Products

The Cutest Personalized Gift Wrap

April 28, 2016

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I just wanted to share a new awesome find that I am absolutely in LOVE with! Recently, I was introduced to Stardust Prints at the Los Angeles SpringFest a couple of weeks ago. They had used a photo of my boys from my Instagram and gave me a roll of their personalized gift wrapping paper. Since then, I have ordered several more as they have some ADORABLE themes. (I’m beyond excited to utilize them for Christmas!)

Here’s how it works. Simply, log on to their website at stardustprints.com, pick from one of their charming designs, upload a photo (of you, your child, your pet, family, etc.) from your computer, Instagram or Facebook, select the quantity, and in a week you have the cutest personalized gift wrap (with free shipping!).  The ‘Center of the Universe,’ ‘Fairy Dust,’ and ‘Whoos Watching Over Me’ themes are my favorite. I am using the Center of the Universe gift wrap (shown above) for some Mother’s Day gifts. Clearly, my mom and mother-in-law are going to ADORE them! After all, don’t all grandparents love getting anything that is adorned with their grandchildren’s photo?

(NOTE:  Stardust Prints did not ask me to blog about them…I just love their product so much and wanted to spread the word!)

Disneyland Family

Our Most Magical Disney Experience Yet

April 8, 2016

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Growing up, my family made two trips to Disney World. The first was when I was three (from which I only remember getting my Mickey ears hat), and the second when I was eleven. I recall being so in awe of the whole Disney experience. From the corn dogs, the songs, the parades, the employees, to the rides, I loved how every square inch of the place was designed to make your experience a magical one. I remember afterwards begging my parents to move to Orlando because after all, shouldn’t that kind of magic and fun be experienced all the time? (Needless to say, we didn’t sell the family farm in Iowa and move to Orlando to become professional Disney-goers.)

Cut to present day, I am fortunate enough to have Disneyland 45 minutes away. I’ve had the great pleasure of enjoying the Disney experience several times with my stepdaughter, but we had only been once with my son AJ. We took him soon after his first birthday, which I admit, was a bit too soon. Even though he seemed to enjoy it, it was a far cry to what it means to him now. For starters, my son is a HUGE fan of Finding Nemo and Cars. If he could, he would watch these two movies all day, everyday. Thus, to see the sheer excitement in his eyes the first time he recognized his beloved Disney characters in ‘real life,’ was pure and utter joy. AJ was over the moon while exploring Cars Land, riding Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, meeting Lightening McQueen, checking out the Cozy Cone Motel, and admiring Stanley’s Statue. His excitement grew to a new level on the following day while watching Daddy film an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos around the Disneyland park. When AJ saw Daddy film a segment with Lightening McQueen, he truly viewed his Daddy on a whole new level of ‘coolness.’ AJ’s jaw dropped to the ground when he watched as his daddy shared laughs, gave high-fives, and seemingly started a friendship with his cherished Lightening McQueen. It quite literally left my toddler speechless. Daddy is friends with Lightening McQueen…say what!? 

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The high quality excitement and too-good-to-be-true reactions didn’t stop there. Perhaps AJ’s favorite was the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. He squealed and shouted “Nemo!” and “Dory!” every time he spotted them on the ride, which was quite frequently. (My apologies to those sitting near us.) My favorite was watching him jump out of his seat with more enthusiasm than I had ever seen from him during the Paint The Night Parade when seeing Nemo. It was truly a magical two days and it completely melted my heart to see my little boy be so moved by the Disney experience. I know he probably won’t remember this years from now, but I know my husband and I will. (I only have over 800 photos to show AJ when he’s older.) Though it wasn’t his first Disney experience, it was his first Disney visit where he was old enough to experience the ‘magic of Disney.’

