Hooray for Hollywood

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California, here I come

This past week, we’ve spent some time in our old home in Glendale.

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This place has great food! I miss having it just down the street

First up – thrift stores! After living here for a year, we got to know some awesome places and they did not disappoint. We were able to get some great toys and clothes for the boys. Afterwards, we walked around our old neighborhood and had a wonderful lunch at Everest burger.

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Animals!!

A few days later, we took the kids to the Los Angeles Zoo. Mini-man and I came here all the time when we lived here and it was great to be back. I really like this zoo – its well laid out, beautiful, and has a lot of great elements for kids. We saw a lot of animals and had a really great time.

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One of my favorite places!

Midweek brought a magical stop – DISNEYLAND! Some wonderful relatives gave us some of their Disney tickets so we were able to take the boys. This was little-dudes first time at a theme park and he had so much fun looking and touching everything – he especially loved eating a churro and a dole whip. Although mini-man has been to several theme parks, he is not a fan of rides. Despite this, he did so well on this visit – he did the train, river boat, pirates, and the teacups!

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Exactly what we’ve been looking for!

After many days of adventures, we took a day to just relax by the pool. This is what we’ve been searching for since San Antonio – a gorgeous day by the pool. Mini-man, being the water bug he is, knew instantly what we were doing when we put on his swim clothes and instantly walked into the water. He spent hours in the pool. While little-dude doesn’t love the water like mini-man, he had a blast splashing around the pool.

On our last day, we got into a cleaning mood and ended up cleaning, organizing, and storing lots of stuff. The trailer looks amazing – we even found our kitchen table! Our little spree also alerted us to some things that we needed before we left, so we headed out for some quick shopping.

While we were out, Damon noticed that his wallet went missing. Luckily, a very nice person found his wallet and turned it in to our local bank branch. They stayed at a local restaurant and waited for us to get there. Amazingly, everything was still in the wallet and they wouldn’t accept a reward. They just wanted to make sure that we got it back. Its so great to meet some genuinely nice, honest people in the world.

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On the road again

And so ends our trip to LA. Next up – Sequoia National Forest!

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Visiting SeaWorld San Antonio

Mini-man’s first visit to SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld has a special place in my heart. I grew up going to the park in San Diego and worked for the Orlando park marketing for many years. So I was very excited to have the opportunity to visit the San Antonio park.

Some of my favorite SeaWorld memories

Now before I talk about our visit, I want to make something clear – I support Seaworld. They aren’t perfect, but no company is. As a whole, their efforts help marine animals around the world is incredible. I don’t care if you’ve seen that film. Seeing a 90 minute documentary doesn’t make you an expert. Educating yourself, helping animals, dedicating your life to conservation – that makes you an expert. Which is what SeaWorld is all about – teaching the public how to care for our oceans. Because if we don’t, then we’re in danger of losing a whole, valuable eco-system. Now I will step off my soap box and tell you about our wonderful trip!

Main entrance to the park

Unlike her sister parks, SeaWorld San Antonio is a seasonal park. Right now, they are only open on weekends and start letting people in at 1p. Another difference is their entrance plaza. Unlike San Diego and Orlando, all of San Antonio’s parks are next to each other.

Entrance to SeaWorld

So when we arrived, we were greeted by a nice, albeit slightly confusing, entrance plaza. 

Both boys enjoyed the Bay of Play area

Once we entered the park, the first thing we see is Bay of Play, the kids play area. This is great for us, as we could get the kids out instantly and start playing.

The comedy styling of Clyde and Seamore

Next we headed to see everyones favorite sea lions – Clyde and Seamore. I’ve always loved them since I was a child. However, the jokes in the show only made sense to locals, which I guess is their primary audience.

I. ❤️. 🐧!

Afterwards we headed to see the penguins, one of the few animal exhibits in the park. I love penguins and felt giddy going through the exhibit. Mini-man even enjoyed seeing the penguins!

The area outside of Shamu Stadium was beautiful

At this point, the sun is setting and the Christmas lights are starting to come one. The park was absolutely beautiful covered in 8 million lights. 

Im super proud of this picture. I’m no photographer, so the fact that this came out makes me really happy.

