Anniversary in Vegas

Towards the beginning of the year Rob and I decided we wanted to really celebrate our anniversary this year. It was our 5th but only our 3rd actually celebrating together in the same country. We went back and forth on location and finally decided Vegas had the perfect mix of relaxation and entertainment. We booked a crazy early flight that got in at the same time as our good friend who was vacationing with us, just in time for a 10am shot of tequila.

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We stayed at the Vdara, one of the newer hotels in Vegas, and the only with with no casino and no smoking.

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The room was wonderful and the view was perfect. The entire hotel felt crisp and clean, more like a Caribbean retreat then center Vegas.

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We indulged in some of the best food I have had in a long time. The Vdara has a weekend tapas breakfast and lunch that was incredible. My favorite was the Not Your Father’s Root Beer float. We also decided to spend an evening in Fremont Street and had dinner at Andiamo Italian Steak House. Oh goodness was it yummy. Everything from the adult beverages (and a few shots of Rumple Minze) wedge salad, jumbo meatball appetizer, and the filet mignon.

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We tried to plan a mix of relaxation and adventure to keep us busy but not wear us out!

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We rented a cabana for the day which included the works. Private TV lounge area, reserved lounges by a private wading pool, complimentary fruit plate and pool side service. I almost felt like royalty just relaxing in the sun crafting.

Spa

We all booked some spa time at the Vdara ESPA. The boys got massages and I had an amazing facial. This was one of the best spas I have ever been to. So relaxing and the additional amenities were impressive. The bathrooms were stocked with anything you could possibly need and the whirlpools were available for the entire day of your spa service.

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Two of the most adventurous things we did was the Slotzilla Zip Line on Fremont Street and a helicopter tour of the strip at night. I definitely recommend both if you are vacationing in Vegas anytime soon. Make sure to book early because spots can go quickly. A limo picked us up for the helicopter tour and brought us to the airport where we were bused out to our helicopters. Our pilot was a retired military pilot who does this just for fun.

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I’ve been itching for a new tattoo for awhile. There are a few that I have on the agenda but didn’t want to rush into them so I looked around. Rob actually ended up picking this one out and I thought the symbolism would be perfect. We got married during the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC and of course it is the name of this blog which has become part of me.

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All in all it was a great vacation and a much needed R&R for this momma and poppa.

On The Go Mealtime Favorites

This post is dedicated to the sweet mommas I met in Panera this afternoon! They were fascinated with some of our mealtime gadgets so I decided to write up a quick update on what items you can find in my diaper bag now-a-days! These are the items I still recommend after two kids so they have continued to impress me after 3 years of use including hundreds of restaurants, road trips, and a few vacations.

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Canadian Links: Disposable Placemat | IKEA Bib | Norwex Travel Enviro Pack | Tiny Bites Food Shears | Dapple | Britta Water Bottle | Nuby Snack Keeper | Munchkin 360 CupMunchkin Collapsible BowlNuby Travel Set

Unfortunately some of these products are super expensive in Canada but I still wanted to provide the link so you could at least see the full product details.

US Links: Disposable Placemat | IKEA Bib | Norwex Travel Enviro Pack | Tiny Bites Food Shears | Dapple | Britta Water Bottle | Nuby Snack Keeper | Munchkin 360 CupGo Bowl™ Silicone Bowl  | Nuby Travel Set

The disposable placemats are great for littles just starting to experiment with table food. The secure on all sides keeping them in place and it gives baby a chance to play are and experiment. Best part is when they are done you can pull it up, wrap up the scraps, and throw it all away. I do wish there was a greener option but all of the reusable placemats we have tried, which is several, never stuck to the table or just made a mess.

A full bib is certainly needed for certain meals little miss enjoys. I like having one on hand for those messy meals or when she is wearing a cute LuLaRoe outfit. I personally like the ones found at IKEA. If your little tends to pull them off you can sew in a button or even use a snap press (found here on Amazon.ca or here on Amazon.com).

We just started using Norwex products and I am smitten with them. Their micro fiber cloths are effective without the need for chemicals. Their travel pack of four Enviro cloths is great to have on hand to wipe a messy face without the need for chemical based wipes. It’s also environmentally friendly which always puts a smile on my face. I just keep a wet bag in our diaper bag to throw them in along with any clothes that are the result of a potty accident or explosive diaper.

The Tiny Bites Food Shears are hands down my FAVORITE product of all times. It makes cutting up food quick and easy. I cut everything from chicken to pizza to fruit. Anything. They are easy to to wipe off until you can wash them. If they get extra messy or we are traveling I like to keep a travel bottle of Dapple in our diaper bag as well. To save money we buy the larger size bottles and just refill the travel size.

