Global Winter Wonderland Review – Holiday Show in San Diego

Have you heard of the Global Winter Wonderland? This limited-time holiday event is new to San Diego this year. The slick website shows all the activities that occur during a night at Global Winter Wonderland – Incredible, colorful and enormous lanterns representing landmarks from around the world. Performances by the talented Circus of Light. A full carnival with rides for a variety of ages. International cuisine. And don’t forget about visiting with Santa in his village! Just looking at the photographs of the event that has taken place in other cities is enough to give me goosebumps! Did the event live up to the hype? Find out in my honest review.

My family and I were hosted for a special media night event. No other compensation has been offered and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Lanterns Celebrating Holidays Around the World

Almost 100 artisans are in San Diego to design and sew by hand the lantern displays. This event features the largest display of traditional Chinese lanterns outside of China. And they are really quite beautiful. Many of the large lanterns have walkways to allow guests passage right through.

Global Winter Wonderland Review on this new Holiday Show in San Diego

I have no idea when they started constructing the lanterns for this event but the process seems painstakingly slow. Everything from the handcrafted frames, application of the silk to the hand-painting is a long process. On the night of our visit (2 nights before the grand opening), they weren’t finished. About 60% of the displays were lit for media to see. Some lanterns were completed like the luminescent Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.

Global Winter Wonderland Review on this new Holiday Show in San Diego

The Eiffel Tower structure was built but didn’t have the fabric yet. And some of the displays were still laying on the ground, awaiting assembly. During the two hours of the event, workers stayed busy (even roto-hammering into the concrete just feet from us). I’m sure that with the opening on Nov 19th they were frantic to complete but it was still odd to have them seemingly so far from completion.

Circus of Light

Showing several times during each night, this group of talented performers includes acrobats, contortionists and fire dancers from Africa, China and Europe. The show is touted as hosting Cirque du Soleil-level performances. We were treated to a brief show on a smaller stage (the large scale stage that will host the show wasn’t completed yet). The acrobats were fun and enthusiastic and we enjoyed the part of the show that we saw. I’m not sure I’d go as far as to say Cirque du Soleil-level (at least on what we witnessed) but it was enjoyable.

Global Winter Wonderland Review on this new Holiday Show in San Diego

International Foods

On the night of our visit we were able to sample a few of the foods that will be available during the event, including teriyaki chicken skewers, corn with all the fixings and cheeseburger sliders. There were also food trucks offering more well-rounded platters with veggies and sides. I wouldn’t necessarily call the foods “international cuisine”, but more like the usual fair food offerings. You’ll find the standards too (cotton candy, kettle corn, hot dogs). I’d suggest eating dinner ahead of time and then possibly indulge with dessert or a snack during the event.

Global Winter Wonderland Review on this new Holiday Show in San Diego

Rides & Games

For most kids, the brightly lit carnival rides are the highlight of this event. These are the typical attractions you’d find at any fair or carnival (The Zipper, Ferris wheel, Super Slide, carousel). There are 35 carnival rides, ranging from 3-5 tickets. At $1.25 per ticket, this is guaranteed to be a spendy part of the visit. With thrill rides costing $6.25 per person to ride, this is certainly something to budget for when planning your evening.

Visiting Global Winter Wonderland

SDCCU Stadium (formerly Qualcomm)

Open select nights from November 19th, 2017 to January 7th, 2018

  • Admission $22
  • Children & Seniors $19
  • There is also a season pass available for Adults at $49 and children/seniors at $44
  • Carnival Ride tickets $1.25 (each ride takes 3-5 tickets)  The website mentions an unlimited ride wristband but there is no place to purchase on the site so I’m not sure of the cost.
  • Parking fee is $10 per car, cash only
  • Discount tickets can be purchase ahead of time at Walgreens & through Groupon
  • You may bring in a stroller (there are no stroller rentals)
  • No outside food

Global Winter Wonderland Review on this new Holiday Show in San Diego

Global Winter Wonderland Review

This event is guaranteed to draw lots of crowds. The event is bright and colorful and looks fantastic in photographs and on the website. For my family, we found the event to be a bit of a let-down. Perhaps it’s because we attended the media event and many of the attractions were not yet completed. The construction around us was definitely a distraction (my electrician husband was particularly upset at seeing open and unattended electrical panels where there were children walking around). I’m hoping that all those issues get squared away before the event opens to the general public.

Go in knowing that while the lanterns are unique and creative, the cost of admission alone for viewing the lanterns and the Circus of Light show is quite high. Everything else from food to rides will cost you a considerable amount on top of the admission.

The Day I Gave Up Caring What My Kids Looked Like

Since day one with my eldest boy, I’ve cared about appearance. If he spit up on his onesie, it didn’t matter if there was nobody else home – I’d change his clothes. I didn’t spend a fortune on outfits or anything, but I always wanted him to look cute. Fortunately he’d wear whatever I bought for him and enjoyed being stylish. He rocked newsboy caps and coordinating Chuck Taylors. He had style and I loved showing him off.

Then my second son came and it was more of the same. Precious coordinating outfits down to the matching underwear and socks. Such a cutie-pie and a personality to match. I loved getting compliments on my boys, especially when they wore matching outfits. Weren’t they adorable?!

Ahhh, coordinating outfits! This makes my Type-A heart sing 🙂

I also have a stepdaughter. Up until about 2 years ago, I chose her outfits for her, buying the cutest things with coordinating accessories. Each morning without fail I’d do up her hair in elaborate styles with braids and bows. I loved seeing her dolled up and hearing the compliments on how pretty she looked.

Enter my baby daughter. She’s currently 19 months old and I’ve been so fortunate to receive a plethora of cuter-then-cute hand-me-downs. She loves to dress up too. After I’ve gotten her dressed in the morning and fixed her hair up into a bow, she checks herself out in the mirror and squeals with delight! She never pulls her bows out, not since she was a tiny baby. Naturally I absolutely adore dressing her up in sweet outfits and hearing all the buzz from passersby about how adorable she is.

I mean, come on…this outfit and that pose!! She’s a natural!

Letting Them Pick

Okay, so my eldest is now almost 14. My stepdaughter is 13. And my middle son is about to turn 6. Of course, though I’m still in charge of purchasing their clothes I’m beyond the point of being able to pick and choose their daily outfits (maybe Christmas outfits, being the exception!) These three big kids choose what they’re going to wear. And that’s both a good and bad thing. And I had the HARDEST time letting it go.

I started getting push back from my eldest, wanting to wear only basketball shorts and everything in black. He’s since added in more color to his wardrobe, but it’s still all pretty much basketball clothes. And the shirt that he wore on his kindergarten t-ball team? He only stopped wearing it last year – people, he was 12!! He has finally passed it down to his little brother (despite that it has older brother’s name silk screened on the back)..

Stepdaughter started asking if she could choose her own outfits and I obliged. At first it was cringe-worthy, the patterns and styles that came out of the bedroom in the morning. I sent her back to her room a lot to swap out either the top or the pants, because I just couldn’t let her walk out of the house wearing an orange striped shirt with red jeans, could I? I still did up her hair for a while though, until she took that over too, not wanting braids or bows any longer. Hair is usually pulled back sloppily into a regular ponytail.

Second son is probably the most eclectic of all. He’s incredibly creative and at 4, started resisting to the outfits I’d chosen. He now regularly walks out for the day wearing sweatpants, a tank top and knee socks pulled over the hem of the pants.

The Day I Gave Up Caring

I was going through a drawer filled with pictures at my mom’s house. The kids and I were giggling over the old photos, in particular the ones with the 1980s version of mommy. I was rockin’ copious amounts of blue eye shadow behind my enormous pink glasses. Permed hair with wild bangs that I never could get ratted up quite right. And the outfits. What’s funny is I know that I dressed even more wildly, there is just no photographic evidence. My wise mother didn’t capture those over-the-top moments when I was wearing four ponytails, layered socks and two skirts (yes, I remember layering a short skirt over a long one!) I certainly did dress funky, even though my excuse is that it was the 80s. Each outfit was my own personal style.

Not terrible but I am wearing a white sailor hat (why?!)

And then it hit me – I was stifling my kids from having their own personal style.

In not letting my kids wear what was their personal style, I was really putting a damper on letting them grow and develop into the unique person that God wants them to be.

