Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Baseball Parade

Here is what I like about Darien...It has that small town feel.  This year, Trey marched in the Baseball Parade for the Tigers.  We all met at the High School and walked over to McGuane Field where they had a small ceremony and threw the first pitch of the season.  Here were some of the shots I got that day.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

KF's Birthday Bash!

My oldest, just had her birthday party this weekend.  She doesn't officially turn 9 until June, but we always try to get the party in before school ends.  This year, we had it at the local bakery.  The kids had a great time decorating sugar cookies and making groovy boxes to put the cookies into.

The birthday girl was so excited... and her brothers were too...

The  party was very fun and very messy.  I was thrilled to not be hosting this at my house as there was icing and sprinkles all over the floor (and the kids).

After making bags and cookies, the kids entertained themselves until pick-up by making their own dance party.  KF actually did her ENTIRE Irish dance for the party.  The hubs and I just watched and  laughed!

The following pictures are by far my favorite shots of the day.  I saved the best for last...This friend of KF's, who is known as the "Woman of Wonder"...was sporting the more-is-more look  with her bracelets and I loved it.


New Years Resolution-- The Third Row Part 4

We're on the final portion of the quest for the third row...thank god.

This weekend, as requested, The hubs took me back to the Chevy dealership to look at the Tahoe and Traverse.

The Tahoe is essentially a suburban, just smaller.  I know that is probably obvious to everyone else, but I didn't realize that was the case (did I mention, I am not a car girl).  There are a lot of features that I liked about the suburban, but the car was just too big.  So, the Tahoe has those same "likes" and it's smaller.  The biggest plus is they have a push button that lowers the middle seat.  So, a child of any age in the third row can get out easily.  This is a huge plus for me and it's the only car (besides the flex) that offers this.  Ric likes the gauges a lot because they are simple and straightforward.  This car is equivalent in size to the Sequoia, which is tops of my list, but the price is lower.  Frankly, the design is not quite as polished as the sequoia in my's a little more American, but it is a great kid car.
Chevy Traverse
GMC Arcadia

We took a look at the Traverse while be were there and I was able to rule it out.  Size wise it is along the same lines as a Highlander or Mercedes GL...but I really want a car to seat 8.  They happened to have a GMC Arcadia on the lot too.  Now, here is where I became completely confused-- GMC and Chevy are owned by the same parent company and they have built two cars (the traverse and the arcada) which look exactly the same.  Please tell me why? The Arcadia was also a little flashy and Chrome-y which is not my thing.  I was told that the Buick Enclave is also this same, I am pulling it off my list for now.

A friend asked why I wanted a car to seat eight, and I have a couple of reasons.  For starters, we get lots of company and it's always 2 or more.  When my friend Anna and her three kids come-- we can all fit, when my Mom and sister come-- we can fit with a little room.  The second reason, is due in part to this area-- most Dads are at work in NYC.  So, carpooling is essential among the moms.  If I didn't carpool with other mom's my kids wouldn't be able to do the activities they do.  The more kids I can carry in the carpool, the less frequently I have to run carpool. Make sense?

One last thing.  We got a call and our Toyota dealership got in an amazon green Land Cruiser that is 8 months old.  Ric and I took a look.  As you may recall, we haven't been able to look at one of these before...apparently, there is a lot of demand and I'm told they ship most of these cars to the middle east.  Anyway, we went over to have a look. This car is definitely more in line with the Lexus.  The inside is gorgeous, the leather is beautiful, the dash is functional, and the ride is tighter and nicer.  But there are three things I don't love
  1. The hitchback doesn't have a push-button close.  Not a deal breaker, but it is something I like.  Go ahead and call me spoiled.
  2. The center console is a cool box.  Frankly, my kids have been fine without cold water up until now and I'm not sure I want to get them used to that.  Not to mention, it not big enough to hold 8 waters-- so, if you have a full house in the better stick with go-cups from inside.  I do understand, that I can turn the "cool" feature off and use it like a regular center console, but the space is much smaller because of the electrics involved.
  3. The third row is definitely the hardest to get out of.  Side lever only...ugh.
But, the car is priced better than the Sequoia, has a better resale value and is a touch smaller while still seating 8-- which I like.  What to do?

At this point here are my tops
  1. Toyota Sequoia
  2. Toyota Land Cruiser
  3. Chevy Tahoe

 And what's left? The Mazda Cx-9!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fitness Challenge Complete

For the past ten weeks, I have taken part in a fitness challenge.  Truth be told, it was a challenge that  I initiated.  It started with about 12 friends, and with a little fall-out as the weeks wore on, it ended with 10 gals.  I initiated the challenge because my friends are important motivators in my life.  We are always talking about what diets work, which exercise programs are best (bar, pilates, running, etc), what snacks are most satisfying, and what's the best skinny girl drink.

