Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Homemade Slime

Ahhhhhhh homemade slime... it's the latest YouTube Kids sensation making school-aged kids wild!

Slime is some permutation of play dough and snot. The texture is fairly thick, but gooey and kids love weaving their fingers in, around and through it.

It is fairly easy to make and while there are lots of recipes out there, don't be fooled - Borax is essential. But as this can irritate or even burn the lining of the skin, parental supervision is necessary!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of glue (we used what we had on hand, but glitter glue and clear glue work well too)
  • 1/2 cup of liquid starch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1-2 tablespoons of Borax
  • bowl
  • plastic spoon
  • food coloring, paint or even eye shadow for coloring [optional]
Instructions:
  1. Using the plastic spoon, mix glue and water in a bowl being sure to combine thoroughly
  2. Add liquid starch
  3. Add coloring if desired
  4. Slowly pour in 1 tablespoon of Borax (remember not to touch Borax with your hands)
  5. If that is not sufficient to thicken the ingredients, add another tablespoon of Borax
  6. When the mixture is thoroughly combined, the kids can use their hands to work the slime (the more you work it, the gooier it becomes)
  7. Clean up and brace yourself for squeals of delight 
Stinky was game but lost interest after a bit. Blinky however was entertained for hours. Can you say slime high five?!?


 Happy slime making!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Getting Ready for the 4th!

I've written previously about making an effort to decorate for all the major holidays instead of treating Christmas like the only one that matters. And I'm doing just that. The kids enjoy enjoy the festive atmosphere and I heart the aesthetic. As for the DH, if the words "hardware" and/or "software" are not included, he is...how shall I put it...uninterested.

I make a lot of my own door hangars and wanted a less traditional one for the 4th but still utilize red, white and blue. One day last fall, I came up with this:




The crab is a reminder of home and the massive amounts of seafood I grew up eating. The colors represent weekends spent on beaches in a new country, with a new generation of precocious children enjoying the sun, sand and sea. Though simple, it is the perfect amalgamation of an old and new life.

I had little flags in the hanging ferns but once I saw them in picture form, I realized the scale was way off. I'm hoping to find much larger ones this weekend and place two each in them.

On the inside, I hung a red, white and blue bunting on the mantle. I even took two of the little flags from the failed fern project and placed them in the woven baskets on either end. (Not sure I'm loving this placement either. Too much?)


Even the back patio got a small dose of patriotism.




I have a few red dishes and miscellaneous household items that I'll use to set a tablescape for dinner on the 4th. And of course I have even more star spangled baking goods to make star spangled cupcakes with Blinky. Can't hardly wait!

What patriotic touches have you made in your home? I would love to see them!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Paris Hilton Opera

I've been meaning to write this post for a while now, but have been seriously lacking in motivation. It has been raining for five straight days. FIVE!!!!! I'm desperately craving sunshine and blue skies!

But anyway, I wanted to highlight one of the hotels on our Europe 2017 tour...The Hilton Paris Opera.
http://www.hiltonparisoperahotel.com/default-en.html

http://www.hiltonparisoperahotel.com/default-en.html

http://www.hiltonparisoperahotel.com/default-en.html

Can you guess why it was my favorite? (The above photos and the map below are from the hotel's website. While we were there there was massive construction nearby. Also, the Grand Salon and lobby were always packed making decent picture taking next to impossible.)

I loved the look and feel of the hotel but it was the service that sold me. Don't get me wrong, the Marriott in Gent and the Hampton Inn in London were great, but the Hilton Paris Opera differs in every way imaginable; price point, luxury and attention to detail. A comparison is simply unfair.

From the onset, the location is superb. The metro station is literally next door and we were in walking distance of many major attractions.

http://www.hiltonparisoperahotel.com/default-en.html


On arrival, a traditional bell hop service was there to greet us. They were polite, friendly and efficient. We didn't actually get to see our room until much later that night (like midnight!) but we were in for a pleasant surprise.

We were required to book an Executive Suite because there would be four of us in one room but I didn't mind the extra space. (There were crazy rules regarding three or more people in all of the European hotels we researched prior to our trip.)


 

There were robes and slippers in the closet. I wish we'd stayed long enough to use them. Sigh


The bathroom was bathed in marble and the floors were heated.


The Hilton Paris Opera serves a delectable, complimentary breakfast each morning. Think delicious French pastries, chocolate and fresh fruit. Unfortunately I missed this as the kids were fast asleep but the DH and my MIL were able to bring breakfast for us up to the room.

When we were finally ready to head out for the day, we made a quick detour to the  Executive Lounge where we gorged ourselves on snacks, candy and drinks.

We returned later in the afternoon to collect our bags en route to London. Three of the bellhops presented the kids with stuffed toy souvenirs which I thought was such a sweet touch. The kids were extremely pleased.

