Archive for the ‘Life’ Category
Bear with me… this is going to be a long one!
As mentioned in my previous post, we headed to Florida in November for our first big vacation as a family. I’m hoping to make this write-up about our trip a mixture of our adventure and tips on travel in general and traveling with a little one.
We decided to drive…
from Central Pennsylvania…
to Orlando, Florida…
with a 19 month old.
Some people thought we were crazy (and they were probably right!), but honestly, it was a good bit cheaper to take 2 days to drive (staying overnight somewhere) than to fly… and in some ways, it seemed to be less of a hassle over all- don’t have to check a stroller/car seat, rent a car, or go through crazy amounts of security with a little one.
Oh, and then there’s the fact that I HATE flying!! Or maybe, “scared to death” is a better way of putting it. I have flown before, and I will fly again in the future. After all, I can’t drive to Europe and I do hope to get there some day. I also know that flying is much safer than driving, but for some reason, it doesn’t feel safe when I’m thousands of feet in the air! I know it’s irrational, but that’s why it’s called a “phobia”. Like I said… I will fly again some day, but this vacation was not that time.
So we set out on our journey on a Thursday. Incoming travel tip: Dave got an app for his phone called Waze. There are several apps similar, but I liked this one. The app’s tagline is “outsmarting traffic together”… and it was really helpful in avoiding congested areas, telling us when accidents were up ahead, etc. It would even show us if we were passing someone who was also using Waze!
We planned lots of little stops along the way for Tori’s sake. Incoming travel tip: we brought a kickball with us- it didn’t take up a lot of room and it was perfect to get out at those rest stops! We’d kick/throw the ball around for 10-15min and Tori would be in a great mood to get back into the car. Too bad more rest stops didn’t have playgrounds. We only encountered one on the way home. We also planned to eat at fast food places that had a play place… which luckily, along I-95, many do! This also gave her a chance to get her ya-ya’s out after eating.
Another thing that was helpful is I tried to think of things for her to do in the car. My scrap-buddy Kerrie and her husband lent us an ipad for the trip. I hate to rely on technology too much since people lived forever without it…(my parents drove to FL with me when I was two- how did they manage with out all this!?)… but I have to admit, this was a SUPER handy thing to have. Dave loaded some movies and Pixar shorts (her fav) and she spent a lot of time watching various things on the trip.
Incoming travel tip: We also had recently purchased this tray that fits around the car seat. She was able to color and look at her books with this handy tray. I even looked up and printed coloring sheets that related to our trip- Disney, Dinosaurs (you’ll see), and ocean creatures. Am I on the ball or what??
Another good tip: we brought lots of snacks! We had one of those reusable shopping bags full of dry snacks for the car ride, as well as some bottled water. This saved quite a bit of money for those highway munchies!
We got almost the whole way through North Carolina, before we stopped for the night. We let Tori run around and jump on the bed for a bit to get out some energy, and she surprisingly slept pretty well that night. We got up and moving at a relatively good time the next morning. After breakfast, we drove for about 45min when we encountered South of the Border in South Carolina. It was a little soon for a pit stop, but I couldn’t resist!
I know, it’s a bit cheesy, but Tori had a great time scoping out all the animal statues!
A couple more pit-stops and several hours later, we arrived at our destination that Friday evening. We stayed with my brother, sister in law and nephew for 5 nights- they have a lovely home in Orlando (we really didn’t have to drive more than 20min to get anywhere, including Sea World and Disney parks). It was really nice to get in some family time with them, especially since the distance keeps us from seeing each other more than twice a year. Tori’s cousin, Aiden, was 10months old at the time and they had a great time playing together!
On Saturday, our first full day, we went to Downtown Disney to see the Festival of the Masters art show. It was basically an arts fest with artists and their tents, selling their wares. We looked at neat artwork and saw a few Disney scenes.
I absolutely adore Downtown Disney. I feel happy every time I’m there. I can’t explain it… maybe it’s the feeling of being on vacation in general, but the place just has a good vibe to it. It’s a way to incorporate Disney into the trip without spending tons of money going to all the parks. It’s fun to just walk around…and of course, Tori had to ride the carousel! Incoming scrapper tip: buy 1 more token for the carousel than there are people. The ‘tokens’ you get for the carousel (and nearby train) are gold coins with Cinderella’s Castle on it… I did not do this, and I wish I had. Perfect embellishment for the Disney scrapbook!
Lunch was at Earl of Sandwich… I wish there was one near us. Their food is delicious and very reasonably priced (especially considering this one is in Disney territory). It was largely uneventful… well… except for Tori showing us how she likes to eat cantaloupe.
On Sunday, we went to Sea World. Incoming travel tip: ALWAYS check with AAA, if you have a membership. When Dave and I went to Sea World for our honeymoon several years ago, there was a deal that included entrance to Aquatica (Sea World’s waterpark, which is AWESOME) and Sea World for one low price (I think it was adults for kids’ prices). I think it ended up being about $90/person and that got us into both parks… plus it had ‘length of stay’ included, so for up to 7 days, we could go into either park for a 2nd time. This time, the deal was buy 1 ticket, get a meal included. So we still paid less than we would’ve at the gate, and we got a meal included for each of us. We still had to buy food for Tori, but she was free to get into the park.
Tori loved Sea World! She loves watching fish and animals in general. We took her to see the Blue Horizon’s dolphin show. I wasn’t sure how she would be, but she was totally enthralled the entire time. She clapped when everyone else clapped and pointed to things constantly.
Oh yeah, and there were rides!
