Travel

Greenville, South Carolina: Family Trip Recap

May 21, 2018

Traveling with kids can at times be a major ‘production’. Since my husband’s work requires a lot of travel, I always try to do my due diligence beforehand and make sure I have a sense of kid activities and excursions in the particular city we are visiting. This past week, we visited Greenville, South Carolina, where my husband participated in the BMW Charity Pro Am Golf Tournament. We’ve been to this charming, beautiful city a couple of times in the past for the same event, but since my kids are older, I wanted to explore some more age-appropriate activities in the area. If you’ve never been to Greenville, I HIGHLY recommend adding it to your list of possible family vacations. It’s such a unique, quaint town with so much character, amazing food, great boutique shops, and takes great pride in their involvement and presence of the arts.

Below are some of our favorite places and sights in and around Greenville:

  • The Children’s Museum of the Upstate. This is by far one of the best children’s museums, hands down! We LOVE this place. It has multiple hands-on galleries, water tables, elaborate indoor play apparatus, outdoor playground, amazing exhibits and classes catering to all ages. If you have kids and visiting Greenville, this is a must-do! Conveniently, it’s walking distance from downtown Greenville, as well.

  • The Greenville Zoo. Maybe it’s because the always-crowded Los Angeles Zoo is so massive, but I absolutely adore this tiny but awesome and charming zoo. The zoo can be navigated in under an hour, especially if you have kids like mine who sprint from one exhibit to the next. There’s also a great playground next to the parking lot.
  • Gravitopia. We have a few trampoline centers like Sky High in Los Angeles, but Gravitopia tops all of the ones I have visited, hands down! They have the best trampoline set ups, along with a Ninja Warrior area and a great trapeze area for adults and kids. My kids loved this place so much we went there twice.
  • Falls Park on the Reedy River. In my opinion, this is the gem of Greenville. My kids love walking on the expansion bridge and watching the falls…it’s a stunning view. Last year we went for a walk here on a Sunday and partook in some great family activities geared towards kids. 
  • Main Street. You can spend an entire afternoon just enjoying Main Street. From their awesome General Store, the toy store next door, Tupelo Honey (our favorite restaurant…their Fried Green Tomatoes are a must!), an impressive selection of ice cream shops and boutique stands, and their Saturday Farmers Market is top-notch. You can also catch some amazing sidewalk art.
  • The Park at the Greenville Downtown Airport. This is an awesome playground next to the tiny airport where the kids can watch small planes take off and land while playing. It offers a nice shaded area with tables for eating and it never seems to be very crowded. We have friends who live nearby and they always recommend meeting up here as it’s definitely the coolest playground for kids, especially those who love planes.
  • Soby’s and Larkin’s on the River. These are our favorite dinner restaurants that won’t disappoint. We’ve even had brunch on Mother’s Day one year at Larkin’s and their buffet spread was like a dream.

This town is full of Southern charm and has quickly become one of my favorite towns in the South. Though it’s great to be home, I’m sure going to missed those Cheese Grits and Fried Chicken! Until next year…

Birthdays

Train-Themed Birthday Party

May 2, 2018

When your child is obsessed with trains as much as mine, it doesn’t take much thought to decide the theme for his third birthday party. My little guy LOVES trains. He could watch Thomas The Train, videos of trains, and play with his toy trains all day, everyday. Thus, you can imagine how excited my son, Anders,  was when we threw him a train-themed birthday party.

As per usual, I used our beloved Polkatots to make his cupcake cake. (I prefer cupcake cakes for kid parties as they are soooooooo much easier for kids who have little patience in waiting for a cake to be sliced. Likewise, they make it more convenient for the adults.) Polkatots created a gorgeous train cupcake cake consisting of red velvet, vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry-flavored cupcakes. I use Polkatots for every party not only because they do a great job with the decorating, but because they are the best-tasting and most addictive cupcakes EVER! The only downside? I always eat way too many!


Other highlights from the party included a train piñata, a bouncy house combo blow up in the shape of a train station, and mini train rides. Since we only invited his 6 classmates, we found some great (and inexpensive) train sets to give to each child as a party favor.

Overall, it was a fantastic party and my newly-turned three-year old was over the moon! Let the “Terrific Three’s” begin!