I’d asked my mom about those wild outfits years ago, cringing at a particular photo of me with both blue eye shadow AND blue mascara. She told me that she’d always admired my fashion gusto as a child. She wanted to foster my creativity. And that if I wanted to wear three ponytails on my head or a half dozen hair clips, she’d let me. She said her only suggestion was that I not mix plaids, even if my kindergarten reasoning was that they had the same colors.

Letting Them Grow By Letting It Go

And so I stopped making suggestions on what my kids should or shouldn’t wear. I started turning a blind eye (literally) to what I was seeing them wear at the breakfast table. I changed my commentary to say things like, “That’s a cute top on you” or “What a colorful outfit today!” The self-confidence is rising.

If I don’t want my kids to wear a particular item anymore, I unceremoniously remove it from their closet and put it in the donation bin. If it’s not in the closet, they can’t wear it anymore.

People aren’t complimenting my eldest three on their clothes anymore. People just don’t say anything about their appearance. Nobody really cares that the oldest boy is wearing basketball shorts again. Or that stepdaughter has her hair in a sloppy ponytail. Or that little son is wearing neon green socks with orange sandals. I no longer think that it reflects poorly on me if my kids aren’t dressed to the nines.

But what I do hear goes deeper than that. I’m hearing how well behaved they are. How generous and how kind. What good friends they are. That’s what’s really important, right? Not that they’re wearing something mismatched.

You may see me out and about with the kids, or maybe you see a photo of them online. One of the kids is wearing a clip-on tie with their t-shirt, one is wearing a Christmas themed shirt in July and the other has spiked his hair with too much gel. Just smile and nod. And know that I’m dying inside to correct them. But that I’m choosing to let them grow by letting it go.

Personal Trainer Food Review- Resisting Temptations (Week 3)

At the beginning of week three, I was really starting to notice a change in my figure. And by the middle of week three, other people were starting to notice as well. I had a few friends comment that whatever I was doing, was working! And my husband said he could really tell a difference in my back and stomach. On the 17th day following the Personal Trainer Food program, my jeans were so loose I could slide them off without unbuttoning! Exciting changes and I’m THRILLED! I’ve felt so stuck in my weight loss for years, that I feel so happy to have finally found something that is working for me.

If you’re following along with my Personal Trainer Food Review posts, here are the previous posts in the series.

I received a complimentary box from Personal Trainer Food that included 28-days worth of meals and three butter sauces. All thoughts and opinions about this product are my own. Your results on the program may vary. No additional compensation has been provided.

Eating Out on the Plan

My husband and I don’t eat out very often but I was glad to read that the Personal Trainer Food program does allow you to eat out and still stay within the weight loss guidelines. By subbing pasta, bread, potatoes, chips and rice for a salad and approved veggies, I can still enjoy a meal out without cheating!

On Saturday I went to a party and I didn’t know ahead of time what food would be served. I already knew that I would be avoiding alcohol (a no-no on the program). And that I would modify whatever meal was offered to stay on program. Fortunately street tacos were served, which was great! I requested no tortillas, so I ate my meat, salsa and guacamole right off the plate. I skipped the chips, avoided the cookies and drank diet soda instead of wine. Best part: I wore a long-abandoned pair of jeans that night – a pair of jeans I thought I’d never fit into again!

21 days on Personal Trainer Food program. Find out the food, plan and how much I lost after week 3! #spon #PersonalTrainerFood

An Apple a Day

The only fruit on the weight loss guidelines chart is apple. I am “allowed” one apple per day while in weight loss mode. Some days I save my apple for after dinner. Other days I need the sweet snack on the afternoon. I usually eat my apple with some cheddar cheese and a few nuts. One day I chopped it up, sprinkled with zero calorie sweetener and cinnamon and microwaved it so it was soft and warm.

In the first week, I LIVED for that apple. I looked forward to it, since it was the only sweet thing I was eating. I can honestly say that in week three, there are some days I forget to eat the apple! Maybe my taste buds are changing a little? Or I’m just not hungry!

Sprinkle and Drizzle Flavor

Personal Trainer Food sent me bottles of their butter sauces. I’ve gotten accustomed over the years to eating my steamed veggies without butter or salt, so drizzling these yummy butter sauces is GREAT! Salad dressings, hot sauce and salsa are okay to add, so long as they have less than 2g of sugar per serving. Just don’t pick “low-fat” or “reduced calorie”.

21 days on Personal Trainer Food program. Find out the food, plan and how much I lost after week 3! #spon #PersonalTrainerFood

Bacon on everything!! Yes, really. I added cheese and bacon to my Personal Trainer Food veggie burger as well as on my green beans.

Tempted to Cheat

Have I been tempted to cheat while on the program? Oh yes! But after reading that even a bite of a non-recommended food can set me back 2-4 days in my weight loss, I have NOT indulged on anything off program! If I’m going to do the program, I want to be 100% committed to making it work so I can see the true results.

Here is my thought on this – there are going to be “special days”. Days when I’m going to want to eat off-program and indulge in bread or dessert. There’s going to be a day when I want pizza! But those “special days” cannot be everyday. And it’s just way too easy to make that pattern become a habit.

Every day doesn’t require doughnuts for breakfast, nachos for lunch and burgers with fries for dinner. Every day doesn’t require that I eat simple carbs. I’ve proven I can do without them while sticking to this program. And sorry, but every day doesn’t deserve dessert! As someone who has always had a crazy sweet tooth, I can’t believe I’m admitting that. But it’s true. I don’t need dessert. I’ve gotten by fine without it. And I’m finally losing the weight.

21 days on Personal Trainer Food program. Find out the food, plan and how much I lost after week 3! #spon #PersonalTrainerFood

Orange chicken and veggies

Planning a “Cheat Day”

I started on the Personal Trainer Food program on October 23rd, exactly one month prior to Thanksgiving Day. I knew going in that I would want to relax on the program a bit for that one single day. I’d like to enjoy the meal, maybe have a roll, a glass of wine and a piece of pie. I reached out via email to a Personal Trainer Food coach to ask how a cheat day would affect me.

The coaches highly encourage you NOT to cheat (not even a bite) while in the weight loss mode. It’s a slippery slope! And once you indulge one day, it’s going to be that much harder to get back on the wagon.

With that said, she said that if I do indulge for one day, that they recommend a 24-48 hour liquid fast before starting back on the program again. This will cleanse you of carbs and sugar and get your body back on track for weight loss.

21 days on Personal Trainer Food program. Find out the food, plan and how much I lost after week 3! #spon #PersonalTrainerFood

Fajita steak and veggies – I added the extra cheese!

Personal Trainer Food Review – WEEK THREE

Cravings & Habits

Cravings have definitely subsided this week. I went to my mom’s group this week and there were doughnuts, croissants, bagels and berries. I spied apple slices, broccoli, raw carrots and almonds and helped myself generously!

Feelings & Mood

I’ve been really energetic and feeling great. Each day I wake up without grogginess, despite the fact that my 19-month old daughter still wakes up several times a night!

I do still get a little grumpy when I choose to forgo some of my favorite foods that are not on the program. This weekend my family ate cornbread at dinner and I really did want to try a piece. But I have my goal in mind so I’m sticking to my promise (even though it does make me a little moody).

Body Changes

I swear, I’m shrinking overnight. I wake in the morning and put my hands on my hips, feeling so much smaller each day. Pants are looser. Shirts are bigger. I pulled out my winter wardrobe and several pairs of pants that I hadn’t been able to wear for years finally fit again!

I also noticed that the dark circles under my eyes are gone. The chronic pain I’ve been having in my back for the last 2 years is amazingly so much better. Are those the result in the lack of carbs and sugar in my diet or the actual weight loss? Not sure but I like the results!

Final Results for WEEK THREE:

Weight lost – 1.5 lb this week / TOTAL weight lost – 7.5 lbs in three weeks

Inches lost – after three weeks on the Personal Trainer Food program I have lost 1/4″ total off my arms, 2.25″ off my thighs, 1″ off my chest, 1.5″ off my waist, and 1.5″ off my hips. A total of 6.5″ total lost in three weeks.

Considering the Personal Trainer Food program?

