Surf City USA Day Trip – 7 Family Friendly Things To Do in Huntington Beach

While you can definitely fill a full week relaxing in Huntington Beach, California, if you only have a limited amount of time to play in Surf City USA, no worries. We have the perfect itinerary for a full day of family-friendly fun in this casual and cool Pacific Coast community.

My family and I stayed in the beautiful Irvine and Costa Mesa areas while visiting Southern California this summer, the perfect home base for a vacation in Orange County. The Costa Mesa Marriott is 10 minutes from Huntington Beach, so we had just a short, 20-minute drive back to the hotel after a full day of fun. For information about things to do in the Irvine and Costa Mesa areas, be sure to visit my post: Family Travel – Fun Things to Do in Irvine, California #OrangeCounty.

Our friends at Visit Huntington Beach hosted our visit for the day and helped us coordinate a schedule that included a combination of water sports, good food and relaxation that was perfect for me, my 10-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son. If you are planning a girl’s getaway, romantic weekend or vacation with younger kids, they have a lot of other ideas about things to do in the area – so be sure to check them out for ideas before you arrive.


1. Learn to Surf – When in Surf City USA, you gotta surf! After all, Huntington Beach has the most consistent waves on the West Coast. If you don’t know how to hang 10, surf lessons from Toes On The Noes is the perfect thing to do in Huntington Beach.

Located at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa in the Retail Courtyard, Toes On The Nose offers lessons for those of ages 6 and up with any level of experience. As first timers – we were so excited about the opportunity to hit the waves with a little help from the pros.

After putting on wetsuits (provided by Toes On The Nose), we walked across the street from the hotel to the beach with our two instructors, Brock and Paul. Our 2-hour morning lesson started with a brief explanation about technique and we practiced going from the paddling position to standing on our surf boards while we were still on the sand.

Then we hit the water. Jackson went up immediately and Annie was soon to follow. It took a few more tries for me – but it turns out you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. I wasn’t going to win an award for style, but I had a blast riding a wave all the way in to the beach.

Brock and Paul were so patient and nice. They’ve both been surfing for a long time, especially Brock who started surfing when he was just a little one in preschool. It’s clear they are in their happy place when in the ocean. Even though they are clearly very experienced, they seemed to really enjoy surfing with us rookies and were excited for us when we got up on our boards. We all enjoyed getting to know them…it’s always awesome to meet people who are living their dream.

After a while, it was clear that Jackson was really progressing quickly. Brock took him out to work one-on-one with him so he could experience as much as possible before the end of our lesson. It was so fun to watch Jackson feel the thrill of catching waves on his own. While Paul and I watched him from the beach, Paul told me that he could tell he had the bug. Paul got it when he was 13 years old and has been hooked on surfing ever since. He could tell Jackson was heading there.

Jackson stood a little taller when Brock and Paul asked him to come see them next time we visited Huntington Beach so they could go surfing together again.

While surf lessons are a bit of a splurge – it’s totally worth it if you’ve never done it before. I also felt so much more comfortable knowing the kids had experienced surfers with them who knew about rip currents and how to be safe while having fun. Our instructors really maximized our time in the water, giving us the chance to catch waves immediately by telling us when to pop up…timing is everything.

Many thanks to Brock and Paul and Toes On The Noes for an epic morning.

Jackson said it was lit.

2. Ride Bikes Down the Boardwalk – After your surf lessons, rent bikes at Toes On The Noes (they also offer hourly and daily bike rentals) and cruise down the Boardwalk. There’s an 8.5 mile paved beach path perfect for pedaling around. It’s a great way to soak in the sun, the views and the relaxing vibe of Huntington Beach and the Pacific Ocean. We worked up an appetite after hitting the waves, so we rode our bikes from the Hyatt to Sandy’s Beach Grill for lunch. Bike rentals come with locks and you’ll find bike racks all along the paved path, so you can stop to shop or eat or just relax on the sand.

3. Have Lunch at Sandy’s Beach Grill – While on your bike ride down the boardwalk – stop in Sandy’s for a bite to eat. This casual restaurant serves authentic California cuisine and is right by the iconic Huntington Pier. We had delicious scallops and mushroom flatbread at a table with a great view of the ocean. It was so yummy and relaxing and we were able to lock our bikes up on a bike rack right outside the restaurant. Check out my full review of Sandy’s Beach Grill in the post, 8 Great Restaurants in Orange County.

