A Mom, A Dad, Two Kids and Sin City Part II

 

Day 3: Trump International, Botanical Gardens and Gondolas

 

Some people may have mixed feelings, but I was curious to check out Trump International for breakfast just to see what the fuss was about.  The hotel is quiet, as it doesn’t have a casino inside of it, and there were several sparkling floor-to-ceiling light fixtures in the lobby which Viv and I loved.  Jeff and I had a little bet on whether the “Make America Great Again” hats would be in the gift shop.

 

I honestly didn’t think they would be, but the minute you saw the gift shop, you couldn’t help but notice a large stack of mainly red hats and I knew I had lost the bet.  Breakfast at DJT was yummy and overall, I’d take those huevos rancheros and free valet parking again next time.

Once nap time for Sebastian was over, we headed out for The Venetian but first stopped at the Botanical Gardens in Bellagio.  There is always a different theme for these gardens, and this time the theme Chinese New Year and it was just as gorgeous as it has ever been.
What can I say about The Venetian?  This is a cool hotel as it not only mixes rooms with casino, but it also throws in a high-end mall.  We went straight for the gondola ride which was definitely a highlight to our trip.  The gondolier sang many songs with us as we floated through the hotel and took many, many pictures.  We went to dinner that night at Grand Luxe Cafe.
Night-night!
Day 4: Dig This and Homeward Bound
We woke up, got dressed and quickly went to our appointment at an amazing place called Dig This not far off of the strip.  I found this business online when searching for things to do and although I wasn’t sure my kids were old enough, I had to at least call and see.  
When I called, Walt was more than accommodating and he said he would be able to ride the machines with my kids.  I never knew places like this existed, but Dig This allows kids and adults to operate excavators, bulldozers and other construction machines for a once in a lifetime experience.  Sebastian has inspired a love for these machines in our family through the way he lights up when he spots one of these driving around town.
Everyone who worked here was incredible, friendly and patient with our kids.  Bash and Viv were able to operate the machines with assistance, driving forward, backward, spinning in circles and picking up tires.  Dig This made sure we went out with a bang.

A Mom, A Dad, Two Kids and Sin City Part I

Eating at Yellowtail Restaurant at The Bellagio

 

I have only been to Vegas three times before this most recent trip and while I always see plenty of kids here, I instinctively felt like it wouldn’t be ‘Vegas’ if I ever brought my kids along.  I was under the impression that there wouldn’t be a whole lot for them to do, considering much of the attraction to Las Vegas is adult entertainment.

Alas, we knew we needed to get away somewhere, and we wanted a place we could drive to.  So with that requirement, and having done Palm Desert twice already, we figured we would give Vegas a shot with the whole family.  Boy, was I wrong about not having much for the kids to do.

I am writing this not only to document a memory, but also give some ideas for a Vegas trip for another family with small children.  This is how the we did Vegas…

 

Day 1:  The Drive & Arrival

 

We left the house around 10am equip with snacks, toys, music and fully charged phones.  We stopped in Barstow for food and to stretch our legs, then back in the car while the kids and I slept the rest of the way.

We checked in at Bellagio and were given a wheelchair accessible room by the woman who checked us in as a curtesy.  What’s the difference?  Well, the room and bathroom are considerably bigger.  I wouldn’t know that had I not stayed at this hotel twice before.  We settled in and had dinner at Fix.  Just a tip, every restaurant we went to we requested a rounded booth so we could sandwich the kids between us (good idea).

 

Ready for adventure, we drove to Circus Circus for a fun show and carnival games.  Vivien, our 4 year old, actually popped a balloon with a dart and won herself a prize.  We topped that off with chocolate fromHershey’s Chocolate World in the NYNY Hotel and we are still working through our endless bag of kisses.

