#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.

LeapBand

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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Weekend Getaways Close to Home – Our #Staycation at Woodlands Resort

Sometimes you just need to get away!

Taking a break from the worries of work, schedules and your normal routine can be such a great way to gain a new perspective and relax, but it can also be hard to carve out time to go on a long vacation. Plus, organizing and financing a trip far from home can be time consuming and pricey when you take into consideration flights, activities, hotels and meals.

We’ve taken several “staycation” mini breaks at home over the years, both over  the summer but also when school is in session when I find that schedules are beginning to run our life. Blocking out a weekend or even one day to spend together as a family can help us get reconnected and we’ve gone on picnics and museum trips and even just stayed home for games or movie marathons.

But it’s hard to really “get away” and be present with your family when you are at home looking at the loads of laundry, dishes and bills that need to be dealt with. Then there’s the lawn that needs to be mowed and wait…what? Is that the roof leaking?!!!

The Woodlands Resort seemed to sense we were in panic mode recently and called to see if we would check out their new lazy river and be their guest for an overnight retreat. We were thrilled to be offered this opportunity. Just about 45 minutes away, The Woodlands Resort is close enough to make it an easy trip, but far enough so that we put some distance between us and the work that was at home.

We actually stayed at the Woodland Resort in the spring, but that was before the lazy river was built and it happened to rain the entire time we were there (check out my post “How To Make the Best of a Rainy Vacation“). We still had a great time, but we really missed being in the water.

This time we arrived early Saturday morning to take advantage of all the poolside activities. Even though check-in isn’t officially until 3:00 p.m., The Woodlands Resort allows their guests to come earlier on the day of arrival to enjoy the property. Just stop by the desk and they’ll give you your bracelets. You can start sipping cold lemon-aid and racing down the water slides and they’ll call you when your room is ready!

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We picked a seat by the back pool and water fall, so relaxing! But all the kid’s activities were happening at the front pool by the Cool Water Cafe.

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Annie was excited about the line-up of activities scheduled for the day. She definitely wanted to get her face painted, get a balloon creation and take part in the hula hoop contest.

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We had a great meal by the pool from The Cool Water Cafe. Then at 3:00 p.m., we got a call that our room was ready! Our door was right by the pool and the back patio overlooked the lazy river. What a perfect view! The kids took a small break while I got ready to head over to The Spa at the main building.

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The Spa is very quaint, quiet and relaxing. The therapist I had was wonderful. She asked me if it was ok if she worked out some of the kinks in my shoulders during my Swedish Massage. Yes, please! The hour flew by and I left feeling more relaxed for sure, but also more alert and energized!

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We were going to take advantage of the kids eat free deal in the Woodlands Dining room, but we were having so much fun by the pool, we decided to eat dinner poolside at the Cool Water Cafe again. They have a nice menu, so we were all able to get something different then we had for lunch.

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After dinner, we made S’Mores at the Fire Pit and circled around the lazy river a couple times before the movie. Their new, 1,000 foot lazy river wraps around the Forest Oasis Pool and guest rooms. With music playing along the way, we relaxed as we floated (the current isn’t too strong, very easy going) and then had a blast sliding down the new two-story water slide.

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When we returned to our room after the movie later that night, we had a surprise waiting for us…a cookie cake and carafe of milk. The kids felt so fancy! What a perfect way to end the day.

After a great night’s rest, I got up early to run. The fitness center is open 24/7, but I wanted to check out the property and run outside. They have a bike and run trail that surrounds the resort, but I just ran throughout the property and saw the golf course and tennis courts.

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There is a lot of construction going on at the resort right now, but once you are back by the pool area – you hardly notice anything is going on. The $60-million expansion and renovation began last year and includes a new 184 guest room wing, the new (and now open!) lazy river and a new steakhouse along with an update to the resort’s conference center. We stayed in one of the 200+ renovated guest rooms at Fairway Pines, and they are really nice! The beds were comfortable and the furnishings were pretty with a modern Texas vibe. (Just be sure to ask for a room with a refrigerator if you think you’ll need one during your stay. Not all rooms have one right now.)

