Category Archives: Home & Garden

The Best Valentine’s Day Gift I Bought For My Dad #Giveaway

Valentines Day Cupcakes

Cupcakes I made for a Valentine’s Day Date Night

Saint Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and if you’re like me, you love the romantic feeling in the air. Even if you don’t have a significant other or spouse in your life, you can celebrate the love between yourself and your children, grandchildren, family and friends.

I think one of the best Valentine’s Day memories I have is the time my sister and I saw a pair of Valentine’s Day Boxers in a store window. They were part of a gift set, along with a chattering red heart, that had, “My Heart Beat For You” on the top. You could wind up the heart, and it chattered around a flat surface, much like infamous chattering teeth. I am sure it was the chattering teeth that made us beg our mom to buy them for my father. We carried on until she entered the store and bought them.

 

Valentine's Day

These are very similar to the set we bought my father. Photo Source Collectors Weekly

Excited, we wrapped them up as soon as we arrived home and gave them to our father. Our dad went on for our sake, about how much he liked them. I was very interested in trying out the chattering heart. After that night, I would go into my dad’s dresser where the boxers and heart sat in their gift box. Every so often, I would go in, wind up the heart play with it for a while, and return it to the box. I wondered why my dad had not yet worn those loud heart boxers. Year after year, they remained in the drawer, right up until they sold the house to move closer to my sister and I, now married with kids of our own. I am not sure where those boxers ended up after that, but it sure is a memory, I don’t think I will ever forget. He obviously treasured those boxers so much,  he could not bear the thought of wearing them. At least that is what I choose to believe.

These are similar to the boxers we bought my father. Photo Source Collectors Weekly

Linzer Cookies

Another Valentine’s Day treat I made for my family.

Giveaway

We have a very special giveaway sponsored by Catholic Central to share with you for a St. Valentine’s Day Kit

The St. Valentine Kit includes:

1 – Red Rose LED Glass Dome elegant table lamp.

1 – Gold tone “Love” bangle bracelet

1 – Perfume card

Check out my short video below to see more:


Let me know your special Valentine’s Day Memory in the comments. 

Catholic Central is sponsoring a giveaway on Mommy Ramblings. One very lucky blog reader will win a special Valentine’s Day Gift Package. Thank you to Catholic Central for the St.  Valentine’s Day  gift set and for sponsoring this very special giveaway on Mommy Ramblings! Open to US Residents.

 

Saint Valentine’s Gift Set Giveaway on Mommy Ramblings:

Please enter for your chance to win using the Rafflecopter widget below. Good Luck!!!

 

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“My Magical Unicorn” Board Book Giveaway

Who says your days can’t be all unicorns and rainbows? Well, even if life throws you curveballs, you can escape with your child for a little while to a place that is beautiful with sparkles, and of course, a unicorn.

In this interactive unicorn novelty book, readers spin a wheel to animate the character on the front cover. Sparkly holographic foil creates a truly impressive effect as the unicorn’s horn, mane, and tail seem to flow with magical energy!

More interactive mechanisms are featured inside the book. Push, pull, spin, and slide your way through the unicorn’s enchanted land as she helps other magical creatures, clears away a rainy day, and plays with her unicorn friends. With gentle rhymes, bright colors, and a bit of sparkle and shine, this magical unicorn is sure to delight!

My Magical Unicorn will be available on February 12th but you can pre-order it now.

  • With their mystical appeal, unicorns continue to enchant and captivate young readers
  • Includes a special novelty and interactive element on every page, and sparkly holographic foil on the cover
  • Use of tactile elements not only invites the reader to participate in the stories, it also refines fine motor skills: readers can push, pull, spin, and slide their way through the unicorn’s enchanted land
  • My Magical Mermaid and My Magical Dragon will also be published as part of this adorable series for toddlers

Giveaway:

Abrams Appleseed is sponsoring a giveaway on Mommy Ramblings! One lucky blog reader will win their own, My Magical Unicorn Book! Thank you to Abrams Appleseed for the review book and for sponsoring this magical giveaway on Mommy Ramblings! Open to US Readers.

My Magical Unicorn Board Book Giveaway on Mommy Ramblings Rules:

Enter for your chance to win using the Rafflecopter widget below. Good Luck!

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3 Easy DIY Garden Projects

garden walkway

A lush garden not only helps beautify your surroundings, but it can be  beneficial in reducing your stress levels. A garden is going to be far more beneficial if you work on it yourself. After all, nothing can match that fulfillment  you feel when something beautiful comes out of your own efforts.

In this article, we present three of the most worthwhile DIY projects that you can do in and for your own garden. They are chosen based on the ease with which they can be done and their relative practicality.

Repurposed Container Gardens

Many environmentalists are making their voices heard nowadays. They say that the earth is slowly deteriorating because of the activities that we humans take part in. When we examine the actual state of our environment, it appears that they really are speaking the truth. So there is a need to respond.

Recycling is a great way to do our part to reduce the amount of trash we produce.  To achieve this, it is as simple as finding ways to reuse or repurpose items that we otherwise would throw away.

