~Thank you to Chiz Comm for providing a Shibajuku Girls doll for review. As always, my opinions are still 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links, in which I will receive compensation for your purchase.~
Allow me to introduce you to the newest member of our family and the newest member of the Shibajuku Girls – Miki. Miki is quite the trendsetter and loves staying active, with dreams of one day starring in the Olympics and even traveling the world.
Anyone who wants to travel the world is one after my own heart. And any gal who loves sports and staying active is cool in my daughter’s eyes. So this makes Miki the perfect personality for the ladies in the house.
I wish I could describe just how much excitement my daughter had when she saw Miki. I mean she was squealing with delight. I couldn’t get Miki out of her box fast enough!
What are Shibajuku Girls?
Shibajuku Girls are fashion-savvy dolls inspired by Japanese culture. The dolls are known for internationality, as each one embraces a mix of eclectic Japanese culture and Harajuku fashion, which features fun, original and fashion-forward styles.
With a variety of fun and vibrant hair colors, accessories and outfits, each Shibajuku girl has her own personality and style. All you have to do is pick the perfect match for the little fashionista in your life and let the fun begin. My daughter has been having a great time using Miki’s hair clips herself and sharing Miki’s quirky, sporty style!
Meet the Other Shibajuku Girls
Miki was introduced in Series 2 of the Shibajuku girls, but Koe, Yoko, Suki and Shizuka were introduced in Series 1. This time around, though, the girls have got new outfits to fit their unique personalities and qualities.
Koe – An animal lover with electric blue hair, her love for furry friends is written all over her outfits and accessories. Koe is always rocking some kind of animal print and wants to own a zoo one day. How fun?!
Yoko – With a love for the color black and accessories suited for a rockstar, Yoko loves to look as edgy as she can. She is a superstar guitar player who dreams of one day becoming a writer. In her spare time she loves watching spooky movies and especially those with spiders. Eeeeek!
Suki – Suki is what I call a girly girl. With hair almost as colorful as her outfits, Suki rocks purple, blue and pink locks. When it comes to accessories, no amount is too much, and her earmuffs make her extra unique. Did I mention she loves rainbows and her favorite food is cupcakes? Yum!
Shizuka – She’s the quiet one. Smart and super shy, but you’d never know just from looking at her outfits. Shizuka is dressed from head-to-toe in hot pink, including her hair. And guess what? She’s super unique with one blue eye and one green eye! Watch out fashion world, Shizuka’s working on her fashion designs and they’ll be hitting the runway before you know it!
Namika (Series 1) – Namika is an earth-friendly gal. She loves learning, especially if it involves science, and enjoys hunting outside for bugs. Her favorite place to visit is the Great Barrier Reef. She’s a great friend and is always willing to lend a hand to anyone.
What makes Shibajuku Girls unique?
Aside from the different personalities, qualities and fashion styles that each Shibajuku Girl possesses, the dolls themselves are unique in their make. Each doll is 13” tall and has a fully posable body.
I’ve been playing around with Miki myself, and love how flexible she is as a doll. Like a real person, Shibajuku Girls have flexible joints not only at the neck, shoulder and hips (like typical dolls feature), but also at the elbows, wrists and knees.
I never had anything like this in a doll when I was growing up!
It’s funny to watch my daughter sit and wave at Miki, as I bend her elbows and hand as though she’s waving to her.
On top of that, the eyes are made of glass, giving a more realistic look. I didn’t even notice this at first, but I love the overall attention to detail!
Get a Shibajuku Girl: Shibajuku girls are starting to take over some of my favorite retailers, including Target ($24.99) and Amazon (Series 1 – $29.99)!
Which Shibajuku Girl complements the little fashionista in your life?
*Thank you to Chiz Comm for providing a Shiabjuku Girls doll for review. My opinions are still 100% my own and in no way influenced by the brand. Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the brand. This post contains affiliate links, in which I will receive compensation for your purchase. Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.
