Tag Archives: travel

Mickey Mania

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We did it.

Again.

We took the kids to Disney World.

The last time we made the journey to the “Happiest Place on Earth”, Christopher was 6.  He loved it, aside from the usual meltdowns associated with not being tall enough to ride various rides, and ignoring the middle of the day meltdowns from being tired, hot and sweaty. I enjoyed it because he enjoyed it, but I didn’t feel the need to go ever again.  I figured a kid should go once, and that was enough.

But then His Majesty was born, and with a 10 year gap between him and Christopher, there was a shrinking window of when we could go and have both kids enjoy themselves without making it too miserable on my husband and myself. Don’t get me wrong, Disney World is great, but we’re not exactly “Disney people”, and running through theme parks with a toddler in a stroller isn’t exactly our idea of relaxing, but as with most things, we’re willing to do it for our kids to enjoy it.  Plus, my Grandma had never been, so that added some extra incentive on my end.  Next to watching my kids experience something new, I absolutely love taking her on new adventures.

In preparation for our trip, I took the opportunity to make His Majesty a few Mouse themed t-shirts using a freezer paper stencil method I’d pinned from Urban Pioneer Story.  You won’t believe how easy this it was.

I started with two plain cotton t-shirts that I bought at Hobby Lobby for $6.  His Majesty chose the colors– he wanted a pink and a blue.  I printed the mouse ear profile on regular paper, and cut it out with scissors, and then traced it onto the dull side of a sheet of freezer paper (which I purchased at the grocery store in a huge roll for under $5), and cut it out with a razor knife, giving me an intact stencil. Then, I ironed it, shiny side DOWN, onto the shirt, resulting in this:

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You want to leave a little extra freezer paper around your stenciled shape, to allow you to easily paint while protecting the clean part of the shirt. Next, I put a sheet of cardboard inside the shirt (I used an empty cereal box folded down to be flat), and used a round sponge paint brush to apply black fabric paint to the inside of the stencil.  At the edges I pressed down with the brush, and brushed towards the inside of the shape, to keep from moving the edges of the stencil.  I painted two coats, letting it dry for about an hour in between coats. Image

The next day, I peeled the freezer paper off, leaving me with this.

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Oh boy.  I was excited.  And so was His Majesty.

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But for the pink shirt, I decided that I wanted to try something a little different, using spray paint, gaining inspiration from Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom.  So this time, I used the shape of the ears as my stencil, and painted around them with spray paint (again, be sure you put a piece of cardboard inside of the shirt, as the paint will soak through). I held my hand about 10 inches away, and sprayed a light coat of paint, keeping my arm moving the whole time to avoid blotches and drips. Image

ImageWhen I pulled the stencil off, I basically did a happy dance. Image

His Majesty was pleased as well.

ImageI liked the results of the spray paint method so much that I decided to do it on the back of his blue shirt as well. You can only use each stencil once, so I cut another one out.  It’s so easy, though, that it’s hardly a big deal.

ImageAnd that’s how I made two shirts for Disney World in a breathable fabric (helpful, given that it was 90 degrees and all kinds of humid during our trip… I was melting, MELTING!!) for a fraction of the cost we’d pay at the park. And, these are one of a kind.  I’m proud of them, and His Majesty loves them.  For the record, I offered to make some for Christopher, but he deemed himself too cool for them.  He did, however, request that I make him a shirt with The Hunger Games symbol to go with his Halloween costume– He’s going as Peeta.

This method is amenable to any shape that you want to create.  You can do words, names, whatever your heart desires.  Once you have your paint and your freezer paper, you can probably even make a shirt for everyone in your family with supplies left to spare.  Birthday shirts for your little one?  Done.  Shirts to show support for your kid’s Little League team?  Done.  Bring it on, baby.  The sky is the limit with the freezer paper stencil shirts!

I made one other cool thing for our Disney trip, and also did some preplanning for our trip that saved me a little money and gave my kids some extra fun along the way.  Stay tuned for more on that this week 🙂

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Happy Trails

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We were off again last week, this time headed up north, to visit with some friends in the Wisconsin Dells, with a stop along the way to see my in laws in a neighboring state. Not exactly a kid free trip to NYC, but it was sure to be interesting, nonetheless.

