Monday, January 31, 2011

Flying with Children

Since I have taken little ones on many road trips and airline flights I have been asked a few times what I do to keep them busy and happy. So I thought I would put together this blog entry to share some of the things I do for airline fights. In a few months we will be taking a road trip so look for tips and tricks for that soon! Of course all kids are different but this works for me.

First of all, let them stand and walk as much as they want at the airport since they will be limited once they get on the airplane.

Make sure they try to use the restroom or have a fresh diaper before the flight. You never know when you will be able to get up once you are on the plane. Also, don't be in a hurry to get on the plane. The faster you get on the longer you will be sitting!

Food: Buy something at the airport to eat on the airplane since these days there is little to nothing to purchase once you are in flight. We usually buy some yummy meals to eat on the plane but it takes up space so consider that when you are looking at your meal options. My kids are picky and airport food/beverages are expensive so I like to add a few snacks to my backpack before leaving my house. But you are limited to restrictions at security of what you can bring with you into the airport so lately I have just spent the extra money at the airport (after going through security) to avoid the hassle.

I start with one backpack per child. With airline travel each passenger can have one carry-on item (or at least they could at the time of writing this blog) so I have the kids carry their own entertainment. Then I fill each backpack with items that the child likes, is friendly to their seating limitations, and will not disturb other passengers. Try to stay away from many small items that can easily get lost. There is turbulence and other mishaps where toys can fall and it's not fun trying to move around in tight seating to retrieve an item that has rolled along the floor clear to the other end of the airplane!

Here are some items that I use/recommend:

Candy, gum, snacks to help with ear pressure - especially something chewy during take-off and landing. Make sure you pack enough for the entire trip. I usually have two flights each way so that is 2 take-offs and 2 landings on the way there and then again when I pack the bag for the way back. I also pack a little extra because my son will usually eat his up faster than the airplane can get off the ground. I prefer chewy items that are not really high in sugar since they are each going to be eating "candy" 4 times in one day!

Water - flying can make you thirsty! For each kid, I usually buy a bottle of water with a sports cap AFTER I have passed through security at the airport (to avoid the laws/hassle of what I can and can't bring from home). You could also bring an empty water bottle and fill it at the airport once you have passed security.  There is cabin pressure once the flight takes off which usually will cause the water to leak if it has been opened. I like to keep the water bottle handy (side pocket of backpack) so it doesn't leak on anything important and I have easy access to it once seated on the airplane. Are you traveling with baby bottles that have water/formula? It will do the same. The first time we took my daughter on a flight I was surprised to find that her bottles had lost almost 1/4 of the water I had in them after our flight was done!! Some flights offer beverages during the trip (bring straws for the flight if your child isn't comfortable drinking out of a large mouth cup). I recommend staying away from the water and coffee they serve on the flight. At the time of writing this there is still a serious bacteria problem with airline water and the coffee has not proven to be hot enough to get rid of the bacteria! Okay - maybe I watch too many news shows but I thought I would share! Oh - and just because they pour the water out of a commercial water bottle does not mean it is "bottled water" - they use those for looks and the ease of pouring then refill them from the airplanes water supply.

Pack a small toy or two that the child usually likes to play with. For example: my son really enjoys cars/trucks and action figures. Be careful not to pick the smallest toys because they are harder to keep track of during the flight. I also like the idea of an airplane toy to help create excitement. Don't forget an important toy to the child. My son has to take his monkey with him everywhere!

A book - especially one that is new to him/her.

Deck of cards - if old enough to know how to play card games.

Game player WITH HEADSET and case (case not pictured in my backpack example) to avoid disrupting other passengers. Some airlines provide headset in the seat back pocket but I prefer not to use those that MANY others have used - it's all up to you. I have used the provided headsets in a pinch.

Music player (MP3, iPod ...) WITH HEADSET and case if needed. Headset can also be plugged into the seat jack to hear the provided airline music or listen in on what the pilots are discussing. My little ones are more than happy with the provided music at this time.

Movie player (portable DVD player, iPad, iPod... - wireless connection disabled for all) WITH HEADSET and case. I usually have my husband pack this in his bag and we share it. You can pack DVD's in a soft shell CD case for easy access or with newer technology you just have the movies loaded so no DVD's are necessary. We also pack a splitter for the headsets so two can listen at the same time (although ours makes it harder to hear that way...). Some airlines provide a movie during the flight but for many airplanes the screen is located in an area where shorter children cannot see it.

