Netflix Brings Offline Viewing to the Table

Netflix Brings Offline Viewing to the Table

Netflix Brings Offline Viewing to the Table

#StreamTeam

When do I get on a plane next, because I need to try this feature.

Netflix now allows you to DOWNLOAD designated programming to your tablet or phone for offline viewing. No more paying through the nose for Boingo Hotspots just so I can keep busy on a layover.  No more paying for on-board WiFi only to find out it doesn’t support streaming.

And being able to watch anywhere, without having to worry about my data?  Priceless.

Now on @Netflix_CA - Downloadable content for #OfflineViewing Click To Tweet

So – What’s the first thing you’ll be downloading?

While you’re here – Check out my gift guide & shop the Finding Funny store to help support this blog

As a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam I receive special perks and incentives in exchanging for sharing the awesome, however all data overages and binge-watching exhaustion are all mine.  Oh, and my opinions, too :).

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Single Parent does Roadtrip, Survives #StreamTeam

Single Parent does Roadtrip, Survives #StreamTeam

Single Parent does Roadtrip... Survives, Barely.

#StreamTeam

I’ve been known to take the kids away in May for our ‘summer’ trip – mostly because I hate crowds and inflated prices.

Except this year was different. 

This was the first time I loaded up the new Ford Escord, stuffed 3 kids and 2 carseats + gear, and headed out into the unknown that is #kickassroadtrip.

Logistics

Thankfully, I had the sense God gave me and split up our trip in 2 segments.  Monday & Tuesday we were at Parc Omega – where we camped amidst the wolves and such – followed by a wonderful tour of Montreal with Context Tours.

We were supposed to leave for Toronto on Wednesday morning but we took a break (more on that soon) and spent Thursday & Friday in Toronto with the help of CityPass.

Beg & Bribe

This being my first trip outnumbered 3-1, I begged and bribed Ann to come with us to Parc Omega & Montreal.  I may have made unfounded promises that she would not get eaten by a bear (ends up that’s true!), I may have bribed with the idea of a memorable #kickassroadtrip… And so she came.

I don’t think Ann will ever come on a trip with my kids ever again!  We laugh about it now… 

“I HOE, I HOE…”

Thursday morning came too fast.  Into the car I shoved the kids and our gear, this time sans 2nd adult.  About 7 hours later we reached Toronto (should have been 4…).

This time I decided to bribe my friend Maureen.

“Come with us to the CN Tower, I miss you!”

“The aquarium will be fun with 3 kids, I promise!”

Truth is I bribed her with wine and much gossip.  After an exhausting afternoon and dinner the kids enjoyed “the best part of the whoooole week”: sleeping in a hotel room.  I’m not ashamed to admit Maureen & I made a ‘picnic’ area on the door of our tiny hotel room and gossiped till the wee hours, when she stumbled (ok, walked) into an Uber and left me with my captors children.

Friday morning I ventured out to the Science Center like the grown-ass woman I am – alone with the kids.  I felt… ready.  Ready to take on this challenge, something I wasn’t earlier in the week.

3 museum hours, 6 driving hours (why does it take so much longer with kids!!!) and we were finally home, where I declared I wasn’t taking them anywhere until next summer.

Chaneling Diana Ross

Three days have passed and I still haven’t recovered.  But I will survive.

I’m well on my way to recovering thanks to the magic of Netflix.  

Yup.  After a hectic week I was * that * mom.  I let them watch as much and whatever they wanted.  And watch they did.

I can’t tell you exactly what they streamed as my eyes are still glazed over from last week – but it was definitely in the kids’ profile.  And they LOVED it.  And I survived.

I survived my first post-divorce, single-parent, trip with 3 kids, and you will too.   You might need to beg and bribe, but you will survive this.

I will survive

* as part of the Netflix #StreamTeam I receive perks and goodies in exchange for my words, but rest assured all glass-eyed inducing activities as well as my views are strictly my own. 

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Ottawa in Pictures

Ottawa in Pictures

Ottawa, The Nation's Capital

Ottawa pictures from a recent adventure

On a recent excursion through my hometown I took some gorgeous images.  Enjoy my Ottawa pictures, and share your own in the comments!

Fall in love with #Ottawa #OttCity Click To Tweet

Ottawa Pictures

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Traveling to Key West – An Insider’s Look & Pro Travel Tips

Traveling to Key West – An Insider’s Look & Pro Travel Tips

Welcome to Key West

Ann & I were in Florida for TBEX and decided to knock an item off our bucket list while we were there.

Driving down hwy 1, crossing the 7 mile bridge, was like falling down a rabbit hole and finding a mysterious and wonderful secret world. Time… doesn’t * exist * on the island.  It appears that it slows to a halt right after that bridge, making the lower keys the ideal place for a truly relaxing getaway.

The only time that seems to exist is the scheduled departure for your sunset cruise.  Just saying.  But don’t worry, it comes back around tomorrow night.  Meanwhile, head to the boardwalk and take in the sights.  Every night is a celebration and the sunsets are spectacular regardless where you’re standing.

The first thing you’ll want to do as you step out of the car is turn your face to the sun… soak up some therapeutic rays, breath in the smell of the salt in the air, and listen to the waves crashing against the shore.

That’s the island’s song and it may just seduce you.

It certainly worked on me.  So well, in fact, that I’ve been back from Key West for 4 months now and I still can’t write about it.  Writer’s block.  It’s never convenient.

I found a piece of myself on that island, a piece that’s made it hard for me to put pen to paper. I’m finally able to share some of the more memorable moments of our trip and my tips for making the most of your visit to Key West.  You won’t find these in guide books, so stick around.

Size Matters

The island is bigger than it appears and if you’re not careful you’ll end up in the most gorgeous hotel by the ocean a quarter mile from everything else.

This Canadian girl managed to screw up the conversion.

Key West The Inn at Key West

Going the Distance

When planning your trip to the keys remember – Location, Location, location.  ‘Waterfront’ or  ‘Ocean front’ is not synonymous with ‘close to the action’.

We stayed at the gorgeous ocean front Inn at Key West without realizing 1/4 mile was a 15 minute cab ride downtown.  Our cab fares averaged the same amount for a daily rental car.  Best to do the math before you leave home.

sebago key west

Shopping

Mallory square is a great place to find unique items, official Conch Republic souvenirs, and gorgeous jewelry. On Duval st you’ll be able to find fashions of all kind… for all kinds of bodies.

Explore

Once you’re done feeling sorry for yourself ‘cause you can’t have this year round you should head to Duval St and Mallory Square where you can shop, dine, and stroll to your heart’s content.

Mallory square is a great place to find unique items, official Conch Republic souvenirs, and gorgeous jewelry. On Duval st you’ll be able to find fashions of all kind… for all kinds of bodies.

conch republic key west
mallory square key west street food
conch republic key west

Pro Tip

If you love steak as much as I do and you either don’t like the high price tag or the huge portions order a steak salad or a flank steak appetizer. It’s served BESIDE the salad, not on it, and the portion is perfect.

Add a side of steam veggies or mashed potatoes and you’re eating like a king without mortgaging your kids.

Key West food

Missed the Sunset Tour?

You now have the perfect excuse to eat at some fabulous restaurants. Many have ‘happy hour’ specials when drinks and apps are ½ price. Can you say… Yum?

Key West sunset tours

So. Much. Fun.

My favorite part of the day is was parasailing.  I’m afraid of heights but when that parachute lets go and the rope unravels all you feel is freedom.

It’s like floating through the air on a cloud.  I was so comfortable I would have stayed up there all day if I could.

Key West Sebago Watersports
Key West Sebago Watersports
Key West Sebago Watersports

Forgotten Contact Lenses

We were brought out to the coral reef to snorkel and I chose to dive in blind for fear of my glasses ending up in the ocean. I have no idea what the reef looks like, I couldn’t see jack-sqwat, but I was told it was gorgeous.

Key West Sebago Watersports

Wearing Glasses?

Don’t let that stop you!

I was hell bent on parasailing so I maguyvered some holders to make sure I got the best view from the top.

Soon everyone was making holders with yellow duct tape.

The captain said it best – it takes a Canadian to come up with the best ideas. 

Undead to Unclothed

Our trip coincided with Fantasy Fest think… Mardi Gras on crack.

Upon our arrival on the island we were greeted by 10 thousand zombies and 2 police officers 400 metres from the airport entrance.  Needless to say I called budget and told them the zombie apocalypse was right outside their door and we would be late returning our rental car.

Never in a million years have I imagined the words ‘If there weren’t so many zombies around I wouldn’t feel as safe’ would escape my mouth.

Flip-Flops & Flooded Streets

Some things can’t be unseen. A fella with nothing but red glitter paint on his crotch. A very old couple baring all save the world’s largest spray painted bush. 

Just don’t look down, mkay? You’re welcome.

Key West fantasy fest 2015

Got Wet Feet?

High Tide. Full Moon. Flooded streets.

Forget looking down to see if what you just stepped in is water or a gross mix of something else.

Looking down means you have to look back up and you’ll find yourself face-to-face with a full-frontal.

The George Clooneys of the island must have stayed home all kinds of bodies were on display.

Key West fantasy fest 2015

Your Flight Awaits

Key West is truly a magical place and I can’t wait to go back! I hope you’ve enjoyed the video (missed it? At top of page ;)) and the pictures. Armed with the best Key West travel tips you won’t find elsewhere, start planning your dream adventure. You deserve it!

context travel in montreal
key west sunset gorgeous

Explore Key West

Sunset Ceremonies - Daily

Every night crowds gather at the pier for the Sunset Celebration, a nightly arts festival at Mallory Square.

Mermaids playing the yukelele, sword swallowers telling tall tales and fresh-made-right-in-front of you guacamole are just a few of the highlights well after the sun bids farewell.

Conch Republic Independence Celebration

With events ranging from wacky bed races, to a lighthearted sea battle featuring tall ships, the Conch Republic Independence Celebration is a 10-day birthday party showcasing the independent and eccentric spirit that characterizes Key West.  The event is held every year in April.

What exactly * is * the Conch Republic?  Read here for more information!  I was fascinated by this little piece of history and invite you to learn more.

Fantasy Fest

Marketing geniuses decided October needed a party to keep businesses afloat during the slowest season of the year.

Fantasy Fest is a 10-day party in paradise for grown-ups, held annually in October.  Fun-loving revelers from around the globe bring their creativity and imaginations as they descend upon Key West each year in October for 10 days filled with costuming, parades, libations, and excitement!

Galleries

Key West is rich in culture.  Tour some of the many local art galleries to experience Key West arts.

Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

The home of Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway, where he wrote many of his most notable works, is now a museum featuring some of Hemingway’s original furniture as well as artwork and his wife’s chandelier collection.

The grounds also host the descendants of Hemingway’s cats and beautiful gardens filled with Angel’s Trumpet, Hibiscus and Gardenias.

Bike (and more!) rentals

Rent a bike and explore the island on your time.

This budget-friendly option means you can reach all of the attractions in Old Town within five to ten minutes.  A great way to explore the island!  You can also rent motorcycles and Jeeps.

