Monday, November 23, 2015

Costume Closet for Playroom

Most kids love playing dress-up, and my son is no exception. We have a couple of pairs of jammies that look like superhero costumes, and Dutch loves wearing them. We got him a Spiderman costume and mask for Halloween, and it certainly got a lot of use outside the holiday! After Halloween, we went to one of the seasonal stores to see if we could get some decorations on the cheap. While we were there, we realized that their costumes were deeply discounted. We figured this would be a good time to build up a costume wardrobe for Dutch, since he certainly doesn't need a special occasion to wear one. I was also grocery shopping at Kroger right after Halloween and saw a Minions costume on clearance for $7. Score!

Once we had purchased a decent amount of costumes and accessories, I started thinking about the best place to store them. I didn't want them strewn about the playroom, or thrown into a bin. My first thought was buying a cheap bookcase, removing the shelves, and placing a shower rod inside for the costumes to be hung on. I went to Ikea and found a bookcase that I thought would work perfectly. Unfortunately, it was out of stock. I thought about going to another store, but decided to walk by the more substantial storage solutions first. I'm so glad I did. I saw this wardrobe and fell in love!

All the costumes can be hung up neatly and the related hats, masks, and accessories fit nicely underneath the shelf. I love that it can be closed off so the items are out of sight when not in use. Makes for a much cleaner playroom!  I also know it can be put to good use when the boys grow out of the costume stage, because it's an attractive design and offers good storage.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Europe Vacation 2015

Most trips overseas require a lot of planning and preparation. Meezy and I were lucky enough to be able to travel to Europe last month on only about 2 weeks' notice!  His company told him they needed him in London, so of course I wanted to tag along! The downside was that we didn't know for sure which dates they would need him there. We had a general idea, so I immediately asked my mom if she could watch our boys around that time frame. She generously agreed to, so I anxiously waited for his company to finalize the trip details. When they determined they would need him in London from a Tuesday to Thursday, I quickly made arrangements for us to fly out of DFW the previous Friday night. That way we could spend a couple days together before he needed to start working. Then, I would leave London on Wednesday to get back to my boys, and Meezy would stay the rest of the week.  The flights were booked 11 days in advance - pretty crazy!

We took the direct overnight flight from DFW, which had us arriving in London around 1pm on Saturday. There was no way I could travel to Europe without seeing my favorite Germans, so we arranged for Kim and Fabian to meet us halfway. After landing at Heathrow, we immediately got on a train to Brussels. I've used Europe's rail service before, and this was just another reminder of how awesome this travel option is. Boarding is so simple, the fares are affordable, the accommodations are nice, and the food is excellent.

We arrived in Brussels that evening and checked in to Hotel Pullman Brussels Centre Midi. It's a beautiful, modern hotel in a good location right by the train station. We relaxed for a little bit and then decided we wanted to watch some college football. We googled and found a bar that looked to be a great place to watch American sports. We got a cab to take us to Fatboys Sports Bar. When we arrived, there were a couple European soccer matches and American football games being shown. We kinda ducked into a corner and starting looking around to see where we would want to sit. As we surveyed the bar, we heard the guy next to us ask the bar manager if he could turn on the Texas Tech game. WHAT?  Are you kidding me? I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to repeat what he said and then pointed to the Tech shirt that Meezy was wearing. It was hilarious to be standing next to a fellow alum, in a bar in Brussels, Belgium. We talked for a bit and were pleasantly surprised to see that the manager was able to find the game on a streaming telecast. He put it on the TV closest to us and we happily enjoyed some food and beverages while cheering on our Red Raiders!

The next morning, Sunday, we were so excited to meet up with Kim and Fabian. They drove in from Germany to spend the day with us. The first place we visited was the Atomium.  All I can say is WOW. It's a breathtaking site and I know that my pictures don't do it justice.

Before heading to our next destination, I had to stop for a Belgian waffle. It's a given!

We proceeded to nearby Mini-Europe, which is a really cool theme park filled with miniature models of historic buildings and recreations of other significant items.

After finishing up our tours of those attractions, we drove back into central Brussels. We did a lot of sightseeing and stopped to take pictures in front of the Royal Palace.

A trip to Brussels isn't complete without a stop to check out Manneken Pis. He's not much to look at, but since I've heard about him my whole life (from my Dutch father and grandparents), I knew I needed to at least say I'd seen him!

Most of the rest of our time was spent around the Grand Place. The buildings are beautiful and there are lots of shops and restaurants.  We couldn't resist a couple bars of Belgian chocolate before leaving.