We will definitely go back to the Woodlands Resort again soon. It was one of the most relaxing overnight stays I’ve ever had and because it was so close to home, getting there was stress-free! The Woodlands is such a great area and there are plenty of stores and restaurants located close by, but they have everything you need right at the resort so there’s really no need to ever leave the property once you arrive. We didn’t…and we can’t wait to do it again!

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I was invited to stay at the Woodlands Resort with my family in order to review the property and resort amenities. I did not receive any other compensation and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

 

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Summer DIY Craft Project: Painted Canvas Shoes

My kids, especially Annie, love to do arts and crafts projects. While hanging out with some friends last week we had a wild streak and decided to break out the paint. Led by the very crafty and talented Kelly with Life In The Middle  (love her!) we took some plain canvas shoes (we got ours from Five Below for just $5.00) and turned them into wearable works of art.

This is a pretty easy project that you can do with kids of all ages; however, you can’t be a perfectionist. Embrace the imperfections that make them your own creations. As my son said – “You don’t want them to be perfect or they won’t look like you made them.”

Preach.

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1. We started with solid color canvas shoes and used a pencil to sketch out our designs. Kelly is all kinds of awesome and helped several of us get started! We were also inspired by designs we found online. Google “fish” or “dolphins” and you’ll get all kinds of inspiration for a summer/beach pair of shoes!

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2. Next we filled in the designs with fabric paint markers and acrylic paint mixed with a bit of Textile Medium. This allows the paint to become washable fabric paint. Although we won’t wash these, they may get wet from normal wear and we wanted them to be protected.

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3. After the paint dried, we painted over the entire shoes with Mod Podge.

There you go. Easy peasy and inexpensive !

Summer boredom = 0, Family and Friend Fun=1

 

 

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Staying Cool In Houston During The Summer #reliantsummer (Schlitterbahn giveaway)

There’s no doubt about it. It’s about to get hot in Houston. Summer solstice was last weekend and even though it’s been warm here for quite awhile, it really is true – summer has just gotten started. July and August bring the worst of the summer heat and we often break up the days with some indoor activities. We like to visit the library, our neighborhood bowling alley where kids bowl free all summer, the movie theatre and museums.

Keeping it cool inside can be costly this time of year. I cringe when I see our electricity bill in July and August. Do you?

To help us manage our electricity bill, Reliant has provided the following top ten energy usage tips:

  1. Install a programmable thermostat to save an estimated 10% a year on heating and cooling costs.
  2. Set your TV to the “home” or “standard” screen setting. The “vivid” or “retail” settings are unnecessarily bright and burn 20% more power.
  3. Lower the temperature settings on your water heater from 140 degrees to 120 degrees. It saves money and still feels nice and hot.
  4. Switch your ceiling fan to turn in a counter-clockwise direction in the summer.
  5. Change your AC filters at least once a month.
  6. Use microwave and toaster ovens to cook or warm leftovers. You’ll use less energy than cooking with conventional oven.
  7. Wash full loads of clothes when possible. When smaller loads are necessary, use less water.
  8. Grill out more often during the summer. Using the oven in the heat of summer forces your AC to work harder, which raises your energy bill.
  9. Set your thermostat 4 degrees higher when you’re away for more than 4 hours to help reduce electricity usage.
  10. Turn off your computer before bed each night and before leaving for the day. Set the computer’s sleep mode.

I’m pretty good about setting the thermostat higher when we aren’t home, using the grill instead of the oven and washing a full load of laundry each time (folding it right away is another story!) but I’m embarrassed about how long it’s been since I changed our AC filters and didn’t even think about lower the settings on my water heater.

What about you? Have you had any luck with any of these tips? Do you have any different ones to share?

Jackson Galveston

When we do play outside, we spend a lot of time in the water. We just got back from a trip to SeaWorld and Aquatica in San Antonio. We go every year and the kids had a blast. We are so excited about planning a day-trip to Schlitterbahn in Galveston soon. Reliant asked if we wanted to be their guests to cool off at the water park. Um, yes – please!!!

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Reliant just launched a new plan, Predictable 12, where they predict your electricity bill for 12 months. With this plan electricity costs stay the same every month, for 12 months, with no surprises no extra fees and no spiked bills due to the summer season!  