4. Stand Up Paddleboarding at Huntington Harbor with OEX Sunset Beach. We fell in love with Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) last year in Florida. So much so, that we bought our own paddleboard before we left Sandestine! We don’t get the chance to go out as often as we’d like in Houston, so whenever we are by the water – we always try to squeeze in some time to SUP. OEX Sunset Beach, a kayak and SUP rental shop only a short drive down the Pacific Coast Highway from Sandy’s Grill, is a great place to grab a board and get on the water.

Since we’ve been stand up paddleboarding before, we each got our own paddleboard – but two people can easily fit on one board if you are new to the sport and have younger kids. OEX Sunset Beach also offers lessons if you want to learn before you head out on your own, but SUP is really easy…you just have to find your balance. While it’s a lot of fun, relaxing and a great way to explore – it’s also a great workout. We went out around 3:30 p.m. so we had two hours to play. OEX Sunset Beach closes at 5:30, so all kayakers and paddleboarders have to be in by then.

The harbor is beautiful and there were a lot of kayakers and paddleboarders out on the water. We had fun exploring the area and looking at the boats and homes along the way. Paddleboarding is very calming to me. I love falling into the rhythm of paddling as I glide across the water. The kids love it, too. It’s a great way to see the water from a different perspective and while we didn’t talk a lot – it’s fun to experience SUP together with your family.

We went pretty far out, around several bends in the Harbor and before we knew it, it was time to head back. It was a little windier then we anticipated and because we were going against the wind on the way back, we made it back with only about 10 minutes to spare! With tired arms, tighter abs and full hearts – we turned in our equipment.

Tip: Parking is limited in their parking lot but you can park for free along the highway. You can also store your valuables in the shop (car keys, etc.) so you don’t have to worry about taking things on the paddleboard.

5. Shop at Pacific City If you have time and want to do some shopping, Pacific City is a fun place to visit. Right on the Pacific Coast Highway – they have big stores like Free People and LUSH (our favorite bath products!) as well as smaller specialty shops. We went after we finished SUP and before dinner and really enjoyed CherryHills Market. They also have restaurants and live entertainment. While we just visited for an hour, we could have been here much longer.

6. Eat Dinner at Cucina Alessa – Just a short drive from the Boardwalk to Main Street is a delicious Italian restaurant, perfect for dinner. While you don’t want to wear a bathing suit or cut offs, it’s not too fancy. We were very comfortable. Jackson got lasagna, I ordered lobster ravioli and Annie had pasta with grilled shrimp and everything was delicious. We heard that all their handmade pastas are yummy – especially the Butternut Squash Ravioli. For a full review about Cucina Alessa, see my post: 8 Great Restaurants in Orange County.

7. Bonfire on the Beach – While there are several public fire pits available for use on a first come, first serve basis on the beach each evening, there’s a special area across the street from and between the Hilton and Hyatt hotels where you can reserve a private bonfire. Waterfront Adventures, part of the The Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort, allows you to enjoy watching the sunset on the beach and making s’mores by the fire without any of the fuss. They provide the beach chairs, fire pit, wood, soft drinks and water, and all the fixin’s for s’mores.

This was an amazing way to end the day. We just showed up on the beach and checked in with the attendant at about 8:30 p.m. Our private fire pit was already set up. During the evening he continually checked on us and kept the fire going so all we had to do was get comfortable and curl up by the fire. We loved visiting together about our Huntington Beach adventures in such beautiful surroundings.

Tip: Be aware that the beach closes for everyone at 10:00 p.m. Starting at about 9:45 p.m. police vehicles begin to patrol the beach – so be prepared to pack up or pay a fine!

The kids happily dozed off during our ride back to Costa Mesa after the Bonfire. Before they were out like a light, both of them smiled and said…”Today was the best day. Ever.”

So, yeah. This mom’s kinda loving Huntington Beach.

What is your favorite thing to do in Orange County?

As guests of  Visit Huntington Beach our meals and activities were provided in order for us to experience Surf City USA area attractions. No other compensation was received and, as always, all opinions expressed are my own or taken from input received from my kids.


My #StickaPic Craft Party – HP Social Media Snapshots Photo Paper @Staples with Special Discount

sticka pic party main photo

I love to make things, especially during the holiday season. It’s fun to give homemade gifts and when I use photos in my DIY projects, it makes them extra special.

As an HP Smart Mom Panel member, I have been able to give HP insight into what a small business owner, blogger, mom and DIY/crafter likes about products such as printers and photo paper.  I’ve also been able to try out new HP products first hand. Recently I travelled to San Diego for the HP Print and Pamper Retreat where I was able to visit HP headquarters and meet with executives to give my input about product development.

