Showing posts with label family time. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family time. Show all posts

6 Things to Know Before Seeing Avengers: Infinity War

Friday, April 27, 2018

I will admit one of the reasons I've been hesitant to write about movies, especially blockbusters, is because of spoilers. How can we really talk about something if we can’t really talk about it? 

If I have to avoid every major and minor plot and subplot, can I still call this a review? Also, in this day and age, what defines a spoiler? When we are discussing something that has already been a book or a comic book, are we actually spoiling anything? The comics have been out for decades (the first Captain America is from 1941!) so many people have had an idea where the Marvel movies have been heading.  

L-R: Peter Parker, Tony Stark, Drax, Peter Quill, Mantis
Is there a statute of limitations on how long we should wait to talk about something as high profile as the Avengers? What's an appropriate wait time? Opening weekend? The following Tuesday? A full week? Social media makes it hard to avoid discussion, but should the early birds be forced to contain their excitement or move to secret rooms and private messages so as not to inconvenience everyone else? 

For instance, there’s a moment in the film that’s really personal for me. It has nothing to do with the plot. It’s more about the relationship between two of the characters. But, if I mention it, will I be giving what amounts to an unexpectedly tender moment away? Or, because it’s personal to me, will anybody else even notice it? Aren't the post-credit scenes kind of spoilers, in a way? I'm not a die-hard fan, but we've been waiting 10 years for this to come together. Secrets are going to be hard to keep.

With that in mind, I’ll give the standard read this at your own risk disclaimer. Thanos demands silence so I have no intention of giving anything away, but your definition of a spoiler might be different than mine. 

Drink At Your Own Peril 

At 2 hours and 29 minutes, this is a long movie. You might want to think carefully about your beverage consumption. I’ve been trying to think of a point in the movie where it might be appropriate to take a potty break, but I can’t really think of one. I asked my husband and he couldn’t think of anything either. Geek Dad has an idea that seems pretty safe. If you choose to go with this recommended moment, I think you should still handle your business quickly (same spoiler warning applies). Drink responsibly or be prepared to hold it. 

Binge Watch to Get Current 

If you’re one of the people who has not caught up on the Marvel Universe, or has only seen select films, this movie isn’t for you. Infinity War brings many plot lines together and if you don’t know the cast of characters you will be lost. CNet put out a thorough guide to watching all the Marvel properties (including TV shows), and in what order, to be current before seeing Infinity War. WaPo also had a really good Marvel movie timeline, broken down by character. 

You Won't Get Lost

L-R: Dr. Strange, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Wong
There are so. many. people. in this movie. I thought it would be confusing, or feel like the actors were jockeying for screen time, but it's fine. One of the screenwriters, Christopher Markus, said Infinity War is "not one long scene with thirty-five people in it." I agree. Maybe precisely because it's a long movie, I didn't feel any of the dialogue was forced.

Wakanda Forever 

While it’s really cool to see the different worlds collide and characters meet for the first time, I think I was most excited about being back in Wakanda. Leticia Wright's Shuri has, in my opinion, one of the best lines in the movie. Black Panther was so deep, I'm still totally in my feelings about it. The film bounces around to lots of locations, but I like Wakanda the best.

Buy Your Second Showing Now 

As with a few of the other 18 movies in this franchise, Infinity War is a bit of a roller coaster. We missed some of the dialogue in the film due to crowd reaction. We’ve already decided we need to see it again. Mostly because it's a good movie but hopefully to catch what we missed. 

Take Your Kids, Or Don't

One thing I read in a lot of comment sections and Facebook threads is parents asking, "can I take my kids?" Honestly? I have no idea. Now that I have a teenager, I'm no longer a good judge as to what is kid appropriate. I see children of all ages at these movies, despite the PG-13 rating. If your kids have seen all the others in the Marvel franchise, have seen Star Wars films (the new ones), read and watched everything Harry Potter; I'd say this is fine. But, you know your kid best.

Overall, Infinity War is a good movie. It lives up to the hype and it's a good addition to the franchise. Come back here after you've seen it. I really want to to talk about it! 