One reason it was certain to be interesting is that His Majesty despises being confined in any capacity, but more so than any other form, he loathes being in the car. He literally has come to associate car trips of any length with mindlessly stuffing his face full of food, preferably in form of empty carbs. As in, we eat breakfast and immediately get in the car for a 10 minute drive to a friend’s house, and he starts squawking for “something else” (food) before I even have his car seat buckled. This makes road trips not only messy, but inherently annoying, as we collectively try to shovel food in his direction while he repeatedly barks orders at us (“I want TWO crackers!”), lest we move too slowly and he morph into a cranky tantrum-laden troll. Oh, and did I mention that he stubbornly refuses to nap in the car– that he refused such a challenge, even as a newborn baby– despite our best efforts, bribes, and begging?

Sounds like a blast, no?

At this point, we are both used to his travel challenges, and ridiculously sick of them. We travel a lot, and I wanted to read a book in the car or nap or daydream uninterrupted. Enter THIS idea, courtesy of Crazy Domestic, for travel trays.

I was pretty much willing to try anything at this point, so some chalk spray paint and dollar store cookie sheets seemed like a small investment to make in the “Travel in Peace and Quiet” fund. I found the chalkboard spray paint at Hobby Lobby, and the cookie sheets, stickers, magnetic chip clips, pencil boxes and twist crayons (hoping they won’t melt as quickly as regular crayons) at the dollar store. The chalk and magnetic letters we already had handy, and I printed some free coloring sheets. We also liberated some matchbox cars from Christopher’s room. Everything for the project cost less than $15. The chalk paint was the costliest item, but I used a 40% off coupon, saving a few bucks.

I sprayed the trays during nap time. I did 4 thin coats, letting each coat dry for about 20 minutes in between. Per the paint instructions, it is recommended that you not write on your new chalkboard for 24 hours, so leave yourself adequate time before your trip so you aren’t disappointed.

On one tray, I used chip magnets to hold coloring sheets. Unlike Crazy Domestic, I decided not to glue the pencil case onto the surface of the tray, since the cases I’d purchased would take up too much play space on the trays.

Instead, I used magnets so that they would adhere to the front of the tray, and also serve to contain everything into as compact and portable of a package as possible for transport. I used the other pouch (not shown) to carry the matchbox cars.

I filled the case with the stickers, magnets, crayons, and chalk.

On the second tray, I stuck the magnetic letters, and more magnetic clips.

The third tray, I reserved until we arrived at our cabin.  It was my “ace in the hole”, the card to play at that immiment moment when His Majesty was just about to lose it.  Like my inspiration, I drew a little road on the tray in chalk, and let my little guy drive some of Christopher’s cars around the tray.

I would like to tell you that these simple trays revolutionized our road trip, and that we drove in blissful silence the entire drive, each of us enjoying the sound of the other’s breathing, but as great as they are, we still had plenty of noisy carb loading from our resident toddler, who kept a pretty constant running commentary of nearly every item we passed on the road. He is two-years-old, after all. However, the truth is that he thoroughly enjoyed the trays, loudly squealing in delight whenever I whipped them out.  They bought us far more quiet time than we have enjoyed on any other road trip since His Majesty arrived on the scene in 2010, which is a certain return in the time and money invested in this simple project.

And, as it turns out, our chalk board trays served an additional purpose.

Our friends used one of them to leave us us a good-bye note before heading back to their own home in the wee hours of the morning, after having spent a few days with us.

When I woke up to this on the counter, it was my turn to squeal with delight.  Gotta love handwritten notes! (The pterodactyl reference is an inside joke.  Hahaha, you just had to be there.)

What are your travel tricks and tidbits?  Do you have a masterful way of packing a suitcase, or stuffing an unbelievable amount of luggage into a vehicle?  Is there something that you or your family MUST travel with?  Tricks for occupying kids on trips, long or short? Share the love, share your travel tips!

3 Quick NYC Tidbits

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Just popping in to share 3 quick helpful pieces of information that I learned while I was in NYC last week.  Then I’ll be back blogging later this week, starting with sharing a Mother’s Day project.  Ooooh, it is going to be so cute!!

Ok, so here are the tips that I learned. These will be useful if you decide to plan a trip to New York, which, by the way, I highly recommend. Here’s what you need to know:

1).  There is no sales tax on clothing or shoes priced at less than $110 per item.   That saves you 8.5% (4% NY state and 4.5% city) on some of your purchases… I’m not proud to admit how much I used this savings to my advantage, or of the fact that I used said savings when describing my purchases to my husband: “Oh honey, I spent XYZ, but I SAVED so much money!”

