Family Travel – Fun Things to Do in Irvine, California #OrangeCounty

Family Fun Things To Do In Irvine, California

Are you planning a family vacation? If your travel plans include California, you don’t want to miss visiting Irvine in Orange County. During my recent 6-day trip to Southern California with my two kids, we found Irvine to be the perfect destination for family-fun as well as a great home-base for several day trips we took to the Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach areas.

Many thanks to the folks at Destination Irvine who set-up travel and coordinated some of the activities during our trip. I highly recommend visiting this site to prepare for your perfect Southern California family vacation.

At the center of Orange County and just minutes from John Wayne Airport, Irvine is a beautiful community filled with shopping, bike trails, good food and fun things to do. I’ll be covering details of places to eat and our day trips in future posts, but first I want to share some tips about what to do in Irvine proper….a fabulous destination in itself!

Where to Stay:

Embassy Suites Irvine

Our home away from home for two days was the Embassy Suites Irvine – Orange County Airport. A comfortable place to rest and relax with plenty of room to spread out, the Embassy Suites, with separate living and bedroom areas great for families, also provides all guests a complimentary made-to-order breakfast each morning (hello omelets!) and snacks and beverages in the evening. We loved playing cards in the atrium before dinner while enjoying refreshments.

Embassy Suites Irvine

Plus – if you are smart enough to schedule some down-time during your vacation (I need to do a better job with this) you can swim in their indoor pool or take advantage of summer programming like a painting class we noticed they were offering on Wednesday evenings. Very cool.

Embassy Suites Irvine

We’ve stayed at Embassy Suites hotels in other states before. In fact, Annie still remembers staying at the one in Dallas when I took her to the American Girl Doll Store for her birthday when she was just five years old. Embassy Suites does a great job of providing consistently great service across their chain of hotels and the Irvine location just went through a $12 million renovation – apparent by the modern furnishings located throughout both the guest rooms and public areas.

Fun Things to Do:

Orange County Great Park and The Great Park Balloon Ride

The Great Park Balloon - Irvine, California

We made a stop here Sunday evening – the first night of our trip. Open Thursday – Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., The Great Park (once a Marine Corps Air Station) is now home to sports fields, a carousel, a farm and food lab with interactive fruits, flowers and vegetable displays (open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.), a historical hanger with cool exhibitions including two World War II airplanes, a play area and visitor’s center, and probably the most recognizable attraction – the Great Park Balloon.

The helium balloon goes up 400 feet offering views of Irvine; however, wind prevented us from riding it while we were there. Because of this fact (we learned that it hadn’t been able to go up for several evenings the week we were there) and more activities offered earlier in the day then in the evening, I recommend going to The Great Park in the morning/early afternoon.

The Great Park Farm and Food Lab

If I was lucky enough to live in Irvine, I would be out here. A lot. They have a farmer’s market on Sunday mornings and host classes including sports and dance, yoga, photography, art, sustainable gardening, cooking and wellness throughout the year. They also offer activities like movies on the lawn and family craft and play programs. While we were there, a fencing organization was outside practicing. We heard they are building a new ice skating rink including a practice facility for the Anaheim Ducks there as well as well as fields for many different sports. My kids, who both play lacrosse, were happy to hear that lacrosse facilities were included in the plan.

The Great Park, Irvine CA

We were bummed we weren’t able to experience the 15-minute helium balloon ride, but we checked out a frisbee and soccer ball from the visitor’s center at no-charge and had a great time enjoying the sunset and beautiful evening playing together on the lawn.

We are slowly learning that when we travel, we have to be flexible and deal with the unexpected…making the most of the journey as it unfolds naturally. You can plan (and boy do I plan!) but certain things, like the weather, just can’t be helped. Getting stressed out doesn’t make things any better. We ended up having a great time doing something that wasn’t on the itinerary.

Tip: Bring a picnic and make a day at the park if time allows. Visit them online to see about free classes and activities that may be going on during your stay and take advantage of the Farmer’s and Artisan market with food trucks and live entertainment on Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Irvine Spectrum Center

Great Wheel - Irvine Spectrum Center

We learned pretty quickly that there’s no lack of shopping in Orange County. The Irvine Spectrum Center is an outdoor shopping center with two department stores (Nordstrom and Target), many full service and casual restaurants, tons of popular stores, and entertainment including a movie theatre, ferris wheel, carousel, kiddie train, Dave & Busters, and a comedy club.

Great Wheel Irvine Spectrum Center

Since we didn’t get to ride the Great Park Balloon – we were very excited to get a bird’s eye view of Irvine from the Giant Wheel, a ferris wheel in the middle of the shopping area with 52,000 energy-efficient LED lights. On a clear day when at the top, look towards the Santa Monica Mountains (53 miles away) and Downtown LA (40 miles away).

For the record….I was never scared. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Honey and Butter, Irvine

Tip: Visit Honey & Butter for the best darn macarons. Our friend Rob at the fabulous Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine and Cocktails restaurant recommended this to us. (I promise I’ll fill you in about Andrei’s later!) The character macarons are even more delicious than they are adorable. Annie was thrilled to get a Pig macaron – she is nuts about pigs. Other flavors to die for: milk and honey, sea salted caramel, thai tea and matcha. We bought a bag of assorted flavors to take back to the hotel to enjoy later but they were gone before we got back to the car.

Don’t judge….we were on vacation!

Pedego Irvine Electric Bikes

Pedego Electric Bike Irvine

One of the absolute, hands down, top highlights for all of us during our week in California was our tour of Irvine with Bob at Pedego Electric Bicycles. I used to want a Vespa, now I want an electric bike. Bob, the store owner, is awesome. You couldn’t meet a nicer guy who truly loves SOCAL and Irvine.