During the trip, we also were treated to a craft night. I was in DIY heaven when I walked into the conference room at the Rancho Bernardo Inn and saw tables and tables of make and takes. I was inspired by the projects and couldn’t wait to get home to share what I learned with my friends! These projects and more can be found online at

Taking an hour or two during the day to get creative with good friends is such a gift. Even though we haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving, I put on some Christmas music and lit some cinnamon candles as we visited and snacked on some pumpkin goat cheese and scones. As my friends arrived, they printed photo “name tags” on HP Social Media Snapshots sticky photo paper with their favorite hashtag. It was fun to see what word they each picked to describe themselves.

stickapic party collage

Other friends picked love and awesome. I chose brave.


My friends loved using the free HP Snapshots app to access and print photos straight from their social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook as well as their smartphone’s photo stream. HP Social Media Snapshots 4×5 sticky back photo paper is perfect for creating projects. We made three easy and fun photo projects perfect for gift giving.

craft projects

1. Tile Coasters

How to make yourself: Get some stone tiles in the bathroom section of Home Depot. You can also use ceramic tiles for a more polished look. Print a photo onto HP Social Media Snapshots photo paper from Instagram using the free, HP Snapshots app. You can pick a white or black frame for your photo, or trim the border off completely, like I did. Peel off the protective backing from the back of the photo and adhere it to your coaster. Cover the top of photo and coaster with Mod Podge. After it dries, put four, small felt pad dots on the back of the coaster, one in each corner, to protect your coffee table.

2. Photo blocks

How to make yourself: You can buy wooden blocks from a craft store like Michaels, but I had my husband cut them from wood. The HP Social Media Snapshots photo paper is 4 x 5 but the image will be smaller when you trim off the bottom portion that contains the message below the photo from Instagram. I left a border on my photo and trimmed it down to a perfect square – 4 1/8 x 4 1/8. You’ll need 9 equally sized square blocks to fit together to make a 4 1/4 x 4 1/4 square.

After printing a photo onto the HP Social Media Snapshots photo paper using the HP Snapshots app, trim your photo. Apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to the blocks, then adhere your photo to the blocks. Let dry then use an exacto knife to cut the photo along the lines of the blocks so they can be separated. Sand the sides of the blocks for an even finish. Repeat on all or any of the remaining 5 sides. You can also paint some of the sides with acrylic paint.

3. Christmas Ornaments

How to make yourself: Purchase a glass ornament at a craft supply store like Michaels. You can get a round glass ornament with a flat front and back surface which works well for adhering a photo. Print a photo onto the HP Social Media Snapshots photo paper using the HP Snapshots app. A smaller image works best for this craft. Punch out the image you want with a circle punch. Peel back the protective backing and adhere to the ornament. Using Mod Podge, cover the entire photo as well as a small border around the photo. Sprinkle glitter on the exposed Mod Podge (you can cover photo or just the border like I did). Tie ribbon around the top to match the colors in the photo and/or the glitter.

While in San Diego, I met the creator of the PicCollege app. You can make the coolest photo collages on your phone with their grids and templates that include themes for holidays and events. They even have templates for phone cases and greeting cards.

This is a PicCollage I made of my guests working on their projects. So cute! If you haven’t used this free app, be sure to give it a try.


Deal Alert!

Now through November 30th, HP Social Media Snapshots are Buy One Get One Free at Staples when you use this link and click “redeem now”.

What are you making for the holidays?

As an HP Smart Mom Panel member, I received free products in order to host the HP #StickaPic Party. All opinions expressed are my own.


My Chat with Jack Black, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee and Dylan Minnette from Goosebumps

photo 2 (11)

I had the chance to meet with Jack Black along with the other lead actors in Goosebumps (Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee and Dylan Minnette) while they were in Houston promoting the film.


Be cool, Jenn. Be cool.

For a detailed movie review (in summary – it’s great!) check out my previous Goosebumps post.

I wanted to share some of the other highlights I learned during our visit. First, let me just tell you – Jack Black is awesome and  just as cool off-screen as he is on. He makes you feel like you are friends and you could really just hang out. He walked into the room singing and then said he was excited about the Tex Mex (“a delicious blend of Texas and Mexican cuisines” he explained to actor Minnette who plays Zach Cooper in the movie) waiting for them on the jet.

I was kind of surprised he didn’t invite me to join them after the interview, but it was probably because it was a small jet. And maybe they didn’t get enough food for another person. Anyway, that’s how down to earth he is…you think he might actually invite you to hang with them.

Jack Black, Goosebumps movie

Rush (who plays his daughter, Hannah, in the movie) said that she was initially nervous about acting with Black because she’s a big fan of his work, but “he puts everyone at ease immediately because he’s so approachable,” she said. “He makes fun of himself and made us feel so comfortable every single day, that you kind of forget what a huge star he is, because he’s so down to earth.”