2). If you go to the Vistor’s Center in Macy’s and show them your out of state ID, you get a discount card for 11% off of your purchases (with a few exclusions, such as cosmetics and fragrances). But I mainly bought clothes and shoes, so when you add that to the tax discount, I saved almost 20%, right from the get go.  I then applied some of that savings towards the cost of the postage for shipping a few boxes home, since I broke a cardinal travel rule and didn’t leave enough room in my luggage to account for my purchases.  I wasn’t the only one who broke that rule, though.  There were several other women in line with me at the post office on 52nd Street doing the exact same thing!  Desperate times call for waiting in line at the Post Office on your last morning of vacation, I guess.

Ok, so let’s get to #3.  You should know that a lot of people come to Macy’s… tons in fact… and that the bathrooms were yucky.  Suffice it to say that my 4 foot 8 inch tall Grandmother was diligently looking for a manager to complain to until I managed to talk her down.  Which brings me to this seriously useful piece of information:

3). Starbucks has public bathrooms. You don’t have to buy anything to use them, and I’m happy to report that they’re remarkably clean.  With 194 locations in Manhattan alone, you won’t have a hard time finding one, although you might have to wait in line for a few minutes.  People love them some Starbucks, even in NYC.  They didn’t cram 200 of those bad boys 34 square miles for nothing, that’s for sure, and there was a line at the register at every one we passed, regardless of the time of day.

Anyway, tips aside, the visit was wonderful, we did everything we wanted to do and more, and I have 900 pictures to show for it.

Here’s just one of me and my Grandma at the top of the (obviously extremely windy) Empire State Building.

Isn’t she the cutest thing? You should see the outfits she wears, she is adorable.  And the woman loves to shop as much as I do– maybe more.  We’d be out for 12 hours running around from here to there, and she’d see a window display that she liked, and in we’d go.  She’s an awesome shopping buddy.

So, for now, it’s back to the normal grind, plus making Mother’s Day crafts, and figuring out what to give His Majesty’s play school teachers as an end of the year gift.  Plus, I’ve read two more books, and tried a few new recipes, and I want to tell you about those.  Oh, and you just wait until you see what my husband built me for our screened porch!  I’m excited to share some more stuff with you.

What did you do last week?  Make anything?  Buy anything?  Go somewhere? Do something fun?  I want to hear all about it!

 

 

On the Road Again

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I’ll be on the road again– well, really, I’ll be up in the air– traveling to another destination on my Places and Spaces Board this weekend.  I’ll be going here:

Image obtained from Breakfast At Sephora, with original source credit to Vogue for Fashion

Don’t you just love the green expanse of Central Park in the middle of the bustling city?  It’s striking.

New York City has been on my Grandma’s bucket list, so she and I are going together on a “Girl’s Trip.  I got us orchestra seats– 5 rows from the stage– for Chicago (scored cheap at Broadway Box), booked a walking tour with NYSEE Tours using a great groupon deal that I picked up a few weeks ago, and a hooked us up to go on a snazzy brunch and yacht tour.  We’re also going to go up to the top of the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center.   The Statue of Liberty is under renovations, and since we’re not able to go inside of it, we decided to stick to seeing it from our yacht trip, which I’ve read gets us close enough to get decent pictures.

Oh, and I scored us a private tour through Big Apple Greeter.  Yep, just me and Grandma, matched with an NYC resident who is going to show us around all sorts of hidden gems in the city that we might not otherwise know to look for.  I already spoke to our assigned greeter, Bob.  He’s actually the one who gave me the scoop on where to buy our Broadway tix.   He also gave me a bunch of recommendations on where to eat, told me all about the area we’re staying in (we’ll be at the Belvedere Hotel in Midtown/The Theater District), and gave me helpful pointers about navigating the city, like “It will take you longer to take a cab to such and such location than it will to walk” (I needed to hear that, because I’m a big fan of cars, and I would have spent a lot of time and money in cabs if he hadn’t given me that info).  He also taught me that 5th Avenue divides the Eastside from the Westside, and gave me the helpful information that the Avenues run North and South, whereas the Streets run East and West, which I anticipate will make our adventures go a little more smoothly.  He even said he’ll take us on the subway– my Grandma’s request–, so that I won’t have to figure that whole situation out on my own.  Whew!  Glad that I dodged that bullet!  Bob chatted with me on the phone for over and hour at 9 o’clock at night, and he’s even picking us up right at our hotel to take us around town.  I’m excited to meet him, I feel like we’re friends already!