Make sure all of your electronics are charged or that you have extra batteries. I hate lugging around a big electronic item only to find out that I can't use it when I want to!!

Don't forget a change of clothes!! Many things can happen while you are traveling so it's best to pack a back-up. You'd be surprised how small you can pack these if you put them in a gallon Ziploc bag! Don't forget diapers and wipes if they are needed. I carry extra wipes to clean off the tray table before and after use.

Activities Folder:

Pick a cover theme that goes with the trip - we are going to see SpongeBob
This is a must for my daughter who loves art!! I created this 3-ring binder that I update for all trips where my children will be required to sit for a while. It includes arts, crafts, learning activities appropriate for their age and based on topics they like (or topics around the vacation we are going on). There are coloring pages, blank pages to draw on, alphabet writing pages (for my pre-K daughter), colored pencils with a sharpener, stencils, stickers ... All the pages I add are 3-hole punched so they stay contained in the folder while in flight (not falling all over and making a huge mess). I only include enough markers and pencils that will fit in a pencil bag that is also clipped into the binder.

I also use this folder at the hotel but I provide a few extra items for hotel use only. That includes paint, glue, and scissors - a little messy for the airplane but a nice creative outlet during downtime at the hotel.

If your child really isn't into drawing/writing yet you might want to just include a small writing pad (MagnaDoodle) in their backpack. I'm considering doing this for my son on the airplane this year since he probably will only be interested in the binder at the hotel. He is usually happier with 1 truck, a book, and his monkey.

Clutter control: How do you keep all of this organized so you can find what you need when you need it? I keep the water bottle in a side pocket. The "candy" goes in a front pocket since I usually need it quickly and while the backpack is supposed to be under the seat in front of me. Make sure you have easy access to a toy that they can hold on while the plane is taking off. For my son, I keep "Monkey" on the top of everything in his bag so I can get him out as soon as he is seated. Pack everything else safely in the remaining space. I do not bring a pillow or blanket because I don't want to struggle with taking it out while trying not to pull everything out!

One last tip:  You should always lower your expectations!!  We are talking about little kids and I know that as an adult I can get pretty grumpy during a long day of travel!  Do your best to keep them happy but know that there will be undesirable moments.

What tips and tricks do you have?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

If there were only 3....

For those of you who don't already know - I love children’s books!!

My brother (my only sibling) is preparing for the arrival of his first child! We have a very close relationship so you can expect that this new baby is just as exciting to me as it is for him :) I have been putting together a welcome package for the baby and I had to add these three. In my opinion, they are 3 books that every baby or toddler should have! My kids loved them (and still do) plus they were a big part of their early education. Especially "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?" that has been a topic in preschool many times. I have great memories of reading them to my children as they grew to laugh and join along with the the animation in the stories. So if I could only pick three books for babies and toddlers it would be these. I hope my new nephew enjoys them as much as my children have.

What are your favorites?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Listerine Agent Cool Blue

Here's another product that I just had to share! I remember as a kid how cool it was to go to the dentist and chew on this little red pill that would then show all the places that I needed to brush my teeth better. As I now have my own little ones learning how to properly brush their teeth I was excited to find this. Listerine provides a mouthwash (for adults and kids ages 6 and up) that will turn their teeth blue - bright blue in the areas that they need to pay special attention to. My daughter loves it and it helps us teach her the areas that she is missing and needs to spend more time on.


"One" by Kathryn Otoshi

I discovered this book while my kids were participating in story time and I just had to share it!! It's a great way to introduce dealing with "bullies" to young children. It kept my 3 year old engaged and my 5 year old couldn't wait to tell her dad all about it. I will surely be adding this to our personal library!!

Barnes and Noble Synopsis: Blue is a quiet color. Red’s a hothead who likes to pick on Blue. Yellow, Orange, Green, and Purple don’t like what they see, but what can they do? When no one speaks up, things get out of hand — until One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up, stand together, and count. As budding young readers learn about numbers, counting, and primary and secondary colors, they also learn about accepting each others differences and how it sometimes just takes one voice to make everyone count.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Goo Gone - Good for more than you may think!