If you have an old tool box or an unused crisper just lying around the house, you can actually poke holes in the bottom, fill with soil, and then use it as your own container garden. The beauty that comes out of this project is not only for outside your home; you can use these techniques to accent your interior decor as well.

garden containers

Garden Walkways

There are types of grass that look very pretty. An example is the bluegrass, which can grow lush enough to really cover the ground. However, if you read WikiLawn and other gardening websites, you will learn that grass is very sensitive to foot traffic. Due to the sensitivity of grass, there is a need for you to create walkways, and it’s a project that you can very well do on your own.

garden walkway

All you have to do is collect good gravel and then lay it out in the path that you want. If you are looking to do something more elaborate, you can add tiles that contrast the color of the gravel. This immediately adds an air of sophistication to your walkway.

Wall Gardens

Usually, gardens are filled with flowering shrubs and small trees. However, there are species of plants that look their best when they are elevated or even hung. This is because they have flowers or leaves that cascade down, creating a gorgeous flowing effect. To take advantage of such flora, you can create a wall garden using empty bottles and other light plastic containers. This way, you will not only be able to beautify your environment, you also get to preserve it.

garden walkway

Doing certain garden tasks on your own makes the whole endeavour much more meaningful for you. Sometimes, what matters is not really the outcome, but the process of creating it. This is perhaps the main reason why DIY projects, no matter how time-consuming they are, are so rewarding.

garden

This is a collaborative guest post. The views and ideas expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mommy Ramblings.

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4 Things To Put In Storage To Make Space In A Cluttered House

The older you get, the more valuable space and storage become in your home. You accumulate so many things over time, from Christmas decorations to furniture, not to mention seasonal items like skis, paddle boards, kayaks and more.

Skis

Every foot of storage space in your home become precious and needed for all the things you use on a daily or  weekly basis. Many people need to make tough choices and decide what they want to or need to keep and which things need to be donated, sold or discarded.

So what can you do? Get rid of everything and go the minimalist route? Do you just accept that some rooms in your home are going to resemble a hoarder’s house? Fortunately, you don’t have to take things to either of these extremes, there’s an easy solution – self-storage.

Self Storage

According to Livible, a Boston storage company, “keeping your possessions in a secure facility away from your home has become one of the best ways to not have to deal with a crowded house. It gives you the freedom to use your valuable space for the things you use every single day.”

Self storage units are a solution that suit many people, lifestyles, life circumstances and budgets. If you’re thinking of putting things into storage, this list of the best things to store may help you clear out your home and organize your life.

 Baby Gear

If you are not done growing your family , you don’t want to get rid of big-ticket items you will need in the future. However, you don’t need to store all this furniture and gear in your home between children or grandchildren.

Items like strollers, cribs and changing tables can be wrapped up safely and kept in a storage facility. You will be able to easily pick up this furniture and baby gear when you need it.

baby, crib

If you have an heirloom bassinet, high chair or other baby items that are sentimental, it’s natural for you to want to keep them. Thanks to self storage options you can do that without sacrificing space in your home.

Old Gadgets & Appliances

When you get a new TV, washer, dryer or refrigerator, you might not want to keep the old one.  You may have children who are young adults and planning a move to their own place who may need these appliances in a few months.

washer, dryer

Having a storage unit is the perfect way to store these items for them. You can rest assured that your older children or other family members will appreciate being able to pick up these appliances when they need them.

 Seasonal Stuff

Christmas trees, Halloween decorations and seasonal clothing are not used year round, so why not free up precious space and keep them in storage until you need them. You will be amazed when you see how much space you have, when you move these things to a storage unit.

Furniture 

Do you have furniture that you don’t have room for presently in your house, but don’t want to part with.  Instead of letting it gather up dust in your garage or back porch, put that furniture in a storage unit until you need it again.  If furniture is wrapped up properly, it will do very well kept in a cool, dry place. Furniture is one of the best things to store in a self storage unit.

Take advantage of storage facilities in your city and keep things you don’t need or use all the time there. It will free up precious space in your house and give you peace of mind knowing your items are stored safely until you need them.

antique, furniture

Today, most storage units are climate controlled,  making it easy to store items that need to be kept cool and dry.  Another benefit. is that these units are extremely safe and secure. So next time you’re looking at your stuff and wondering what to do with it, consider calling  your nearest storage facility.

storage unit

This is a collaborative guest post. The ideas and views do not necessarily reflect those of Mommy Ramblings.

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Red Flags You Need To Be Aware Of When Hiring A Contractor

Hiring a Contractor

Your home is your haven and something you have worked very hard for. It is where you build your family and celebrate the milestones in your life. Owning a home is no doubt you have worked very hard to do and maintaining your home is something that goes hand in hand with being a homeowner.

Beyond ordinary maintenance, enhancing your living space with home improvement projects as your family grows, is something many homeowners do.

