Missing the Mark – Our Valentine’s Day Fail

I have a friend who is great a making family traditions for holidays (even those lame Hallmark ones.) April Fool’s Day is even a big deal in her family!  Just ask the friend who ate a chocolate gnash covered cotton ball while visiting. (I’ll admit that one was a pretty good prank) She inspires me to put effort and details to create memories and traditions for my family.

So this year I thought I would try to make Valentine’s Day a little more special.  I missed the mark and that’s ok.  My perfect day had more of the elements of  a drama and endings of a romantic comedy.

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Fun Things to do at Kidzoo Indoor Playground

KIDZOO indoor playground

If you are looking for an indoor option for kids, Kidzoo is the perfect place. There are swing sets, slides, trampolines and several basketball hoops for kids to burn off some energy on. The space is large enough to offer a variety of activities and small enough for parents to be able to see their kids at all times.

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Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

During our trip with Visit Pittsburgh, we visited the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

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The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is home to more than 400 species with thousands of animals.

The layout of the zoo reminded me of the Cincinnati Zoo in a lot of ways. You go up an escalator for both zoo entrances and you walk along paths that are along the hillsides.

The zoo has a great variety of animals that are in beautiful natural looking settings.

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We even heard the lions roar during our visit.

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The playground near the Kid’s Kingdom area was a section that my kids could have played at for hours but we had a limited time to visit that day and we were there to see animals.

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The playground is really large and is a great way for kids  to burn off some energy.

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There are several exhibit s that give you the opportunity to take in another view of sea life.

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It was really cool to get close enough to see the rows of teeth in this shark’s mouth.

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The stingray area at The PPG Aquarium was one of my favorites. Visitors can touch the stingrays with this “hands on” exhibit tank.

There are tunnels that kids can climb into to get a closer look at the stingrays.

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The leopard spotted print on the stingrays was so beautiful. I had never seen one like that before.

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The PPG Aquarium also has a 2 story tank filled with lots of coral and sea life.

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During our visit to the zoo, we also got a special “behind the scenes” opportunity to see the Bengal tigers who were resting before going back out to the exhibit.

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We learned that Bengal tigers LOVE scents! The zookeeper sprayed Calvin Kline “Obsession” on the floor before we came back.  This tiger wanted to rest a bit before going back out to the exhibit.

We really enjoyed our visit to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. There was so much to see and do there.  Our visit was just for a few hours but you could easily explore there all day.

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Current Zoo Admission Rates

Adults $14

Seniors (60+ years of age) $13

Children (ages 2-13) $12

Children under 24 months FREE

Parking FREE

Check out their website to plan your visit.

 

 

Disclosure: Visit Pittsburgh provided my accommodation, meals and admissions for my participation in their media trip. All opinions are my own.

 

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is located at 7340 Butler St  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15206.

Guest Post- Yo Gabba Gabba! Live! Review

Today we are joined by guest contributor Natalie Morgan, who is super creative and a fantastic mom.

Let me start by saying that I may or may not love Yo Gabba Gabba more than my kids, we even have the episode with Jack Black on dvd. So when I heard about the live show I was pumped (and my kids were too).

When we arrived at the Aronoff Center there were cardboard cut outs of all the characters for picture taking, so of course we had to take part in that.

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Once our tickets were scanned, we entered the main lobby and found lots of fun things for the kids to do. First up was a bean bag toss where the kids would “feed” the characters bean bags.

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 Each bean bag represented a different fruit or vegetable.

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Next, was a music area where they could bang on drums and shake rain makers.

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 Beside that was a little house where the kids could put the characters in rooms and they had to decide whether to turn a light on or off.

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Most of the activities were promoting healthy habits like eating right and saving energy, they had posters at each station giving tips on how to keep talking about these subjects.

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After a child did an activity they got to pick out a hand-stamp of one of the characters, I think that was my littlest one’s favorite part. 2013-01-10_14-43-34_460

I really appreciated that they had something for the kids to do while we waited for the show to start. We have been to shows before where there is nothing for the kids to do except stare at all the fun things they are selling and beg for all of it, so I was thankful for an alternative. Although, if you are in the market for some Yo Gabba Gabba gear, they have an awesome selection of shirts, toys, posters and more. They also had a great kids concession with juice boxes and fun snacks that you could purchase (that also may differ at the venues depending on whether food is allowed).

We headed in to the theater and found that we had some great seats. It was fun to see all the kids (and parents) dressed up. Many were in Yo Gabba Gabba gear but since we didn’t have any we just wore our tutus and lots of other bright colors. My girls had some glowing hair pieces which were fun to have when the lights went off, they also sell a lot if fun glowing wands if you would want to purchase them.2013-01-10_14-46-37_192

The show began and let me just say it was awesome!

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Lots of dancing, music, confetti, bubbles, lights, dancing vegetables, guest appearances and more!  It really felt like we were part of the t.v. show.

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They did a great job encouraging the kids to get up and move around and sing loud.

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The show was divided into to two 30 minute halves with about a 20 minute intermission in between, which I think was perfect. There was a broad range of ages there, my girls are 7, 5 and 3.

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They all really enjoyed it though, my 7 year old probably danced the most. It was a little loud for my 5 year old so if you have a little one with sensitive ears you may want to bring some little ear plugs or head phones. But over all I didn’t think the volume was too bad.

Needless to say we had a blast and will definitely be going again next time they are in town. If you are fans of the show on t.v, then you will love the live show. The colors and energy level were awesome. We were pleasantly worn out after wards, but hey that’s what happens when you get your sillies out!

Disclosure: Our guest contributor was given complimentary tickets for review purposes. All opinions are her own.
You can still check out a Yo Gabba Gabba! Live! show. Check their website to find a tour near you.