 

 

 

 

 

Photos by Chasing Pleasures

Family

Interviewing Grandparents: Creating Ways To Remember Our Loved Ones & Preserve Our Family History

January 24, 2018


Today marks 19 years since my amazing grandfather passed away. He had a heart of gold, the warmest smile and a special twinkle in his eye. I have countless memories of helping him do farm chores, sneaking me lemon drops during church, and him and my grandma taking us camping in the summers. Lucky for me, my grandpa played a large role in my childhood thanks to being raised on a family farm in which my grandpa and dad farmed together. Because of this, I saw him nearly everyday for my first 18 years. My other grandpa, with whom I also shared a special bond, passed away last February. Neither passing was a shock, as both were sick in the months prior to their passings; nonetheless, it was still incredibly difficult. After all, your grandpa is such a special role in your life…often like a second dad.

One regret I have with my grandpa who passed away 19 years ago today is that I never interviewed him on camera nor made a video to be able to reflect back on and remember him by. (I’m sure if I hounded my relatives hard enough, I could track down the many VHS tapes they have with him and create my own video.) However, I only wish I could have asked him questions that I didn’t think to ask as an 18-year old, like “What were you like as a boy?” “What did you dream of becoming one day?” “Who were your heroes?” “If you could give your 20-year old self advice now looking back on your life, what would it be?”

Thankfully, six months before my second grandfather passed, I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to interview him on camera. It was a last-minute trip we had planned so the interview was very informal and casual. I used my iPhone with my kids noises in the background, my grandpa in his farm overalls (how I wanted him to look as that’s how I saw him 90% of the time), and sitting in his favorite chair. What I had anticipated taking under an hour with my 30 or so questions turned into a fascinating, two-day, beautiful, story-telling event. He shared so many stories (most of which I had never before heard), and went into great detail with his responses to my questions. It was truly a wonderful experience and a great final visit with him before his passing. I learned so much about him, his history, and our family history. The fact that I have all of it on camera is such a blessing.

After his death, my tech-savvy friend compiled and edited all of the questions and stories into a DVD. At the end of the video, we made a montage of photos of my grandfather through the years while his favorite song played in the background. I made 25 copies, bought some nice DVD cases, labeled them each with front covers of “An Interview With My Grandpa” and presented them to my grandmother, mother, brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles as Christmas gifts. It’s a great way to remember our grandfather and to show our children (when they’re older) not only what their great-grandfather was like, but also to educate them about their family history.

Here are some of the questions I used:

  1. Have you been told the story of the day you were born? What was your mom doing when she went into labor? Where were you born?
  2. Were you named after a family member or does your name have a special meaning?
  3. What were your grandparents like? Parents?
  4. What is the earliest memory you have?
  5. Was there a nickname that your siblings or friends called you growing up?
  6. What was your house like as a child?
  7. Did you have any pets? What were their names?
  8. What was your favorite subject in school? Favorite teacher?
  9. Who was the U.S. President you first remember being in office when you were growing up?
  10. What did you and your friends do for fun?
  11. What are some of your favorite family traditions you remember? How did you celebrate birthdays? What are your favorite Christmas memories?
  12. How would you describe yourself as a teenager? What were your hobbies? Favorite food? Games?
  13. Who were your heroes as a child?
  14. When did you learn how to drive? Who taught you?
  15. How did you meet grandma?
  16. How did you propose to grandma?
  17. What are some of your favorite memories from your wedding day? Who was your Best Man?
  18. What was your first car?
  19. Where have you traveled? Do you have a favorite family vacation memory?
  20. What are some of your favorite memories with your children?
  21. What could you tell me that I would be surprised to learn about you?
  22. What have been some of your greatest successes in life? Has your life unfolded in the way you thought it would?
  23. What advice would you give to your grandkids today in their 20s and 30s?
  24. What was the best advice you ever received and from who?
  25. What makes you happy?

These are just some of the questions I asked my grandfather, as many of the other questions were geared to him specifically. I highly advise to prepare beforehand as a little research goes a long way. Making a timeline of their life including important historical or news events, for instance, can be interesting additional insights. Try to include known family events on the timeline as well, (i.e. weddings, births, deaths, moves, etc.). Whether you choose to have it fancy and professionally done or more casual and homemade, either way it creates a priceless document for your family now and your children and their children in the future to know about where they came from. After all, it’s because of them we even exist today. In a world that seems to be focusing less about preserving one’s heritage and more about focusing on the “me” culture, it’s a nice and subtle way to teach our children about our own family history while honoring and remembering some very special grandpas and loved ones that we will never forget.

