Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Rio 2 Review

  Our trip to the movies to watch Rio 2 was fun!

  It started with a local samba band performing in the theater lobby.  There were two dancers decked out in feathers and glitter who made the dancing look easy, but considering that their hips, shoulders, elbows and knees were all going in different directions at the same time it must actually take quite a bit of skill and practice :).

  Kicking the movie off with some happy music and dancing set the right note for the movie itself.  It opens with some pretty music (Sergio Mendes is the soundtrack producer) and impressive visuals before getting into the latest adventures of Blu and Jewel, two rare blue macaws raising their brood in Rio de Janeiro.

  Jewel wants her kids to experience a more traditional bird upbringing, like her own, instead of being so dependent on human conveniences, so she and Blue decide to take a trip into the Amazon rainforest and get back to basics.  Accompanied by some of their friends from the first film, they discover a whole colony of blue macaws, headed by Jewel's long-lost father.  Meanwhile Blu's human, Leslie, and her husband the ornithologist are in the same part of the rainforest and stumble upon a big illegal foresting operation which threatens the sanctuary where the wild macaws are living.  Will Blu's father-in-law accept him?  Will the humans help or hurt this hidden bird oasis?  These are the questions answered by the end of the movie. 

  There are some fun scenes with Blu's old nemesis, Nigel.  He has recruited a couple of odd animals from the street market he called home and embarks on a mission to take his revenge on Blu.  This storyline has some fun twists.

  We saw Rio 2 in 3D, and it was very visually inviting.  Sometimes 3D seems like a waste of time, but in this movie it really felt like it was animated to take advantage of the 3D platform, resulting in some nice scenes of birds singing and dancing in the air.  It was like one of those old Ethel Merman movies with the synchronized swimming.

  The kids all enjoyed the movie and look forward to watching it again when it comes out on DVD.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mini Smorgasbord School Lunch

Gave my girls a little bit of everything today:  Cheese curds, yellow cherry tomatoes, strawberries, blueberry flavored mini rice cakes, dates, and mini marshmallows.  Hopefully I packed it all in tight enough so that stays looking like this by lunch time :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My Tips For At-Home Eyebrow Waxing - Sally Hansen Microwaveable Kit

  Because I have a toddler, it's hard to go to a salon for eye brow waxing so I usually do them at home.  Not only is it more convenient, it's a lot less expensive! 
  I've been using the Sally Hansen Microwaveable Eyebrow, Face and Lip Wax Kit for about a year.  Here are a few observations on at-home eye-brow waxing:
1) Make sure the wax has the right consistency before you start.  You can tell this by noticing that at the edges of the jar it starts to get a bit thick, but if you stir it into the center it melts down again.  There's also an indicator on the little spatula included with the kit. 
2) Apply generously.  If you apply it too thinly it will be more challenging to remove, and it might not grab the hairs enough. 
3) Roll the edge up with your fingernail to remove.  Once you have an even "tab" to hold it is easy to pull quickly (in the opposite direction of hair growth) to remove it. 
4) Expect that it might take more than one round of heating to complete the job.  Even after a year of using this I can't ever seem to get my eyebrows done without putting it back for a second warm up in the microwave.
5) Skip the eyebrow stickers. They can give you a basic idea, but they won't stay on for long.
6) Use the oil at the end to remove any stray bits of wax.
7) You might have to replace the jar before you use all the wax.  It gets a little messy after each use, and eventually you might find it easier to just start over with fresh clean wax.
8) Clean up is easier on bathroom surfaces like tile than wood.  If you drip or spill, it comes right off of tile. Wood is a bit more work, but even then it's not hard.  You can always put a baggy with ice on the area that needs cleaning if it doesn't want to come off, and then gently scrape it off with a silicon spatula.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The 5 Worst Places I've Lost My Contact Lenses

   I have a tendency to lose my contact lenses.  It has become a running joke in our family.  No location or circumstance is safe from this happening.  It's always stressful to lose a contact lens, but most of the time I've been pretty lucky to be able to find the lens in the end.

   Usually my contact lens comes out as a result of being hit in the eye:  like, one of my little girls flings their arm out and my face gets in the way, or I inadvertently do it to myself, like the time I was putting on my sunglasses and my aim was off (the "arm" of the sunglass poked me in the eye).  My eyes tend to be a bit dry- maybe that's also a contributing factor??