Free (ish) Things to do in Key West

Key West is a little piece of paradise that doesn’t have to cost you a fortune.

Visiting Key West on a budget is a piece of cake, or Key lime pie. Check it out!

Things to do - Kids

From a museum featuring shipwreck salvage to one of the oldest marine mammal facilities in the world, Key West is a kid-friendly vacation destination that is sure to create memories for the entire family.

So Much to See

None of the locals are locals, and as Ms Beth (one of our Sebago captains and all around awesome woman) would say people just fall in love and come back because they can’t imagine living anywhere else.  I can believe it!

They weren’t kidding when they said #FLKeys had the best sunset in the world @visitflorida #lovefl Click To Tweet.

They weren’t kidding when they said it was the best sunset in the world.

At the table next to us at the restaurant was a woman wearing nothing but a grass skirt and artful body paint.  Men were wearing what can only be described as leather nutsacks on a string and group theme costumes were all the rage.

Never mind shilling out beads for a flash – Body paint is the fabric of choice during these festivities.  I’ve never seen so many Nekkid people at once before.

Ford Road-Trips & The Luggage Whisperer

Ford Road-Trips & The Luggage Whisperer

Fun On The Road with Ford

The Expedition, Fiesta, and Convertible Mustang: Built for road-trips?

It appears this was the year of #KickAssRoadTrips.

First Christa & I drove to Prince Edward County for a bloggers’ retreat followed by  Ann & I #KickAssRoadTrip to NYC for #BlogHer15.  Ford Canada generously let us borrow the Ford Expedition for the ride.

Tee-hee.  What. A. Car.

Aside from the ‘jet’ for an engine (man that thing goes fast when you’re not looking!) and amazing little details like the step that comes down, the pedestrian and other obstacle sensors, the butt-coolers (yes my friend – AC for your bum!) and more the Expedition comfortably held our gear… coming and going.

Ford Road-Trips Expedition NYC

the @fordcanada #FordExpedition comfortably held our gear... coming and going #RoadTrip Click To Tweet

We wrote our hashtag and twitter handles on the windows with chalk markers.  Which was great until we got stuck in NYC traffic and we were making enemies just by trying to follow directions.

ford road-trips

People and cars kept coming out of nowhere. It was ridiculous.  Shorlty before we arrived at our hotel we were instructed by a police officer to turn left immediately.  Except the light changed 1/2 way through the intersection and out came no less than 1000 pedestrians.

Those sensors I mentioned?  They work.  Really well.  The sound comes from the direction of the obstacle, so the car was pretty much singing at us in stereo as we were stuck in an intersection with the wide-ass of the Expedition hanging out into oncoming traffic.

ford road-trips nyc driving

Still stuck in the intersection, letting the last of the pedestrians cross as they’ll do it whether you’re moving or not…

Thankfully we manged to get through that corner and soon after reached the hotel.  Ann firmly declared that * I * would be driving us out of the city.

Except we lost our parking stub and almost didn’t have a car to drive home in.  We’d forgotten to wash off the chalk marker before leaving it with the valet and it ended up being what saved us.  We were able to show that we had pictures of us in front of the car with the writing, and the car we were trying to take was the exact same one.

The gas tank on this beast is huge and this time we didn’t get stranded 15 minutes from home.

Florida Keys – U.S. 1 & the Overseas Highway

On our latest trip to Fort Lauderdale for TBEX we decided to take a few days and detour to Key West.  This time we had Ann’s university freshman daughter with us.  I’m not sure who had more stuff between the two, but one of them may or may not have had to switch things around in order to avoid airport overages.  Which means one of them had over 50 lbs of stuff.  Can you guess which of the two packed heavy?

Airmiles balance in tow we booked a rental car to drive from Fort Lauderdale to Key West;  Airmiles balance running low we took the cheapest option, a red Ford Fiesta with all the trimmings.

It just so happens I was really tired and completely forgot to take pictures of our luggage in the car.  I will say that our 3 suitcases – 2 hard-shells and 1 soft-shell – fit comfortably (if snugly) in the caboose and everyone had plenty of leg room.

I love all the safety features in the Ford lineup including BLIS, the blind-spot sensor.  I usually have my mirrors set ‘just so’ that my blind spot is barely there but this was much better.

Safety features aside the Fiesta won’t save you from the zombies.

As we were driving to the airport to return said rental car we were attacked by 10,000 (yes, 10k) zombies 400 meters from the airport entrance.

Well, not… attacked per se, but we were made to turn around by a couple of laid-back officers who thought nothing of the 10,000 zombies blocking the airport.

Our @FordFiesta was attacked by zombies in #FLKEYS and survived #FantasyFest @FordCanada Click To Tweet

There should be a disclosure when calling the rental company for directions that it’s Fantasy Week in Key West and * today * is the zombie bike ride.  Which I told the guy when I called him back to say we’d be returning the car once the zombie apocalypse was over.

key west ford road-trips

Women drive Mustangs too

We had booked the same Fiesta to return to Fort Lauderdale a few days later but upon our zombie-free arrival at the airport we were offered a $20 upgrade to a Ford convertible Mustang.

Women drive @FordMustang too #RoadTrip with @FordCanada Click To Tweet

Now, I thought the Expedition was a sexy car… but nothing – nothing! – beats driving top-down in a bright yellow Mustang on the most scenic highway in America.

Oh…. WOW.  What a drive.  What a car.  Fast.  Bold.  Sexy.  Driving that puppy felt like I owned the road.

Nothing beats driving top-down in a @FordMustang in #FLKEYS @fordcanada #roadtrip Click To Tweet

Except I had to fit 2 hard-shells, 1 soft-shell, 1 carry-on, 2 backpacks, 2 camera bags, 3 purses, our combined purchased treasures and 3 full grown, full size humans in a car the may as well fit in the palm of my hand – or so it felt.

Mission Accomplished.  * I * am THE luggage whisperer.  I can fit anything in any car.   I did it in NYC 2012 with room to spare.  I did it in Chicago 2013 even if I was stuck in a hobbit hole for 17 hours.  And I’ve done-gone did it again.

Going on a @FordCanada #Roadtrip? Meet the luggage whisperer Click To Tweet

Ford Road-Trips Key West Mustang

Look at it.  It’s a thing of beauty!  Not a wasted space; luggage versus human Tetris at its best.

I’d thought I’d be nervous driving such a muscle car but this may have been the most comfortable drive of my life.  Small car it may be the Mustang does not lack cohones.  Driving down the 7 mile bridge and zipping through Miami traffic it felt as big and powerful as the Expedition, no small feat I’m sure.

The @FordMustang felt as big as the #FordExpedition on the hwy @FordCanada #RoadTrip Click To Tweet

The verdict: Ford cars are build for road trips

In the last decade I have road-tripped in several Ford cars.  When my oldest was a baby we used my old 5-speed Ford Focus sedan.  Following the birth of my 2nd child (and through my 3rd pregnancy almost to the bitter end) we had a blast in our Ford Escape SUV.

I’ve already told you about our adventures in the Ford Expedition, the Ford Fiesta, and the Ford convertible Mustang.

With absolute certainty I can tell you each and every one of these cars were build for road-trips.  They were built for much more, sure, but they sure as heck made great road-trip cars.

Are @FordCanada cars built for #roadtrips ? @Shoeboxbegone says YES, all of them Click To Tweet

The smaller ones may need some creativity in order to cram everything and everyone in it but it’s worth the effort.

I’m getting a tired of the van – or rather, its lack of all-wheel drive and auto-start.  I have fallen in love with the Expedition we drove this summer and went online to ‘build’ my own… and came down with a small case of sticker shock.  All that means is we’ll be buying used again, but hubby already knowsthe Ford Expedition is our next car.

Ford Road-Trips

Did you know it fits 8?

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3 secrets to surviving a day at the zoo

3 secrets to surviving a day at the zoo

3 Secrets to Surviving a Day at The Zoo

My kids like to drive me bonkers by jumping like monkeys and laughing like hyenas.  They growl and sneer when asked to do chores and have appetites that rival that of a bear.  It’s no wonder it feels like a zoo in here!

I was skeptical when J-F suggested we take all 3 kids to the Zoo Granbya whopping 2 1/2 hour drive away – for a fun-filled, holiday weekend Saturday, family day of f*ck.  Yeah, I said it.  3 kids.  1 zoo.  Thousands of opportunities for oh-shits and get-the-hell-outa-theres.  

3 kids. 1 zoo. Thousands of opportunities for oh-shits and get-the-hell-outa-theres. #traveltips Click To Tweet

Thankfully I have these 3 secrets to surviving a day at the zoo.  I accept wine and coffee as thanks 😉.

The first step in surviving a SATURDAY at the zoo?  Get there before opening time to get a parking spot that is less than 10 miles from the gate.  You don’t want the kids pooped before you even start the day!  Remember that a zillion other parents had the same idea you did; once inside the park skip the first ‘continent’ and go straight to the 2nd section – you can always loop back at the end.  It will still be busy, but your whole day will be less congested than if you spent it herding your way through with all the parents who showed up bright and early like you did.

The second step for survival when kids outnumber the adults is to bring food.  Lots of food.  And if your kids are a tad OCD like mine make sure every child has exactly the same thing.  Our cooler – which we put in the wagon’s ‘cargo hold’ area – had exactly 3 of everything for the kids.  Apples, drinkable yogourt, granola bars, nutri-grain bars, water bottle and juice box.  We also had 1 loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter.  We did buy them a treat mid-way but I wanted to save our spending money for the fun things, like camel and train rides.

Lastly, bring a wagon.  Any wagon.  I don’t care how old your kids are.  Ours (a folding number from On The Edge Marketing)  held water, food, extra kid’s underwear & pants, diapers, wipes, a light blanket, a neck pillow and from time to time a napping toddler or a tired preschooler.  Trust me, you don’t want to be carrying a 40lb tired toddler half way across the zoo.

We ended up having a terrific day.  As you can see from the pictures below everyone had a great time – mostly.  Though I will admit to reaching for the wine bottle when we got home I have to say the day was a success thanks to my 3 secrets to surviving a day at the zoo.

3 secrets to surviving a day at the zoo #kids #travel #tips #parenting Click To Tweet

What are your tips for surviving family outings?  Check out the image gallery below then comment with your suggestions!

 

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leopard eating a bone
alligator 'smiling'

Travel tips for maximizing in-flight space

Travel tips for maximizing in-flight space

Have you flown recently?  With or without an airplane it can get kind of awkward.

I’ve had to chance to travel a lot for business in the past few years and I’ve developed my own little system for traveling ‘comfy’.  It’s not perfect, and it doesn’t always work out – but happy flying 90% of the time I’ll take any day!

Check out this article from Christopher Elliott, editor at large for National Geographic Traveler, where I shared with him my travel tips for keeping air rage at bay in tight quarters.

Sharing #travel tips with @elliottdotorg for max in-flight space & keeping air rage at bay. Click To Tweet
Exploring the Big Apple with The Ride NYC

Exploring the Big Apple with The Ride NYC

Exploring the Big Apple with The Ride NYC

I’ve been to the Big Apple before but this time it felt like a new experience.  For one, I wasn’t a million years pregnant.  Let’s just say I saw WAY more than I did in 2012 even though our schedule was beyond jam packed.

