Here We Go Again

School starts today…

Which meant that yesterday involved a frantic scramble to organize the massive pile of school supplies that the kids and I threw into an overflowing cart at Target last weekend.

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What $330 looks like

Our kids’ school pools supplies, so all of the crayons, markers, etc. go into a communal stash. This takes some of the pressure off of deciding which cartoon character notebook gets purchased, but still. Last weekend in the school supply section of Target, the struggle was real. At least three moms made a dive for the lone yellow plastic folder at the end of the aisle. It wasn’t pretty.

At the end of last year, I also basically gave up on preparing the kids’ lunches.

Forget this:

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I could barely muster up this:

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This year I’m determined to do better and I’m referencing this list of school lunch ideas from Food.com.

At least for the first week of classes…

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First day from three years ago. They were so tiny! Sniff.

 

 

 

 

Disney Cruise with Star Wars Day at Sea

This is an extremely late trip report about our February 2016 vacation aboard the Disney Fantasy, which was one of seven sailings this year that featured a Star Wars Day at Sea.

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Photo via Cruise Critic

First things first: I am a Disney nerd but not a Star Wars nerd. I haven’t even seen all of the movies, and I’d rate my opinion of the ones I have seen as a solid “meh.” 

However, these probably qualify as fighting words around here, as Spouse and MGM (9) are huge fans.

We ended up booking this trip because of the timing, which included Trixie’s seventh birthday and a spring break week for the kids. The Star Wars day wasn’t the deal sealer on this one, but I knew it would be a bonus for the guys.

Speaking of bonus: our friends P. and T. and their two adorable kids decided to book the same trip, and not only were our cabins close to each other but we were also able to combine our dining reservations into one big table.

Our family traveled to Orlando a day early and spent the night prior to the cruise at the Swan Hotel. This day was Trixie’s birthday, and I had her presents sent ahead of time to the hotel to avoid filling luggage space with wrapped packages.

Once we settled in and the presents had been ripped open, we headed over to Disney Springs to check it out. None of us had been there since it was re-branded from Downtown Disney, and we were impressed. 

Our first stop was Erin McKenna’s NYC Bakery, which is the first Florida outpost of the renowned gluten-free bakery mini chain. Trixie was diagnosed with severe celiac disease when she was a year old, and this was the first time – ever – that she was able to go to a bakery and choose something to eat. Since it was her birthday, I told her she could get anything she wanted. We walked out $50 poorer, but her delight was totally worth it.

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Choices, choices, choices!

Spouse lost his mind at The Boathouse, which overlooks a harbor filled with vintage boats, including his beloved Chris Crafts. I thought he might need CPR at one point, such was his excitement. Also totally worth it.

We boarded the next day. Transport to the ship was smooth, and we were able to check in quickly at the Concierge area in the port terminal.

This time we were in a Concierge veranda cabin on the starboard side, and our friends were in the same type of cabin on the port side. We checked in with the staff at the Concierge lounge and were happy to see two of our favorite cast members were still there and were working our trip.

The itinerary for this seven night Western Caribbean cruise included stops in Cozumel,  Grand Cayman and Castaway Cay, plus three days at sea. Personal navigators from the same itinerary (albeit two weeks earlier) can be found here if you’re interested in seeing what each day was like.

Some highlights of the trip:

  • Brunch at Palo. The four adults in our group did this on our first sea day. I am still dreaming about the grape and gorgonzola pizza.
  • Cozumel. This was a new port to us, and our family opted to take an excursion to Xcaret Ecopark, which was awesome.  We started out by swimming in the underground river, and then both kids needed these juice drinks at lunch.

The access to the animals was incredible. I’d love to go back here again.