  At any rate...

 The 5 worst places I've lost a contact lens:

  5.  In the bathroom sink drain.  This search involved using a big wrench to dismantle the P trap.

  4.  In my car.  This was an eye-opener for how much the car needed vacuuming.

  3.  In my hair.  ...Seriously? 

  2.  At the Children's Museum.  Time challenge, kids:  Find the lens before it gets crushed!

 1.  On the Peter Pan ride in Disneyland.  All the times I had lost my contact lens before were just a warm up for this moment.  For those who aren't familiar with it, The Peter Pan ride is one of the darkest and shortest rides in the Park. When I finally found the contact lens perched on my shirt just as we were approaching the exit, it was truly the Happiest Place on Earth!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Merci Maman Personalized Bracelet

  I have had this bracelet from Merci Maman for a few years.  It was a present from my brother-in-law.  My children's and my husband's names are engraved on sterling silver heart charms on a satin cord.  The way the bracelet is made you can adjust the fit of the bracelet, which I really like. 
  Recently I thought it would be nice to add one more heart charm with my youngest son's name since he wasn't born yet when I got the bracelet!  I went to the Merci Maman website and ordered the new charm-  I also decided to change the cord from pink satin (which got dirty looking over time) to a black waxed cotton cord.  Then I printed out my order and mailed my bracelet off to the Merci Maman office in the UK. 
  I was impressed by how quickly it came back- it was about 2 weeks from when I mailed it to when it came back in the mail.  It came with a nice little paper box and a printed insert showcasing the fact that the Duchess of Cambridge also wears their jewelry, specifically a charm necklace called the Duchess.
  Merci Maman a really cute brand- lots of great ideas for personalized gifts for anyone, including moms, dads, kids and grandparents.  I can never think what to get for my mom or my husband, but I think I might have a good idea after perusing the website... 

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Great Parenting Quote

Ralph Waldo Emerson might not have had parenting in mind when he wrote these words, but I think they are rather fitting, especially if you add "with your children" at the end of the bolded lines. 

Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt, crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Antipasti School Lunch

  Today I went with an antipasti theme for the girls' lunches.  The lunches include: salami, a mozzarella cheese stick, yellow cherry tomatoes, carrots, green olives and crackers.  There are also artichoke hearts, which I set out on some paper towels first to let them drain off some of the marinade from the jar.
  I have been feeling a little burned out on lunch making the last week or so, and when that happens I find that deciding on a theme helps me feel motivated to put together something decent! 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Parisienne French by Rhianna Jones

  Parisienne French by Rhianna Jones is such a cute little book.  The way it is structured lets the information flows well from start to finish, but at the same time you can skip around and still learn something.  From this book, you gain pointers on Paris and you learn more about the words and phrases French-speaking people really use.   
  Language programs and text books can give you the proper foundation to speak a language. Yet in my experience, a language doesn't really come alive until you can start to recognize the way it is used by the people who speak it every day.  I really like the way this author helps the reader to "connect the dots" by sketching different scenarios for social interaction and the corresponding vocab for the conversations you might end up having in those scenarios.
  It can be intimidating to try out your language skills on another person, but I felt like learning some slang and humor from this book gave me some confidence to try out my new words on my husband, who is French.  We had a good conversation and he tells me that the Parisienne French is really accurate.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mr. Peabody and Sherman Review

"Confusing....in a good way.  I mean, there were three presidents!"

When I asked my 10 year old her opinion of the new Mr. Peabody and Sherman movie, that was her assessment.  She like how the movie mixed up history through jokes and time travel.  

Mr. Peabody is a funny, smart dog who cares for his son, Sherman.  Sherman goes to a new school and finds that having a dog for an adoptive father makes him a target for bullying.  His bully ends up hurt and Mr. Sherman invites the parents and their bully daughter over for a gourmet dinner to diffuse the situation so that Sherman won't be taken away from him.  Sherman ends up showing off with the time-travelingWay Back machine, and the adventure begins!