Next up, was an impromptu stop to see Shamu’s Christmas Miracle. I’m so glad we stopped. It’s a beautiful show filled with Wonder music. Plus, their staduim wraps around their killer whale pool, giving everyone a nice view of the show. 

Loved all the lights

At this point, we we’re all tired, so we started to head towards the front of the park. This worked out well as most of the pathway was lined with Christmas lights. 

We had a great time and highly recommend visiting the park if you ever get the chance.

Little To Do in Little Rock

Our campsite near Little Rock

One would think that staying at a campground near the capitol city of Arkansas would give you lots of things to do. Ya, not so much with Little Rock. Unless your a huge fan of the Clinton’s (not really a must see when you have toddlers), then there isn’t a lot to do. 

Lots of playing

We spent much of our five days playing with the kids in the trailer. We took the kids a could of times to the playground, but, unfortunately, it was either really cold out or completely over run with kids. 

Trying yo enjoy the campground

The worst part for me was the day before we left the campground decided to fix all their roads. Tar has a very strong smell and is a trigger for my migraines. Despite our best efforts to get out of the campground before it got too bad, I did get a migraine and it’s lasted for days (I still have it 3 days later, along with fatigue and nausea). Would it really have been so hard for the camp host to say ‘Hey were retarring the roads’, so we could make alternate plans????? Or even better, close off each section and not have campers there while they retar. 

Beautiful place to stay

Either way, we weren’t told. After more than a dozen campsites, we’ve only encountered a handful of nice hosts (or even met them) and only ONE was at a government site. All the others never appear. 

The place where the city got it’s name

On a positive note, we did escape to a pretty riverfront area in Little Rock, called Julius Breckling River Front Park, home to THE little rock that inspired the cities name. 

Having some fun at the playgrounds

We walked around a bit and played with the kids on their playgrounds. I have to say, they went overboard with the ‘little rock’ theming (so many little rocks).

Onward!

So as you can see, not an eventful stop. And, to be honest, I’m not looking forward to the next two stops as they are in smaller towns than Little Rock. Can’t wait to get to San Antonio!!!

Helpful Hazard


After our relaxing stay at Rock Island State Park in Tennessee, we ventured in to Kentucky. During this trip, we had our first blowout, and man did we do it with style 😎

When we were about 20 minutes from our campsite, we heard a strange noise. Unfortunately, we were on a small, windy, and steep mountain road. Once we finally pulled over we saw it – one of our trailer tires was gone. This wasn’t just a flat, the tire literally exploded! And we did it where there was no cell service.

It sounds bad but we got very lucky. We pulled over a short distance from downtown Hazard, were a local festival called Black Gold was being held. There we found food and cell service.

We called road side assistance but because we were so remote, they were having a hard time finding us some help. Since the festival was going on, the police were there. Within minutes, they found us a guy who could help.

He managed to get the tire off (what was left of it) when we learned that our spare tire didn’t fit our trailer! Fortunately, the repair guy was able to cobble together a tire for us by putting the tire from the spare onto the rim of the blowout tire. While he did that, road side assistance called back and found someone 90 minutes away! Thank goodness we found this repair guy or we would have been waiting even longer.

So at 8pm, three hours after we intended to get to our spot, we made it. And our luck continued!

I was worried that we’d be locked out since we were arriving so late. Our camp host, Randy, met and escorted us to our campsite. When he saw that we wouldn’t quite fit, he drive Damon around to find a new spot and helped him set-up.

The next day, we set out to get new tires. After inspecting our other tires, we learned that the tires our trailer came with couldn’t hold the weight of the trailer! So we looked up what tires we needed and located them at two nearby stores. Here’s where it’s gets complicated:

  • We needed four new tires.  
  • Store #1 had 2 complete tires. 
  •  Store #2 had 3 but only the tires, no rims. 
  • We removed three tires from the RV, with the idea that we’d remove the the tires from the rims and have the shop put the new tires on our rims. 
  • So we left the RV on jacks and went in our way. of the day, we had 5 new tires.

Once they were installed, Damon and Randy noticed that the rims were different colors – 2 white and 3 grey. This led to a lengthy discussion about switching tires and rims so they all match. That’s right, the guys were discussing whether the rims matched. I could care less – as long as they worked and we’re safer than the last tires, I couldn’t care if they all matched.