In addition to the energy savings tips and the chance to save money on your electric bill, Reliant is also providing one, lucky Still Living The Dream reader the chance to cool off at Schlitterbahn with their family for free, too! Sound good?

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Giveaway!

Do you want four free tickets worth $300.00 to Schlitterbahn in Galveston?

From now until Sunday, June 30, 2014, leave a comment with how many 100+ degree days you predict there will be in Houston during the month of July. On August 1, the number of days it was 100+ degrees in Houston during July will be determined according to Hobby airport. The person who guesses it right (or comes the closest) will get a four-pack of tickets! In the event that more than one person has the correct or closest answer, a winner will be selected at random.

I was given tickets to Schlitterbahn to keep cool during the summer with my family. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own. 

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2014 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration – #DisneySMMoms

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If you follow me on Twitter, you probably noticed a tremendous increase in tweets April 10-13.  I was lucky enough to be able to attend the 5th Annual Disney Social Media Moms Celebration and I couldn’t stop sharing about all I was learning and the fun I was having during the event. My family and I went last year to the celebration at Disney World and it was an incredible experience. This year it was held in California at Disneyland and it was just as amazing.

It’s an honor to be invited and there were so many wonderful opportunities this year. Some of the highlights for me included the chance to:

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Network with incredibly talented bloggers -This year I was thrilled to spend time with old friends and colleagues like Sara, Courtney, Debra, Amy, Jessica, Mitch, and meet new friends like Sami, Joey and TerriAnn. Being surrounded by the talent and enthusiasm of these (and many other) extraordinary bloggers/social media experts inspires me. The support I get from them is such a gift. Their friendship…priceless.

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Experience Disney Magic with my family – Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure are not to be missed. We loved some of our favorite attractions we first experienced at Disney World like Space Mountain and Tower of Terror as well as fun things unique to the parks in California like CarsLand and the California Screamin roller coaster. I’m putting the final touches on a separate post about life changing experiences at these two parks including delicious treats to eat – so be sure to check back soon to get the scoop!

Find out about what’s on the horizon from Disney – Speakers including Tom Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Leanne Jakubowski, Director of Social Media/Public Relations, and Kathy Mangum, Executive Producer and Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering were awesome and gave us insight into what’s new and exciting at Disney including new cruise line itineraries and park attractions. Gary Buchanan, Social Media Manager of Disney Parks is an absolute hoot and along with keeping the event running at an exciting pace and taking care of “mousekeeping” issues he shared many insights about how to grow creatively by challenging yourself and the way you do things.

Learn from the Pros – I was completely in awe after hearing Doug Bowman, Creative Director at Twitter. He had a lot of great insight into the power of social media and I left the session inspired and empowered. Donald Driver, Former NFL player and author gave a truly motivational presentation and Maxine Clark, Founder of Build A Bear Workshop, impressed me with her message. I loved when she said “if you live your imagination , your ‘like’ will be a dream come true”. Did you know she started Build A Bear in her late 40′s? It’s never too to build something fabulous!

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Get to know more about exceptional brands – I enjoyed the chance to learn more about some of the event sponsors including American Tourister, Hanes, Taylor Morrison, Alamo, H20+ and Kohl’s as well as Disney programs, products and services; especially their Wild About Safety DVD series and The Magic of Healthy Living.

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A Run in The Park

Thanks to RunDisney and New Balance, I also had the incredible experience to run through the parks before they opened Sunday morning during the 2-mile fun run. Starting in Downtown Disney, we ran through Disneyland Park (and hello – through the castle!) then Disney California Adventure…with the finish line on Route 66 in CarsLand. More about this thrilling experience later!

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We also were treated to some special surprises including visits from Maleficent (I can’t wait for the movie to open May 30) and Elsa and Anna from Frozen. This was really cool because the line to see these two in the park runs more than  about 2 hours long!

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A Walk in Walt’s Footsteps

My friend, Sara Wellensiek with Mom Endeavors, won a Walk in Walt’s Footsteps VIP tour for 10 people and she invited me to join the group. What an unbelievable treat and experience. In addition to hearing more about Disney’s history and Walt’s vision – I was able to actually go in his apartment above the fire station on Main Street! Did you know that when Walt was in his apartment, he would light the lamp in the window so cast members would know he was there? After he passed away, they decided to keep the light on 24/7 in his memory. I was moved to tears being that close to where the magic started and hearing about the details of how Walt made his dream a reality. I’m so grateful to Sara for giving me this once in a lifetime experience. They offer this tour at Disneyland Park for an additional fee and if you have the time and money, I HIGHLY recommend it.