Getting the 2 year old to bed that night wasn’t easy, so the strategy ended up being that he fell asleep in the stroller and then was transferred to crib.  We did that each night.
Day 2: Museum Day, Spa and Kobe Beef
As you may know, many kids want to eat the moment they wake up.  Having totally forgotten this, we didn’t order room service in advance and faced hungry children at 7am.  We quickly got ourselves together and went to a breakfast place I had remembered from my first time in Vegas called The Cracked Egg.
After eating we headed to The Las Vegas Museum of Natural History.  Looks are deceiving here, because when I first entered, the place seemed somewhat small.  After getting through the aquatic portion of the museum, we entered a space with Egyptian relics, then dinosaur fossils, then the whole of Africa.  The kids could have spent the entire day there, but quite frankly, it was us parents getting worn out towards the end.
Back in the room we put Sebastian down for a nap and I went to Bellagio’s amazing gym and spa spending several hours pampering myself.  That night, we decided to do dinner at Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant in our hotel.  Sebastian wouldn’t eat sushi, but he amazed me at how quickly he inhaled the kobe beef.  Note to self: get that recipe!
Finally, The Spa at Bellagio

Un-decorating… Oh What Fun It Is

 

Today, I began the un-decorating of my house. I am in the midst of putting away all the decorative pillows, ornaments, festive lights and Christmas wreaths. Sometimes putting these things away feels like getting rid of more than just mere ‘things’. Indeed, it sometimes feels like we also take our holiday cheer, surround it with bubble wrap and put it in a red and green storage box deep in the garage with everything else.

This year however, I’m not feeling that same yucky feeling as I put away all my Christmas decor.

Starting in November, this holiday season we have had visitors, countless play dates and night trips around the city doing fun things with our kids. The Aquarium of the Pacific was our first stop of the season, then the lights at the LA zoo, The Grove, visiting Santa, driving through Candy Cane Lane and even going ice-skating twice. Bebe (my mom) and my Aunt Joanne were here for a nice long visit that elated my little ones beyond anticipation. Thanksgiving brunch outside, Malibu lunches, walks around the neighborhood, Palm Desert relaxation with a friend, online shopping, lots of food and lots of fun have been what this holiday season has been all about.

 




 

Top all of that off with both Thanksgiving and Christmas concerts at my daughter’s school, Debbie Allen’s Hot Chocolate Nutcracker show, Cirque du Soleil, a Polar Express parade and a cozy, relaxing Christmas Day at home with my little family.

So, we didn’t get the Christmas cards done this year (or last year). We made the absolute best of it and while I pack it all away in the next few days, I know that I’m just packing away the stuff. This year, I am so looking forward to keeping the festive spirit alive. More visitors, more trips, more play dates, more celebrations and more decorations in my home for every holiday we celebrate. That’s my goal for 2017, along with of course, keeping up with this blog.

 

 

We are kicking it all off with a trip to Vegas tomorrow. I think I used to question why people brought their kids to Vegas, but now I understand. There actually are a lot of things to do with a family there and my hubby and I can switch off with hitting the tables after the kids are asleep.

I am happy to say though, that the one thing from Christmas that lasts in my home year-round is the smell. Pine, spruce, fir, it really doesn’t matter. These scents are appropriate year round as they are the perfect blend of homey and clean. Stock up now, because these scents are on sale everywhere I’ve been and I have picked up candles at almost every store.

Below are just a ton of pictures from our holiday that made the cut and here is to an amazing 2017 to everyone who sees this.

 


 

My Gorgeous Daughter Turning 4 and Holiday Birthday Parties

So, my daughter turned 4 just over a week ago and I put together a party at the house. This birthday party was Christmas themed and equipped with sing-a-longs, peppermints, ornaments and the holiday spirit in general. I wanted to document this for my daughter and share here how I put the whole thing together.

First, I came up with the theme. This wasn’t rocket science or anything — I love Christmas, kids love Christmas and we already have tons of decorations. I think April is just far enough away from Christmas to do something like this, although, there are no hard and fast rules. I say, when choosing a theme, make it something your kid loves and try to think outside of the box.

So Christmas in April it was, and Viv’s main request was a bounce house. I took to Amazon — ordered candy canes, peppermints, snowflakes for the ceiling, fake snow, Christmas ornament crafts and that was it! The rest of the stuff I already had.