I have used this product for many years to get sticky stuff off hard surfaces - packaging off a new ceramic dish, sticker off a table, and many other times that I have needed it. One day, when I wasn't paying attention, my 3 year old son decided to play with his sisters new bright pink lip gloss. Of course he didn't like it on his fingers so he wiped everything onto my almost white carpet!! This wasn't the first time something like this happened but it was the first time that it was right in the middle of the floor where I couldn't hide it. I mentioned to my husband all the products I had tried on the first spot that all failed. He then asked if I tried the Goo Gone. What???!!! Why would I use Goo Gone on our carpet??!! Well, because the packaging says that I can! And because it worked!!! I had never before thought of all the many uses for Goo Gone. It has always had a single, yet very important, role in my life. Now my eyes have been opened and I am considering its use for more things.

My daughter loves this shirt:

The last time she wore it I noticed a big spot over a portion of the guitar. It appeared as though a large sticker was on the shirt when it went through the wash. I wasn't able to peel it off and I needed to be cautious to not harm the print on the shirt. So I carefully tried to remove it using sticky tape but that did not work. Then I remembered my Goo Gone. Of course the label claims that I can use it on clothing. I already knew that this shirt would be trash if I didn't fix it so even if it left a stain I would be no worse off. I squeezed some Goo Gone on the sticky spot and the sticky stain peeled off very easily with no marks on the shirt!!! I am just amazed so I thought I would share my story in case you find a need for Goo Gone that you hadn't considered it for in the past! :)

Another recent sticker made it through the wash!!
This time it was on sequins so I really had to be careful!!!

With Goo Gone it came off perfectly!!!

The after picture - no sticker, no missing sequins, no oil spots from the Goo Gone!!  It's just like new!

Cinnamon-Swirl Bread

I still think my apple bread is #1 but this is a nice dessert bread that is easy to make and most people usually have the ingredients in their house at all times.

I forgot to marble it!  But it still tasted great and I kind of like the smile face :)


1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 9X5X3 inch loaf pan.

In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup of the sugar, the nuts, and cinnamon; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup sugar, the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a medium bowl, beat egg with a fork; stir in milk and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy).

Pour half of the batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon mixture. Repeat with remaining batter and cinnamon mixture. Draw a wide rubber scraper down through the batter and up in a circular motion to marble. Bake for 50 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap and store bread overnight before slicing.

Shortbread Cookies

I am always tempted to buy a shortbread cookie when I go to Panera Bread before an upcoming holiday. They are always so cute and very tasty! It wasn't until I had one that I realized there is a definite difference between shortbread cookies and sugar cookies. Shortbread cookies have more of a crunchy/crumbly texture, taste a little sweeter, and are probably more fattening - but I LOVE them! I also found that they stay true to shape after cooking unlike sugar cookies that tend to expand or bubble a little.


1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Combine all ingredients; use hands to knead until ingredients are blended. Cover and chill in refrigerator for 2 hours.

Roll dough out on floured surface to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.


I used a simple glaze for these heart shaped one. I don't have an exact recipe but I used some powdered sugar, added milk a little at a time (it doesn't take much at all) until the consistency looked good for dipping cookies into it. Then I added a little food coloring. To add some flavor you could use some orange juice or lemon juice. Once you have dipped the front of the cookies in the glaze, lay it on parchment paper to dry. Use a toothpick to pop any air bubbles that surface. After the glaze has hardened you can use colored glaze/frosting, food markers, or food coloring to write or draw on your cookies.

You could also dip the cookies in melted chocolate, add sprinkles, add nuts, sprinkle them with a little sugar prior to baking, or just leave them as plain as that is yummy too!

Chicken and Rice Bake

This is a recipe that I have from back in my early days of cooking and I still love it. Of course I don't eat the chicken these days but I still make some for the rest of the family. It is an easy meal to make - just mix everything together in a pan and bake!


2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 cups water
1 1/2 cup uncooked rice*
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 boneless chicken breast
1 can mushrooms
Dash red pepper flakes (optional)


Mix all ingredients except chicken and paprika in ungreased 13X9X2 inch baking pan. Top with chicken, sprinkle with paprika, cover and bake at 375 degrees for 60 minutes. I recommend stirring once 45 minutes into baking.

*I now use whole grain/wheat rice which usually requires a longer cooking time.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Some of My Favorite Prepared Foods - Vegetarian Friendly

Good prepared foods for a vegetarian are hard to find but lately I have run across some that even my meat eating husband enjoys! I thought I would share these since I am asked a lot what foods I eat since I do not eat meat.

My number one favorite right now is this nice little dish that I found at Costco.

Poke a couple of holes in the bag,

microwave for 3 minutes, pour the contents into a bowl, and you have a nice little meal!

