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!

For more Zion trip information check out 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

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Donut Mind If I Do




















We had a fantastic National Donut Day yesterday. Did you pick up any freebies?  I ended up buying a dozen donuts plus a package of donut holes to share with our friends.  Then we had a fun morning at the pool. Perfect!

But all this donut talk had me thinking about non-edible donuts and I found the best/funniest items.  I just had to share them with you.  



1. Kinda Care Kinda Donut by ThisIsMyYearGear on Etsy for $20. 
2. Printed Cactus Donut beach towel from Target.  Only $9.89!  
3. Donut Shopkins Pillow from Target.  My youngest would LOVE this! $19.99
4. Donut Give Up Tank by SuzySquats on Etsy for $23.99

Love those donuts!  I have got to get that awesome donut + cactus towel, perfect for Arizona.  

I'm going to try out some new gluten free donut recipes and will come back and post them soon.  This may be the summer of donuts!

Friday, June 2, 2017

National Donut Day

Happy National Donut Day!  Yes it's a thing, I promise.  I've even blogged about it in the past.  Today you can celebrate all the yummyness that is a fried dough with delicious toppings. Yes!


To be honest most of the donuts we eat these days are made at home from scratch, but a donut here and there won't do any harm.  Especially if they're FREE!

Where to get freebies today?  Why I'm glad you asked:
  • Dunkin' Donuts: free classic donut with any beverage purchase.
  • Fractured Prune: free OC Sand donut.
  • Krispy Kremeany free donut (not just the classic ones like every other day).
  • LaMar's Donuts: any free donut & a cup of coffee.  You'll need to bring a printed golden ticket to redeem the offer.
  • Rainbow Donuts: free donut with any beverage.
  • Desert Donuts: free donut with purchase.

Hooray for donuts!  Go get one or two and celebrate.  If you want to make your own try my easy (baked) recipes!



For more info on National Donut Day including the official history check out my entry from last year: National Donut Day 2016.