I had tickets to 4 different events, two of which were overlapping conferences.  Normally I wouldn’t have had time to explore at all but knowing this would be an issue I came prepared: I purchased a VIP ticket to #BBNYC which included a choice of several experiences on the Wednesday afternoon, something I looked forward to with fervor.

I’m a big fan of tours but The Ride NYC is like nothing you’ve seen before.  Stadium-style seating, floor-to-ceiling windows, and an unparalleled view of the city.  With lights and sounds reminiscent of old Cash Cab episodes and seasoned entertainers you are guaranteed some laughs, lots of oohs and aahhhs, and some fun surprises thrown in the mix.

In the air conditioned greatness of the bus I got to take in some great sights.

The Ride NYC

I also got to take great pictures of a few landmarks from interesting angles.

Beyond our two great hosts we were treated to little extras along the way.  The first surprise was a dancing banker – vaudeville-style.

We were serenaded, attended a jazz concert, and went to the ballet – all without leaving the bus.  We even got to see some spectacular break dancing.

Experience NYC with @the_ride_nyc for some great fun and a memorable experience! #Travel #bbnyc Click To Tweet

We may have all broken into song and our lovely host – who reminds me so much of Anne Hathaway – gave us a stunning rendition of ‘All by myself’.

Some people think tours are tacky and for old people but I guarantee this one is unlike any other you’ve ever seen.  The Ride NYC has several routes you can choose from and they are worth every penny.

Enjoy your stay in the Big Apple, and get on The Ride!  You won’t regret it 😉

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Style Guide for the Conference Junkie Mom

Style Guide for the Conference Junkie Mom

Style Guide for the Conference Junkie Mom

My name is Angele and I am a conference junkie.  And a MOM of 3

Your body changes after kids; it’s different.  Not better, not worse – just… Different.

That being said I still like to look good when I leave the comfort of my home office pj’s.  I have to take into account the wider hips, the permanent belly-smile-with-old-man-belly-flap that’s right at my bikini line, and ‘The Ladies’.  Practical pieces are a must – specially in footwear – and all things undergarment must still find a way to be sexy AND comfortable.

I refuse to look matronly, but I’m not 20 anymore if you get my drift.

My style has evolved over the years, but I’ve always packed light;  Unless I’m going to BlogHer, Blogger BashType-A Parent, or other conference where there’s a guarantee I’ll need extra space to bring back swag.  In those cases, I bring an empty suitcase with me 😉

So what does one bring to a conference?

I’ve put together my Top 20 List of things that end up in my bags while traveling to a conference.  Ready?

nyc-2015-wardwrobe

Style Guide for the Conference Junkie Mom Top 20 Must-Haves

1.   Find pieces that flatter your body in fabrics that breathe.

This jumper from Reitman’s (or Smart Set, if you’re in the US) is really cute and looks great on.  I was surprised at how well it fit until I realized it came in Petite!  On my 5’2″ frame this was absolutely perfect.

2.  An over-sized t-shirt can be dressed up or down.

Pair with shorts and flip flops to go shopping or with leggings and cute flats for an afternoon of breakout sessions.

3.  It won’t be all business, all the time.  

Remember to pack casual pieces that go a long way like these cute denim shorts from Reitmans and black leggings.

4.  Session rooms and outdoor parties can get chilly.

Come prepared with cardigan or scarf that will match your outfit.

5.  Your (not so little) little black dress.

A great dress in a wrinkle-free fabric will serve you well.  Easy to roll up into your suitcase and pairs great with a cardigan or a pashmina.

6.  Don’t forget you can still be fun and flirty!

This ‘cold shoulder’ top by Michael Kors looks fantastic on and pairs well with jeans or leggings.

7.  Jeans!  The best, most comfortable pair you own.  

Cause lets face it you won’t have time to wear all 36 pairs.  Just bring one (OK 2 – if you insist) that make your ass look fantastic and allows you to breathe.

8.  The makeup bag.  The small, pared-down version of your makeup bag.

Concealer – Mineral Lights, Caryl Baker Visage; High Brow & Gimme Brow by Benefit,  Sephora.  Mascara – DiorShow, Sephora. Tinted Brow Gel – Anastasia Beverly Hills, Sephora.

Add a great lip stain – I love the Smashbox longwear lip lacquer – and some light gloss and you’re all set to look fresh and natural.

9.  Fantabulous sunglasses.

I’m bringing the DVF glasses I won in the BlogHer’12 Eyeconic challenge.  I do wish they would bring this promo back – It was a lot of fun and I absolutely LOVE those glasses. 

10.  A bright Pasmina.

Fits in your bag and very versatile.  Conference rooms get chilly with the A/C, and sometimes you just need that extra little bit of coverage.

11.  Stand out from the crowd with a great badge holder that doubles as awesome jewelry.

It’s not like you can go anywhere without your badge… may as well look good while at it, right?  I found this one on Ebay.  The seller graciously switched out the ring for a lobster clasp which will easily hook onto my badge. Her creations are amazing and fun – check out her pinterest board!

12.  Cute flats, like these Jeffrey Campbell ‘At Hashtag’ shoes I got from Revolve Clothing.

An easy way to add a punch of wow to your outfit without breaking your back.

'At Hashtag' shoes are perfect for any blogging conference! #BBNYC #BlogHer15 Click To Tweet

13.  A well-fitted, right-sized, convertible bra.

My favorite is the Wacoal Red Carpet Strapless Underwire Bra.  It holds’em up and doesn’t go anywhere – and I can choose to put the straps on if I want.  Bonus: it comes in my size, 36H.  I always feel confident the ladies will stay where they need to, and I don’t have to deal with straps digging into my shoulders.

14.  Underpants that go the distance.

Remember the belly perma-smile I mentioned before?  Well these ‘boy’ shorts from La Vie en Rose are perfect.  They look great on, and the panty covers the entire old-man-flap so I don’t end up with weird bits poking through the sides.  No one needs bikini muffin-sides.  Trust me.  It doesn’t hurt that your ass will look fantastic in these :).

Underwear selection matters! No one needs bikini muffin-sides #postpartum #motherhood Click To Tweet

15.  Simple jewelry that will make you feel fabulous.

This coral enamel bangle bracelet from Fossil looks great on, and I love how the enamel feels against my skin.

16.  An alternative to shoes for parties and the expo hall.

I hate wearing shoes, and sometime around day 1.5 my feet start to really swell up.  I relieve them by wearing Slippys Original socks around the hotel and conference area.  They are super cute, and no one is really looking at your feet.

Travel tip:  These are great to change into once you get on the plane.  Just slip your shoes into your carry-on and enjoy!

17.  Waist nippers and such.

I’m not a fan of spanx-type shapewear.  On my round-ish tummy all that smoothing just makes me look like I have a nice, tight, pregnant belly.  Instead I prefer waist nippers like the Maidenform Easy Up and the Maidenform Flexees Waist Nipper.  These really ‘suck you in’ in the tummy area and stay put all day.  Great for any form fitting outfit, but also when you’re feeling all bloated and hormonal.

18.  Feminine Wipes & Panty Liners.

Keep your lady-bits fresh all day.  You’ve had a few kids so the chance you can laugh without tears coming down your legs are slim to none.  Need I say more?  Oh, and neither will help you not piss your pants but at least you’ll stay dry and smell nice.

Panty liners, cause you probably cant laugh without tears coming down your legs #BBNYC #BlogHer15 Click To Tweet

19.  Breath Spray

There will be food.  Lots of food.  Foods of all kinds.  Come prepared with breath spray and spare your neighbors.

20.  YOU, in all your awesome glory

Cause really, that’s all the matters right?  Let us get to know the awesome that is you – be it quirky, weird, different, whatever.  We’re all a bunch of coo-coos anyways, so you’ll fit right in 😉

What are your must-have items? Any tips you want to share?

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Prince Edward County – A Weekend in Pictures

Prince Edward County – A Weekend in Pictures

Prince Edward County - A weekend in pictures

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Philly’s Harbor Park a Real Gem for Locals & Tourists

Philly’s Harbor Park a Real Gem for Locals & Tourists

Philly's Harbor Park a real gem for locals and tourists

It’s a beautiful summer afternoon on the boardwalk.  You lean against the railing in this rare moment of peace and gently close your eyes; you turn your face up to the sun letting its rays warm your cheeks.

boardwalk

Father and son enjoy a spirited debate over a game of giant lawn chess.  Bystanders chime in from the sidelines as a crowd gathers; everyone has a winning war strategy.  A group of high school juniors play bocce ball; you smile, reminiscent, as a lad and his date flirt like – well, like teenagers!

chess-bocce-jenga

A family is enjoying a picnic on the lawn chairs;  large hammocks play host to a varied crowd.  A couple whispers sweet nothings while snuggling; a young woman is enjoying a novel.

hammocks

You imagine yourself lying there, listening to the rustling of leaves as the wind carries voices of children at play, the nearby fountain a refreshing backdrop to a bird’s song.

fountain

How easy it would be to just close your eyes for a minute, sinfully drifting towards the ultimate guilty pleasure, an afternoon slumber.

nap

Fitting, that the city of brotherly love would give us a repose from our hectic lives; a place where class, race, and politics are forgotten; a place to find your community once again.

philly

Welcome to Harbor Park, Philadelphia.  Stay a while, won’t you?

Welcome to #harborpark - stay for a while, won't you? @visitphilly Click To Tweet

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Traveling Alone to Las Vegas

Traveling Alone to Las Vegas

Traveling Alone to Las Vegas

“Sorry, I’ll be in Vegas for business that weekend…”

Sounds glamorous, doesn’t it?  Like some highfalutin’, high-rollin’, big-world exec.  HA!

 Funny.  But not quite. 

As a speaker at the Type-A Vegas Bootcamp I have a room booked at the Paris Las Vegas, my hair looks good – for now – and by some airline miracle missing my flight is the only reason I land in Vegas before the conference is over.

Traveling for business can be fun but it’s far from glamorous, specially on your own dime.  Whether you’re traveling for business, pleasure, or both here are my tips for traveling alone to Las Vegas – or anywhere else for that matter.

 Tip # 1 – Bring DOUBLE the emergency cash you feel is reasonable.

My flight leaves at 7 am.  Snow flurries turn into a blizzard, my cab driver is very late, and I get to the airport just before the checked bags cutoff time.  Except I no longer have my wallet.  Because it’s at home, in the snow.  With my passport and credit cards.

$90 later I’ve been driven to the airport, home, and back again.  I arrive in time to hear the boarding call and approach the ticket counter in tears.

I’m hoping to get on the 8 am flight ’cause if I don’t get on this one I’m not in Vegas before midnight.  The flight I missed is on its way BACK to the airport for technical issues and I’m starting to feel relieved – that could have been me.

hotel-bed

After much back and forth they’ve confirmed the solo missing passenger has not entered the building and 2 minutes before the doors shut the attendant & I are running down the ramp, shoes & bags in hands.  Huffing and puffing I make my way to my seat, relieved that – at least for now – I’ll arrive by mid-afternoon.