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We had an extra-special treat during our Disney visit. My husband won a one-night stay in the Disney Dream Suite (at a Disney-related function) and we were fortunate enough to schedule it during the same weekend. For those of you who may not know, the Dream Suite is located upstairs from Pirates of the Caribbean. It was originally planned as a private apartment for Walt Disney to entertain special guests and to use for his family, but he passed away before it was completed. The suite is absolutely STUNNING! It is beautifully designed and captures the very essence of the Disney inspiration. (It even has an exquisite horse from a carousel that is reminiscent to the one Walt watched his daughters play on when he first dreamed up Disneyland.) The suite is full of special effects, including a special button in both bedrooms labeled “goodnight kiss.” You can push it up to three times for various ‘surprises’ that appear in the room. My personal favorite was the master bathroom where the large master bath had a gorgeous stained-glass window lit by tiny stars (including a hidden Mickey) in a dome-like setting. The kids were entranced with the fireplace, which had a lovely silhouette of the castle and firework-like sparks from the fake fire. Just like the way details are carefully looked at in the Disneyland park to ensure everything you’re surrounded by is magical and special at all times, the same holds true for the Disneyland Dream Suite. Love is shown in the details. They put a lot of love into this special space and it was truly a dream to be able to appreciate it.

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Once the guests had left and the park was officially closed, we all put on our bathrobes and ventured out with our lovely guide for a walk around the empty park. (We put our sleeping boys in the double stroller and took them along for our 12:30am-2am stroll around Disneyland.) It was surreal to be the only guests in the park. The guide was so sweet, as she was a trooper for agreeing to take so many pictures of us. And it was beyond fascinating to listen to our guide and learn about the little known facts and features as we aimlessly wandered around the park. The Main Street lights were still on so we took full-advantage of using the street for a little photo shoot involving clicking our heels in the air and acting like children again by doing silly Disney character poses. (My inner-child was never more awakened than during this trip!) We kept looking at each other saying, “OMG, can you believe we’re here?!” It was truly an unforgettable and amazing experience for all of us. (We had invited two of our biggest Disney-fan friends –legitimate Disney-addicts– as guests for the second bedroom in the suite.) Just like the first two days at Disney, I have a slue of photos from our truly enchanted middle-of-the-night adventure in Disneyland.:)

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Overall, it was by far the best Disney trip we have ever before experienced. Staying in the Dream Suite was much like a fairytale. Thank you Disneyland for the smiles and memories. We loved every second!

 

Photos by Ashley Burns & Angela Ribeiro

Parenting

Helping a Too-Rough Toddler with Baby Brother

March 29, 2016

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Perhaps the biggest news in the past month has been a change in my job title. I am no longer a Stay-At-Home Mom. Nope. I am now officially a full-time bodyguard for my 10-month old. The need to constantly protect him from his two-year old brother is a necessity these days, sadly.

Don’t get me wrong, AJ LOVES his little brother. He adores him to no end. He loves kissing him, holding his hand, and being sweet with him. However, sometimes he executes these gestures a little too forcefully. He will squeeze him too tightly while giving a hug or pull on his arm too much when trying to lead him to the playroom. (He would most likely drag him by a limb to the playroom if it weren’t for Mommy.) Moreover, AJ is a fireball of energy and can be a bit of a brute. He is constantly bouncing around the house and if something or someone is in his way, he has little regard. Thus, on numerous occasions throughout the day, I have to dive in front of speeding scooters, deflect toys thrown in Anders’ direction, and race to Anders’ aide when his big brother is trying to pick him up to move him to a spot as a ‘target’ to throw balls. And there’s always the tantrums after Anders takes a toy from AJ, or vice versa. Who knew that a little hand taking a three-inch Thomas the Train toy by his brothers’ side can result with end-of the-world level screams? Ultimately, you can NEVER turn your back when they’re together. (Hence the need for the job change!)

