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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Our Family Journey Through Europe, Part One – The Unforgettable Paris

Do you remember what it felt like when your wedding night had come to end and that overwhelming feeling of relief hit you and you said to your new spouse, “That was the best time of my life, but I’m so glad it’s over.”  Upon arriving home after a 2.5 week vacation in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Iceland, there was an enormous sigh of relief when we walked through the front door of our home.  After planning this trip for the past year through online research, reading books, and studying the German language, it’s hard to believe the trip is behind us now.  We saw so many amazing sights, tasted some of the best food, and shared some unforgettable experiences.  It was by far, the busiest vacation we had ever been on together and yet, the most exciting.  Planning a trip half-way around the world is a lot of work, but when you add a toddler to the picture, it changes the whole dynamic!

We put much thought and preparation into this trip, as you should when traveling abroad.  However, there is plenty to think about for two adults, but as I mentioned before about the dynamic of your travels changing with a toddler on board, there was much more to consider for her.  Were we going to pack the car seat along or trust the rental car company would have a decent one on hand?  How many diapers should we pack?  What type of clothing should we pack for her?  Did we make arrangements at all the hotels for her?  How will we manage the luggage, car seat, the stroller and our daughter in the airport?  Can we manage if there are no carts at the train station?  The list went on and on and on.  So much to think about!  All that thinking (some of it, unnecessary), and everything always worked out to our benefit.  I will add that one of the best purchases we made before we left was buying a Combi umbrella stroller.  It was FANTASTIC for quickly collapsing and carrying over the shoulder on the subways, up stairs, through tiny doors, etc.  Great purchase!  I own a B.O.B. jogger stroller and there were MANY occasions in which we said to each other, “There is no possible way we could have taken our big stroller here.”  The Combi umbrella stroller is light, great for long walks (I can vouch for that), stands alone when folded up, and has a shoulder strap for easy carrying.

Our first destination was Paris, France and as everyone knows, this is considered one of, if not, the culinary capital of the world.  With our 21-month old daughter traveling with us, we knew there was a great possibility we wouldn’t get to experience the fine dining in Paris.  We were always on the lookout for ‘family friendly’ places to eat that also offered a variety of traditional French cuisine.  While we thoroughly enjoyed every single meal in Paris, there was one evening that was simply unforgettable.  We stumbled upon La Petit Fine Restaurant and immediately took note of the exquisite menu items, including the children’s menu.  Keep in mind that the locals don’t usually eat dinner until after 7p.m.  So when we are used to eating and feeding our daughter around 5:30 – 6:00p.m., none of the restaurants were open for dinner yet.  We were a little hesitant to walk in after 7p.m. and expect Kelly to sit still and eat that late at night, but she did wonderful.  The staff barely spoke English, but right away catered to her.  This was a white linen, 5-star service restaurant with a children’s menu.  Kelly enjoyed a fresh filet of salmon with seasoned french fries and Gelato for dessert (mind you, this was from the children’s menu), while I enjoyed the BEST pork chop I have ever put in my mouth!  And my husband also had an amazing dish.  They were so helpful with keeping Kelly entertained and everyone around us was more interested in visiting with her, than worried about her disturbing their dinner.  It was the best ‘culinary experience’ we could’ve asked for in Paris.

La Petit Fine Restaurant

TripAdvisor.com became our best friend before and during the trip.  I can honestly say that there was not a sight, hotel, restaurant, or activity with great reviews on TripAdvisor.com that we didn’t enjoy.  Everywhere we stayed was based on online reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations and none of them failed us.  Prior to leaving home I downloaded the Trip Advisor application onto my Ipad and whenever we had WiFi access, we would use the app as a guide for the area.