Natalie is relaunching a blog that highlights photography, crafting, fashion, homeschooling, traveling and life in general. She has a husband who is a full time musician,  3 girls and one on the way. You can check out her adventures at  The extraordinarys.

 

Fort Rapids Indoor Water Park Review

We had a great family experience at Fort Rapids indoor water park in Columbus, Ohio. It’s central Ohio’s largest indoor water park  and it did not disappoint. They offer something for the whole family to enjoy.

Fort Rapids uses a western theme throughout the complex. The water park has displays and attractions that highlight the wild west.

If you have younger kids, the “Kiddie Korral” is an area just for them with lower basketball hoops, small water slides, water mushrooms and bouncing swings for babies.

The first water attraction that we tried was the “Cowboy Creek” which is a lazy river. It was very relaxing …..but we were feeling the need for speed.

We moved on to the water slides next.  The water slides start indoors and then twist and turn outside of the side of the building before coming back inside. This makes for more room in the facility and a great advertisement as you drive by the hotel.

The facility does have a workout area but you won’t need it if you ride the slides a lot because you get plenty of cardio going up the stairs. The stairs also help keep your body temp warm too. The inside of water park is climate controlled at 84 degrees. If you want to warm up even more, you can check out the 30 person hot tub.

If you are a parent who likes to read by the pool, my suggestion is to take a seat away from the entrance door so that you don’t feel the cold air as people come in.

The “Shoot out Racer” mat racing slides were our 1st bigger attraction. They were sooo fun! They were the balance of just enough twists and turns in the dark before opening up to a fast dip to the bottom.  (As you can tell, I clearly won that race!)

We tried the “Ambush Alley and Raging Bull” racing tube slides next. We opted to race with the double tubes first and then try it as singles.

Next, we tried the “Black Out Pass”. It was great!  The ride starts out like a normal tube slide in total darkness and then you are thrusted into a swirl that reminds me of being flushed down a toilet. Depending on how many times you circle around the funnel, you can either go into the hole forwards or backwards. Backwards, in my opinion was the most fun. This ride was such a great time with the boys!

 

The “Activity pool” is an area for swimming and water basketball for older kids and the “Rascal Roundup” is a nearby play water structure with water cannons, dumping buckets and water slides for kids as well.

My younger son loved the lower basketball hoop for littler kids.

If your kids want a break from swimming for a bit, there is a nearby game room that is steps away from the water park for them to enjoy.

Our room, “Oak Creek Canyon”  held two queen size beds, a sofa bed, mini fridge, microwave, mini coffee maker, two tv’s, and a small dryer.

The dryer was really convenient to have with using the pool so often.

The hotel does provide small complimentary towels for the pool on a first come, first serve basis but we preferred to bring our big beach towels.

There are several restaurants inside the hotel.

We opted to get pizza poolside. The price was not bad for the convenience of being able to stay in swimming mode. Everyone agreed that the pizza was pretty good too.

Overall, our family had a great stay at Fort Rapids. We enjoyed getting away and spending quality time together as a family.  When you are staying at the hotel, you can swim before your check in time and also enjoy the water park after you check out. I recommend bringing a hairdryer if you plan on using the pool after you check out. There are also lockers available for rent.

Check out the Fort Rapids website to begin planning your next family adventure.

There is currently a coupon for Fort Rapids on the US family guide website until 6/30/13.

**I was not compensated for this post. Our family did receive a complimentary visit for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Favorite Entries at Art Prize

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I made a quick trip to Grand Rapids to take in the sites of Art Prize. I enjoyed the event so much while living in Grand Rapids for the last 2 years, that I had to come back and see what the artist would come up with this year. The boys and I joined the Grkids.com team on the Art Prize trolley that made strategic stops all over the downtown .

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25 Summer Bucket List Ideas

summer bucket list ideas

Here are some bucket list ideas you can try this summer

1. Go to a pick your own fruit farm ( strawberries, blueberries, etc)

2. Go camping for at least one night (even if it’s just in your backyard)

3. Star gaze for an evening

4. Play in the sand

5. Enjoy a summer reading program at your local library.

6. Try a new ethnic restaurant

7. Try a non chain restaurant recommended by urban spoon.

8. Go to a drive in movie. Check out this checklist before you go.

9. Surprise a friend with sidewalk chalk art on a their driveway.

10. Discover a “new to you” local park

11. Host a summer bbq with friends

12. Create a “new to you” variation of a smore. (my favorite is using chocolate covered graham crackers instead of a chocolate bar and graham cracker. )

13. On a rainy day transform a room with blanket forts

14. Do a random act of kindness

15. Play in the sprinklers

16. Drink a big glass of Sweet Tea or fresh squeezed Lemonade

17. Play frisbee golf

18. Try Geocaching

19. Visit your city’s tourism website and go somewhere you’ve never been

20. Feed the ducks

21. Pick wildflowers for your kitchen table

22. Make something you pinned on pinterest (make a meal or try a craft… just create something)

22. Take a bike ride to get ice cream

23 Go to a Major League baseball game

24. Go fishing

25. Try one of the water game ideas while you’re swimming

 

 

 

 

 

 


Picking Blueberries – Embracing the Bittersweet

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I just finished reading a book called “Bittersweet” by Shauna Niequist and I couldn’t help but notice all of the similarities I had with the author. She and her husband were in ministry and changed jobs, they lived in Grand Rapids for a period of time and then moved to Chicago, she had missed many of her friendship and relationships that were like family to her and she had a hard time selling her house after the move.  Overall, in this book she was extremely REAL about the journey.  The good and the bad…. and the ugly tears.

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