Eventually, we ended up with three grey and one white and returned a white (always great to save money). Of course, Randy recommend that we switch the spare time with the white rim tire so we’d have matching tires … Seriously. 

Unfortunately, this meant that we spent most of this stop working on projects and not really getting to spend fun time with the kids or explore the area. Damon and I did disagree at times because we both have different goals but don’t always communicate them with each other. But we worked them out and managed to get a lot accomplished.

I just hope that we can enjoy these next few stops

California Adventures: The Los Angeles Zoo

As many of you know – I hate driving in Los Angeles. However, mini-man was getting bigger and I really wanted to started taking him places where he could explore. I decided to give the Los Angeles Zoo a try.

On our first visit, Damon drive with me so I could get to know the route. However, the route included driving on the highway and even during slow times, people in LA drives recklessly.

We had a blast on our trip to the zoo. Mini-man lived walking around and exploring. I really wanted to take him back but I needed to find a different way.

A few days later, I decided to take mini-man to the zoo myself. But this time, I avoided the highway. Instead I took smaller streets. It might have taken a few minutes more but it was way easier for me. 

I felt so accomplished for facing my fear of driving in LA and thrilled to take mini-man to the zoo.

Since then, we have visited to zoo at least once a week and gotten to explore this really amazing zoo. I highly recommend it to anyone with kids – it’s a great place to let them explore and see new things. And if you get an annual pass, you can come back often and not feel you have to stay all day of your kids get tired. I usually take mini-man in the morning and stay a few hours until he’s ready for his nap.

And be sure not to miss their Christmas Light-Up event – the while zoo is lit up with beautiful lights. Its a great, and affordable, holiday experience.

I will definitely miss having this zoo so close to us.

California Adventures: Cruising

As any mom knows, trying to travel with young children can be difficult. So what is a couple of travelers to do when they want to see a lot of places but also have a baby? Cruising!

As Floridians, we have taken a lot of cruises to most of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. So we were eager to have the chance to explore a lot of the west coast without restricting mini-man to his car seat.

We managed to take two cruises while we were here – one along the west coast, stopping in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and San Diego, and one to the Mexican Riviera (very love boat).

We absolutely loved these vacations. We got to see a lot of what the west coast has to offer while getting to relax and enjoy ourselves. I’d highly recommend both of these cruises to any family.

Backyard Adventures: The Crayola Experience

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While we currently reside in LA, our home base is Orlando, Florida. Last week we decided to take a trip home to catch up with friends, check on our house, and check-out some of the latest Orlando offerings. Since Damon needed to work during this trip, I decided to take mini-man to the new Crayola Experience at the Florida mall.
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I’ve had many friends check-out the experience since it opened and said it was a great place to take little kids. Since it was only $34, I purchased an annual pass as we would use it multiple times over the next year. 
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I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. p The space is large and filled with lots of activities. However, mini-man being the adventurer he is went straight for the climbing structures. I love that there are two separate structures – one for toddlers and one for older kids. The down side is they aren’t close which makes it hard for parents with two kids to keep an eye on both. I saw lots of older kids playing on the smaller structure and the toddlers were getting pushed aside. More than once I had to protect mini-man from these kids while other parents just sat by and played on their phones (a big annoyance with me).
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We left after a few hours as mini-man was getting tired, so we didn’t get to try everything. But that’s what I love about the annual pass – we can go back often and try something new each time. Can’t wait to go back.

Backyard Adventures: The LA Zoo

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Ready for a wild adventures at the LA Z00

With mini-man getting bigger and more independent, I’ve been trying to find some fun, yet cost effective, activities for us to do together. One activity that we both enjoy is visiting the LA Zoo.

Located in Griffith Park, and just minutes from our apartment, the LA Zoo is an ideal place to take mini-man for some new adventures.

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I bought an annual pass for $79 – which gets me and one guest into the zoo. Since mini-man is free (under 2 can visit free) this pass is ideal for our little family.  Just use it four time and then pass pays for itself.