We truly had a magnificent day in Brussels and were thrilled we got to spend it with Kim and Fabian. That evening we took a train back to London and checked into The Rubens at the Palace. This hotel was in stark contrast to the one we had just left in Brussels. It was fancy, but definitely in a more old-fashioned sort of way. We cracked up when we got in the elevator because there was barely enough room for both of us to stand with our large checked bag. It reminded us of the elevator we took at our hotel in Paris a few years ago. I guess it's a European thing!

On Monday, Meezy and I got to spend the day together as tourists. Last time we were in London, we definitely saw a lot of sights, but one whole day of that trip was spent at Wimbledon. So, we knew there were things we still needed to see. On the way to our first destination, we happened to pass by the Palace during changing of the guard.

That was fun to see, but we were eager to get to the British Museum. It's the top rated attraction in London on TripAdvisor, so I had high expectations. We were not disappointed!

The museum itself is gorgeous to look at, inside and out, but the items inside are really what made our jaws drop. We walked into a room and realized we were standing in front of the Rosetta Stone. We both did a double take. I know it sounds silly, but we really were flabbergasted that we were in the presence of the real Rosetta Stone. It's something we've only ever read about in history books and never imagined we'd see in person.

Pardon the bad picture; it's kept safe behind thick glass!

The museum was huge and we enjoyed seeing countless artifacts from ancient civilizations. I highly recommend a visit there if you're in London. After we left the museum, we did a lot of walking and passed by many sights we had seen on our previous trip. They're still enjoyable to see in person, so we didn't mind the redundancy.

Not sure why Londoners are afraid to wear color.

That evening we took a car service to Watford, where Meezy needed to be for work on Tuesday. We were exhausted, so we ordered room service for dinner and went to sleep. The next day was going to be a big one for me - renting a car!  Lol. Normally that doesn't sound like a big deal, but it meant I'd be driving a right-side car on the left side of the road. Watford is 40 minutes outside of London, and there's not much to do there, so I wanted the rental car so that I could drive back into London and do some shopping. I took a taxi to the rental car site and picked up my transportation for the day!

First off, you have to get used to being on the right side of the car. Second, most vehicles in Europe are standard. I specifically reserved an automatic (which costs more), because I did not want to deal with that variable! Third, you drive on the left side of the road! I was slightly nervous about embarking on this adventure, but honestly pretty excited about being able to check it off my bucket list. I rented a GPS, which was truly a lifesaver. It took a few minutes of getting used to where I needed to be looking for traffic when making turns, and I definitely wasn't in the correct position to exit round-abouts on numerous occasions. Lol. But, the good thing about round-abouts is that they are big circles!  So, when I missed my exit, I just made a lap and nailed it the second time around. Also, people are surprisingly nice about letting you change lanes. Everyone's cars are so tiny and zippy, so you just go where you need to and everyone is cool with it. I like the way they handle traffic lights there, too. They have green, yellow, red, and mean the same as us, but they also flash the yellow right before the light turns from red to green. That gets you prepared and you move your foot to the gas, so that you are already driving as it turns green. It really keeps things moving.

On the way into London, I stopped at the London Designer Outlet at Wembley Park. It's not huge, but it gave me a chance to shop a little, grab lunch, and borrow some Wifi. I sent Meezy a message to assure him I was safe and hadn't gotten into a wreck!  Haha. From there, I continued into London to check out Harrod's. (Parking is uber expensive around London, btw). Harrod's is a massive upscale department store that is very famous in Europe. I couldn't afford anything there, but I had a good time checking out level after level of their pricey goods. 

After that, I walked to Regent Street. This is another famous shopping locale, but with much more affordable stores. The NFL is doing a big push to try and make American football popular in London, so there were lots of banners flying overhead, advertising the NFL and an upcoming parade.

That concluded another exhausting day for me, so I drove back to Watford for the evening, to see Meezy. The next morning, I drove my rental car to Heathrow for my flight back to DFW. When I checked in for my flight, there was a business class upgrade available, so you bet I took it! Spending the 10 hour flight home in business class was the best decision I've made in a while. The perks are beyond amazing and the food was pretty spectacular too.  I have a feeling I won't get that opportunity again in a while, so I will relish it while I can! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Good Morning Texas taping

I saw a post on Facebook from Dallas Mom's Blog saying they needed audience members to attend a taping of Good Morning Texas. The topic of the show was going to be Fall Fashion. I was free that particular morning, so I signed up for a spot. I figured it would be cool to see how a live show was filmed and potentially get to meet some of the anchors. My sister was free that morning too, so we went together.

