Monday, July 17, 2017

A familiar childhood treat is now (sort-of) Natural - Hello juice Otter Pops!!

This summer we discovered a treat that my kids love and I don't mind saying yes to.  A mommy friend brought a box of these juice treats to a pool party and I was surprised to see that they were Otter Pops!  

They had the original looking box and familiar flavors but without the old-school artificial dyes, sugar and general junk.  

Now I'm not saying they are healthy exactly, but they are made with water, apple juice and sugar (not HFCS).  And your kids won't end up with blue, red or green mouths! Which may be a drawback for some, ha!

The only trick was trying to find the juice version.  I went to a few major stores and grocery stores but no luck.  I finally found them at Costco (which by the way my friend had initially informed me they were from....whoops).  A big box of 80 pops for only $8, it's a steal!  

We are enjoying them at home and also with friends.  If we're having a pool play date I bring a bunch to share.  Lets just say they're a big hit!  And I love that any leftovers just go back in the freezer, no muss no fuss.


So go find some and don't forget to take a pair of scissors if you bring them to play dates, so much easier than using teeth...!

Friday, July 14, 2017

TOP SECRET: Fisher Price Birthday Present

Can you keep a secret?  My youngest is turning 6 next week and I wanted to share one of her birthday presents today since it's Fisher Price Friday.  On the top of her wish-list were the Fisher Price My Friend Dolls Jenny and Becky.  She already has Nicky and Mandy, presents for her last birthday and Christmas.

She's in love with these little girl dolls and has NO idea that they're from the 1980s.  In fact when she requested Jenny (numerous times) she asked me to go to Target to look for her.

So we did. ;)  We went to Target this week but she wasn't there!  She then asked where I bought the other two dolls and I told her the Internet, ha!

But she need not worry, I already had Jenny wrapped up and ready to go.  I also found a Becky but she'll be hidden until Christmas.

Jenny is new-in-box, not an easy feat for a 1984 doll!  But here she is in her aerobics outfit glory (including leg warmers!!).

I'll be back with more details after the birthday girl opens her up.

I've also found some more My Friend Doll clothes to give her, a few odds and ends that I found on eBay.  My mom got her an almost complete ballet outfit (#228 Ballerina Outfit).  She'll be thrilled.


Here is her current collection of #204 Baby Ann (a soft doll), #206 Nicky and #4009 Special Birthday Mandy.  She's excited to have one more doll to love. :)

So stay tuned and Shhhh, don't tell!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Minimizing - My childhood edition :)

I've continued my process of de-cluttering and minimizing our house and life.  Although I accomplished a lot this winter I'm still trying to get into the daily habit of giving away, throwing away and buying less.

My project had a fun/challenging twist when I visited my mom this month and looked closer at the boxes of my childhood treasures/collections in her garage.  I enjoyed the process of minimizing; I had saved the craziest things!  I'm talking VHS tapes of my dance recitals/graduation, printouts (???) of emails from college (on matrix dot paper), and even my baby teeth.  Yes.  My teeth.  I have NO idea what I was saving them for?

Most of my papers, notes, greeting cards, letters and scrapbooks went into the recycling bin.  I ended up filling my mom's container!

College text books, novels, tourist souvenir books from Europe (did anyone else buy those on trips in the 90's?) and children's books were given away.

My remaining costumes, school dance dresses, ballet costumes and vintage clothing (hats, gloves) went on Etsy, for the girls to wear or given away.  My oldest daughter wore my 9th grade lavender dyed kitten heels whenever possible that week!

A couple VHS tapes went into the trash (taped Oprah shows???) and the rest to Costco to be turned into DVDs.  Fortunately I was able to preview the tapes ahead since my mom *still* has a VHS player. Ha!

Last but not least were a few random things shown below.  My "butt pillow", Annie lunch box and my music box bear.



I wanted to toss my "butt pillow" but my children demanded that we keep it.  This little beauty was made for me by my sister out of an old pair of jeans.  It has friendship bracelets tied on top (*love*), and names of friends and favorite song lyrics written on it in black pen (classy).  The back has decorations including some 80s studs!