~Thank you to The Strong National Museum of Play for hosting our visit. As always, opinions are still 100% my own.~
Just a couple of weekends ago we were visiting family in Rochester, NY and a friend suggested taking our kids to Strong. I was like, Strong? What the heck is that? The Strong National Museum of Play! I went online to check it out and knew right away our kids would enjoy it.
At first glance it appeared to be a big children’s museum, where kids can spend the day and just enjoy playing with different set ups. Our kids have been to other children’s museums and loved it, so I thought this would be no different. Boy was I wrong! The experience is so much more than that!
The Strong Museum is NOT a children’s museum (I’ll explain this more in a bit), and even us adults had a great time. We all enjoyed it so much that a day trip to The Strong Museum is now going to be routine for us when visiting our family in Rochester!
6 Reasons to Visit The Strong Museum
1. A fun-filled DAY!
When I say you can spend the whole day at The Strong Museum, I’m not kidding. There is so much to see and do, from hands-on exhibits, to fun crafts, historic displays and more.
We visited on a Sunday when the hours are limited to 12pm-5pm. We didn’t get there until around 1:30pm and in the few hours we explored, didn’t even see and experience all The Strong Museum has to offer.
But boy did it wear us out. We were all ready to go when closing time came. Our daughter actually fell asleep before we left and had to be carried out, and our son started snoozing on the car ride home. Yay for a nap, though!
The Strong Museum is a 285,000 square foot facility, 100,000 of which is actual hands-on exhibits and displays. There are two floors to the museum and we had so much fun on the first floor, that we had to rush through the second floor (hence we WILL be going back).
And when you do stay the whole day, you don’t have to worry about getting hungry because there are dining options on-site. Grab a bite at Bill Gray’s Skyliner restaurant, in the lobby, or something quick at Subway, Taco Bell Express, Pizza Hut Express, or Louie’s Sweet Shoppe, all located in the food court.
I experienced some pretty epic nostalgia as we explored The Strong Museum . From Reading Adventureland, which takes us right into the fairytale books we enjoyed as kids, to Bear Country where we can experience the Bear Family’s adventures, it was like reliving my childhood in action. Oh, and the kids enjoyed it too. I just don’t think they understood the excitement I had for it all.
It’s not even just the nostalgia of reliving our favorite childhood stories, but The Strong Museum is packed full of history. The Strong Museum is NOT a children’s museum, but is the National Museum of Play. Throughout the facility, and especially on the second floor, there are featured displays of historical significance in how play as evolved.
From technology like video games and pinball machines, to more simple play like G.I. Joe, dolls and toy trucks, The Strong Museum has the largest and most comprehensive collection of toys and historical materials, all related to play.
The Strong Museum is home to:
The International Center for the History of Electronic Games (largest in the world)
The National Toy Hall of Fame
The World Video Game Hall of Fame
The Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play (187,000 volumes and papers of national figures)
The American Journal of Play (first of its kind)
4. Imaginative Play
The Strong Museum is truly an imaginative haven. The countless number of interactive exhibits makes it fun for everyone. My daughter had a grand time sliding down the treehouse clubhouse in Bear Country, making her own fairy wand and creating music with the colorful Crayola “drums.”
My son loves video games, so when he saw the giant Super Nintendo controller, he jumped at the chance to play. This was a blast from the past for me too. I used to play Super Mario ALL the time.
He also really enjoyed shopping at Wegmans. Actually, I think both kids enjoyed that. If you’re not from the northeast, you probably have no idea what Wegmans is, but it’s a really popular grocery chain.
We’ve visited children’s museums that have something similar, like the Miami Children’s Museum has a Publix to shop, Publix being a popular grocery chain in the southeast. But nothing compares to the Wegmans shopping experience at The Strong Museum. The kids even got a real receipt for their groceries! How cool is that?!
5. Outdoors brought Indoors
On top of all of the hands-on displays and historical displays, The Strong Museum is also home to The Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden. Admission to the butterfly garden is separate from museum admission, but for just $4-$5 per person, you can enjoy an indoor walk through the outdoors.
As soon as you walk into the garden, you see a few butterflies floating around, but if you’re not looking hard enough you’ll miss a lot. Many of the butterflies we saw were just resting on plants. The garden features more than 80 different butterfly species that come from all over the world including Asia, Africa, and South America.