Recipes

Best Guilt-Free Kid & Adult Sandwich EVER

January 18, 2018

About ten years ago, I was on a work trip in Orlando for one of my former clients, Steve Jobs, and his family. Steve’s diet was very healthy and vegan, so I always tried to find the best vegan restaurants on the road for him. This particular trip, I found a restaurant with a great healthy kids menu, as well. (This was never the case in my experineces at the vegan restaurants I frequented.) One of the items on the menu was their Banana, Almond Butter, Marshmallow Cream Sandwich. I ordered it, tasted it, and my life would never again be the same. It was simply UNREAL! I was truly blown away…something so simple, healthy, and a combination I would have never thought up!

Since then, I have occasionally made the sandwich for both myself and my family. My youngest and my husband go CRAZY over it. (My hubby asks for it constantly.) It’s truly an awesome, fun weekend lunch item or snack for the whole family to enjoy. I’ve tweaked the way I’ve made it over the years, as I learned, for instance, it’s much better grilled than plain, and since I never had any marshmallow cream, I simply slightly melt the marshmallows to provide the same taste.

Here’s my version:

Angela’s Banana, Almond Butter & Marshmallow Grilled Sandwich

  • 1/2 of a Banana
  • Creamy Almond Butter
  • 1/4 cup of marshmallows
  • Earth Balance Coconut Spread (or Butter)
  • bread (I use gluten-free white bread from Trader Joe’s)

Spread the coconut spread (or butter) on one side of each slice of bread. Spread almond butter on the opposite sides. Place one slice down on a non-stick frying pan (coconut spread or butter side down). Place slices of banana on top of the almond butter. Next, sprinkle marshmallows on top of the sliced banana. (Optional: Drizzle a very small amount of honey on top.) Place the other slice of bread with the coconut spread facing upwards on top. Cover and cook on low to medium heat for a few minutes until the bottom slice of bread is darkened to your liking and flip. The marshmallows should slightly melt. It’s most tasty while warm! Enjoy!

Products

Swapping Out My Toxic Cosmetics

January 4, 2018


As I stated in my previous post, my main New Year’s Resolution from last year consisted of making our home as non-toxic and eco-friendly as possible. I swapped mattresses, cleaning products, personal care products, and most recently, I tackled my cosmetics. Yes, it was incredibly sad to say goodbye to my beloved mascara that added a whole new dimension to my lashes, and to my favorite lipstick that made my lips pop like no other. However, I’m happy to say that the transition has been better than I anticipated, as I’ve found some wonderful non-toxic alternatives.

On average, our bodies absorb seven pounds of makeup each year. This combined with the fact that the United States only bans 11 harmful and toxic ingredients in cosmetics, while Europe bans over 1,300, is very alarming! (A big thumbs up to you, Europe!) Clearly, if you’re an American, those seven pounds are most likely incredibly toxic. Sadly, the FDA, under current law, does NOT require cosmetics companies to perform safety assessments on their products. (Thank goodness for the EWG.org, an environmental organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, that conducts product toxicity-level testing and shares results with the general public.)

U.S. researchers report that a majority of the ingredients used in cosmetics and personal care products are mainly comprised of synthetic chemicals that are skin irritants, skin penetrators, endocrine disrupters and carcinogenic. I won’t go into detail about the specifics of these, but there are several websites that break down the toxic ingredients and how they are harmful to our health, like  safecosmetics.org.