I digress. So although I would have liked to de-clutter that sucker into the trash it is now in my daughter's playroom and they love it. 

The lunchbox was given away after I took photos of each side. And the teddy is still at my moms since it belonged to my older sister too.  The wind up mechanism still works!

I had been feeling pretty good about my progress, getting rid of a few boxes and minimizing down to just a couple boxes (hello yearbooks from pre-school to college!).   

Then mom brought me 4 folders full of my childhood drawings, letters, report cards, assessments, student of the month photos and class assignments that she had filed away for me all these years.  Sigh.  

Most of these gems were from my early childhood and I hadn't seen them in decades (or ever).  I enjoyed looking at them at first but became overwhelmed by the amount and felt bad about simply tossing them all.

So I decided make a photo book similar to the ones I create for my own kids.  Of course this book would need to be MUCH bigger since it was so many years worth of memories.

I spent a couple hours photographing the many many papers in those files.  Some to use in a book and others to just have a record of (letters of acceptance to college, assessments, etc).  Then I uploaded the 200+ photos to Shutterfly.


That particular weekend was kismet as I had a code for a free book and they were running a 1st-time ever promotion of unlimited additional pages for no extra cost!  So I ended up getting a 80 page 8x11 hardback book shipped to me for only $20.  Yes that's right, $20.  It would normally have cost almost $200!  


The book arrived this week and I am *in love*.  The finished product is amazing, the pages look just like my drawings (which have darkened with age) but are all tucked into a neat book.  I'm thrilled!  My kids think it's pretty cool too and enjoyed looking at mommy's drawings from when she was little.


"Look mom you made a turkey hand too". 

A few tips
  • Take photographs in a light room during the day.
  • Try to put them in chronological order if possible.
  • Put the papers on a white background, I used a pillowcase.
  • Don't forget awards, newspaper clippings or 3 dimensional projects.
  • In Shutterfly use a 8x11 book so you can spread out, especially with their "spreads layout" option; visually it's more powerful and true to the original art.
  • Make your book ahead and then wait for a FREE code or fantastic sale.
  • This would make a wonderful gift for a grown-up child! 

For more information on De-Cluttering/Minimizing


I may have to post more about my "butt pillow" someday, it is pretty 1980s awesome.  

Monday, July 10, 2017

A little Magic Trick (removing metal marks from my Fiesta)


I have a magic trick to share with you today.  Although it might not be *real* magic the results are pretty close!

We are a Fiestaware family, our primary dishes are Fiesta, a mixture of vintage (my grandmother's) and modern from our wedding registry.  Our main color is white, which after nearly14 years of holy-matrimony/use have changed to look more.....silver.  A result of hundreds of utensils scratching across their surfaces (yikes!).



I did some research and found that wenol is the recommended antidote for this problem.  Although it is a metal polish it does wonders to remove metal from dishes.



Just look!  Isn't that impressive?  It only took a little elbow grease, for the most part it was like magic!

You only need:
  • Metal scratched dishes.
  • wenol tube
  • Rag (you'll want to toss it when you're done)
  • Gloves (otherwise your hands will be stinky from the chemicals)
  • A well ventilated space.
That's it.  Since we have so many dishes I decided to just do a few at a time.  I'd take a dish after we used it; give it a quick hand wash then use the wenol (don't forget to do the bottom).  After that I put it in the dishwasher for a regular wash to remove all the chemical before we used it again.

*Another tip, it works best to have a dry dish and a dry rag.

So satisfying to have our dishes look like new with minimal effort!

 

For more entries on my Fiestaware check out:

Vintage Fiesta Relish Tray

Monday, July 3, 2017

Family UTV adventure near Zion Park


A big highlight of our family vacation to Zion National Park was a UTV tour as a family.  The girls and I had never been on a ATV or a UTV so this was extra exciting for us.  


After researching the options my husband chose UTV Adventure Tours.  Located about 45 minutes from Springdale (Zion) this company had good vehicles, prices and reviews.