Disclosure: I was gifted with tickets to see the movie prior to its public release. All opinions are my own. Photo credit to Marvel Studios. Avengers: Infinity War opens Friday, April 27th. This post may contain affiliate links.

San Diego Staycation at the Rancho Bernardo Inn

Friday, November 18, 2016

I have a confession to make: my husband and I haven't gone away on vacation together since the early 2000's.

I know. I know.

It's entirely our fault. We didn't make getting away a priority. When Tyler was little, he would spend a week with his grandmothers, which, let's be honest, felt like a vacation even though Phil and I stayed at home.

Now, our travel is 95% related to Tyler's sports. For tournaments and games we've been up and down California, to Arizona and Lake Tahoe; and this year we add Las Vegas. But these trips can hardly be counted as getaways. The presence of smelly hockey gear is not remotely romantic.

You'd think, living in a city like San Diego, staycations would be a no brainer. There are so many things to do here! We have many distinct neighborhoods, miles of some of the best beaches in the US, mountains and deserts. It's ridiculously easy to find something to do no matter what your vacation style. For us to not take advantage of the awesome things our city offers is kinda ridiculous.
Photo credit Tonya Staab
So, it was a nice surprise when I found out I'd been chosen as Innfluencer for the Rancho Bernardo Inn. I applied on the fly and promptly forgot about it. When the email came with the available dates for our stay; I knew exactly what to do: surprise anniversary staycation!
Even though I do little things for Phil like buying his favorite ice creams, making sure he always has gum in his car and buying salt water taffy when I'm at a specific store; it's rare that I get to make a grandiose gesture like this one and treat him to something like this.

Hopefully, our stay at The Inn has exposed Phil to how nice mini getaways can be and he'll be more open to them in the future.
If you've never been to San Diego, the Rancho Bernardo Inn is a resort in the northern inland corridor between Escondido and Poway. It's tucked away in the community so that, if you didn't live there, you'd pass right by. The grounds are beautiful and the resort has plenty of things to keep you occupied like the 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, spa facilities and four dining options.
Photo credit Tonya Staab
If you've known me for awhile you know I love to read. I also think it's important to get kids to read. The fact that The Inn has a Little Free Library was really touching. I brought three books, left them when we checked in and two were gone the next day!
Photo credit Tonya Staab
We got to the hotel and had just enough time to check out the amenities in our room and wander the grounds before our dinner reservation at Veranda. Since we were early for dinner, we decided to catch the last of Happy Hour at Avant, the bar upstairs. They have live music several nights a week.
Photo credit Tonya Staab
We had a lovely dinner and it was nice to take our time and "catch up" with each other. We decided to hit the jacuzzi before bed and when we got back to the room, the hotel had left us a bottle of wine and a charcuterie tray.

Like most people who have been married as long as we have, we watched the news, continued our conversation from dinner and went to sleep.
Photo credit Tonya Staab
Early the next morning, we left the cozy hotel bed because Tyler had a game. Yes, yes, I know. What can I say? We love watching him play. Even though the room had a Keurig, we grabbed coffees and pastry from the cafe (which has a cute little gift shop filled with locally made products). After the game, one of Tyler's teammates was nice enough to take him back to their house so we could go back to the hotel for the breakfast that was included with our package. Sundays call for mimosas, right?
As part of our hotel package, the Eat, Drink and Be Merry, we had tasting room tickets to local wineries and breweries. After we checked out, we planned the rest of our afternoon around the football schedule. Since I don't drink wine or beer, guess whose husband got to bring a buddy? Just keeping my Wife of the Year title secure!

We visited three breweries: Iron Fist, Lost Abbey and Mother Earth. If you're visiting San Diego and book this package, you'll definitely need access to a car or service like Uber as the breweries are not close to the hotel.

If you or someone you know is planning a trip to America's Finest City, consider the Rancho Bernardo Inn resort! 

If you'd like to read about another package option, my blogging friend Maryann and her family stayed at The Inn earlier this summer and took advantage of the Family Fun Package. If you want to see what our overnight looked like in 'real time' I posted a few other photos on Instagram.