I know I’m not alone when I say that my toddler isn’t known for his “gentle” touch. And why should I expect him to be? He is a toddler. Toddlers aren’t developmentally programmed yet to treat things -like a baby sibling or a glass vase- with the tender care necessary. All I can do is try my best to help AJ learn a more gentle approach with his brother through continuous attempts of sticking to methods that show progress and abandoning ones that don’t. Every toddler learns and reacts differently, and I’m sure every toddler has different reasons for being rough. As for my son, here are some areas that I’ve found success in warding off aggressive behavior and seeing subtle progress with the word “gentle:”

  • Getting down on the floor several times during the day and playing with both of them is always key. I can help gear the play in a way that won’t lead to conflict and prevent them from taking each other’s toys and consequently, aggressive behavior.
  • I have them play separately when AJ isn’t playing kindly, and tell him to take a time-out and rejoin when he’s ready to play nicely. When he does play nicely with Anders, I am sure to always praise him.
  • We make sure to have individual time with each. I will take Anders out for a walk or to the front yard for some play time while Alfonso will take AJ to the living room and have a dance party together or go outside for some golf or baseball play time. We will then switch and do different activities with each. They both seem to thrive with individualized attention.
  • Starting up a creative “be gentle” game. I’ve come up with many variations, but the one that has seemed to work the best is simply lining up a bunch of objects and stuffed animals. I then challenge AJ to go down the line and if he can be gentle with each one, we do a choreographed celebration dance. Each time we do the dance, we add one movement (i.e. a turn, a wink, a wave, a clap, etc.).
  • I just purchased Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves by Naomi Aldort, which was recommended by a few friends. I’m hoping to gain some more tips and guidance once I start reading it this week.

I would love to hear of more ideas or suggestions that have worked for others who have dealt with the same or similar issue. I’m all ears!!

Baking Cookies Recipes

No-Bake Paleo Cookies

January 31, 2016

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After posting a picture of my No-Bake Paleo Cookies on Instagram last week, I received a slew of messages asking for the recipe. Whether you eat Paleo or not, it’s a great, easy and healthier dessert option. After all, isn’t it rather exciting to come across super yummy dessert recipes that DON’T involve any sugar?? My family and friends LOVE them, and I’m sure you will too! Here you go:

No-Bake Paleo Cookies

Ingredients

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 tsp. vanilla

1  1/2 tbsp. cocoa powder

1/3 cup almond butter

2 cups unsweetened, shredded coconut

Pour honey, coconut oil, and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil for 1 minute and immediately remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla and almond butter until blended well. Stir in shredded coconut. Scoop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper (or wax paper) and refrigerate until hardened. You can store at room temperature, but I always prefer to keep them in the fridge! Enjoy!!

 

Baby Products Toddler Products

Favorite 2015 Baby & Toddler Products

December 17, 2015

Earlier this month, we had the great pleasure of attending the 2015 Secret Santa’s Workshop here in Los Angeles. It was a fun family day of photos with Santa, great activities for the kiddos, delicious food, learning about amazing new products, and supporting a great charity–the L.A. Family Housing. Bill Horn and Scout Masterson of Marque Communications did a phenomenal job putting on such an enjoyable and entertaining event! We’ve had some time to try out some of the amazing products we brought home that day. (It was an early Christmas for the Ribeiro family!) I wanted to share some of my favorites with you…

  1.  Ju-Ju-Be Monarch Diaper Bag. Prior to my new Ju-Ju-Be “The Monarch” Diaper Bag, my previous bags were never quite large enough for everything I needed, especially for two little ones. With my Ju-Ju-Be bag, I can fit everything I need with ease. Additionally, the special features truly make this the ultimate diaper bag. To name a few, it contains a memory foam changing pad, picture pocket to keep photos handy (or in my case, I’ve been currently putting the hard copies of Santa photos in there or polaroids from birthday parties), exterior insulated bottle packets, color-coded tabs to designate a pocket to each child, crumb drains, quiet magnets (no loud velcro!), a super-organized mommy pocket that is big enough to fit all of my needs, and it’s machine washable. Best. Diaper. Bag. Ever. Period.