And it’s not just butterflies you’ll find in the garden, but you also might see moths, turtles, quails (watch out so you don’t step on them), a chameleon and let’s not forget the beautiful botanicals.
6. Variety of Programs and Events
As if all of this wasn’t enough, The Strong Museum features different programs and events every week. We visited on Over the Rainbow Weekend and got the opportunity to take a photo with Dorothy and Toto, Glinda the good witch, and the Wicked Witch of the West.
May 13, Fairy House Magic – Meet Leafy the Fairy and get a little sprinkle of fairy dust for good luck, visit the Discovery Garden to check out the colorful fairy houses, and more!
June 3, Fit Kids Day – Get active in the Fit Kids Fun Zone, discover the best places around town to exercise and more!
June 15 to June 25, Bristol Mountain Aerial Adventures Mobile Park – Embark on an indoor, action-packed adventure on a 26 foot wide endurance zone that includes vertical nets, a spider web, log swings and rope bridges. (Requires additional ticket purchase.)
June 24 & 25, Have a Ball Exhibit Opening Celebration – Enjoy a comedic group perform ball tricks, in celebration of the most timeless toy ever – the ball. Then enjoy the exhibit itself by zooming a ball through a pipe maze, build a cup-and-ball toy, and more!
What would you enjoy most about The Strong National Museum of Play?
*Thank you to The Strong National Museum of Play for hosting my family for a day. My opinions are still 100% my own and in no way influenced by the museum. Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the museum. Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.
~This post is sponsored by TestingMom.com. As always, opinions are still 100% my own.~
I can’t believe it’s already time to register my son for kindergarten. Even though the start of the new school year is still months away, I’m already going through every emotion in the book and questioning his readiness.
I’m so excited to have some time alone with just my youngest. Maybe I can be a little more productive and she can get more one-on-one attention. But what if my son gets lost? What if he misses me and has a breakdown? What if he doesn’t behave and listen to the teacher? What if he’s just not at the same educational level as his peers?
While some of my concerns are just a part of sending my first child to school, there’s one concern I can address before this big milestone – his educational level. With the help of TestingMom.com, I can determine if my son is ready to start to kindergarten.
What is TestingMom.com?
TestingMom.com is a site and program that was developed by parents, for parents and children aged Pre-K through 8th grade. The site offers fun skill-building games, challenging learning activities and even test prep material for state standard tests and Common Core.
How Does it Work?
Once you sign up for TestingMom.com, getting started is as easy as 1 – 2 – 3. You enter your child’s info (name and grade level), indicate which test you want him to practice and select any particular subjects he needs to work on. If you want him to practice all subjects, you can leave that part blank. Then the learning begins!
One of the great features about the site, is the ability to add more than one child. Have one child in 2nd grade, another in 4th grade and another in 7th grade? No problem. Add them all and let each practice their respective tests and subjects!
Not only does TestingMom.com provide actual practice tests for your child, but also helps them learn and practice through various fun interactive games.
What better way to learn than with a little fun and play? My son enjoys playing all of the games and doesn’t even realize he’s learning along the way.
And let’s not forget us parents. There’s a whole Parent Resource Center that helps you monitor your child’s progress and provide tips for helping him succeed.
I thought for sure the preschool activities I’ve been doing with my son were getting him prepared for his first day of kindergarten and while they certainly are, I didn’t realize that I was leaving some important subjects out, like math.
After having my son do a couple of practice tests, I realized he needed some help in the area of fractions. Do kids really learn fractions in kindergarten? Now knowing this, I can do fun activities with him so he can learn what a half is, and a third and a quarter.
The best part about TestingMom.com? As your child grows and moves on to the next grade, you can adjust their learning program to suit their needs, all the way up to the 8th grade. While teachers come and go, and teaching tactics change, one learning constant is TestingMom.com. The games and tests change, but the overall experience is still the same!
So far I’m absolutely loving TestingMom.com. I love how it helps my son learn, but also helps me understand what he needs to work on. Want to see what other parents have to say? Check out these reviews and testimonials.