Thank you to The Inn for hosting us as part of their #Innfluencer campaign and to Tonya for her photography!


Disney Social Media Moms Celebration 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

Remember when I said I was ready to get back into social media? Well I jumped in with both feet and RSVP'd for my first conference in more than a year. This week, my family and I are in Orlando where I'm attending the Disney Social Media Moms conference.

Disney Social Media Moms 2013 Celebration

This year is the fourth time Disney World has hosted about 200 bloggers and their families at the resort. The invite-only conference put together by Disney's marketing and social media teams, is a chance for families to experience deluxe resorts, park hopper tickets, behind the scenes looks at new attractions, premier swag and giveaways and great food from the Disney chefs at incredibly reduced prices. It's a hybrid of a conference, press junket and vacation.

At the conference we have an opportunity to hear from various Disney execs and departments and hear about the new developments within the parks and other Disney departments like cruise lines, Interactive (gaming and multimedia), social good and Disney Destinations. During the day, we bloggers listen to motivational speakers and business execs to learn about marketing, writing, promotion, branding and social media while our families run around the parks. At night, we're all treated to things like fine dining, character appearances and entertainment. 

At the 2010 event, Ann Foster, Director of Disney Destinations, said in her presentation that we only have 18 summers with our kids. That really stuck with me. Tyler will be 11 this year so half our summers are gone! I love that, when he looks back on his childhood, he'll have so many memories of our time here. This year will be extra special because we surprised him by inviting his best friend and family to come along with us. Disney truly knows how to put on an event and this conference never fails to disappoint. I'm incredibly blessed to be attending for the third time.

If you want to follow along with this year's discussion you can connect with Disney Social Media Moms in several ways:

Eventifier  (not sure how long this link will be live)
Twitter Search #DisneySMMoms 
5 Minutes for Mom Disney Social Media Moms attendee blog link up

Official Twitter handles:

Disclosure: While Disney is the official host of the conference, we are not attending as sponsored (hosted) guests. All opinions are my own.

Disney California Adventure at Night: Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December 2012

Our Ojai Weekend Getaway | Family Travel in Southern California

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I apologize for being a bad blogger and not taking enough pictures for this post.

Last weekend we went up to Ojai, an inland city north of Ventura and east of Santa Barbara. My brother's wife's family lives there and the wedding and reception were held there. Judging by the traffic and signs along the road, there were quite a few other weddings that weekend. I'm sure with all of the valleys and orchards there are probably some really pretty locations.

We stayed at the Hummingbird Inn from Friday to Sunday. The Inn is on Ojai's main road and is easy to get to from the 101 and 33 freeways. We liked staying there and would do so again. The Hummingbird Inn is an older hotel and it shows a bit in the outside but they started a remodel a few years ago and the touches they put in are nice.

We chose a room with a king bed over a room with two queens. We brought a twin sized air mattress for Tyler and there was plenty of room for it to the right of the bed (all of the roll-aways were reserved) . The room had a small closet but plenty of drawer space. We loved having a fridge and microwave. The room didn't feel cramped with three of us in it. I would have liked more space at the sink for getting ready, but if we had been there for an occasion other than a wedding it wouldn't have been as big of deal because I'm sure I wouldn't have been putting on a full face and doing my hair. It might be a tight squeeze for two women sharing the room.

The pool area was really cute but the pool wasn't heated. Since Ojai can get really hot in the summer, I guess they don't really need to heat it, but Tyler said it was a little cold. The jacuzzi was perfect at night. There was a bit of a chill in the air which is typical for that area at the base of the mountains.

Our favorite part of the stay was breakfast. The hotel puts out a full spread in the lobby. This isn't just coffee and dry cereal (though they do have that, too). They have a cast iron waffle maker and orange press! Tyler loved making his own waffle and squeezing his own orange juice. Ojai is known for its citrus so the oranges were fresh and super sweet. It was the best OJ I've ever had. If we ever go back, I'll make sure I have a bottle of champagne for mimosas. The breakfast spread also included toast, bagels, oatmeal, yogurt, peanut butter, a jar of Nutella and an assortment of tea.