Winner!

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Bonus: I won a Nikon camera! I was so excited and then Gary Buchanan almost didn’t let it go when I RAN up to the stage to claim it. Gary, I promise I’m taking good care of it!

Be watching for more posts to follow with more Disney details soon!

I paid a con­fer­ence fee  to attend the 2014 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. My family and I received some complimentary and discounted items, but I did not receive compensation to attend and  was not required to write about my experience. As always, all opin­ions and expe­ri­ences are my own

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

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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.

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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.

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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 GIVEAWAY!

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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. 

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How to Make the Best of a Rainy Vacation (Review of The Woodlands Resort)

The Woodlands community is just a short drive from where we live in Houston, but with the beautiful scenery…. it feels like a million miles away. When my family and I were recently invited by The Woodlands Resort for a visit over Spring Break, we were thrilled. We all really needed a break and we were curious to check out what new things will be unveiled at the resort this summer.  We were especially excited about the chance to play on the water slides and relax pool side with good food, live music and other entertainment they had planned for Spring Breakers of all ages.

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Unfortunately, the weather had other plans. Mother nature – you can be cruel sometimes. It was cold and rainy during our entire two-day, one-night stay. Not ideal for outdoor fun…but we still got to enjoy the resort, find out about their renovations and we learned a couple of tricks about how to make the best of dreary weekend weather.

The Woodlands Resort is in the middle of a $60 million dollar expansion including the addition of a new building with 184 guest rooms …plus they are renovating their existing rooms. Check out the new look coming soon!

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They are adding a 900-foot lazy river that will wind around the property’s existing Waterscape pools and play area. We can’t wait for this new addition which will be ready in time for summer fun!

In addition to many other renovations and additions, a new steak house is being built to overlook the 18th green of Panther Trail Golf Course as well.

Even with all the new and exciting changes on the horizon, The Woodlands Resort is already a great place to relax with your family and friends. One of the things we enjoyed the most was the excellent customer service and even with the less then ideal weather conditions, we still had fun.

Tips for Making The Best of a Rainy Vacation

1. If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em 

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It’s hard for kids to be so close to beautiful pools and water slides and not dive in. While it was a chilly 60 degrees (that’s cold for Houston!) the  Woodlands Resort heated their smaller pool in the back. When the heavy rain slowed down (and there was no sign of thunder or lightening) we let the kids enjoy some time in the water. The nice staff members even let our kids go down the water slide in the front pool (which wasn’t heated – brrr!) once or twice so they could experience it!

2. Enjoy the Rhythm of the Rain

Our room had a balcony overlooking the Forest Oaks Waterscape. While we couldn’t enjoy lounging by the pool, we loved sitting on the balcony with a good book. Protected from the raindrops, we were able to enjoy the outdoors without getting wet.

3. Fun Indoors

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The Woodlands Resort moved some of the Spring Break activities they had planned by the pool inside one of their ballrooms including clowns, balloons, live music, games and a movie in the evening. We also played a family game of pool and shuffle board and enjoyed some live jazz music in the lobby. For moms and dads, there’s also a fitness facility and spa. (I definitely intend to take advantage of a massage the next time we visit the resort!) When we had enough of the indoors, the Woodlands Resort shuttle took us to nearby Market Street to enjoy some shopping and dinner at Tommy Bahamas restaurant.

4. Good Food and Conversation

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We had a late and lazy lunch in the resort’s dining room. With great views of the property…we enjoyed yummy chicken lettuce wraps. We laughed, acted silly and took our time enjoying our meal. This is a rare treat in our world of rushing from band practice to cheer leading and lacrosse in the evenings. It was really relaxing. Next time we might not even leave our room…we might just put on a good movie and order room service!

What are your tips for making the best of bad weather on vacation?

