute walk next door) and a wonderful breakfast was provided in the morning.

My husband and I decided we would gift a massage or spa treatment at the Blue Lagoon to one another for our April birthdays.  We made prior arrangements for these treatments; I was to have a body wrap, scrub and full body massage (about 2 hours total), while he was to have an hour-long body massage.  Well I had a rude awakening when the front desk receptionist at the spa that morning informed me that she didn’t have us in ‘the book.’  And then proceeded to tell me that there are actually two Blue Lagoon’s in Iceland.  One is the famous hot spring location and the other is strictly a spa located in downtown Reykjavik (about 45 minutes from the hot springs).  It turns out that both are the same company and both can be accessed through the same website with little, very little, indication that there are two locations.  Be aware if you decide to book a spa treatment online.  Apparently, this happens often.  So, needless to say, we had to take what was available at the spa that day…Jeremy had a 20 minute massage and I had an hour (body scrub and massage).  They were very nice and apologetic towards us regarding the mistake and to compensate us they provided us access to the Exclusive Lounge and private changing room all day.  This is an area they normally sell in 3-hour increments for $120USD.  It was amazing.  We had a private changing room and shower, a delicious fruit plate, an endless supply of coffee, tea and chocolate, and private access to a room with a fireplace and indoor hot spring pool (which by the way, you could swim into from the outside).  In the afternoon, Jeremy and I took turns having our massages and that was an experience we won’t forget.  The massages at the lagoon are all done in the lagoon.  They have you lay on a floating mat and use your body weight to do your massage.  It literally felt like I was floating in the air.  Weird at first, but then…so relaxing!  The day was amazing!

We were a little worried prior to arriving, that our daughter wouldn’t be able to swim much in the hot water, but that was never an issue.  The water temperature was probably right around 100 degrees, so with several snack and drink breaks she had just as much fun as her mom and dad.  We were only in Iceland for two nights (one at the lagoon and one in Reykjavik) and we would love to go back.  It’s such a unique place.  The terrain is covered in tundra, but yet under the tundra is lava rock.  The food, the culture, the people, everything about it was unique and made us want to explore more.

Even if you are traveling to Europe from the United States, this a great place to break up the trip.  We met so many people at the Blue Lagoon who were just in route to Europe or the U.S.  This was a great stop for us, as we had spent the previous two weeks walking, driving and taking trains through Europe.  It provided us with the relaxing day we needed, but also the motivation we needed to complete that remaining 12 hours of traveling before we were home.

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Our Family Journey Through Europe, Part Two – Southwest Germany

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Thank you for tuning in for part two of our family journey through Europe.  It was an amazing trip and one worth talking about, so I can’t resist the urge to share our experience with you.  In part one of this post, I left off sharing our Paris journey with you.  Well, after four amazing days in Paris (and several blisters later), we were on to our next portion of the trip…Germany!

We departed Paris en route to Frankfurt via a bullet train.  This is when we learned the meaning behind those infamous words of advise you get before you take a trip to Europe, “pack light.”  With my 70lb bag, my husband’s 40lb bag, the stroller and car seat, embarking on the train was not an easy feat.  However, once we were on and our luggage had a safe home, it was an enjoyable three-hour ride to Frankfurt.  The train traveled at up to 200kph speeds and you would think it would be hard to enjoy the scenery at this speed, but it was quite enjoyable.  A nice meal was included and our daughter was entertained by the other kids in our section.  It was a very nice way to travel across France.

Since we didn’t spend any time in Frankfurt, I can’t say much about it other than my first impression was…it’s a big city.  Once we got to the airport from the train, we picked up our rental car and drove straight to Wurzburg (about one hour away).  My family and I lived in Wurzburg when I was about four years old.  This is also where my sister was born.  Our hotel was located in the center of downtown and much of it seemed familiar while walking downtown and around the river.  I think my only clear memory from my previous time in Wurzburg was taking strolls along the river with my parents and feeding the ducks.  It was a short one night stay in Wurzburg and it poured rain the whole time we were there so we were unable to explore too much.

The next day we met some childhood friends of mine in Rothenburg to do some sightseeing and visit.  Rothenburg is a beautiful little town full of history and culture.  In many ways it was like jumping back into the middle ages.  They have done a great job of retaining much of its original architecture and historical structures throughout the town, while conforming with today’s modern lifestyle.  We visited a world-famous Christmas store, had an amazing lunch, followed by delicious ice cream, only to then be forced to leave by the incredible down pour from above.  We literally had to sprint back to the car because the rain was coming down so hard and it wasn’t stopping any time soon.  By the time we made it back to the vehicle, we looked like we all just jumped in a swimming pool with our clothes on.

We followed our friends into Leutershausen and stayed a couple of nights at their home.  This was a unique experience for me, as my family and I also lived just behind their home for a couple of years.  In fact, I could look out the bedroom window that we were staying in and see my old home.  Upon arriving, there was the most amazing traditional German dinner waiting for us on the table.  It was complete with stomach/blood sausage (which sounds gross, but actually tasted pretty good), along with a variety of other sausages and meats, fresh-baked rolls, and a selection of cheeses.  Following dinner, we were offered a selection of their homemade liquors, beers and wines made from fruits in their garden.  Wow!  Let’s just say it was a late night of tasting and sharing great company.  Experiencing life in Germany with the locals is irreplaceable.

The following couple of days, we visited the garden I played in as a little girl and sites around the area, including dinner that evening at the Colmberg Castle nearby.  If you’re looking for a unique dining experience in Germany, I highly recommend dining in a historic castle.  The photo opportunities from this castle were amazing, the food was delicious and the ambiance was like no other I’ve experienced.  The Colmberg Castle even offers overnight accommodations if you were interested.  It was cool (for lack of a better word)!