My other favorite perk was the WiFi and the computer in the lobby. The morning of the wedding, me, my brother, our grandmother and our mom were making revisions to the wedding ceremony script. I monopolized the entire tech setup transferring files between their computer, my laptop and iPad. It was a lot less stressful having access to another computer. The hotel staff was cool with me taking it over and didn't complain about all the paper we used formatting the script.

Because we were there for an event, we didn't get to explore the center of town. Phil and Tyler took a walk up the main street. Ojai Avenue has a coffee shop, bakery, movie theater, lots of women's clothes, art and furniture stores and restaurants. I also noticed a small park with a playground.

Friday evening we had the rehearsal dinner at Boccali's, an Italian restaurant at the end of town. We had a long table outside and ordered from a set menu. I was a little worried because of the reviews I'd read, but the dinner went off without a hitch. The food came out on time, people didn't have to wait long for beer or wine and everyone enjoyed their meal. I had the lasagna and ate all but a few bites it was so good.

The restaurant describes their signature dessert, strawberry shortcake, as world famous. I agree. Tyler, my father and I split one dish and I wished I had ordered one just for me. It was fantastic. The drive up to Ojai leads you through Oxnard, home of the Strawberry Festival (which was this past weekend 5/19 and 5/20). Oxnard berries are better than any other California grown berry (in my opinion) and the fruit in Boccali's shortcake was the perfect mix of sweet and tart.

I can't say for sure that we would go back to Ojai again. If we were more outdoorsy I think we would have had a great time. The Hummingbird Inn has beach cruisers that are free for guests to use. There are plenty of bike trails, lots of hiking and Lake Casitas is not too far away from the center of town. I think we would all have enjoyed nearby Santa Barbara or even Ventura as a getaway. If you visit, July might be the best time to visit because the annual Ojai Wine Festival and the Ojai Music Festival are both held then. But, Ojai is definitely cute and picturesque and since my new extended family lives there, I'm sure I'll get to know the area even better and come to love it.

Disney Social Media Moms Celebration 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

"This is the best family vacation ever!" We heard those words several times during our second trip to Disney World. I don't know how they did it, but the team behind Disney Social Media Moms managed to outdo themselves from our first trip two years ago. The team that puts this event together really pay attention to every detail. They manage to find the perfect balance of learning, fun and 'soft pitches' from the different areas of Disney.

If you're wondering what the conference is all about, Suzanna from Zannaland wrote a very thorough description of what the event is all about. In a nutshell, the conference is an invite-only event designed to bring together bloggers from different genres for a combination of junket, motivational speakers and social media education. It's hard to recap eight days of fun without completely Disney-fying my blog so, for this post at least, I'll stick to the highlights of the conference itself.

Thursday, Conference Day 1
Since we were in Orlando so early because of the redeye flight, we had our first buffet at Cape May Cafe and then we walked around our hotel. The pool at the Yacht Club Resort is by far the best of the four hotels we've stayed in. The conference opened with a cocktail reception for the attendees. We learned about Disney's newest resort in Hawaii, Aulani and the Adventures By Disney program. After the reception we went to a dinner party.

One of the best things about attending this conference is how well our families are included. The Yacht Club which has its own beach, and dinner was buffet style. The pirate themed dinner was on the sand. I have to say, it's great to go to a conference where you aren't required to wear shoes! The kids had a blast playing the water and the sun setting over the hotels was beautiful. It was such a nice way to start saying hello to everyone attending.

(credit: 5 Minutes for Mom)

Friday, Conference Day 2
We always get an early start on the speakers so we can enjoy the parks before all meeting again for dinner. We had a great lineup of speakers: Amy Jo Martin, Peter Shankman, Chris Brogan, Ramon De Leon and San Diegan Lisa Druxman. It's great to go to an event that is equal parts practical takeaway and motivation. I connected with so much of what Amy Jo said, namely, that I've been approaching so many aspects of social media as a business entirely wrong! I have a lot to think about.

The dinner event was a private party in DinoLand. The park was closed to guests and the kids had free run of the arcade games. I'm still kicking myself that I did not know Expedition Everest (the best coaster in Disney World) was open for us to ride. A DJ was onsite as well as a few characters for photos.