I could go on and on about Paris.  It was probably our favorite destination throughout the whole trip.  Full of culture, history, great food, beautiful scenery, and very nice people.  We enjoyed our stay very much.  Some of the highlights were definitely visiting the historical sights such as the Arc de Triomphe, Napoléon’s Tomb, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, and of course, the amazing Eiffel Tower.  Many people don’t think of Paris as being a ‘kid-friendly’ place to visit, but it’s as kid-friendly as you allow it to be.  For us, we were obviously always on the lookout for kid-friendly places to visit in between the historical sights that fulfilled our pleasure for the day.  Paris is full of beautiful parks and playgrounds and many that offer daily petting zoos or pony rides.  One of our favorite parks was the Garden De Luxembourg.  It was never a problem to find a place to park the stroller, sit in the grass and let Kelly run around for a while.  Paris was delightful.  Loved every minute.  The worst part about our stay there was probably the blisters that I managed to develop from all the walking.  But that was no problem either, as there are pharmacies on every corner.  Beautiful, historical, kid-friendly, unforgettable Paris.

To be continued…

Napoleon's Tomb

Notre Dame Cathedral

Garden De Luxembourg

Arc De Triomphe

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Almost Homemade Falafels

Have you ever enjoyed something from a restaurant and thought to yourself, “hmmm, I bet this would be easy to make at home”?  Well, last summer I experienced my first falafel and enjoyed it so much I decided I was going to try and make my own.  A visit to Costco where I found a package of precooked falafel balls sealed the deal.  I was on a mission to figure out how to make the best falafel in MY kitchen.

The first attempt, I have to admit, wasn’t one worth sharing.  The pre-made falafel balls I purchased are pretty bland without a little ‘dressing up’ and I didn’t get it right the first try.  So my second try was just a couple nights ago and it’s definitely worth sharing.  It was DELICIOUS!

First of all, if you can’t buy falafels in your local grocery stores, they are fairly easy to make from scratch (and probably taste better too).  Second of all, one of the condiments I used were a family recipe of horseradish dill pickles.  The recipe for the pickles requires you let your pickles marinade for up to a week before eating.  If you’d like the recipe for these, send me an email and I’ll help you out.  Otherwise, stick to regular dill pickles and maybe add just a dash of horseradish to the yogurt dip (described below).

Ingredients:

olive oil

pita bread

seasoned salt (I use the McCormick brand)

1/2 medium white onion chopped

lettuce (I used Romaine)

spinach

dill pickles

1 cup greek yogurt (plain)

1/2 cup cilantro

3 cloves garlic

cumin

 

1.  Put a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and cook the falafel balls on med/high heat.  If you buy the pre-made package they are pre-cooked and just need to be warmed.

2.  While you’re cooking the falafel balls, chop your lettuce and onion and set aside.  Wash your spinach and set aside.  Slice or chop your pickles and set aside.  Remove balls from heat when thoroughly cooked/warm.

3.  Make your yogurt dressing:  chop your cilantro and mince your garlic.  Mix with about a cup of yogurt, add a pinch of cumin and stir well.

4. Prepare your pita bread: Heat skillet on med/high heat with about a tablespoon of olive oil.  When the pan is hot place a single pita bread in the pan for about 15-20 seconds.  Flip it over and sprinkle the cooked side with seasoned salt.  Wait another 15-20 seconds and remove from pan.  Continue until all your pita wraps are cooked.

5.  Now you’re ready to dress up your falafel.  Take a pita wrap and lay on your plate.  I added lettuce, spinach, onion and pickles on the bottom and then put 4 falafel balls on top of that with the dressing on top.  YUM!  Here’s what mine looked like…

And before I could sit down to enjoy mine, Kelly decided to climb up in my chair and enjoy a little bite herself 😉

 

 

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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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Sports Theme 1st Birthday Celebration

My girlfriend, Kimberly, did an amazing job putting together a sports themed birthday party for her one-year-old baby boy.  She baked three cakes, cake pops and had chocolate covered strawberries for dessert, while keeping the food menu simple and ‘sporty’ with hot dogs, chips and potato salad.  Sounds pretty basic, but check out the pictures!  She put some real creativity into everything from decorating the sweets to the overall presentation.

Tip: Rather than going out and spending $5 on a 15oz. tub of cake frosting, ask your local bakery if they will sell you some of their fresh frosting.  Kimberly asked a baker at our local Sobeye’s grocery in Sylvan Lake and got two LARGE tubs of frosting for only $4 a tub.

Great work Kimberly!


Cake Pops decorated like baseballs!

Chocolate covered strawberries decorated like footballs!

Handmade printable labels for the water bottles (just taped on) added a great personal touch!

Happy Birthday Hudson!!!

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