Over the past six months, I have swapped most of my regular makeup products for natural versions. I’ve used the EWG.org website to check the toxicity levels of each product. (The EWG rates products from 0-10, with “0” being not toxic to “10” being highly toxic.) It’s been a bit of trial and error, but overall, I’m very happy with my current makeup products, especially knowing I’m not smearing harmful chemicals on my skin and into my bloodstream. Below are some of my favorite nontoxic makeup products…

 

  • W3LL People Bio Brightener Invisible Powder – I LOVE this stuff! You can find it on target.com or detoxmarket.com, (among other places). It has the best possible rating from the EWG with ZERO toxic or harmful ingredients. 
  • RMS “Un” Cover-up – This is my daily concealer/foundation. I apply it where needed and use the Bio Brightener directly after. It’s light-weight and effective, and RMS has a “1” rating at EWG. This can be found at The Detox Market, (although I’ve seen it at sephora.com and lots of other websites).
  • W3LL People Bio Bronzer Stick – I just purchased this and have only used it a couple of times, but so far, I am a fan. Like the Bio Brightener Powder, the bronzer also received the best rating at the EWG. I purchased mine at pharmaca.com. They also have this at detoxmarket.com.
  • Lily Lolo Mascara and Laid Bare Eye Palette – Even though they are not found on the EWG website (as they have yet to be tested), they seem to be wonderful products without any toxic ingredients. I buy mine at petitevour.com. (They also have these at several other websites…Petite Four is the cheapest I’ve come across.) 
  • bareMinerals Blush – The bareMinerals Blush and Primer both tested well at EWG with a “1” rating. (However, my former bareMinerals powder and brightener both scored poorly with a “7” and “4”-rating.) I’ve been using this blush for years and was pleasantly surprised that I could continue using it with the good EWG rating.
  • Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream – This cream is incredibly light-weight and works as a great primer. I use the tinted option and absolutely LOVE the way it looks and feels. I buy this at petitevour.com.
  • Kjaer Weis – I’ve tried their eye shadow and mascara and love them. Kjaer Weis is truly one of the more luxurious organic makeup lines out there. They are a bit pricey, but well worth the extra $. Sadly, they have not been tested by the EWG, but I’m hoping they do soon! I buy mine at integritybotanicals.com.
  • Skin Owl Eye+ – This is another product of which I am a huge fan (and sadly, it too isn’t on the EWG but hopefully soon). It’s a nourishing and youth stimulating eye concentrate that I apply every morning and evening under my eyes. I buy mine at The Detox Market (detoxmarket.com) or biggiestore.com.

Please let me know if you have found a healthy makeup line that you love. I’m always game for trying out new products, particularly those rated on the EWG or highly recommended by a place like the Detox Market who takes great pride in ONLY promoting and selling completely non-toxic, safe products. It’s impossible to avoid every single synthetic chemical, but you can do your part in limiting the amount of toxins your body is exposed to. I highly recommend checking out the https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/#.Wk5xrCOZNE4 to research toxic chemicals that could be in your cosmetic and personal care products. And if you happen to live in Europe, lucky you!

 

 

Products

Our Search For A Non Toxic, Organic Mattress

November 29, 2017

One of my New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of the year was to make our home as non toxic and eco-friendly as possible. I admit it. I’m a sucker for those articles that pop up on your Yahoo! homepage that scare the living daylights out of you by discussing the typical toxicity levels of homes and the impact of this on our health. Though I am a big believer of everything in moderation, I wanted to start this non-toxic reboot mission in an area that we would perhaps benefit from the most. For me, a good night of sleep is one of my top priorities. Thus, first on my plan of attack? New mattresses.

Let me preface this by saying, I do not claim to be an expert in the mattress field. Nor do I intend to make this seem like a research paper. The information below is merely brief summaries of what I’ve learned in the last six months of reading online and talking to countless mattress companies.

First off, I found it to be down right scary learning about conventional mattresses (including ALL of the mattresses we had in our home). Most conventional mattresses are made of toxic materials and chemicals like petroleum-based polyester, formaldehyde, polyurethane, flame retardant chemicals like boric acid, and typically covered in PVC vinyl. Essentially, this means your mattress is releasing toxic fumes over time that not only you breathe in to cause allergies, long-term diseases, and respiratory problems, but they can also get into our body tissues. (They’ve even been known to show up in pregnant women’s placental tissue!) No bueno!

I literally spent six months researching and testing mattresses before narrowing our option down to the one we eventually chose. I educated myself about the many different kinds of mattresses, what to look for in finding an organic and non-toxic option, which materials and chemicals to steer away from, which certifications are best and what they mean, and like with any big purchase, we read TONS of reviews. After all, we spend a third of our lives on our bed…why not take your time and ensure you’re making the best decision, right?