Personal Trainer Food website

Holiday Shopping Guide: Disney Gifts for Toddlers

That first holiday when your child is old enough to enjoy the season is just the best! They can enjoy the holiday meal. They love looking at lights in the neighborhood. And of course, they’re old enough to open gifts now too! I can’t wait for my toddler daughter to see the Christmas tree this year. But I have a feeling we won’t be setting any presents out under the tree, for fear she’ll open them all before the actual holiday! Holiday shopping for toddlers is already so much fun. And of course adding a pixie dust sprinkling of Disney in with the presents is so magical. Here is the shopping guide with my suggestions of Disney gifts for toddlers!

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Disney gifts for toddlers including stocking stuffers, toys, bath and meal time fun and favorite books and movies!

Disney Toys for Toddlers

Number one on the lists of all little boys and girls – TOYS! These adorable Disney-themed toys for toddlers include Little People and LEGO Duplo blocks.

Fisher-Price Little People

LEGO Duplo Disney blocks are adorable and really feed a toddler’s imagination!


Adorable Outfits and Clothes

Toddlers love to wear comfy clothes that also feature their favorite characters! These machine-washable outfits are great for a day at Disney…or any day!

 

Disney Books, Music and Movies

What’s better on a chilly day than snuggling up to read, watch favorite movies or listen to songs together with your toddler? These are all perfect for little ones and make great Disney gifts for toddlers. These DVDs are family favorites!


Disney Dollies

Toddlers love to emulate mama and that means having a baby to care for of their very own. Each of my kids had their own special Disney-themed stuffy or doll (even me – my lovie was Winnie the Pooh!)

 

Outdoor Play

Toddlers love to explore the great outdoors. These outdoor play items with a Disney twist will keep them active outside.

           

 

Disney Dining

A favorite character featured at meal time makes lima beans look more appealing! Okay, maybe not, but toddlers love to see Disney characters on their cups, plates, bibs and placemats.



Toddler Games

These games are fine for little ones to play on their own, but everything is more fun with family! Include these fun games on your next family game night to include your toddler as well.

  


Dressing Up Disney

Kids of all ages love to play dress-up! Toddlers too, so keep their dress-up box full and fill their imaginations!

 


Disney Travel Gear

Hitting the road? Even if you’re not headed to the Disney Parks, you can pack your toddler’s favorite characters on everything from pint-sized backpacks, lunch boxes and sunglasses.


Bath Time

I have a hard time dragging my toddler out of the tub, she loves it! But if your toddler has a bath time aversion, perhaps these fun toys and products would help encourage some clean up?

“it’s a small world” Bathtub Boat


Bed Time

What better place to read a bed time story than from your very own toddler sized Cars chair? And how sweet to cuddle up in your toddler-sized blanket set with a favorite Disney character!

Stocking Stuffers

My toddler loves seeing her favorite characters in unexpected places like on her toothbrush! Stuff their stockings with these Disney gifts for toddlers, like toothpaste, Band-Aids, slippers and undies (perfect for those toddlers who are gearing up for potty training!)



For more Holiday gift ideas,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


 

Personal Trainer Food Review- You Won’t Go Hungry (Week 2)

After a successful week one on the Personal Trainer Food program, I was confident going into week two. Week two definitely had a few bumps in the road, but nothing I couldn’t navigate. There were some mighty temptations in the way of Halloween candy and treats! There were times this week when I found myself wanting to eat something, anything. I really checked in with my body to fill that need in a healthy way. I love that on this program, I do not have to count calories. If I’m hungry, I can eat as much salad, meat or as many veggies as I want! That in itself, feels indulgent and not “diet deprived” at all.

If you’re following along with my Personal Trainer Food Review posts, here are the previous posts in the series.

Personal Trainer Food Review – I’m Ready to Make Healthy Changes!

Personal Trainer Food Review – Starting a Healthy Meal Plan (Week 1)

I received a complimentary box from Personal Trainer Food that included 28-days worth of meals and three butter sauces. All thoughts and opinions about this product are my own. Your results on the program may vary. No additional compensation has been provided.

No Calorie Counting!

Certain foods are unlimited on the Personal Trainer Food program. That means if you’re hungry, you don’t have to count any calories – You can just eat! Any kind of meat (including beef, chicken, pork or seafood) are unlimited. Eggs are unlimited. And you can eat as many leafy greens as you want. Non-starchy veggies like tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage and avocados are unlimited too. And because everything tastes better with butter, this is unlimited as well.

I have loved that in addition to the frozen Personal Trainer Food I was provided, I’m still able to add from these unlimited foods to satisfy my hunger. I’ve been adding salsa to my eggs in the morning, a salad at lunch and extra veggies for dinner when I’m extra hungry.

14 days on Personal Trainer Food program. Find out the food, plan and how much I lost after week 2! #spon #PersonalTrainerFood

I dipped my chicken strips in blue cheese dressing, yum!

Add Your Own Toppings

While you can certainly just heat the Personal Trainer Food and eat it as is, the “fun” is in adding things that add to the flavor. So long as the food meets the guidelines and doesn’t contain more than 2g of sugar, you can add salad dressing, salsa, tomato sauce and cheese to your foods. Sprinkle sunflower seeds on a salad and top with extra approved veggies like bell peppers or tomatoes. Chop up your chicken and add it to a bed of greens with crumbled parmesan crisps for crunch. Herbs and spices are also great way to season foods to your liking.

20 Minutes of Walking Each Day

I took the first week off from exercise so I could see how the change in my diet would treat me. I was totally fine, no side effects or headache at all. So on Monday morning of last week, I got back to the gym. Personal Trainer Food recommends 20+ minutes of brisk walking each day. I already do a walk each night with my daughter in her stroller so I’m adding yoga and weight lifting two other days during the week.

14 days on Personal Trainer Food program. Find out the food, plan and how much I lost after week 2! #spon #PersonalTrainerFood

Boneless beef ribs with green beans (and a healthy sprinkling of Pecorino Romano cheese!)

Personal Trainer Food Review – WEEK TWO

Cravings & Habits

Halloween day was HARD, I won’t lie. Walking around while my kids collected candy and I couldn’t eat any, was HARD. Normally I would have eaten about 20 pieces during trick-or-treat time. And I would have eaten about 20 pieces the next day. And the day after that.

But I didn’t eat ANY! I was tempted for sure (and by the chocolate cake that my kids won at the Halloween carnival cake walk!) But I kept reminding myself that indulging would set me back several days on my weight loss. So I didn’t cheat. However I did set aside a few of my favorite pieces for a day I have planned a diet break!

Feelings & Mood

I was a little grumpy the day after Halloween, knowing that some of my favorite chocolates were in the garage and I couldn’t eat any of them! But then I told myself that I could eat them, if I really wanted to. However I was choosing for my good health NOT to eat them, that I was making the choice. This made a big difference in my mood.

Body Changes

On Sunday (14 days into the Personal Trainer Program) I pulled out a pair of jeans that I haven’t worn in 3 years. And they fit. I’d could definitely tell that my stomach is flatter and my thighs and hips are trimmer. These jeans are the smallest pair of pants I own and are a full size smaller than what I have been wearing.

So, in two weeks on the program, I’ve lost one size!

14 days on Personal Trainer Food program. Find out the food, plan and how much I lost after week 2! #spon #PersonalTrainerFood

Photo taken on Sun Nov 5th, 14 days on Personal Trainer Food program.

Final Results for WEEK TWO:

Weight lost – 2 lbs lost in week two – TOTAL weight lost: 6 lbs

Inches lost – after two weeks on the Personal Trainer Food program I have lost 1/4″ total off my arms, 1.5″ off my thighs, 1″ off my chest, 1″ off my waist, and 1″ off my hips. A total of 4.75″ total lost in two weeks.

Considering the Personal Trainer Food program?

Sign up on the Personal Trainer Food website and receive discount codes sent via email.

14 days without sugar, bread and limited carbs. Find out the food, plan and how much I lost after week 2! #spon #PersonalTrainerFood

Sounds Like Fun at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, San Diego

Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad

The Museum of Making Music is exactly what it sounds like! It’s a place to learn about instruments. To listen to music. It’s a place to learn about the history of music. And while learning about and hearing music is great, playing it yourself is even better! Fortunately everyone has a chance to get their hands on musical instruments inside the Museum of Making Music, as well.

Hands-on family learning at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, San Diego

Museum Galleries

Guests at the Museum of Making Music are encouraged to move at their own pace through the galleries. There are interactive buttons where you can hear music played. A good amount of history and background is included in each exhibit area. And of course lots of instruments to look at.