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  1. Chatbooks. My son AJ is constantly trying to take my phone to look at photos of him and his siblings. Now he is perfectly happy taking one of our Chatbooks and flipping through it to see all of Daddy and Mommy’s Instagram photos in the past year. Essentially, Chatbooks is an easy and affordable way to keep your Instagram, Facebook or any phone photos in a book. Aside from that, they are great little entertainment books to add to the coffee table! Best yet, they’re only $8/per book!

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  1. 4moms Origami Stroller & High Chair. Even though my favorite strollers have long been the Uppababy Vista and the Orbit (both for different reasons), there’s a new one that I am in absolutely in LOVE with! The Origami from 4moms opens and closes at the touch of a button. Yes, you read it right…you simply push a button! How much better could it get than that!? (My husband’s jaw literally dropped to the floor when he saw it work). But the impressive features don’t end there! The Origami includes a LCD dashboard (with thermometer, speedometer and trip odometers), four-wheel suspension, self-charging generators in the wheels, and pathway lights. It’s like a stroller straight out of an episode of The Jetson’s. Their highchair is just as revolutionary. The 4moms High Chair alleviates all of the challenges of most highchairs –or at least the ones that I’ve ever used. It has a seat insert (making it incredibly easy to clean), adjustable height with three different settings, magnetic tray top (making it easy to slide on and helps keep bowls in place minimizing a mess), and a removable tray liner that is dishwasher safe. Can you say “dream highchair?”

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  1. Mini2Go Micro Scooter. The Mini2Go is a rido-on that converts to a stand-up three-wheel scooter with a T-bar. It’s an indoor/outdoor ride as it has non-marking wheels. (Hallelujah!) In addition, while it’s in the ride-on phase, there is a drawer that slides in so that your toddler can put toys inside to bring along on a ride. AJ is on this day in and day out right now.

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  1. Joovy Boob Baby Bottle. My 7-month old has been a bit of a stinker when it comes to taking a bottle. Whether it’s water or breastmilk in a bottle, it doesn’t matter to him. He ALWAYS prefers being nursed and will hold off for the ‘good stuff,’ even if it leaves him hungry. (It’s never fun when you’re on date night with the hubs or at an event and you get a text from the sitter saying “Anders won’t take his bottle…again.”) Since using the Boob Baby Bottle, Anders has been drinking from the bottle with no issues or fussing. AMAZING! I realize all babies are different with different preferences for bottles, but this has been a godsend for us! The nipple is designed to simulate natural breastfeeding. In addition, it keeps liquids at the desired temperature for longer periods of time with an insulator in the bottle. Very cool!

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Some of my other favorites from the event: Orbit Baby Stroller (we’ve had ours for over a year now and love, love, LOVE it! The ease of this stroller with the carseat for Anders, and the protective covering on the handle bar for an ipad is awesome!), Ergobaby Four Position 360 Baby Carrier, Modern Burlap (these swaddles/blankets have the BEST designs…my favorite is the world map design), Build-A-Bear (the holiday season reindeers they have are utterly adorable), Joovy’s Spoon Walker (Anders personal favorite), and Weangreen’s Modern Glass Storage (these are amazing recyclable material-glass baby food/whole family containers with the best lids ever)! Please let me know if there are any new products from this year that you love. I’m always intrigued with new baby products!

 

 

Family

Moving: Toddler Transitionings & Unpacking a New Home

December 1, 2015

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“Moving was a great idea until I started packing.” I love this quote as it couldn’t ring more true to our recent moving experience. Don’t get me wrong, I was INCREDIBLY excited to move. However, the actual process of packing? Pure and utter torture!

It’s only when you move do you discover just how much “stuff” you’ve accumulated through the years. I made a handful of trips to the dumpster and another six to the Goodwill with my car stuffed to the brim. Do we really need 100 copies of Alfonso’s headshots from 1990? Or a neon green bowling ball bag? Or a collection of hats and shirts from the University of New Mexico? (We have zero connection to the school, as I haven’t the faintest idea how we acquired them!?) All I can say is the local Goodwill has quite the assortment of ‘interesting’ items from the Ribeiro house!