Our vehicle fit all four of us and we were securely strapped/buckled in.  The tour company provided snacks, water bottles, goggles, a booster (for my little) and offered helmets.  Note: We chose to skip the helmets but in hindsight (and at the advice of my UTV rolling nephew) this was perhaps unwise.  Next time safety first!

My husband and I took turns driving the UTV, although I had just as much fun being a passenger.  Our tour was led by a UTV Adventure Tours guide, we just followed his UTV after a quick lesson on how to drive the vehicle.  

We scheduled a 3 hour excursion but ended up extending it to 4 because we were having so much fun!


Our 4 hours were spent in the Hurricane Sand Dunes.  We used those hours to race up and down sand dunes, climb over rocks, stop at the shore of the Sand Hallow Reservoir and visit/explore rock formations.  Fantastic!  

The girls loved the ride and squeeled with delight.  By the end my youngest had actually fallen asleep!  Kids.



By the time the tour was over we were covered in a fine film of red sand.  Our guide said it was a free facial. ;)  I found dust in my hair, teeth, ears and inside my socks.  This was due to a couple quick turns in the dunes where a shower of dust came into the vehicle. Oops. Totally worth it though!

Remember:
  • Put on sunscreen ahead (NO fun once you're sandy/dirty).
  • Bring sunglasses and hats.  
  • Bring a washable dark colored bag to hold your extras/valuables.  I used my handy-dandy packable backpack and although it was completely covered in dust by the end it washed clean.
  • Make sure your camera is in a zip tight bag or you'll be sorry.
  • Consider wearing tighter shorts.  I had jean cut offs and my iphone fit perfectly inside my shorts leg while we were driving.  Easy to get access but kept dust-free and didn't slide around.

For more information:

UTV Adventure Tours
1430 East Washington Dam Road #3
Washington, Utah 84780-2154
Phone: 435-313-4040
https://utvadventuretours.com 


More about our Zion Trip:

Where to stay and eat in Springdale/Zion with Kids
Zion Hikes with Kids

Friday, June 30, 2017

Dry to Lush (visit to WA)

The girls and I are having a little respite from the oven that we love.  We are spending time in lush/cool oh-so-green Washington.  The weather here is 30-45 degrees cooler than back home.  So basically it's fantastic.  I'll be ready for the hot pool weather in a bit but for now we're enjoying wearing sweatshirts and pants. 

Columbia City in Seattle
The tiny beach cottage :)

It's lovely for the girls to have a bit of change and to spend time with their cousins and grandmother.  Tomorrow we will bury Dad's ashes as a family, something I've talked to the girls about for awhile now.  


But today we have more beach walks, flower picking, sea-air breathing and memory making to do!


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Zion Hikes with Kids

Our summer break started with a family road trip to Zion National Park.  I wrote about where we stayed in Springdale, Utah and now onto our family hikes.



Zion National Park is a well maintained, well orchestrated and organized machine!  They have (free) shuttle buses in the town and inside the park.  During the busy season the shuttles are the only way into the park to hike/explore unless you are staying at the Lodge.


My girls love the shuttles and although they are slow going the views are amazing from the windows on the side and even in the ceiling.  You can think of it as a free guided tour bus!  Especially since the driver shares facts about the different sights and stops.

During the busiest times of the summer you will need to queue up at the Zion Canyon Visitors Center just to get on a bus.  Our wait was between 15-30 min, then another 45 minutes to get off the bus at the last stop.

Our family did a total of 3 hikes over two days.  We picked easier family friendly hikes since my girls have little legs, medium energy and high whining skills. ;)  First up was the Riverside Walk.  This walk was the longest but easiest with partially paved trails and limited hills.  



The Riverside Walk is familiar to us, we have traveled it two times before.  This time was the easiest since I didn't need to push a stroller or carry a baby! The walk is my favorite as it winds along the beautiful river with lots of shade, weeping rocks and tons of overly friendly rock squirrels. 

The Riverside walk leads to the mouth of the famous and not-as-family-friendly Narrows hike.  We plan on doing this much longer and water logged hike someday, but not this trip.  Especially since this time of year the water was often chest high and only 50 degrees!  We'll save that for another year.