I enjoyed the music store gallery. There were so many instruments I’d never seen before inside the Museum of Making Music, including a harmonica that had scrolls similar to a player piano.

Hands-on family learning at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, San Diego

Actress Joan Crawford promoted the “player harmonica” (which was a flop!)

Hands On Learning

My five year old was so excited to play the tester instruments that are located throughout the museum. He had the opportunity to play a mandolin, electric guitar, gong, slide guitar and a harp guitar. I’d never heard or even seen a harp guitar in my life, but there is an entire special exhibition at the Museum called, “Floating Strings”, dedicated to the harp guitar.

Hands-on family learning at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, San Diego

A beautiful collection of harp guitars (you can play one too!)

Leave plenty of time at the end of your visit. There is a large area with dozens of available instruments for free play. You can see a few of the instruments my son was able to play on this video. My son REALLY wants his own drum set now!

Visiting the Museum of Making Music

The Museum of Making Music

5790 Armada Drive, Carlsbad, CA

Admission $10

Students $7

Under three are free

  • Located just a block away from the theme park LEGOLAND California, in Carlsbad (about 35 miles north of downtown San Diego).
  • Be aware the mid-day visits may include children from school field trips. Our tour guide recommended visiting the Museum in late August or September, when many schools do not visit.
  • There are concerts held at the Museum, check the event tab on their website.
  • The museum opens each day from 10 am to 5 pm (except Monday, when it’s closed).
  • Plan to spend at least one hour exploring this unique museum.
  • There is a gift shop to purchase your own music makers.
  • Strollers are allowed (thank goodness, because my baby napped through the entire visit!)
  • I’d recommend the Museum of Making Music for school-aged children and up.

Hands-on family learning at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, San Diego

Cultivating Family Holiday Traditions When You Feel Like You Don’t Have Any

My husband and I have been married for almost 7 years. Our anniversary is at the end of the month, followed up three days later by Thanksgiving and then our son’s sixth birthday two days after that. Exactly two weeks later my eldest son turns 14 and two weeks after that is Christmas Day. And then New Years the week after, of course. That’s a lot of events crammed into a short amount of time. Do we have anything special planned for them? Nope. Do we have anything planned at all? Uh…no.

Creating Family Holiday Traditions

You know how some families have these great traditions that happen each year on special events? I love hearing about these family traditions! Like a special birthday plate that has been handed down and is served on each year. Or an elf breakfast celebrating the first day of December. How about particular songs that are sung in celebration of a special day, certain meals that are prepared, specific decorations that are put up.

Yeah, we don’t have any of those. I feel like we really have no family traditions.

Perhaps I’m feeling a little guilty coming out of Halloween. While my kids had costumes (3 out of 4 handmade, thank you very much!) and they did go trick-or-treating, we didn’t go to the pumpkin patch and we didn’t even purchase or carve pumpkins. Despite several trips to the attic to look for the “fall box” my husband wasn’t able to find my autumn decorations so the house went un-decorated (to the disappointment of the kindergartener).

Is it lack of planning that I almost always find myself thinking a few days before a kid’s birthday, “Dang, we should have planned a party or something!”?

Is there lack of creativity (or sheer exhaustion) that I just don’t have it in me to come up with ideas for cute ways to celebrate when there is a special day?

Perhaps it’s lack of budget that with so many big events squished into a month, there’s no way we can do something grand for each special day?

But family traditions don’t have to be grand. Or cost anything. Or require a lot of planning, do they?

Why Have Family Holiday Traditions?

Why bother with traditions at all? Is it just a guilt thing, thinking my kids are missing out? Not at all. I know that participating in traditions is very important towards creating family bonds and childhood memories. Traditions create an identity and reinforce your family values. Having a tradition also means that people know what to expect. Expectation isn’t a bad thing. It’s something to look forward to, something to get excited about. Traditions are also special because it gives people something to teach, to pass down to others.

I had to think really hard about things that we do as a family that would be considered a tradition. Some years I’ve done things that might be considered tradition, the next year I missed the mark. I WANT to create traditions. I want to make things more consistent year after year. And with an anniversary, two birthdays and three major holidays coming up, the time to create traditions is now!

30+ family holiday traditions you can create with your family on a budget.

My son’s thankful list.

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you.

Curating Family Traditions

So, how can you create family traditions? Fortunately the internet is a wealth of ideas that you can pick and choose from as they fit into your family. I intend to be more committed to coming up with memory-worthy family traditions that will bring my family and I closer. Creating and cultivating traditions doesn’t have to cost anything or be overly extravagant. As I created this list, I realized that my family has more traditions than I knew!

Thanksgiving

Seasonal Table Decor – From the tablecloth you spread on the dining room table to the glass candlesticks you place in the center, choose Thanksgiving table decor that you want to use year after year as a tradition.

30+ family holiday traditions you can create with your family on a budget.

Inviting Friends – What better way to show the spirit of Thanksgiving than by inviting others to your Thanksgiving table? Request that friends bring a dish to share that includes their tradition or culture.

Dinner Prayer – In our family, we always start each meal with a prayer. At Thanksgiving, we all stand around the table and hold hands. Each person says one quick thing they are thankful for to share with the group.

Traditional Foods – While turkey, gravy with mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie are pretty much every American’s traditional Thanksgiving dinner fare, what are the traditional foods in your family? I’ve heard of tamales, mac and cheese, ambrosia salad and creamed corn appearing at the table. Dig up one of grandma’s favorite old recipes and make it a tradition to prepare that dish each year.

Football – Whether watching the big games on TV or pulling out the football to play in the yard, do it together as a family.

Eating the Leftovers – You’d better hope there are leftovers! We actually try to make a LOT of extra food, planning that there will be plenty of leftovers. Leftover apple pie for breakfast, turkey sandwiches for dinner and full Thanksgiving dinner again at night! My friend’s family makes tacos the next day by stuffing corn tortillas with mashed potatoes, a beaten egg, chopped leftover ham, cheddar cheese and green onions (they close the tortilla and fry it in oil – delish!!)

30+ family holiday traditions you can create with your family on a budget.

Enjoying traditional Thanksgiving foods as well as our family favorites.

December

Advent Calendar – My mom had the cutest Advent calendar made of felt. She’d pull it out each December and I loved using it each day as a kid. There are some really cool calendars out there now, counting down the days to Christmas. Certainly helps to build anticipation for the holidays.


Donating Gifts – Our church collects gifts each year, as does our kid’s school and the dentist office. We try to donate something to each one. It’s a perfect tradition to share with the kids that shows it’s better to give than to receive. This year we’ve already purchased a bunch of goodies to create boxes for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child.

Movie Day – Choose one day (maybe a snowy or rainy one) where everyone gathers together and watches traditional Christmas film favorites.

30+ family holiday traditions you can create with your family on a budget.


Hot Cocoa & Egg Nog – Give these two seasonal drinks a grand entrance and make it a special occasion. Offer them after a neighborhood walk to see holiday lights or while snuggled in front of the fireplace.

Volunteering – Despite the busy season, many of us still squeeze in volunteer work. Whether it’s at the local food bank or with your church, volunteering yourself as a tradition really expresses your family values.

Holiday Lights – Here’s another one that we actually do. I never thought of it being a tradition, but it totally is! Take a drive in the car or a walk through the neighborhood to admire the holiday light displays. Bring a traditional snack like popcorn or cocoa to make it extra special.

Bake & Decorate Cookies – For many this tradition can be a chore! Take back the joy in holiday baking by only making your most favorite cookies. Include the kids and let them decorate (don’t worry about perfection – the kids just want to have fun and eat their creations!)

30+ family holiday traditions you can create with your family on a budget.

Christmas

Decorating the Tree – I have a confession. I used to decorate the Christmas tree by myself when the kids were in bed! I was always worried about broken ornaments and strange placement. And then I got over that. I remembered when my parents would play Christmas music and my brother and I would pull each ornament out of the box, oohing and aahhing with the memories of each one. I want my kids to have that tradition too.

Wrap Together – Last year I stopped wrapping all the Christmas gifts alone. I started enlisting the help of each child individually to get them more involved in the holiday. I allowed the younger one to wrap gifts (lots of tape was sacrificed!) for his older brother and sister. He loved keeping the secrets of the gift and the anticipation of them opening it on Christmas morning.