This Jazzy Jellies ride was a spin-y ride that went up in the air. Dave does not do spinning rides, so I did this with her… and honestly, it was a blast! She smiled and giggled the whole time! It was worth getting dizzy, just for that.
We had such a great time at Sea World… my brother, sister in law and nephew were able to join us in the afternoon, since they have year-long passes. It was really nice to be able to spend time with them at the park and see the excitement on little faces.
On Monday, we had a pretty chill day. We decided to check out the McDonalds with the World’s Largest Play Place on Sand Lake Road (which intersects with International Drive). Incoming FL travel tip: if you have young ones (or even if you don’t!) and are vacationing in Orlando- do this. Not only did they have a giant Play Place, but their menu was extensive! No chicken McNuggets and French fries for us- Tori got pizza, I got a wrap and Dave got a salad. It spoiled me from regular McDonalds! (their breakfast menu even included omelettes!)
Tori was too small for most of the Play Place, but they did have a special toddler area, which she enjoyed very much!
After our McDonalds lunch, we hit up some outlets. We really just walked around for a bit and let Tori play on a playground that was there- which is brilliant, really. It gave a place for the dads and children to go while moms go shopping! I did snap this incredibly cute pic of Tori on the playground:
I did a lot of research for our trip prior to leaving… trying to find cheaper things we could do in the area. I had so many ideas for Dave to see that he said “how ’bout you make a slide show presentation for me?” He was joking… but I don’t joke around when it comes to planning vacations- I totally made a Power Point presentation with all of my idea… music and all! I may be a little crazy for doing so, but it made him sit, actually sit, and look at my list of ideas. (though after he watched it he said “those are all good ideas”… *facepalm)
I found a TON of things to do in Orlando… I knew I wanted to do Sea World and Magic Kingdom, but we were going to be there for a week, so I knew I needed some other things to fill up our time (as well as scheduled down time… which is what that Monday was). Incoming FL travel tip: I found this great website: 50 things to do in Orlando with kids. It has so many wonderful ideas of things to do… there is a plethora of crazy things to do in Orlando without stepping foot in a Disney park!
On Tuesday, we went to the Orlando Science Center. I knew it would be good and interesting, but it was one of those things where, I wanted to go and knew we would enjoy it, but it really became one of my favorite memories! Incoming travel tip: so this one is a little more exclusive, but still handy info. In Central PA, we have a membership to a local science center. It is small (one large room) but it’s a lot of fun to go to and take Tori on rainy days. We bought a year membership… for $75/year for the family (that can be for up to a family of 4). Just a few visits and it pays for itself (it’s normally $6/person per visit). However, this science center is part of the ASTC (Association of Science-Technology Centers) Passport Program. What does this mean? It means that for being a member, you can then visit other science centers (for free or reduced cost) that are also a part of this program… which, as it turns out, there are MANY! In Pennsylvania alone, there are 13!
Our membership got us in free (normally $27/person) and our tickets to see the special Star Wars exhibit that was there was just $12/person. Not bad! Obviously, the bigger a place is, the more the yearly membership will cost… memberships to the OSC are $135/year for a family. But if you like to travel, it’s totally worth it! Many big cities have science centers or children’s museums that are a part of this program.
First, there was the Star Wars exhibit! This exhibit talked about the science behind the movies and had many items from the actual movies- costumes, props, puppets (Yoda, Chewbacca, etc) and weaponry. It was super cool!:
In honor of visiting, we let Tori pick out a Star Wars toy:
Oh, and then there was this awesome photo:
Yeah, there was a guy taking pictures outside of the exhibit and he totally suckered me in… but it was fun and seriously, this is probably my favorite souvenir from the trip! I laugh every time I look at it!
We had a lot of fun at the science center doing other things as well… it’s a really great center! Even though Tori is little and doesn’t really get all of the science behind things, she still had a great time exploring. They also had a lot of areas for younger kids.
If you want a break from Disney parks, I highly recommend the Orlando Science Center. We had a great time, and on a Tuesday morning, we had the place almost to ourselves. It was a lovely morning for us!
Tuesday was our last evening with my brother and his family. We obviously don’t get to see them too often with so many states between us, but it’s so nice when we get to hang out for a few days.
On Wednesday, we packed up the car and headed to Winter Park for a boat tour. It was a beautiful sunny day… going for a ride in a boat out on a lake (and seeing some ridiculously large houses) was a great idea.
This was Tori’s first time on a boat. I wasn’t sure how she was going to handle an hour and a half boat ride, but overall she did great. She got a little fussy at times (she wanted to be off and running, of course) but she liked when the boat went fast out in the open spaces.
So after a lovely time out on the lake, we went to TREX at Downtown Disney for lunch… I’ll admit, this was mostly for me. I love dinosaurs, so I was excited to go-I actually considered being a paleontologist for awhile… but then realized that required taking a lot of science classes… my artsy mind unfortunately can’t handle too much of that. I had seen the restaurant many times and had eaten at a similar restaurant (Rainforest Cafe), but I never had the chance to eat at it. The food is a bit pricey, but I’m okay with splurging once in awhile on vacation.
After lunch we did a little bit of walking around and then went to check in to our hotel- the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort. It was literally across the street from Downtown Disney. Incoming travel tip: Sign up for Groupon/Living Social websites. I always get emails about getaway discounts. One of them happened to be for this hotel. Through Living Social, we got 2 nights for $139 ($70 a night for a hotel on Disney property? not bad!). It was a very nice place… maybe not as fancy as an actual Disney hotel, but the room was clean, they had an in-house restaurant that offered Breakfast with the Characters on certain days… we did not take advantage of this since the day they had it that week, was the day we were going to Magic Kingdom. It did have a pretty nice pool area… which we took advantage of after checking in!