Many thanks to the Woodlands Resort for treating us to a nice stay at their resort. While some of our expenses were covered in order for us to review the property, all of the thoughts and opinions (and lazy Saturday afternoon) are all my own!

 

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Show Your #DisneySide – A Magical @Home Celebration!

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Some of our most treasured and fabulous family moments together have been associated with Disney. In 2012 we went on a cruise aboard the Disney Magic out of Galveston and in 2013 we took our first trip to DisneyWorld in Florida. Both experiences were out of this world spectacular. Disney brings out the child (and fun) in all of us. Even Ed and I let go of the worries and self-conscienceness that often come along with growing up through the magic Disney creates.

The good news is you don’t have to travel far and wide or spend a lot of money to show your #Disney Side. Recently I received a celebration kit from Disney Parks and Mom Select in order to host a magical DisneySide @Home Celebration for several of Annie’s friends and their moms right at our house. We had a wonderful time sharing our love for Disney, getting creative with arts and crafts, enjoying good food, singing, dancing and just acting silly.

How to Throw A #DisneySide Party

Photo Booth

 

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Our friends were immediately swept up in the fun the minute they walked through the door. We set up a photo booth in the living room complete with fun costumes and props, a backdrop and face painting. The kids (and moms) felt like celebrities dressed in boas and hats as one of our fabulous moms took pictures and another painted faces. Soon, the kids wanted a turn behind the scenes and got in on the picture taking and face painting as well!

How to create a photo booth at your party:

  1. Find a fun sheet like ours with pink and white polka dots to hang from the wall
  2. Gather fun props from around the house like hats, boas and jewelry. We also went to our local craft store to buy inexpensive wooden props on sticks and a wooden picture frame that we painted like Mickey Mouse on one side and Minnie on the other!
  3. Designate a face painter – designs don’t have to be fancy.
  4. Pick someone to play photographer

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Print photos right away to send home with your guests….a great souvenir! We used our HP Envy printer with 5×7 HP photo paper and the DisneySide templates on HP Photo Creations. So easy and very cute!

Cookie Decorating Contest

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I pre-made sugar cookies with Mickey Mouse cookie cutters so the girls could get creative with decorations. We awarded prizes for the most original and fun cookies! Annie and I put Disney stickers on to-go containers so they could take home their personalized treats to enjoy long after the party ended.

Karaoke

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Annie loves to sing and a Karaoke machine was the #1 item on her Christmas wish list this year. Luckily Santa delivered and the girls at the party could have spent the entire time singing and dancing. The Frozen sound track was a favorite and even though the weather was warm in Houston, they sang “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” and “Let It Go” like it was below freezing! We added a disco ball light to make the room even more festive!

 

T-Shirt Decorating Contest 

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Plain white Hanes t-shirts were transformed into Disney works of art after our guests went to work with some fabric markers.  I printed some Disney character silhouttes from the computer and cut patterns out of card stock so they could trace them and then decorate any way they wanted. Then they all signed the back of each other’s shirts…a perfect keepsake from a fabulous day with friends!

BINGO, Disney style!

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The girls loved playing #DisneySide BINGO. They showed their Disney knowledge by identifying Disney Parks, Attractions, Characters and Resorts. At one point, several girls needed Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom to get five in a row. You could hear the cheering from down the street!

How do you show your #DisneySide? Do you have party tips and tricks to share? Let me know in the comments section! For more ideas about how to throw your own @Home Celebration, check out my #DisneySide Pinterest board!

As a hostess for Disney Parks and Mom Select, I received an awesome American Tourister Disney Suitcase packed with a celebration kit with some of the products mentioned in this post for free in order to hold a magical Disney Side @Home Celebration event for my guests. As always, the opinions expressed here are my own.

 

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

Have you been Living The Dream this summer?

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

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

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

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

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

cadbury hat photos

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

cadbury tea party2

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

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

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

Have a SWEET Summer! Love, Jenn and Annie

Have a SWEET Summer! Love, Jenn and Annie

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

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Summer Road Trips with Savings From Shell Fuel Rewards Network

Are  you taking a family vacation this summer?

StillLivingTheDream DisneyWorldTangled

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

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

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

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

StillLivingTheDream Aquatica

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

StillLivingTheDream fuel rewards network logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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