Livin' la vida Florida.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram probably already know that Alexandra and I have been visiting my parents on the gulf coast of Florida area for the last ten days. What started out as a week-long trip was extended to ten days after a surprise ear infection made it impossible for us to fly home (poor baby!), and now, to two whole weeks after our new flight was cancelled flight of the snowstorm pummeling the DC area.  Poor James has been sending us nightly texts with pictures of our empty refrigerator, all the now-decimated meals that I prepared before we left, and the one remaining (very sad-looking) bottle of beer that he is rationing. Basically, this extended vacay has been really rough on all of us.

She would, of course, fall in love with this hot pink starfish.
Though I have to say, sitting here watching the Weather Channel as we get ready to hit the beach, I'm a teensy bit jealous of everyone at home. I'm not a huge fan of winter, but oddly, I love a good snowfall.  There's nothing as comfortable, cozy and charming as sitting by the fire with a good movie and a warm mug of hot chocolate, snuggled under a blanket with a loved one while watching those beautiful flakes fall. 

(There. Did I make everyone feel a little better about their weather situation? No? Okay, well, I tried.)

I don't have a lot of pictures of this trip to share just yet, mainly because I was forced to leave my computer and camera cord behind. Because, anyone who has ever travelled with kids has probably had that same experience where, after finally finishing packing for their child(ren), they look down at the suitcase, and then realize that they have left themselves approximately 5.1 square inches to pack all of their (much larger) vacation stuff. So, don't judge. That person was me the other day, and let me tell you, that suitcase was so stuffed, I couldn't even fit my iPhone charger. Priorities.

But, I do have a few iPhone pictures to happily share with everyone from a little kite-flying session we had a Ft. Myers beach the other day. Because, there's nothing like watching a brightly-colored little kite dancing around the sky, to bring out the kid in everyone again. . .

That's all for now, though I'll be sure to update in a few days when we get back home. Stay warm and safe friends! (Oh, and feel free to send me braggy pics of your beautiful, white, snow-laden yards. It only seems fair, I guess.)

Last minute valentine making party

(. . . saved by a cookie cutter.)

toddler valentine making party

Last Friday, as I was attempting to wash roughly 94 loads of laundry (side note: how does this even happen? how is it possible for a tiny, 26 pound human to produce SO. MUCH. LAUNDRY?), clean the house, and hurriedly pack our bags for a vacation, friends and I decided to get the kiddos together last minute to throw a valentine making party. An hour beforehand, as I was thumbing through my craft supplies, and scanning the pitiful amount of food still left in my pantry, I realized that I had exactly five things to make this party happen:

1. Paper;
2. Crayons;  
3. Watercolor paint;
4. One heart-shaped cookie cutter; 
5. Exactly seven (tiny) boxes of conversation hearts.


Pretty ghetto, right? Ever throw a last-minute party in college and failed to have your over-21 friend show up with all the beer? Well, I'm definitely not saying I ever did that, but if I had, this was pretty much the mom version of that party all over again. Cue the flashbacks.

That is, until I realized the power of that one heart cookie cutter. I had no idea how many possibilities arise with the ability to cut ordinary things into perfect little heart shapes. And just like that, the party was back on! 

So, with the countdown on, I went to town cutting everything in my field of vision into heart-shaped versions of their former self. Ordinary cold sandwiches for the kiddos became adorable little heart-shaped canap├ęs. Leftover apples were thinly sliced and with the help of that cutter, made into valentine-themed apple bites. Leftover cheddar became cute little heart-cheddar bites for a valentine's day charcuterie plate. And a single bag of microwave popcorn was transformed into festive valentine's day confetti popcorn, courtesy of white chocolate chips (melted in the microwave), pink sprinkles from Alexandra's birthday party, and those leftover conversation hearts.

(The crafting area looked this cute for approximately 3.2 seconds.)
The valentines themselves? We used white crayons (and eventually, masking fluid, when we ran out of white crayons - same effect!) to write the children's names on white paper. We then broke out the watercolor paints, and let the kiddos paint over the white crayon writing. They loved it! Once the paint was dry, we used the cookie cutter to trace and cut out heart shapes from the little watercolor masterpieces (used, of course, in the loosest translation of that word), gluing the hearts to card stock. Totally adorbs.

(Cookie cutter, I so owe you.)

So easy, even a toddler dressed in a princess costume can do it.

Now, do I think this little crafting shindig is going to land us on the cover of Martha Stewart anytime soon? Hahaha, certainly not. But, if you are planning (or not planning -- since I clearly wasn't planning this either), a last minute valentine making party for your kiddos, just be sure to have a heart-shaped cookie cutter and conversation hearts in your pantry . . . and you've got yourself a party.

Happy last minute Valentine's Day planning, friends!

Wild, wild west (part dos).

So, I left off my last post with pictures of our trip to Scottsdale and the Grand Canyon back in October. As promised, I'm back today to show you just a few more! A few days after visiting the Grand Canyon, we decided to visit Sedona, in order to cross another bucket list destination off our list. If I was being completely honest, we were already so fatigued from the Grand Canyon trip (and correspondingly exhausting car ride) at this point of the trip that we almost decided to forgo the drive down to Sedona that we had planned for a few days later. Thank goodness we sucked it up though, because the whole town was absolutely stunning. I would probably rate Sedona as one of the most beautiful natural settings I've ever been in. Basically, if you're thinking of making a trip to Sedona, DO IT 

(And feel free to liberally reference these pictures while trying to convince your skeptical spouse/significant other/fellow travelers).