Although we are officially moved in, we are nowhere near being fully unpacked. I have the most important rooms settled (i.e. kitchen, living room, nurseries). The kitchen was my first priority as that enabled me to properly host our first Thanksgiving in the new pad. It was certainly an ambitious undertaking on my part since we had moved in just two weeks prior and agreed to have a Thanksgiving feast for twenty people. (Yes, TWENTY!) Fortunately, it turned out absolutely perfect. We had family and friends, most of which were our DWTS family. It was a wonderful afternoon of watching football, hanging out, playing Guesstures (my team, “Team Emma,” won!), eating lots of amazing food (my hubby cooked three delicious turkeys), and watching AJ dance with his favorite DWTS dancers.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I’m trying to focus on finishing the unpacking process and helping my son, AJ, better transition to our new home. One of the main reasons why I don’t have more unpacked is the fact that I’ve been focusing more on AJ and less on the boxes. It’s so much for a two-year old to process and comprehend. Prior to the moving process, I did my own research on ways to help a toddler deal with this new change. I knew there would be no ‘one size fits all’ method, as moving impacts every child differently. I had hoped since we travel quite extensively for my husband’s work, it wouldn’t be as bad for AJ. (Clearly, I’m not as concerned for Anders transition as he is only seven-months old.) I found tons of great tips on the internet, some of which worked better than others. For starters, I read AJ numerous books about moving and brought him to the new house several times before moving day so he could get acquainted with the place beforehand. (I made sure to bring some of his favorite toys to play with each time so he could always have a positive experience.) We had daily discussions with him about moving, and even though I’m sure he didn’t understand everything, I feel this helped. We also tried to maintain his normal routine as best we could throughout the experience, which was VERY challenging given the stresses and craziness associated with moving. Though he is getting better, he is still a bit confused and has become more clingy since being in the new house –which based on my readings, seems to be rather normal.

In an attempt to create a sense of closure, we made a family trip to our old house over the weekend to say “good-bye” thinking it would help AJ (and all of us). He seemed to understand the gesture more than what we anticipated. It was more emotional for me as it’s always difficult leaving a place where you made so many wonderful memories. And I admit, it saddens me knowing AJ (and Anders) probably won’t have a single memory of our old home. Luckily enough, I only have about 10,000 photos to show them when they’re older.;)

We continue to help AJ the best we can with this change. We have certainly rocked his world and know it’s only a matter of time before he adjusts to his new surroundings. I would love to hear about your moving experiences with little ones and how they handled the transition.

Birthdays Family

Birthday Party Recap

October 28, 2015

Bring on the Two’s! We celebrated AJ’s second birthday over the weekend and had an amazing time! His actual birthday was yesterday. Hopefully turning two on “twosday” has some hidden meaning? Like being indicative of the “Terrific Two’s” rather than the “Terrible Two’s?” A mom can hope, right?!

Normally, I would spend the two weeks leading up to a birthday party going Pinterest-crazy. I typically gather around 20 ideas and complete about five of them. (My two staples are always a fun photo collage and a yearly stats board — like the printable stat boards on Etsy, but I always make my own.) However, after being in full-out moving mode and having to pack my house up with every spare minute, it left little time and energy to tackle any of my craft ideas. (Also the reason why I haven’t posted in a month!) Thus, I kept the party small, simple, and fun. We only invited five toddler friends of AJ’s, (i.e. our nearest and dearest friends with kids AJ’s age who he sees often). Since a few brought their younger infant siblings, we also had a designated area for the babies. We were very happy we kept it small as it enabled us to catch up and chat with everyone while still keeping a watchful eye on the kiddos.

Here are some of the highlights and activities from the big day:

Toddler Town 3-In-1 Bouncer: I rented a combo bouncer for toddlers which included a bouncer, two slides, and a little obstacle course. Understandably, this was a huge hit. Since there were only about three toddlers playing inside at once, it made it nice and easy to monitor. I think AJ went down the slide at least 100 times!