The Riverside walk has full bathroom facilities (running water) and a water bottle fill station.  It is 2.2 miles roundtrip and takes about 1.5 hrs.


Weeping Rock was our second hike.  This is another familiar hike and this marked the first time I didn't have to carry a baby up the steep (but short) trail.  This trail has a bathroom at the bottom (port-a-let).

After a quick steep hike (.20 miles) there is a beautiful look out with a very satisfying view.  Also naturally a weeping rock that drips down on hikers as you pass.


Here is a little trio of our Weeping Rock family photos.  Visits in 2012/2014 and now 2017.  All the feels!

Since Weeping Rock is a short hike I wanted to add another one that day.  I had originally planned on the Grotto Trail, another easy hike that is only 1 mile round trip.  However, my little hikers started complaining even before we started that particular hike.  So we hopped back on the bus intending to return to the Visitor Center.

However....a small miscalculation on my part ended up bringing us to a much longer new hike that was 1.75 miles (3.5 r/t). Oops.


Pa'rus Trail is 3.5 miles round trip between the Zion Visitor Center and Canyon Junction.  The trail is paved, mostly flat and follows along the river with spectacular mountain views.  There is very little shade however and I will admit that it was quite a journey for my little hikers in the almost 100 degree weather.

They started out strong and excited but by the end my hot, tired and hungry hikers were whiny to be sure! But I am glad that we went and have photos to prove we survived. :)

There are no bathrooms until the Visitor Center, very little shade and no water fill stations.  So plan ahead!  This trail is perfect for bikes or strollers as well.

Remember:
  • They do not sell water bottles in the park.  You will need to bring your own containers (we love our Sip by S'well, keeps water cold all day!).  They do have many filling stations all around the park to fill up your bottles and for the most part the water was cold and delicious.
  • This is most likely obvious but remember sunscreen, hats and sunglasses!  I brought a foam and a powder sunscreen for this trip.  They were not messy/sticky/greasy like regular sunscreens so perfect for hiking.  My kids have lightweight folding camping hats.
  • If you need a lightweight/foldable backpack I highly recommend the Hikpro.  It is washable, light and comfortable.
  • Make sure to have your kids get a National Park stamp at the visitor's center.  If you don't already have a National Park Passport book get one!  It's fun to add stamps and stickers when you visit the parks.
  • Another tip: They sell National Park postage stamps at the Visitor's Center, a beautiful collection and worth purchasing.

For more on Zion and road trips check out:

Where to Stay and Eat in Zion with Kids
Cable Mountain Lodge at Zion Review
Road Trip Activity Bags
Zion Views
Summer Storms in Zion
Road Trips with Kids - Tips and Tricks


 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Summer Sisters

I recently saw a blog post on Nienie dialogues about her big-girls and all the sister things they do.  It inspired me to write about my own sisters, although they're a lot younger at age 5 (*almost* 6) and 9.  We're almost halfway through summer and this is what I live/hear/survive/enjoy most days. :)



They laugh
They swim
They play Lego's
They play hairdresser
They do piano duets
They argue
They fight
They make up
They sing
They dance
They play little people
They create messes (aka projects)
They eat Popsicles
They read
They talk instead of sleeping

They sister

So far summer is going fantastically!  We have more adventures ahead including our trip to visit grandma in WA for the 4th of July.  As much as I love living here in Phoenix I will admit that the summers do get a *tad* hot and it's nice to have a break in cold and wet Washington and to stay in the tiny beach cottage.  I'm sure I'll have some photos to share, stay tuned!



Thursday, June 22, 2017

Where to stay and eat in Springfield (Zion) with Kids

We're almost half way through our summer break and we've already had a few adventures.  First up was our family road trip to Zion National Park!  I planned ahead for the many hours in the van by making activity bags.  They pretty much got us smoothly to our destination(s).  Now for where we stayed when we got there!

Our favorite resort (Cable Mountain Lodge) was booked so this time we had to try someplace new.  We ended up staying at two different hotels/resorts during our week there.