How much do you think a sweet set up like Bob from Big Apple Greeter costs?

How about a big fat ZERO?!

For real.  Big Apple Greeter is a VOLUNTEER service.  You just hop on their sight, give them your travel itinerary, and they find a volunteer who is available to show you around the part of town that you’re staying in.  It’s like having a friend waiting for you in the city.  Pretty cool.  Read about it, it sure seems like the sweetest deal going.

Besides that, there’ll be shopping, and eating, and hopefully at least a little bit of sleeping!

But do you want to know the big surprise that I scored, just for my Grandma?

I got us tickets for a taping of Live with Kelly!  When Grandma asked me about getting them, I initially thought it was too late, since they didn’t show any seats available during our visit, but I took a chance and sent them a letter via snail mail and, low-and-behold, they mailed me tickets!!  (I *might* have mentioned my elderly grandma checking things off of her bucket list in that letter… hey, it’s the truth!  Don’t judge me 😉 )  So, we’ll be there in the audience on Monday.  Pretty exciting stuff, right?

So, see you in a few days, friends!  Drop me a line and tell me what exciting plans you have in store for this weekend, it will give me something to read while I’m waiting around in the airport!

Leaving or Going

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As much as I love living in the beautiful South, I miss my family back up in Michigan.  I get to see them a few times a year, but I still miss them.  I especially miss them at times like when my 4-foot-8-inch tall octo-genarian Grandma kicks butt in a bowling tournament that I wasn’t there to watch, or when my Dad is the guest speaker at an Alcoholic’s Anonymous “Open Talk” and I am not there to hear the applause he receives (he’s been sober for more than 4 years now, and he truly has made the most of his second chance), or when my Mom and my Aunts get together for a luncheon, or when my little brother, who’s not so little anymore, buys his first home, and I’m not there to help him move in, or to celebrate with him.

So when that new homeowner little brother, who happens to also be the World’s Greatest Uncle to my two boys, asked me to come to Michigan to help him decorate his new place, I jumped at the opportunity.  I especially jumped at it because Southeastern Michigan has been unseasonably warm so far this year, with temperatures right up there in the 70’s with us in the N-to-the-C.  I booked a flight right away, weeks ago, and I even started a board with all sorts of things that I thought he’d like, based on the information he’d given me about the space.  My brother is colorblind (for real colorblind, not just in the “Gosh, he doesn’t match his clothes, what is he, colorblind?!”), so he doesn’t really know what colors he likes, so I get to have some real fun helping him out.  I’ve been excited, and anticipating this trip for weeks.

Until right now. As the time to travel draws closer, and as I prepare to leave for the airport, to do some of my favorite things (shop, and visit my family), I am wrought with anxiety at having to first do two things that I wholly I dread, the first being subject myself to actual physical contact with the government at the hands of TSA, and the second being get on an airplane.  No matter how many times I do it, the lack of control I have while on an airplane never ceases to make me want to have a panic attack.  Couple that with leaving my own sweet family, my husband and sons, behind at home, for 4 whole days, and well, I’m a nervous wreck.  I know I’ll have a good time, but now instead of missing one part of my family, I’ll be missing another.

Which begs the question that always pops in my mind when I prepare to visit the state I was born in:  Am I leaving home, or am I going home?

Funny how when I booked the flight, I felt that I was GOING home, but now that the time has come to actually go, I feel like I’m LEAVING home.

It’s all in how you look at it, I guess.

Just like it’s all in how you look at where I’m going.

I’m going to Southeastern Michigan, best known for being the home of Detroit (although there is so much more to Michigan than Detroit that I’ve dedicated an entire board to it).  Detroit is fascinating in that it can look like this:

Or it can look like this (see the pin here):

Source: Wandering Souldier (Who is another native of Michigan! Shout out!!)

I have seen it hold true to both images, even on the same day, sometimes without traveling more than a few city blocks.  I can be two things at once, both full of possibilities and seemingly devoid of hope, at the same time.

So, if a place can be two things at once, I guess the same is true for home.  My home can be Michigan, and it can be NC.  Maybe the reality is that I’m leaving home AND going home at the same time.  And then Monday, God willing, I’ll be doing the same thing when I head back South.

Oh, and if you want to say any prayers for me to have safe and smooth travels, I would be very thankful.

Hope you have a great weekend, wherever you decide to go 🙂