I haven’t left the ground and already I’ve blown through a quarter of my ‘emergency money‘. You never know what can happen so being extra prepared is never a bad thing.

Tip #2 – Don’t make funny with Security

You’re travelling alone.  You haven’t checked any bags.  You’re flying back in a few days.  You’re sporting stylishly comfortable clothes with no belt, you’ve got flip-flops on your feet, and you’ve left your bulky parka at home. You’ve yet to hear screaming banshees that belong to you so you’re in a rather perky mood on this fine, frigid, early morning.

One would think this screams ‘Seasoned Traveler’; you are, after all, scoring A+ on the efficiency scale.  No messing around with shoe laces and belts while going through security.  No waiting for luggage once you land and definitely no carrying around bulky winter gear you won’t need for days.

TSA staff are a breed of their own.  Unnaturally friendly lone traveler with few belongings, no checked luggage, and a laptop-that’s-not-a-tablet-that’s-not-a-laptop like the Surface Pro 3 apparently screams ‘Terrorist’.

travel selfie

Threatening?

You may be in a good mood, you may be super efficient, but those TSA agents will not crack a smile.  The more you try to be friendly, the more you’ll be grilled.  Keep the commentary to nada and know where the hell you’re going & why this is NOT the time to get mommy brain.  Once – and only once – you’ve passed the normal citizen test you’re free to smile & wish them a great day – they don’t get much of that.

Tip #3 – Don’t be afraid to explore

Just because you’re travelling alone doesn’t mean you have to stay in the hotel!  Go exploring, see the sights, just remember some basic security common-sense.

Always have a charged cell phone, some cash (as in bills & coins, not just a credit card), and stick to well populated areas.  I’ve gone searching for steak with a friend at 11pm in Time Squares, explored the night lights in Vegas and toured San Francisco on my own.

Wear comfortable shoes you could run in if you had to, be aware of your surroundings, and avoid the ghetto.  Oh – and have fun!!!! Who knows when you’ll be back?

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Tip #4 – You don’t have to buy ALL the souvenirs

I know.  Everything looks awesome.  Your husband would appreciate the humour in a gag item so outrageous you have to buy.  Those tutus & t-shirts would look great on your girls.  Your best friend would love the statue of David replica.

STOP.

Take pictures!  The funny, the awful, the absurd – and share them with your loved ones.  Let them appreciate the humour without making them feel like they have to wear the ‘Tower of Love’ boxers.

Buy a few meaningful pieces – I picked up a Venus De Milo replica at Caesar’s Palace and an Eiffel Tower wine glass at the Paris Las Vegas.  I followed my tradition of buying a local Christmas ornament and picked up dice suckers and fuzzy pens for the girls.  I kept it simple but took LOTS of pictures of the wonderful finds I really couldn’t bring home.

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Tip #5 – Indulge a little

Visiting new cities you sometimes find one of a kind items.  I found this Predire Paris mask in one of the shops.  Though it sells for way more than I would pay for a full-on wardrobe makeover the lady sold it to me for $40.  I need so little of this product it will last a very long time.  I absolutely love it, and if it wasn’t for the price-point I’d tell you to go buy it.  If you happen to be going to Vegas, would you mind picking me up some?  Message me, we’ll talk 😉.

Google is your best friend.  Want to make sure you’re really getting a ‘special deal’?  Do a quick search on your phone and decide if it’s worth it or not.

Predire-Paris
Parting Thoughts

As women, wives, moms… we rarely get time for ourselves.  If you find yourself alone in a strange city for a few days, make the most of it.  

Squeeze in a once-in-a-lifetime experience, go shopping, get pampered, and enjoy being in your own company.

#Traveling alone? squeeze in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Who knows when you'll be back?! Click To Tweet

And who knows?  Maybe you’ll even remember what makes you so awesome.

Traveled alone?  Want to?  Let’s talk!

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Restaurant Hack – Simplify Your Life

Restaurant Hack – Simplify Your Life

Restaurant Hack - Simplify Your Life

I hate ordering the ‘perfect‘ meal at a nice restaurant only to end up paying a fortune for something I barely touched.

I’m so over it, to be honest.  I once asked if I could order off the kids’ menu because the portion was reasonable and HELLO $10. 

The snooty waitress ‘reminded‘ me that kids menus were for the 12 and under crowd.  Thanks. 

I’ve discovered that it’s not what you ask, but how you ask it.

If you say  ‘can I order off the kids’ menu‘ it’s an immediate no.

If you say ‘I don’t care how much you charge me but THIS is the portion I want’ you’ll get the kids meal item at the kids meal price – just without juice and desert.

I went to dinner with friends last night and was hungry for steak.  I had a 6oz New York Striploin with mashed potatoes and veggies…. and it cost me $10.99.

I didn’t over eat, and I didn’t spend a fortune.

life-hacks-kids-meal

Do you have tricks for easier and / or cheaper eating out?  Less here your restaurant hack!

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Type-A Atlanta – The Album

Type-A Atlanta – The Album

Type-A Atlanta - The Album

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#WGSPhilly – A SITS Girls Event

#WGSPhilly – A SITS Girls Event

#WGSPhilly - A SITS Girls Event

This past weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at the SITS Girls Women Get Social #WGSPhilly boot camp in Philadelphia.

If you’ve never been think of it as BlogHer PRO’s little sister with an east coast feel.  This was an intimate gathering of bloggers, writers and influencers who are serious about this whole business thing.

Bigger is not always better.  We all participated in the same sessions so instead of running from room to room figuring out which breakout is best for me I got to grab a cup of coffee, enjoy some networking, and come back to my table.  Amazing!

My session – Steak, Potatoes, & Managing your Blog Income – was a blast; I love speaking to bloggers ’cause they’re usually a fun bunch.  This crowd did not disappoint – Hokey Pokey and all (you heard me!  If you’re going to talk taxes you have to keep them awake – specially after lunch.  EVERYONE does the Hokey Pokey when I speak).

I met some fantastic people and forged relationships that will likely outlast your cell phone contract.  The sponsors – LG and Mirasou Wines – where fantastic and shared some great new products with us.

If the SITS Girls are coming to a town near you I strongly suggest you sign up – it will be worth every penny!

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Painting with Penguins in Camden NJ – Adventure Aquarium

Painting with Penguins in Camden NJ – Adventure Aquarium

Painting with Penguins in Camden NJ - Adventure Aquarium

Once again my career took me on the road.  My mission?  Find 1 ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity and make the most of my 1 day of visiting.  You may remember I did the same thing in San Francisco last fall

Though I was in Philly for the SITS Girls Women Get Social conference I decided that a small detour to Camden NJ was in order.  Why Camden?  Wasn’t I getting enough love from Philly? Sure – but Camden has Adventure Aquarium.

As in – come swim with the sharks and paint with penguins Adventure Aquarium.  So I did what any sane blogger would do and got myself a media pass which covered my parking and general admission.  Nothing was going to keep me away from the sharks and the penguins.

Of course by the time I got everything sorted out the shark tank was full but I managed to get a ticket to go paint with penguins.  The cost of an experience can be a little steep compared to general admission but if you love penguins (or sharks, turtles, etc…) it’s worth every last penny you’ll put down.

I’m glad I had time to explore as I really wanted to spend some time in Hypo Haven, the Jules Verne Gallery, and Shark Realm.  I would have LOVED to also visit the turtles but there are only so many minutes in one hour.  Wide-eyed and elated after going through the shark tunnel I moseyed on over to guest services where a cute cabana boy whisked me away to South Africa.

Painting with Penguins in Camden NJ - @adventureaqua #travel Click To Tweet

Actually, that didn’t happen but wouldn’t it be nice?  I did, however, meet 2 wonderful handlers who brought us to meet the locals.  I’ve always loved penguins.  Now I know why.  They are cute, they have personality, and they (mostly) love 2-legged creatures.

Penguin Experience

My artist groomed me, kissed me, and generally played nice with this human thing that was willing to give it all its attention.  This particular penguin was new to the arts and must have been sporting some sort of performance anxiety – it was, after all, her first time painting in an experience.  She handled it like pro though and you could tell she was having a blast.  She may have stolen a piece of my heart back there.

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Every time I come home I tell J-F we have to go back as a family cause wherever I just came from is so so cool.  But its true!  There are hidden gems in every city and it’s my mission to find them for you!

There are hidden gems in every city! Click To Tweet

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Pedicure Hack – Simplify Your Life

Pedicure Hack – Simplify Your Life

Pedicure Hack - Simplify Your Life

Barefoot.

That’s how I like to be.  I’m in flip flops from March to November and if I can swing it sock-less as much as possible throughout the winter.

My feet sweat.  A lot.  Have you tried finding cotton socks these days?  Unless I want to spend $20 / pair – which I won’t because hubby steals my black socks; something about them being thinner and softer than men’s socks –   I have to shop the Walmart / Target express.

Yeah.  You’re funny.  The most ‘cotton feeling’ pair they had was 72% Polyester, 24% Nylon, and 4% RUBBER.

That’s right folks!  Socks are now made of plastic, stretchy plastic, and FUCKING TIRES!!!!

So.  No socks for me. 

As you can imagine (or, try not too – the visual is quite disturbing) my feet look like shit.  I can’t afford weekly pedicures so I’ve tried the DIY approach and bought those nifty scaly-feet-scary-razors like they have in salons.

My feet looked like they were attacked by Edward ScissorHands, there was blood everywhere, and needless to say the end result was NOT sexy. 

Fear not, friend,fear not.  *I* have experimented for you, and here’s the absolute best pedicure hack I can come up with.  And no one needs to know 😉

pedicure-hack

 Take a plain old razor – preferably with a new blade – and shave off those corns and calluses as you would your wooky-like legs.  I like the one pictured above but any razor will do.  Bonus, if your husband is pissing you off this week, use his! 

Use a razor to shave off corns and calluses as you would your wooky-like legs #pedicureemergency Click To Tweet

Follow up with some lotion and voila!  Instant soft feet that didn’t cost you your firstborn. You’re welcome.

soft-feet-before-&-after

Do you have any DIY pedicure horror stories?  Let’s here’em.

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Type-A Parent Conference – Atlanta 2014 #typeacon

Type-A Parent Conference – Atlanta 2014 #typeacon

Type-A Parent Conference - Atlanta 2014 #typeacon

I’ve been to a lot of blog conferences in the last 3 years – I’ve even spoken at several.  Fun? Check.  Meeting new people?  CheckAwesome learning opportunities?  Check.

con-logo-partners

I wanted to attend the Type-A Parent conference in Atlanta this year because DisneyYou heard meDisneyAs in the large mouse with the big ears.

I’ve had a blogger crush on the Disney social media moms program since I first heard about it.  I am in awe of all things Disney and social media so when I discovered they were the sponsor for THIS conference…. How can I say no?!?  (BTW, Mouse-Folk, I’ll be there 😉 nudge-nudge, wink-wink.  You can’t miss me – curly hair, big eyes, and a bubbly personality that would put Minnie to shame – Let’s connect, shall we?)

