January 14, 2014

A Tiny Holiday Re-Cap

Such a fun holiday season this year!  We intentionally downsized on the gifts, we had more experiences together as a family, we spent lots of time enjoying each other and the awesome friends we've been blessed with.  It was good.  It was what it's supposed to be.  Christmas with less "hype" is the way to go, in my humble opinion.

We still kept the essentials in there.  Reading, "Twas the Night Before Christmas" on Christmas Eve...

Leaving cookies out for Santa -- and carrots for the reindeer!  Although, a new tradition we started this year was to leave out cookies made by Grammy Gale for Santa, since half the house can't have gluten anyway and baking seemed a stressful, pointless tradition to focus on!

I set a fancy table that would have made Martha proud, and Andrew made an amazing Christmas Eve dinner.  The best part was who we shared it with -- some of our neighbors who have become good friends to both us and our kiddos.

Oh, and there was a Christmas tree made of butter -- which really is the most important thing.  Fa la la la la!

We really downsized on gifts this year, too -- keeping the kids to a few presents from Santa, and just 4 gifts each from us.  We went the whole "something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read" route for their gifts from us -- and it was so much fun!

Want: Legos, Need: Snow Boots, Wear: Personalized Shirt, Read: Books - obviously!

The kids were happy with the downsizing and Andrew and I both have said it was one of our favorite holiday seasons in a long time.  Less stuff, more appreciation for each other.

Oh, and a puppy.  We got a puppy for Christmas!

His name is Archer, and he's absolutely adorable.  The kids are in love with him.  Sophie...not so much.

This was truly a fantastic Christmas season for our family -- hopefully for yours, too!

We're sad to see it go, but we are excited for the great things that 2014 is going to bring our way!

December 26, 2013

Medieval Times: Appropriate for Little Kids?

Our fam has done a trip to Medieval Times more than once in the past year, and the kids always have a blast!  I still remember the first time we went -- hunting around the web beforehand for other blog posts and stories of people's experiences at Medieval Times with small kids.  There wasn't much out there, as I recall, other than the obvious:  "Avoid the dungeon tour with little kids," or "Boy, it can be expensive!"  But, you know me, I wanted more.  And, since "more" isn't out there, when our local Medieval Times castle contacted me to see if I'd review their show on the blog, I jumped at the chance to attend another Medieval Times tournament with the kids and to revisit a topic that's been on my mind several times in the past -- how can families, on a budget, with small kids attend a show at Medieval Times and not break the bank?  And, what can parents with young children expect from a show at Medieval Times?

First off, some general notes.  There are lots of knights.  Stone statues, full iron armor displays, and the real thing.  (Side note:  This guy is amazing.  He's been the "host" of the tournament every time we've gone and he's captivating.  I asked Andrew last night if he thinks he walks around at home speaking like a medieval knight because he is SO convincing that he must practice a lot.)

The costumes are impressive.  Everything is so well executed at Medieval Times.  My kids always leave with their little imaginations filled with days worth of playing "knight school" or "kings and princesses."  They buy into it hook, line and sinker.  I love that.

The gist of the Medieval Times is simple, although carried out extravagantly in a way that really draws in audience members of all ages.  You're ushered into the castle of the king, who is hosting a jousting tournament.  You're seated in a colored section -- that's the color of the knight you cheer for.  There's a pretty princess.  You're served dinner.  The knights fight.  There's a villain thrown in for good measure.  Everyone rallies for the good of the kingdom.  Evil is defeated.  Everyone leaves happy, even if their knight didn't win the tournament.  It's a really well-thought-out plan, in my opinion.  

But, what should you know in advance if you're heading into your local castle with your little ones?  Here are a few things this mom has learned over a few trips into Medieval Times with my own kiddos.

Prepare for the hard sell.  Medieval Times is pricey.  I used to look at ticket prices and cringe, but having  been to an actual tournament or two, I'll say this -- you're paying for a fantastic theatrical performance, beautiful costumes, strikingly beautiful animals (and I hate horses normally,) paying the actors and who knows what else, as well as getting a four-course meal.  The part that's unexpected is the barrage of trinkets and photos that are peddled from the time you walk in the door.  There are multiple photo ops that cost money, there are people walking through the performance constantly with light-up roses or swords or tiaras, there are two separate gift shop areas -- my kids have the wantsies from the time they go in the door.  I've learned to prepare them in advance that we aren't buying anything. Something that's really helped us?  We buy glow swords at the dollar store before we go, then crack them and get them glowing when we get inside.  My kids don't seem to care what they're waving in the air -- as long as it lights up like everyone else's stuff!

You don't need to get there 90-minutes in advance.  It says to on the tickets, but just my opinion -- of all the times we've gone to Medieval Times, we've gotten there early and then sat around with very bored, antsy kids while people walked by trying to sell them stuff that lights up.  I'd say get there 45 minutes in advance, because if you're like me, you'll worry if you are running late.  Get there a little bit early, and even then, plan to have something for your kids to do.  This past time, mine played on my iPhone while we waited.  

Give your picky eaters a snack in advance.  The meal served at Medieval Times is kind of "grown up."  My kids are always hit-or-miss on what they will actually eat.  It comes with the ticket, so it's worth packaging up and taking home, but plan for your picky eaters to be freaked out by the castle fare and by digging into things like half a chicken or a BBQ rib with their bare hands.  We often package their chicken up, take it home, and use it in soup or chili the next day.  Score.

Get into it!  Cheering for your knight with your kids can be so much fun!  Mine love getting into cheering for their knight and boo-ing all the others!  Although I'm not sure of the science behind which knight wins each tournament, our server this past time told us that it's based on which section cheers the loudest!  So, just in case that's true, yell and have fun with your kids!  It's definitely easy to get caught up in the moment and cheer and have a great time with your family, so get ready!