Christmas Music Sing-along- Turn on the music and everyone join in, you know the words! Now it’s time to teach the lyrics of your favorite Christmas songs to the kids too.

Christmas Morning Breakfast- While we don’t have a traditional meal per se, we do always indulge in a big Christmas morning breakfast before gift opening. Sometimes we have French toast. Other days, it’s pancakes. But there is always bacon!

30+ family holiday traditions you can create with your family on a budget.

Bacon for Christmas morning is our family holiday tradition!

Collecting Ornaments – In writing this post, I realized that THIS is a tradition of mine! My grandmother would purchase my brother and I ornaments from Avon each year and those are my most cherished collection. I’ve been purchasing the Hallmark Beauty of Birds Series for my own white tree display.

I used to buy my eldest son a Hallmark ornament of his own each year that reflected something he’d loved that year. Unfortunately with four kids now, the cost of buying each of them a pricey ornament is out of my budget. But perhaps I can take them to the store and let them each choose something inexpensive.

Church – While we attend church each Sunday together as a family, participating in a traditional Christmas church service has it’s own feeling.

New Years

Ring in the new year with family-friendly celebrations that keep you close at home, creating memories together.

Special Foods – After the indulgence of Christmas, my family always chose to go a different route for New Year’s Eve. Appetizers like a cheese and cracker platter, fresh cut fruit and nuts served with a glass of wine are a perfectly acceptable dinner! We’d follow it up with the big box of chocolate and peanut brittle that someone always seemed to gift us each year!

Dress for the Occasion – Choose the theme for your evening – Is it glamorous? Then dress up to the nines! Or casual and cozy? Then have everyone wear their pajamas and snuggle in blankets.


Stay Up Till Midnight (Maybe) – I admit, we haven’t made it past midnight in several years (having little ones and no party plans does that to you!) No need to stay up till midnight in your neighborhood though. Choose midnight in a different time zone and celebrate your New Year at 8 pm if you’d rather the kids stick to their normal bedtime!

Games All Night – When I was younger, my family would pull out several board games to play together. We’d play cards, Yahtzee, Clue and put together a puzzle until the clock struck midnight.

30+ family holiday traditions you can create with your family on a budget.

Birthdays

With four kids, birthday parties aren’t always in the budget. But small traditions are so important when celebrating each child’s special day.

Breakfast In Bed – Serve your child’s favorite breakfast to them in bed. What a fun way to wake up!

Kid’s Choice – Give kids the choice of activity on this day and you might be surprised what they choose. For my son’s 5th birthday, his one request was a play date at the park with his preschool bestie – easy and done! Plan ahead and ask them their choice for dinner as well so you can prepare it on their birthday.

A Birthday Letter from Mom & Dad – Write a letter to your child with notable thoughts on the year past. Save the birthday letters in a special box to be gifted to them when they’re an adult.

Cake Served on a Special Plate – I bought a pretty vintage white cake platter the year we were married. It was going to hold our wedding cake but the cake ended up being too wide. However this cake plate makes a special appearance for each birthday!

30+ family holiday traditions you can create with your family on a budget.

Anniversary

My anniversary, I’ve got nothing. We went to dinner on our first anniversary and since then, we’ve always just treated it like any other day. No gifts, no cards, just a regular day that includes the phrase, “Happy Anniversary, honey”.

I don’t want to blow off our wedding anniversary anymore. I want to create some traditions that show my husband (as well as my kids) that we treasure our marriage with a celebration. Doesn’t have to be expensive or over the top, but it should be something!

30+ family holiday traditions you can create with your family on a budget.

A blurry cell phone selfie is better than nothing!

Same Restaurant – Do you have a special restaurant that you dined in while dating? Return each year for your anniversary (or another restaurant in the same food theme).

Love Letter – Given that I’ve never even received a store-bought card, this one isn’t really in my husband’s wheelhouse but there are some partners who love to share their thoughts and feelings on paper.

Give Traditional Gifts with a Twist – You know those “traditional anniversary themes” for gifts, like paper for the first year and gold for the 50th? Add a twist to those by setting a budget each year. For instance it’s my 7th anniversary this year and the theme is wool or copper. If we set a budget of $20, we could buy a copper bangle, a wool scarf, Moscow mule mug or a wool felt ornament. The point is to actually purchase something that is perfect for your partner, not just anything to fill the quota of a gift.

Wedding Album – Pull out the wedding photos and guest book to look through it together and reflect on the day.

Get Away for the Big Days – Though we might not have it in the budget to have a get-away each year on our anniversary, we’re already planning our 10th anniversary with a big holiday vacation.

And what if none of these traditions feel right for your family? No matter, try only what feels right. What’s most important is gathering together. And the memories you make!

Holidays at Disneyland – Visiting Tips For Busy Days

Disneyland during the holidays is simply so magical! Sleeping Beauty Castle is dusted with the magic of snow! Parades and shows have a holiday theme. Several rides and attractions have holiday overlays. There are stunning themed winter decorations in both Parks. There are even special winter treats, like peppermint bark and limited hand-crafted candy canes. Naturally all this extra pixie dust also brings in extra crowds! And for many families, the holiday season is the only time they are able to visit the Disneyland Resort. So what do you do on busy holidays at Disneyland? Here are tons of tested tips for visiting Disneyland during the holidays!

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

These tips for Holidays at Disneyland will help you navigate crowds & enjoy the most magical winter vacation! #Disneyland

Sleeping Beauty Castle glistens with snow-topped turrets, holiday garland and shimmering icicles.

Holidays at Disneyland – When Are You Going to Visit?

Some days will be more crowded than others during the holiday at Disneyland season.

Thanksgiving Day – crowded in the morning with slightly lighter crowds in the evening (when some families leave for Thanksgiving dinner)

Christmas Eve & Day – extremely crowded

New Years Eve – the Parks will reach capacity – over-the-top packed!

Other busy times include the entire week of Thanksgiving and the week of Christmas all the way through to New Years.

Want to experience the holiday season but with lighter crowds? Consider early November (before the week of Thanksgiving). Or the week after Thanksgiving all the way to the week before Christmas. Weekdays (in particular, Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday) will be less crowded than weekends, Monday and Friday during this time period.

These tips for Holidays at Disneyland will help you navigate crowds & enjoy the most magical winter vacation! #Disneyland

Love the auto-themed holiday decor in Radiator Springs, Cars Land

Buy Your Tickets in Advance

On busy days, you might be standing in line to get your ticket upwards of an hour! Consider pre-purchasing your tickets to save time. Even better, purchase a package (I recommend Get Away Today). You’ll have the assistance of a dedicated travel agent (at no additional cost to you) and your package will help you to save both time and money.


Save Money at DISNEYLAND!

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Advance Dining Reservations

While you might not normally need Advance Dining Reservations (ADR) at Disneyland, during the holidays, you should make them. The wait will be very long for a table service meal during busy times. Best to have the ADR, especially for coveted Character dining, special holiday meals and favorite restaurants like Carthay Circle and Blue Bayou.

If dining full service isn’t important, you’ll be able to eat at quick service locations. No ADR necessary! Check out this post about dining at Disney without Advance Dining Reservations.

Download the Disneyland App

The Disneyland Resort now offers WiFi, though it’s still sketchy at times. However the app is extremely helpful so be sure to download it pre-visit. You’ll be able to see live where characters are greeting guests, attraction wait times, view PhotoPass pictures, read restaurant menus and access your FastPass return times (with purchase of MaxPass).

These tips for Holidays at Disneyland will help you navigate crowds & enjoy the most magical winter vacation! #Disneyland

Extra Magic Hour

Stay on Disneyland Resort property and guests are allowed early entry on certain days. Extra Magic Hour allows registered Disneyland Resort Hotel Guests with (their valid theme park admission), entry one hour prior to the official Park opening. Here’s the schedule: Disneyland Park on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Disney California Adventure Park on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Always Rope Drop

Not an Extra Magic Hour day for the Park you want to visit? While others are sleeping in on vacation, you should be arriving to the Park gates at least 30 minutes early for “rope drop”. Even better? 45-60 minutes before the Park opens officially. Early birds may have the opportunity to walk on Main Street U.S.A. and line up at the “rope” when the Park opens.

We met Pluto during rope drop – the Park wasn’t even officially open yet but he was meeting guests on Main Street U.S.A.