Then I looked at the schedule and speaker line up for the Type-A Parent conference.

Ahem.

type a Twitter-header3

Yowza!   The schedule looks fantastic and some time slots I will have a hard time picking between sessions.  I only know one of the speakers and I’ve never seen her on stage before (that’s a good thing!).  Many topics are covered at most conferences but having a fresh perspective on said topicsSign me up.

I’m excited for the Refining Your Voice session, and the Stop Being Scared of VideoThe opening keynote – Think Like A Rock Star – looks fantastic, as does The Power of IRL.  There’s the We Still Blog awards and – something I’ve never seen before – scheduled BRAND DINNERS!!!

I’ve heard great things about the Type-A Parent Conference and I’m really excited I get to attend this year.  A new city explored, new connections, and new experiences that will take me out of my comfort zone.

So what are you waiting for?  Sign up NOW to attend the world’s top conference for mom and dad bloggers. Then find some roomies over at #typeacon and let’s get this party going!

See y’all in Atlanta 🙂

typeacon14-partner

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Naked Barbies and that time I swallowed my mojo

Naked Barbies and that time I swallowed my mojo

Naked Barbies and that time I swallowed my mojo

I can’t write.

There.  I said it.  Well…. I wrote it.  Which totally mitigates my point.

But still – I can’t write!  I came home from and inspiring weekend at BlogHer amongst amazing women feeling rejuvenated and excited to write.

And yet…. I’ve been sitting with this draft open for 25 minutes, failing to complete a sentence.  So I guess I’m going to write about not being able to write.  Oh dear God I’m starting to sound like the Bloggess (Maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.)

why I write snarky

It was so much easier when I was 6 years old and forced to play out my stories with 3 Barbies, an imaginary Ken, and 2 killer 80’s outfits (there was always 1 naked Barbie, hiding out under the couch with the Imaginary Ken).

At 8 I acted out all sorts of stories with my dolls and cabbage patch kids.  In the dark.  Cause I was supposed to be sleeping.  At one point the playpen left in my room became a Barre even though the only ballet I knew came from my vivid imagination.  Think interpretive dance meets Kimmy Kibler.  Not kidding.

At 12 I had conversations in my head I was too shy to have out loud with real people. In high school I just poured out my creative energy on stage.  I didn’t exactly belong with the cool kids, but on stage?  On stage I was a waitress, a clown in love, a reporter of sorts, a fiancee, a neighbor… On stage I belonged.

Did I write?  Sure.  There were many essays and independent studies, one-liners to collaborate on, and many a note craftily folded and surreptitiously  passed on.

At 30 something the only play I want to see involves little people picking up their shit and garbage miraculously making their way to the curb. The masses appreciate my cooking and thank me for it at every meal.  Sunshine and lollipops y’all.

Blogging the funnies of every day life proved an unwelcome challenge this week.  What the fuck do I write?

Does anemia suck the funny out of your bones or just the life out of your blood? Did I bite my tongue once too many times and swallow my mojo?

 mojo interruptus

So fair warning to all, maybe this week I won’t bite my tongue.  Or maybe I will.  So just save yourself the suspense and stick it where the sun don’t shine?  No offense mind you – I just want my mojo back.

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BlogHer ’14, The Album

BlogHer ’14, The Album

BlogHer '14, The Album

I know, I know!  I’m late in the game.  My BlogHer recap is coming soon I promise! #reentrysucks.

Meanwhile, take a look at these awesome pictures I took.  Feel free to use these on your social media sites, but please respect my work and leave the watermark intact.  High-rez print-ready images are available for $20 each – just contact me and we’ll get you sorted out! :). 

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Lastly, a little bit of funny for you 🙂  Truth?

BlogHer the truth

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1st Impressions and my 2 Minute Miracle Face

1st Impressions and my 2 Minute Miracle Face

1st Impressions and my 2 Minute Miracle Face

*** Scroll down for tutorial ***

It’s my favorite time of year:  BlogHer time.  I’m leaving soon to spend a few days with 2500 crazy over-sharers bloggers.  ‘Peanut-Butter-Jelly-Time, Tada-tada tada-ta!’ 

Think 3-4 days with little sleep, much fun, copious amounts of caffeine – and ok… *maybe* some alcohol – and running around trying to get out of the door on time cause we’ve gotten out of the habit of prettying ourselves up before the crack of dawn.

“Angele, wake up!”

Doesn’t fail.  I like to sleep and though I set 3 different alarms – much to my roommates’ dismay – its Go Time and I’m still in bed.

“You won’t have time to get ready” yells someone from the washroomanother chimes in with “uh-ha-hiiii-hi-hus”If you don’t speak toothpaste-in-mouth-ism that’s code for You Have Fiiive Minutes.

“I’m up!  I’m up, I’m up, I’m up!”

My hair is standing on ends, my mouth feels gross and my face looks like death.  I’m ready y’all!  Kidding.  Sort of.  I still need to throw on a bra.

When you only have 2 minutes to throw on a bra and humanize your face #blogher15 #BBNYC Click To Tweet

And make myself look human.  “From dead to alive in 2 minutes, Ann, I promise!”

Moisturizer, a brightener concealer pen, some Mistura 6-in1 Beauty Solution, and mascara.  That’s it.  That’s all.  Boom.  Miracle Face.

Except I discovered a new secret while browsing the cosmetics section at the superstore.  Garnier 5 second blur Skin Renew.

Tried it, loved it, brought it home to play with and adore (as I go on singing the hippopotamus song).

Loved it so much I tried to blot it on some pictures thinking it would be easier than Photoshop.  I didn’t really.  You know that right?  Right?  Come on, I’m not THAT dense! 🙂

So here’s the thing:  I found a shit-ton of bad reviews saying it didn’t blur crap.  People!  YES, its a super cream, but it also has LIGHT REFLECTORS.  The ‘blurring’ happens when exposed to light – your face looks airbrushed, and the effect changes slightly based on lighting.

The 5 second blur in action!

5 min blur before and after

Before I put it on: red splotchy skin, dark spots, and more than a few ‘laugh lines’.

After?  Gone!  Look at the 3 different light sources – when the light hits my forehead it looks airbrushed!  In the middle image, you can barely tell there are freckles there!   Love it.  For the record, I’m not wearing any makeup in these before and after shots.  Just my own mug with some moisturizer and the 5 second blur. 

The 2 Minute Miracle Face

Want your own miracle face?  Need to make a great 1st impression early in the morning?  Doesn’t fail, you WILL look gorgeous.  Add some champagne cream eye shadow (Lise Watier has a nice one), a touch of liner in the lash line and an extra coat of mascara to switch from day to night.  You’re welcome 😉

Garnier's 5-sec blur, Caryl Baker Visage Mineral Brights Concealer Pen, Mistura mascara, and lip gloss were used to achieve this look.

Garnier’s 5-sec blur, Caryl Baker Visage Mineral Brights Concealer Pen, Mistura mascara, and lip gloss were used to achieve this look.

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San Francisco Magic #wordlesswednesday

San Francisco Magic #wordlesswednesday

San Francisco Magic #wordlesswednesday

Golden Gate Bridge – No filter, taken with iPhone in October 2013

62 best shot of bridge

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Angelina Jolie, The Chosen One, and Adventures in the Loo

Angelina Jolie, The Chosen One, and Adventures in the Loo

Angelina Jolie, The Chosen One, and Adventures in the Loo

I’ve adopted so many bathroom stalls in my lifetime I’m like the Angelina Jolie of public restrooms.  I’m sure I can manage to look hot and wholesome in one fell swoop, and apart from the height difference we’re practically twins right? ….right? So maybe I have a bit more cellulite than she does, and maybe the boobage isn’t quite so perky.

BUT!  She has big lips… I have big lips.  She has luscious long locks… I have frizzy, curly, brown ones that I can totally rock out if I tried.  She’s been known to carry her ex’s blood around her neck and I’m – well – I’ve always been just a little bit weird.  Somehow we both managed to get laid and even landed husbands!  So we’re totally twins… but I digress.

Selection Selection 

Going into a new restroom is like speed-dating for toilets, creating a list of maybes, possiblys, hell-nos, and a few good ones. The Chosen One will be clean, well-stocked, preferably near the back end of the restroom, and bonus points if the handicap stall fits the bill (if only for the extra breathing room). Sinks get the same once-over.

Public restrooms = speed-dating for toilets: maybes, possiblys, hell-nos, and a few good ones Click To Tweet

And just like that, I’ve added another notch on the restroom belt.

Booty Call?

pink-hair-tattoo-woman-sitting-on-toiletEvery school, every restaurant, every hotel – heck even the darn Walmart has a nature call favorite; a ‘one-minute-stand’ if you will.  Like a drunk-dialed booty call I gravitate to the same stall every.  single.  time I use this restroom.  If said stall is occupied I end up leaving with naught but a modicum of dignity, having called on a sub-par ‘C-List’ stall. 

The restroom by the high school cafeteria was 1st stall; in the history hallway … 3rd one in.  The mall – last one at the end; same for train station and Walmart.  Middle stall at Lonestar.  Casino – 2nd on the right or last on the left. This last conference?  3rd from the end.  I could go on but it might get a little personal – so I’ll spare you.  You’re welcome.

Mono-Mono?

She collects babies like they’re the newest WebKinz;  I collect porcelain bassins not unlike a gaggle of drunk sorority sisters.  A map depicting her humanitarian efforts would make a great ‘Where In The World is Carmen San Diego’  episode, while searching for blackheads on the landscape of my enlarged pores is like a Where’s Waldo gone bad.

See?  Practically twins.  We may as well have been born holding hands.

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San Francisco Tours – When Business Meets Pleasure

San Francisco Tours – When Business Meets Pleasure

I’ve travelled a lot for business for in the last few years it’s always the same – get in, get out, and next thing you know you’ve haven’t seen more than the few blocks surrounding your hotel… If you’re lucky!

Last week I spoke at a conference and decided to stay an extra day to see the sights.  I was in San Francisco.  I’d never been and didn’t know when I would be back.  Also, I’m a huge Full House fan, and who doesn’t remember the opening scenes of that show?

But how do you pack a whole city in one day?  Where do you go? What do you see?  I decided to challenge myself,  ‘around the world in 80 days’ style, and see how much I could get done while not going completely mad.

Oh and by the way, I was touring the city alone.

Yeah you heard me.  A woman.  Alone.  In a foreign (ish?) country where horrific mass shootings are sadly becoming the norm; in a state known for really bad earthquakes.  My worst nightmares had me stuck at the bottom of a rumbling pile of rocks and no one would find out I was missing until the next day.  I watch too many cop shows. 

When Grey Line of San Francisco heard about my mission (insert theme song from ‘Chuck’) they let me hop on their Ultimate City Tour and Bay Cruise.

WOW! I ended up taking the early tour, then visiting the pier for a while before doing the cruise, followed by more walking and a mad dash to the airport.

City tours are the sampling menu fare of travel's happy hour. Click To Tweet

Tours are the ultimate sampling menus. 