House

Home improvement projects are abundant, and they are easily one of the best ways to update your home and make it more functional for your needs.  However, not all of us have the time or the skill to perform these projects ourselves. That is why we choose to hire a professional contactor.

Contractors vary in skill and qualifications. When you end up hiring a bad contractor, you run the risk of shoddy workmanship or worse, you may even end up with an unfinished home improvement project. Both scenarios mean that you’ve just thrown your hard-earned money down the drain.

So, what are the red flags that you be aware of when looking for a contractor for your next home improvement project?

Addition

Poor Reviews

The lack of reviews or worse, the presence of negative reviews should already be an indication that the particular contractor does not perform well. Background checks are also necessary when you want to make sure that your hard-earned money goes somewhere worthwhile.

References also work in the same way in that they provide you with a glimpse of a contractor’s work ethic and whether or not they truly deliver results.

New Roof

No Proposal

A good contractor is going to be able to plan for the entire project, from start to finish. They’re going to be able to determine the time needed as well as the materials required to get the job done.

They should present you with a clear proposal for your to review. If your contractor asks for unlimited time as well as unlimited materials, then you’re just asking to get overcharged for the project. Walk away if this is the case.

new construction

Overpromising

If something sounds too good to be true, it isn’t. That old adage is almost always correct, and this situation is no exception. Before you sign a contract, you need to do a bit of research on how much the project is going to cost to complete.

This site should provide you with a comprehensive idea of the price of materials. Use this as a point of reference for when you want to see if a contractor is offering you a low price that’s too good to be true.

Lack of Construction Permits

When a contractor dismisses building permits as unnecessary expenses, you should already be raising an eyebrow. Permits are standard procedure, as well as the inspections that precede their release. You aren’t only risking your project getting shut down. You’re also risking your safety and that of the people around you.

Luckily, if a faulty construction should result in injury to you or anyone in your house, you do have legal remedies that should help you along the way.

Home Improvement

This is a collaborative guest post, the words and views do not necessarily reflect those of Mommy Ramblings.

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How To Brew The Best Coffee in a French Press

French Press Coffee Maker

The familiar French press coffee pot may not have the same following as the pour-over coffee method, but that glass carafe cradled in chrome is one of the best ways to brew coffee at home. Well, of course, great brewed coffee is only possible, if you do it right. In that case, you should follow this step-by-step guide to brewing your perfect cup of coffee.

#1. Start With a Coarse Grind

Brewing with a French press is fundamentally different from a pour-over method. With pour-overs, the water passes through a filter, but with the press, the ground coffee actually steeps in the water. Since your water and coffee are going to be hanging out for a while, start with a very coarse grind—the grounds should resemble breadcrumbs. Any finer and you will end up with a cup of bitter, undrinkable coffee.

#2. Fill the Carafe Halfway and Wait

When the water reaches a boil, take the kettle off the heat and let it cool for 30 seconds. Now your water is ready; time for your first pour. Fill the carafe to the halfway point. (This first saturation is known as the “bloom,”and it ensures your coffee will not be too weak or too bitter.) Put down the kettle and set a kitchen timer to four minutes. It is important to not rush the process when using a French press coffee maker.

French Press

#3. After 60 Seconds, Stir the Grounds with a Spoon

While you are waiting, you might want to do something else. You can check Twitter, text your mom, or just think about how great this coffee is going to be. After 60 seconds, use a spoon to break up the cake-y layer of grounds that has formed on top of the water. Fill the carafe to the top with water, using a circular pouring method to soak all the grounds. Place the lid on the press, but resist the temptation to plunge immediately.

#4. When the Timer’s Done, Plunge

Once the timer hits the four-minute mark, it is time to plunge. The press should not offer too much resistance, but make sure the mesh filter is lowered evenly.

coffee making

#5. That Is It—Great Coffee

And, well, that is it. Pour out your perfectly brewed French press coffee immediately into mugs or a serving vessel, as any additional time spent in the carafe will continue the brewing process. We hope you try this French press coffee maker guide.

This is a collaborative guest post, the views and ideas expressed do not necessarily represent those of Mommy Ramblings. 

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Three Great Decorating Styles to Spruce Up Your Home This Christmas

The air is getting colder. The leaves have all fallen. Stores are starting to advertise upcoming sales, and all the signs are clear: Christmas will soon be here!

Christmas

Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but it is true that another holly jolly season will soon be upon us, and I bet you’re already planning ahead for what you’ve got to do.

There’s obviously gift lists to assemble, you’re calling your mom to figure out who’s hosting the Christmas dinner (“Oh! I am?”), and, bless you, you’re probably stressing over how you’re going to decorate this year.

Christmas Decor

Every proud homemaker knows that having a theme at Christmas is essential for transforming a house into a home. It’s not that you’re being vain or anything, but you know that having a house that feels warm, welcoming, and, dare I say jolly, are key to helping enhance the joy of being reunited with your friends and family during this special time.