Amazing bike trails begin literally outside Bob’s store’s door. One of the reasons we all fell in love with Irvine is because it’s truly a bike friendly city. We only experienced a taste of what the area has to offer in terms of trails….it left us wanting to experience more.

Pedego Electric Bike Irvine

These bikes have heavy frames compared to the road/race/triathlon bikes the kids and I are used to – but they are extremely easy to operate. Unlike Houston, Irvine is very hilly so riding up some of the inclines, especially on long rides, can be challenging. On a Pedego, you can either pedal like on a regular bike, stop pedaling and let the electric bike do all the work or do a combination of both. Pedegos can go up to 20 miles per hour and operate with a throttle. These are particularly wonderful if you are recovering from a sports injury (like my recent tendon tear in my leg).

Pedego Electric Bike Irvine

Bob sells bikes as well as rents them and offers guided bike tours. We went out for about 1 1/2 hours and experienced spectacular views along Shady Canyon Trail, University Trail by Quail Hill, Woodbridge Trail, and Turtle Rock Trail. We rode by beautiful homes, water, a golf course and even saw a road runner while we were out. Bob gave us a lot of background information about Irvine during the ride. If you really want to know a city, get out of the car and get on a bike. Irvine trails and Pedego bikes make it easy.

Pedego Electric Bike Irvine

Tip: If you’re shorter than me (I’m 4’10” – about the average size of a 5th grader) then you’ll probably have trouble riding these bikes on your own. But no worries. They have tandem bikes and my 10-year-old daughter, Annie, rode one with Bob (and loved it).

ChocXO Chocolate Factory

ChocXO

I may or may not be in love with chocolate.

Wait. Yes – definitely, yes. And Irvine is home to one of the best Chocolatiers, ChocXO…the only Bean to Bar Chocolate Factory in Orange County.

ChocXO

In addition to a shop full of goodies, ChocXO on Irvine Center Dr. offers 45 minute to 1 hour tours of the factory. For just $10.00 a person you can learn about how they make their specialty chocolate and the tour includes three, free chocolates from their chocolate case as well as samples of raw cacao pulp, cocoa nibs and cocoa liquor. Sasha, our guide, walked us along the educational wall of the factory with windows where we saw the machines they use to make chocolate. She told us what happens before they get their fine flavor cacao beans from Central and South America and what they do with them to make their products.

This tour was especially interesting for us since we just returned home from the Dominican Republic with Fathom Impact Travel were we worked at Chocal, the women’s chocolate co-op in Altamira. Many of the activities we did by hand to assist production at the co-op, like discard the bad beans and separate the shells from the chocolate nibs after they were ground up, are done by sophisticated equipment at ChocXO. It was eye-opening to see how chocolate is made here versus in an undeveloped country. While there are many similarities, ChocXO certainly has the advantage of technology and the chocolate we sampled was unbelievably delicious.

I highly recommend just about any of the chocolate squares and truffles in their chocolate bar. My favorite flavors: birthday cake, lemon meringue, spicy PB&J, salted caramel and creme brulee. You can purchase them while you are there as well as order them online, but sadly – cannot find them in stores in Texas. Sigh.

ChocXO

Tip: Request tour guide, Sasha. She’s fabulous! She’ll give you a ChocXO quiz at the end of the tour and you can score two more free chocolates if you turn it in…especially fun for the kids.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Irvine and Orange County?

Be sure to visit StillLivingTheDream.com again soon for posts about fabulous places to eat and details about our day trips to Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.

As a guest of Destination Irvine, some of our travel related expenses were covered in order for us to experience Orange County area attractions. We also happily paid for some of our own travel, food and activities during our journey. No other compensation was received and, as always, all opinions expressed are my own or taken from input received from my kids.

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Planting Trees In The Dominican Republic – #traveldeep (Part 2)

Still Living The Dream - waterslide

My family and I went to the Dominican Republic this summer. Typical tourist-type activities like relaxing by the pool on the cruise ship, racing down water slides in Amber Cove, riding the Teleferico Puerto Plata cable cars to the top of Mount Isabel de Torres, jumping off the side of waterfalls at 27 Charcos (Waterfalls of Rio Damajagua) were all on our to do list. But we were really going to Puerto Plata to accomplish something much more meaningful. 

We flew to Miami and boarded the Fathom Adonia, a small, 700-passenger cruise ship, to begin our journey. You can read more about Fathom Impact Travel and how to #traveldeep in my previous post.

Travelers with Fathom can pick up to three of the following impact activities. Because my daughter is 10 years old (you must be at least eight years old to go on this cruise) and there are age requirements for some of the more intense and physical activities like putting concrete floors in community homes, we selected Reforestation, Cacao & Women’s Chocolate Cooperative, and Community English.

Fathom reforestation

Newly planted Mangroves along a man-made canal by a natural lake in Cabarete – Puerto Plata.

Here’s what we experienced as part of the Reforestation Impact Activity.

 

Still Living The Dream

We left the ship at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning and boarded buses in Amber Cove. After about a 45 minute bus ride with Carlos from the NGO IDDI, and Becca, our Fathom Impact Guide, we arrived at our work site in Cabarete (Fathom takes travelers to different sites including those in the mountains and near the beach.)  After a short debriefing from IDDI staff, we planted Mangrove trees along the water that bordered a village.

Fathom impact travel - reforestation

As we planted the trees and marked them with sticks, those who live in the community walked over to watch us and some kids started to help.

StillLivingTheDream.com

Annie and Jackson were very focused on doing as much work at they could. Annie seemed to sense the impact immediately. After planting one small tree, she paused and told me…

“This will be here forever and will give air and shade to the people who live here.”

Nailed it.

We later learned from Fathom that our efforts help create more nutrient-rich soil, a reduction in soil loss, improved localized air and local water, an increase in localized biodiversity and higher agricultural yields.