If you're ever in Paris and don't mind spending a little more to be in the heart of the city, I promise you won't be disappointed with The Hilton Paris Opera. And no, this is not a compensated post.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day!

Because same...

In Honor of Father's Day

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I firmly believe that Moms get the short end of the stick in the Kid Appreciation Department. Why? Take my household on any given weekday.

After dealing with their antics taking care of Stinky and Blinky all day, Daddy glides in about 6pm just in time to be Fun Daddy. In most cases, homework has been completed (five-alarm-fire-stress with Stinky), dinner has been eaten (the menu dictates the level of stress which falls anywhere between peaceful and dear God where did these children come from?!?) and baths have been taken (following a lengthy, philosophical discussion about why baths are required every single day). So when the DH comes home, there’s almost a renewed sense of energy about him that seeks out his offspring to connect with for the two hours before bedtime.

“Daddy, can I read to you while you hold this My Little Pony parasol over me for half an hour?”

“Sure sweetie, there’s nothing I’d rather do.”

“Daddy, can we build an electrical switch using my snap connector set?”

“You got it son! And when we’re done with that, let’s make a working doorbell and ring it incessantly.”

Or my favorite…

“Hey kids, lets wrestle on the carpet and get all riled up right before we put you to bed.”

How do I compete with that when all I can do at this point is sit on the sofa with my feet up to ease the pain of standing for the last five hours?

Stinky and Blinky don’t yet understand that Mommy works part-time so that I pick them up from school and care for them as only I could. I comfort them with encouraging words and life skills when John Doe steals their snack money or Jane Doe is being really hurtful with her words. And I kiss the boo-boos away. Even the icky ones that require stitches and tetanus shots. Daddy does this too, but not as often simply because of the fact that he works longer hours (out of the house anyway). So when he does any of these things, it’s important, more special. {Sigh}

I don’t think they care that it’s Mommy who takes them to the library to get the very same books that are more fun to read to Daddy. After all, he makes the funny sounds and noises better. They’ve forgotten that I taught them to read and sat [mostly] patiently as each painful blend was sounded out in the longest amount of time possible.

Ever heard of a thing called extra-curricular activities? Well, Mommy specializes in it and can juggle any permutation of ballet, gymnastics, softball, baseball, tennis, soccer, cub scouts and swim lessons. Summers are planned out in February with a healthy mix of learning and fun and carpooling to the nth degree. (That’s my super power. What’s yours?) But Daddy coaches teams. He gets to make important calls on the field and it’s his voice they are tuned to listen to in the midst of the madding crowd.

At home, somehow I manage to cook a nutritious meal, stealthily squeezing in extra fiber for Blinky’s constipation and acetic acid for Stinky’s leg cramps, while simultaneously watching a back-bend walkover and ducking errant nerfs. But when Daddy brings home Krispy Kreme donuts leftover from a meeting, its cause to celebrate.

The clothes they find in their drawers everyday are clean and folded because while watching Devious Maids last night, I thought to myself, “Self, surely there is something else you can do while you watch tv. Idle hands are the devil’s work.” But Daddy fixes the washing machine. In fact Daddy fixes everything with his cool, manly, uber important tools when our machines act up and in their reality, that’s way more important than having clean clothes after taking the aforementioned dreaded shower in the first place.

I’m creative and can help them decorate their big kid rooms, meshing their style with mine, scoring deals like nobody’s business. But Daddy is a programmer and brings home lots of neat doo-dads from conferences like infrared controllers and light-up stress balls which we’ve managed to live without all their lives but are now suddenly essential to our bare existence.

And sweet Jesus can I break up a fight. (I wonder if the neighbors ever hear me when I go all Disciplinary Mom on their asses.) I get in there grabbing flailing limbs and transforming myself into a human shield in a matter of seconds because this is the quickest, most effective way to prevent someone from getting hurt. I admit, it’s not pretty. The DH’s method? Calmly yell say, “Quit it!” and the little people immediately fall in line like soldiers at training camp.

I know that one day I’ll be Dear Mommy instead of Disciplinary Mommy, or You Never Let Me Have Any Fun Mommy, or But Blinky Never Gets in Trouble Mommy or Let Me Pick Some Random Argument with My Mommy Mommy. I know they’ll understand the sacrifices Mommy’s made for them both personally and financially. And I know the time will come for them to ask my advice about the very same things their little Stinkys and little Blinkys will drive them crazy over. But for now, I’ll just have to accept that the DH is the cool one. The DH is Blinky’s first love. The DH is Stinky's hero. But lucky for me the DH is also mine and I had him first. Ha!

For those of you who are interested in the DH’s side of the story, don’t worry, he’s writing his own version called, “Why is Mommy their favorite when I’m the fun one?”