Monday, February 24, 2014

My 3 Top-Rated Skinny Jeans

  Of all the styles and cuts of jeans available, my favorite style has to be skinny jeans.  They are super convenient to wear with boots since they aren't bulky at the bottom and you don't have to get them tailored to the right length like you would with most boot-cut jeans.
  The most useful tip I can offer about jeans is to buy jeans that are described as having a "mid-rise" cut. 
  It's a happy medium between "low-rise" cut which can give you that overstuffed look around the waist, and mom jeans which sit at your belly button and can be unflattering on your butt.   
  The brands of skinny that I have and are recommending are all "premium" denim, but I since I bought them all on clearance they actually cost an average of $60 each:  If you go to someplace like the Nordstrom Rack, or online to 6pm.com you can usually find a good deal on denim.
  1.  Paige Denim "Skyline"
  These are fitted without being skintight and come in many shades of blue and more.   They are my favorites!
  2.  7 for All Mankind
  These are made from a nice stretchy denim that isn't overly tight, but they do hold their shape when you wear them and don't get baggy at the knees.
3. J. Brand "Grayson"
  For some variety you could try these because with the cargo pockets on the side, flap pockets on the back and the zips on the front are fun without straying too far from the skinny jean silhouette.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

$2 Dollar Bills & Disneyland

  We give our kids an allowance each week.  Lately, the girls are getting interested in who is on each bill and coin in American currency.  Mr. Mother of Style thought it would be fun to give each child a $2 bill as a bonus for President's Day.  It was a well-received surprise!

  Later that evening the 7 year old came to us, very excited.  She had an Idea.  "Do you think we could take this to Disneyland, and when I showed it to them, they would let us in because it's so rare and unique??"

  That's a 7 year old for you, isn't it?

  I thought it was nice that she can dream something that sweet about her $2 bill.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Boppy Travel Pillow Review

   One of the most used baby-related items in my house is a breastfeeding pillow. I use it, my baby sits up against it, and even my 7 year old likes to snuggle up with it and read.
  Last summer we went on a trip to France.  I reached out to Boppy to ask them if I could try out their Boppy travel pillow for our trip.  I was interested in it because I thought it might be nicer to use a product that is made with travel in mind versus adapting my original style Boppy for the trip.  In the past I have always put my pillow into a tote bag to carry around, but it's kind of big for taking on a plane.  Thank you Boppy!
  Here's how the pillow looks all zipped up for carrying around:
On the outside there is a little zippered pouch that runs the length of the pillow which you can put small items in, such as breast pads:

To use the pillow, you un-Velcro the side and unzip the carrying strap:

  Here's the pillow ready to go.  The pillow is a little less dense and firm feeling than the original full-sized Boppy, which makes sense considering that it has to be able to fold in half:

A comparison of the travel Boppy and the original Boppy: 


  On the plane, the travel Boppy was a perfect fit with my seat.  Walking through the airport I was able to give it to one of my daughters to carry for me.  It was a pleasure to use and I was happy to have it throughout our trip: on the plane, in the travel lounge at the airport and around the hotel room.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Lego Movie Reviewed by My 7 Year Old.

The LEGO Movie



  Emmett is doing his best to fit in to the world.  He does what everyone else does and thinks life is great: he is part of a team.  Then one day after work he sees a beautiful stranger, falls through a hole and wakes up with a big red thing called the Piece of Resistance stuck to his back.  He finds out that he is the mythic (mini) figure who is prophesized to save the world from destruction.  He is "the Special."  But what is so special about him when even his own coworkers can't remember who he is?


  I think the Lego Movie is good for adults and children.  It's VERY funny.  There's lots of good jokes that make you laugh out loud! When I saw it, I laughed so hard. The message of the movie is that you can be special in your own way.  I want to see it again.  And again.  And again.