I love the cheesy bean and rice burritos that Taco Bell offers but I'm pretty sure that the fat/calorie content is high since I usually get a couple of bites that are overloaded with cheese. I found this nice option at COSTCO that I love and makes me have a little more control over my calorie count. It's good on its own but I love to add a little salsa on top.

These sausage patties are awesome! Even my husband likes them! They have a great flavor (I prefer the original flavor only). It's not as spicy as regular sausage but it's also not as greasy. I love them on an English muffin and served with pasta (when a meat eater would normally have something like hamburger). You can find these in the freezer of just about any grocery store.

I get cravings for French onion soup but most restaurants use beef broth. I found this vegetarian version at Costco and I am very happy with it - even the microwave cooking version!

Monday, January 10, 2011

California Vacation: Live Studio Audience

Yes - you can be in a live studio audience for many TV and game shows!!! Once I sat in on a live taping of "That 70's Show". It was a great experience! I sat next to a man that was an extra in a pre-recorded portion of the show (no one famous but he was fun). I won a copy of the script from that episode and at the end of the show I was able to get it autographed by the cast!! Everyone that stuck around was able to get autographs so bring paper or something just in case.

A close friend of mine was also on "The Price is Right" and she won a ton of cool stuff!

Here are some sites that you can go through for tickets: & If you have a specific show you would like to see you might want to go to their direct site to see if it is an option.

My tips:

• Just because you have a ticket doesn't mean you are guaranteed a seat. For the show I went to they gave a lot of tickets out to make sure enough showed up. When we got there we waited in line to get inside (first come, first serve). Once the seats were full they stopped letting people in...
• They most likely will not let you take a camera or video device in.
• Tickets are usually free but “shop” for them early so you have a better chance of getting in.

Being part of a live studio audience was a great experience so I highly recommend it!!

California Vacation: Studio Tours

I highly recommend studio tours if you love movies, have a favorite TV show, or if you are interested in behind the scenes!

There are a few studios that offer tours. I found that the offerings change so you will want to check out the options as you plan your vacation. For example - many studios stopped offering tours after the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. Today you will find most of the larger studios are offering tours again but security may be high. The studios that I have added to this blog post are all ones that I have personally toured at least once and enjoyed the experience.

Sony Pictures Studios:
Walking tour. My unique experience with this was when we walked by Adam Sandlers production office. Allen Covert ( ran out of the office to greet us all and shake our hands.

Paramount Studios:
Walking tour.

Warner Brothers Studios:
Electric cart riding tour. This is one of my favorite tours (partly because some of our favorite shows were recorded there) so we went on it a few times over the years.

The old "Back to the Future" Clock Tower
(has been modified many times)

This is dated - the old ER emergency room entrance!

This is from the inside of the ER emergency room entrance.
It's much smaller than you would think.  Also, you can see a portion
of the cart we rode on.

Universal Studios:
Electric cart/tram riding tour. This is part of your admission to Universal Studios theme park. I will blog more about this later in a specific post all about Universal Studios theme park. You will get a good riding tour with regular price admission but if you want the deluxe studio tour I recommend the VIP option. You won't have a lot of extra time for amusement park rides but you will have access to some of lot that regular park guests will not get.

It's actually been a while since I have gone on a studio tour. Now that I have young children it's not as convenient but I do plan to go again as soon as they (my children) are old enough to appreciate it! Most studios have a minimum age for participants. I have a lot of great memories of the tours I went on but I honestly wasn't sure in some cases which studio I was at so I decided to share some of my memories in my "tips" since I can't assign them to a studio at this time. No matter which tour you go on I'm sure it will be a great experience!

My tips:

• Reservations are highly recommended and usually required!
• Look at the tour options - some offer upgraded tours that you might want to consider.
• If you have a specific TV show or game show that you like I'd recommend visiting that studio. If they are not taping during your visit you may get to explore the "stages" that they record from.
• Late spring and summer visits you will mostly see movies in production and empty stages from shows that will be in production again for the coming year. I was once able to see a remodeled stage for a popular game show that wasn't airing the new look until the following month. At that same studio I was able to watch a live taping of a portion of the show "Extra" and meet the host.
• Fall and winter visits you will see movies and possibly some rehearsal for shows that are preparing to tape an episode. I once was able to sit in on a rehearsal for the Drew Carey show (it was Drew and another actor). We also had a unique opportunity to question a creator of a popular game show (he happened to be visiting the stage when we were touring it).
• Most tours do not allow cameras or video but ask when you book your tour. During one tour I didn't want to leave my camera with security so I left it in my car. I later found out that they allowed pictures and I really missed out on some cool stuff!
• Studios are always changing so there's something new every time you visit!
• Look around - you never know who you will see!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

California Vacation: Medieval Times

Medieval Times ( has many locations throughout the United Sates. Many years ago my husband and I attended the one at Excalibur in Las Vegas. Although we really enjoyed that, this one (in Buena Park, California) was a much nicer overall experience.

