Wednesday, August 31, 2016

London & Paris in the Spring

Norwegian Air is having a huge fall sale that covers round trip travel from major international airports in the US (Boston, New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles) to Europe and Caribbean destinations.  My family jumped on round trip tickets to London from Boston in March of next year for $550 each.  I have never seen such a low fare to Europe.  We are also taking advantage of Southwest Airlines low fares to get us to Boston and are able to use miles to pay for most of the SW flights. 

We are excited to finally make it to Europe.  We plan to take the train from London to Paris for a couple of days as well.  I took 4 years of French in high-school in an advanced class that gave me an extra year and I took French in college about 6 years ago as well.  I'm really excited to be able to use my French!  Aside from the museums and such,  I'm also not going to complain about visiting some of my goal destinations like,  Jane Austen's Bath and Shakespeare & Co. bookstore.

The sale is still going on and I am trying to resist planning ANOTHER trip at rates this low.  Martinique for $49 one-way, no joke!  If I could pull off Italy as well, I surely would.

I've gotten pretty good at travel hacking from the Midwest and people have started to ask me how I do it.  Lots and lots of research and time....

Friday, August 26, 2016

Kansas City Comic Con

We hit up Kansas City Comic Con a couple of weeks ago for Penny's birthday.  Since our discovery of MegaCon over the summer, Penny was really wanting to check out Kansas City Comic Con (and so was her sister and their dad).  So we made an overnight trip up to KC with my mom and the girl's cousin to swim and check it out. 

After learning about Cosplay, both girls HAD to dress up.  We found Dr. Who costumes online so Tori wore a Tardis dress and Penny wore a Dalek dress.  They loved being a part of the crowd and getting attention from people who wanted to take pictures with them.

We went on a Saturday morning and were happily surprised that the crowds weren't nearly as big as MeganCon nor was the walking distance to get inside.  The event took up a large space at Bartle Hall in the KC Convention Center.  There were definitely some interesting comic book artists including one of Penny's favorites, Ian McGinty, who does Bravest Warriors (her favorite) and Adventure Time comics.  He signed a comic for her with a special note and drawing that said Happy Birthday.  She was super excited and now that comic has been put in a protective case to keep.

The girls were probably most excited about the vendors.  These girls love all the toys, jewelry, clothing, and art that the vendors have.  Tori got some Dr. Who earrings that are made from recycled comic books.  Penny was a bit spoiled by Grandma and she got some Totoro earrings and matching necklace. She also got a Dr. Who Adipose necklace.  Their cousin, Regina, was into all the Kawaii stuff (my kind of kid) and got herself a new fancy phone case for her iPhone.

The husband was able to geek out a little bit as the Dukes of Hazzard guys were there as well as Nichelle Nichols from Star Trek.

I really liked MegaCon but it felt overwhelming and crazy.  Kansas City Comic Con was definitely more relaxed and enjoyable.  We spent about 3 hours there and definitely saw everything.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

First Day Back to School

The last two days have had us learning new routines and settling into how life will be now that both girls are back in school and at different schools this year.  Tori started 6th grade at a new middle school and Penny started 4th grade at her old school.

Tori started with a half day of only 6th graders to get comfortable with walking class to class and using a locker before going a full day with 7th and 8th graders.  She did well but would really like to have the locker combination nailed by now.  She's definitely making that move into wanting to dress a certain way and caring more about her appearance with less help from mom.

Penny was back to the same routine meeting up with her besties from last year before the bell rang.  I'm sure they were deep in discussion over Totoro and Pokémon before the teacher started class.

It has been a loaded summer of fun and staying active.  The girls managed to travel to: Orlando, FL; Guanacaste, Costa Rica; and Denver, CO.  Tori did a week at Lego Robotics Camp and they both did a week at Horseback Riding Camp.  They also made two trips up to KC to hangout with my sister's family and swim which included going to KC Comic Con which I will post on separately.

I also managed to work from home a few days to allow the girls to spend time just vegging out with electronics.  I'm not a big fan of the amount of overuse of electronics with kids but I indulged them in a few days of just doing nothing.