We had a blast in the pool… Tori giggled and splashed! I tossed her in the air and caught her as she splashed back down… she would yell “Ready? Go!” and I’d give her another toss. It was one of those moments that I can picture so clearly and I hope I always can- the look of sheer happiness and excitement as we repeated the toss and catch game. Me and my girl… playing in the pool…
That warm evening, we walked to Downtown Disney. As we entered under the Downtown Disney sign that was all lit up, I got that overwhelming calm feeling that only a vacation can bring. I took a deep breath… it felt good. I turned to Dave and said, “we can’t wait another 3 years before we do this again!” Yes, we went on our cruise 3 years ago… in 2009. Victoria came along in March of 2011 and finally in November 2012, we were on vacation again. We had done a few weekend and long weekend trips, but really, nothing compares to the week-long (or longer) vacation. You feel like you really get to experience relaxation and life away from the daily grind. If you plan well, vacations don’t have to be pricey either. I know not everyone is fortunate enough to have family in desirable vacation locales, but even if you don’t, there are so many websites out there that can help you plan on a budget… whatever you do, just do it. Life is too short to just be pulling the 9-5 every day. There’s so much out there to see and do… don’t let the rut pull you in!
I also made sure there were moments of “Tori just needs to play… this is very much her vacation too”… so we went to a Dance Party that was taking place at the stage area near the Disney Marketplace. We had a great time dancing to the music!
I also did something that I might not normally have done, but we were on vacation… I let her run through the fountains that are in the shape of Mickey’s head in one area of Downtown Disney. Dave went to Earl of Sandwich to grab us some food to take back to the hotel.
When he came out of the restaurant, he found this:
She thought these fountains were one of the greatest things ever… and seeing that bliss on her face as she would get blasted with water… I can see why she thought that.
The next day, Thursday, was the big day- Magic Kingdom! It also happened to be my and Dave’s 4 year wedding anniversary. Awwww…
We rode the bus from our hotel to the transportation center, then hopped the monorail. Incoming travel tip: This should be a no-brainer, but if you’re staying in the Orlando area (especially if you’re on Disney property, even if it’s not necessarily a Disney hotel), look into transportation. Parking is not cheap at the parks and so many hotels offer shuttle services of some kind… and even if they don’t go directly to a park, they’ll take you to the transportation center to catch a monorail. And hell, who doesn’t want to ride the monorail!?
Oh and incoming travel tip that should’ve been a no-brainer (but wasn’t): If you’re traveling during a fall/winter month, make sure you bring layers. Florida can have chilly days. The weather for most of our vacation was in the 70′s and 80′s… perfect. For our Disney day, it was predicted to be about 70…. I’m not sure it even cracked 60 that day! It was a chilly, overcast day. For the most part, I didn’t mind, but we didn’t have a sweater or anything for Tori to wear! Parenting fail! Luckily, she was in a really good mood the whole day and didn’t seem to mind being cold one bit, but I felt bad.
When we walked through the gate, Pluto was just walking out from a building and he came over and touched Tori’s hand, before heading further into the crowd. She smiled and watched him walk away… I wasn’t expecting a photo moment so soon and I had just put my camera in my purse after snapping a few photos outside the gates. Incoming scrapper tip: Ugh, always have your camera ready!!
Guess what was next?:
We got fast passes for the Buzz Lightyear ride (my favorite). Incoming Disney tip: if you don’t know what fast passes are, it’s a very important piece of info to have for the Disney parks. At any of the major rides in the park, you can find a fast pass station. You put your park entry ticket into the machine and it spits out a pass for that ride, marked with an hour time frame (like 10:40-11:40am)- the station has the time listed on it so you’ll know before you get your ticket… in case that time doesn’t work for you. You return to the ride during that time frame and you get to by-pass most of the line, making a line that normally might have been an hour wait into a 10-15min wait or less. The catch is you can’t get another fast pass until the time is up on your current one. For the most part, it’s not an issue. When we fast passed Buzz Lightyear, we were able to use it in about an hour. We rode the People Movers in Tomorrowland (where the BL ride is) and did the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor while we waited. Incoming Disney tip: ride the People Movers! My husband and I love this ride! There’s almost never a wait and it’s just a nice relaxing ride around Tomorrowland.
I also have to say, I had never done the Laugh Floor before and I realize now that I was missing out. It’s an interactive show- there are several different Monsters that come up on a screen and tell jokes… but, they ask people in the audience questions (there’s a Disney worker with a microphone that goes up to people to get their response) and the Monsters make up jokes on the fly related to that person! So it’s a different show every time! Before you go in to the show, there are tv screens in the hall telling you to text a joke in and they’ll use it during the show. I texted a joke in and they used it! (How do you catch a unique rabbit? Unique up on it! lolz) They also said “this joke is from Mandi from Pennsylvania”… it’s a pretty neat show.
Then we got on the Buzz Lightyear ride, which is just a ton of fun. You have laser guns on your car and you have to shoot targets along the ride… and it keeps track of your score. Of course Dave kicked my butt!
After exploring Tomorrowland, we wandered over towards the Jungle Cruise, which Dave went to get fast passes for, while Tori and I rode the Aladdin flying carpet ride. Seeing my little girl’s face in awe of everything was just so awesome. I know she was only 19mo old during our visit and she probably won’t remember any of the trip, but I know she was having a lot of fun… and that’s all that really matters. I do hope to go when she’s older, and do the full-blown Disney experience, but this was a nice taste of Disney for her. (Plus, hey, kids under 3 are free, so why not take her!)