Like most of the locations, they have a nice exterior to the building so we stopped to take some pictures before entering.

When you pay for admission (or handover your prepaid ticket) you are assigned a color. That is the "team" you will be part of for the night.  They give you a paper crown with your color to wear.

A group picture of my family with one of the main characters (in our case it was the princess) was taken shortly after paying for our admission. This picture was presented to us during our meal as an option to buy. I think it was in an acrylic frame and cost $20. We did not buy ours since it wasn't a great picture but if you do decided to buy it be prepared with cash since they do not have access to a credit card machine in the show area (at least that was our experience).

Once we entered the main lobby there were a ton of picture opportunities we took advantage of with our own camera.

You can also purchase a variety of items from kids play swords, flags to cheer on your assigned color/team, costumes, and even higher priced items like real swords and deluxe "costumes".

Some of the higher priced items
They also had the show horses in an area where you could look at them from a small distance.

Purchasing alcoholic drinks in the lobby was an option. A couple of times they performed small skits to get our attention and prepare us for the show that was to come.

To be seated we were called in by our color. Basically you try to be the first in the door and you run to your colors seating area. You then get to pick from what seats are left. We were able to get right in front! The seats are kind of tight together so it was hard to find a spot for the gadgets we bought the kids (light-up swords and flags).  It's theater seating with the table area in front of you so, unless you are on an end, you have to climb over the back of your seat to get out during the show.

We were "blue" which was located at one end of the arena area (directly across from the stage where the king and princess sat). it was nice seating but would have maybe been better to sit a little more to the side since we ended up with horse butts in our face a lot!

It's not very often that I say this but they had a GREAT vegetarian meal! If you look under "Bill of Fare" on their website you will see a picture. I was very happy!!! My husband also enjoyed their regular meal. Be prepared to eat with your hands just like they did during that time period. Although I did get a fork for my meal. Once you see the picture of the vegetarian meal you will know why.

There are portions of the show where your assigned knight will throw some "lucky ladies" carnations. Thankfully one of the employees at check-in told us about this so my daughter knew to shout for one. She got the first flower of the night and at the age of 4 she was instantly in love with him ;-) In her opinion, that was better than Disneyland!

My daughter with our knight and the carnation he gave her!

The show was great!  After the show there is a big party. You can dance and drink. We of course didn't stick around since it was late and we had the kids with us. But I did sneak some pictures of my daughter with some of the main characters before we left.


We purchased flags for our kids at $5 each to cheer on our assigned knight. I did read in a blog before going that you can ask for a cheaper flag that is only $1. I saw many of them being used during the show. It's smaller but still very effective! We decided to go with the $5 flag because it was similar to another show we went to which I will blog about later. My kids still have their flags and love using them as part of their role play!

If you have allergies be prepared - there is a lot of sawdust flying around! The ventilation was good but my husband made sure he was prepared so the rest of our trip wasn't spent with him not feeling well.

You will need cash to tip your wait staff. I believe a 20% tip is recommended. Again, there was no credit card option.

I mentioned that a few years ago my husband and I visited the Medieval Times in Las Vegas.  There we were given assigned seating and our group picture was taken at our seats (not with a character from the show).  I don't recall a big area to hang out before the show started but I'm sure they would prefer that guests were at the casino gambling!

California Vacation: Introduction

My family LOVES to vacation in the West Coast but mostly Southern California!  We are in the process of planning our next trip there and as part of that I have been making a list of what I want to share on the blog.  Vacationing is one of the main reasons why I started this blog.  Many people ask me questions about places I have been so what better way to document and share it!  Well, there are a ton of things about California that I want to share!  So, instead of making one very long and overwhelming post, I decided to break it up into many small posts on each subject.  There are some that I already have enough information on and pictures to share so look forward to posts really soon!  I hope you find the information helpful as you plan your vacations.  Also, I am always open to suggestions if you have experienced fun things or have tips to share!!  My best vacation experiences have started with helpful advice from others!