The challenge was point based.  Points were given for tracking, keeping goals (staying under calories, drinking more water, doing more strength training) for exercising, and for losing pounds. Most of us used a fitness app.  I used Myfitnesspal which was better than expected.  I connected with several of the girls on the challenge and I'll admit, I felt the stress when I saw them logging exercise and I hadn't done any.

I guess the hardest part was the time commitment.  I drop J off at school at 12:30-- So, by the time I got home, did an hour workout and showered, I scarcely had time to fit in an errand before it was time to get my big kids off the bus and head back over to preschool.  This took a major toll on my "friend time".  I often felt that I was rushing and not being my usual chatty self because I was trying to fit it all in.

In all, I lost 9 pounds-- which was thrilling.  Especially since this got me 90% of the way to one of my goals for 2012.  I'll be honest, I've put two back on, but with another fitness challenge in the work (Thanks Fiona), I think I should be able to meet that goal by summer.

I forgot to mention that I got 3rd place!  The winners, Fiona and Chrissy put up an excellent challenge-- but, the serious competitors were every bit as challenging. Honestly, while I am happy to have placed, I am just happier that my pants are feeling a little loser and my body a little firmer!

Here is the funny part-- now, my kids (and their friends) want me to make them their own fitness challenge and blog.  Their goals are slightly different (1)Exercise (2) eat vegetables (3) go to sleep on time.  I think I'd like to see a little competition in all those areas!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Made it Myself Monday-- Party Favors

This is the first year that we have settled on a smaller party for KF.  We picked a party at the bakery for 12 girls.  KF and I decided it was best to invite just class friends and then branch out if we got any "regrets".  At the party, the girls embellish special hobo bags and then decorate sugar cookies to go inside.  The theme is loosely Peace, Love, and Happiness.  I've been sitting on pink chef hats for years-- I bought them at the target dollar spot and never used them.  So, I knew these would be part of the goodie bag.  But then, I found the cutest lunch squares in bubble gum pink with cheetah handles and I knew they would be perfect.

Since the crowd was small, I decided to monogram the 12 bags.  I went to bed last night worried that I wouldn't get them done, but Voila(!), here they are.  I completely buckled down this afternoon (no phone, no tv, no music) and got them all done and packaged.  Pretty cute--if I do say so.

What has been your best goodie bag booty?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Disney-- Hollywood Studios

Our third day was spent at Hollywood Studios.  Should I mention now, that we didn't do a ton of planning pre-disney, but pretty much crammed each night?  Hollywood Studios had my all-time favorite ride and my kids were the perfect age for this park. Like always, we had an enormous breakfast, then snacked until late afternoon, then had an early dinner. Upon arrival, R went straight to Toy Story Mania to get us fast passes. Apparently, if you don't get fast passes early, then you end up getting a 7pm or later slot (which is bedtime for us). We covered a lot of ground here, and fit most of our to-do list in...the Light Camera Action show got cancelled due to lightning and we skipped the Studio Backlot Tour because of tired kids. Here is what we did manage:
  1. Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
  2. Jedi Training
  3. Star Tours --  I would have done this 10 times and so would the kids! (we ended up doing it twice)
  4. Honey I Shrunk the kids playground
  5. Muppet vision in 3D
  6. The great Movie Ride...yawn
  7. Toy Story Mania
  8. Voyage of the Little Mermaid-- the boys did not want to do this

Indiana Jones was full of stunts and the kids were amazed and a bit timid.  They loved the action, the fire, but they all wanted to know HOW the stunts were actually done-- which isn't explained.

Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground was cute, but with three running in different direction, I had no idea where they were and if they were safe. So, this was a little nutty. Thankfully, there is only one entrance/exit -- so they can't go far. If you go here, bring quarters for Pizza Planet (the arcade/pizza place in Toy Story), which is nearby.

Toy Story Mania was lots of fun and has a reputation of being the most coveted ride in all the parks, but I think this is due in part to the small capacity.  Personally, I think my three liked the buzz ride at Magic Kingdom just as much.

Star Tours took the cake. My boys are HUGE Star Wars fans, which is funny since I am SO not.  However, I will say that Star Tours was the best ride of the trip. There are 50 different combinations...So, you can ride again and again and it's never the same. Sit in the center back seat and you'll be the "enemy."  Afterwards, we made our own light sabers (SO AWESOME) and we had the picture made that you see here. R and I cannot figure out why Disney doesn't do more with Star Wars...It's clearly a favorite among most.

Dinner was at the Sci-Fi diner.  You sit in these vintage cars and watch old sci-fi (soft) horror movies.  The food was mediocre, but the kids enjoyed themselves.  The odd thing is that you don't face one another-- like a car, you face straight ahead.  Maybe this isn't such a bad thing after an entire day at Disney.  But due to the three factor, one kid did have to sit solo :(

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Disney-- Magic Kingdom

Our second day in Disney was spent at the Magic Kingdom.  This was the first year that we have gone to Disney that KF wasn't obsessed with the princesses -- taking that out of the equation, we were able to do everything we wanted and leave the park by 5pm.  Last time we came, MK took us 1 1/2 days!