We spent the first two nights at the La Quinta Inn & Suites at Zion Park/Springdale.  We stayed in a Family Suite that included two rooms and a kitchenette (small fridge & microwave).

Pros

  • Kids got to sleep in bunk beds (built in) which they loved.
  • The bed was comfortable.
  • FREE Breakfast!!  I liked the waffle maker, kids loved the cereal.  
  • New (4 yr old) hotel in a great location in the middle of town.
  • Kids LOVED the swimming pool it had water features, shaded areas (not in the pool) and amazing views.

Cons

  • No elevator.
  • Balcony/Patio area isn't private, people walk right by. Same with the windows looking out, all have people walking by.
  • Limited views from the rooms.
  • Coffee is not-so-great.
  • Wi-fi isn't very strong.


As a result of the lack of view, tiny fridge and wi-fi we switched accommodations after 2 nights.  My husband found us a sweet last minute deal on a beautiful vrbo in town called the Watchman Villas.  It was quite luxurious compared to the La Quinta and we were comfortable for the next 2 nights. 

Pros
Beautiful huge 2 bedroom condo with full kitchen (and another 1/2 kitchen), 2 bathrooms, private balcony, free laundry and faster Wi-fi.

Only Con is that it would have normally cost 2x what La Quinta did.  So look into last minute bookings when possible  It also didn't have a pool but we could have used the pool at a sister property.

Both properties were right on a Zion Park/Springfield shuttle bus line.  You can catch a bus that takes you to the park entrance (for free).  My girls enjoyed the bus and it ran pretty frequently.  The were usually packed, so be prepared to stand.

While we stayed in Springdale we explored the shops and found a few fun things to do.  Our kids are really into rocks right now so we looked at a few of the rock shops in town (there are at least 3!). Our favorite was Zion Prospector: 694 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale UT.  



We spent over an hour looking around the shop at all the different rocks, fossils and beautiful stones.  They have the biggest selection!  Then as if that wasn't enough fun we paid for the kids to have a "sloush-jar".  They had the best time sloushing and looking for treasures in the jar.  We ended up with so many beautiful stones and objects (shark teeth).  The kids LOVED it.  

And of course no trip is complete without an ice-cream cone!  We found ours at the Springdale Candy Company.

Family Dinners

There aren't many restaurants in Springdale, especially family friendly with gluten-free choices.  We're a bit picky. :)  These three had options for us and at each dinner at least 75% of us were happy!

  • Bamboo Chinese Restaurant: Had lots of options and we ended up with leftovers!  The water was tasty too.
  • Blondies Dinner: This kitschy diner had a relaxed atmosphere and lots of comfort/diner food.  My kids appreciated the chicken tender/fries (ah kids) and I had yummy sliders.  There were also salad choices for the gluten-free.  An aside, they introduced us to "Utah Sauce" a popular condiment that is a mixture of ketchup and mayo.  We are all about it now!
  • MeMe's Cafe: My favorite restaurant!  This lovely restaurant had all day crepes (savory and sweet), wine, fresh squeezed OJ, espresso and regular food too.  The kid's meals included fresh fruit and the crepes could be gluten-free.  Love love!

Stay tuned, I'll be back with information on our favorite family Zion hikes and also our family UTV adventure!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fidget Cube or Knock Off? A Side by Side Comparison!


Fidget Cubes and spinners are taking over the planet!  It's the Giga/Nano pet of this generation.  At least this one doesn't require batteries. :)

We looked into getting a Fidget Cube for our fidget friendly family.  Let's just say I've broken many a pen while fidgeting with the clip portion.  And my kids and husband wanted to try them too.



We bought our first Faux-Fidget at a local itsugar store for $9.95.  We planned on giving this one to our 9 year old daughter to use.



Then a week later I ordered my husband the original Fidget Cube from the inventor of the product.  This project started on Kickstarter and the inventors raised over $6.5 Million (so far) of their original $15k goal.  Wow!  You can now purchase the original Fidget Cube from that company for $22 (mine was $25 with tax/shipping).  So...it's a lot more than the knock-off cube.