StillLivingTheDream.com

As the morning carried on, we continued to make our way along the water bank that backed up to the village with what seemed like an endless supply of trees to be planted. It was hot and we were sweaty and for some reason, we got a lot dirtier then the rest of our group of about 40 travelers, but we felt great.

StillLivingTheDream.com reforestation with IDDI

We visited with IDDI team members as we worked and got to know one beautiful lady who at one point, sweetly stopped to tie Annie’s sneaker. She’s a mom with a two-year old daughter. I love that not only does IDDI help the community through partnering with Fathom with projects like this, they provide jobs for those who live there.

StillLivingTheDream.com

So how did we do? Our group planted 320 trees, but together along with those from the first five Fathom sailings – we planted a combined total of 8,656 seedlings and trees.

Not too shabby.

What did it mean to us as a family?

Fathom Impact Travel

There’s something to be said for working hard outside under the sun. Getting our hands dirty – touching the soil while enjoying breathtaking views. Well – I’m sorry to sound all touchy-feely, but it makes you feel alive. As I got caught up in my own experience and the work at hand, I’d occasionally steal a glance of one of my kids and watch them work. Jackson and Annie both took their job seriously. They wanted to do well and make a difference.

I had been looking forward to taking this trip with both my kids – but especially with Jackson. He is starting high school in the fall and it’s bittersweet. He is growing up at a rate I’m not comfortable with and I know that sooner than I will like – he will move away from our home to start his own life. I remember at one point saying to myself…

“Soak this moment in, Jennifer. It doesn’t really get any better than this.”

Fathom Impact Travel

Working together as a family to help someone else is so important. You don’t have to travel far to do this. We have participated in many worthwhile volunteer activities close to home. But going to another country and working together made us really feel like we were a part of the community there. For many hours I worked side-by-side with my family, new friends from the ship and those that lived in the Dominican Republic. We didn’t all speak the same language, but we communicated in a way that was meaningful and real.

On the bus ride home, we all sat quietly looking out the window….each lost within our own thoughts. Jackson caught me staring at him.

“Mom, you’re staring at me. What’s up?”

“Oh – nothing,” I said…(trying to be cool).

I’m a big, fat liar.

Because the most opposite of “nothing” had happened. For a few hours that morning, I spent quality time with my teenager…away from schedules, drivers ed, friends, sports, homework. I had found a way to pause time…if only for a little while.

I know he’ll never understand, but for a mom – it was so not “nothing”. It was something huge.

Still Living The Dream - Dominican Republic

Tips:

  1. Currently Fathom takes travelers to the nursery to plant seedlings on Tuesday afternoons and Friday mornings. If you want to plant trees in the mountains or along the beaches – be sure to select this activity on a Wednesday or Thursday. We were so happy to be able to plant the trees and spend time in Cabarete, an area of the country we might not have gotten to see. I highly recommend this option.
  2. Wear long pants, long sleeve shirts and use Deet to protect yourself from mosquitoes, the sun and plants or obstacles along the route. I recommend a hat and/or sunglasses as well. They provide work gloves. This was a great impact activity to do in the morning. While it was hot, the afternoon sun is a lot hotter.
  3. Drink a lot of water! IDDI and Fathom provide bottled water for you on the bus ride and during the activity. Stop and rehydrate during the day.

Fathom Impact Travel

Do you have any questions about the Fathom impact travel/travel deep experience? Be sure to let me know by commenting below and check back in at StillLivingTheDream.com to hear about what it was like to teach Community English in the Dominican Republic soon.

Fathom Impact Travel

I was invited by Fathom to sail on the Adonia to the Dominican Republic and experience impact activities with my family. While the main cruise (food, travel, room and impact activities) were provided to me at no cost, as always – all opinions expressed are my own. I gladly paid for air travel to the port, gratuities, on our own activities, taxis, souvenirs that supported some of the groups we helped while in the Dominican Republic, some food and beverages as well as other expenses on my own. 

 

 

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What is Fathom Impact Travel and #TravelDeep? (Part 1)

family sunset aboard Fathom Adonia

Beautiful sunset at sea aboard the Fathom Adonia.

I just got home from a vacation unlike any other I’ve taken. My family and I travel as much as we can and we’ve been on a lot of adventures over the last several years. But last week we flew to Miami and boarded a ship that took us on a journey we won’t soon forget.

Fathom Impact Travel invited several travel writers to join the other passengers and crew aboard the Adonia, a 700-passenger ship that sails every other week to the Dominican Republic. My husband, daughter and son joined me to experience a family vacation with a twist. While we would definitely see a beautiful country and do some typical tourist-type activities on our own, the main reason we were going to the Dominican Republic was to make a positive difference for those who live there.

child in Puerto Plata

There’s a lot I want to share with you and I’m going to break it down into a series of posts, but just to let you know (spoiler alert) we had an extraordinary time. I’m still trying to process everything. It was fun, rewarding, hard work, exhausting, uplifting, sobering, emotional and beautiful. We grew together as family, we changed a bit individually and we experienced the country in a way we never would have on any other vacation. We were able to relax and be tourists, too…so really – it was a combination of a regular vacation (hello – we were on a cruise ship!) and cultural immersion/mission work.

Before I dive in with some of the nuts and bolts of what this trip is all about and what it includes, I’d like to thank Fathom for the experience. While we paid for our air travel to Miami and many activities on the ground and extras on the ship, Fathom covered our stateroom, food and impact activities so that we could see first-hand what the new Fathom #traveldeep experience was like.

Fathom, the newest brand under the Carnival Corporation and plc umbrellais a new kind of cruise that combines the love of travel with the desire to make a difference. We were on the sixth sailing to the Dominican Republic (the also sail to Cuba every other week) so the concept and experience are still quite new for staff and travelers alike.

reforestation with IDDI

Planting trees as part of the Reforestation Impact Activity with Fathom. Made a new friend with IDDI.