Oh another incoming Disney tip: if you have a smart phone get an app for Disney World ride wait times. I don’t remember which one Dave had, but there are several out there. He got a free one- get a free one because the app relies on people to update the times… and if it’s free, more people are likely to have it, and therefore, keep it updated. The one we had was pretty accurate so we were able to see when characters would be in certain places, what ride times were, etc… pretty handy!
After the Jungle Cruise, we ate some lunch and headed to It’s a Small World… Dave has serious disdain for this ride. The song on it, admittedly, is VERY annoying, but I knew that Tori would like it. Dave agreed that she would like it, and somewhat begrudgingly, got in line. Only… this happened while in line:
We had planned on just pushing her in the stroller around the park and letting her take a bit of a nap, but we had hoped that she would’ve at least made it through this ride first… obviously, that didn’t happen… so this is how Dave spent the ride:
Dave and I took the time she was sleeping to go shopping a bit and just walk around, enjoying our last full day of vacation.
When Tori woke up, a little over an hour later, we did Prince Charming’s carousel. Dave ran and got us fast passes for the Winnie the Pooh ride… oh and something neat happened when he did that. It gave him fast passes for that ride, and then spit out bonus fast passes for the Dumbo the Elephant ride! Sweet!
Back to the carousel… I’ve said before that carousels, might be one of Tori’s favorite things in the whole world, and our ride(s) on Prince Charming’s Carousel just solidified that. This was where I honestly saw the most joy on her face! She would scream “Here goes!” when it started to move and then would yell “WHEEEEE!!!” as it moved faster. I loved it. Incoming sappiness: I get teary eyed when I think of this moment… I know I’ve said several times about seeing joy on her face during this trip, but this ride… it was like her whole body was totally excited, that she could barely contain it! She clapped, giggled, screamed in delight… it was so much fun watching that!
We rode this a few times… the line was always short, so we never had to wait more than one go around for us to get a turn. I’m so glad that carousels are a standard at most amusement parks! We rode Winnie the Pooh after our trips on the carousel… I don’t have any good pics from that ride, but it was a neat little ride through the Hundred Acre Wood!
Then we headed to the new Fantasyland/Storybook Circus area… some of it is still being built, but some rides were open already. We got on the new Little Mermaid ride. It was the typical Disney ride, a constant moving ride so that the line moves along pretty quickly. It told the story of Ariel and her adventure to become human… it was bright and colorful… just the sort of thing for a toddler to enjoy!
Tori and I ventured over to the Dumbo ride… it’s so iconic, how could we not ride it? Dave is not so much into rides that go around in a circle (if you didn’t catch on to that yet), so we had another fun Mommy and Daughter moment together on that ride. It was just starting to lightly drizzle, but we got on it anyway. The chilliness and drizzle didn’t deter her good mood!
What Disney experience would be complete without meeting a few characters:
We did a few other things, like Haunted Mansion -which Tori was NOT terribly excited about… I think it might have been just a little too scary for her, even though it’s not really meant to be a scary ride. Our ride got stuck/stopped near the end, where there’s a graveyard of ghosts and ghouls singing…we were stopped by a somewhat creepy looking ghoul that kept popping out from behind a tombstone… Tori stared at it for awhile and then nervously said “Daddy” before leaping into his arms. Not a fan of creepy things popping out at her…
We had dinner and then decided to ride the train that goes the whole way around the park, and ride it to the front gate so we could hit some shops and head out. Oh, funny story… so no matter where we were in the park during the day, if Tori heard the train blow its whistle, she would yell “All ‘board!”. Where we had dinner was near one of the stations, so we heard it a few times, so she kept shouting “All ‘board!” throughout dinner. Luckily the people sitting near us all thought it was pretty cute to hear that coming from a 19mo old!
Finally on the train:
Dave took this photo from the last train station:
Ok… I was debating putting this in here, but this was my lone complaint of our Disney experience… and I say this as someone who has been to Disney numerous times (Dave as well and he never had to complain about anything before either). So that night, there was an event called Mickey’s Christmas Party (or something)… you needed to have a separate ticket for this event, and the park closed at 7pm to accommodate guests of this event (I think it went until midnight or so).
We rode the train to the last stop, and ran to one of the gift shops… we didn’t buy anything earlier because we didn’t want to have to carry it with us, or leave it unattended in her stroller while we rode rides. We literally got to the door of the Disney Emporium (the biggest gift shop in the park) at 7:01. There were Disney workers at every door dressed in Christmas-y garb… and they chased us away! We weren’t allowed in the shop unless we had a wristband for the Mickey’s Christmas event.
Seriously… Disney didn’t want us to spend money.
Granted, there were signs and announcements all day about the park closing at 7 and I realize they wanted to do this to get people out of the park so that people who had the Mickey’s Christmas party tickets could enjoy the park… but why not give a buffer of maybe 15min to get those people who were here ALL DAY a chance to stop by the stores? I know many people do this to avoid having to carry things around the park. If they wanted to start the Christmas event at 7, I think maybe they should’ve said the park would close at 6:30 or 6:45. I understand not letting people on the rides after 7, but I was actually kind of floored that they denied us entrance into the stores!
I was pretty frustrated… it was Tori’s first time at Disney and all I wanted to do was buy a little stuffed Mickey for her to mark the occasion… plus, there was a nice scrapbook I wanted (shocker).