Christmas Stockings

With that being said, it can be a pain. It takes time, and it can be tough to keep things fresh and interesting, trying to come up with a new, engaging theme, year after year. To help you out this season, and take some of that burden off your shoulders, I’ve put together a few ideas that you can use to really spruce up your house for all of your guests, whether you’re hosting or not (“Yes. You are.”).

Classical Style

Classic Christmas themes work extremely well because they’re, well, tradition! These are the common color and design staples that leave your guests with no doubt that you treasure the season, and look forward to it every year. It may not be revolutionary, but it’s effective, and when the goal is to relax with those closest to you, and focus on quality time with each other, sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

Classic Christmas

To capture the perfect classical look, stick with shades of dark greens and bright reds, as well as gold and silver. Common design elements include Christmas trees, reindeer, Santa’s sleigh, and turtle doves. Sticking with naturals decor items, like a real Christmas tree, and a pine need centerpiece, is also a great way to accentuate this style.

Traditional Style

Traditional style during the holidays is all about keeping the same sense of warmth and comfort that you find in classical style, but eschewing a lot of dynamism in favor of a more subtle impression. To that end, the reds, greens, and other colors that make up the classic Christmas palette remain, but are presented in subtler ways.

Traditional Christmas

To start with, you don’t have to go overboard with Santa statues, reindeer napkins, nativity bookends, and all other manner of Christmas staples. Instead, you can do simple things, like swap out the throws or pillows on your couch for some dark greens and reds, or incorporate a subdued, but elegant rug to introduce just a hint of the Christmas spirit into your living space.

Unconventional

If you’re someone who’s never been one to just go along with the crowd, or forced yourself to keep up with the latest trends, good for you! It takes a lot of courage to live your life that way, and you can use that same philosophy to decorate your home for the season, and leave quite the impression with your guests.

Merry Christmas

You can use colors and designs that mean something unique about Christmas to you, and incorporate them into your decorations. Maybe one Christmas your family took a trip to the beach, and you have a seashell that represents that trip; or maybe you the most cherished gift you ever received was a pair of socks your mom knit for you, and you use them as the centerpiece of your table.

The possibilities are endless with this approach, and the more unique to you, the better!

Christmas Fireplace

This is a collaborative guest post. The views and ideas do not necessarily represent those of Mommy Ramblings.

 

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Welcome-A-Cure Mat From Carpet One Is A Gift That Gives Back! Giveaway

It’s December 3rd, and I feel like I am a passenger on the runaway Christmas train. The days leading up to Christmas are just speeding by, and I wish I could slow this train down. If you are scrambling to do everything you need to do while checking off that holiday gift list, check out this great gift idea.

Carpet One Floor & Home’s Welcome-A-Cure  Mats are more than useful, they are beautiful! In fact, I love mine so much, I have it in front of my farmhouse sink in my kitchen. I love how it feels and looks! The trees are the perfect design for my home atop a mountain on a lake.

Carpet One Welcome-A-Cure Mat

Carpet One Welcome-A-Cure Mat

I even have one that I got last year with 3 cute snowman that I keep in my kitchen for the holidays. Talk about a gift that keeps giving, 25% of the proceeds will support funding a breast cancer cure through the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Breast cancer claims the lives of more than 41,000 women every year! They say it is better to give than receive, the Welcome-A-Cure Welcome Mat is a gift that feels amazing to give!

This feel good gift, is priced at only $29.99 for a US -made 2×3′ mat. The mats are beautiful and made of high quality materials. You can check the collection out HERE. You will find the Welcome-A-Cure Mat on our 2018 Holiday Gift Guide at Mommy Ramblings.

Giveaway:

Carpet One Floor & Home is sponsoring a giveaway on Mommy Ramblings! One lucky blog reader will win a Mat of their choice from the four mat designs shown above (subject to availability). Thank you to Carpet One Floor & Home for the review mat and for sponsoring this amazing giveaway on Mommy Ramblings. Open to US residents.

Carpet One Floor & Home Holiday Welcome-a-Cure Mat Giveaway on Mommy Ramblings Rules:

Please enter for your chance to win using the Rafflecopter widget below. Good Luck!!!

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Kicking off a Puppy Star Christmas With Our Gingerbread House Tradition @airbudofficial

This is a sponsored post as a blogger partnering with Air Bud Entertainment. As always my words and views are 100% my own. @airbud @airbudofficial #puppystarchristmas

Puppy Star Christmas

Oh my goodness, the Christmas season is in full swing. I really want time to slow down, so we can savory every day leading up to Christmas. We are trying to do fun things this season, embrace our holiday traditions and keep the stress to a minimum.. We started our Advent Calendar, went to a community Christmas craft party and pictures with Santa and then it was time for a movie night! We were so excited that Air Bud Entertainment launched the holiday season with an exciting all-new family movie adventure!

Puppy Star Christmas is available on NETFLIX and Digital HD now!Puppy Star Christmas Movie Poster

Unwrap The Holiday Season With Air Bud Entertainment’s  Exciting All-New Family Movie Adventure!