These tips for Holidays at Disneyland will help you navigate crowds & enjoy the most magical winter vacation! #Disneyland

Pluto is one of the characters dressed in winter finest inside the Disneyland Resort

Have a Plan

You can’t just show up on a busy day and expect to be able to see and do everything. Have a plan in place on your top 5 essentials for the day, whether it be a ride, attraction, show or parade. Make those things happen first and anything else that happens after that will just be extra special fun!

Use MaxPass

This new Disneyland app feature allows guests to schedule their FastPass reservations remotely via their mobile device. On a busy day, this will save you SO much time from having to walk physically to the attraction on order to grab your FastPass. MaxPass is an additional charge to your Park ticket. Given that MaxPass also includes unlimited PhotoPass downloads, the extra cost is well worth it.


Seasonal Overlays

The holiday season takes over several Disneyland Park attractions, adding to the seasonal magic! These attractions are ALWAYS popular during the holidays. Grab your FastPass ticket for the World of Color – Season of Light first thing in the day. Book your FastPass asap for Haunted Mansion Holiday because this is a beloved seasonal favorite and the wait can be very long. it’s a small world Holiday is delightful! Don’t miss the beautiful light display on the building outside too.

These tips for Holidays at Disneyland will help you navigate crowds & enjoy the most magical winter vacation! #Disneyland

it’s a small world Holiday

What to Do In Line?

Lines are gonna be LOOOONNNNGGG. Some lines can be avoided via strategic use of Extra Magic Hours, rope drop and MaxPass. If a stand-by line is longer than 30 minutes you might be better off skipping it. Otherwise you’ll be using up a lot of your Park time in queue. Consider only visiting those most popular rides during the early hours or very late at night when the crowds have thinned.

Other lines, like those for the bathroom or quick service dining can’t be helped. Keep fidgety kids busy with the strategies on this post about standing in line at Disney.

My kids enjoy the World of Disney Eye Found It Card Game. It’s small, requires no batteries or charger and young children can play too.

Rest in the Park, Not at the Hotel

Usually I recommend to vacationers that they leave the Parks mid-day and return to their hotel for a swim and nap. Then, once recharged, to return back to the Disneyland Resort for evening fun. However…if the Parks are at max capacity on very busy days, if you leave the Park you may not be allowed back in. Even if you have your Park ticket! Instead of leaving the Parks on these days, consider resting inside the Park by finding a dining location or bench to relax on.

These tips for Holidays at Disneyland will help you navigate crowds & enjoy the most magical winter vacation! #Disneyland

Decked out with whimsy in Toontown

Meeting Santa

Guests can meet and greet with Santa at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail inside Disney California Adventure park. He’s also been spotted inside all three of the Disneyland Resort hotels (I’ve personally seen him in the lobby of the Grand Californian with a very short line!) Times haven’t been released yet.

If meeting Santa at Disney is high on your list, make that top priority of the day. We waited until about 8 pm, thinking the lines would slow. We STILL waited 45 minutes! I’d recommend meeting Santa first thing in the day if possible (before your kids meltdown or fall asleep!)

These tips for Holidays at Disneyland will help you navigate crowds & enjoy the most magical winter vacation! #Disneyland

Meeting Santa at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail

Shows and Entertainment

A Christmas Fantasy Parade is absolutely delightful, with charming seasonal spirit including dancing reindeer, gingerbread and lots of Disney characters in their holiday best. We like to watch from the it’s a small world mall. Considerably less crowded than Main Street U.S.A (but you should still find a place to sit about 45 minutes early).

Disney California Adventure park offers the Viva Navidad Street Party. The Three Caballeros host dancers, musicians and traditional puppets in a South American holiday fiesta.

At night, Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle twinkles to life with beautiful lights, icicles and snow-capped turrets.

These tips for Holidays at Disneyland will help you navigate crowds & enjoy the most magical winter vacation! #Disneyland

Viva Navidad!

Stay After Fireworks

The Believe…In Holiday Magic fireworks spectacular should not be missed.  If you want to see it from the front (to view the castle projections), you should stake out a spot on Main Street U.S.A. several hours before the show. However you can totally watch the fireworks from other locations, including the Rivers of America or the it’s a small world mall.

After the fireworks, massive crowds will rush out of the park, tiny tots in tow! Try not to get hung up in the crowds (that’s why we watch the fireworks from the it’s a small world area). Fantasyland will be closed for a while after the show but other areas will remain open for fun. We were able to stay until closing and my kids rode The Matterhorn Bobsleds twice in a row without any wait!

These tips for Holidays at Disneyland will help you navigate crowds & enjoy the most magical winter vacation! #Disneyland

Seasonal treats at Marcelline’s in Downtown Disney District

Other Holiday Things at the Disneyland Resort

Because you know that lines will be long for everything, take advantage of what you can as it comes! When we visited last holiday, we arrived to Disney California Adventure park around 2 pm and there weren’t any lines at all for the Festive Foods Marketplace. However by 6 pm, lines were 20 guests deep! If you see something with a short queue, go for it right then and there because crowds do build as the day goes on.

Festive Foods Marketplace serves up multicultural food and drink at Disney California Adventure park during the holiday season. Each of the kiosks offers something different including gourmet appetizers, comfort food, draft beers, and fancy drinks (alcoholic and non). The holiday desserts (mocha yule log!) are not to be missed!

These tips for Holidays at Disneyland will help you navigate crowds & enjoy the most magical winter vacation! #Disneyland

Festive Marketplace kiosk with yuletide offerings

I absolutely adore just admiring the gorgeous holiday decor that’s all over the Disney parks. From the enormous tree on Main Street U.S.A., the auto-themed holiday decor in Cars Land and even the whimsical holiday spirit in Toontown, almost every area is decked out! Be sure to take the time to look at the decorations and take plenty of photos.

If the Parks are overcrowded, consider taking a stroll over at the Downtown Disney District. Guests can dine and shop amidst holiday decor, seasonal touches and live music. Grab a seasonal treat from Marcelline’s and just wander, soaking up the holiday magic!

These tips for Holidays at Disneyland will help you navigate crowds & enjoy the most magical winter vacation! #Disneyland


For more Disney Holiday fun,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Personal Trainer Food Review- Starting a Healthy Meal Plan (Week 1)

Sooo, it’s been one full week since I started on the Personal Trainer Food program. For this first week, I’m sharing my entire food journal. You’ll see how I used Personal Trainer Food as well as the provided guidelines for weight loss to eat other foods prepared at home. This is a healthy meal plan that does limit carbs and completely eliminates sugar.

Check out my first post in this series, Personal Trainer Food Review- I’m READY to Make Changes!

Keep reading for my Personal Trainer Food review, my take on the provided food on this program, how I feel, and how much it’s already changing my body.

I received a complimentary box from Personal Trainer Food that included 28-days worth of meals and three butter sauces. All thoughts and opinions about this product are my own. Your results on the program may vary. No additional compensation has been provided.

Pre-Program – Consider Fasting

Need a sugar and carb detox? Consider a fast to jump-start your fat loss. The Personal Trainer Food plan recommends starting the program with a 24 to 48 hour fast. I’ve never been able to go that long with fasting; I get faint and lightheaded, which is not so great when I’m taking care of four kids! I was able to fast 11 hours on the first day without eating before I caved – I still stuck to the program though!

It is suggested that while on the program, participants try an intermittent 24 hour fast to get past plateaus. Even an overnight fast of 12 to 14 hours from dinner to breakfast the next day can improve results.

Staying Hydrated

Drinking plenty of liquids will help the body detoxify faster and diminish cravings. I’ve been upping my water intake since starting the plan. The plan guidelines give the green light on flavor enhancers so I’ve been occassionally adding those to my water when I want a “treat”. I’ve also been drinking a few cups of green tea during the day.

And thank goodness diet soda is okay, so I didn’t have to give that up (I’m not sure I could have gone cold turkey on carbs, sugar and diet soda at the same time!) I only drink one max per day, but it is a indulgence for me. Let’s just say with all this extra liquid I’ve been staying close to the bathroom. Hoping my body adjusts soon!