*This is a sponsored post on behalf of TestingMom.com, in which I will receive compensation. My opinions are still 100% my own and in no way influenced by the brand. Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the brand. Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.
~Thank you to Cents of Style for providing a “Be Series” graphic tee for styling. This post contains affiliate links, in which I will receive compensation for your purchase.~
You’ve probably seen the memes and graphics that say “Always be yourself. Unless you can be a mermaid. Then always be a mermaid.” Now, I like mermaids, but I like myself even better!
All I’m trying to be is me. I may not be the perfect mom (who is?). Or cook dinner every day (take out please!). Or clean the house daily (this home is lived in). Or put myself together with full makeup every day (ain’t nobody got time for that). Or even get out of my PJ’s for that matter.
But that’s me. Take it or leave it.
And while I may not be or do these things every day, I AM a loving and caring mom, my kids are ALWAYS fed, and the messes around the house show how much FUN my kids have. As for wearing PJ’s all day, let’s just say I’m a SELFLESS person who puts others’ needs before mine.
All of this makes me super awesome! I just hope the world can handle all this awesomeness because I’m not changing me for anything.
And ya know, I think you should “Be You” too. Besides, there’s only one YOU! No imitation or duplication available!
This is why I love my new “Be You” graphic tee from the Cents of Style “Be Series.” I wear it proud and hope that when you see me in the streets (or in the grocery store, haha) you’ll remember to stay true to yourself and make life easier by just being you. Whether you shine bright or lay low, always BE YOU!
Speaking of the new “Be Series” at Cents of Style, there are so many other inspirational graphic tees to choose from.
Let it Be
Be the Good
This weekend only (4/28-4/30), these tees are just $15.95 with promo code BESTORY, and as always shipping is free!
*Thank you to Cents of Style for providing a “Be Series” graphic tee for styling and inspiring me to be me. This post contains affiliate links, in which I will receive compensation for your purchase. My opinions are 100% my own and in no way influenced by the brand. Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the brand. Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.
~I received a Carlucci’s Waterfront gift card to help facilitate my review. As always, opinions are still 100% my own.~
To end our family’s staycation in Mt. Laurel, NJ this past weekend, we decided to have a nice sit down dinner after checking out of the hotel and before heading home. I searched around online to see what restaurants were in the Mt. Laurel area and came across an Italian fare, Carlucci’s Waterfront.
Carlucci’s Waterfront is just one of six of Carlucci’s family of restaurants, and is owned and operated by the Capuano family. When the Capuano’s came to the US from Italy in ‘83, they brought along with them some amazing family recipes and are sharing those recipes in their restaurants.
As adults we enjoy the food, atmosphere and overall experience of fine dining, but as parents, kid-friendly dining is imperative. Carlucci’s Waterfront is the perfect combination of the two – fine dining for families – and was a perfect way to end our family weekend.
Upon pulling into the parking lot, which is fairly large by the way, you see the restaurant sitting in the distance. At the moment, Carlucci’s is doing some renovations, but luckily is still open for dining.
As we walked in, we were immediately greeted by the hostess who sat us right away. We arrived just after Carlucci’s opened at 11:00 am on Sunday, so the restaurant was pretty empty. But it didn’t take long before guests started rolling in.
And lucky for us, we were seated at a great table right next to a set of sliding doors, and had an amazing view of the outdoor seating and the waterfront. While it was a very nice day out, it was still a bit too nippy to eat outside on the terrace which I would have loved, but I’m glad we were still able to enjoy the view.
After being seated, we were each poured a glass of water, and brought out a plate of bruschetta and basket of bread. You’d think my family hadn’t eaten in a week because the bread was gone before I could blink. The bruschetta was delicious and I could have eaten the whole plate, but I was generous enough to share with everyone else even though they hoarded the bread.
We then ordered some additional beverages and our meals. I want to add that Carlucci’s Waterfront offers a lunch menu on Sunday’s, which in my experience is rare, so that was a nice little surprise. And before we knew it our dishes had arrived.