A song and dance-filled movie for the whole family, PUPPY STAR CHRISTMAS continues the fantastic adventures of the talking (and singing) canine characters that have recently gained overwhelming popularity in the PUP STAR franchise of films. These action-packed and song-filled family stories, feature an adorable cast of dogs including talking Yorkie, ‘Tiny,’ and ‘P.U.P.,’ the street-smart rapping mutt who stole Tiny’s heart.

Check out the trailer below:

The all-new movie begins as Tiny and P.U.P tie the knot in an elaborate song with the largest dance number in franchise history, before introducing audiences to the couple’s delightful litter of four precocious new puppies.  The mischief, fun and adventure continues, as Christmas nears and pup siblings ‘Cindy,’ ‘Rosie,’ ‘Charlie’ and ‘Brody’ inadvertently stow away on Santa’s sleigh, ending up at the North Pole where they uncover an evil plot to steal the world’s Christmas spirit.

Puppy Star Christmas Movie

Several days ago, we received a huge package of goodies to celebrate the debut of Puppy Star Christmas.

Puppy Star Christmas #puppystarchristmas @airbud @airbudofficial

Check out our unboxing video below.

We build and decorate a gingerbread creation every year, it is one of our favorite Christmas traditions. With all the goodies we received from the nice folks at Air Bud Entertainment, we could not wait to get started on a Puppy Star Christmas themed Gingerbread House!

Puppy Star Christmas #puppystarchristmas @airbud @airbudofficial

Puppy Star Christmas

The movie features a gorgeous gingerbread house that we certainly cannot compete with as far as, architecture and perfection go. However, we certainly were overflowing with anticipation and enthusiasm.

Puppy Star Christmas, Gingerbread House

Puppy Star Christmas Gingerbread House Contest

The kids were excited that we were going with the Puppy Star Christmas theme, because it allowed us to add so many fun doggie inspired elements.

Puppy Star Christmas

#puppystarchristmas @airbud @airbudofficial  Gingerbread House

From the Puppy Star Christmas logo on the front of the house to the dog bone candy trimmed windows, we think we did a dog-gone good job!

#puppystarchristmas @airbud @airbudofficial Gingerbread House Contest

It was so much fun, and messy too, but that just adds to the festivities. With kids, we are not aiming for perfection, but for the experience to be fun and memorable, and it certainly was!

#puppystarchristmas @airbud @airbudofficial Gingerbread House Contest

Puppy Star Christmas

Check out our video below to see some of the gingerbread house decorating antics that went on in our kitchen.

After our masterpiece was done, we all felt it was time to have a family movie night and turn on NETFLIX to watch Puppy Star Christmas. With steamy hot cocoa in hand, we sipped and laughed our way through this holiday-themed movie that really helped get us in the holiday mood. My kids love the dogs and who can resist puppies?

More about the movie:

Live-action talent in PUPPY STAR CHRISTMAS reunites the film’s original cast including Makenzie Moss (Steve Jobs) as Tiny’s best friend, Lou; David Deluise (The Wizards of Waverly Place) as her father, Denisse Ojeda as the family’s loyal nanny ‘Ida’; Reggie De Leon (Disney’s stage version of Aladdin) as Tiny’s manager ‘Shep;’ and features the return of Jed Rees (Deadpool) as the misunderstood bad guy ‘Roland.’

A tail-wagging selection of talent returns to provide voices for the film’s canine stars, including music and YouTube sensation Mackenzie Sol (The X-Factor) who returns as ‘P.U.P’; and 14-year old singing sensation Kaitlyn Maher (Santa Paws), who returns as the voice of Tiny and sister Scrappy.

Puppy Star Christmas Movie Scene

The film also returns the voices of George Newbern as Tiny’s nemesis Bark, Diedrich Bader as Kano, and Jorge Diaz (Disney’s Elena Of Avalor) as the beloved Telenovela star ‘Julio’.   The film’s puppy litter of new canine voice talents joining the franchise in PUPPY STAR CHRISTMAS includes Chloe Coleman (Big Little Lies) as Charlie, Dillon Fontana as Brody, Oakley Bull (the upcoming feature Beautiful Boy) as Cindy and Vivienne Rutherford as Rosie.

PUPPY STAR CHRISTMAS is produced by Air Bud Entertainment, the creative force behind the #1 live-action, direct-to-home movies in the family category.  The film is directed by “Air Bud” and “Disney Air Buddies” veteran Robert Vince, produced by Anna McRoberts and written by Robert Vince and Piers Rae.  

Stay In The Know

You can find out more on the AirBud Entertainment Website, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to stay in the dog loop on everything new and exciting!

air bud entertainmemt

Laughter Is The Best Medicine

The Gingerbread house decorating brought a bright spot to a very sad part of our weekend. We had to say goodbye to our 16-year-old cat, Max. Max was a Pixie Bob cat who thought he was more dog than cat, even if our Westie, Maltese and Bulldog did not agree. Even though Max lived a long life, it was sad to have to let him go. However, Max was suffering from some health issues that were causing his quality of life to be severely altered.