When we arrived, it was kind of funny because there were models everywhere getting ready for the show. We felt out of place! The producer rounded up the audience members and brought us into the studio. She gave us some insight into how things would go, asked us to put our phones on silent and tuck our bags under our chairs, and encouraged us to be energetic and smile often. The cool thing was that she didn't mind if we took pictures or stayed around to meet the staff after it was over.

I have to say the operation seemed frantic. It didn't appear that the anchors, crew, or talent had much notice about what they would be doing next or where they needed to be. It was clear that no one had done a run-through. I'm not sure if that's how it normally is, or if this show was an exception since there were so many special guests/models, etc. All I know is that I would be super stressed out if this is how things go 5 days a week! Mad props to everyone for being professional and getting the show done, though. The anchors did their jobs very well and rolled with it when they needed to.

I definitely had a front row seat. Here's what it looked like from the viewer's perspective. I'm in the blue and white dress.

We were able to visit with anchor Carrie McClure for a little bit after the taping and she was gracious enough to pose for a picture with us. Anchor Jane McGarry was busy filming short promos/teasers for upcoming shows, so we didn't get a picture with her.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Go Shout Love

Do me a favor and spend the next 8 minutes watching this video. It'll make you be quiet, make you listen, and make you humble.

Visit their website to see how you can help. I ordered a couple of t-shirts to support their cause, and I'm following them on facebook and instagram to keep up with their new endeavors. We should be so grateful for the healthy kids in our life, and we should open our arms to those who aren't so fortunate. Now, go shout love!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Online Shopping Reminder for Labor Day Weekend

I shop online a lot now that I have two kids. In my pre-motherhood days, I used to actually go in to stores to buy registry gifts, birthday gifts, clothes for myself, etc. That would be quite the chore at this point, so online shopping is my solution. I needed to buy a wedding gift for my nephew and his wife, so I went to to see if any of the 3 stores they registered at were offering cash back. To my enjoyment, I saw that orders from Macy's would qualify for 6% cashback, and that's one of the stores they were registered at. Woot! There's literally nothing else you have to do besides start at Ebates and link to the retailer's site from there. The added benefit is that the site alerted me to the fact that Macy's was having a 15% off sale with free shipping on orders over $75. Bonus!

To date I've earned $230 in cash back by starting at the Ebates site first before ordering something online. It's also reminded me about coupon codes and sales, so I've saved countless extra dollars from that too. What you earn gets paid out quarterly, and I elect to get mine sent directly to my Paypal account. That way I can access it immediately. You can also have it sent to you in the form of a check. I'm not pulling your leg - the site is completely legit and I've been using it for at least a couple years now. I don't usually like to refer people to programs or websites, but I can't think of a reason not to tell everyone about this site. They literally give you money back each time you make a purchase online with a retailer they support. You were going to shop there anyway!

Use this link to sign up:     

Happy shopping!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Galveston Beach Trip 2015

While our friend, Kim, was visiting us from Germany, we decided to take a beach trip to Galveston for a few days. My sister and her family, and my parents, were able to go too, so we rented a large beach house in Pointe West. 

It was awesome!  There was plenty of room for all of us, and it came furnished with furniture, TVs, game tables, cookware, all appliances, etc. We brought food with us and were able to cook everything in the house to save time and money and avoid the inconvenience of going out to eat with 12 people. It was situated on the bay and we only had a short walk across the street to get to the beach. The views were wonderful from both the front and back balconies of the house.

It was so nice to be able to get to the beach quickly and not have it be crowded at all. Renting the house also gave us access to the nearby beach club, which meant two pools and a cafe. This was Jude's first time at the beach, and he took after his big brother in his affinity for the sand.

One day we took the kiddos to the Pleasure Pier to check out the midway and the rides.

Another day, part of the crew stayed behind with the kids while the rest of us went on a bay fishing expedition. I'm not a big fan of fishing, so I just enjoyed the boat ride, the company, and catching some sun. Our boat was called "Dutch Treat", which was quite fitting! The Germans had the most luck catching fish, so that was exciting.

We thought the kids (and adults!) would enjoy a dolphin cruise, so we ate lunch in Galveston one day and then embarked on our journey. It was a great success and we saw a ton of dolphins, many right beside our boat.

On our last night of vacation, we decided to take a sunset walk to the beach. It made for some great pictures and lots of smiles!

All in all, we had a fantastic time and it was so nice to spend time with our loved ones. If we make it back to the Galveston/Pointe West area in the future, I definitely foresee us staying in the same place!