A couple of days later, we headed south towards Fussen, Germany where we planned a tour of the famous Neuschwanstein Castle.  We drove part of the journey on the autobahn and the remainder on the Romantic Road where we saw some beautiful countryside.  Many people would recognize this castle, as it was the one that Disney’s fairytale castle was based on.  We took a tour inside upon arriving that afternoon and the view from the castle was indescribable.  It was like you were standing in a painting and surrounded by fictional forms.

The following day was a scenic driving day.  We drove West on the Southern border of Germany and crossed into Austria for only about an hour or so and drove then drove through the mountains towards Lake Constance.  We saw some amazing countryside and hit a few road closures along the way, but it was a beautiful drive.  We stopped in a couple of towns surrounding Lake Constance before landing at our hotel in Konstanz, Germany.  We had to cross the border into Switzerland for a brief moment to arrive at our hotel too.  Konstanz was right on Lake Constance and surrounded by beautiful scenery.  This area struck us as a popular local vacation destination.  We were here for two nights and on the one full day we had there we decided to visit Mainau Island, a privately owned little island in the middle of the lake that is known for their amazing flower displays.  My parents took me there as a kid and from their description, it sounds like it has changed drastically since then.  They used to only have flowers all over the island, whereas now, in addition to flowers, there is a petting zoo, duck pond, pony rides, a couple of places to eat, butterfly house, a much more!  Our daughter thoroughly enjoyed herself.

The last few days of the trip, we worked our way West to the France/Germany border and North towards Koblenz, where the Rhine and Mosel rivers meet.  We drove through some beautiful country in the Black Forest area and saw some amazing sights along the Rhine River.  Once we reached the France/Germany border, we crossed into France and spent two nights in Strasbourg.  Strasbourg was a very nice city with plenty to do and see.  It was a unique destination because although it was in France, there was a heavy German influence there due its geographic location.  You could almost say you have the best of both worlds there, with the option to have German or French food.  Furthermore, most residents of Strasbourg speak fluent German and French.  Upon leaving Strasbourg, we took our time driving North along the Rhine River to Koblenz.  The drive along the river was amazing!  We probably saw 20 castles that day and even more vineyards.  It was magical.

Koblenz was our last stop before saying goodbye to Germany and it was one of our favorites.  It’s situated right where the Rhine and Mosel rivers meet and is a popular destination for everyone.  There is so much to do in this area such as river cruises, hiking, biking, wine tasting, historical sites and points of interests, and the list goes on.  We had one full day here and we happened to be there during their big flower festival.  We paid one price and had access to several parks, churches, a gondola ride to a castle across the river, historical sites, and of course the most beautiful flower gardens you can imagine.  It was a great day in Koblenz and I would love to go back anytime!

Germany is charming.  I absolutely can’t wait to get back and explore other areas.  We spent nine days in Germany and only explored the Southwestern area.  So much history, great food, affordable, friendly, family friendly, simply charming.  Loved every minute.

Our journey through France and Germany had come to an end and now we could look forward to a 24 hour journey home…but wait, we still had a stopover in Iceland, complete with a massage and a day at the Blue Lagoon!  This was the PERFECT stop to break up the long ride home.  Stay tuned for the last portion of this post…Iceland Gem.

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Pin It!

If you haven’t heard of Pinterest.com, you need to check it out!   A girlfriend introduced it to me and I’m so glad.  I’ve discovered so many new ideas for do-it-yourself projects, hairstyles, home decor, fashion and more.  Here’s my site…

Pinterest is so easy and fun to use. Just visit their site and take a minute or two to set up a free account with them. They provide you a free page to start pinning your favorite things.   You may think this sounds a bit like a waste of time.   After all, we can barely find time to use the bathroom alone with munchkins running around right?

Well, think of it as ‘research’.  I do anyway.  I have used Pinterest for SO MANY different ideas I’m ‘researching’ online.  I love it because it’s a visual based application.   It’s a site that captures and displays beautiful photos from blogs, info sites, retail sites…you name it.

When you set up an account you will be asked to add the “Pin It” button to your tool bar at the top of your browser (don’t worry, they explain the simply way to do this).   This “Pin It” button can be used on any page, any time.  You don’t even have to go to Pinterest.com to pin something to your account.  You just hit your “pin it” button and they’ll ask you what board you want to pin it to in your account and they’ll take care of the rest.  You can be reassured that you’ve saved the URL and info you needed for future reference.

Pinterest refers to “Pins” and “Boards”.  You may be asked to set up your boards when you set up your account.  Think of the “Boards” as your categories and your “Pins” as the posts within the category.  You can add, edit or delete pins and boards anytime.

Lately, I’ve been looking into making some hair accessories for my daughter to hopefully salvage some of the funds that I’ve wasted on store bought barretts and headbands that she wears ONCE out of the house, and never back in the house.   I have been finding several crafty ideas for making my own hair accessories all over the internet.  When I see something I like and want to remember where to find it next time I’m online, I “Pin It”.   I then select what ‘board’ I want to pin it to and of course, I would choose my DIY(Do It Yourself) Project board.   This way, I’ve added it to the ever long list of projects I intend to do myself….someday. 🙂

Here’s another great example for why I think Pinterest is a must-use…Let’s say you are planning a birthday party for your son/daughter or you’re planning a get together and you are in search of some new and maybe creative recipes or decorations.  You do a few searches online and start finding a galore of information.  Rather than try and write it all down or print several pages of information, just “Pin It” and it is saved on your “Party” board, for instance, for as long as you wish.  All the sites you visited and gathered information from are now saved in one place and you can access them all from your Pinterest account.  Super easy!

And did I mention how fun this?  Be careful, because it CAN be addicting!  Highly recommend you give it a try.

Happy Pinning!!!

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