Our kids were sad, and our youngest had hoped the doctor could somehow “fix” Max. It was hard for all of us, and we are still dealing with the loss of our sweet feline family member. The Gingerbread house let us focus our attention on something fun. You know what they say about the healing power of laughter, the movie certainly provides for plenty of that as well.

I hope you all are kicking off the Christmas holiday season in style and fun too. Let me know if you watch Puppy Star Christmas and put your thoughts in the comments.

Merry Christmas!!!

Puppy Star Christmas, #PuppyStarChristams, Gingerbread House, @airbud, @airbudofficial

 

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Must See Attractions For Families Visiting Hershey & Harrisburg

We took a short vacation to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at the end of August. There is so much to do in Harrisburg, it was the perfect place for us to visit, especially since it is only about 4 hours away from our home in New York State. We have been visiting the Harrisburg/Hershey area with our kids for years. Our oldest kids loved going to Hershey Park and other nearby attractions like Lake Tobias Wildlife Park every summer.

We had not visited the area for a few years, and it was high time for a vacation to the sweetest place on Earth and beyond. Working together with the Visit Hershey & Harrisburg Tourism Bureau, they helped us select the attractions that best suited our family’s tastes, and then created a jam-packed itinerary for us. They also helped us find accommodations in the Harrisburg area that had ample parking and easy access to all the attractions.

We stayed at the Hotel Indigo in Harrisburg. Honestly, we were on the go from early morning until late at night and spent very little time in the hotel. We did appreciate that there was a large parking lot, so we did not have to deal with parking garages or pay for parking as we have done in the past with hotels located in downtown Harrisburg. The Hotel Indigo is new,  there were a few issues that I chalked up to growing pains. All in all, it was a good experience for what we needed, I will write more about the hotel in a future post.

National Civil War Museum

Our first stop was the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg. The museum is located up a long driveway that leads to a large parking area. The grounds are clean and picturesque. Inside there is a large gift shop where we picked up our tour tickets for a self guided tour.

National Civil War Museum

The museum has 2 levels and we were directed to start upstairs armed with our map. The museum does not allow video or flash photography. This museum is filled with so many exhibits, many hands-on and others that are made up of life size models that add an incredible level of realism.

One of our kids’ favorite exhibits was the medical scene where the army medics were in the middle of  performing a leg amputation on a wounded soldier.

The slavery exhibits were very moving, and there were videos, sounds effects and life size displays throughout.

National Civil War Museum

You could easily spend several hours to see everything.At the very least, you should block out about 2 hours. Check out my video slide show  of our visit below.

Whitaker Center’s Harsco Science Center

Our second stop was the Whitaker Center’s Harsco Science Center in downtown Harrisburg. The Science Center allows kids to explore and get up close and personal with all kinds of exhibits as well as letting them perform all kinds of experiments.  The hurricane simulator was a huge hit with my boys and my husband too! There was so much to do and see. You can easily spend a day there and not run out of things to do.

Unfortunately, we only had a couple of hours to devote to the center, but we made the most of it and packed a tremendous amount of hands-on fun and learning into those hours. The Whitaker Center is located in downtown Harrisburg and we did find metered parking outside. More to come in a later post. Check out more in our video below.

Hershey’s Chocolate World

After the Whitaker Center we set off to Hershey’s Chocolate World which was about 15 minutes away. Once there, we scheduled our Hershey Trolley Works Tour . There are a couple of different trolley tours you can choose from, but we picked the longer ride with more history of Milton Hershey and more candy!

The trolley is delightful and very vintage with wooden bench seats. It is actually a trolley bus, so it rides directly on the road and not a track. We had a very animated conductor and tour guide which made our experience very informative and fun. We had a great group of fellow passengers who made the tour even more fun.  We learned so much about the Milton Hershey family, the Hershey School and of course the Hershey’s Chocolate Factory and Hershey Park.

When our tour was over,  we went back inside Hershey’s Chocolate World  to embark on the Hershey’s Chocolate Tour, which I have loved since the first time I went on it, way back in 1988! It is a fun tour and our family rode together in a moving car that took us along a track, as we learned about how Hershey’s chocolate is made.  Before the ride we posed for 2 photos, and at the end we presented with a souvenir photo book that we purchased. The tour itself is free, at the end we were each given a snack size Hershey Bar. Guests can take the tour as many times as they like.

Hershey's Chocolate World

The Chocolate Tasting Experience

After that, we were off to the Chocolate Tasting Experience. There is a fee required to attend the tasting and they are held several times throughout the day and evening. We were ushered into what reminded me of a college lecture hall, only not as large.

There were rows of narrow tables with chairs, a center aisle and a stage area at the front with a video screen. The tables were set so all of the participants had a bottle of water, a small brown paper gift bag, an informative placemat, a small cup of real chocolate nibs and a Hershey’s Kiss.  There were table top tablet kiosks that we used to select the flavors we tasted as we sampled the chocolate.