Fathom calls the concept travel with a purpose – the opportunity to immerse yourself in the Dominican culture while working alongside its people to create enduring social impact. To achieve that, they have set up several impact activities, led by impact guides that you meet on the ship as well as community partners from NGO’s including IDDI and Entrena on the ground. You select three you want to experience while the ship is docked at Puerto Plata’s port for two full days and 2 half days including:

  • Reforestation
  • Community English
  • Repapel – Recycled paper and crafts entrepeneurship
  • Cacao & Women’s Chocolate Cooperative
  • Water filters
  • Concrete Floors in Community Homes
  • CAMS – Creative Art, Music and Sports (offered during the summer), Student English (offered during the school year)
Fathom Spanish phrases class

Taking a Spanish Phrases class on board to prepare for teaching Community English in the Dominican Republic.

Impact guides offer training through classes offered on the ship while you sail to the Dominican Republic. We took hour-long sessions on topics such as Spanish Phrases, Empowering English Tutoring, Visual Storytelling, Getting to Know the Dominican Republic, and Raising the Next Generation of Changemakers so we could prepare for our on-ground experiences.

Fathom Adonia pool

While sailing to Amber Cove, the port in Puerto Plata, we also enjoyed the Adonia’s many amenities including a swimming pool, fitness center, spa (that offered massages, hair, nails, facials and even acupuncture), multiple lounges and a wine bar, gift shops and dining areas. She also has a full library that was always a buzz with activity. Lots of games, puzzles, computers, comfortable chairs and couches were available as well as great books for all ages including many copies of The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind – the ship’s book club pick that many travelers read and discussed in groups during the cruise! We checked out a set of dominoes (a popular Dominican past time) to play many times on the ship until we purchased a set of our while sight seeing in Puerto Plata.

Fathom Adonia scavenger hunt

Late night scavenger hunt aboard the Adonia. Our team won!

They also offered fun, fitness activities like yoga, meditation and dance classes (we learned the Merengue and Bachata). You could take a wine and paint class, cocktail class, watch late night movies on the top deck and listen to the Adonia’s band – The Craze, as well as several Dominican Republic bands who came aboard while we were at port. Scheduled activities like scavenger hunts (not to brag or anything – but our team won the first one!), fitness seminars and bandioke (karioke with a live band) were also popular.

fuseball on Fathom Adonia

Annie playing Fuseball with new friends aboard The Adonia.

Because of the requirements of the work experienced on-ground, you have to be eight years old or older to go on this cruise. Some of the impact activities require you to be even older because of the type of work being performed. On our sailing we had a lot of kids, pre-teens and teenagers on board, which I think is great. There isn’t a kids game room or any children’s programming per say, but my kids participated in many of the age-appropriate activities offered and had a great time. I do feel like there could be more offered for the younger cruisers, though. This may be something they look at adding on future sailings.

What do you think about Fathom Impact Travel so far? Do you have any questions? Be sure to leave them in the comments section…I’d love to feature answers to them in an upcoming post. Visit Still Living The Dream to learn more about our Fathom experience coming soon!

I was invited by Fathom to sail on the Adonia to the Dominican Republic and experience impact activities with my family. While the main cruise (food, travel, room and impact activities) were provided to me at no cost, as always – all opinions expressed are my own. I gladly paid for air travel to the port, gratuities, on our own activities, taxis, souvenirs that supported some of the groups we helped while in the Dominican Republic, some food and beverages as well as other expenses on my own. 

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Goosebumps Movie Review & The Inside Scoop from Lead Actors Jack Black, Odeya Rush, Dylan Minnette and Ryan Lee

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As a huge* Jack Black fan, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to screen Goosebumps as well as interview Black and the other lead actors from the movie, which will be released nationwide in 3D on October 16, 2015….just in time for Halloween.

Goosebumps (rated PG) stars Jack Black as author R.L. Stine, Dylan Minnette as Zach (who also appeared in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), Odeya Rush as Hannah (The Giver and The Odd Life of Timothy Green) and Ryan Lee as Champ (This is Forty and Super 8).

The movie is about teenager Zach Cooper who is upset about moving from NYC to a small town in Delaware. Shortly after moving in, Zach meets his beautiful neighbor, Hannah and her father who he later finds out is Goosebumps series writer, R.L. Stine. Stine is a prisoner of his own imagination because the monsters from his books come to life if not kept locked within their pages. When Zach unintentionally unleashes the monsters from their manuscripts and they begin to terrorize the town, it’s up to Stine, Zach, and Hannah along with Champ (Zach’s likable but easily frightened new friend) to get all of them back in the books.

Since 1992, author R.L. Stine has written nearly 200 Goosebumps books featuring monsters of all shapes, sizes and varying degrees of scariness. I read books from the Goosebumps series to my son when he was younger and we’d both liked the stories that struck a balance between fear and funny that made the books enjoyable for both kids and adults.

According to Black, that was the main thing R.L. Stine wanted to come across in the movie as well. “R.L. told me to be conscientious of his audience,” said Black. “There are a lot of kids that will come to the movie so don’t go too terrifying. You can scare, but don’t traumatize. Keep the laughs and the scares coming and make it more like a thrill ride then a nightmare inducing horror fest,” said Black. “Like there’s no blood in the movie….we rode that line.”

It’s this balance that director Rob Letterman (who also produced and worked with Black on Gulliver’s Travels) and the actors worked to create in the movie and they definitely nailed it.

“I sat next to him (Stine) when we watched it (the movie) in New York and he was super stoked,” said Black. “That was the most important audience member to me, more than any of the critics, it was ‘What does R.L. think?’ – the fact that he loved it was gold to me.”

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One example when humor breaks up the intensity of a scary scene is when they are in the middle of a car chase and Lee (whose character, Champ, is a big fan of the author Stine) tries to take a selfie with him to post on Instagram. Black (as Stine) throws his smartphone out the car window and Lee is crushed.