I had Charlie Brown Christmas going on in the play room, Christmas music in the yard and a Disney Christmas sing-a-long going on in the front living area. The beauty of Christmas, is that music can set the whole tone for you.

I filled the water table with fake snow which was a bigger hit than I thought it would be.

Made some peppermint center pieces.

Hung snowflakes from the ceiling.


Set up an ornament making station for the kids (this was supposed to be the favor but I know not everyone got one) and that was basically all.

My advice:
1. Hire the 10 year old girl next door to ‘man’ this station and encourage kids to make an ornament. OR
2. Bag up all necessary items to make an ornament and send them with that to do the craft on their own time.

I sort of loved how much some kids enjoyed the activity though. It allowed them to just be creative and have fun on their own. So you could just wing it like I did too. Again, no rules.

I did get a cake, some pizza, water, juice boxes, alcohol (because it’s not really a kid party without that), bounce house and tables and chairs if you need them.

That’s it ladies and gentlemen. That’s how you throw your kid a Christmas themed birthday party to remember.

Oh, and I forgot to do this but my intention was to have my favorite Christmas scent melting in the house. It is called ‘Sugared Spruce’ and you can get it here at Candles by Victoria. Just another way to set the mood.

Thanks for reading!

Think about your child. Maybe you can throw him or her a Halloween party in their birthday month, a Valentine’s party. What’s your child’s favorite holiday?

Vivien’s Birth

So it all began on April 14th 2012 at 6:30 AM. I started to have contractions that felt ‘different’ than the others I have had in previous days and weeks. These contractions, you could say, actually hurt and they were coming about 20 to 25 minutes apart. My husband had class at 8 AM and asked me if I wanted him to stay home. I had contractions all day Easter Sunday, so I felt like it may be another false labor. I told him to keep checking his phone, but to go to class.

He left around 7:45 and I decided to straighten my hair just in case it was the ‘big day’. After I did that, I wanted to put the last minute things in my hospital bag like my toothbrush, shower gels and deodorant etc. By the time that was done and I was dressed, it was about 10 AM and I decided to go for a walk around the apartment complex. I walked around listening to music and my hypnobabies tracks. About a half hour of that and then I decided to try to ‘sleep it off’. I laid down in the bed in my daughter’s room. While looking at all of her things I did fall asleep, but only for a short time. I was awakened by a contraction, went back to sleep and the same thing happened. I then decided to take a warm shower to see if that would help. It really helped, and thought for a while they were going away.

After my shower, I laid down again, but this time in my room, and the contractions became apparent to me again. My husband calls me to see if I want any food while he is on his way home. I didn’t want to eat or smell anything so I told him to eat his food in the car if he got some. Now contractions were coming about 8 to 10 minutes apart and Jeff got home pretty soon after I spoke with him. I decided we needed to go walk somewhere and I thought the mall would be the best distraction. Jeff wanted to go to the park as to avoid spending money, but he eventually went with my request and we put my hospital bag in the car just in case.

We walked into Sears and went straight to the jewelry section. I looked at diamond cross pendants and amethyst cocktail rings to distract myself from the contractions. I tried on many pieces and then decided to walk through the rest of the mall. We didn’t make it far; once I wasn’t distracted from the contractions I realized my contractions were close together and very intense. It was time to go to the hospital.

At this point, you would think it was obvious what was going on when I would stop in the middle of a sentence and close my eyes for about a minute. Well, it wasn’t obvious enough to DH, when this would happen, he would ask me in a cute baby voice, “Contracties?” As we were entering the hospital and he said this, I ‘yelled’ at him the one and only time for the entire birth. I told him if he said it like that one more time I would lose my mind. We checked in at the front desk and went to the third floor, labor and delivery. I was familiar with this hospital’s labor and delivery floor having been there twice per week for the past month getting non-stress tests for the baby. As we walked towards the nurse I calmly told her I thought I was in labor. She sent us to a room to wait for the other nurse who I had met before. She asked bunch of questions and the monitor showed that I was having contractions about every five minutes. She checked my cervix and sure enough, I was 5cm dilated. I was transferred soon after to a labor and delivery room. On my birth plan I was not to be given and IV and did not plan on an epidural. I had done my hypnobabies at home class and felt prepared for labor. I also did not want my cervix checked again unless I asked.