So how do they compare?  Let's look at them side by side.



They look almost exactly the same at first glance.  Both have the same features which include: Click, Glide, Flip, Breathe, Roll & Spin.  Both of the fidgets have a similar weight although the original one feels a bit more solid and is a bit smaller. 

Although they are very similar each has a benefit over the other.  The Fidget Cube has a smooth spinning circle (top R photo) while the knock off barely moves.  However, the knock off spinning circle (bottom R) both spins and clicks (pushes down) while the Fidget Cube only spins.

So which do we like better?  Well the family is divided, 1/2 like the original and 1/2 the knock off.  So save your money and get the cheaper one! :)



Monday, June 5, 2017

Road Trip Bags for School Aged Kids (aka how to reduce travel bickering)

Do you have summer road trip plans?  Ready to pack up your family and hit the open road?  It's all fun and games until the kids keep whining and the radio won't pick up a decent signal.  Or maybe that's just me?



I've shared other traveling tips in the past and now my sweet angels (ah-hem) are both school aged (5 3/4 and 9 1/2 yrs old). In preparation for a week long trip this summer that includes 3 separate (!!!) days of driving I prepared the following keep-em-busy-organized-and-fed bags.  Perhaps I should call it a KEBOAFB instead.  Hmm, still not working.  I'll have to think about that some more.l

Anyhoo, I have been preparing these bags-of-fun (ooo that's better) for a while now; picking up goodies at the Target Dollar Spot, dollar stores, clearance sales, etc.  





The bags are personalized for each of my precious pumpkins from Shutterfly using free codes so I only had to pay shipping.  They ended up costing $5.50 each.  Well worth it to me as they're:

1. Adorable
2. Fold able
3. Reusable
4. Easy to figure out which goes to which child! (aka no fighting)



Inside each bag I included (so far)

-new book(s)
-activity book(s)
-candy
-art supplies
-sticky note books ($1! on clearance)
-activity to do at the hotel (growing dinosaur eggs)
-a couple child specific goodies



Other things to remember/consider packing for road trips include:

*Game player packet w/charger (or extra batteries) and games.
*Headphones 
*pillows/blankets to get cozy
*ipods/ipads with individual playlists and games


I found this fantastic road trip book a couple months ago and put it away for this trip.  It has activities and car games to help make the trip more interactive.  You could also get car bingo or other road-trip specific books/games for travel. 





And don't forget snacks!  I made bags for each day of travel that were clearly marked.  And yes, I'm keeping Day #2/#3 somewhere else since my kids are awesome but not super-human.  If they had all the snacks in a bag they would eat them!



For travel friendly car snacks I recommend:

-Apple Sauce
-Snack Bars (I'm all about fruit/nuts lately, protein for the win!)
-Gummy Bunnies
-Hard candies (they can take awhile to eat, careful with the smaller kids for choking hazards)
-Pretzels (less messy than crackers)
-Nuts
-Fruit Tape
-Jelly Beans
-clementines

And don't forget to pack in a separate cooler:

-Cheese Sticks
-Yogurt Sticks (freeze them first if possible)
-sandwiches
-juice boxes/water bottles
-cubed meat chunks
-apple slices

You get the idea.  The more you pack ahead the less junk you'll be tempted to buy at a random 7-11 with questionably clean restrooms and selections that only included beef jerky, cheese in a can or candy bars that are most likely expired.  Just saying.

Now I'm not a travel scrooge, we'll plan stops for Slurpee's and M&M's here and there, I just prefer that the snacks be more healthy and less $$ if possible.

I plan on putting the bags-oh-fun in their carseats the morning that we take off.  I'm excited to see their reactions but preparing myself for the inevitable "no fair she got _____".  Sigh.  

ETA: Guess what they were a hit and I didn't hear them say "no fair"!!  Hooray. 

For more travel trips check out:

Road Trips with Babies & Pre-Schoolers
Traveling with a Toddler - Airplane Activity Kits
Drugging Your Kids and Other Ways to Survive a Red Eye Flight
Disneyland with Small Children - Tips and Tricks