  • Cayman Turtle Farm.  Confession: I wasn’t expecting much. All eight of us had booked an Island Tour and Turtle Farm excursion in Grand Cayman, and up to this point the tour had been a total dud. Our guide had spent an hour driving around and pointing out numerous local attractions like Burger King and Subway. We were not impressed. The Turtle Farm redeemed it all. The kids were able to hold baby turtles and there were hundreds of giant sea turtles. (P. and I may have also sent the kids back to the boat with the guys after this excursion so that we could hit a few jewelry stores before the boat took off. We were highly successful in our mission and managed to get the very last tender back to the ship with our new bling. Score!)
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My favorite pic of the whole trip: Trixie was so excited to hold this baby turtle

  • Cabana at Castaway Cay. This was the first time that we’d sprung for a cabana. We split the cost with our friends, and it was money well spent. I highly recommend our cabana, Number 5, as it was not too close to the crowded main beach area yet not too far from where lunch is served. Unlike some of the cabanas further down the beach, it was also sheltered from the wind. The cabana came with a fridge stocked with chilled towels, soft drinks and bottles of water. There was also a basket of sunscreen, plenty of fresh towels and a few magazines. Cabanas also come with free use of bikes, snorkeling equipment, inner tubes and pool floats. Oh! There is also an extremely convenient button in the cabana that you can use to order drinks, which will then be efficiently delivered to your hammock.
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Welcome to Cabana #5

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  • Champagne tasting. The four adults did this on one of the sea days. We discovered Moet Ice Imperial, which is the first champagne designed to be consumed over ice in hot weather. Brilliant! This was delicious. We *may* have used that button in the cabana to get some Ice Imperial delivered right to our hammock.
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Moet Ice Imperial

  • Star Wars Day at Sea. Ok, I couldn’t leave this off. It *was* unique. A few things about this day: you won’t see “regular” Disney characters; it’s all Star Wars, all the time. You also won’t hear the usual Disney music; there are ominous marches playing overhead. This day also brought out a lot of fans, many of whom took the whole costume thing really, really far. I’ve said it before, but I have a theory that adults fall into two categories, those who never miss a chance to wear a costume and those who avoid it like the plague. I’m in the latter camp, so I was annoyed to have to dodge fully grown costumed adults having a lightsaber duel in the middle of the jogging track while I went for a run. Characters roamed the ship during the day, including Storm Troopers who patrolled the pool decks. Dinner that night featured a Star Wars menu and the kids got Storm Trooper or Chewbacca masks. The evening culminated with a show on the pool deck and then every single boy under the age of 15 on the cruise spontaneously engaged in a giant lightsaber battle. I had to drag MGM away at midnight and even then, he said that this was the best day of his life and he nearly cried at the thought of never being able to have so much fun again. And that, Friends, made the whole trip worth it.
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Even I had to begrudgingly admit that the Storm Troopers patrolling the pool deck was a cool touch

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Chewbacca mask/menu

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Best. Day. Ever.

While none of us had any hitches on the trip, we saw two people get evacuated from the ship. The was a first. Both happened during the Star Wars day at sea. The first time a Coast Guard cutter pulled up next to the ship and a door in the middle of the hull was opened (same one used as an exit for ports requiring tendering) and a passenger was moved off the ship. The second time was more dramatic: a Coast Guard helicopter hovered over the front of the ship and sent down a Coast Guard member on a cable, then loaded one of the medical officials from the boat into a giant basket and pulled her up and into the chopper. Finally, a passenger who seemed to have a head injury was strapped to a stretcher and brought up into the helicopter via a cable. I had a bird’s eye view of this from my vantage point in the ship’s spa (Yep – this all happened in the middle of my massage), and my heart was racing just watching the passenger sway back and forth on that stretcher as the cable slowly brought him up into the helicopter. We never heard exactly what happened, so I hope that person is ok.

Overall, this was an excellent trip. Having our friends with us really elevated the fun, and I hope we can do it again sometime soon. As usual, I’m already dreaming about our next getaway…

If It Makes You Happy

I’m doing the solo parenting thing this weekend.

Spouse is re-living his glory days with his college buddies, and from the picture he sent of his feet in front of a campfire (with a caption that Friday evening was fueled by 25 year-old Scotch and Nicaraguan cigars), it sounds like he’s having a blast.

Back at Fancy Pants Ranch, I invited my dear friends J. and B. over last night. We had a lot to catch up on and a few things to celebrate, so this happened:

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My Recycling Bin, which is going to be *quite* heavy to take outside

The three of us also had a blast, but I was feeling a bit rough this A.M.