The struggle is real, Lee! I tried to control any possible Black fangirling in an effort to act professional during our meeting, but couldn’t resist getting a selfie with him and the rest of the gang which immediately (obviously) went up on Instagram!

Goosebumps the movie is based on the books written by R.L. Stine but not adapted from any one story. In fact, you’ll be happy to see dozens of the monsters you loved to hate from the series including the infamous Slappy the Dummy who leads the monster’s revolt against Stine. “He’s like the Hannibel Lecter or Darth Vador of all the characters because he’s the mastermind, he’s the smartest and the most sinister, he represents the darkest part of R.L.’s psyche,” said Black.

Black is the voice of Slappy and Avery Lee Jones was the puppeteer.

slappy

In the beginning of the movie, Jack Black is downright mean…but after the monsters are released and he begins to work with Minnette, Rush and Lee to save the world, he’s very funny and extremely likable.

Black visited the real R.L. Stine while preparing for the role; however, the movie’s character does not depict the real R.L. Stein’s personality who is actually very funny and down to earth. “He’s an amazing guy,”  said Black. “He’s a brilliant writer so I kept that in mind while I was playing him. But the character in the movie is a lot darker…he has this sinister quality about him and is an antisocial guy who has locked out the outside world and that couldn’t be further from the case with the real R.L. Stine,” he said.

Stine didn’t mind the major departure. “He understood that’s the way we needed to play it,” said Black. “And he loved the movie.”  Black gave the character a bit of an Orson Wells type accent with a taste for the finer things and a bit of vanity and pride about his writing track record. There are several funny mentions of a rivalry between him and Stephen King.

Look for the real R.L. Stine who appears at the very end of the movie, albeit very briefly, as the new drama teacher named Mr. Black.

There are Easter Eggs throughout the movie including during the kitchen scene when the garden gnomes attack Black. They tie him up much like what was done to him in Gullivers Travels. There’s also a nod to the Cuckoo Clock of Doom in Stine’s basement. “Every monster that was ever in a Goosebumps book is in the movie somewhere,” said Black. “Sometimes they’re way in the back ground, so it’s fun to look for them – like a Where’s Waldo!”

You’ll see characters like The Ghouls from Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls, Snake Lady from Escape from the Carnival of Horrors, Bog Monster from You Can’t Scare Me! and others such as Cronby the cave troll, The Evil Clown, Vampires, The Witch Doctor, The Werewolf and The Abominable Snowman (who is the first to be accidentally released).

The Bug-Eyed Aliens, Praying Mantis and Blob were key monsters in the movie and the visual effects were cool. “The blob was entirely computer generated, so it was all imagination and the director painting the picture for us,” said Black. When it sucks Black into his body in the movie, Black was actually just standing on a table pretending like he was in jello.

Given the film’s rating and how comedy offsets the darker side, I do recommend the film to families with children. Yet, Slappy can be a little disturbing. Dolls that come to life and want to destroy the world can be a little creepy, so know your kids and what they can handle. I won’t have a problem taking my 9 year-old daughter and 14 year-old son. But I’ll probably cover my eyes when Slappy is on screen. He gives me (wait for it) goosebumps!

Check back on Still Living The Dream for a post about other fun things I learned during my visit with Jack Black and the other cast members!

*For clarification, when I say “huge” I’m referring to the amount of admiration I have for Jack Black not my actual size. I mean, I do have some weight to take off – but I’m only 4’10” which is actually quite small!

Disclosure: I was invited to a movie screening and given the opportunity to interview the actors as a member of the press for review purposes. I did not receive any compensation and all thoughts and opinions and fear of ventriloquist dummies are my own!

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21 Tips for Visiting Universal Orlando & The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

We just got home from a first-time visit to Universal Orlando and had a great time. We’ve been wanting to go on this #FamilyForward adventure organized by Mom It Forward for several years and we finally made it happen! Every year Mom It Forward offers a vacation package for purchase to social media savvy families. In addition to a great stay at Loews Royal Pacific Resort and a visit to both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, we were able to meet other families from across the country to learn more about how we can become superhero families by spending quality time together learning and playing and giving back to others in need.

I’ll be posting more about this unique #FamilyForward trip later, but first – I couldn’t wait to share with you some tips to how you can take advantage of the time you spend at both parks in Orlando as well as some insider information about cool things about the parks!

universal dragon

1. Avoid the extreme heat and huge lines by skipping the summer months and planning your vacation in the fall. I know school’s back in session, but we took the kids out over Labor Day weekend for an additional couple of days off and found the parks to be a lot less crowded so lines weren’t bad. On Labor Day itself, most rides were only 20-30 minutes long in the main lines. But because we stayed on property…we were able to ride in the Express Pass lines which cut our wait time down to almost nothing! This benefit, in my mind, makes staying at one of the Universal Orlando resorts a no-brainer.

2. They touch up the paint in Seuss Landing and Marvel Super Hero Island every night in Universal’s Islands of Adventure! There’s a lot of cool super hero art on the walls lining the street of Marvel Super Hero Island. Word on the “street” is the artist wasn’t allowed to claim his work, so he hid his signature in each painting. Look for the “Adam” signature hidden somewhere on each one…a fun game to play while you walk to the next ride or show!

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2. Get the big as yo’ face donut in Lard Lad in Springfield for $5.99. You can cut it up and share it for a sweet snack for the entire family. Come on, they are “World Famous” how can you pass them up?!

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3.Check out the phone booth at Universal Studios by King’s Crossing Station in London…right outside of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. Dial MAGIC (it’s an old fashioned dial phone without letters on the numbers so that’s 62442 – we had to look on our cell phones to figure that out!) You’ll reach the Ministry of Magic. So cool!