When we got back to the hotel, we decided to hang out at the pool and give Tyler time to burn off some of the energy (and sugar) from the dinner party. Having cocktails in the jacuzzi while your child plays in the lazy river is a fantastic way to end the day.

Saturday, Conference Day 3
This was the day some conference attendees chose their breakout session. I heard so many good things about the Wild Africa Trek I didn't hesitate to sign up. I was a little sad to miss the hard hat tour of the new Fantasyland (it's going to be amazing!) and the session on video blogging from Sony. But, I can honestly say the Trek was one of the best things I've ever done on vacation.

On the tour, participants are strapped into harnesses with carabiners. We're hooked onto a central line and we got to stand about 10 feet above the hippo pool and the crocodile nest. Then we crossed over the crocs and hippos on a rope bridge. After that, we took a guided tour through the Savannah. We stopped for a bento style lunch and the views were incredible. If we go back to Disney, we're going to really make an effort to keep room in the budget for this. Tyler would love it! 

All the families met again for the closing party. We got to take a sneak peek at Disney's newest resort, Art of Animation. It was amazing! The property is divided by theme and we got to see the Finding Nemo property. All I could say, repeatedly, was Wow! The building is beautiful. It's bright and colorful. There's fantastic artwork, the arcade was top notch and the pool! Stunning. It was the perfect setting to end the weekend.

Thank you to all of the Social Media Moms organizers! We had a great time.

*I'll have all my photos up on Flickr soon. We paid a fee to attend DSMM and were offered various discounts, experiences and perks. I have not been asked to write about the conference or Disney. Thoughts and opinions are purely my own.

Live From Disney World

Friday, April 27, 2012

I'm in Orlando for my second Disney Social Media Moms conference. It's been a bit of a whirlwind and it's only our second day.

We took a redeye Wednesday night. I'm still trying to figure out if it was a good idea. Our idea was to have dinner, get on the plane, go to sleep and wake up in Orlando. A medical emergency on the plane changed that plan a little. Thankfully the person is OK. But it made for a really long day.

Yesterday we walked Epcot for a few hours and then met up with the rest of the conference for dinner on the beach in front of the Yacht Club. After dinner we let Tyler go back into the lazy river while we had cocktails in the jacuzzi. It was a great day and perfect evening. Until.

Phil accidentally dropped my phone in the jacuzzi. Now, since I've had a smartphone, I've become somewhat of an addict. I'm very overprotective of my tech. Kudos to the ladies at the bell desk for getting a bowl of dried rice up to our room within minutes. They must have seen the distress on my face. The phone is still in the rice. I'll let you know how it turns out.

I like attending this conference because it's different from some of the others I go to. We've had two fantastic speakers talking more about personal branding, purpose and passion than working with products. It's refreshing.

Yesterday was Take Your Child to Work Day. Sometimes I wonder if Tyler understands what I do and that it's more than playing on the internet. On the way here, he said, "thank you for being a blogger so we can go to Disney."


I love that kid.

*Disney is providing fantastic meals and entertainment during the conference.

It's Official, I Am A Hockey Widow

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

So, here's the latest development. Now, in addition to worrying that my son will get hurt on the ice, I have to worry about my husband too. Hockey has almost completely taken over our house. Why couldn't they want to take yoga?!

Such A Tease

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Phil and Tyler tease each other all the time. Phil has a sarcastic sense of humor, and Tyler can't always tell when Phil is joking. He makes himself a really easy target sometimes.

Tyler: When we get home is it my bedtime?

Phil: Yes

Me: No, it's Saturday of a holiday weekend I figured you'd both be up all night playing video games.

Tyler: Yeah dad, we're supposed to stay up doing father son things. We're supposed to relate to each other and tell each other our feelings.

Phil: Well then, I feel like it's going to be your bedtime.

One of these days, Tyler will catch on and be able to give as well he gets.

