SeaWorld San Antonio 50th Celebration – Sea of Surprises

After a fun (albeit wet!) weekend at the Woodlands Resort, my family and I decided to venture a little further from home for a second adventure during Spring Break…to San Antonio! We stayed at the very cool Hyatt Hill Country Resort and enjoyed a day at SeaWorld.

Seaworld logo

As a SeaWorld Ambassador, I was given a season pass so I can help kick-off celebrations like this. Let me just say, this is going to be a great year for SeaWorld San Antonio! For 18-months, SeaWorld is going to be celebrating with a new Shamu show, animal encounters, entertainment and special giveaways and prizes.

seaworld flamingos

We loved the Bubble Blowout mobile lab that greeted us when we arrived for the celebration and can now be found throughout the park. We also enjoyed seeing the beautiful Flamingos (check out Flamingo Cove as soon as you enter the park) and are excited about the other special animal encounters they have planned.

Seaworld surprise squad

Surprise Squad

When you visit the park, be on the look out for the Surprise Squad. These teams started wandering around SeaWorld on March 21st, giving away all sorts of prizes. I don’t know exactly what all the great giveaways will be, but I will say that when we were there, we saw them go up to a family taking a break on a bench and they gave them all-day dining passes! I hear that prizes will range from special gifts to even trips!

seaworld trash sculptures

Recycled Sculptures

We LOVED a new addition to the park, four sculptures all made out of recycled debris collected from beaches. A SeaWorld staff member told us that SeaWorld has collected 30 tons of debris over the last four years and used 98 percent of it to make 30 sculptures! Four of them reside at SeaWorld San Antonio including a penguin, jellyfish, shark and starfish. These sea-themed sculptures, many of which weigh more than half a ton, were so impressive and a great way to discuss ways we all can reduce, reuse and recycle. We also had fun playing “I spy” as we found bottles, bags, and other recognizable items that made up each sculpture.

You can learn more about projects like these at  SeaWorldCares.com.

A Great Deal

If you want to visit SeaWorld this year (we are going back in the summer and again in the fall for their special holiday celebrations!) now is a great time to get your passes. For a limited time, when you buy one SeaWorld San Antonio Fun Card, you get one free! Click here to find out more about this deal for unlimited admission through 12/31/14. The normal cost for a fun card is $65 for adults and $55 for kids (kids ages 3 and under are free).

As a SeaWorld ambassador, my family and I were given annual passes in order to visit the park for review purposes. No compensation was received and as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own! 

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A Tea Party in the Country with Cadbury Blue Bunny Ice Cream Bars

Have you been Living The Dream this summer?

For me, it’s been one of the most activity-filled summers in a long time. We started before school even let out with a dream trip to Disney World. As soon as summer break started, we hit the road for a weekend trip to San Antonio for fun at Sea World and Aquatica. Then I went to Paris with my mom and sisters….an incredible adventure. Barely through customs back in the states, my family and I went to Galveston for a week to visit with Ed’s side of the family and Annie and I just returned from a girl’s weekend trip to Austin.

Plus, I’ve been training for a sprint triathlon in September with my friend Tanya and I joined a runner’s group to start training for a half-marathon in the fall! I have so much swirling around in my head to share with you and now that summer is winding down…sigh….I can finally sit down and gather my thoughts!

Starting with….Tea Time at the Lake Made Sweeter with Cadbury and Blue Bunny!

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What better way to spend a lazy July weekend in the hot summer sun than with girl friends, big floppy hats, ice-cold sweet peach tea and Cadbury Blue Bunny ice cream bars? Cadbury sent us some free sweet treats to try and so Annie and I brought them with us when we joined her four friends and their moms at a friend’s country house in Austin for the weekend.

cadbury getting ready

After an afternoon of kid-led yoga and swimming in the pool with a beautiful hill country view behind us we had high tea 7-year-old style! Moms and kids got gussied up in big, colorful floppy hats and we sipped on sweet, peach tea properly… with pinkies up! We took some fun photos on the lawn….then things got a little less proper and a lot more fun…with Cadbury ice-cream bars!