I also managed to con my husband into visiting a real, live ghost town called "Goldfield" (original, I know) on our last day. Because, let's face it, when the heck else would I have the opportunity to see an abandoned goldmining town while back home on the east coast? I mean, when in Rome, right? James wasn't so much of a fan - the abandoned rusty tractors that my kid was drawn to like a moth to a flame probably didn't help - but it was still a lot of fun. Would I make an encore trip to Goldfield if given the chance? PASS. But, did it keep us fairly entertained for the 2 or so hours we spent there? Of course.

Here are just a few of my favorite memories from the second half of our Arizona trip. And since I consider y'all my BVFs ("best virtual friends," duh), I've included a few friendly Arizona travel pointers - practical pieces of information that I somehow failed to glean from my tireless tripadvisor research, online guides, and the guidebook that I read cover to cover during the plane trip. (Seriously, why did no one tell us this stuff?!). 

Views from the car ride to Sedona. Because every white-knuckled east coast driver feels so much safer knowing that there are runaway truck ramps to protect them when making hairpin turns on a mountainous highway at 7200 foot elevations. (Insert non-existent sarcastic emoji here.)
Cactus meat tacos and cactus margaritas at a fabulous Mexican joint on Main Street Sedona = every (vegetarian) foodie's dream.
Alexandra told us she wanted to climb one of the "mountains." We looked at each other skeptically, expecting a meltdown when we broke the bad news to her, until we witnessed her run away and climb atop a three-foot-tall red rock. I mean, that's basically a mountain when you're two, I guess.

The whole town was incredibly artsy - with sculptures like these lining streets and sidewalks.
. . . and giant public xylophones which entertained my kid endlessly. 
On the trolley tour that we took to some of the rock formations.
The Chapel of the Holy Cross - inside, and from the base of the butte. It's considered one of the Seven Man-Made Wonders of the World, and after seeing it in person - rising out of the red cliffs, I totally get why.
Making our way up to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. I love how the fluid circuitous path juxtaposes with the jagged, harsh rock formations.
It's true what they say - the rocks really did seem to glow at sunset. Most of these pictures are straight out of camera. 
The sunsets? Really horrible. Nothing to write home about at all . . . 
I have no clue what was up with this rogue cowboy dude but couldn't NOT take a picture. Right?

 The pic on the left? The views on the drive to the ghost town. I'm pretty sure I saw at least one, if not more, tumbleweeds roll by. 
^These pictures were actually taken from the second story window of a nineteenth century brothel in the town. Scandalous!

(This is what the main street of a ghost town looks like.)

Taking a trip to Arizona? (You should!) Here are a few of my recommendations:

1. We LOVED Arizona. We did. But, don't be fooled by the "dry heat is soo much better" propaganda that almost all Arizonans try to sell you. I hate to say it, but it's all a lie. Sorry, but 107 degrees - whether in dry heat or not - is really, really, unbearably, freaking, kill-me-now hot. But it doesn't have to ruin all your vacation plans. Plan accordingly by waking up early to check out outdoorsy activities. We all know this shouldn't be a problem if you have kids. Plan on hitting up your hotel's pool in the middle of the day, when the weather is at it's most unbearable. Then, grab an early(ish) dinner, and head out again in the early evening.

2. On that note, it's really important to stay at a hotel that caters to everyone in your family. We've taken plenty of trips where we spent almost no time in our hotel, barely spending enough time inside the room to sleep or take a shower. This trip was not one of them. Thankfully, the hotel we chose worked out amazingly for us - it had a kid's pool, a waterslide, a splash park, a kid's club, a great playground, family-friendly "dive-in" movie showings, live jazz music in the evening, a small art museum, an ice cream parlor, an incredibly shady 200 acre cactus garden, awesome animal-related activities, great views from our (standard, definitely-not-upgraded hotel room) and quite a few other family-friendly amenities that we chose to take advantage of.

3.  Plan to spend at least one or more incredibly long days hiking the Grand Canyon. We didn't realize how much we would enjoy the Grand Canyon (pro!) and somehow managed to spend 11 hours hiking around, enjoying the beautiful views from main trails. Unfortunately, however, the Grand Canyon is so remote (con!), that we ended up driving the entire 4 hours back to our Scottsdale hotel. This, all after a 4 hour drive down to the Canyon in the first place, and 11 hours of somewhat-strenuous activity. Yes, you do the math. Then, multiply that math by a thousand hours to account for the baking sun and an overtired toddler screaming half the way home. Not a fun car ride back.

4. If you have a kid, DO plan on seeing the McCormick-Stallman Railroad Park in Scottsdale. While Alexandra really seemed to enjoy the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Old Town Scottsdale, the ghost town, and all the other places we checked out while in Arizona, the only thing she still talks about is that train museum. As in, four months later and she still chatters away about visiting the "train in Awizon-ah,", but would stare at me blankly if I asked her about the Grand Canyon, I'm sure. So, while a train museum may sound hokey, believe me, the look of pure joy on your child's face as she rides on miniature locomotive trains over and over again will make the $12 (or whatever, it was really cheap) so totally worth it.

5. Plan to save your best photo ops for sunrise or sunset. Unfortunately, the unyielding midday Arizona sun not only makes for one incredibly hot, sweaty, and tiring day, but also for some pretty hard-to-expose photography. When I was finally able to properly expose a midday photo, I noticed that the sun seemed to flatten out the highlights and shadows in each photo like some reverse-HDR effect. Womp womp. Yet, all the shots taken within an hour or so of a sunrise or sunset made me look like I have the photography skills of Ansel Adams. Honestly,  some of the pictures were so incredible, that I actually had trouble narrowing it down to the eight zillion sunrise/sunset pictures I posted here. (And yes, I realize what you're thinking. I swear there were actually A LOT more pictures that I could have bombarded you with.)

Hope you enjoyed this! Happy Monday (yeah, right, who am I kidding, right?) everyone!

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