Our Son Got To Meet His Favorite Author: DJ MacHale

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

This definitely falls under First World problems. Lately, we have to stay on Tyler about reading too much. Not the quantity, more like how late he stays up at night to do it. This kid is flying through books. Most recently, he fell in love with the Pendragon series by DJ MacHale. Combined, the 10-book series has just over 4500 pages. He read them all in about  2 1/2 months.

To say we are incredibly proud is an understatement. But. Our son floats through life as though time doesn't pertain to him (is that true for most kids?). We tell him it's time to go to bed, and that he can read until his bedtime, which is 9:00. If we don't follow up, he'll keep on reading. I admit, we've started watching a movie and forgot all about him until we go to bed ourselves.

Since this is one of the only problems we have with Tyler, we usually let it slide. He's a good kid, and reading until 11:30 on a school night is no big deal in the grand scheme of things. So, a few weeks ago when I saw a posting on MacHale's website that he would be signing books locally, I decided to surprise Tyler and take him to the book store.

When we got there, he saw the poster outside with MacHale's photo promoting his newest book.

"Hey, that's the guy who wrote the books I'm reading."

"I know. He's inside. We're going to buy that new book and he'll sign it for you."

Tyler's eyes got so big. "I get to meet him?"

"Yep. You can ask questions, too."

We bought the book and waited for the author to come out. He was so nice to all the kids. He asked them questions, posed for pictures and hinted at new projects he's working on. Tyler was in heaven.

We couldn't stay long because we were on the way to hockey practice, but Tyler was in heaven. He was one of the youngest kids there something MacHale pointed out after he asked Tyler his age. He assumed Tyler was in 6th grade and was surprised that he'd only recently turned 9. We could tell Tyler was proud of himself when MacHale said Tyler was one of the youngest readers (of his works) that he'd met.

Tyler and his favorite author
I really hope we get to do something like this again. We definitely don't have a problem getting Tyler to read, but having him meet the people behind the words he reads I know will make a really lasting impression and reinforce that reading is fun.

Have your kids been able to meet any of their idols?

Arguing on Christmas Eve

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I spent part of my Christmas Eve arguing with my mom and Gramma. My mom got a gift that she ended up not wanting. Someone re-gifted to her some cheese, meat and chocolates. I'm not sure what she thought she was getting but they told her it was a gift basket and she took it. When she got it home and opened the box, well, she was less than impressed.

She tried to pass it off to me and I declined. The two of them were discussing whether there were any parties they could take the food to when I said, "why don't we give it to a homeless person?" They both agreed it was an excellent idea. "Great, I'll get a zipper bag to put it all in."

They looked at me as though I'd sprouted another arm.

"You can't do that."

"That's tacky.

"You can't give someone a gift in a zipper bag."

"But. They're homeless."

"So? That doesn't matter.

"It's Christmas."

"OK. So, how am I supposed to hand someone this giant box through the car window?" And how are they going to carry the box around?"

That stumped them a bit. We went around some more with me still in favor of simplicity and they in favor of gift wrapping.

Coffee mug added for scale
"Are you really arguing with me on how we're going to give a homeless person something neither of you want?"

"Well, when you put it that way..."

We finally settled on putting all of the food in zipper bags and then using one of the gift bags Mom had in her stash (also something she didn't want).

We put the gift bag in the car and headed out for last minute shopping at Target. On the way there, all the homeless people we saw were on the opposite side of the street. But, when we were leaving, there was a man standing right in the median.

I started to hand the bag to my mom and she shook her head slightly.

"No, not him."

"Why not? He's not homeless enough for you?"

I couldn't believe we were going to end up bringing the food back home after all the fuss. But, mom remembered she needed something for a recipe and while I ran into the grocery store, she and Gramma drove across to the other parking lot and found someone who met their (obviously) very strict Homelessness Guidelines and gave the food to him.

Next time, I think I'll just take the re-gift and handle things my way.

Sprinkles La Jolla : San Diego Staycation

Monday, September 26, 2011

Since my I Am A Yes Mom project was in full swing this past summer, when I got an email from a local PR firm about an event at the famous cupcakery, Sprinkles, of course I told Tyler we could go.