Mix in Your Own Snacks

Recommended snacks are meats, cheese, nuts, veggies and one apple a day, spread out over two snacks. Approved nuts include almond and walnuts, which I bought, measured and bagged individually. Each of those bags contains 3 oz, which is actually a pretty large serving! Nibble on some during snack time and then sprinkle some on your salad. You may eat up to 6 oz of cheese (including cheddar and mozzarella) through the day. I eat half an apple during my morning snack, about 3 oz of cheese and a few nuts. This balance really gives me energy and keeps me satisfied till lunch. Another great snack that has been helping with salty cravings is salami and Parmesan.

You may also purchase the Personal Trainer Food plan that includes snacks, including sausage sticks, olives and packaged nuts. I found it was easy enough for me to measure and bag up the snacks on my own. I suggest purchasing a small food scale to help keep your portion sizes accurate.

A small food scale is very important when measuring foods into portion sizes.


Personal Trainer Food Review – WEEK ONE

Day 1-

For breakfast on day one I ate a frittata and bacon. I’m not a big egg eater so the thought of eating eggs everyday is a little daunting. However when ordering the menu from Personal Trainer Food, I was able to request only eggs that had cheese because that’s the only way I like them. The frittata was really delicious, with bits of sweet peppers inside. The bacon was paper-thin, but still tasty!

First week on Personal Trainer Food program. Find out the food, plan and how much I lost after week 1! #spon #PersonalTrainerFood

I chose to fast through lunch, supplementing with some warm broth and a cup of tea.

At dinner, my husband had made roasted brussels sprouts and asparagus so I ate the veggies along with my family. I added a butter chicken, which was flavorful (albiet a bit tough). I drizzled the veggies with the Garlic Butter, which then everyone at the table had to try. It was yummy!

Day 2-

I started the morning with a cheddar omelette and maple sausage. The sausage satisfied the salty-sweet combo I was craving.

My mid-morning snack was 2 oz of cheddar cheese and a few almonds. Later in the afternoon I ate my apple.

For lunch, I chose the Buffalo chicken sticks and mixed veggies. The breading on the chicken had a bit of kick, which added lots of flavor! I used a tablespoon of blue cheese dressing for dipping. The dressing has less than a gram of sugar, so it’s acceptable on the plan.

Will the Personal Trainer Food program work for me, a busy mom over 40? #sponsored

My husband made dinner that was on my program. We had grilled chicken kabobs with squash, red bell peppers and onions. My family also ate potatoes, which I skipped.

Day 3-

I was kind of all about the cheddar today! Breakfast of cheddar omelette & maple sausage again. This time I sprinkled a little extra cheddar on the top…yum!

My snack was an ounce of cheddar, almonds and walnuts and my apple.

At lunch, I went with the meatballs and capri veggies. I added a tablespoon of tomato sauce, approved since it was under 2g of sugar. It was like eating a nice Italian meal and I really didn’t miss the pasta.

First week on Personal Trainer Food program. Find out the food, plan and how much I lost after week 1! #spon #PersonalTrainerFood

Dinner was the leftover chicken and veggies from the previous night. My kids ate it with refried beans and tortillas. I reheated mine and sprinkled with cheddar.

After a walk I came home and put the baby to bed and my older kids each had a small bowl of ice cream. Normally I would have joined them but instead I gauged my hunger. I definitely needed a snack so I had some nuts, cheddar cheese and a few big glasses of water.

Day 4-

Today was my first real challenge on the program. I attend a weekly mom’s group Bible study and everyone brings snacks. It’s usually a free-for-all of pastries, home-made treats, fruits and veggies with dip.

I ate my Personal Trainer Food egg & meat breakfast at home before heading to the group (I would usually skip breakfast and then indulge in snacks during the group). I remembered to take my water bottle so I could drink and refill during the two hours I was there.

I did eat snacks during my group – I passed over the doughnuts, cinnamon rolls and coffee cake and dove into the walnuts and almonds, raw carrots, sliced Parmesan-Romano cheese and salami. I was happy there was something I could enjoy and not feel left out while everyone else was snacking! PS. I did bring a bag of nuts with me, just in case.

Instead of stopping for fast food at lunch like I usually would on this day, I drove home and made the gluten free breaded chicken with Venice blend veggies. The baby helped me to eat them!

For dinner I’d made the family pot roast with celery, onion, carrots and potatoes. I skipped the potatoes and was able to enjoy the rest of the meal. It wasn’t until later that I saw online that only raw carrots should be consumed and that cooked carrots are starchy and should be avoided in too much quantity. Ugh, hope I didn’t mess up too badly with the extra 5 bites of cooked carrots I ate. The veggie packages that Personal Trainer Food sends DO have small amounts of carb/starchy veggies in balance proportions. But Lesson Learned: Check the weight loss guidelines before eating!

First week without sugar & limited carbs - Find out the food, plan and how much I lost after week 1! #spon #PersonalTrainerFood

Day 5-

Frittata with bacon for breakfast. I was off to run errands, including getting an oil change for my car. In the past I would have stopped in at the local fast food restaurant for a breakfast sandwich (even if I wasn’t really hungry). But this time I took my bottle of water and a bag of almonds so I could snack while I waited.

Lunch was a Personal Trainer Food peppered chicken breast. I cut it up and served it on a bed of chopped romaine with blue cheese dressing and sunflower seeds.

My afternoon snack was an apple, walnuts and cheddar.

For dinner I made the kids pumpkin spice French toast and I made myself a Personal Trainer Food meal (Works burger with veggies). Later in the evening I snacked on a few slices of parmesan and salami.

Day 6-

Today I added broccoli to my egg and sausage breakfast, which helped to fill me up. Lunch was orange chicken and Venice veggie mix, which was tasty and satisfied the Chinese food craving!

Dinner was the very delicious Prime Rib fajita strips and Nantucket blend. It was a healthy portion of food and so good!

I saved my daily apple to have as an evening snack with some walnuts.

First week on Personal Trainer Food program. Find out the food, plan and how much I lost after week 1! #spon #PersonalTrainerFood

Day 7-

After my morning breakfast of egg and sausage, my 5-yr old son and I headed out to an early soccer game (he’s the player, I’m the coach!).

Came home and dined on Nantucket veggie mix and chicken bacon sticks which were so delicious, I had to share them with my son! I drizzled mine with some of the Sriracha butter sauce for a little kick.

Dinner was pork roast made on our smoker with steamed squash. I cut up my daily apple and put it in a coffee mug with a pat of butter. I sprinkled it with chopped walnuts and some artificial sweetener then microwaved it for a few minutes. Not quite like apple pie but still good!

Week One Results

Cravings & Habits

There were a few times during the week when I really had to pause before just randomly shoving food in my mouth! I was serving cereal for the kids and normally I’d nibble on the dry flakes. I stopped myself mid-trip to my mouth several times, I’m so used to eating without thinking. My family had bread during dinner so I sniffed it deeply instead of indulging in a bite!

I definitely had sweet tooth cravings on occasion this week. I saved my apple for those times so that I could have something sweet and crunchy. Willpower was strong though and I wasn’t tempted to cheat, even when my kids had ice cream!

Feelings & Mood

I’d read online how many who have done a Personal Trainer Food review that they suffer from headache, irritability or even a flu-like symptom, all a result of detoxing from the sugar and carbs. Fortunately I didn’t have ANY of these symptoms! I was actually extremely surprised because sugar and carbs were definitely my major food groups before starting this program.


Body Changes

I’m drinking TONS of water. At least 5x what I used to drink. Therefore I’m in the bathroom, a lot! Hoping this will balance out soon. Perhaps this is TMI but I think it’s important – I thought I might get some constipation from all the cheese and meat, however I’m actually having the opposite effect. I’m going once a day (usually it’s once every two days). Perhaps all the extra water and veggies are moving things along more than normal?

My clothing is fitting slightly looser. I’m chalking that up to loss of some of the bloat.

Final Results for WEEK ONE:

Weight lost – 4 lbs

Not sure if that’s mostly water weight at this point? But hey, 4 lbs off of me and I’m happy! On to week two…

Considering the Personal Trainer Food program?

Personal Trainer Food website

Check out the current discount code: Enter PROMO CODE 10DAYSFREE when purchasing the 28 day plan.

Gift Guide – 100 Best Books for Kids of All Ages

Books are the BEST gifts! I love giving books and I love when my kids receive books. The hardest part about giving books as a gift is choosing something that the child hasn’t already read or received. There are the beloved classics, like Good Night, Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Where the Wild Things Are for young kids. And so many kids have already read through the Harry Potter or Little House on the Prairie series. Nobody giving a book as a gift wants to hear, “Oh, I already have this one!” I’ve created a list of the 100 best books for kids that might be off your radar. Perhaps you’ve heard of these titles or maybe even read them as a child yourself but it will be a new discovery for the little ones in your life!