Not only did I get to see most of the major sites, I also found out a bunch of nifty facts and local lore I wouldn’t have discovered if I were on my own. When I go back, I know exactly which areas I want to explore.  The tour guide was funny, I got to take many amazing pictures (see the slideshow below) and I met some interesting people.  If I’d had more time I knew exactly what I wanted to order from the full menu.

Also, I felt safe.

California has Welcome Centres in major urban areas!

When I heard about this I was ecstatic.  Though my day was already planned, welcome centres offer many other services.  For a small fee I was able to leave my luggage for the day in a secure area… A bonus since I’d already check out of the hotel and my carry-on was becoming a problem.

I’m sure most states have them, and I know in Canada the major cities have tourist information centres and welcome areas.  Check them out – it could make the difference between a great day and an awesome day.

You can’t buy a swimsuit in California…

Well… Maybe you can, but I had terrible luck.  It was cold in San Francisco, but the hotel had a heated pool and I was tempted.  5 stores later I’d found bikini tops…. and nothing else.  Needless to say I didn’t buy one, but I did post a comment to my Facebook page.  My friend Meghan?  She’s a funny girl:
IMG_2475

Relax and enjoy the ride!

I started the day with a tight schedule and that flew out the window when I woke up 2 hours late.  All I knew is I had to make it to the bus on time, and at some point take the cruise.  It would appear one can’t just snap one’s fingers, yell ‘Garcon!’ and expect a boat to appear.  But otherwise?  I stuck to the touristy area, taking free shuttles when I could, and enjoyed the sunshine on my nose.

Avoid public restrooms and hot dog stands.

If you don’t head this advice, the latter and former go hand in hand.  Trust me.

Make memories, not just great pictures.

I enjoy photography as much as the next camera geek – see the slide show – but don’t fall for the ‘click-click-we’ll-see-the-landmark-in-the-pictures’ mentality.  At several look-outs and stops I saw so many people taking loads and loads of pictures of themselves with the landmark.  No one was taking the time to appreciate the beauty and grandness of the sights.  Do you really want to remember your trip as a series of poses?  Not me.  I’ll admit to a total of 3 selfies, but otherwise I filled my camera (and phone…) with the sights that impressed me. I sat down on a bench with a coffee and people watched for 10 minutes. I had a conversation with the sax player on the corner who made an old lady dance to ‘Blurred Lines’.  I’m sure that woman would be scandalized if she knew what she was dancing to, and the thought made me smile.

The tour was great for this.  We had about 20-30 minutes at each stop to take in the sights as well as use the facilities and indulge in our need to memorialize our faces in front of large monuments.

Its not always about the new roller coaster

As with the Time Squares NYE Ball debacle I had a must see on this tour – the Golden Gate Park and the house from the opening credits of Full House.  Our guide didn’t disappoint.  We’re not allowed out of the bus anymore – the guy who owns the house is tired of people showing up at his door looking for the Olsen Twins – but he did drive by r-e-a-l slow for me.

Don’t be afraid to tell your guide if there’s something on the tour that’s really important to you.  By that point I’d made a few funnies and there was a feeling of camaraderie on the bus.  No one minded the extra 45 seconds it took to drive in front of those houses and the only thing that would have made it better for me was if John Stamos was leaning against the rail in those tight leather pants, flashing those pearly whites and offering me a ride on his motorcycle

Focus!  So.  Not about the biggest roller coaster.  Its your trip after all – make the most of it!

Roll with the waves

If your destination has a waterfront and offers 1 to 3 hour cruises – TAKE IT!  Not only is the view fantastic and picture perfect, but again you’ll get a bit more history about the wonderful sight’s you’re seeing.  I really can’t say enough about these – I’ve done them in my home town too, and its a great way to put your feet up for an hour and still manage to see some sights.  Pack a lunch – or pick something up on the way – and when you’re done you’ll still have plenty of time left to get those few souvenirs.

I had 8 hours to enjoy the city.  I have no regrets and look forward to going back there with my family one day.  Definitely schedule San Francisco Tours if you can squeeze it in.  It’s a great primer to your vacation if you’re staying a few days or longer, and if you only have a day you’ll leave knowing that though you may not have experienced it all, you definitely saw the great stuff to see.

How about you?  What are your best tips for braving the big city on your own? Let’s talk 🙂

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Fishing, Flying, and Hunting – my hellish month

Fishing, Flying, and Hunting – my hellish month

Today, JF leaves for his annual fishing trip with the boys – a.k.a. his work buddies.  I usually don’t mind – after all, I’m gone a lot more than he is – but I’m looking at the calendar for the month to come and I’m just a little bit scared.

Here’s what it looks like:

Him – Fishing for 4 days.  Lots of beer, too much sun, and enough bodily sounds to scare away the butchiest of women. (editor’s note: they only caught 1 fish… and they threw it back it, too small)

Me – 4 days for BlissDom Canada, where I’m a community leader and a speaker.  It should be fantastic, but I know I’ll be exhausted when I come back.

Him – 12 hours after I come back from BlissDom he leaves for a 9 DAY “hunting” trip.  Snicker.  You see, he doesn’t have a licence, he doesn’t have a gun, and he never goes out for walks.  Essentially he’s going on a very, very, long 9-day hike.  Because his buddy doesn’t want to be alone in the woods for 9 WHOLE DAYS.   I can’t wait to hear the stories.

We’re rounding off the month with my trip to San Francisco where I’ll be speaking at BlogHer PRO.  I may take an extra day to visit and tour the city, a la ‘around the world in 80 days’;  I’ll be cramming as much as I can in that one day.

Add in 2 birthdays, thanksgiving, school activities, and somehow I have to find time to meet with clients and get work done.  So not a crazy month at all, right? right???

Roadtrip Dont’s – ‘Cause there are enough ‘Do’ lists out there!

Roadtrip Dont’s – ‘Cause there are enough ‘Do’ lists out there!

I’m sure by now you’re all sick of hearing about #Blogher13, so lets talk about the drive home, shall we?

First of all, a 12 hour drive is never 12 hours.  Be prepared for ANYTHING.

The Keurig will blow a fuze in the car – Don’t even try it.

I love coffee.  I’m going on a very long drive.  I don’t want to have to stop every 2 hours for coffee so I can stay awake.  Since I have one of those nifty power inverter thingies – you know, it plugs into the lighter and gives you 2 3-prong outlets to power whatever you need on the road? 

Yeah. ” Whatever you need on the road” minus the Keurig.  I blew 2 fuses, ’cause I wasn’t convinced after the 1st one blew.  New fuse? $4.  Time lost finding a Canadian Tire and figuring out which fuse needs to be switched out?  1/2 hour.  At least we had decent coffee in the hotel room.

Road-Tripping? Forget the Keurig, it will blow a fuze #bloggerproblems #blogher15 #BBNYC Click To Tweet

The GPS doesn’t like heavy urban areas.

You don’t want to be ‘Searching for a Satellite” while lost in the ghetto at 3 am.  Bring a back up map.   This happened.  When we arrived in Chicago, and when we left.  Also in NYC last year for #blogher12.  You’d think we would have learned by now… Time lost:  another 1/2 hour.  Le sigh…

Don’t drive a tiny-ass car.  Take the van.

Swag.  Need I say more?  “The car is more efficient on gas!  Sure, we can all squeeze in there!”

 #blogher13 car from side           swag trunk of car

Do as I say, not as I do.  Check out this picture.  In case you’re wondering, that’s the tiny spot I had to squeeze myself in.  My big arse in a tiny-ass car.  Take the van.

#blogher13 Hobbit hole

Do not order a bean burrito at the start of the road trip.

Or… anytime during a road trip. I’m sure it wasn’t me – couldn’t have been, I swear! –  but ducks were quacking in the seat and it smelled like someone’s cat died in our luggage.  Have the apple; no need to thank me, you’re welcome.

Do NOT pick up hitchhikers near Thumb Correctional Facility in Michigan.

Don’t pick up hitchhikers – ever – but specially in Michigan near the border.  Huge sign on the road – wonder how many escapees before they renamed the place ‘Thumb’ ?

hitchhikers

Let’s just say we made sure the doors were locked.  We may have also shared some campfire horror stories involving hitchhikers.  Don’t do that either.

Don’t let Ann find the exit.

It’s not going to happen.

Always check the gas when going for pee breaks.

We switched around 3 am as I didn’t want to fall asleep on the road; for some reason I didn’t have the steady supply of caffeine I had counted on.

We still had a 1/4 tank of gas.  I promptly slumbered in my hobbit hole at the back and woke up to Jen & Ann screaming we had no gas.

Not all pit stops are created equal.

Jen managed to get us off the 416 and into the lot of a service station.  A huge feat considering we were running on fumes, about 15 minutes away from home.  Lucky for us, this gas station was in a rural area and only opened at 9am.  It was currently 5 am.

As any self-respecting blogger would, we took to Twitter with the #3strandedbloggers tag.

And then some of us had to pee… #3strandedbloggerspeeinginabush

“Careful what you wipe with when peeing in the bush – Seriously, don’t pass up the toilet paper swag #3strandedbloggerspeeinginabush”

~ @shoeboxbegone

It was late.  We were exhausted.  Hilarity set in.

“3 stranded bloggers, peeing in a bush.  Mama called the doctor and the doctor said: No more bloggers, peeing in a bush!”

Pump in the car if you must – but don’t forget to empty the pump.

Better yet, don’t leave it in your bag while driving on bumpy roads.  I reached into my bag to grab my toilet paper swag… and found that everything was wet.  The breast pump gleamed like an empty beacon, right beside the kitchen sink near the HAZMAT suit.  I packed just about everything in that bag.  Just about everything was now soaked in milk.  MOO.

Beware of cracked-out tow truck drivers.

Yay for road-side assistance, Boo for craked-out tow truck drivers.  Guy showed up an hour later and after a few shakes of a lamb’s tail announced we SHOULD have enough to get to the next gas station and ran off before finding out if the car started up or not.

It didn’t.

” #3strandedbloggers will trade lube for gas”  ~ @shoeboxbegone

Don’t bribe a police office with lube

With Trojan being an expo hall sponsor we had about 8 bottles of lube in the car.   Apparently a lone car in a deserted gas station at 6am is slightly suspicious, so a kind officer stopped by to see if we were OK.  I’m not saying we tried to make funny with him.  Okay, we tried to make funny with him.

Thankfully he had a great sense of humour – and a kind spirit – and helped us out.

#blogher13 office to the rescue

“Ann misses the exit again – in her hometown. #kickassroadtrip #3strandedbloggers” ~ @shoeboxbegone

The most exciting 2 hours of this trip happened 5 minutes from home.

Next year I’m flying.

 

*** Thanks to @annbac9 & @genuinejen for helping me come up with a list of ‘don’t’ during our #3strandedbloggers adventure!***

Have you heard?  Barbie is moving!

Have you heard? Barbie is moving!

Barbie Is Moving TourBarbies, Barbies, Everywhere!