The event was for Orlando Hudson to raise awareness of his Autism foundation, C.A.T.C.H. We go to Padre games occasionally. Tyler's favorite player is not on the team anymore so I thought it would be fun for him to meet another player, especially a black man using his position with a sports team for good.

As cool as it was to go to Sprinkles for the first time and meet Orlando, I was way more excited that we got to say hello to Candace! Cupcake Wars is one of my guilty pleasures.

San Diego Padre Orlando Hudson
Sprinkles owner and creator Candace Nelson
We had a fun afternoon. Things like this are definitely a perk of blogging. Who have you had an opportunity to meet because of social media and blogging?

More photos from the Sprinkles event on Flickr

Fun With Space Mountain Pt 3 | Wordless Wednesday

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Disneyland March 2011

Meet Amara the Cheeta | Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Amara from the San Diego Zoofari Park

Lemons Into Lemonade

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A few days ago I got a really fun invitation in my email. It was for a press event this morning to see a new cheetah exhibit. It started super early so I made Tyler's breakfast last night and had it in his lunchbox in the fridge so he could eat in the car on the way. He didn't wake up very well so we were late getting out the door. Naturally, there was early commuter traffic. I took a chance and drove the coastal route more than halfway there which allowed us to make great time.

Except, the event wasn't at the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park, it was at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido. In my defense, though the two sites are no where near each other, the Zoo Safari Park used to be named the Wild Animal Park. We haven't been to either in ages and I haven't wrapped my head around the name change yet. I felt like such an idiot and said as much when I emailed the PR contact to tell her what I'd done. Next time, I really need to read the *entire* email!

I wanted to make it up to Tyler somehow and he loves going to the military base to look at the planes and tanks. Since we were in the lower part of San Diego I took him to the Flying Leatherneck Museum.

We ended up having a nice morning. It was a good way to fix my colossal screwup though I'm sure he would have much rather had his picture taken with a cheetah. 

So I don't feel so alone, please tell me if you've screwed up the way I did?
How did you end up making lemonade?

If you're into military planes check out my Flying Leatherneck Museum Flickr set

Road Tripping, Someday

Monday, June 27, 2011

"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move."                                     Robert Louis Stevenson

We have friends from Alaska visiting us in a few weeks. They are renting an RV in San Francisco and heading to Disneyland, Joshua Tree and Carlsbad Caverns. With three children under 10. They will be our litmus test. Phil has been wanting to rent an RV for awhile. Since I don't camp, this would be the best compromise.

When my family moved here from Illinois, we drove. We stopped at the Grand Canyon, the meteor hole in Arizona and the Petrified Forest. I was a little younger than Tyler. I don't remember all of the trip but I do remember having a good time. I played my handheld video games that were the size of a hardback book, read, napped and stared out the window. I love those memories.

I know it sounds cheesy, but we really want to get out and see our great nation. Aside from that trip across the US, I don't think I've set foot in more than 10 states. Tyler has only been to two. That's just sad. We want him to see Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier National Park, lightning bugs, see what a real fireworks show looks like, snow falling from the sky and the places he sees on the History Channel.

Travel is something I took for granted. I thought I had plenty of time to do it "when I got older." I had friends who took a family vacation every year. I thought that was the greatest thing ever and wished my family were the same. I missed out on the high school trip to Spain and I still kick myself for it. I don't want Tyler to wish we'd taken him more places.

We're trying to find room in our budget to set aside money for travel. We're starting small with a day trip to Catalina. If all goes as planned we'll be taking our first international trip in two years, two months (not that I'm counting). 

So, Alaska friends, if you're reading this (hi!) please keep in mind that your vacation is setting the tone for my future family outings. If things don't go well, don't tell me, tell Phil. 

How do you fit in family travel? What's the best vacation you've taken together?


This is the last in a series of sponsored posts from Safeway Dairy and National Dairy Month. You have a few more days to play at for a chance at a trip to a national park of your choice including airfare, accommodations, transportation, a picnic basket and a $200 gift card. Sweepstakes ends on 6/30/2011.