The host explained a bit about different kinds of chocolate and the unsweetened chocolate nibs that were in front of us. He invited us to try the nibs and then the Hershey’s Kiss. After that, it was time to get serious. He explained the water was to rinse our pallet between chocolates. He then showed us a video that explained how to correctly taste chocolate with all of our senses.

After the video, we were instructed to empty our bag which contained 4 different chocolates. We were guided through tasting each chocolate one at a time. Upon tasting each chocolate we paid careful attention to the different flavors, and then entered them on the kiosk. Once everyone in the room had entered their flavors, they were shown on the video screen. At the end, we were given certificates declaring us official Hershey’s Chocolate Tasters along with a full size Hershey bar.

Create Your Own Candy Bar

Now that we had tasted the chocolate, it was time to make the chocolate.  We headed off to the Create Your Own Candy Bar Activity. This is another paid attraction that I highly recommend. Create Your Own Candy Bar takes place at certain times throughout the day and evening.  As we stood on the line we were given aprons and hair caps. Even infants have to wear the hair caps because of the strict regulations.On the plus side, they make for great photo ops.

Once our aprons and hair caps were in place, we were led into an area with several kiosks where we scanned our tickets and entered our name and email address. Then it was on to the next area of kiosks where we selected the kind of chocolate bar we wanted to make. The fist step was to choose milk chocolate or white chocolate for the actual bar. We then chose up to three toppings like pretzels, crisp rice, Heath toffee pieces, chocolate chips and more. All bars are encased in delicious Hershey’s milk chocolate. We were able to add colored sprinkles to the top for a festive touch if we wanted.

When we were finished customizing our chocolate bars, it was time to head off to the assembly line, where we were able to watch every step of the manufacturing process.  This part was really fun, especially for our kids, who were able to see their name and their chocolate bar as it moved along.  When finished, our bars were boxed and then placed in a Hershey’s embossed tin box. At a final kiosk we were able to design the special cardboard sleeve that goes over the tin box.

We ended up doing this attraction again a couple of days later, because we wanted to make custom chocolate bars for our older kids who were not able to join us. Everyone was so happy with their chocolate bars, and I have to say, the bars were absolutely decadent and delicious. The chocolate covering made them absolutely delectable!

create your own candy bar

We browsed the gift store where the kids each choose a Hershey truck and car set, and then we headed off to get a very late dinner. We were all very tired, as it had been a very full day including our drive to Harrisburg.

Hersheypark

The next day, we set off for Hersheypark. The Park has been greatly expanded since my last time here with my older kids. They have added an entire Boardwalk area with tons of water rides, splash areas and more. The addition of this area makes it very hard to do the entire park in 1 or 2 days. You can easily spend an entire day in the Boardwalk area alone.

It was very hot when we were there, and we were so lucky that they weather was nice and sunny because the summer was the rainiest one I remember. In fact, just a few weeks earlier, the area experienced such severe flooding, Hersheypark had to close for at least a day.

Since it was so hot, my kids wanted to spend almost the entire day at the Boardwalk until it closed at 6 pm. After changing, we headed off to check out the rest of the park which closes much later.

The lines for food were the only thing that was unnerving, especially since we had bought the all day dining deal. My husband literally spent 45 minutes online to get food every time. It was not only us, there were dozens of other guests who were very disappointed with the wait times coupled with many restaurants that were listed on the plan being closed.

I have to say, guest services was very receptive and really wanted to make things right. They talked with us at the end of the night and refunded our money because of the fiasco. I do recommend the Souvenir cups apologized to us and refunded our passes because of the issues. This is the only thing I would not recommend even though you might have better luck during the week or at less busy times.

I highly recommend the souvenir cup deal that you buy for one price and are able to have refilled for free with soft drinks or ICEE for 36 hours after purchase and 99 cents after that. Our cups worked for both days for free refills including ICEEs. Free ice water is available throughout the park.

The next day was devoted to Hershey Park as well. It was another hot, sunny day, and our kids wanted to go right to the Boardwalk area. We spent the next several hours there swimming in the wave pool called The Coast, floating on the lazy river called the Intercoastal Waterway, riding the exciting tube slides and water rollercoaster and playing in the immense splash area that is filled with slides, fun structures and of course, two huge buckets that dump water on everyone down below. The Boardwalk has attractions for kids and adults of all ages.

Hershey Park

Hersheypark

When you enter Hersheypark there is an area where you can measure your children, to see where they fall in height. Everyone’s height correlates to a candy. Every ride has a sign in front that shows which “candies”the ride is suitable for. This makes it easy to see if your child is big enough or too big to ride. There are many rides that  adults and kids can go on together, this makes it easy to accompany smaller children.

You can check out a slide show from our Hersheypark trip below. We also have and will be adding more videos and slide shows to our YouTube Channel, so be sure to check it all out to see more.