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4. If you buy a Pygmy Puff like Ginny’s at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes joke shop in Diagon Alley, they’ll ring a big bell and announce to the whole store that you are adopting one and you get to tell everyone his/her name. Very cute! (Annie got a pink one!)

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5. Buy a postcard. We got ours at Scribbles in Diagon Alley along with a sheet of Harry Potter postage stamps. (They told us  they only sell the Harry Potter stamps at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!) Address it to yourself and list all your favorite trip memories then take it to the Owl Post in Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure. They’ll give it an owl post postmark and an owl will “fly” it into the mailbox. Very cool – especially for the younger kids. Then we you get home, you’ll have something fun in the mail to remember your trip.

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6. Visit Gringott’s bank in Diagon Alley. You can exchange your muggle money for a bank note in $10 and $20 amounts while you talk to the animatronics goblin who will actually answer your questions! You can spend the bank note anywhere at the park (or return it for cash later). The bank note is so cute, we almost didn’t want to spend it!

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7. You’ve got to try the Butterbeer (available cold, frozen or warm) and the Pumpkin Juice while at one of the Harry Potter areas. Just do it. Also pictured: chocolate milk, Dragon’s Skin beer and cider beer from The Leaky Cauldron.

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8. And while you’re at it…enjoy the same sweets that Harry did in the movie. We stopped to get chocolate frogs at Honeydukes in Hogsmeade to take on the train just like Harry and Ron did during their first Hogswart Express train ride! You can also get Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans, exploding bonbons and treacle fudge. Good times.

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9. The mirror at Madam Malkin’s in Diagon Alley will give you fashion advice if you stand in front of it. Sometimes it’s nice, “you look brilliant”! other times, not so much “that color doesn’t look good on you.” Ouch.

10. The vanishing cabinet is at Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley. You can hear a bird chirping inside!

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11. If you are staying at a Universal Orlando Resort property (we stayed at Loews Royal Pacific – Aloha!) you also get in to Islands of Adventure one hour earlier then everyone else to visit Harry Potter’s Wizarding World. Bonus! Go straight to the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride as this is one of the only rides that doesn’t have an Express Pass. If you have time, you can enjoy some of the other rides at Hogsmeade, but 15 minutes before the park officially opens…take Hogswart Express to Universal Studio’s Diagon Alley. Then you’ll be first in line for the other cool Harry Potter ride that doesn’t have a Express Pass either – Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. These two rides have the longest queues all day, so you’ll be happy to get them both in first thing in the morning!

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12. If you want to get a wand, go to Ollivanders (they have one in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley) and attend the short show first – it’s cool. They pick someone from the group to find the perfect wand (much like when Harry got his). Even if you’re not picked, it’s fun to watch. Then you can get your own. Remember, the wand chooses you – so try different ones in your hand to see which “speaks” to you! If you get it at the beginning of your stay, you’ll have more time to cast spells throughout Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley!

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13. The Leaky Cauldron. Period. We loved eating lunch one day and breakfast another at this Diagon Alley restaurant. Lines can be long, but the move quickly…or wait for a time later in the day to go. We had the best Fish and Chips and Fisherman’s Pie in addition to a sticky toffee pudding that was magical! When you leave the restaurant, look up to your right. You’ll see balconies to the rooms for “rent” at The Leaky Cauldron. Word on the street is one of them is room 11 where Harry stayed while he was there.

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14. When you take the train FROM Diagon Alley TO Hogsmeade, you can jump through the wall at platform 9 3/4. Awesome! Be sure to get your video camera ready!

15. We were one of the last people to get to see the Disaster show. They officially shut it down after Labor Day as well as The BeetleJuice Show. Plans are to put the highly anticipated new Fast and Furious ride there.  A good reason for us to come back in the near future!

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16. The Hulk is taking a smash break. We were also one of the last ones to ride The Incredible Hulk roller coaster. They closed this ride for renovations on Labor Day as well, but will reopen it next spring. (photo courtesy of Jeff Bogle)

17. ET Adventure is one of the last remaining original park rides, but it never gets old. It has the same “It’s a Small World” ride feeling and my kid’s were amazed to see photos of Drew Berrymoore as a kid at the ride’s entrance. I must remember rent ET to watch with the kids! A fun fact about another long-time ride that is no longer there: Remember the Jaws attraction that was once were Diagon Alley is? They have many nods to this ride in the area including shark teeth in some of the Diagon Alley shop windows!

18. You’ll need at least one person to wear a lanyard to keep your Express Passes handy. They scan them at each ride so keeping them in your purse or backpack is a pain-plus they could get wet. You can get cool lanyards in the Universal gift store at CityWalk outside of the park entrance for only $8.95.

19. Outside of most of the rides with Express Pass they have lockers for your backpacks/purses. They are free to rent for the duration of the ride use a thumb print scan system to check them out and to check back in. This means 1. the same person who checks the locker out has to go to claim your stuff. 2. you are assigned a locker number that you have to enter to get back in – so if you think you might forget it….write it down!

20. A lot of the rides are multi-dimensional, like Transformers and Spider-Man, so it’s worth it to wait for a spot in the first row. You’ll be able to see without anyone’s head in the way and feel more a part of the experience. Plus – they use heat and water in many of them….so you’ll get to experience that better in the front row!

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21. Florida weather can change on a dime and it rained every day we were there. But don’t worry….it doesn’t typically last long. Most of the time we would enjoy an inside ride like The Mummy roller coaster and when we got out, the rain had stopped. Bring rain ponchos (we’re wearing our Universal ponchos – we liked to call them our “Invisibility Cloaks!”). If it does rain, take time to refuel at CityWalk’s Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. This place is great…try the Filet and Lobster rolls or the High Class Hillbilly. You won’t regret it.

Do you have any Universal Orlando Tips?