Ah, memories of my youth!  I had LOTS of Barbies.  I would dress them up all fancy in classic ’80’s wear reminiscent of aerobic videos and Flashdance.  I would get them ready for their date with Ken.  We didn’t have Ken dolls.  Barbies got all dressed up, shoved under the couch and retrieved an hour later.

A new generation

Jasmine is 7 now, and Barbies are a serious thing in this house.  SERIOUS.  Imagine my excitement when I heard that Barbie was going on a North American Tour with 2 stops in Canada!  I don’t care that Toronto is 4+ hours away – If there’s only 2 Barbie events in Canada my daughter is sure as heck going to at least one of them!

#barbieismoving

So what is the #barbieismoving tour?  It’s a Pinktastic, Glamtastic, Glittertastic FREE event for girls (and boys) of all ages.  Playing dress-up and walking the runway?  Grabbing that fab runway glam shot?  Check! A Barbie movie in a larger-than-life movie theater?  Check! Creating mood boards for Barbie’s new home and building a Mega Blocks Barbie room?  Check, Check, Check, Check, Check!

Surprise!

So Friday I’m packing up the car and driving to Wild Water Kingdom with Jasmine.  The best part?  She doesn’t know yet!  She has NO clue!  I’m planning on filming her reaction as we drive into the lot of the event (don’t worry, there’s another driver lol). Come back next week to view the video and photos from the event.

Want to join us?

Near Toronto?  Willing to take the drive?  Join us daily  11-6 on July 19th-21st for this dolltastic event at Wild Water Kingdom.  Check out tour details HERE.

Can’t join us?  Want Barbie fun?

If you can’t join us you can still participate!  You can go to the Barbie is Moving website and record a video with your daughter (or you?) as Barbie’s new BFF.  Check below for the videos we did of Annabelle & Jasmine.  You can also go to http://family.ca/barbie and sign up for some great giveaways.

See you in the Pink Mansion!

Niagara Falls: Wonders, Fun & Memories

Niagara Falls: Wonders, Fun & Memories

What an amazing trip we had.  Eventful.  Funny.  Stressful at times.  The weather was gorgeous all week and the kids are still talking about it.  But do you do summarize a 4-day trip into 1 post?  With a slideshow?

How do you also add your round-up of things to do?  Your family travels survival guide?

On this page you’ll find my posts for days 1 through 4 along with my round-up and my survival guide.  I’ve added these nifty little tab things to make navigating through the posts easier.  All of this awesomeness is followed by a slideshow of our best pics!

Have a laugh at my expense and make sure to enjoy the slideshow at the end of this post! And please, do share your own holiday bloopers and survival tips in the comments below!

YYYEEEEEEHHHHAAAAAWWWWWWWWW!

Let’s Giddy-up ’cause Momma’s on VACATION!

That’s right folks – this hard-working momma just got over tax season and has decided to pack up 3 adults, 3 kids, 2 car seats, 1 wheel chair and gear for 4 days including diapers and wipes for the wee ones.  What could go wrong?

Crowds?  Kids are still in school! Plus, we’re traveling during the week so we’re sure to avoid opening weekend mayhem.

Scheduling?  This is perfect!  J-F goes back to work in early from his 3 months of parental leave – it’s now or never baby!

Budget?  Easy peasy!  I’ve been squirreling away 50 bucks here and there and I’ve got the amount for the hotel in my personal account.  I also have a bit more for souvenirs and stuff.

J-F is covering meals and since we’ve got my super-duper-wonder-mom snack packs and breakfast is included with the hotel we should be good for about $500.  He thinks it will be closer to $1000, but what does he know? So $1000-$1500 total for the 6 of us, and we’re not bringing the credit card.

In full disclosure most of our activities have been sponsored by Niagara Falls Tourism and the Clifton Hill Comfort Inn so that definitely helps with the budget! Also, we were very lucky – and extremely thankful – that the MS Society St-Catherine’s Chapter lent us a GoGo Scooter for the week.

I hope everyone has gone pee cause we’re not stopping till we hit Trenton.

The plan is to check in at the Comfort Inn Clifton Hills by 2pm, unload & unwind, have dinner at the onsite Kelsey’s (LOVE their spinach dip so I was excited there was one attached to the hotel), then hit up the hill for some good ole’ fashion FUN.

Ahem.  Like birthing plans, road trips never  go according to THE PLAN. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.  Don’t believe me?  Have a few kids then get back to me!

Things are going along smoothly; we’ve stopped at the customary Trenton OnRoute, spent way too much time getting everyone fed and to the bathroom and the GPS still says we’ll be at the hotel by 2PM.  It’s a holiday Monday so traffic is mild and the skies are beautiful.

We’re cruising along the 401 in the fast lane, about to hit Oshawa and the van in front of us is all over the place.  Suspecting either a drunk or severely distracted driver I grab the phone and dial 9-1-1.

“OPP What’s your emergency?”

I report the drunk driver and our location and as I’m reading off the licence plate…. KAAAPPPOOWWW! “And… we’ve just blown a tire.  In the fast lane.  On the 401.  No ma’am, it’s not safe.  Yes ma’am, please send police.  Yes ma’am, everyone is ok.”

I barely had time to hang up and dial our road side assistance that a truck pulls up in front.  2 emergency trucks are behind us, in 2 lanes, to block traffic and make sure we don’t get hit.  The (very nice) cop tells us there’s no way we can wait for road side assistance we have to use the guy that’s there.

Funny him.  Cause there’s no way, on the median, that we can take out 3 kids, 2 car seats, 1 wheel chair and my mom. 

So Cop-Guy pulls a move out of the movies – we get hitched up to the tow and escorted off the 401, sirens blaring and all.  There has to be a better way to save on gas!

About an hour later we’re back on the road and there’s now a full size tire amongst our gear.  I am SO glad we decided to rent a double stroller and have it delivered to the hotel.

Did I mention it’s a holiday Monday?  That most stores are closed?  I spend the next 1/2 hour mapping out Canadian Tires near the hotel and calling them all and hoping one of them is not only open but will be open at 4pm.

Lovely hotel.  With stairs.  Lots of stairs.  Everywhere.  Shit.  Yes, we got the accessible family suite we asked for… but no there’s no balcony ’cause it’s on the 1st floor ’cause there’s no elevators.

There are work-arounds, and we manage to get our gear in.  Winding down you say?  I check us in while J-F goes to fix the car and Mom goes out with Jasmine to test out the scooter.  I think that’s just a ploy to go smoke a few cigarettes, in peace…

The one thing J-F wants to see is the falls so after dinner we start down the hill.  Victoria Day.  Shit.  This is almost as bad as NYC! Have you ever maneuvered a double-stroller AND a scooter through throngs of people on a freaking hill?  Don’t.  Just don’t.

Cause then you have to go back up.  Oh Yeah!  40lb toddler. 15 lb baby, 15 lb stroller.  My trainer will be proud cause I have to push this thing – without running into anyone – all. the. way. up. the. hill. I’m grunting and sweating and the higher up we go the hotter it gets and sacremento are we there yet?

We take the time to visit the Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum and the wax museum.  There’s several of those but we picked the one that was included with our fun passes and other than discovering that my 6 year old is a complete wuss it was actually quite awesome.  Check out the ‘Things to Do” tab for a list of all the cool things you can do.

Tomorrow we go to Marineland then J-F & I get our date.  That means tonight I’m packing up the car for tomorrow morning and getting clothes ready for tomorrow morning.

I crawl into bed way too late and come to the startling realization that there is – in fact – quite a difference between a VACATION and a TRIP.  This is definitely NOT a vacation… but it’s gearing up to be a memorable trip!

The awesome thing about breakfast being included with the hotel is you actually have to get up on time to eat it.  Who knew?

There is not enough coffee in the world for me this morning but off we go to Marineland!  The kids are excited, the adults are stressed, it’s a great day! <insert fake-ass smile>

Today is the real test: We have to fit the scooter – which we don’t know yet how to pull apart – and the double stroller in the van.  Oh – and the humans too.  Ha! 

He said it couldn’t be done.  Well, ladies & gents…. It CAN be doneTa ta-ta Dah!!!!!

Now that we all smell like coconuts (thank you, coppertone!) we’re watching the show first.  We’re just in time so that’s a bonus.

I thought I remembered reading that there was a place to the side for people with wheelchairs but the young fella is directing us to the TOP of the stadium.  Via some steep, long – so long – ramp.  I am thanking my lucky stars we’ve got that scooter ’cause I do NOT want to push that wheelchair up there.

But wait!  There’s still that 15lb stroller.  With the 40lb kid and the 15lb baby.

Make sure you check out the slideshow – I am NOT a happy momma and it’s been caught on camera.  Not my proudest moment…

In my defense, I dropped my 1st coffee, had 2 sips of the 2nd and spilled most of it on my leg.  It’s hot.  I’m sweaty.  My thighs are already chaffing so I’m walking like I’ve got a stick in my bee-hind and damn-it I just want some coffee!

This kids want to go feed the whales so off we go in that direction.  Of course there will be rides and poor Annabelle is not happy when she can’t come along.  Jasmine & I make a pact to only do rides that Annabelle can come on.

And come on them she did!  What a little dare-devil!  I really am a lucky mom… I’m looking at my kids while we go around this little boat for the gazillionth time and they’re a pretty awesome bunch.

The whales!  We’re here!  Wow, what a team.  We were so well received and the kids has such a great experience.  Mom was even able to get close-up with her scooter so she could get up and feed the beluga too!  She’s having so much fun, and the kids are having a blast – I’m so glad I brought her.  We might kill each other before the week is done, but right now, in this moment… I see only happiness in all of them and my heart feels all warm and sappy.

Except for J-F – He’s off looking for shade with the baby and he’s not having much luck.

Check the pictures for my ‘sling magic’.  Even if your kids outgrow the sling bring it with you!  Chloe can’t get away from the sun so I’m using the sling as a cover – it’s great ’cause you can wrap it around the stroller as you would a person, and nothing flies off in the wind!

The rides, the food, the deer – it’s been a long day, the kids are cranky and it’s time to head out.  “Look Maman!  that sign says w h e e l c h a i r s…. o n l y… Wheelchairs Only?  What’s that Maman?”

Wow that kid is an awesome reader – they only taught them to read French in school.  Damn – that’s a wheelchair only sign for the DAMN SHOW! Oh well, can’t blame the kid it could have been his first day.  Shit my legs hurt though.

We might have gotten lost coming back from Marineland, and might have ended up at a family restaurant next to 3 strip clubs.  The kids were hungry, the adults were hungry, and no one wanted to wait 1/2 hour to drive back to the hotel.  And those super-duper-awesome-healthy snack packs?  No one wants to touch them.  Sigh.

By now I’ve got a permanent ‘deer in headlight’s’ look on my face, and I need some me-time.  J-F & I were supposed to have our date but he’s exhausted and Mom is hearing bells – the penny slot kind of bells.  Fallsview Casino… Here we come!

Mom came out even, I lost a few bucks, we may have bought some fudge… This was fun 🙂  I needed this.  We’ve got another big day tomorrow so I’ll finish this glass of wine and maybe have another bite of fudge.

