Saturday, July 16, 2011

Beach vacation survival tips part two

So Brian wasn't the only brilliant packer, I chipped in as well.

Mostly with non-glamorous stuff that you'd hate to forget/have to buy at inflated vacation prices. Here are my must pack items:
- Toilet paper
- Paper towels
- Laundry detergent (I used freed samples that I had saved up -- just two or three of them)
- Mini first aid kit (just the basics like Neosporin and Band Aids)
- Sunscreen and aloe
- Bug spray
- Bottled water (the little half pint guys are perfect for the little)

And the only thing we forgot that I kept kicking myself about: snack baggies. Seriously. You need these for toting snacks to the beach.

I also packed lots of entertainment for our little man so we could enjoy our meals and car trips. I brought just one shoebox with toys, so there's really no need to bring a lot of stuff. The sand and sun tuckered him out. I kid the "new" toys in the shoe box and took them out only in case of emergency and/or dinner. Our best bet toys:
- little paper/marker/sticker kits from the impulse checkout line at Wal-mart for a buck.
- a dollar store puzzle
- matchbox cars
- DVDs

Boring. Unglamorous. But necessary and essential to our sanity.

You're welcome.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Beach vacation survival tips

I think I could write a month's worth of posts about how to plan for a successful beach vacation.

Not that we are perfect, but we really did luck out. And, even though we packed in semi-panic mode, we did pretty good.

I've always said that between Brian and I, we can figure out just about anything. (We would totally win Cash Cab.) And that was proven with this vacation.

Here were the bestest things Bri picked up/packed for the trip:

This giant blue bucket from Wal*Mart.

Why a giant blue bucket? It was cheaper than the other beach toys. But it came in SUPER handy. We used it to:
- carry all of the other beach toys
- build sand castles
- refill water guns
- rinse our hands, feet and toys off before heading back up to the condo
... and lots more. And now that it's home, I have plan for it as well. :)

Easy Mac was a true key to success. 3 mins and 30 seconds was the maximum time we could wait to eat after a morning on the beach. We ate Easy Mac and/or PB&J and fruit for lunch every day. Dinner was always someplace out.

Driving at night and/or movies in the car
We left on Friday at midnight. Now, for our family, this was fab. Brian works nights, so this was his "usual" time awake. And Ben slept nearly the entire time. Though he did wake up suddenly at about 3:00 a.m. exclaiming, "I need go pee!" And he did. On the side of the highway. And then, he went right back to sleep.

On the way home, he didn't sleep as much as we had hoped. But thanks to our DVD player, he was pretty much amused the entire time. Though, he did find time to make up this original song.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Last minute beach vacay

Remember this post? Well, I wasn't kidding.

All in that month:
  • Bri went to St. Louis
  • We hosted two birthday parties
  • I resigned from one job
  • I accepted another
  • We secured our renter for the next year for the condo
  • We booked a vacation on a Tuesday
  • We packed on a Wednesday and a Thursday
  • We left for vacation on a Friday
  • We returned on the following Thursday (at 11:00 p.m.)
  • I left for Florida for a convention Friday (at 4:00 a.m.)
  • I returned from Florida on Tuesday
  • I trained my replacement Wednesday and Thursday
  • I started my new job Friday...
  • The same day Ben got his tonsils out
Yeah. That was a lot.

And the last minute vacation was the best thing ever. I don't know how I would have survived without it.

We went to Myrtle Beach, technically Cherry Grove, which is north of North Myrtle. And, even though I swore I'd never go to Myrtle again (we went there a TON when I was growing up, like 9 or 10 years in a row), it was just what we needed: inexpensive, drivable, no passport required (mine's expired, Ben's is non-existent), beach, sun, pool.

Brian handled all the arrangements via Craig's List, which I highly recommend. The week before we left, it was a fire sale. Condo management companies were posting their not-yet-rented spaces on the cheap. And prices just kept dropping. Honestly, it was hard to pick which one we wanted. We ended up here at the Prince Resort, beach front. The building across the street had a lazy river. Both facilities were clean, convenient, easily accessible.

We enjoyed the beach all day (and I worked in the mornings and during nap time) then we explored Myrtle in the evenings. The shopping centers were packed, the food was over priced, but the nightly fireworks were fabulous and the family time was the best ever.

I'll share my lessons learned soon, but until then, enjoy the cutest kid on the beach.

Friday, July 8, 2011

3rd Birthday Cakes

As I mentioned before, I held Ben's kids' party and family party on the same day. The kids' party was from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and the family one began at 4:00 p.m.

I would definitely do this again, but cross my fingers that less than perfect weather and a menu-planning snafus don't occur again. (Both of these things left me a distracted and not as able to enjoy our company as I would typically like. So apologies to everyone who saw chicken-with-her-head-cut-off-Sayonada that day.)

I really did want to keep it simple, but I also wanted to be sure it was fun. And what's more fun than cake?

I made a Lego-shaped cake for the kids' party (and I use the term Lego-shaped loosely. These pictures are actually way more flattering than it looked in real life.)

...and decided to just use Lego-shaped candles on the family one. (By the way, the kids' was a white cake and the family one was chocolate.)

Interestingly, I got tons of compliments on the cake. Both were made with Betty Crocker cake mixes and copius amounts Kroger brand frosting. There. The secret is out.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ben's 3rd Birthday

For Ben's 3rd birthday, I went with a Lego theme and decided to host both his friends' party and our family party on the same day. Rain the night before and the morning of kept us away from the soggy park, but by the time the kiddos arrived it was a sunny and beautiful.

The craftiest part of the both parties was the Lego pull-string pinata inspired by this one at Delia Creates (also a fab resource for LOTS of Lego-themed ideas).

Because the week prior to the party Bri was in St. Louis (in fact, he arrived mid-kids' party), I tried to make party prep easy. I won't go in to all the details, but here is how I planned my week:

And here's an overview of how the pinata came together using just a diaper box, green plastic table cloth, clothesline, tape and candy.

The concept is simple: only one string actually opens up the door that spills out the candy. The others were just taped on to the bottom. The kids took turns pulling the string and one lucky kid would make the candy pour out.

(And no, I am not anti-real pinata or anything, but I didn't really think arming a group of 3 year-olds was wise. And I wasn't confident that even if armed, they would be strong enough to break an actual pinata. Plus, this was super cheap.)

Clearly, this is not perfect, but it worked. And it was recognizable as a Lego piece. (At least, that is what my kind guests told me!)

More importantly, it was a hit! As I mention in the collage above, the door to open the candy should have been cut wider, but we got it open with a little help.