In terms of our needs and wants, we decided the following were most important to us:

  • Organic, eco-friendly
  • Comfort level
  • Natural latex (as it is much better for your body long-term compared to a coil mattress)
  • Meets certifications (i.e. GOLS, GOTS, GreenGuard, certiPUR, etc.)

The below mattress companies are those that met our ‘green’ and healthy criteria. All are awesome companies that offer mattresses made of natural latex, organic wool, and/or organic cotton, AND they’re all made in the USA.:) It’s important to know that the reason these beds do not need to use fire retardant chemicals is because of their organic wool material. Wool acts as a natural fire retardant. (The second great thing about wool is that it also works as a heat regulator. It helps keep you cool when it’s warm and warm when it’s cold.)

  • Nest Bedding
  • Plushbeds
  • Zenhaven
  • Sleep On Latex
  • White Lotus
  • Brentwood – (Note: The Ojai Mattress is their only coil-free mattress option.)

Runner Up: Avocado Mattress. I LOVE this company, however, the only reason we did not test out their mattress was simply because they do not offer coil-free mattresses. They have pocketed support coils rather than open coils, which is good, but nonetheless, we wanted coil-free. If coils aren’t an issue for you, this is a great company!

OUR WINNER:  Nest Bedding!


We ended up going with their Q3 Mattress and the BKB mattresses for our children. Here are some of the main reasons why we chose Nest and what makes their mattresses so amazing:

  • CERTIFICATIONS. The Q3 Latex is both GOLS and GOTS certified. (Nest only uses materials that have a third party certification whether it’s foam or latex.)
  • COMFORT. Both the Q3 Latex and BKB mattresses are incredibly comfortable! Upon our first time lying on a Q3 in the showroom, my hubby and I looked at each and simultaneously said, “This is the one.”
  • AFFORDABILITY. Both mattresses were very affordable for organic, non toxic mattresses with proper certifications. The BKB mattress starts at $299 and Q3 starts at $999. (Note: We did choose the Alexander Signature Cooling Topper to go on top of our Q3 which runs at $159.)
  • SHOWROOMS. They have a showroom here in Los Angeles (along with ten other cities around the country) which made testing out the mattress easy and convenient.
  • ALLERGY OPTIONS. Nest provides the option to have an Oeko Tex certified blended latex mattress for those with latex allergies.
  • FAMILY OWNED. Being factory direct and family owned, you can get higher quality for less than major brands with better warranties and better service.

I’m happy to report that after a month of use, we are still in love with our Nest Q3 Mattress. We’ve been getting some of our best sleep ever! It has met and surpassed all of our expectations, and we highly recommend it as a fantastic option for a high quality, affordable, non toxic, organic mattress.

Birthdays

Mini Golf Birthday Party: Look Who Turned Fooooooore!

November 3, 2017

I knew it was bound to happen. I knew a golf-themed birthday party would be in my future, I just didn’t know it would be this soon. My husband, who is a scratch golfer, has a love for golf that I knew eventually would be passed down to at least one of our kids. (I play golf as well, and I enjoy it…however, I don’t watch the Golf Channel around the clock and spend my time at the gas pump practicing my golf swing with an imaginary golf club. Yes, my hubby does this and yes, he gets a lot of strange looks.) Our son AJ LOVES golf, especially mini golf. When asked what he wanted to do for his 4th birthday party, without an ounce of hesitation, he shouted, “a mini golf party!” 

We rented a 9-hole portable mini golf course which was set up at our golf club. It was the heavy-duty wood-framed holes with lots of different colorful obstacles on each (i.e. windmills, mazes, etc.). There aren’t too many companies that have portable mini golf courses like these in the Los Angeles area so it took me a while to locate one. Most companies have the flimsy, thin boards that have poor reviews or the kind that use your own grass and simply provide a border for a hole. I found this one from Party Pals. It looked adorable, especially with a sea of preschool-age kids in their little polo shirts and khaki shorts with colorful golf balls and clubs.

The kids had a blast! There were many kids that had never before played mini golf, but soon became hooked. They were incredibly excited to be able to go home and continue practicing as the party favors consisted of their own personalized putters from Noochie Golf and Mabel’s Labels. They also received two kid golf balls and a Stephen Joseph pencil box to keep their pencils and score cards.