Back when Parker was on a bottle I found the Britta Water Bottles to be a life saver. We could fill it up anywhere eliminating the need to carry around bottles of water. Even now when we are gone for the day I like to throw one in the diaper bag to refill their sippy cups.

Caity still isn’t too reliable with a bowl so I like to put her snacks in the Nuby Snack Keeper. She can easily grab her Puffs without the chance of them spilling all over. We also have the Munchkin 360 Cup for both Parker and Caity when we are out. It’s the first cup we have found that truly does not leak so I am comfortable with them having theirs in their car seat. Another perk to theses cups is the lids are interchangeable so once Caity is a little older she won’t need the handles anymore. You can also take them completely apart eliminating the chance of mold secretly growing.

The Munchkin Collapsible Bowl/Go Bowl is great when you have two sharing meals. You can choose how deep the bowl is based on what they are eating. It takes up no space in the diaper bag and has been a life safer on a few occasions when I have forgotten our Nuby Snack Keeper or we are trying to separate food at a restaurant.

Now that both kids are using utensils it’s nice to have the Nuby Travel Set on hand. Parker is old enough to use regular ones but it’s still much easier with a smaller size. I love that they store in a case so I don’t have to worry about completely cleaning them until we get home.

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We have also found a new favorite, the Munchkin BRICA Deluxe Snack Pod (found here on Amazon.ca and here on Amazon.com). It works great on shopping carts and makes snack time on the go a little easier for miss Caity while Mommy shops!

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For younger kiddos the Booginhead SippiGrip is great to add to your stroller, baby carrier, high chair, and carseat to reduce the number of times you are bending over to pick their sippy up off the ground. Unless you count that as your daily exercise… The you can just say you are working on your bend & snap move 😉 For more items that are helpful with young kids to have in your diaper bag you can check out What’s In My Diaper Bag – 11 Months and What’s In My Diaper Bag – 18 Months.

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Last but not least these individual hand sanitizing wipes are nice to have when you are on the go and don’t necessarily have access to a sink and soap. We also use them to clean off particularly dirty tables or shopping carts. I am by no means a germaphobe but everyone has their limits. Especially during the winter months I like to avoid full home plagues as much as possible.

Making An Extended Stay Hotel Trip More Like Home

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Part of the Permanent Change of Station (PCS) process is staying in a hotel for awhile between pack out and when your goods arrive at your new home. Luckily we found a nice pet friendly extended stay hotel in the area. While it has some awesome perks, it still isn’t easy. Being able to go downstairs for breakfast is great, but that means I have to shower and get dressed 🙂 Having a kitchen is also helpful but cooking without any of your own cookware can be challenging.

We finally leave this week for Canada and I spent some time reflecting on what we brought to make our stay feel more like home. I also thought about a few things we didn’t bring that would have helped. Here are just a few of the most important ones I came up with.

1. Pillows and blankets, and lovies
While they can take up a lot of space in a suitcase, it’s amazing what a difference having your own can make. The smells you are use to and the textures can instantly remind you of home.

2. Hand Soap
I don’t know about you but using the bar soap in the bathroom always annoys me. For a short weekend stay it isn’t a big deal but with lots of diaper changes and messes to clean up I wash my hands a fair amount. Instead of throwing away our soap containers from the apartment I brought them along to use in the hotel bathrooms and in the kitchen. Having a familiar scent around was refreshing.

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3. Diffuser
If you tend to use a lot of candles in your home or diffuse essential oils, I think having 1-2 in your hotel is a must. We brought along our main diffuser for our room and our travel one for the kids room. Not only did it help me keep calm during a pretty stressful time, like putting together my daughters ONEderland birthday, but it kept the rooms smelling nice.

4. Towels
Even at the fancy hotels towels are a little gross. I mean, think about where they have been. Even bleached I still cringe. Now most people who have to fly out on a PCS won’t want to waste valuable space on towels but depending on how long you will be in a hotel it may be a worth while investment. You can find reasonably priced linens at Walmart and Bed Bath & Beyond using coupons.

Hotel Favorites

VTech Spinning Lights Learning Hippo | Lamaze Flip Flap Dragon | Play-Doh | VTech Write and Learn Activity Center | Tinkertoy Wild Wheels Building Set

5. Books and Toys
I will admit most of our car was toys and books for the kids. While it was a little bit of a pain to pack them up and haul them to the hotel and then to Canada, it was WELL worth it. Having some familiar toys around to keep them busy really helped keep all of us sane on those rainy days when we didn’t want to venture out. Here were a few of our favorites that still packed fairly well in suitcases.