If you've been meaning to check out Medieval Times with your little ones, they're having a fantastic event on New Year's Eve that may be worth planning for!

Admission includes all sorts of fun activities for kids -- from knight training to face painting to story time with the princess!  It's even an early showtime so you can still get your littles to bed on time and ring in 2014 on your own!

Overall, our family has always really enjoyed Medieval Times quite a bit!  AND, it bears mentioning that, on our most recent visit, we had a poor experience with one of the waitstaff and it was handled amazingly well by the manager who addressed our complaint.  There can easily be misunderstandings and confusion in loud, arena-based events...and seeing a member of the Medieval Times management quickly and fairly address our issue was huge for our family.  We truly felt valued as customers based on the way the issue was dealt with -- and situations like that always make me quick to tell people that a business is worth patronizing!  So, in addition to our previous good experiences at the Arundel Mills castle, I'll add that the management there really seems to care about making experiences memorable and enjoyable for families.  Go see them!

Hope these tips helped, and if you do check out the New Year's Eve event at your local Medieval Times, I'd love to hear about your experience!  

From our family to yours -- Merry Christmas and Happy 2014!

Disclosure: I received tickets for a Medieval Times show in exchange for posting a review of the show on this blog. I was not compensated for my review or opinion. I always give my honest opinions, feelings and beliefs about the products and places reviewed on this blog.

October 3, 2013

Oh, hi.

If I had a nickel for every time someone has mentioned my blog lately and I’ve sighed and said, “Yeah, I really need to start blogging again…”

I’d have enough nickels to –


Fill up Kennedy’s new pink piggy bank – her latest and greatest acquisition from our Saturday morning trips to the flea market. 


Buy all the non-red-hatted gnomes on all the post-summer clearance racks across the county and force them into being red-hatted gnomes and living in my garden.


Pay for Bennet to go to Driver’s Ed?  Kid is growing up way too fast.  Kindergarten, wanting to drive Daddy’s car, girlfriends at school?  Stop.  It.


Send poor Sophie to an actual groomer, instead of making her take a bath in Crayola Bath Color water with two loud children. 

(But, if you’ve met Sophie, you know she deserves it.)


Spend most mornings at Starbucks, drinking unsweetened iced passion tea and working hard! 

Oh wait…that last one is actually what I’ve been doing! 

With Bennet in Kindergarten full days and Kennedy doing so well in preschool, I’ve found lots of time to focus on freelancing again.  It’s amazing, but I am one busy bee these days! 

I fondly remember when the only thing I was actively writing was this blog.  I miss those days, and I miss those of you who have read along with me since I was pregnant with Bennet, as well as those of you who discovered my little corner of the world along the way.

Consider this my collective sigh. 

Yeah, I really need to start blogging again.

So, yet again, here goes nothing!

June 4, 2013

California Dreamin’.


Oh, hey, remember us?  Yeah, my babies are growing up.  I die.  They are way too adorable and smart for their own good.  We love them unimaginably. 

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus that stretched out way longer than I expected it to – nearly a year to be exact!

A few things in recent months have made me pause and consider breaking radio silence.  That time when all the Christians got hysterical over people (myself included) posting the gay rights “equal sign” as their Facebook profile photo, the complete heartache I felt when watching the news of the Boston Marathon bombing roll in, one of my fellow blogger-friends being torn apart on some critical website by a bunch of jerks (You are awesome, Hannah!), registering Bennet for Kindergarten, Kennedy’s first year of preschool, Bennet losing not one - but TWO teeth (with another one loose,) friends, love, heartbreak, lessons learned, my newfound love of gardening, this pastor who really pissed me off once at Starbucks when he showed up for a meeting wearing a really aggressive, judgemental anti-abortion shirt ---

But here’s what has inspired me to blog again.  Excitement.  The realization of my love of the grand, sunny state of California and how much of Andrew and I’s relationship was built around the west coast.


Eek! Who are these people? These young, care-free beings who thought that they were living busy, stressful lives?  True story --Andrew worked near Los Angeles for 2 years before we met, and that after we were dating for only a few months, he went back to CA for a field assignment.  I spent about a year visiting him every-other-weekend in what is, in MY humble opinion, the greatest state in the union.


Eek again.  I was so excited to see Britney’s star on the Walk of Fame.  For reals.


But really.  We toured, we sunned ourselves, we got to know each other --- all on a completely different coast.  Bliss.

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Memories that go back to before I even had a digital camera.  Hello, OLDNESS.

This being said, we’ve been blessed that Andrew’s job has allowed him lots of west coast travel again of late.  I’ve been able to go, and it’s been amazing to re-visit some of our old favorite haunts, as well as to find new places we love.



We traveled together not too long ago, and decided to visit our most favorite restaurant – The Lobster – in Santa Monica.


Such a romantic spot.  On the water, view of the Santa Monica pier, sunset, SIGH.

We’re headed out to the west coast next week – and when planning our last night in Los Angeles, we both agreed we HAD to do dinner again at the Lobster.

“Especially since, when I was single and living out there, I always said I wished I had a pretty girl to go on a romantic date with to the Lobster,” said my sweet hubby.

AND SO, friends, I’ll tell you this – almost a full year of radio silence from this gal, and what made me break it wasn’t my annoyance with humanity, or my cute freaking kiddos, or a story about the day-to-day in the ‘burbs.

It was love.  And sunshine.  And a coast that seems oh-so-far-away, but it always oh-so-close in our hearts. 

Oh, and my cute hubbs, who always seems to love me no matter what life throws at us.


So, I’m hoping to hop back on the blogging train.  But who knows…maybe I’ll see you next spring.

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