Dave went out to customer service (which was packed) and explained our story. First, they said we could go to Downtown Disney the next day and he told them we were leaving bright and early the next day to drive home. Then the person helping him suggested “you can order from online”… to which Dave replied “that sort of defeats the purpose… we wanted to get a gift for our daughter while we’re here”. (again, Disney seriously didn’t want us to spend money??)
Finally, the person said “ok, you can buy one of the Mickey Christmas Party tickets for you or your wife to use… if you return it in less than an hour, we’ll refund you.” So that’s what we ended up doing… craziness! I almost didn’t get to go in the store again because I didn’t have a wristband, despite the fact that I had a ticket that said “Mickey’s Christmas Party” on the back of it! UGH! Who knew trying to spend money at Disney would be so damn difficult!?
Tori was fairly grumpy at this point because she was tired, cold, and was losing patience that we were just sitting there, not doing anything while this all transpired. I got what I wanted and we returned the ticket… phew! That is one thing- Disney will usually do everything to accommodate a customer’s issue. I’ve heard this from many people who had to
complain express concerns about something.
Our Disney experience was over… but we did have a bit of an adventure upon leaving the park! We went to the transportation center to catch our bus back to the hotel- last bus was leaving around 9:30. We got to the transportation center around 8 or 8:30sh.
There were tons of busses there, but not ours. So we waited… and waited. We were told that one would be by every half hour… and we kept waiting. Busses came and went… finally, 9:30 hit (not kidding) so Dave went to talk to someone. Apparently the bus we were looking for (B) were actually (A), but a couple of drivers forgot to change their marquee. So… now we were stuck. No more hotel buses…
We were all set to call a cab. The guy working said “hang on a minute” and talked to someone who managed the charter buses for different groups… that person talked to one of the charter bus drivers who was there, waiting for a group that wasn’t going to come out of the park until later… and that driver motioned for us to come over to them, across the parking lot. We got our own private charter bus back to the hotel! The bus driver was super nice and she chatted to us the whole way… I was so grateful for her kindness, so that we didn’t have to wait any longer in the cold for a taxi to show up!
The next morning, we had breakfast and then stopped at one of those touristy gift shops that are a dime a dozen in that area. Incoming travel tip: Yes, these stores have a lot of junk, but they also have a lot of useable things, like t-shirts and picture frames cheap. We got Tori a Minnie Mouse t-shirt and hat for around $15. Dave and I also got some shirts and I picked up a couple of picture frames and gifts for people. I’ve read blogs about parents sneaking out to one of these shops after the kids are sleeping, picking up some Disney trinkets and then surprising their kids with these gifts the next morning, before going to the parks. Disney stuff is higher quality, no doubts about it, but I think it’s really smart to get some souvenirs from shops like this for a fraction of the price you’d pay in the parks.
And with that… we headed home. It was SO hard to say goodbye to my family, to Florida and to our vacation. We had such a great time and I can’t wait to do it again. Until then, I’ll look forward to making our vacation scrapbook!
I promise… a crafty post is coming soon!
New Years resolution- try to keep up with the blog more than 3 times a year. How’m I doin’ so far?
As usual, we’re a busy family, which is great, but I definitely don’t get to write about my crafting adventures as much as I’d like to. Since September, we’ve done LOTS as a family… and I’ve also managed to get a good bit of crafting accomplished as well. Here’s a run down of a few things we’ve been up to:
We went to Baltimore for a weekend to visit Dave’s sister, who lives not far from the city. Of course, we had to hit up the Baltimore Aquarium:
Victoria loved the aquarium in Pittsburgh, so we knew this would be a hit- And it most certainly was! Seeing the look of joy and excitement on her face as she watched the colorful fish swim by her was just awesome! She loves watching fish so much, that it makes me want to buy a fish tank for our house! I mentioned this to Dave who poo-pood it immediately… apparently he thinks it’s too much work or something…
We hit up the gift shop on the way out because I really wanted to get her a book or two about oceans. Of course… she wanted something different:
Eventually she realized she only had so many hands, she started to pass them off to me, Dave, Grandpa and Aunt Christy. (Of course, Aunt Christy’s a total sucker and got the penguin for her.)
We also went to the Baltimore Zoo:
All in all, it was a good little weekend visit. We must do it again soon!
I have to say that I also love the area we live in… there’s always so much to do in our town, especially for kids. We went to an Insect Fair, where we got to scope out lots of cool bugs. They even had a ‘bug restaurant’ where you could try different, uh, delicacies… I was not feeling particularly adventurous, so I opted to pass on this. We did experience some other fun things though:
The same day as this, we went with friends (scrap-buddy Kerrie and her family) to a small local amusement park for its Harvest Fest celebration. Miss Tori loves riding rides… we took her to this park over the summer (that time with scrap-buddy Andrea and her family) and she was a little unsure of some of them. Luckily, our friends all have little ones close in age, so she was mostly able to ride things with them, which I think comforted her. She did ride this one solo, though:
And of course, no visit would be complete without a trip on the carousel:
Let’s see… what else? Oh, there was Halloween, of course!
The little one and I went to a local farm to get pumpkins. We got our pumpkins and then did a corn maze! Fun!