cadbury hat photos

Blue Bunny ice cream (a brand I love for their reduced fat but still yummy products!) partnered with Cadbury (hello – chocolate, I love you!) to create two, new premium ice cream bars; Royal Dark and English Toffee, which joined the already delicious Caramello and vanilla chocolate bars. These mini bars are the perfect size for a sweet snack and are unbelievably delicious (and a better choice with reduced fat ice cream.) For those of you, like me, who count Weight Watchers points…the Points Plus values of these bars are 4, with the exception of the English Toffee was is 5 PP.

cadbury tea party2

The kids loved them! All four flavors were a hit, but the classic Vanilla Chocolate stood out with the younger crew. The moms loved the English Toffee, Royal Dark and Caramello (vanilla ice cream mixed with carmel sauce and covered in mil chocolate). My favorite was the Royal Dark but I gladly enjoyed an English Toffee for seconds and snuck in a Caramello later when no one was looking…sshhhh!

If you want to take it up a notch, Blue Bunny has some great ideas and recipes about how to turn your Cadbury ice cream bars into an even more decadent treat on their website. Check out this one for the Caramello Raspberry Mousse bars. Um – hello? Yes, please!

Our tea party was the perfect mix of proper and pretty and good old-fashioned messy summer fun. You don’t need much to make summer-time memories with your little ones that will last a lifetime. Grab your daughter’s dress up clothes and tea set, mix up some tea and pass out the ice cream bars to friends and family. The rest just sort of happens on it’s own. It’s the kind of fun I remember as a child. Laughing away the afternoon with your little girl…it just doesn’t get much better than that.

Have a SWEET Summer! Love, Jenn and Annie

Have a SWEET Summer! Love, Jenn and Annie

I received a tea party kit from Cadbury and MomSelect. No other compensation was received and all thoughts, opinions and chocolatey kid smiles are my own!

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Summer Road Trips with Savings From Shell Fuel Rewards Network

Are  you taking a family vacation this summer?

StillLivingTheDream DisneyWorldTangled

Since we just took a big one in May to Disney World and I’m going on a once in a lifetime trip abroad to Paris with my mom and sisters this summer, we plan on taking several short getaways within driving distance while the kids are out of school.

Call us old school, but we like to pack up the ol’ family truckster (mini van) and hit the road Griswold style. In addition to saving money on plane tickets, you can create a lot of memories when traveling in the car. Spending time together on the road can be a great family bonding experience as you navigate road maps, plan on road side stops for food and quickie sight seeing (gotta see the world’s largest ball of string if you’re passing by, right?!) and play travel games like “I Spy” and the oldie but goodie license plate game.

We now even laugh about those constant and annoying backseat cries of  “are we there yet?” or “Annie’s touching me!” from the kids on our trip to Colorado and South Dakota last summer.

It’s a rite of passage for kids to complain about long stretches of time spent confined to a small space with just one’s siblings and parents….the very thing you’ll remember with fondness later in life.

StillLivingTheDream Aquatica

Luckily our home base of Houston is also close to many places that are great for a weekend getaway…especially the Hill Country. We take a trip to San Antonio several times a year and especially love the River Walk and SeaWorld and Aquatica. In fact, we just got back from attending a mini blogging conference called AdventureCon hosted by SeaWorld. While I learned more about mobile apps and photography, Ed and the kids enjoyed time in the parks. When I was finished I joined them for time in the sun and water and to enjoy the new SeaWorld show, Pet’s Ahoy. We just love Aquatica and SeaWorld and going to these parks is always on our Summer Family Bucket List.

StillLivingTheDream fuel rewards network logo

While traveling by car is less expensive then plane, gas is certainly an expense. I’m always looking for ways to save money and I recently heard about The Shell Fuel Rewards Network program that helps people pay less for gas. I received a loaded Fuel Rewards Network Card so I could experience the savings and how the program works.