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Gift guide to the best books for kids, including a bunch you've never heard of!

Choosing the “Best Books for Kids”

A few years ago my eldest son got stuck on reading a comic book series. Again. And again.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the series. There are some that will say to let kids read whatever interests them because at least they’re reading. However, I liken some books to “junk food”.  Sure, they’re light and easy to read. They go down easy. But then, where’s the substance? What are you reading that’s making you learn or grow? We all enjoy a little junk food but if that’s all your diet is, you’ll need to round it out with MORE.

Not every book has to be life-changing but finding books that literally move your child and make them think, those are the diamonds in the rough!

I took my son to the bookstore and showed him a few of my favorite books that I knew he’d enjoy. He started on the Hatchet series by Gary Paulsen and was completely absorbed with the story. I was able to say, “Told you so!!” As a result he’s been taking bigger stretches on his book choices.

Each of the books suggested are my family favorites. They have been read and owned by my own children, stand the test of time and are age-appropriate. I’ve also included BONUS BOOKS that were suggested by friends as their family favorites!

Gift guide to the best books for kids, including a bunch you've never heard of!

Best Books for Babies and Toddlers

I’ve been reading to my kids since they were newborns. Text can be minimal to allow you to riff off the pictures and simply talk to your little one and make up your own story. Or choose a book with a fun rhyme that will help your toddler pick up words and rhythm. I always choose sturdy board books for babies and toddlers.
Look, Look! – The black and white contrasts with minimal text, making this perfect for newborns.

Jamberry – One of my very favorites, with tons of detail and wonderful read-aloud rhyme.

 

Time for Bed -A bedtime book (or two, or three!) is a baby and toddler must. This one is gentle and sweet.

More Great Books for Babies & Toddlers

Good Night, Gorilla

The Napping House

Dinosaurumpus!

First 100 Board Book Box Set

A Porcupine Named Fluffy

Say Goodnight

Dear Zoo: A Lift-the-Flap Book

Bonus Books for Babies and Toddlers

Corduroy

Giraffes Can’t Dance

God Gave Us You

I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean!

On the Night You Were Born

My Heart Is Like a Zoo

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Bear’s Busy Family

Big Red Barn

Snuggle Puppy!

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site

Cheep! Cheep!


Read-Aloud Books for Preschoolers

Preschoolers love to cuddle up and read together. They are looking for “more to the story” at this age though a fun read-aloud with fantastic pictures and rhyme is always welcome too!

When The Wind Stops – For that preschooler who wants to know, “Why?”, this book about days and seasons and beginnings and endings is gorgeous and perfect.

“The Way I Feel” Library – My mother-in-law bought these for my eldest son when he was young. They were such a Godsend when he was struggling with emotions. We’d snuggle together, read and discuss. I’ve kept them in our library for the other kids too, they are such important books.

Beatrix Potter the Complete Tales – So you may have read Peter Rabbit before, but what about Jeremy Fisher, The Tailor of Gloucester and my favorite, the Tale of Two Bad Mice? These soft illustrations and story lines are ideal for preschoolers (Wow, do those little animals get into mischief, kids LOVE that!)

Other Books We Love for Preschoolers

The Book with No Pictures

My Book About Me

Miss Suzy

Read With Dick and Jane – Jump & Run

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

Quick As a Cricket

Mix It Up!

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business

Llama Llama’s Little Library

Mother Mother I Want Another

Bonus Books for Preschoolers (suggested by family & friends)

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

Good Night, Little Dragons

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

Madeline

Dragons Love Tacos

I Love You, Stinky Face

Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator!

Press Here

Thelma the Unicorn

The Prince Won’t Go to Bed!

The Day the Crayons Quit

Skippyjon Jones


Great Books for Beginning Readers

Beginning readers tend to waffle between wanting to read a little and still wanting to be read to. I’m suggesting a mix of beginning chapter books, longer read-together chapter books and picture books. Many beginning readers still find pictures very important to the story experience.

Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon – This was the first read-aloud chapter book I read to my boys. It’s a fantastic story of imagination, wit and creativity. My kids have read it alone to themselves again when they were solid readers.

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch – My youngest son pulled this off the shelf recently and his teenage brother gushed, “I LOVE that book!” The sentiment about seeing & caring for others is sweet (even when it’s not Valentine’s Day).

 

 

 

Mr. Putter & Tabby series – I can admit it. Whenever we get a new Mr. Putter and Tabby book I’m on the edge of my seat with excitement about what silliness will happen with this creaky old man and his elderly cat. They are so fun to read (and how many books for little kids celebrate the elderly?!)

Other Wonderful Books for Beginning Readers

Miss Twiggley’s Tree

Badger’s Parting Gifts

Johnny Appleseed

Frog and Toad Storybook Treasury

Good Night, Good Knight

Wolf Story

The Little House

When Dinosaurs Came with Everything

Henry and Mudge Ready-to-Read Collection

 

Bonus Books for Beginning Readers (suggested by family & friends)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Complete Series

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons

Iggy Peck, Architect

The Lorax

Leo the Late Bloomer

How I Became a Pirate

In the Night Kitchen

The Stranger

Junkyard Wonders

Galactic Hot Dogs Collection

The Last Kids on Earth


Engaging Books for Elementary

Elementary aged kids enjoy a healthy mix of fiction and non-fiction. Non-fiction must to have engaging photos and interesting text that’s easy to comprehend.

All-of-a-Kind Family – One of my most favorite book series as a child, I devoured these stories about 5 diverse sisters living in NYC at the turn of the century. So much charm and spunk, you’ll love each character (it also is a fantastic series about Jewish culture and holidays).

 

DK Eyewitness Books – There’s a DK Eyewitness book for just about every topic on Earth!! Seriously, if your child has an interest in something whether it be Castles in Ireland, Sportfishing, Elephanits, Astronomy or the American Revolution, you can find it. And they’ll love these amazingly detailed books with tons of images.

 

 

My Side of the Mountain Trilogy- I never knew there was more than one book after My Side of the Mountain, but my son found them and was so absorbed by the continued story line. My Side of the Mountain is followed up by On the Far Side of the Mountain and Frightful’s Mountain.

More Great Books for Beginning Readers

Material World: A Global Family Portrait

The Disney Book

Ella Enchanted

The Way Things Work Now

Barefoot Books World Atlas

Look-Alikes: The More You Look, the More You See!

A Street Through Time

Bunnicula in a Box

Bonus Books for Elementary (suggested by family & friends)

Timmy Failure: Now Look What You’ve Done

Smile and Sisters: The Box Set

Nancy Drew Diaries Supersleuth Collection: Curse of the Arctic Star; Strangers on a Train; Mystery of the Midnight Rider; Once Upon a Thriller; … Clue at Black Creek Farm; A Script for Danger

Absolutely Almost

The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog (Hank the Cowdog (Quality))

Peter and the Starcatchers


Upper Ages

Kids reading in the upper age category crave compelling story lines that transport them to a different part of the world, an old (or future) era or a completely new realm. I tried to choose titles that my own tween/teens didn’t read with their class at school.

The Cay – I read and reread this book a dozen times growing up. I just loved the story of this castaway boy and the man he’s been lost at sea with.

The Gary Paulsen Collection – I’d read Hatchet (the first in this collection) and had recommended it to my son. He’s since read the entire collection in the series as well as many other Gary Paulsen stories.

 

 

 

Rebecca – This is a classic but unlikely that your teen has ever read or even heard of it. Filled with intrigue, mystery and secrets, it’s a page-turner!

 

Other Must-Read Books for Upper Ages

Cabin on Trouble Creek

Warriors Box Set: Volumes 1 to 6: The Complete First Series

Julie of the Wolves

The Ranger’s Apprentice Collection

Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind

Kingdom Keepers Boxed Set

Bonus Books for Upper Ages (suggested by family & friends)

 

Brotherband Chronicles (7 Book Series)

Inheritance Cycle 4-Book Paperback Boxed Set (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, In)

I Survived Collector’s Toolbox

Masterminds

The Lunar Chronicles Boxed Set: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, Winter