Calling All Campers | A Little Help?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My husband comes from a big family. He has cousins, aunts and uncles I haven't met yet and we've known each other almost half our lives. Every summer, a whole group of them come here to San Diego and camp at a beach near our house. They've been doing it for years (I was pregnant the first time I met them out for dinner). Tyler and I spend the every day with them. Their visit is something we look forward to and plan around every year.

But. I don't camp. I don't like tents. I don't like sleeping on the ground. Phil's family has an amazing setup they have perfected over the years. They make the whole outdoor living thing look easy.

The whole campsite is this organized
Occasionally, I've been tempted to change my mind and spend the night. Then the sand in my butt starts to itch and I happily pack up and head home for the night. Well, I may have to suck it up because this year, Phil reserved a space for us too.
Phil and Tyler and the remains of the moat the kids played in all week
We have a tent and that's about it. So, I need all your frugal camping suggestions. What foods should I buy? How should we cook said food without a grill? I have no clue what I'm doing. Help?

Mexican Lasagne (or Burrito Casserole) | A Crockpot Win

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Because of Tyler's hockey schedule, I have no choice but to dust off the crockpot and get organized with meal planning. We're out until odd hours and when we get back home everyone is starving, especially Tyler.

Last night I decided to try a recipe on Stephanie's A Year of Slow Cooking. I like Mexican food and I was able to do this almost entirely with things I had on hand. I modified Stephanie's recipe because I wanted it to be even more of a one pot meal. I also cut the recipe about in half. We're not that good with leftovers and so many crockpot recipes make huge portions. Phil re-named my version Mexican Lasagna. Below is Stephanie's recipe with my notations after.

1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (4-ounce) can roasted green chiles, undrained
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
8 flour or brown rice tortillas (brown rice tortillas are GF; read packing carefully)
4 cups cooked pinto beans (three 15-ounce cans, drained)
4 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese

Optional garnishes: sour cream, sliced avocado, etc.

Use a 4-quart slow cooker. If you only have a large one, that's okay--but reduce cooking time a few hours.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, chiles, and spices.

Put a layer of tortillas into the bottom of your cooker---you may need to tear them a bit to get good coverage. Add a scoop of the onion/tomato mixture and layer on a healthy spoonful of beans and then a layer of cheese. Repeat layers until you've run out of ingredients. Top with a healthy dose of cheese.

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours (if using a 6-quart, do 3 to 4 hours on low, then let it click over to warm--there's nothing really to cook--you're just heating thoroughly and getting the cheese to get that yummy crust).

My Changes
I did not use an onion, pepper or green chilies. I only used one can of tomatoes (because all of us don't care for whole tomato). They were Mexican style with onions and chiles, the store brand equivalent of Rotel. 

I used two 15 ounce cans of beans and partially drained one (to make up for the missing liquid from the second can of tomatoes). I only used 4 tortillas. My crockpot is just the size for Mission's medium soft taco size tortillas. The tortillas were just barely too big. I did use a lot of cheese, but maybe only three cups of shredded taco seasoned cheese. 

Now for my biggest changes: I bought one 6 ounce package of Tyson grilled chicken strips and two packages of Lipton Fiesta Sides Taco Rice. I made both packets according to directions but cut the water to 3 cups. I diced the chicken into pretty small pieces.

I layered the ingredients: tomato, rice, beans, chicken, cheese. The top was tortilla to keep the moisture in. Since the rice and chicken were already cooked, I only had this in the crockpot on low for an hour just to warm it through. I didn't use all the prepared rice in my dish. There's about 1 1/2 cups leftover. I still think I'd make two packages; using only one would make the meal skimpy unless I doubled the chicken.

Please excuse my lack of food photography skills
The results: we loved it. I cut it into four really good sized triangles and served everyone a wedge. Tyler could barely finish. This is very filling! The only change I'll make when I prepare this again is to add some salt. The brand of tomatoes I used made the dish sweeter than I like Mexican food to be.

If you're in need of crockpot inspiration, definitely take a look at Stephanie's site. I've had good luck with her recipes. Which food site do you have good luck with?

Fun with Space Mountain Pt 2 | Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Disneyland March 2011

Fun with Space Mountain | Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Disneyland, March 2011
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