ZooAmerica

When we were done at The Boardwalk, we headed off to walk thru ZooAmerica,  the zoo at Hersheypark that you can access from the park, and is included with your Hersheypark admission. We walked around looking at the animals. They have nice walkways and exhibits. The animals are divided into groups based on where they live and the kind of animal they are. After ZooAmerica, we ate at a venue in the park that was cafeteria style and had a variety of foods. We were able to get everything from Pizza to Burrito Bowl to Cheesesteaks. It was nice, because everyone got what they wanted, and they also filled our souvenir cups for free.

On one of our previous trips to Hersheypark with my older kids, we incredibly won not one, but two of those enormous black bears at a game where you try to ring the neck of a glass bottle with a plastic ring. We were able to get a bucket of rings for $5. When my four-year old was upset because he was too small to ride the Great Bear roller coaster, I suggested we try our hand at the game while waiting for his dad and siblings to get off the ride.  I was shocked when my four-year old tossed a ring from the bucket right onto the neck of a bottle winning a huge bear.

Later that day, my 9-year-old wanted to try, so I bought one more bucket. That time, it was me that got the ring on the neck of the bottle winning another huge bear. We were certainly glad we had a 7 passenger van, because we had 2 extra passengers on the way home.

My younger boys love those bears and that story, so when we came upon the same game in the same spot, they had to try their hand at it. A bucket of rings was still only $5 and my husband, myself and our two boys started tossing the rings. Within the first few, our  11-year-old got a ring on a bottle (it happened to be one of the special color bottles).

The special bottle meant he won one of the rare jumbo unicorns. However, they were very pink and he really wanted a bear, so they let him get the bear. He was so proud of himself, and his little brother was too!  It must be a family tradition for us, because again we had an extra passenger riding home in the back seat of our minivan.

Hersheypark

Indian Echo Caverns

We stayed at the park until it closed at 11 pm and then returned to the hotel. The next morning, we set out to visit Indian Echo Caverns in Hummelstown, which is a few minutes outside of Hershey. First stop was the gift shop to sign up for our tour, and our kids was enthralled with all the crystals. They also each had to have a miners hard hat with a light that they wore on our cavern tour. Needless to say, we dropped about $100 in the gift shop.

It was not long before we were called for our tour. Our tour guide was enthusiastic and informative.  He took us through the caverns, and entertained us with stories and history. The caverns are amazing! Lots of great photo ops and stellar views. Be aware there are many stairs to climb to go down to the cavern entrance, there are steps to climb in the caverns and upon exiting you need to climb up the stairs again. You cannot bring strollers in the caverns either.

When we emerged from the caverns, we visited the animals on the grounds. They have goats and a turkey, some alpacas and birds of prey. There is a large playground area and picnic tables, if you want to bring a lunch. We had to move right on because we were off to Lake Tobias Wildlife Park. Check out the video below to see more.

Lake Tobias Wildlife Park

We grabbed some lunch on the road, and drove about 30 minutes to Halifax, Pennsylvania where Lake Tobias is located. We discovered Lake Tobias years ago when our oldest three children were young and it made quite and impression on us. I was absolutely astounded at how much the park has grown.

They have so many animals now!  Beyond that, they have the most natural and beautiful habitats for the Lions, Tigers, Bears and more. Everything is so clean including the reptiles and exotics building, where we saw marmosets, a sloth, all kinds of snakes, alligators, lizards, birds and more. Once more, I was impressed with just how pristine this area was and best of all, there were no funky smells.

Lake Tobias has a petting zoo as well as lots of other animals you can pet like zebras and donkeys throughout the park. A few weeks after our visit they added 2 young giraffes to their menagerie.

The safari ride is much like we remembered, they used sawed off school buses as their safari trucks and drive you out onto their  many acres where you get up close and personal with bison, emu, Asian water buffalo, antelope and more who roam freely. You can purchase some snacks like carrots and pellets to feed the animals on the safari. The animals come right up to the safari bus and it is quite amazing! Our kids were so excited and had a blast!

There is a picnic area as well if you want to bring a lunch. Of course, our visit was not complete without a visit to the gift shop where our boys found a couple of plush bear friends to join our huge bear in the back seat. They also selected some more crystals and a few other items. We did get a free Lake Tobias tote bag for spending over $50, so yeah!

Here is a video of our time at Lake Tobias:

We loaded into our van and headed back to Hershey’s Chocolate World, to the Create Your Own Candy Bar attraction, so we could make custom bars for our older kids. We ended up doing the Chocolate Tasting Experience again as well, but this time at the end, we received a snack size bar instead of the full size we got the first time.  I am not sure what is the standard size candy given out now. If you have been to the Chocolate Tasting Experience, let me know what you got at the end.

Everyone was starving when we finished, so we headed off to eat at Houlihans in downtown Hershey. We had a wonderful dinner with a friendly server, great food and comfortable atmosphere. Another day in the books,  and we were ready to load up and make the trek home. I will post more about each specific part of our trip, but wanted to document our entire trip in this comprehensive post.

If you have any questions, please ask in the comments. You can also check out our reviews on TripAdvisor. Have you been to the Hershey Harrisburg area? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

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