6. Hanging Clothes
Utilizing the closets and drawers allowed us to put away all of the suitcases which instantly made it feel more permanent. It was easier to find clothes, pack for our vacation, and keep the rooms as clutter free as possible.

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7. Flowers
Even a small bouquet in a glass will instantly brighten up a room and help it feel a little more like home. Some of my favorite places to grab a bunch of flowers or nice arrangement is Costco and Wegmans.

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8. Kitchen Items
I found this mini IKEA dish rack at a thrift store years ago and it is my favorite travel item. It’s great for keeping the kids cups and medicine droppers off of the counters. I also always have a small bottle of Dapple (for the kids stuff) in our travel bag. Instead of throwing it away, I brought along the left over dish soap from the apartment. Although the hotel provided us with dish soap and dishwasher pods, it was nice to have our own.

9. Snacks and Drinks
Most extended stay hotels have a kitchen that comes with the basic necessities to cook meals. It was nice when we got tired of eating out to make spaghetti or make a quick PB & J. In addition to a few staple groceries, we made sure to have some of our favorite snacks on hand. It saved us money buying in bulk instead of raiding the vending machine late at night. I had the kids favorites including apple juice to maintain their routine of after nap snacks etc…

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10. Night Time Routine Comforts
Special bath toys, sound machines, and lovies really seemed to help Parker and Caity adapt to their new home. Nightlights and battery operated candles are also helpful to light up the rooms enough to move around without having to turn on the harsh hotel lighting.

10 Tips for Surviving Disney in the Summer

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Since we wanted to take our family to Disney before we moved it meant going in August. The heat was a little intimidating but we planned carefully and discovered a few tips that made it a little more bearable.

In no particular order, here are 10 tips for surviving Disney in the Summer.

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1. Baby Care Centers

Each park has a Baby Care Center that is the perfect retreat especially on those exceptionally hot days. Each center is cool and has a private place to nurse or pump. There are also toys for quiet play and in most cases a TV playing Disney movies. In each location there is a store to purchase baby items including food, diapers, and some over-the-counter children’s medications.

The Baby Care Center at the Magic Kingdom is located near the First Aid Station between Casey’s and The Crystal Palace.

The Baby Care Center at Epcot is located in the Odyssey Center between Test Track and the Showcase Plaza.

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios the Baby Care Center is located inside of Guest Relations near the main entrance to the park.

The Baby Care Center at Animal Kingdom is located to the left of the Tree of Life in the building right before you cross the bridge into Africa.

There are no centers at Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach but the restrooms have changing stations.

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2. Character Dining

Character dining is a great time to get out of the heat and enjoy a nice sit-down meal and meet some of Mickey’s friends. Chef Mickey’s, Hollywood & Vine, and Tusker House are a few of our favorites. Some of the meals require early reservations like Be Our Guest but most you can make about 30-35 days out.

Luckily we had lunch sit-down reservations on some of the hottest days and it was such a nice break to sit in the nice cold air conditioning for two hours. Since we made early lunch reservations we were able to go back into the parks and ride a few more rides before we headed back to the hotel for nap time.

3. Magic Hours

Each day there are Magic Hours at the different parks for resort guests. It’s a great opportunity to get into the parks early and use your Fast Passes to knock out a few rides before it gets hot and busy. You can also plan to head back to the parks after dinner for the late night Magic Hours once it cools down a bit. To plan ahead check out a list of the Magic Hours here.

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4. Resort Pools

While it may seem like a waste of time and you may think; “I could swim anytime”,  resort pools are a great place to hang out in the middle of the day when the sun is blazing away. Most resorts also have amazing kiddie pools for the young children as well. At Caribbean Beach the life guards were very attentive to the water and won’t even look away when they answer a question. Throughout the day there are fun, cast member led, poolside activities and games for the kids.  This is a great time for the parents to relax under an umbrella sipping on a cold tasty beverage with an umbrella of it’s own.

5. FastPasses, Indoor Queues, Character Meet ‘N Greets, and Shows

As a ticket holder you are able to register for THREE FastPasses per day in ONE park. While we were there, I found out you can actually add on a 4th FastPass once you have used your initial three FastPasses.  This must be added using one of the FastPass kiosks in the park. If you travel to another park during the same day and you have used your FastPasses for the day you may add an additional FastPass fort the new park but this must also be done at the kiosk in the park.

If you feel yourself getting overheated, choose a ride with an indoor queue line. There is an awesome indoor play area for kids in the tent between the two Dumbo rides. You can actually get a pager that will go off when it’s your turn to ride.  The Kilimanjaro Safari queue may not be indoors but it is in the shade with fans and there is plenty for the kids to look at.