We used Polkatots Cupcakes again for the cupcake cake which turned out AMAZING! Not only are they the most delicious cupcakes on the planet, but they did a remarkable job with the golf theme. 
Overall, it was an incredible par-tee with lots of fun had by all. Our little golfer was super-excited to share his love for golf with his family and close friends on his special day. His 4th birthday was one foooore the books!

Motherhood

Weaning Our 2-Year Old: The Process That Worked For Us

October 26, 2017

It’s official. After two and a half years, we are DONE breastfeeding! Woo-hoo! (Or from my son’s point of view, “Boo-hoo!”) I remember thinking last spring that I never thought this day would come, as he didn’t show any signs of slowing down. I swear…my milk must have tasted like a strawberry or oreo milkshake to him. You could sway a lollipop, cookie, or his favorite strawberry cupcake in front of him and he would choose my “milks” over all of it every time. And I didn’t mind. I LOVED breastfeeding. I am a huge advocate for it not only for the amazing nutrients it provides your baby, but also for the bonding element. The sweet bond you get to experience never gets old. Even after two and a half years, I loved every moment of it. Sure, at times I thought, boy wouldn’t it be nice to have my boobs back? But I knew this moment of my child being little only lasts such a short while, and I wanted to let him nurse as long as he wanted. One of my favorite nursing quotes by Marni Jackson reads, “Breastfeeding is an unsentimental metaphor for how love works, in a way. You don’t decide how much and how deeply to love – you respond to the beloved, and give with joy exactly as much as they want.” This quote couldn’t resonate more perfectly to me.

Sadly, due to the fact that I needed to start a major detox (from living in black mold) that is unsafe for nursing mamas, I needed to have Anders weaned by an actual date (September 1st). Since we knew I had to be finished nursing by then, we decided to schedule our first no-kids-vacation at the same time. Thus, the pressure was on!

When I started the weaning process, I had no clue where to start. My first-born weaned himself at 15-months. (I was also six-months pregnant at the time so I’m guessing the taste and flavor must have changed a bit which probably was a major factor in the self-weaning process.) The seemingly daunting task of weaning a two-and-a-half-year old (who was nursing four or more times a day) was a bit overwhelming at first. I called friends for advice, among them my go-to guru for all-things-babies-and-toddlers, Nanny Connie. (She is AH-MAZING…I’ve learned so much from this lady! You can pick up some great tips on her Instagram at @nannyconnie or nannyconnie.com). Obviously there’s no one-size-fits-all for the weaning process, especially when you’re dealing with toddlers, but what we did, worked! We basically listened to friends’ advice, completed our own research, and based on knowing our own child, we created our own process of weaning. Here’s what worked for us:

For two weeks, I stuck firm with the following…

  • I fed him more snacks in-between meals and was sure to offer him liquids more frequently.
  • My husband put the boys to bed, (instead of both of us), so Anders wouldn’t have the option to be nursed to sleep.
  • I changed up his daily routine a bit so he wouldn’t expect to nurse during his normal feeding times.
  • When I did nurse, I shortened the amount of time by half.
  • After the two weeks, I went for two days straight of not allowing him to nurse at all. I refrained from pumping during those two days as well.
  • On the third day, I pumped all my milk out, (a HUGE hallelujah moment!) and placed cabbage leaves on my breasts to absorb the little milk that came back.

Shockingly, this worked like a charm. He didn’t experience hardly any of the emotional behaviors that I had read so much about. We took our trip on the following day (after pumping all my milk out), and I was officially done with nursing. I wore cabbage leaves during our long flight to Tahiti, and once we landed in Bora Bora, I was milk-free and pain-free. It was truly a pleasant surprise. And equally shocking, Anders did just fine while we were away. When we arrived back home ten days later, however, it was a bit of a different story. He definitely tugged at the shirt and asked for his “milks,” but I stayed firm on not allowing it. He tried relentlessly for a couple of days, and has even tried a few times since, but thankfully, all of that is lessening. When you wean at this age, it’s definitely not something they soon forget! It’s a natural tendency, and they certainly remember how soothing it is for them.