Here’s the skinny about the Fuel Rewards Network Program:

  1. To earn up to 75 cents a gallon (for up to 20 gallons of gas per vehicle/per visit) at Shell stations, you start by signing up at fuelrewards.com.
  2. You can get your card online (they mail it you) or you can get it at a participating Shell station.
  3. You must activate the card online before using

You save money per gallon by presenting the card when you:

  1. make purchases for convenience store products, car washes and auto services at Shell stations
  2. dine at more than 10,000 participating restaurants (you earn 10 cents a gallon for every $50 you spend!) We were excited to find out that one of our favorite restaurants close to home participates. You can view the entire list and search by zipcode online at fuelrewards.com.
  3. shop online at 700+ stores including Best Buy and Gap (earn 5 cents a gallon for every $50 you spend plus some merchants offer two to time times rewards to save you even more!)

We signed up and are earning rewards with purchases and almost to a rewards savings of $2.50 off a gallon. Last time I filled the minivan up when almost on empty, I put in 18.2 gallons and gas was $3.28 a gallon.

With the fuel rewards network savings, I will only pay 78 cents a gallon; a total of $14.20 for a FULL tank of gas. This would normally cost $59.70 – a savings of $45.50!

Since your card resets back to zero after you fill up (whether it’s 1 or 20 gallons) it’s best that you go with a low tank.  Some people even bring a gas can to fill up as well if they can’t  hit 20 gallons by filling up their tank. Smart!

The Fuel Rewards Network is also offered at Shell in ADDITION to the Kroger rewards program which is awesome and will save you even more cash! You can use the mobile app to check your reward balance so you can see how far you are to reaching maximum savings!

With the Fuel Rewards Network program, I can afford more weekend road trips to SeaWorld and other fun places! Since it started in 2012, customers have saved about $68 million in savings at Shell. Are you one of them? How else do you save money for road trips with your family?

I was given a pre-loaded Fuel Rewards Network card in order to review for this post but received no other compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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The Griswold Family Goes to the Hill Country

The Griswold family truckster...at the Houston Art Car parade.

We felt like Clark and the fam heading out to Wally World a couple of weeks ago. Except we didn’t tie Aunt Edna to the roof or our dog to the bumper of the station wagon.

Mainly because we don’t have an Aunt Edna and we left our dog, Sadie, with my in-laws.

Sometimes vacations just don’t go as we plan.

We decided to head out of Houston for a couple days to visit Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels. Halfway there our trusty 2002 mini van started revving up, Ed lost control and smoke came billowing out from under the hood.

“I’m sure its ok,” I said without an ounce of reassurance and to no one in particular as Ed tried to steer the van to the side of I10 and our kids started freaking out in epic purportions.

“What’s that burning smell,” Jackson asked as I opened the door and smoke came pouring into the van.

Yeah, things were definitely NOT ok.

We called our insurance company to help us arrange a tow truck to take us to the next town down the road. Which was Luling, Texas. And we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” said Jackson after about an hour.

“Ok, pick a tree,” I said.

“WHAT?!” he screamed.

“We’re in the middle of nowhere, Jackson. We don’t have any other options.”

Jackson is very modest….so Ed, Annie and I formed a human shield to prevent vehicals passing by to witness the horror of what was happening just a few feet from a major freeway.

And then our tow truck drove up….

And took us….

Here.

“And they were never heard from again,” I said a little louder than I meant to.

After some animal crackers and water and a brief inspection of the situation, we determined that it was transmission problems and our van would take a couple days to fix. Instead of throwing in the towel and heading back home, we decided to press on, handed over our keys and our credit card to the owner and arranged for a rental car from the nearest place in another town 20 miles away.

And made our next unplanned, financially draining pit stop…in Lockhart.

For the third time during the day we repacked our belongings into another vehicle and headed out.

And while we worried about our van and the accruing charges the entire time…we made it to Wally World…er…Schlitterbahn and didn’t even have to hold anyone at gunpoint to get on the rides. All-in-all, not too bad.

What have you been up to this summer?

 

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