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Barney Character: My son is OBSESSED with Barney! Absolutely addicted! So the fact that the biggest celebrity in the world (to him) came to his party was basically the highlight of his life! He was almost in disbelief when he saw his favorite purple dinosaur prancing down the lawn towards the party with the Barney music playing. I’ve never seen him so excited. Barney danced and sang with the kids, followed by a grand goodbye ceremony – during which AJ was quite devastated to see him leave.

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Animal Balloons & Face Painting: After Barney’s exit, the Barney character changed and came back out to make animal balloons and face paint — or in AJ’s case, arm paint. Since, apparently, two is the age where kids enjoy popping balloons more than playing with them, the face painting seemed to be the most encouraged option by the parents.:)

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Pool of Balls: For the infants – including my five-month old – I bought a $7 wading pool and filled it with 200 non-toxic crush-proof balls. All four infants LOVED it! Anders kept refusing to be taken out.

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Music: We brought our music system to play for the Barney hour. However, it turned out to be more useful simply by providing music for AJ to dance. AJ, who is a dancing machine thanks to DWTS and our DWTS friends, danced the afternoon away. The other toddlers would join in frequently which offered many giggles and smiles for the camera. (AJ’s current favorite song is “Bye Bye Bye” from N’Sync thanks to his super cool babysitter who loves all things 90’s. AJ even has his own signature choreography for the song.)

Overall, it was a wonderful party filled with great entertainment, good eats, and some incredibly happy toddlers. Sometimes small and simple can be a great thing! Let the “Terrific Two’s” begin! (Fingers crossed!)

 

 

 

Images by Ashley Burns and myself.

Family Travel

The Joys Of Traveling Alone With Little Ones

September 29, 2015

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By no surprise, we found ourselves away from home for yet another family occasion this past week… my husband’s birthday. When my husband realized that he was booked to be in Chicago over his birthday, he made sure to make it work so that he could still spend his special day with his family. Besides, who wants to spend their birthday alone away from home? Since Alfonso was in Houston for an appearance and was flying to Chicago from there, I had the wonderful undertaking of flying by myself with our toddler and infant. Lucky me! (Can you say “ANXIETY?!”)

I have flown by myself with my two little ones before, but no matter how often you do it, it never prepares you to do it again. Most of the time, we fly as a family –a routine I have down pat. However, when I don’t have my husband for the man-to-man coverage, the experience never seems to go quite as planned. I prepped for the flight the same as I always do, with the most important items being my secret weapon: a ziplock of new toys from the 99 Cent Store. (I’ve learned it never matters how basic the toys are, as long as AJ has never seen them, they serve as a pleasant distraction/detour from oncoming tantrums or whining episodes on the plane.)

Fortunately, we made it to Chicago without too many hiccups. The silly putty and superhero sticker book were the biggest hits of the flight. All three of us were covered with Batman and Superman stickers by the time we landed. (A nice lady across the aisle even had them on her pant leg as she was nice enough to allow AJ to deck her out.) Overall, it was a successful flight, but not without constantly being on my “A” game. It’s one of those things I feel like I can never fully prepare for as there are so many unknown factors that can impact flying with young children. (Particularly when you are doing it without your spouse.) As moms, we simply just make it work. I never truly feel more like Superwoman until once the wheels touch ground and I know I survived. Thus, I didn’t even mind when I was walking to the O’Hare baggage claim covered in superhero stickers as I certainly felt like it was fitting. (Single moms… *kneels down to you*).