I never knew how long I would breastfeed my babies when they were born. I simply hoped I was going to be able to breastfeed, and once I could, my goal was to breastfeed for a year. Two and a half years for my second son was far longer than I ever thought I would breastfeed. I’m grateful I was able to do it as long as I did considering I know how much he needed and loved it. I miss it more than I thought I would, yet at the same time, it is pretty darn nice to have my boobs back! Best of luck to all of you weaning mamas…no matter the age, it’s still a daunting and bittersweet process that requires some tough navigation.

 

 

 

Travel

Bora Bora Vacation Recap

October 23, 2017

After four years, we finally did it. We took a husband/wife trip without kids! For a year, we had tried planning a kid-free trip to nearby places like Palm Springs, San Diego, and San Francisco. For whatever reason, (usually my husband’s work schedule), none ever materialized. After an insanely busy summer on top of being out of our home due to water damage/renovations, my husband and I decided to pull the trigger. “If we’re going to do this, let’s commit to it and just go big,” I said. “Otherwise, it’s never going to happen.” I had always wanted to show my husband my all-time favorite island destination, Bora Bora, which I had visited a few times before for work. (Not too shabby work, huh?!) I’ve raved about my favorite Polynesian paradise for years…how “nothing compares to it,” and “when you’re there, you feel like your surrounding is fake,” and “it’s too beautiful to be real.” After showing photo after photo and acting as though I was a sales representative for the Bora Bora Board of Tourism, my husband gave me the thumbs up. Thus, we went online, put our saved up airline miles to good use, and booked our adult getaway to the “Pearl of the South Pacific.” Bora Bora, here we come!

When I had previously experienced Bora Bora for work, I visited some lovely resorts. I stayed at the Intercontinental, Sofitel, and my favorite property was what is now the newly renovated Conrad Bora Bora Nui Resort. However, I had heard and read so many amazing things about the Four Seasons Bora Bora. After doing our own research and finding a deal, we decided to give it a try.

To provide an overview of the hotel, Four Seasons Bora Bora is perhaps one of the most picturesque spots on the island. The location is phenomenal. The resort is surrounded by white sand islets on an outer coral reef harboring the most gorgeous color of turquoise lagoon. And as if that isn’t enough, the backdrop is the absolute best views of Mt. Otemanu. (It’s seriously the most gorgeous views EVER!) Talk about some major beauty-sensory-overload! It consists of 300 over-water-bungalows and ten beachfront villas. The resort’s sprawling property includes a spa, lagoon sanctuary, infinity pool, fitness center, tennis courts, four restaurants, and a chapel.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • SPA – The spa is FABULOUS! We enjoyed a couples polynesian massage in the spa suite which was divine. The massage tables are situated over a glass window in the floor so you can admire the large amounts of fish in the lagoon while you lay on your stomach. The suite has its own charming soaking tub with flowers, coconut oils, and fresh fruit.

 

  • FOOD – The four restaurants offered a great diversity of lunch and dinner options. Our favorite was the beach restaurant with live entertainment. The elegant French restaurant was excellent, as was the sushi restaurant. Our favorite dining experience, however, consisted of simply ordering room service on our private deck in our bungalow at sunset…it was by far the most romantic and picture-perfect setting for a private dining experience.

    Overwater bungalow room service dinner on our deck…

  • ACTIVITIES – Despite wanting to mostly relax, we did venture off to do some activities. We ended up booking the Vitamin Sea Catamaran which was a must-do! We also rented jet skis off property and had a great time on the 2-hour tour around the island, which included a stop to wade in the water and a second stop to learn how to open a coconut. We loved it so much that we ended up doing the tour twice. We also went into town to dine at the notorious Bloody Mary’s, shop, and enjoy chatting with the locals. The boat transfers to the main island were a bit on the pricey side, but it’s pretty much the only way to get there.

 

  • STAFF –  The staff were so welcoming and lovely. The staff didn’t just know our names, but every person we saw who walked by a staff member would be greeted by name. How they memorized all of us, I have no idea but it was mighty impressive! The attention to detail in the rooms was quite special. Each day, we came back to our room with a different ‘surprise.’ Whether it was an already-drawn bubble bath with petals and champagne, or a plate of delicious sweets and fruit at our bedside, the little details were very memorable. A big, heartfelt “maururu” to the staff for making our experience so magical.