{This post was originally posted on 6/20/16} 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Europe 2017 - London

Oh, Day 9. Had we known we'd get stuck in a rain and hailstorm, we may have burned the candle at both ends the night before. Maybe. The DH said it best, "How else would you have known you were in London if it didn't rain?"

Up to this point, we'd had great travel weather with highs in the mid 80s, except for Brugge where overcast skies kept it cool. The day started out well enough, cloudy but bearable. We bought tickets for a Hop On Hop Off tour right across the street from our hotel. We rode the bus the full length of the route. Highlights included:

  • The London Eye
  • #10 Downing Street
  • Horse Guards
  • Royal Courts of Justice
  • Trafalgar Square and Nelson's Column
  • St. Paul's Cathedral
  • The Monument
  • The Gherkin (I think it looks like a Fabergé egg!)
  • The Shard
  • Tower Bridge
  • Tower of London
  • London Bridge
  • Millennium Bridge
  • Houses of Parliament
  • Big Ben
  • Westminster Abbey







We hopped off at the Tower Bridge and Tower of London stop. The Tower of London is a former fortress, royal palace and prison. In fact, some of the most famous beheadings happened here including St. Thomas Moore, Thomas Cromwell and Queen Anne Boleyn. Currently, it houses the Crown Jewels. More on that later in this post!


I would like to take credit for planning this specific tour on June 2nd, but alas it was completely serendipitous. We arrived just in time for a 62 gun salute commemorating Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. Score one for me!



We opted to take a guided tour by one of the Yeoman Warders (aka Beefeaters). This was much more entertaining than an audio tour and kids were able to follow along. Ours was very snarky, which the adults loved!


The tour lasted about 45 minutes. Then we were off to see the Crown Jewels. Unfortunately picture taking is prohibited inside the building. :( You'll just have to take my word that viewing them is well worth the visit. Or you can just visit this site and see for yourself.





Sidebar: Britain was a colonial powerhouse in its heyday. It reaped the benefits of its colonies, including a wealth of gemstones for its ceremonial garb like crowns, scepters, etc that live in the Tower and are checked out occasionally for events such as a coronation. Many of the stones' countries of origin are listed inside the building. It was sobering to realize many of those same countries are in abject poverty today, drowning in human rights issues. Not to mention homeless families living inside the tube stations and on the streets of London. Just something I thought about in the presence of such opulence.

After visiting the gift shop the plan was to hop back on the bus and backtrack to some of the other locations. But out of nowhere a thunderstorm hit. We sought shelter under an archway along with about a hundred other visitors. Before we know it, it started hailing. Not very large, but still a less than ideal situation. After about an hour it let up just enough for us to exit the tower and seek shelter in a nearby restaurant for a late lunch.

The rain paused eventually but we could see on the radar it would soon be back. We hopped back on the bus anyway and headed toward Westminster. The DH was determined to get a picture with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.


We were hoping to go up the London Eye, but this was as close as we got. Having done it before, I really didn't mind. #notafanofheights


Pretty soaked and tired, we gave in and rode the tour bus back to the hotel. (We reasoned an early night could only make the next day traveling cross-Atlantic that much smoother.) Even though our last day was cut short, we really enjoyed everything we got to see and do. I told the DH we'll just have to plan another trip to London to make up for what we didn't get to see and do. Of course he agreed.

So ended our European tour of six cities over nine days. It was a dream vacation that would not have been possible without the kindness of his dear aunt. 

Please let me know if you have any questions about the locations or the trip itself. I shall be more than happy to answer them.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Europe 2017 - Paris & London

We spent the first half of Day Seven in Paris. Top of our list was the Musée d'Orsay. The museum was a former railway station, inaugurated for the 1900 World Fair. It housed a luxurious hotel and grand reception room. Many of its original features have been maintained. In my opinion, the building itself rivals the artwork inside.  Below is a model of the exterior of the building. Look how grand!






One of the main reasons for coming here was for Blinky to have her picture made with Monet's painting The Water Lily Pond. I plan to have it framed next to her reproduction. #proudmama




We made good use of our time and covered nearly the entire museum. I have always been a fan of Degas' Little Dancer of Fourteen Years and finally got to see it in person!


Hang on, I got distracted by the view of Sacré-Cœur. (Have I ever written about traipsing around England and Paris while in college on a self-guided Da Vinci Code tour? Now that would be a funny post!)


The DH and I soaking it all in:



There was a featured exhibition of paintings featuring the night sky. I was thrilled to see several Van Gogh pieces. (He has always been one of my favorite artists which I wrote about briefly here.) This one was my favorite:


After wrapping up at the Museum, we zipped over to Notre-Dame de Paris. The cathedral is glorious, especially when the sun hits the rose windows.










Stinky and Blinky lighting candles and saying a prayer.


The plan was for us to visit the Arc de Triomphe next, but we needed to make sure we got to the train station on time. No matter, we saw it from the top of the Eiffel Tower before sunset and at night all lit up. We raced back to the hotel to grab our luggage and took a bus to Gare du Nord to take the Eurostar to London.