We definitely made the most of the summer and took advantage of mom's increased energy and desire to get out and live life more.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Keto Meal: Hatch Chile Pork

This weekend the Midwest was hit with a cold front which dipped our highs into the 70's creating all the feelings of fall in my household.  I love to make crockpot meals in the fall and winter and while at the grocery store this weekend, I decided to make some Hatch Green Chile Pork in the crockpot when I came across a new kit I had never seen before by Stubbs. The kit is actually for chicken but the husband and I prefer our green chile with pork so we swapped the meats.  The kit comes with a dry rub, a cooking sauce, and a finishing sauce. You can use it to cook on the stovetop or in the crockpot but we opted for the crockpot method.  We cooked our pork roast about 7 hours and it was very tender to shred.  It would be great to serve the meat on sandwiches or a salad but we opted for soft tacos.  Using Mission Low Carb Tortillas, I stuffed mine with pork, pepper jack cheese, sour cream, and salsa.  If I had some avocado, I definitely would have made some guac to go along with it.  The flavor was excellent.  We were a little worried because our roast was bigger than what the seasoning kit called for but no worries, very well flavored and even had a little heat.  We noticed there were a few other flavor kits that we may have to check out next time.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Stranger Things

I discovered the Netflix Original show, Stranger Things, that has now been all the rage online recently and watched the entire season in a few days. In case you are living under a rock and haven't heard of it, I thought I would post about how wonderfully nostalgic it is.

Stranger Things is set in the early 80's and is a throwback to my childhood.  The story revolves around a group of boys who are friends that play Dungeon and Dragons in the basement, ride their bikes around the neighborhood for hours, and crush on friend's older sisters.  When one of the boys disappears, it is clear that something strange is going on.  It has the feel of The Goonies, The Last Starfighter and E.T.; very much like a Spielberg film.  (Remember the film Super 8 where they tried to do this but failed horribly.  This one doesn't fail!)

Winona Ryder plays the missing boys mother and even though I am a die hard Winona Ryder fan, (Mermaids! Welcome Home Rocky Charmichael! Reality Bites!  Beetlejuice!  Edward Scissorhands!) I have to say, she does an excellent job portraying a confused and grieving parent. Just her being in the show was incentive enough for me to watch it.  And on another note, I think she was badly misunderstood for that little shoplifting incident years ago....

The boys are your typical geek squad that are absorbed in their little world of after school shenanigans and nerding out over the cool things a favorite teacher exposes them too.

I won't include any spoilers but let's just say that there are creatures and darkness that play into the show which has it's frightening moments at times.  There is also a couple of awkward love stories that are introduced which have all the cheesiness of a proper 80's film.  If you haven't checked it out, I suggest you do.  And if Netflix could put up another season for me to binge watch, that would be awesome, k, thanks.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Davids Tea : Summer Sale

Just thought I would mention to all the tea lovers out there or  those who have been curious to try the tea I'm always blogging about that Davids Tea is having their Summer Sale with 40% off right now!  I'm trying to restrain myself... we'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

9 Years Old

My youngest, Penny, is turning 9 tomorrow and I'm in so much denial that the baby of family is growing up. While looking at family photos from our recent vacation I really started to notice, she's now a big girl...sniff, sniff. 

I am also realizing now that it has been over 8 years since I met this independent toddler who lived life on her own terms.  I met Penny for the first time when she just under a year old.  She didn't know what to think of me and kept her distance, all in her own time and on her own terms.  The next time I met her, she walked for the very first time!  I was so excited to see this spunky and fearless little girl take off and she literally did take off!  No fear, just excitement.  Thankfully she accepted me and loved to have me hold and love on her.

Now at 9 years old, she's even more set in her ways.  She is my kid who has all the interests and desire to create just like me.  She loves drawing with me while we sit and watch shows and movies like Adventure Time, Labyrinth, Studio Ghibli stuff, and everything kawaii!  She loves Dr. Who as well but shares that one with her dad.

She still loves her toys and I think if she could stay at the age she is for life, it wouldn't bother her a bit. She's a collector of all things small and has boxes and cases of blind bag prizes that she cherishes. She LOVES her stuffed animals and carries her Piggy or Totoro most places she goes. She has really started to get into reading more these days, going so far as to ask for a Kindle for her birthday.  She loves the Hobbit and Harry Potter most recently.

She's my articulate and strong willed kid who is the center of attention at school and always lets people know what is on her mind.  I love her spunk and sensitivity towards others, especially her protectiveness and love for her grandmother. She always makes sure she apologizes for her bad behaviors and goes to bed with a clear head.

She's a little mini-me and if I were to have had a baby from my body, I would guess he or she would turn out about much like Penny.  People often tell me how obvious it is that she is MY daughter.