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Another benefit of an annual pass – we can come and go as we please. If we arrive and it’s too crowded, too hot, mini-man isn’t in the mood, or any reason, we can just leave. This happened one, hot day when mini-man kept wanting to get into the water. Instead of making him stay, we went home and jumped in the pool. Both parties are happy – i didn’t have to drag a cranky toddler around the zoo and he got to do what he wanted.

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Right now, mini-man loves to explore the zoo. So each time we visit, I take him in a different direction to see new animals. The only issue we have at the moment is he wants to touch all of the animals. Thankfully he is easily distracted.

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So if your looking for a cost effective activity for your family in LA, I highly recommend the LA Zoo.

Stay-at-Home-Mom: Savings

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I think we can all relate – raising kids can get pricey. The clothes they grow out of in two seconds, the toys that cost $$$ and are played with for a few months, you know the drill. Added to the fact that we are on a budget tends to make things interesting. I grew up pretty poor and learned quickly how to spot a good deal and to invest money wisely. However, my husband has taught me even more than I imagined. 

I showed him toys/clothes for mini-man that I think are a good price and he takes me to places where there even better! What places are these? Thrift stores. Places like this didn’t really exist for me as a kid – I’m not sure why. They are a great place to find awesome treasures at an amazing price. Yes they can take some time to dig and your not guaranteed to find what you are looking for but with an open mind and some digging, you can unearth some amazing items. And bonus – it’s the ultimate in recycling! An old toy gets a new life, you save money, and the old owner gets some cash – everybody wins!

 Here are some things that I have found from Goodwill, local thrift stores, and Craigslist:

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  • Clothes

 Mini-man was born at 10 pounds (naturally!). I loved my big guy but all of the clothes we had for him were too small (NB clothes fit upto 10 pounds). My first thought was to go to Walmart and get a few things. However, Damon suggested trying our local Goodwill first. OMG was I surprised – the store had a wall full of baby clothes and for $1.50! I couldn’t believe it – we left with a bag full of clothes for less than the cost of one outfit at a local retailer. I was hooked. 

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  • Toys 

Children’s toy are pricey, require a lot of batteries, and maintain interested for a few minutes. Looking at the toy aisle, I couldn’t help but wonder where all these toys ended up once kids were done playing with them. Turns out that most of them end up at garage sales and local thrift stores. We found a couple of amazing stores near us in Glendale that have huge toy sections. I have found name brand electronic toys (I.e. V-tech and Leap Frog) for $3 or less! Mini-mans airplane rocker – $3.50! (Going for $100 on Amazon). And our latest find – the car above for $10! 

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  • Books

Mini-man loves books. I started his collections with some books I found on Amazon. However, I have expanded the collection immensely from thrift stores. These books, which retail for $5-$20 are sold for $1 at thrift stores! I do take comfort in the fact that the books I bought at full retail I have never found at thrift stores, but I have found similar books that mini-man loves. The books are usually all mixed together and requires some digging, but it’s well worth the savings. 

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  • Furniture

I think this is where I am the most thrilled with my thrift store findings. Furniture can be pricey but kids grow of them so fast that a lot of it ends up on Craiglist or Goodwill. We recently went back to Florida for a week and found a Step2 pic-nic table and sand table for $50! Mini-man loved the sand table so much that we found the same table in L.A. for $20. The blue chair was in the trash near our apartment – we rescued it, repaired it and now mini-man has an awesome chair for $10. 

With a little imagination, determination, and patience, it is incredible how much you can save and still have fun with your kids!

Five fast tips for thrift stores:

  • Go Often – Thrift stores get stuff in everyday. The more you go, the more chances you have to get something you are looking for.
  • Dig, Dig, Dig – Thrift stores are notoriously unorganized. Spend a few minutes digging and you can unearth some treasures.
  • Not everything is a Deal – Be sure to check online for retail prices before you buy. I have seen things at thrift stores that are more expensive than retail.
  • Color of the Week – Most thrift stores color code their price tags. Each week they will put a color on sale. If you buy something with that color price tag and you can get a discount. I found mini-mans airplane rocker for $7 but it was a color of the week, so I got 50% off!
  • Don’t be Afarid – I am somewhere who isn’t comfortable in crowds or in unfamiliar places. However, it is worth giving thrift stores a try for the savings.