Lee agreed, saying he grew up watching Black’s movies so when he met him during a Super 8 press junket, “it was so cool.  I never thought I’d get to work with him!”

Black’s natural ability to spin a yarn might be one of the reasons why he is so authentic in his movies and so likable to so many people. I posted about meeting with him on my personal Facebook page and 200 family and friends immediately commented about how much they love him!

Black said his sons (who are seven and nine years old) don’t want him to tell them his stories now because they just want to go to straight to sleep, but for a long time he would make up adventures to share with them before bedtime. “I would tell them ‘this is the story of the Lord of the Rings’ and then I would just make up stories about hobbits and dragons and adventures and I’d leave it with a cliff hanger – ‘and tomorrow you’ll find out what happened with the Dragon of Algernon,’ ” Black said, pronouncing”Algernon” in that rocker way that he often does with regular words.

Jack Black, Goosebumps movie

Black’s sons loved the movie after screening it at their school in L.A. with their friends (which is not the School of Rock, by the way). Black knew when he read the script that they would “dig” the movie (even though they have not yet started to read the Goosebumps books) because they like “scary stuff”.

Black has a drum set in his basement for his sons, but has not yet pushed formal music lessons because he doesn’t want to demand – “You have to be a rocker!” or else they might rebel. He’s just going to let it happen naturally. Black is obviously a natural musician himself and in the band, Tenacious D, but did you know that Minnette is a rockstar as well?

Minnette is singer/guitarist for The Narwhals, a classic rock band that plays frequently in L.A. venues. During breaks while filming for Goosebumps, Black and Minnette had guitars on set and played together in Black’s trailer. And when The Narwhals played a show in Atlanta last year during filming, Minnette said “Black did an epic introduction and sang a song on stage from Nacho Libre…a very proud moment for me.”

“I love talking music with (Minnette) because he’s super knowledgable about music happening today and I have an encylopedic mind of old school rockers, said Black. “It was interesting to find what bands we both liked… we came together on The Strokes, Arcade Fire and RadioHead.”

Black spoke highly of working with Rush, Lee and Minnette in the movie, referring to them as “the most talented kids in town” to work with. “They are real…they are really good actors and you don’t get that hot blast of cheese,” said Black. “If there’s even a whiff of insincerity with these scenes the whole movie collapses. The relationship here is powerful. It hooks you in and you root for them…you might even shed a tear at the end because it really works…it resonates,” he said. “And they are fun to hang out with. Goofing off on set…translated to great stuff on camera.”

The end of the movie is set up nicely for a sequel, but will there be one? Black said, “It all depends on how this movie does and how well the script turns out for the next one. There should have been a School of Rock 2, but that never happened.”


goosebumps movie

I had the opportunity to visit with Jack Black, Odeya Rush, Dylan Minnette and Ryan Lee in order to gain perspective in the making of the movie Goosebumps but did not receive any compensation for this post (Tex Mex on the jet would have been nice, though). All opinions expressed are my own. Except that Jack Black is awesome. Because that’s a fact.


Five Ways Traveling Helps Connect My Family #TravelforReal #FamilyForward

I love to travel.

Over the couple of years I’ve had the opportunity to visit several different destinations …but the best experiences I’ve had by far have been the adventures I’ve taken with my family.

It’s funny because I’ve noticed recently that the further we get from home, the closer my family tends to get.

At home we all stay so busy and so focused with whatever is consuming us at the moment….school, work, scouts, soccer, running events, musical performances, housework. While we make it a point to  sit down together for dinner as frequently as possible and spend time as a family together on the weekends…it’s hard to coordinate schedules as the kids get older.

When we travel – it’s like we’re all in on the same page. We get closer on vacation by:

1. Navigating different roads – Whether we’re taking a full-on, Griswold family road trip across several states in the mini-van or we’re just trying to get our rental car from the airport to the hotel….finding our way together has a way of bringing us closer. Sometimes we give each other a hard time, but there’s a sense of adventure even in getting to your destination.

5 ways traveling helps connect


2. Experiencing something new  – Whether it’s paddle boarding or visiting the world’s largest ball of string …when we all try or see something that is new to all of us for the first time – we bond. I especially love it when do something different spur of the moment and all end up loving the experience….thrilled with conquering something new….together.

3. Trying different food – I don’t know what it is, but my kids will try new food/dishes when on a vacation that they’d never try at home. And I love to eat out…no dishes, no grocery shopping! When we are by the ocean, I crave seafood. When in New Orleans, I had to have a beignet from Cafe Du Monde…Paris – macarons! One of the things I always do before I leave on a trip is to ask friends and family where there favorite restaurant is.