  Check out the fun movie website with games and videos.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chateau Fontainebleu With the Kids And Some Yellow Jackets

This summer we went to visit the Chateau of Fontainebleau.  It was beautiful and full of history,  yet an encounter with some yellow jackets is most of what made this visit so memorable.
 This is one of the oldest royal chateaux in France.  It was lived in by rulers ranging from Francois the First in the 16th century to Napoleon III in the 19th century.  This is where Napoleon I signed his abdication before leaving for exile on the island of Elba. 
  I was really excited for this part of the trip because I love the history of France.  I love seeing the rooms all arranged and decorated with historically accurate detail - not to mention sometimes the actual belongings of these people I've read about. 
  The famous horseshoe staircase:
   Inside, the chateau is divided into subject-specific mini-museums, like the Chinese Museum featuring the collection of Empress Eugenie (circa 1863).  I wouldn't want to be in charge of the dusting here:

This room was set up to mimic war campaign life for Napoleon I.  This is what his camp tent would look like: 

 This next room is devoted to Napoleon I's son, known from birth as the King of Rome, and later as the Duke of Reichstadt.  When Napoleon abdicated, he had designated this boy as his successor, but this designation was rejected by the forces that had brought about Napoleon's abdication.  So, technically the son can be referred to as Napoleon II because of the 1 week (when he was 3) before the new head of state of the French Empire was established.  This is why years later Napoleon I's nephew became Napoleon III when he become the ruler of France in the mid 1850s.
  This area was dedicated to Napoleon's son's babyhood.  On the walls are paintings of him.  Check out that baby bed:

Gallery of Francois I.  This part of the Chateau was really bright and warm:

The beautiful ceiling:
 Cute little door knob:

 One of many courtyards at Fontainebleau:

 Back inside, the Salon des Cerfs:

 Marie-Antoinette's bedroom.  You can see how the chairs and stools are set up for conversation time.  Behind the stools would be more people standing because they just didn't have the right to sit down in the royal presence:

 Marie-Antoinette's boudoir: 

This gorgeous room was created just three years before the French Revolution.  Marie-Antoinette didn't get to enjoy it for long, but the ladies who came after her, like Josephine (Napoleon's first wife), Empress Marie Louise (Napoleon's second wife), and Empress Eugenie all used it.  It's pretty remarkable that it wasn't at all damaged in the wild times after the French Revolution before order was restored like other places were. Pictures don't do this room justice.  It's spectacular and on its own is worth the visit to Fontainebleau.
  And now,  the part of the visit starring the yellow jackets. 
  Fun fact: in French yellow jackets are called "guepe," which is pronounced like "Gayp." 

  So, we spend the morning walking around Fontainebleau.  We decide it's time for lunch and we exit the Chateau grounds into town.  First we sit at a café right outside this exit, but after about 20 minutes of waiting to get just drinks, let alone ordering lunch, we decide to cut our losses and find a new restaurant.  We said, "Thanks (for nothing), but we have to go," and since no order had ever been taken, there was no problem.
  We walked another block and found a place that had enough room for the 6 of us- that was probably our biggest challenge in France:  finding a place to eat that had a table for our party of 6.
  Cute place, food looked decent: we order and wait.  Drinks came, yellow jackets came.  We tried to look brave (and not move) as one yellow jacket investigated our table.  It leaves, and our food comes.  We start to eat, and what shows up but two more yellow jackets! 
 The girls were really freaking out at this point, and I can't say that inside I didn't feel the same.  As Mom, however, I had to pretend I wasn't just as panicked.  What else could I do?
   With feigned calmness I told them, "Eat fast!  The only way to get away from the guepes is to be done eating so we can leave!"
  Controlled panic prevailed at this point: we ate like animals, paid our bill and then ran away.
  We returned to the Chateau to walk the grounds, and observed that the Chateau is in a state of partial disrepair.  This blocked off area below appeared empty inside with broken windows and weeds everywhere.  It takes a lot of money to maintain these places, and it's not possible to tend to everything:

 The garden areas of Fontainebleau are pretty small and basic compared to someplace like the Chateau of Versailles:
 Fontainebleau was always known as a place for hunting, and there is still a pretty big forest around the area.  Here we are at the end of the gardens of the Chateau, looking over a road and then on to the forest:

Looking back at the Chateau: 

 In the other direction there is a small body of water next to the chateau filled with fish.  It looked like you could also rent a little row boat to go out onto the water.

The highlight for the kids was when we went on a carriage ride through part of the forest courtesy of these pretty horses:
This was the kitchen pond where live fish was kept fresh and handy for the cook:

  One of the paths through the forest.  There were people on horses, people walking in pairs and mothers pushing their babies in strollers:
After this we went and had hot chocolate at the Chateau's café and headed back to Paris. It was a nice day.