We ended up having a wonderful time in Chicago. Alfonso was very excited to be able to have us there with him to celebrate his birthday. His special day consisted of his favorite things: family (minus Sienna as she had school), golf (he was invited to play in a Northwestern University golf outing), and great food (we enjoyed a fabulous dinner with our dear friends in Glenview). One of my personal highlights was visiting my alma mater, Northwestern, with my boys while Alfonso was playing golf. I hadn’t visited the campus in 12 years so it was great to see all of the new buildings, supply my boys with some Northwestern gear, and show my sons my favorite view on campus overlooking downtown Chicago. I must say, it’s quite surreal to be in a place where you once created so many hopes and dreams… where you vividly remember all of the excitement yet uncertainty you felt about your future… where you had so many options laid out before you and hoped the path you chose was the best for realizing those hopes and dreams. To revisit this place with my children and share it with them was a very special experience for me.

Overall, despite the anxiety of flying solo with little ones, it was an amazing trip. (Fortunately, the flight back was a breeze since Daddy was able to fly back with us.) I’m happy my husband got the birthday he wanted and that we were able to help him celebrate it all together. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Nothing beats being able to be together as a family on special occasions. And every now and then, it may require us moms to drop our disguises and show the world our superhero powers. After all, isn’t every mom a superwoman?

Baking Recipes Uncategorized

The Best Non-Brown Brownie

September 9, 2015

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By no surprise, my favorite recipes are derived straight from my grandmother Lou’s kitchen. I previously posted her amazing Ranger Cookie recipe. (It’s utterly the BEST. COOKIE. RECIPE. EVER.) The next recipe that I would like to share of hers is one for a brownie. However, it’s no ordinary brownie. It’s called a Swedish Brownie, and I can guarantee it will be the best “non-brown” brownie you’ll ever sink your teeth into! It’s great for dinner parties if you want something a little unusual yet delicious. Better yet, it’s incredibly easy to make and requires very little prep time. (It typically takes me 35 minutes from start to finish.)

Here is the recipe to the best “non-brown” brownies on the market:

Swedish Brownies

½ Tsp. of Salt

4 Eggs

2 Cups of Flour

2 Cups of Sugar

1 Cup Butter (partly melted)

½ Tsp. of Baking Powder

2 Tsp. of Almond Extract

Mix all ingredients in large bowl. Spread in well-greased jelly roll 10×15 pan. (For thicker brownies, use a regular 9×13 brownie pan.) Batter will be thick. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until top is lightly browned and middle is cooked. (If you’re using a 9×13 pan, bake for 25-30 minutes.) Once cooled, sprinkle powdered sugar on top and enjoy!

Aulani Family Travel

Vacation Review: Disney’s Aulani Resort

August 8, 2015

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Looking back on my childhood, some of my most cherished memories consisted of our family summer vacations. We would typically drive to each vacation destination and stop at any and every tourist attraction along the way. I remember one of my favorite trips was our drive to Seattle when I was ten. We hit up several tourist attractions on the drive ranging from Mt. Rushmore to Yellowstone to a mining museum in Montana to exploring some cool towns in Idaho. I loved traveling with my family, and I was obsessed with wanting to visit every state. (I’ve almost accomplished this goal… I only have Vermont, Delaware, and New Hampshire to go!) Now being a parent myself, my husband and I hope to offer the same to our children – the opportunity to show our children new places while creating fun, long-lasting family memories. (And hopefully one of our future trips will enable me to check off my final three states!)

When debating where we wanted to take our vacation this year, Alfonso and I wanted a place that both Sienna and AJ could enjoy. We had an amazing experience last summer at Beaches Resort in Turks & Caicos – even though AJ was too young to really enjoy it. After many suggestions from friends and conducting my own research online, we concluded that Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii seemed like the best fit for everyone.