Our pumpkins were lovely, and we put them out on our back patio and hoped to carve them the next day…however, some animals decided to carve them for us (I guess that’s the price you have to pay for having a yard that backs to a forest… sigh). I did find, quite possibly, the cutest jack-o-lantern ever at the pumpkin farm:
Then there were our costumes…I happened to think that our costume theme for our friends’ party was cute… some people took it the wrong way:
I got her costume at a kids resale store… we sort of based our costume idea on what we were able to find for her (sorry, I was NOT willing to spend $30 or more on a costume she would wear once), so luckily we were able to find something to build a ‘theme’ around. BUT… it gets better! The costumes we found were so cheap that I bought her TWO! One for this party at our friends’ house and then one for her daycare party. I couldn’t resist it when I saw it:
For real… does it get much cuter than that?! Sunflowers are my thing, so if I have a chance to dress my daughter up like one… you bet I’m going to take it!
So this post gets me caught up to November. In November, I went to the scrapbook retreat with my usual scrap buddies, Kerrie and Andrea… 3 days after that, we took a big family vacation- to sunny Florida! My brother and sister in law live there, with their baby boy. We got to meet him in September when they flew up for a whirlwind weekend over Labor Day, but we were excited to spend more time with him during this week long trip. Our trip to FL is going to be a full post in itself, so I’ll keep that one separate.
(Oh God, there’s also Christmas, which was fantastically busy with fun activities in the area… train rides, drive-thru Christmas lights, tree festivals, Polar Express readings, a *terrifying* visit with Santa and more… we’ll see if I get around to writing about that…)
As I said in the beginning of my post, I have managed to get quite a bit of crafting done over the past few months… and not all scrapbooking. I’ve been painting and creating as much as I can! We have a large room in the upstairs of our Cape Cod-esque house, and that’s become our craftroom/office (cr-office) and play room. I’m hoping to get some pics of our space up soon. It’s coming together nicely!
I’ll highlight some of my crafty-ness in an upcoming post (see, already planning future posts… this is good). My goal is to post more, and try to promote this page more… I don’t expect a large following of readers, but it would be nice to get a few more people interested and hopefully inspire some creativity!
With that, I’ll leave you with a few adorable pictures of some family portraits we had done late last summer. They are beautiful! They were done by a student who worked at the Art Center. Here’s a link to her Facebook page, if you’re from Central PA and are interested in getting some photos done! Vantography
Oh so busy lately! I really haven’t had much time at all to scrapbook in the past few months. I did get to go to a mini-retreat in the Hershey area with some friends. I only got 4 pages done, but hey… any completed layout is an accomplishment! It was also a nice day because my usual scrap buddy, Andrea, and I went with our hubbies. While we scrapped, the men took our little ones to Zoo America, which is the Zoo attached to Hershey Park. We joined them for dinner and then hit Chocolate World before heading home.
Our families walking towards yummy chocolatey goodness:
Miss Victoria seemed to enjoy the ride:
and afterward, when they give you your free sample of chocolate, we gave Tori her first taste of wonderful chocolate.
Here we are shopping for some yummy-ness to take home:
Our family has been quite busy with little trips and activities… in other words, our lives have been chock full of moments to scrapbook, but lacking time to do so!
We had a weekend fun trip to Pittsburgh- we went to the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. Tori LOVED it and she really liked the aquarium:
We also explored Phipps Conservatory:
I have LOADS more pictures but I’ll spare you. Lastly, here we are at Mt. Washington:
We also recently went to a little amusement park that is near where we live. We took my nephew and my scrap-buddy Andrea, along with her husband and little one, also joined us. We had a very fun day:
Here’s her first carousel ride:
She wasn’t too sure of it at first, but once we got moving, she enjoyed herself!
There’s also a mini waterpark there, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all on the 90 degree day!:
oh yeah, and did I mention, we also moved a couple of months ago?:
This was from one of our first nights in the new place. Tori was trying to see what cabinets she could fit into. She determined that this one fit the bill.
Our house has a lovely yard, full of flowers:
oh… and…. a pool
We absolutely adore our new house, yard and pool. It has been just awesome!! We didn’t move far from where we were… just a little closer to our town and work. Plus our house is much bigger than what we had previously… we’ve found our forever-home and we couldn’t be happier!
While we’ve been ridiculously busy, I have found some time to be crafty, and not much of it was in scrapbook from. I’ve made a few cards and I made this sign for my niece’s recent 16th birthday bash. It was Alice in Wonderland themed:
The Cricut and the Mini-Monograms cartridge came in very handy! I was pretty happy with how it turned out!
Probably one of the bigger projects I took on was getting Tori’s room decorated. I found several adorable ideas on Pinterest (man, that site is addicting) so I did my own spin on my it:
I painted a tree and colorful leaves, had shelves put on the branches (thanks for your help with that part, Dad), and then decorated each shelf with family photos and small keepsakes. I also had purchased letters at Michaels and hung those up in the corner.
There are painted bugs on two of the letters. The butterfly I bought that way and the dragonfly was unfinished, so I painted that one. Overall, I think her room is super cute:
I have some other plans of fun things to do in the house… just need time to do it!
I’m planning to attend the scrapbook retreat in November, which should give me some solid time to scrap! Also, our plan for our house is to turn a large room upstairs into our craftroom/playroom. It’s coming along, but we still have to do a little more work. Then, the plan is that Tori can be playing in the room while I’m crafting (and while Daddy is on the computer in the same room). Hopefully it all turns out!
We’re also planning a big vacation to Orlando, Florida to visit my brother, sister in law and nephew. We’re also planning to splurge and spend a day at Disney while we are there. I already just placed an order with Scrap Your Trip (scrapyourtrip.com) which included some Disney themed paper. I’m SOOOO excited! Our first big vacation as a family! And it will be a fantastic adventure to scrapbook!