4. Meeting new people  – It’s always fun to meet people while traveling. Some of the coolest conversations I’ve had have been with locals in a non-touristy spot. But we also love to talk to people who, like us, are vacationing. When in Destin, we bonded with some SUP enthusiasts when we rented paddle boards and ventured far from the shore. Others doing the same thing would give us tips on paddle boarding or a good spot to dive for sand dollars. There’s something about being on a similar adventure that brings you closer to those you’ve never met!

5. Staying at a nice hotel – Call us crazy – but we love staying in a nice hotel room all together. At home, we scatter after dinner for homework, chores and practice. Even when we sit down to watch a movie together – I get up frequently to put in a load of laundry, answer the phone or do something else “I just remembered I didn’t do but really need to”. When we are in a hotel room – there aren’t any distractions. I have no desire to clean. When we watch a movie – I pay attention. We even like to bring cards or small games to play before going to sleep.

loews royal pacific

We are so excited about our next adventure! In less than two weeks, we’ll be joining families from across the country as part of the #FamilyForward Universal Orlando Adventure hosted by Mom It Forward along with Universal Orlando Resort, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, DohVinci, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Loews Royal Pacific Resort.

This trip is unique because in addition to going to Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, watching the Blue Man Group, visiting Universal’s Wet n Wild Waterpark and staying at the beautiful Loews Royal Pacific Resort,  Mom It Forward has organized other activities and projects that are designed to bring families closer together. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for us!

We’ve been counting down the days and have loved getting a first-hand look about what it will be like to stay at Loews by seeing photos other families who are staying there are posting on Instagram on the #TravelforReal hashtag. We are so thankful they are doing this because it allows us to get a REAL look at what it’s like to stay and play there from the perspective of families like us. From what we’ve seen, we are in for a real treat! From the hotel room, to the pools and restaurants – the hotel looks amazing and we are so excited to get there.

We can’t wait to share our experience with you – so be sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter .



Inspiration Where You Least Expect It

Tonight my nine-year-old daughter told me to get on my running shoes and come outside with her. I begged her to go upstairs and play. I didn’t want to go outside. It’s like Mars in Houston right now and I’ve been feeling bad about myself for skipping work-outs. I have had a hard time keeping up with my running group….a bad start to a new running season. So I thought I should watch Big Bang Theory re-runs and eat chocolate instead.

The truth is I’ve felt bad about myself about a lot of things lately. I had an incredible experience at an oil and gas company leading a group of extraordinary people over the last year. I was in awe of their talent each day and I think I made a difference, too.

But I didn’t see my kids. I was missing school functions and even when I was home. I wasn’t home. Things slipped through the cracks. My health wasn’t good. And other things at home weren’t good either.

So I took a leap of faith and accepted a contract position which allows me to work from home and will give me more time to be with my family. To take care of myself.

To blog!

So there’s a learning curve and I’ve fallen a couple times over the past couple of weeks. But I’m getting my sea legs…figuring out my cadence….finding my new normal.

Still – I didn’t want to run tonight. But Annie told me to run with her. So I put one foot in front of the other and before we knew it – we ran 2 miles together.

Here’s the thing – the inspiration I didn’t realize I had has been sitting on her canopy bed down the hall reading Judy Moody chapter books to her stuffed animals and turning cartwheels where ever she can find six inches of clear space.


She talked to me the entire two miles. Telling me that I was awesome. And that she admired me because I keep running even when it hurts. Even when I’m tired. Even when I feel I can’t. That I take the longer route because while it’s harder, it’s worth it.

She told me that running is like having a lemon aid stand to earn money to buy a camera (hint, hint – she wants a camera!) You can’t just have one lemon aid stand and expect to earn all you need for the camera you want. You have to have a lot of lemon aid stands….and you know – it just kinda all adds up.


When did my daughter get all smart and insightful.

And damn. When did she become a good runner?!

So maybe I’m not in the best shape after our little run tonight – but I’m better.

And also…I’m back.






Massage Envy Spa (Giveaway for 1-hour massage in Cypress, Texas!)

Did you happen to see my Sprint Tri recap post last year? I talked about how a massage helped me prepare for the race. I’ve competed in several triathlons since then, and massages are such a huge benefit to help me prepare and recover from these athletic events.