 

 

Thanks for reading!

It’s Warming Up – Nutrient Dense Vegetable Soup

So, it is definitely warming up out here in LA, but the mornings lately have been just cold enough for me to feel comforted by this delicious nutrient dense soup.  My mother-in-law bought me this hand blender a few years ago and I wondered at first if it was something I would use since I already had a blender.  Once I started my paleo diet, it became something I use so often that now I wonder how I ever lived without it.  I don’t like to give my kids dairy all the time, so I use this to blend avocado and banana into almond milk for them almost daily.  I also use it for this soup and those are two things I make constantly.

Above are all the ingredients you will need to make this, but feel free to make homemade broth.  Before you click the back arrow button on your browser because you hate brussels sprouts, know that you can easily change the vegetables you use in this soup.  I’ve used butternut squash and broccoli before in place of carrots and asparagus.  You can also do all carrots if you like or any number of different combinations.  Just be creative.

Frozen veggies, unlike canned, are actually just as packed with nutrients as fresh vegetables.  That is such good news for people who are a little lazy like me.

All you need to do is peel your onions and cut into fours (you can even avoid this by buying these).  Then put all the veggies in a large pot with the olive oil and 2 containers broth — let simmer.

Once the veggies are soft, mix them with your hand blender or you can batch blend it in a regular blender.

Your end result will be this comforting, beautifully colored soup that your kids will eat.  I add salt to taste and serve it with crumbled bacon and red palm oil.

If you have trouble feeding your kid veggies you may want to try it.  I also add it to pasta sauce for noodles.

Enjoy!  <3

On Sharing Clothes & Keeping Things Gender Neutral

Above are the two of them in a Nirvana shirt we purchased at Target.

So this is a post that I have been dreaming about since I got pregnant with Vivien.  Before she was even born I made sure to purchase her certain items that could be shared by a future sister or brother.  There is something so adorable about your little ones sharing clothes and seeing them enjoy the same things. Because of the happiness this sharing brings me, I wanted to share about it here in the hopes of maybe inspiring some kid wardrobe choices for other moms and dads.

 

I want to talk about my 3 favorite clothing items my kids have shared so far and why they were so important.

I think you should always want to make sure your most expensive purchases are versatile between boys and girls. At least, I think that’s the best strategy if you plan on having more than one kid. So the first item I want to point out are these boots by UGG pictured above. We all know as parents, that shoes are a huge blessing to be able to re-use.

The reason why is that shoes – especially good shoes, can be pretty expensive!  Foot growth spurts are also a lot less predictable.  Your kid may wear a pair of shoes for only 3 weeks and then their feet could grow a couple sizes overnight!  So this is why buying good shoes that can be used by a boy or girl is super important because if this happens, you know they will get re-used.

The second item is this ‘Believe’ shirt. The company is Peek Kids and this is their signature.  They are known for high quality tees for babies and kids with cute phrases on them. I believe they have a store out here in LA, although I have only purchased their stuff through Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack or their site. I have many of their things but this top is my favorite. It works so well for a boy and girl. This brand stands out to me too because the cut of their clothes and sizing ends up working for kids way beyond the tag. For example, a shirt from them with a 12-18 month tag can usually work for 9 months to 2 years. I honestly don’t know how they do it.

 

One last purchase is this Baby Boden jacket. Jackets, similarly to shoes are pricey and are worn daily during the season. This was definitely a good buy and totally versatile for both kids.  It is a very well made warm coat so if you live somewhere colder, this is definitely something you may want to check out.  This particular one is not available anymore.  That is of course because I have had these for years.  But I do have other things from the company and can vouch for their quality.

 

So that’s it for now.  My 3 favorite gender neutral clothing purchases that my kids shared.  I have also done similar things with baby gear (stroller, carseat etc.) and toys which I may post about later.  For now, my message is clear.  Don’t buy everything pink or blue, especially not your big ticket items.   Here is one more just for the heck of it that we got from Zulily.  Our two in their “Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animal” shirt.  I love Home Alone.