May is National Scrapbook Month… and in honor of that, I’m posting this hellishly long blog entry!
The first full Saturday in May is considered also to be National Scrapbook Day. It’s also National Duckling Month and National Strawberry month too- and my favorite days in May that I discovered is National Lost Sock Day (May 9th) and National Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you!).
Anyway, May might not actually be full of as much scrappin’ as I’d like, as it’s going to be a crazy busy month for our little family. We went on a mini getaway last week to Pittsburgh and then… big news… we bought a new house!! We’ve loved our little house that we’re in now but that’s just it… it’s little. It’s not super teeny square footage wise, but my biggest issue is that we don’t have a big living space. With Tori starting to take her first few steps, we really need more space for her to run around (and be able to take tumbles without that meaning she’s automatically taking a header into furniture). The new house has about 1000 more sq ft than what we currently have (plus a HUGE yard with a garden and in-ground pool), and we’ve already determined which room would be the cr-office/playroom. It’s got so much space to be both that I am hoping it means I may get to devote a little more time to my hobby since Tori will have a nice play area right next to our desk areas.
We close on our houses (the one we’re selling and the one we’re buying) at the end of this month… so it’s going to be National Packing Up Our Crap Month too!
In other news, my big girl turned 1! Miss Victoria celebrated her birthday at the end of March.
Here’s me and my little lady with the birthday banner. We had the party at my parents house since they have a little more space for gathering friends and family.
She had a lot of fun opening her presents!:
She definitely had more fun tearing the paper and playing with that than the presents, but I suppose that’s what usually happens with little ones. I did feel bad though, because she (with my help) would get a present opened and would look at it for a minute before we took it from her so she could open the next gift.
However, there was this one gift that she didn’t want to put down… and she showed it her usual sign of affection:
…by putting it in her mouth.
She sleeps with this bunny every night… she LOVES it!
And what birthday would be complete with out a smash cake!
We took so many pictures, between me, my sister in law, Gina and my father in law… I’ve determined that her birthday will have to be her own scrapbook!
Speaking of scrapbooking, let’s get to it!
I went on the spring scrapbook retreat in March. I normally would only go once a year (to either the fall or spring, but not both), but now I’ve determined that those weekends are really the only time I get to scrapbook (for a serious length of time anyway). My friend Andrea and I went this time, and even though we were sans Kerrie, we still managed to pack that vehicle full!!
I was SUPER productive at the retreat. I completed a personal record of 24 pages! I was a lean, mean, scrappin’ machine!
This was a page I had mostly completed prior to the retreat. I just cut out the “bath time” phrase and the rubber duck, which were from the Sugar and Spice Cricut cartridge. (by the way, “duck” is the one word Tori knows, besides “mama”, “dada”, and “uh-oh”… but now every bird is a “duck”! At least that fits with the National Duckling Month theme!).
This page isn’t too fancy… I had a sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper that looked like water, so I put that underneath the photos, on top of the blue background. Then I cut out some photos just to fit more on the page. I am definitely someone who tries to cram as many photos on a page as possible (within reason). I actually am not a huge fan of pages that have one picture on it… I do that once in awhile if it’s a really special photo, but for me, I like to use multiple pictures to tell a story. It seems like a waste to me to only have one photo on a page, unless you’re incorporating a lot of journaling. It’s all personal preference though, ultimately!
This was one I completed prior to the retreat but hadn’t photographed. It’s all about the snuggles! The letters were from the “Opposites Attract” cartridge, which, as I’ve said before, is easily my favorite font cartridge. It’s so versatile! The only other element that I really want to point out on here is in the middle bottom. I had come across a list somewhere in my Baby Center emails when I was pregnant that encouraged parents to write down what the wished for their child. I took a few of those ideas and wrote them down and placed it on this page. She’s so little and yet I have so many big hopes for her… ultimately I just want her to be happy and healthy in all that she does!
“My daughter’s eyes” page was difficult to come up with at first. I had all of these cute close ups of her eyes and face and wasn’t sure how to incorporate them. The title of the page comes from a country song and, though I’m not a country music fan, it is a very touching song. I’m just in love with Tori’s big brown eyes… they are so expressive to me! I love watching her study things around her! I must confess that, since this was another pre-retreat layout, I am unsure of the font. I think it was one of the settings on the Jasmine cartridge. I accented with a few baby themed stickers. I wanted her eyes to be the main focus so I kept the decorative elements at a minimum.
I smile when I see this page. I realize I said above that I don’t typically put one photo on a page, it does happen on a rare occasion. The page on the left focuses on a single photo because I adore this picture! She was so teeny and all bundled in her car seat… and it makes me smile, which ties in with the photos on the right, where I finally captured her first smile on camera. The font was… you guessed it, Opposites Attract” and the flower was from the Sugar and Spice cartridge. The giraffe on the right was actually from a card I had saved from my baby shower. I thought the mamma and baby giraffe were just too cute! I cut them out and placed them in the corner and I think they’re the perfect accent! Here’s a close up of the right page:
I know I’m her mommy, but dang, she’s cute, isn’t she?!?
Next up, a layout of a series of photos of, well… of just Tori
I have to say, thanks to Pinterest and my recent subscription to the Scrapbooks, Etc. magazine, I’ve been playing around with different layout arrangements. I’m trying to break out of my usual page and photo arrangements. I was thrilled with how this one turned out. I had all of these cute pics of Miss Tori from the same day but they didn’t have a flow to them… some of just her, some of me with her, some of Daddy with her… the common theme was her, hence my title “Just Tori”. The font was Jubilee and the flowers and leaves came from a cartridge I borrowed from Andrea- I believe it was called Accent Essentials. I’ve been reading about “inchies” where people make square inch embellishments that are just adorable- so I played with that idea for the border accents. I kept the journaling to a minimum since there really wasn’t a story behind these photos- it was just about Tori.