 

We’re taking it easy today!  Since everything we want to see is on the WEGO line, we’re going to walk down to the falls, do the boat thing and go from there.  I’m really excited to have Mom come today ’cause everything is supposed to be accessible.

In retrospect, her day of ‘freedom’ was her favorite day of the trip (probably cause she’s been stuck on the top floor of her house all winter).  Her house is now adapted but it was a rough winter for her.  Being able to go out freely, alone, without having to worry about the battery dying on the scooter or not having the strength to push herself in the chair.  She did her own thing and she was in a great mood when we came back! Sometimes, mums do know best…

I’m pumped, I’m excited, and the kids can feel it.  Of course when we get on the boat I figure it can’t be that bad so I put on the poncho but fail to put on the cap.  I got some great pictures but the closer we got the more the wind picked up.  The more the wind picked up the more we got wet.  The more wet we got the more Jasmine was determined that she did NOT like the boat.

They say the falls will take your breath away – that’s because the wind is so strong down there you can’t breathe!

We hopped on the WEGO and headed out towards the butterfly conservatory.  Of course we missed the stop and it took another 15 minutes to circle around.  I guess that’s a good think – we got to get out to see the flower clock.  These parks we’re driving through are absolutely gorgeous, and I wish I had a day, kid free, to go walk through all the parks.  Next time.

To see the kids with the butterflies was amazing!  A few landed on Annabelle, and finally – finally – one landed on Jasmine near the end.  We went around twice, mostly cause the baby was sleeping and it was easier than going back out in the heat.

Up next is Bird Kingdom.  You have to understand that since Jasmine heard about Bird Kingdom she’s been asking why we don’t have a bird like Grandma used to have.  Teehee.  This kid is in for quite a surprise!

The 2nd floor has 2 encounter rooms plus that really dark section with the bats and the owls.  The second floor isn’t air conditioned.  We’re in a really old building, with really old wood floors that hundreds (maybe thousands?) of birds have shit on in the past.  I don’t care how many times you wash those floors and clean out the habitats: in this humidity the stink is unbearable.  That’s why we don’t have a bird. 

I’m afraid for the 3rd floor and quite frankly I’m ready to turn around but when the elevator doors opened I was speechless.  THIS is what I came here for.  It’s gorgeous!  This huge fella (of the bird kind) & I had a conversation.  J-F says I’m weird and may have muttered something along the likes that I’m not the bird whisperer.

There’s birds everywhere!  Big ones, small ones, bright ones… It’s huge, it’s open, it’s cool, it doesn’t stink – and did I mention the birds are awesome? I’ve got a few great pictures of some of the more impressive ones.

It’s almost time to head back to the hotel and meet up with Mom for dinner and we have 2 options.  Walk down the road, up the hill, and back to almost the same spot we’re in now but 1 road up…. Or take a shortcut.  J-F’s idea of a shortcut.  Up about 100 stairs.  With a 15lb stroller holding a 40lb kid and a 15lb baby.  Shit.  Some shortcut.

By the time we make it up there we’ve decided we’ve bought enough fudge already; some shortcut that was.  So up the hill a bit more we go to get to the MGM Studio store ’cause Mamma wants an OSCARWhy?  Cause I want one, that’s why.  Except every time I’ve come by they either weren’t open yet or had just closed down.  The website says MGM fun everyday until 10 pm!!! But he didn’t open up before noon and by 3pm he was gone.  This is like the New Year’s Eve ball adventure I had in NYC.  We’re leaving tomorrow morning so its a dead dream.

I’d promised Jasmine I’d take her to the dinosaur mini-put but the baby needs to nurse and Annabelle needs a nap so J-F takes her.  He also takes her up on the skywheel – AT NIGHT – and to the midway and the XD theatre.

This kid just went on MY DATE I wanted to do the Skywheel at night I wanted to go to the XD Theatre with J-F I wanted to golf with the dinosaurs and flirt like we were 15 again.  Me.  NOT the Kid.  But the KID just snafued my date.

What else is a girl to do but ask her beau to take her to the casino?  His fault.  Got dolled up and off we go… I even got a nice glass of wine!  I.  Had.  A. Blast.  And so did he.  And we still flirted like we were 15.  And we didn’t lose any money – actually we came out a bit ahead.  I’m a lucky womanMy partner in crime is the love of my life and I’m so thankful we found each other again almost 5 years ago.

 

They’re all in the car looking at me through the windows as I check out of our pre-paid hotel room.  “Pretend this is complicated business – they’re watching!”  The poor boy doesn’t have a clue.  “I’m serious – you can’t me go back in there – please! don’t make me go back!”

“Traveling with the inlaws?”

“No!  My 3 kids.  My husband.  My mom.  You can’t make me go back there I won’t go!”

We have a few laughs while shuffling a few pieces of paper back and forth.  I refill my coffee mug.  I think I’m ready.  I can do this.  I can spend the next 6 hours in the car.  This is not a vacation.  Next time I’m running away alone;  I might consider taking J-F.  A cruise maybe?

Shit.  The wax hands.  I promised Jasmine she could have 2 souvenirs and 2 souvenirs only > A dolphin stuffie from Marineland and a wax hand that we’ve yet to do.

I kinda want one too.  I can see it now: A big huge poster with my logo and my hand ‘Need a hand?’… Don’t judge.

So we get 2 hands done – Jasmine has hers together in prayer-like form.  Mine’s standing up.

How long does it take to make 2 wax hands when you’re in a hurry and the crew keeps circling around?  About 40 minutes.  But they’re so cool they were worth every penny.

 And the trip?  Worth every penny.  It wasn’t easy.  It was complicated and messy and normal.  Normal…. Mission accomplished!

Will I do it again?  Probably.  Anytime soon?  Probably not.

As I crawl into my bed with fresh sheets I’m so glad I thought to wash them just before we left.  J-F is snoring, the kids are konked out in their beds, the baby is nursing… Tomorrow, we get back to our routine.

This week?  This week was absolutely amazing. 

Why Niagara Falls?  What Can I do there?

This is my roundup of the best stuff to do when visiting Niagara Falls.  Information and pricing can be found through the Niagara Falls Tourism website.

Niagara Falls is more than ‘just’ the falls.  The falls are great, but you can’t spend the whole week on the Maid of the Mist.  Thankfully there’s plenty to do.

In the heart of it all is Clifton Hill.  That’s where you have the big Skywheel, the dinosaur and glow in the dark mini-put, all the Ripley’s stuff and the Guiness World of Records stuff.  There’s also a few different wax museums.

What I loved about the Hill is that most places had this ‘open air / outdoor market’ feel at the front and you could buy tickets to see more.   Our first tour of Clifton Hill we didn’t actually go into any of the attractions – we just experienced what was right there in front of us and the front-end of the attractions!  Ice cream shops, fudge, souvenirs, games… The whole thing has a carnival feel and it’s all been cleverly built into the landscape of the hill.

The Falls.  The falls are great, and there’s plenty to do and see there as well.  My kids wouldn’t do the white water walk and the journey behind the falls would be too complicated with the stroller but with older children this is definitely a great choice.  And who can forget the Maid of the Mist?  You might think it’s just a boat and some water – but it’s not.  Its experiencing in ‘live HD’ the forces of nature.  It’s an experience you won’t soon forget and is worth getting a little wet for.

Helicopter Rides.  The best view of the falls – We almost went on this but by the time Date Night rolled around we were too exhausted.   Our hotel had special pricing tickets available and it was about 50% off!  Definitely worth it.

The Parks.  Botanical gardens, butterfly conservatories, flower clocks, walking trails – A few minutes on the WEGO and you’re there.  The kids will love the opportunity to run wild and spend some pent up energy and you’ll enjoy the tranquility of the parks.

Fallsview Boulevard.  Upscale restaurants, the Fallsview Casino, higher-end hotels… If you want to indulge, this is the place to do it!

Lundy’s Lane.  If you love to shop this is the place to do it! Factory outlets, boutiques, originals… you name it!

Theme Parks.  Marineland, Safari Niagara, Waterparks – something for everyone!  Bring sunscreen and enjoy the attractions and unique experiences!

The Wine.  I’ve had these tickets for a private wine tour for ages but we never seem to get around to it.  Last year I was pregnant so we cancelled our trip, and this year we didn’t have time!  A short drive away you’ll find some of Ontario’s finest wineries.  Many offer free tours, with deluxe  / private tasting tours available.  Cheers!

Whatever your tastes, whatever you decide – there’s something for everyone.  Check out my survival guide in the next tab for smooth (er) traveling with kids!

You’ve picked a destination and decided it was time for a vacation.  What’s next?

Choose your dates wisely

We went in May because kids were still in school and the crowds wouldn’t be as bad.  Also, we went on a weekday.  If you get overwhelmed in large crowds avoid long weekends.  If you’re on a budget travel during the week.  Be strategic, it will pay off.

Choose your venue wisely

We chose the Comfort Inn Clifton Hill.  It was comfortable, clean, and the staff was amazing.  Breakfast was included with our stay, there’s a nice big pool, and a Kelsey’s attached to it.

More importantly, it was within walking distance of almost everything we wanted to do.  The only time we took the van was to go to Marineland.  We walked on the hill, walked to the falls, hopped the WEGO from there – it was great.  Thank goodness too because we not only had 6 people to fit in the van but also a scooter and a double stroller.  Bonus, we didn’t spend our week looking for parking.

Road tripping?  Don’t overstuff the car!

Many cities have baby gear rental businesses and most hotels have basics like playpens and cribs.  Don’t spend 6 hours in the car wedged between a car seat and a double stroller, and don’t try to navigate narrow airplane aisles with the limo on wheels.  Rent what you can and arrange for pick up and delivery to your hotel.  We rented a double-stroller from Baby Travels and it cost us $50 for the week.  It was dropped off at the hotel and picked up there as well.  Worth every penny!

Adult:Child Ratios

Bring as many adults (or capable teens) as you have small children, specially when there are gender and age differences.  Makes it easier to split up when each child wants or needs something different.  If you have 3 or more kids, consider paying the way for a grandparent, and older niece or nephew, or hire a local babysitter for the week.  They get a trip and you get an extra set of hands.

Itinerary

Plan ahead.  Find out what there is to do, choose what you want to do, figure out the budget, and stick (mostly) to that list.  Once you know what you want to do you can find the best deals and plan out an itinerary for the family.

Down time

Kids get tired, big people get cranky, and no one has fun when you’re rushing around.  We stayed 3 nights instead of 2 so we could sleep in if we wanted to.  It also allowed for extra flexibility as we were road-tripping AND the weatherman was forecasting doom and gloom for the whole week. Ends up the weather was perfect but I was glad we had that extra time to shuffle things around.

Kids will be kids

And kids will get hungry.  Plan ahead and pack some snacks for each day.  Having healthy food handy squashes the cravings and the whining that follows cause you’re stuck in a lineup for the ride and everyone decided they were hungry.

Have fun.  Laugh.  It will be over soon.  I promise 😉

Bring a bottle of wine.  There are openers and glasses at the hotel.  Have a glass after the kids are in bed.  You’re welcome.

What are you best travel survival tips?  Please share in the comments below!

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