ADVENTURELAND was so much fun.  The kids loved all the things we did here.  My sister-in-law turned us on to the Dole-Whip at Aloha Isle (a key west style kiosk) -- and it's not to be missed.  Dole Whip is a yummy frozen yogurt that is half pineapple half vanilla -- and ridiculously good.  In Adventureland we did...
  1. Pirates of the Caribbean
  2. Swiss Family Robinson -- my kids love this movie (watch it before you go to Disney)
  3. Jungle Cruise -- be prepared for lots of corny jokes.  J was a little nervous as he thought the crocs were real

FRONTIERLAND has a lot of scarier rides.  Thunder Mountain Railway was closed, but had it been open we would have definitely ridden it. We hit the Haunted Mansion: KF and J were terrified, but Chomps was not as much.  He kept asking how they made the effects (typical), while KF actually believed they were real. Splash Mountain was fun and loved by all, but J never would have gone had he known which ride we were boarding. Country Bear Jamboree and Tom Sawyer Island were two "if we have time" options -- and at the end, they didn't make the cut.  Here is what we did...
  1. The Haunted Mansion
  2. Splash Mountain

FANTASYLAND is great for the pre-school set.  So, while J loved it, my other two were all yawns.  Peter Pan's flight was in the plans, but the wait never dipped below 40 minutes-- we were watching it on our "Disney wait time app" -- no I am not kidding. Winnie the Pooh, Goofini were not even in the cards and Snow White is officially gone. Here is what we did...
  1.  It's a Small World
  2. Mickeys Philharmagic

TOMMOROWLAND was awesome and all three will agree they loved both adventures here.  On the speedway, KF went solo because the cars only accommodate two, but she was fine with that, but I was a little sad!  If the gas fumes don't make you nauseous, your child's driving certainly will. Space Mountain is located here, but none of my three love roller coasters -- so, we passed!  Here is what we did...
  1. Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
  2. Tomorrowland Speedway

The Magic Kingdom does not have much in the way of good food.  So, we opted to do a BIG breakfast at the hotel, and then we snacked all day on the goodies they sent with us. We had the DOLE WHIP for a snack and then we left early for a yummier dinner off-property.  If you gotta eat, Casey's Hot Dogs is a solid option and is located at the end of Main Street.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Disney-- Epcot

Our first day in Disney was spent at Epcot.  This was our first time at Epcot. Since we were driving up from Naples, we spent only a half day here. Epcot is split into two different areas...Future World and World Showcase.

We started in Future World.  We had a reservation for lunch at San Angel Inn -- which was surprisingly yummy.  After a tequila flight for R (at lunch!) and a margarita for me, we were ready to tackle our first day at Disney. The kids loved the volcano in the restaurant.

Test Track pavillion was unfortunately closed, but here is what we did...
  1. Spaceship Earth
  2. Soarin' -- not to be missed!
  3. Club Cool -- cokes from around the world -- the kids loved this and voted Japanese coke #1...Ric loved the orange-flavored coke (forgot the name) from Germany
  4. The Seas with Nemo and Friends 
  5. The Seas saltwater aquaruium
  6. Gran Fiesta Boat Tour
At Epcot, they had most of the Disney characters available for photos and autographs.  While my older two had less interest, Jackson couldn't hide his enthusiasm.  While the fam waited in a short line, I ran outside and bought J an Autograph book.  Tackling this at Epcot was a great decision as the lines were MUCH longer at the other parks and not all the characters were available in one convenient area.

On we went to World Showcase.  KF is currently OBSESSED with Japan and was like a "horse to the barn" in her mission. We quickly passed fish & chips in England, wine...sniff sniff.. in France, and lager in Germany. BUT, Japan was worth it! While the architecture in these "countries" is quaintly stereotypical, most are just filled with large retail areas that can by nightmarish with kids. KF selected a himitsu-bako box and a lucky gold cat with his paw raised (which, btw, had a sticker on the bottom that said "made in china"..ha ha).  Japan's department store, Mitsukoshi, had an enormous table of bakugans that had my boys salivating, and they also had an impressive selection of kimonos, fans, and Japanese foods. KF could have gone CRAZY! 

The world portion was definitely fun and we didn't have nearly enough time. I know this would be at the top of my kid's "must-do" list when we return. The area offers cuisine, history and architecture of almost a dozen countries. The gardens are extraordinary. But, lets be honest,  this area revolves mostly around retail. So, next time around, I will let the kids bring their own "spend" money or set a limit. Otherwise, it could get out of control. Perhaps R should set a limit for me too -- those silk kimonos were to die for :)