Here is the cover page for volume 2 of Tori’s first year. I’m not sure if it’s going to be a 3 or 4 volume set yet… I may try to get 6-12mo in one album but I have ridiculous amount of cute pictures!
And as I’m attempting to photograph my pages, Tori decided to come over and give me a hand. I take crappy photos of my pages anyway, but when I only have 3 seconds to set it up and get the picture before little hands get on it… well, I’m lucky my photos aren’t a streaky blur! She loves to look at photo albums and my scrapbooks, which is why I am a firm believer in using page protectors. She’s rough with her board books so she could do serious damage to these fragile pages.
Cursive 101 font was used for this page… it’s a fairly simplistic layout, but I was happy with my color choices- the aqua color on top of the mauve colored paper, with accenting stickers. I think it compliments the color of my shirt and the blue dolphin on her onesie.
I had been seeing several grid layout pages similar to this one, on Pinterest. I had saved a few on my scrapbook dedicated board, knowing that I’d probably have an opportunity to use it. I had many pictures of Miss Victoria but they didn’t all go together… they were all from different moments, different days, but just us enjoying her. I decided that this would be a good time to bust out the grid layout and make this page. It fell together easily and the center sticker ties it all together… little ones really do bring the biggest joy!
I had that page, opposite this page and used the same peach background to mat these photos:
Putting these photos in a rectangular pattern complimented the grid pattern on that page above. I used Don Juan for the font… it was a font I hadn’t seen before and wasn’t sure if I liked it or not, but after using it a few times in my albums, I LOVE it! I borrowed it at the retreat, so I may have to get that one to add to my collection. Since these were placed on patterned paper, I kept embellishments to a minimum with a couple of stickers. I also cut the title out on that same peach paper that was on the opposite page and mounted it on the pale green (both colors were in the background patterned paper). Mood Swings definitely seemed to be an appropriate title for this group of photos.
Next up, this two page spread about Tori’s first baseball game. The main element that I wanted to point out is the “State College Spikes” title. This was actually created with Cricut Markers. Basically, you use these in place of the blade in your Cricut machine. I wanted something just a little different than the usual cut out letters and I had been anxious to use these markers. I actually got these markers “free” because I had Cricut Reward Points from purchasing cartridges. (of course I had to pay shipping….so even though I purchased tons of Cricut merchandise, they couldn’t even give me free shipping on my reward… I ended up paying about $2 less than what it would’ve been if I’d just gone to Michaels and bought them… wow, thanks Provo Craft!).
This is a fairly straight forward layout but I liked some of the embellishments I used. I used the “Boys will be Boys” cartridge to cut out the super cute baseball mitt and bats. I used a Creative Memories circular punch and drew red stitching on it to make baseballs. I also had a ticket that I had saved from the day. I like when places give you an actual ticket… so many places are just giving a receipt as your “ticket”, which is BOOOORRIING! I know there are other scrappers like me that greatly appreciate a physical ticket!
Lastly, here’s the final layout I completed during the retreat. This set of photos was actually my goal- I wanted to scrap these photos by the end of the retreat and sure enough, Sunday, late morning, I was creating my page. I got a TON of compliments on this page, which really made me feel good.
This is the full spread- on the right side, I used a 5×7 photo that I had of Tori with a sunflower in the background as the main focus. I added a smaller photo (self taken, by the way) at the bottom, and a circular cut sunflower photo as an accent. Plus, I had these adorable sunflower stickers that had black and white plaid centers- which just so happened to match the pattern on Tori’s dress!
The left side of this spread is my favorite:
I used a couple of techniques on this page that I was really happy with… I also felt like my techniques and embellishments accented the photos, without overpowering them. The first thing I did was turned a close up of a sunflower into a 9-grid mosaic.
I was a little off with cutting this, and the bottom 3 squares are just a teeny bit smaller than the other 6. I can live with imperfection. I’ve done photo mosaics before but this is probably my favorite one, since I used a large bold image.
My favorite part of this page though, is easily the title:
This actually sort of happened by accident (gotta love happy accidents). I had used the Don Juan font again to cut out the black letters. I thought black letters would be nice because of the pattern in Tori’s dress. However, once I cut out the title, I really liked the negative space and decided to use that somehow. I had a couple of leftover pictures that were just of an overall shot of the field. I placed the “sunflower” cut out over them and immediately knew that’s what I needed to use. I used two separate pictures (the seam is between the “l” and “o”). A lot of fellow scrapers at the retreat loved this idea and came over to admire it and ask me some questions about it. I used the cut out letters of “field” to contrast the negative space. Toss on a few sunflower stickers and call it done!
And with that, the retreat came to a close. We packed up our gear and headed home. It’s funny that I actually wasn’t terribly excited about going to the retreat this year… for some reason, the thought of getting all my stuff packed up and going away seemed daunting. I also hadn’t slept well in a few days, and I KNOW I never sleep well at the retreat. But I got into a grove once I got there and actually stayed in that zone almost the entire time! It was excellent!
Not sure when I’ll get a chance to really scrapbook again- with packing and moving, I don’t see much scrapping at all! Hopefully though, once we’re settled, I’ll be able to get back into it! I hope that my friends get to do my share of scrapbooking this month for me!
Happy Scrapbook Month!