But I’m learning that massages are really a good thing for me to experience on a more consistent basis. I was reminded recently why I love Massage Envy and how I need to sign up as a member so I can take advantage of the therapeutic benefits (relieve stress, relax muscles and improve range of motion) at a cost so much more wallet-friendly then other spas.

massage envy

The Massage Envy Cypress location off of 290 invited me to see their newly renovated space and treated me to a fabulous hour-long massage. It was incredible. They recently moved a stone’s throw from their previous location into a much bigger facility; a 15-room, 4200-square-foot spa which includes four upgraded spa rooms, two couples’ rooms and a large tranquility room.

When I arrived, I filled out paperwork so my therapist, Jessica, could understand exactly what I needed and wanted to get out of the session. My wellness coordinator, Kathy, asked further questions to be sure I knew all my options. I wanted a deep tissue massage with some stretching. Kathy suggested the Deep Muscle Therapy, warming and cooling thermal products to provide deep muscle pain relief from injuries and chronic conditions or limited mobility due to athletic training, to enhance my experience. 

I was relaxed the minute I walked in, so I didn’t take many photos – but I did get a couple of the tranquility room. Look at that beautiful stone wall.

massage envy

Jessica brought me back almost immediately and the session was amazing. The Deep Muscle Therapy was wonderful and so worth the extra $12.00. She made sure the pressure was comfortable and immediately found the spots on my neck that needed to be worked out and helped stretch my legs and arms. I felt like a million bucks when I was finished and I can’t wait to go back to see Jessica again. I felt like she really cared about my health and both Kathy and Jessica were so helpful and caring…it was like I had my own wellness team!

Massage Envy offers members a great rate of just $59.99 for a monthly massage and additional massages during the month are only $39.99. They also offer Murad Healthy Skin Facials, which I would love to get sometime soon!

Do you leave in the Houston/Cypress area? Want to win a free one-hour massage at Massage Envy to try it out for yourself? Be sure to enter the giveaway! For more information about Massage Envy in Houston, check them out on Facebook!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was given a complimentary massage in order to write a review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 


Anne Geddes 2015 Calendar – Under The Sea

In just two days, I’ll be attending Blogger Bash in NYC to learn about the latest and greatest products and initiatives from hundreds of companies. It is going to be a great experience and Tanya Avery and I will be sharing with you what we learn along the way!

I’m SO excited that photographer Anne Geddes will there to unveil her latest project – Under The Sea: a 2015 calendar featuring images of babies as characters in their own underwater pantomime.


Seriously…how cute is this little mermaid?

The 12 images in the calendar end with December’s grand finale The Great Barrier Reef – a tribute to Anne’s home country, Australia. I can’t wait to see it!

Anne Geddes, a world renowned photographer, has been capturing unique and beautiful images of children for years. I enjoyed her work before I became a mother. Now, with two children of my own, I respect and enjoy her talents even more.

It is a goal of mine to become a better photographer…to capture the feeling behind a subject, to bring out the beauty in what already exists  – to make people smile. Anne Geddes does this in such a beautiful way. She is truly Living Her Dream, pursuing her passion that started with a small studio in a garage behind her garden and has grown to include a body of work that is loved and enjoyed by millions of people.

What an inspiration.

You can learn more about her new calendar, Under the Sea, here.

I look forward to bringing you news from Blogger Bash soon!





Salata – The Next Generation Salad Bar (Giveaway)

Salata logo

By now you probably can guess that I love to go out to eat, but finding healthy food options (especially  for a quick bite) can sometimes be challenging.

One of my favorite places? Salata.

So when Salata, The Next Generation Salad Bar, recently sent me a gift card to have lunch on them and gave me another one to give away to a, lucky Still Living The Dream reader, I was beyond thrilled. They have a lot of exciting things going on including summer promotions, new locations and new menu items.

I love that Salata doesn’t charge by the weight. You just go down the line and tell them to add whatever you want… they offer unlimited toppings at one set price of $8. But it’s the type of toppings they offer that keep me coming back.

With nearly 50 ingredient options, there is something for everyone.


Here’s how I built my salad yesterday:

  1. grapes
  2. strawberries
  3. carrots
  4. black beans
  5. cilantro
  6. cucumbers

For just a small amount more ($2 for chicken and $3 for seafood) you can add protein. I added crab meat and topped my salad with fat-free mango dressing (YUM!) and baked pita chips.

Nutrition info (Weight Watchers Points Plus):

Salata’s 10 dressings, all made in-house, are gluten-free. While they are all delicious – they range in calories/fat content. The best options if you are watching your intake? Fat-free Mango and Fat-free Sun-Dried Tomato. Both are delicious but you’ve got to try the fat-free mango…my absolute favorite which is (wait for it) 0 WW points plus! (based on a 1 ounce serving which is 1 ladle at the restaurant) it gives your salad a light but flavorful punch.