The Eurostar is a high speed train which connects London and Paris. The coolest feature for the kids was that part of the journey ran underneath the English Channel in the Channel Tunnel or Chunnel. The DH shared a memory of watching the news as a boy and seeing workers from both sides of the construction shaking hands when they finally met in the middle. He's a keeper ladies. ;)

We arrived in London about 7pm in the evening and walked a block from the train station to our hotel, We were completely wiped out. The late hours the night before had caught up to all of us. We had a quick meal in the hotel restaurant and called it an early night. We had a long list of sights to visit on Day Eight and wanted to be well rested.

Little did we know, Mother Nature had other plans. It is London after all! Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Europe 2017 - Paris

On the morning of Day Six the four of us said goodbye to the DH's Aunt, and along with his Mom hopped the Thalys to Paris. We arrived around lunchtime, dropped off our bags at the hotel (more on that in another post) and got straight to it.

Our first stop was the Musée de l'Orangerie. The museum is on the smaller side but it does have a few unique items. Like Claude Monet's Water Lilies panels. (Ever since Blinky's Water Lilies watercolor painting which one first place in several art shows, we've fallen in love with Monet, specifically his Water Lilies creations.) My pictures do not even come close to capturing the beauty of the panels, but you can get an idea of how they are installed.




There are eight panels in all, four in one room and four in another. The color and tone reflective of the name of the panel:
  •  The Two Willows
  • Clear Morning with Willows
  • Morning with Weeping Willows
  • Reflections of Trees
  • Green Reflections
  • Morning
  • Clouds
  • Sunset 
A virtual tour is available here.

The Musée de l'Orangerie does boast a few paintings by easily recognizable names like Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso so even if Monet's panels don't interest you, it is still worth visiting.

Before leaving, Stinky and Blinky wanted to sign the guestbook.


We then walked and walked and walked across the green to the Louvre with the Eiffel Tower off in the distance. [Insert heavenly choir of angels!] It. Was. Stunning. When we were in the planning phase, the Louvre was iffy. I'd been twice before and knew the DH would enjoy it immensely. But with two kids in tow (we were sure his Mom would be fine) for what would surely be an hours long visit, we were afraid to push our luck. Much to our delight they were troopers, soaked everything in (naked portraits helped) and earned really cool souvenirs from the gift shop!





We all set out in search of the Mona Lisa. It was thrilling to see the kids' excitement build the closer we got. Blinky was in awe, almost shaking. She'd heard about it, read about it, asked a million questions about it, and was finally seeing it. My heart was so full I thought it would burst!



With that crossed off our list, we took our time wandering the halls letting it all soak in. I must have taken a million pictures which the DH thought was pointless as he thought I should just download professional photos from the museum's website. Ignoring him completely, I kept at it like any proper tourist would. Here are a few I took specifically for the blog:





 

 






Tucked away in the basement is an area detailing the history of the Louvre. Previously a castle and fortress, parts of the original foundation and walls can be seen. There was a short video showing the Louvre's evolution which was quite interesting. Stinky must have watched it three times!











When our exploring was finally done we ventured over to the Carrousel du Louvre, an underground shopping mall adjacent to and accessible from the Louvre. Awesome sauce! In addition to a little shopping, we got to take pictures at La Pyramide Inversée. Any Da Vinci Code fans present?




We finally left the Louve about 8:30pm. The sun was still bright so we headed over to the Eiffel Tower. I'd been before but never made it to the top as I am deathly afraid of heights. So of course this was on the must do list. The queue was ridiculously long so we took the opportunity to face time Stinky's teacher. She'd never been to Europe and had been keeping up with our trip. Several people nearby couldn't help chuckling at Stinky's side of the conversation. He's a character!

When we were finally in the lift, Blinky's excitement was palpable! I'm sure my anxiety was too. They let you off about a third of the way up to take pictures on an open air balcony and because you switch lifts at that point. I glued myself to the structure but did peel away for this one group shot. The DH took the others.







Lift two took us straight to the top. As it was well after 9pm, we could see the sun start to set. I legit tried to back out thinking the top would also be an open air balcony but my party wouldn't let me. I nearly cried when I saw it was fully enclosed. In fact, there was an inner chamber totally walled in and a balcony with a fenced top. Hallelujah!!!

By the time we stopped to take pictures the sun had already set, the Eiffel Tower's lights were on and the city of Paris was illuminated.


 

We got back to the bottom shortly after 11pm where throngs of people were still in line, taking pictures at the base or buying souvenirs from the many African vendors lining the streets. For the first time that day we were beginning to feel worn out and decided to head to the hotel. But not before I snapped this final shot of the night. Wow!


Tomorrow, I'll review our half day in Paris and arrival in London.