Fortunately, both kids were also interested in sleeping late and spending the rainy morning as couch potatoes…

Which led me to spend two hours pursuing on of my more embarrassing hobbies: watching corny made-for-TV movies.

Since this was “Hallmark Channel” and not “Lifetime,” it was about two seemingly mismatched strangers falling in love despite obstacles (versus Lifetime’s Woman In Danger trope).

Here’s a screenshot of “Stranded in Paradise,” starring Vanessa Marcil and James Denton.

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Actual screenshot, as this is my TV

There was one part of the film that leapt out at me. Laid-back James (LBJ) is having a conversation with Uptight Vanessa’s (UV) character about Life With a Capital “L”, and it went something like this:

LBJ: The last I checked, you only get one Go Round here. I figured it’s a shame to just go through the motions or live somebody else’s dream. You gotta find your own.

UV: You know, just so you know, it’s not that easy to drop everything and change your whole entire life.

LBJ: I think you’re making it a little harder than it is. You just ask yourself: Am I happy?

And if not, is there something that might make me happy? It’s not selfish or narcissistic. It’s just honest. 

But you have to find it yourself.

Laid-back James, you had me at hello!

Lately I’ve had so many moments to contemplate this exact question, and it’s something I’m determined to figure out.

A few weeks ago at Rock Retreat Run (read about it here), I made this list of things I value:

  • Authenticity
  • Family
  • Friendships
  • Independence/autonomy
  • Laughter
  • Happiness

Fortunately, I think the script for my Hallmark Movie is still being written (and let’s just hope that the plot doesn’t go all Lifetime on me).

 

P.S. Spoiler alert: In the end, Uptight Vanessa and Laid-back James fell in love.

P.P.S. It is almost 1 PM and I still have not brushed my teeth. I know.

UNICEF Kid Power Bands

Having active kids is important to me, but I have to confess I’m terrible at getting them into activities like organized sports.

I’ve always prided myself at not over scheduling MGM (9) and Trixie (7), instead letting them organically be kids and not programmed robots.

Except this summer, they’ve both become couch potatoes. Cringe.

Some of that will change when school starts next week (Trixie goes to yoga; MGM stays in thrice weekly karate), but when my friend T. recently suggested getting the kids activity trackers to inspire them to move more, I was intrigued.

Another confession: I didn’t want to invest $100+ on a device that had a high chance of being broken, lost or unused if the kids didn’t buy into my plan of falling in love with seeing those step numbers climb each day.

I was thrilled when I discovered the UNICEF Kid Power Band, which not only has a great price point ($39.99), but also does good.

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Photo via UNICEF

Kids register their bands on a free app and then can go on “missions,” where the more steps they take, the more Kid Power points they earn. The points can then be converted to funding where UNICEF delivers food to malnourished children around the world.

How cool is that?

Trixie loves her band! She and I compete to see who gets more steps each day.

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Stitch Fix Hits

I still didn’t find the nerve to break up with Stitch Fix.

We’ve had some good moments over the past few months.

Here are the highlights:

I was excited when Stitch Fix announced that they were adding shoes. I’ve received two pairs so far, and both were winners. The pair on the left is from Gentle Souls, while the D’ Orsay flats on the right are DV8. Both have seen a decent amount of wear this summer.

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Yes, terrible photography is back

For my most recent Fix, I asked for a breezy white blouse and my stylist delivered with this Brixon Ivy piece. I love the fit and fabric; I just wish I had a laid-back tropical vacation to go with it.

Here’s a close-up of the lace detail on the sleeve:

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Yes, that is my disastrous closet in the background

Next up: two elephant pieces.

The first is a blouse that’s in my regular work rotation, and the second is an infinity scarf with pink pachyderms.

A close up of the print:

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This last item was my favorite. It’s a striped Lemon Tart sweater with faux suede elbow patches:

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This came with me to Chicago for a trip earlier in the summer, and the nights were cool enough to wear a sweater. I styled it with a J. Crew polka dot scarf (similar) like this:

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I haven’t added anything to my fall wardrobe (yet), so this I plan to keep this look going for the next several months.