We will be celebrating her birthday with a Shopkins themed pool party next weekend and expect to have loads and loads of fun.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Back from Vacation to Guanacaste, Costa Rica

I just returned from an 8 day vacation to Guanacaste, Costa Rica with my family and am starting to get caught back up!  I thought I would cover our trip in a few posts about the different aspects of our trip and how it all went.

We left out of Wichita, KS and flew into Liberia, Costa Rica. I've been to Central America several times now but wasn't sure what to expect of the airport in Liberia.  I've always dreaded the airports in Mexico because there are police and military in vests with large rifles standing around and everyone is trying to sell you something when you walk out of customs.  The Liberia airport wasn't like that at all.  Our flight got in pretty late so it was dark when we arrived.  The airport was very small but very modern.  Going through customs was very simple and took maybe 10 minutes total.  One we picked up our luggage we walked out of the airport to look for our ride.  I expected to be approached by drivers offering rides but everyone stood their distance and waited for people to ask for help.  I found our pre-booked driver pretty quickly and we got in our van to head to our resort.

We had a driver and a tour guide in our van so he was able to tell us about the country. He was full of facts and stories -- I didn't know that cashews grew from a fruit and have quite a bit of processing that has to be done before they are eaten, this is why cashews are so much more expensive than most other nuts.

We arrived at our hotel the RIU Guanacaste which is an all-inclusive resort set between the rain forest and the beach.  The hotel is very remote with only it's sister property, the RIU Palace, next door.  We checked in and quickly grabbed dinner before the restaurant closed.  The RIU Guanacaste had a buffet restaurant that was open for all meals and then additional sit down restaurants -- Italian, Asian, Steak, and Gourmet restaurants.  There were many bars including a sports bar that my family liked to hang out at.  Our meals and drinks were included with the hotel which makes it so much easier in my opinion; it almost always comes out cheaper this way.

Our room was on the 5th floor overlooking the ocean.  The ocean is a pretty turquoise color but the first 10 feet or so is very murky water.  Costa Rica has volcanoes and the sand is made of lava rock which is much darker than the white sands you find in the Caribbean.  As the tide stirs up the sand, it causes the water to be murky.  This didn't bother us at all.  The sand itself can be a lot hotter on the feet though because it is darker. The beaches also have many vendors that walk around or have booths offering handcrafts and massages.

I had expected the food in Costa Rica to be similar to what we have had in Mexico but was actually quite a bit different.  First, beans and rice  and rice and beans are the two main dishes.  For breakfast, they have rice and beans (black beans) combined together and are often eaten with eggs.  For lunch and as a dinner side they have beans and rice which is the two as separate sides. I loved the rice and beans and had them with nearly every meal.  The fruit was also amazing.  Some of the best pineapple I have ever eaten.  We also noticed that the people of Costa Rica seem pretty serious about Chinese food, we saw more Chinese restaurants than any others.  Fresh avocado and pico de gallo were staples nearly every day.

The pool is where we spent most of our time.  There is one large pool with several different tiers and corners.  Plenty of lounge chairs for everyone and lots of games poolside.  We enjoyed the drinks, I had my share of Pina Coladas, Blue Hawaii's and Mudslides.  I didn't drink as much as I normally would I think due to the fact that the sugar flavor was so strong, it got old quickly.  My girls loved their virgin strawberry daiquiris.

We did have a few outings while on the trip -- visiting the Monkey Bar, going down the river in Palo Verde, visiting the Catarata Llanos del Cortés waterfall, and going into the city of Liberia to explore.  The roads in Costa Rica are very narrow and we went through a travel agency so we had drivers the entire time.  I was very nervous at how fast the drivers went up and down the steep hills and mountains on such narrow roads with traffic coming the opposite direction.  I'll be posting separately on our outings.

We also hired a photographer to our family photos done in Costa Rica this year and I wasn't disappointed.  Our photographer, Marco, was excellent.  He captured perfectly what we were looking for... some family shots, some couple shots, and of course plenty of the girls playing.  The scenery in Costa Rica is so beautiful and vibrant the photos pop. 

We did a few outings but we spent a lot of time relaxing as a family.  The girls really enjoyed playing Foosball and Ping Pong in the Sports Bar, especially during afternoon rains (which were typically under and our).  We swam every day and am happy to report that no one was badly burned.  I did a good amount of reading and finally finished Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss (I think I am done with crime novels for awhile and ready to switch gears back to my favorite genres). I might have managed to squeeze in some nice naps as well!

Stay tuned for my next post on the wildlife adventures we had while in Costa Rica!