Worth the splurge – Chipotle Ranch…not too bad for 3 PP. Delicious but higher in calories/fat – Balsamic Vinaigrette (4 PP) and Lemon Vinaigrette (4 PP).

For the adventurous types, Salata will mix dressings. Fun combos include Ginger-lime and Chipotle Ranch and Mango and Chipotle Ranch.

Salata also offers broccoli, tomato basil and tortilla soups and tortilla wraps and has great homemade tea and lemon-aid flavors.

salata teas

Summer Tea Promotion:

Speaking of tea and lemon-aid, from now until July 31, guests who purchase a half-gallon tea or lemonade variety will receive one free, reusable Salata tumbler – limit one tumbler per purchase per visit while supplies last!

The house-made teas and lemonades are available in premium flavors like peach lemonade and green tea lemonade, or plum cinnamon tea and the portable jugs are available for $8.00 at any Salata location that serves its signature teas and lemonades. To find the Salata nearest you, visit

Houston-area Peeps: A New Salata Restaurant Location!

Salata, a Houston-based salad-bar restaurant, has more than 30 corporate-owned and franchise locations in Texas and Southern California and has signed agreements to open 40 more by 2016. They are opening their 34th restaurant (19th in Houston) tomorrow, Thursday, June 19th in River Oaks (1440 W. Grey St.). Doors open at 11:00 a.m. and the first 34 guests to dine will receive a free salad or salad wrap and signature drink of their choice!

A Giveaway!

Can’t make it to the Houston River Oaks restaurant for the grand opening and still want  to try Salata for free? One lucky Still Living The Dream reader will get a $15.00 gift card to check-out Salata’s greatness first-hand. Just leave a comment below telling me what ingredients you love in a salad. Easy-peasy! I’ll select a winner at random on Monday, June 23, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. CST.

I was given a gift card to enjoy lunch at Salata. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own!


New Grilled Chicken at Chick-fil-A #GrilledLove (Giveaway)

Chick-fil-A is at it again.

Last year I posted nutritional information and a review of Chick-fil-A’s newest salads and wrap which continue to be extremely popular with their customers. I love the healthier menu options which make it easy to eat well while on the go.

Recently they made a big change to their grilled menu.


Have you heard about this latest news? Maybe not, because they played it all calm and low key and just kind of snuck these in on their menu without doing a lot of promotion. In fact, even though David and his team invited me and my friends to preview the new items for free at the restaurant in our area in Houston on April 7th, they had actually already been serving the items to their customers for several weeks.

Even though they didn’t make a lot of hooplah, make no mistake…this change is HUGE.

Chick-fil-A has introduced a new lineup of grilled chicken entrees that will give the chain one of the most nutritious and expansive grilled menus across the quick-service industry.

On April 14, the Atlanta-based restaurant chain officially rolled-out three new entrees:

  1. Chick-fil-A® Grilled Chicken Sandwich
  2. Chick-fil-A® Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich
  3. Chick-fil-A® Grilled Nuggets

So you’re probably thinking, what? They already have a grilled chicken sandwich and grilled nuggets – what’s the big deal?

Actually, the items they have been serving on their menu for years have been CHAR-GRILLED, not grilled. Chick-fil-A invested seven years of testing and more than $50 million to reinvent its grilled chicken recipe including the creation of a proprietary grill. This grill sears chicken perfectly on cast-iron grates like it was cooked on a backyard grill, only faster.

What does that mean for you and me?

Chick-fil-A’s new chicken filet is 1 1/2 ounces larger than the fried filet. The grilled recipe is moister, juicier and more flavorful than the char-grilled version offered before. Each grilled chicken breast is marinated with a blend of sea salt, lemon, garlic and savory herbs, and cooked on their newly developed proprietary grill.

My friends (girl scout brownie troop moms) and I were all, “that sounds good – but we’ll be the judge of that!” So we all ordered items from the grilled menu and chowed down, Texas style.

Our verdict? Delicious! Every grilled menu item was so tasty and moist…you can actually see sear marks on the chicken. Did you know that some restaurants have a grill mark press they use to simulate sear marks?! Chick-fil-A’s are for real!

chickfila chicken

Check out the details including nutritional facts on the grilled chicken items:

  • Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Sandwich: The Grilled Chicken Sandwich is a boneless, 100 percent pure breast meat chicken, marinated with a special blend of seasonings, served on a new toasted, multigrain bun (not wheat) with green leaf lettuce and tomato and with a side of Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce. Pickles no longer come on the sandwich to reduce the sodium level. It is priced starting at $4.29 with just 320 calories and 5 grams of fat, making it one of the most nutritious grilled entrees in the quick- service industry.
  • Take it up a notch with the Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich with Colby-Jack Cheese and Applewood smoked bacon for $5.49 with 440 calories and 14 grams of fat.
  • Chick-fil-A Grilled Nuggets: Chick-fil-A Grilled Nuggets are pure boneless breast of chicken that come in the four and six-count kid’s meals are also available in eight-count (140 calories, 3 fat grams for $3.79) or 12-count (200 calories, 4.5 fat grams for $5.59) packs. Grilled Nuggets are made without gluten-containing ingredients and are free of trans fats.