I attended the FamilyForward Universal Orlando trip with my family. While we had some fantastic trip perks as part of this group, the trip was paid for by my family and all opinions expressed in this post are my own.

 

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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.

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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.

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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 .

 

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Color Fun Fest 5K – November 1st in Houston (Discount tickets!)

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I love attending local fun runs and have participated in many over the last several years. I can’t believe I haven’t had the opportunity to experience a color run yet. I was going to go to the Color Fun Fest last spring, but the event date conflicted with the kid’s swim team meet, so I couldn’t go.

I am so excited that the Color Fun Fest 5K is coming back to Houston this Fall for a Halloween Edition on November 1st and that they invited me to be their guest to join in on the fun.

My kids participated in two triathlons this summer and Jackson is on his school’s cross country team, so you could say that races are starting to “run” in the family. (I know, I’m terrible. I just couldn’t help it!) So we are all going to do the Color Fun Fest together. The best part is, kids 12 and under participate for FREE!

Since the event is the day after Halloween, costumes are encouraged. They have two runs; a day run at 5:00 p.m. and an evening run at 7:00 p.m.

This is a fun run so it’s not timed. The 3.1 mile course includes:

  1. 5 color stations along the run with thousands of pounds of color to shower runners (made of vibrant food-grade cornstarch that is safe and natural)
  2. High energy music along the course to keep families pumped up
  3. Night run features industrial strength blacklights and visual effects
  4. 2 water stations on the course
  5. A course with enough lighting to safely run at night
  6. Post run celebration with vendors, food and live entertainment

 

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Event Details:

November 1, 2014 : 2:00 pm – 10:00 pm. Day Run starts at 5:00 PM / Night Run starts at 7:00 PM. Event concludes at 10:00 p.m.

Sam Houston Race Park – 7575 North Sam Houston Pkwy W, Houston TX 77064

Discounted Tickets:

Join the fun and get your tickets now. Still Living The Dream readers can score tickets for an epic discount….just $20!

Use discount code: LIVINGTHEDREAM when you register here. 

Not in Houston? Color Fun Fest events are happening all over the country. Check them out online for a city and date near you!

I am receiving complimentary tickets to the race on November 1st in return for promotion of the event; however, I’m not receiving any other compensation and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Free Fire Safety App: Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms

Did you know that it’s National Fire Prevention Week?

When I was little, my mother’s friend’s apartment caught on fire. I remember how devestating it was to her. All of her belongings were destroyed but thankfully, her injuries were treatable.

My family used the opportunity to talk about fire safety and we figured out a spot to meet outside if our house ever caught on fire. But we didn’t talk much about fire safety after that. As a parent, I’ve made it a point to talk to my kids about what to do in case of a fire and we’ve revisited the topic from time to time to make sure we are all on the same page and remember our plan.

National Fire Prevention Week is a great time to get together with your family and devise a plan (if you don’t already have one) or revisit safety tips if you already have a plan in place.

Yesterday Annie and I talked about the topic when she got home from school. I asked her what she remembered from when we last chatted (it’s been awhile!). We’ve talked about not hiding if she’s or smells smoke, about the quickest way to get out of our house and where to meet outside.

I’m so thankful that there are resources available that make having these discussions easier with our kids.

I recently discovered a free app that makes learning about fire prevention and safety fun; Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms. I was very happy when they asked if Annie and I would give it a try and share our thoughts with you!

The NFPA and Sparky.org Fire Prevention Week app has both an interactive story and music video…plus many other resources for parents and teachers.

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Annie started with the story and she read along with the narrator (although the words are pretty small) as Sparky and the kids investigate why an intruder stole Aunt Dottie’s smoke alarms. She loved clicking on the different pictures to see lights come on, wind chimes ring, instruments play and characters (even those in paintings) talk.

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TIP: Be sure to check out the Magic 8 Ball on the stairs on one of the pages, it was her favorite….so cute!

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She could also learn about safety tips throughout the story by clicking on white “sparkles” on different pages such as facts about smoke alarms, evacuation information, etc.

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At the conclusion of the story when Annie found all 9 fire safety tips, she received a superstar certificate she personalized with her photo!

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The music video, What’s that Sound by Recess Monkey, was also fun and Annie got up and danced. It’s the next day and I’m still humming it which is good… and bad!!! :)

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The app also included questions for Annie and I to discuss what we learned:

1. Why was it dangerous for Jerome Jinx to borrow the smoke alarms?

Annie – “Even though Jerome meant to do a good thing and felt bad about his mistake, you never know when there will be a fire so they always need to be there and be working.”

2. What would you teach Jerome about fire safety? What does he need to learn?

Annie – “Teach Jerome that there has to be a fire safety plan…like how we would meet out front at our big Oak tree.”

I’m proud of what Annie learned and how fun the app made the process! For more information about the app and additional resources for parents and teachers including free fire-safety materials, check out the Sparky Schoolhouse site.

  1. What do you do to help teach fire safety to your kids?
  2. Do you have smoke alarms and change out batteries regularly?
  3. Do you have a designated outside meeting place for your family to gather in case of a fire?

While I received compensation to share information about the National Fire Protection Agency’s Sparky.org Fire Prevention Week app, all thoughts and opinions are my own. I believe in teaching fire prevention safety tips to my children and applaud organizations like WeAreTeachers.com and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)’s resource for kids, Sparky.org who help me do it in such an entertaining way!

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VTech InnoTab 3 Plus Learning Tablet Review and Giveaway!

Still Living The Dream contributing writer, Tanya, and her son, Michael, are here today with a review of the new VTech InnoTab 3 Plus Learning Tablet. Check out what they thought and then be sure to enter to win one in our giveaway just in time for the holidays! Many thanks to VTech for providing Michael a complimentary product sample to review and for providing another Learning Tablet for one lucky Still Living the Dream reader to win!