I had read hundreds of reviews about the resort before heading to Hawaii. I found some to be very helpful, (i.e. not using the resort to rent a car for a day, reserving a two-bedroom villa, attending a luau at nearby Paradise Cove, etc.) To offer my own review, here’s what I loved about Disney’s Aulani Resort:

  1. The resort is absolutely, positively beautiful! Aesthetically, it looks like a Disney resort in a Hawaiian paradise. It was the perfect mix of enjoying the Disney characters along with the Hawaiian beaches, food, and ambiance.
  2. The two-bedroom villa was wonderful. It was the ideal space for our family. (We brought all three kids, Sienna’s friend, and our baby-sitter.) The full kitchen was great for cooking the kids’ breakfast and dinners. (My toddler is one of the pickiest eaters ever. He is currently in the will-only-eat-oatmeal-for-breakfast phase.) Additionally, it was great to have the ability and space to clean bottles and breast pump parts -two activities that I find myself doing constantly.
  3. The beach was, in the words of my stepdaughter, “absolutely awesome!” The Aulani beach is on a man-made lagoon, which made it easier/safer to take AJ out for a dip and for the girls to snorkel without battling the waves and strong currents.
  4. The cabanas were a wonderful break from the continuous -and often unsuccessful- search of finding available chairs by the pool. We rented a cabana for two days by the pool and loved every second. There was a Pack ‘n Play set up for my 3-month old, a fan, curtains for privacy, TV, awesome waiters, and simply, it made the pool/beach experience much easier with kids. They were expensive, but well worth the splurge for two days out of the week.
  5. The Laniwai Spa was a favorite for Alfonso and me. We both had a deep tissue massage that served as the most relaxing and rejuvenating 90 minutes of our vacation. We also enjoyed utilizing the beautiful spa gardens consisting of a charming area of mineral hydrotherapy pools and showers at various temperatures. They offered a great array of massages at typical resort pricing. (Next time, I will definitely be trying the traditional Hawaiian Lomilomi Massage.)
  6. Ama Ama was hands down the best restaurant. My Korubuta Pork Chop with Coconut Rice and Thai Peanut Sauce was DELISH! Alfonso and I enjoyed a romantic date night here (sans kids) on one of the nights. The breakfasts here were also divine. Their Buttermilk Pancakes with Macadamia Nut Vanilla Sauce is a must! Your life will never be the same after letting your taste buds enjoy this delectableness.
  7. The buffet breakfast (Makahiki), where the Disney characters make their rounds, was sheer excitement for my toddler. Even though I always fed AJ in the room prior to heading down for breakfast, he used this time to stalk Goofy and Minnie and partake in the fun activities led by the Disney characters.
  8. The luau at Paradise Cove was fabulous! It’s a ten-minute walk from the hotel and totally worth venturing out to enjoy. The activities beforehand are great for all ages – the spear throwing was a big hit for our clan. (Not to brag, but I was the only person in our group to stick my spear in the target. Apparently, I have some mad spear skills.:)) The show itself was incredibly entertaining! The kids loved the experience of getting up on stage and partaking in the hula lesson. And the fire performers produced some major cringe-worthy moments with many “oooo’s” and “ahhhh’s.”
  9. The friendly Aulani staff –or “Cast Members” -were incredibly helpful. Everyone we dealt with was warm, welcoming, and always cheerful –just like at Disneyland. They certainly receive a 10-rating for hospitality!
  10. There was never a shortage of things to do! The girls enjoyed Aunty’s Beach House (where they offered activities for kids ages 3-12), snorkeling, paddle boarding, and the water slides. AJ had an absolute ball at the Starlit Hui show (featuring some hula and traditional Hawaiian dancing, as well as appearances by the Disney characters). He also enjoyed the Splash Zone, making sand castles on the beach, the Lazy River, and the Ka Maka Grotto pool. And, of course, Anders enjoyed observing all of the sights, sounds, and checking out the pool scene from his deluxe Pack ‘n Play in the cabana.:)

Overall, our family vacation was everything we hoped it would be. It was fun. It was relaxing. It gave us the opportunity to enjoy numerous activities together as a family. And most of all, we created some wonderful, long-lasting family memories. Aulani was the perfect place for our family vacation. I would highly recommend it if you’re a Disney-lover, Hawaii-lover, or love both. And if you have a range of ages, it caters to all!

Now all Alfonso and I need after the flight back with two under two is another vacation. Any suggestions?:)