 

  • OVERWATER BUNGALOWS – The famous straw-roof luxury huts on stilts in the middle of the most beautiful lagoon are just as amazing as they sound. To be able to fall asleep with the sound of waves beneath you -even on the windy nights with the crashing waves- is so soothing. The private decks enable you to jump into the ocean around your bungalow and admire the colorful fish and sea life underneath.

Overall, it was truly an unforgettable, magnificent experience. Our mission to spend quality time together, recover and rejuvenate from our summer, and create some beautiful memories in such a special place was accomplished. It truly exceeded all of our expectations and then some. We HIGHLY recommend a Bora Bora vacation, hands down. I didn’t do any scuba diving on this particular trip, but I have in all of my previous trips to Bora Bora. To date, it has been my most favorite scuba diving destination with the vibrant colors and amazing variety of sea life. If you can stay a while and are able to travel around, I would definitely suggest visiting Moorea and a day in Papeete (the downtown market is a must-do!), both of which I’ve visited on my previous work trips. I have also visited Rotorua and Huahine which were also memorable. (Huahine has some great vanilla bean fields…I love me some vanilla beans so I greatly advise to order vanilla bean-flavored desserts in Tahiti as they are the real deal! Best Vanilla Bean Ice Cream on the planet!) A few of the friends we made on our vacation visited The Brando on Tetiaroa and said it was unbelievable. I have never been but it sounds exceptional! Even though Bora Bora is a hike for those in the Midwest and East coast, I would still highly recommend this Tahitian paradise…(especially considering the Zika scare in other tropical destinations). It’s truly a magical place that you will create some beautiful memories with your loved one.


 

Photos by Sadry Ghacir and myself






 

 

Birthdays Products

2nd Birthday “Rock” Party

October 20, 2017

After fixing some website issues, I am finally back up and running! HOORAY! With that said, I am now able to post some of my saved posts from the last six months. I’m starting out with my favorite…Anders’ 2nd Birthday “Rock” Party!

I don’t know what it is about rocks, but my Anders is OBSESSED! Small, big, rough, smooth, ugly, pretty…it doesn’t matter what they look like, he loves them all! Thus, when I was trying to figure out a theme for his 2nd birthday, I asked my husband, “Why don’t we throw him a rock party?” I knew it sounded strange, but I couldn’t imagine him loving anything more than a party centered around his passion for rocks.

Since the party-goers consisted of his fellow two-year old music class pals and their siblings, we kept the rock activities very little-kid-friendly. We had large bins filled with cereal in the shape of small pebbles/rocks and provided small shovels to scoop the ‘rocks’ into little dump trucks and buckets. We also had a rock painting table which seemed to be the favorite among the older siblings. In lieu of gifts, we asked everyone to bring a cool rock. The actual invitation read, “In place of gifts, please bring a rock of any shape, size or color. Whether it’s from your backyard or off the side of the road, anything will do!” Needless to say, Anders LOVED his new rock additions to his collection. Some of the gifted rocks were quite impressive! He received some awesome geodes, a large rock with his name painted on top, and one that was bedazzled. Who knew an actual rock party involving rock-gift-giving could be so cool?!

A big thank you to our photographer Ashley Burns for the awesome photos! And thank you to Stephen Joseph Gifts and Hape Toys for the great party favors, as well as our beloved Polkatots for the AMAZING cupcake cake (with edible rocks)! And I can’t forget my son AJ who helped his mama decorate the night before and make the Oreo dirt cups…he loved putting the gummy worms and mini dump trucks on top of the “dirt” topping. This party theme truly “rocked.”:)

Pics below by Ashley Burns.

 

Our simple table decorations of cheap work hats, cones and Hape dump trucks.

 

Our lovely street-table runner made out of construction paper.

 

Our party favors were these adorable Stephen Joseph activity books and pull-string backpacks. Dump truck-theme for the boys and a pink garden/owl-theme for the girls.

 

Polkatots never disappoints! How awesome is this dump truck cupcake cake with edible rocks?!?

 

Rock painting table.

 

The pebble/rock table (i.e. Cheerios and the healthy version of Cocoa Puffs) with small scoops.

 

Our awesome Oreo ‘Dirt’ Cups, which was one of my personal favorites as a kid. AJ took great pride in decorating them with the worms and dump trucks.

 

Dessert table consisting of Polkatots cupcake cake, two cakes (red velvet and strawberry), and “dirt” pudding cups.