Waiting in line to meet a Disney character is a good opportunity to get out of the sun and let the kids sit for a bit to eat a snack and drink some water. A few of the lines I waited in were next to a wall to sit and it was mostly in the shade. Caity was even able to take a cat nap while we waited.

You can also beat the heat by finding an indoor show like American Music Machine (Epcot), Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage (Hollywood Studios), Finding Nemo The Musical (Animal Kingdom) or  Meet Mickey at Town House Square (Magic Kingdom).  You can also FastPass these shows to add a built-in break to your day.

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6. Parent Swap

Unlike other amusement parks Disney has an interesting way of facilitating Parent Swap. Lets say you are visiting Disney with a few people. Two people can stand in line OR use a FastPass to ride Haunted Mansion, when they go through the entrance they need to mention to the Disney Cast Member that they would like to do a parent swap.  The rest of the family needs to be near to prove that they are with the riders.  The cast member then hands them a Rider Switch Pass allowing up to 3 people to enter the ride using the Fast Pass line when they are done the initial ride. This is fun because the person(s) waiting with the kids can then go on the ride with other members of your group and not have to ride by themselves.  This time is great for the kids to take a break in the stroller to cool off or even push them around a nearby gift shop for a little extra cool-down time.

We also learned since each person can only get 3 FastPasses per day at ONE park your party can split them up and essentially use the FastPass lane for 6+ rides. Now I am sure that is not what Disney intends you to do BUT unlike the way it works at other amusement parks (waiting at the exit and jumping on right after your party gets off) you do still have to wait in a line.

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7. Plan Ahead

I definitely encourage you to download the My Disney Experience App before you arrive. Everyone in your party can link together to see dinning reservations and FastPass selections. It’s also a great app to keep on hand to look at ride wait times, where the Disney Character Meet ‘N’ Greets are, the closest bathroom or first aid stations, and maps of the park.

8. Free H2O

It’s a must to bring along your own water or water bottles but if you find yourself low, you can get a free cup of water at most of the Disney food service locations. Don’t forget you also get a drink with your Dinning Plan, this is a good chance to get some water to keep yourself hydrated.

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9. Cool Off Stations

There are tons of locations at each park where you can cool off a little. Near Test Track in Epcot there is a Cool Wash station and in Magic Kingdom there is the Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak to name a few. Even if it’s only for a moment you will be amazed how much cooler you will feel.

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10. Disney Dinning Plan

In most cases you get a snack per day with your Disney Dinning Plan. There are hundreds of snacks to choose from but find something that will cool you down. Since you are on vacation, feel free to indulge in a tasty ice cream treat in Magic Kingdom or cash it in at one of the many Starbucks locations for a Venti Iced Tea Lemonade (my personal favorite). If you don’t want calories you can also choose a Smart Water or fresh cool fruit, just to name a few options.Surviving Disney In The Summer Collage

11. Gadgets

While these were in no particular order, I did save the best for last, gadgets. Last year I shared our extensive packing list which pretty much stayed the same this time. Most of the additional items I added above are probably no surprise when trying to keep cool in the heat and should be on top of your packing list. Just in case you do forget something many of the shops and resorts have what you need. If you have a vehicle you can also stop by the near by Walmart where they have tons of Disney merchandise and anything else you would need.

Visors are great because they allow the heat to escape out of the top of your head while keeping the sun out of your eyes. Rob and I also raided the Under Armour Outlet before we visited this time. What a difference their clothing made with staying cool. I am pretty much hooked on their yoga pants and Rob loved their boxer briefs.

Sunscreen is very important and while it doesn’t matter what kind just make sure it isn’t expired and that you reapply often especially if you were lucky enough to get the front seat on Splash Mountain.

There were two things we found on Amazon that ended up being perfect in the park. The first were a set of the Frogg Toggs Chilly Pads which cooled us off without getting us wet. They were great to put around the kids necks to lower their body temperature and to keep Caity cool during her naps. The other was a set of Dreambaby Stroller Fans. I like how lightweight and safe they are because of the foam blades. I was pleasantly surprised at how powerful the breeze was.

Our Disney Vacation in Photos

What better opportunity than a Wordless Wednesday to share some of my favorite photos taken of our recent trip to Disney. We had a blast and even though it was extremely hot out we made the most of our trip. We decided to take the Amtrack Auto Train again. It is such a relaxing and fun way to travel with kids. Carribean Beach Resort was so nice we also stayed there again. We knew the pool would be perfect in the middle of the day. Although it was hot we made the most of it and did as much as we could in the parks. Parker absolutely LOVED the roller coasters. He also loved all the character dinning we did where he got to meet all of his favorites from Disney.

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