I love to get grilled nuggets with honey mustard dipping sauce (one of the better choices at 45 calories a serving) with a side of fruit and a diet lemon aid!

Chick-fil-A’s new grilled chicken recipe is also in the Chick-fil-A Grilled Market Salad, Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap and Chick-fil-A Chicken Salad Sandwich.

As someone who tries to make healthy food choices wherever I go, I appreciate that Chick-fil-A makes their nutritional information easily accessible on their menu boards. You can also go online to find a meal calculator.

kids with cones

What’s on the horizon for Chick-fil-A:

1. On Feb. 11, Chick-fil-A announced that it will serve chicken raised without antibiotics in all its restaurants nationwide within five years. The move marked the first time a quick service restaurant has committed to a 100 percent “raised without antibiotics” standard for poultry.

2. Iced and hot coffee will be introduced in August 2014. Farmer-direct medium-roast coffee was developed especially for Chick-fil-A by experts at THRIVE Farmers. Both will be available in original and vanilla in 16- and 20-oz. serving sizes.

3. Frappes will be coming late 2014 to early 2015! Sustainably sourced by THRIVE Farmers, they will offer Triple Chocolate and Salted Caramel flavors.

4. Smoothies. Word on the street is Chick-fil-A will come out with pineapple mango, strawberry orange and berry acai smoothies made with real fruit and low-fat yogurt sometime in 2015. All smoothies will be 300 calories or less.

Want to be the judge the new grilled items yourself? How about….A Giveaway!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

 group with chikfila cow

My friends and I were treated to dinner at Chick-Fil-A in order to review the new grilled items. No compensation was received and, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 


Getting Ready for Disney Social Media Moms with Magic At Play Clothing from Kohl’s (Giveaway!)


I’m so excited to be attending the Disney Social Media Moms Conference again this year! It’s an unbelievable opportunity to learn from industry experts while having fun at the happiest place on earth! This year the conference is at Disneyland and there have been hints that some of the speakers will include Maxine Clark; Build A Bear, Doug Bowman; Twitter and Donald Driver; Super Bowl Champion. An awesome speaker line-up, the opportunity to network with incredibly talented bloggers and social media experts AND the chance to play at the park with my family? Dream. Come. True.

Needless to say, my family and I can’t wait to go next week…but we need to start packing. Preparing for a family vacation to Disney combined with a conference can be tricky. We don’t want to forget any park essentials (water bottles, back pack, sunscreen) along with conference must-haves (laptop, camera, mobile chargers). Check out some preparation and packing tips I posted about our Disney World trip last year.

And then there’s the most important part…what to wear!

We like to show our #DisneySide at home with Disney-themed clothes featuring Princesses, our favorite movie characters and (of course) classic Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Wearing Disney-inspired clothes at Disneyland is a must, so we were thrilled to learn about Magic at Play, a clothing collaboration between Disney and Kohl’s that came out April 3, 2014. I was given a gift card to Kohl’s so I could check out the apparel line by Jumping Beans for infants, toddlers, boys sizes 4-7 and girls sizes 4-6x and share what I thought with you.

kohls disney clothes

Annie had so much fun, but admittedly had a hard time deciding which pieces to choose from because there were so many options available at Kohl’s in stores and online. In the end she selected three tops, a pair of shorts, leggings and a dress. We loved the blinged out Mickey shirt and the subtle hints of Minnie on the sundress. A major plus….many of the pieces go together, giving you more outfit options. Also, Kohl’s often offers many sales and coupons so you can maximize your dollars. When we went, the entire Magic at Play Jumping Beans clothing line was 30 percent off. We also had an addition 20 percent off coupon AND a $10.00 off coupon that you can use if you spend $30 in apparel for children. Saving money on cute clothes makes me so happy.

kohls annie

What do you think…pretty cool, right? Want to make your dollar stretch even further so you can get more from the collection? How about a giveaway for a $50.00 Kohl’s giftcard?!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you Kohl’s for giving us a gift card to purchase Disney Jumping Bean apparel in order to review. No other compensation was received and as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.