 

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That – Essential Oil Bug Spray

My name is Allyse and I am an arachnophobic. I’m not proud of it and I have considered hypnosis, but for now, there is this bug spray combo I made and it seemingly works for crickets too.

Phobias are pretty common. The fear of heights, closed in spaces, snakes. But I feel like my fear is so unavoidable. Spiders are everywhere — and now that it is getting warm, I have to put my defenses up.

One of the things I loved about living in a condo on the third floor was the lack of bugs. So, needless to say, I was a little nervous about moving into a house.  When we moved, I had the gardener use his leaf blower in all the nooks, crannies and webby areas. I killed a couple big ones out in the yard and after that, I went to town with this Ortho indoor/outdoor spray. I liked this because it was safe to spray inside as well even though I have only used it on the exterior of the house. I sprayed in all those areas that you know spiders love, then I sprayed all near the doors and the windows where they might sneak in.

I followed it up with a homemade essential oil bug repellant spray.  I’d say I put in about a quarter of each bottle of essential oils. I used equal parts lavender, peppermint, and rosemary.  I filled up the rest of the bottle with water and sprinkled in a little bit of salt so everything would mix. I shook it up, and sprayed all over the same areas.
Not only has it seemed to work over this past week, but it also makes your front yard and backyard smell heavenly. The Ortho brand bug spray has little to no scent, so all you smell are the essential oils.
Depending on your phobia level you could spray around the house once a week, once every month, or if you’re crazy like me you’ll probably be spraying a couple of times a week.
So that’s it folks, a little bit of a normal bug spray, then a little bit of essential oils might just be the best thing for you to keep the bugs away from your house. It really helped with the crickets at night.
If you try it, let me know.

Grain-Free Comfort Pancakes, Christmas Morning and Lots of Love

This past Christmas morning was one of the best yet for our family. We woke up in our new home, our kids were warm and toasty and we snuggled in the morning all together before getting out of bed. We spent all night Christmas Eve turning this,

into this…

*What christmas used to look like before and Amazon Prime*

 

The kid’s eyes lit up (well kind of, we actually were underwhelmed with their initial reaction — but let’s just pretend they lit up) when they were revealed the transformation and they were so excited to open gifts, play with new toys and lounge around.

This was our very first Christmas in Los Angeles with just our family because we typically go to NJ for the holidays. We stayed in LA one previous year, but my grandmother was also with us. So with two small kids and a culinarily challenged hubby,  it was up to me to figure out breakfast and the pressure was on.
Being a grain-free person myself, I knew I wanted something that could suit me but that would also excite the kids and my husband. So pancakes were in my mind and I decided to make the pancakes recommended on the GAPS diet. GAPS is a grain-free therapeutic diet similar to paleo that you can read more about here.
These pancakes only have three ingredients which makes them simple. 2 cups of steamed butternut squash, 4 eggs and 1 cup of almond flour or almond butter.

I steam my squash first and then I blend everything together until it is all creamy and smooth. Then I use either coconut oil or ghee to cook these up just like regular pancakes.

There are so many finishing touches these babies go great with. Fresh fruit, honey butter, maple syrup, you name it.

If you are ever in the mood for a comfort food breakfast that is healthier than your typical options, try these — they have become a household regular. You won’t regret it.

I hope everyone reading this has lots of love tomorrow.
Xoxo

One Of “Those” Days

‘Those’ days are not only necessary, but they are the absolute best. These are the days when you just can’t seem to get it together. These days you don’t bother to send back your Netflix, you don’t pick up the groceries and you don’t make that call to your insurance company.

Those days are full of messy hair and mix-matched jammies.

Those days are booked with “check-ups” from your favorite doctor and the sound of plastic princess heels.

Those are the days when you only focus on being a mom and give in to your child’s every desire because you don’t want to spoil the moment.

We can’t have days like this all the time. But when we can, we should embrace it and never feel guilty. My daughter loves to go out, but she enjoys ‘those’ days just as much as I do.

You know the very best thing about those days?

Every hug smells like maple syrup.