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A few years ago, I bought my youngest boy, Michael, the VTech InnoTab for Christmas. The InnoTab was the “in” toy that year and to purchase the kid-friendly tablet, I had to resort to stalking the employees at Target as they restocked merchandise.

The gift was a hit! Michael loved the InnoTab- it was simple for him to use (he was 4 at the time) and intuitive. We purchased several games to go with it like Disney’s Cars and Toy Story 3. The big problem with the original InnoTab was that it required AA batteries. Michael played on the InnoTab so much that he went through the batteries faster than we had a chance to take out a small business loan and purchase them. 

Then Michael’s older brother, Henry, got a Kindle for his birthday. Michael wasn’t quite ready for a tablet of his own, but he REALLY, REALLY wanted to play with his brother’s ALL-THE-TIME. After the 1,000th fight over the darn Kindle I whispered a prayer to the toy gods- “if only there was something Michael could use that was more his age-level, that was durable, and rechargeable.” The wind floated the message down to me- the VTech InnoTab 3! Michael has had a blast using the InnoTab 3.

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Setting up the InnoTab was easy and straightforward. Michael took to it right away, he even created his user name “Mike”. Some of the best features are that it is rechargeable (available in the bundle option) and it is compatible with the cartridges we purchased with the original InnoTab. There are also games and apps that you can download when you connect the tablet to the computer.

This tablet offers access to more than 800 educator-endorsed, age and stage appropriate cartridges, software and apps that can be purchased and downloaded from VTech’s Learning Lodge app store, but Michael seemed to be perfectly content taking selfies!

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Michael’s favorite aspect of the InnoTab is the camera and video feature. It has an 180° rotating camera with over 55 special effects and video recorder to make movies. Kids can even import and listen to their own MP3s with the music player.

As for durability, it has been dropped multiple times and run over by a bicycle at least once and that was just day one! It seems to be durable enough to handle the abuse of young boys. 

The InnoTab 3 is a great gift for Christmas for the kid that really, really, wants a tablet but will crack a screen faster than you can shout- “Nooooooooo-“.  Although it is recommended for ages 3-9, because of  its contents, I think it is more suitable for kids aged 4-6. InnoTab 3 Plus comes with 12 apps and retails for $59.99.

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VTech InnoTab 3 Plus artwork by Michael! 

There is now a little more peace in the house with two boys having their own personal and age-appropriate tablets. And, Michael, well, he has ridden his bicycle off into the sunset yelling: “This is the best day ever!!!”  

Unedited video directed and produced by Michael on his VTech InnoTab 3 Plus!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We were provided a InnoTab 3 Plus Learning Tablet from VTech for review purposes. As always, all thoughts and opinions are our own.

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#FitMadeFun – Healthy Lifestyle for Kids with CLIF Kid and LeapFrog LeapBands!

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School is back in session and while it’s still hot (really, really hot!) in Houston, the Fall season is really just around the corner.

For the love of pumpkin bread, I heart the Fall! As the holiday season approaches, the temperatures will finally begin to drop which makes for much better outdoor running weather!

The kids and I stayed pretty active over the summer despite the heat. Now that they are getting back into a routine with school, organized sports keeps them busy – but we also try to have fun and keep moving around the house.

Which is why we were really excited to be invited by MomSelect to host a Fit Made Fun party sponsored by LeapFrog and Clif Kid. We received a party kit with free product in order to host the party. To inspire kids to get up and active, LeapFrog coordinated an event in Santa Monica, California, on September 6, 2014, where hundreds of kids and parents joined together to break several Guinness World Records with fitness activities.

We participated at home in Houston and while we probably didn’t break any world records, we had a blast!

Annie showed her friends her new LeapBand – a cool wearable activity tracker that encourages kids to move around throughout the day. Like my FitBit, the LeapBand tracks movement – but it also has several fun games, up to 50 fitness challenges you can take and even virtual pets you can create and rewards you can earn.

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Instead of logging steps, you earn jewels which unlock even more fun activities. I really like that you are rewarded for your movement and also that parents can lock the device during certain hours during the school day and/or night so games won’t be a distraction during class or while sleeping  (but it can still be used as a watch and continues to track activity!)

For our Fit Made Fun party, we used the CLIF Kid 60 Minutes of Motion cards, a combination of 25 motion, activity, adventure and game cards, to inspire relay races and other fun activities. My friend Kelly and her kids came dressed for the occasion!

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends kids have 60 minutes of daily physical activity. This card deck, available to download for free starting September 15, 2014 here, is a fun way for busy families to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines.  Star jumps, crab walks, nutrition tips and choose-your-own adventure prompts are just a few of what you’ll find in the deck.

After our activities, we took a break for a healthy snack including fruit, cheese and crackers, hummus and Clif Kid Zbar Protein Parfaits. We crumbled up the Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Chocolate and Chocolate Mint flavored bars and the kids used them as toppings on vanilla yogurt. It was a huge hit!

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We are already fans of Clif Bars for grown-ups. My older son, Jackson, eats one before races and early morning cross-country practice. I always have one before a long run or triathlon. They are easy on my stomach and provide the nutrients I need to keep going.

Clif Kid Zbar Protein are great for kid’s growing bodies with calcium, vitamin D, iron, Zinc and 5g of protein. I also like what they DON’T  have – no partially-hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, synthetic preservatives and artificial flavors.

My kids just like that they taste good!

After we played (even the moms got into some of the hula hooping fun!) we gave away a LeapBand to one of our friends! Annie was so excited to draw the winning ticket and her buddy Michael was even more thrilled to win a LeapBand of his own!

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The LeapBand can be found at stores like Target, Walmart and Toys R Us for just $39.99.

What do you do to help keep your kids active?

How do you track your progress throughout the day/week and what helps keep you motivated to stay active?

I received free products in order to host the LeapFrog and Clif Kid sponsored MommyParty but did not receive any other compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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