I started with a Caesar Salad and then moved on to my Seafood Duette. The Seafood Duette is a combo of scallops and shrimp tossed with spinach, cherry tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil with a touch of lemon, white wine and zafferano, all served over a plate of linguine.
Ooohhh maaan, my taste buds were in heaven! My daughter even had a few bites. I’ve had “Italian food” before, but this was real and it was love at first bite.
My other half started with some Lentil Soup, one of the soups of the day, and then enjoyed some Broccoli and Shrimp Pappardelle. This dish consists of homemade pappardelle sautéed with broccoli, shrimp and cherry tomatoes, in garlic and extra virgin olive oil.
It looked very appetizing on my end and his favorite part of the dish was the shrimp and sauce. He didn’t much care for the pappardelle, but simply because it is a larger sized pasta. Any other pasta and he probably would have cleaned his plate, so it’s just a personal preference. But he enjoyed trying something new!
The kids enjoyed some typical children’s menu favorites. My son, the picker eater, had his usual Chicken Fingers and French Fries, and my daughter had some Penne Alfredo.
I tasted the Penne Alfredo and I have to say, I would be very surprised if the alfredo sauce was not homemade. It was like no alfredo sauce I have ever eaten before. It had a bit of a sweet taste to it and was very distinctive. If my daughter didn’t eat it, I certainly would have had no problem finishing it for her.
The food was absolutely delectable and the overall ambience was delightful. Carlucci’s Waterfront also features a fully stocked bar for any type of adult beverage you may want.
While we were dining, a group of guests strolled in, ordered some drinks from the bar and then enjoyed some conversation on the terrace before coming back inside to dine. Carlucci’s really is a great place to just come and hang out, and enjoy some amazing food.
Carlucci’s Waterfront also offers banquet and event dining, including wedding events. The restaurant itself is beautiful and then open up the sliding doors that lead to the outdoor terrace, and you’re all set for your next large event.
It just so happens that while we were there, a group of guests were preparing to host a baby shower and I was thinking to myself Carlucci’s was a great choice. I would love to hold a party there!
I can say with confidence that if we are ever in the Mt. Laurel area again, we will definitely be dining at Carlucci’s Waterfront. Quite frankly, I can’t wait to go back!
Do you have a restaurant in your area that offers fine dining for families?
*I received a Carlucci’s Waterfront gift card to help facilitate my review. My opinions are still 100% my own and in no way influenced by the restaurant. Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the restaurant. Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.
~Thank you to CoCo Key Water Resort for providing complimentary passes to facilitate this review. As always, opinions are still 100% my own.~
This past weekend my family enjoyed a short staycation in the Mt. Laurel, NJ area. It was nice to get out of the house and explore what the state has to offer and there were different things about the weekend that each of us enjoyed, from shopping, to dining, to a little indoor water park fun.
Yeap, you read that right. We had water park fun in NJ, in April! It was cold and rainy ALL weekend, but it didn’t stop us from splashing around at CoCo Key Water Resort like it was summer.
CoCo Key is an indoor water park that offers family fun for all ages. Guests of The Hotel ML can purchase passes to visit anytime during their stay, or the general public can purchase a daily pass and just spend the day splashing around.
My kids absolutely love playing in the water and since moving from FL to NJ, the only water play they’ve gotten is during bath time. So I knew CoCo Key would be the perfect getaway for them and they ended up having a splashing good time! The water park was their favorite part of our staycation and my son is already asking to go back.
We ventured over to the water park, which is accessible via the hotel and also has its own entrance, sometime early Saturday afternoon. As you walk in, there’s a counter for purchasing your passes and another counter for cashing in your arcade tickets.
Not only does CoCo Key offer an indoor water park, but also has a nice little arcade. If it weren’t for my son wanting so badly to play in the water park, he could have spent all day in the arcade.
Just beyond the entrance area are doors that lead you into the water park, which is two levels. You enter on the upper level and can either walk down a flight of stairs or take the elevator down to the lower level.
Dip-In: This is a kiddie play area that’s perfect for the littlest swimmers. A one foot deep wading pool, Dip-In features a pirate ship in the center with double slides, as well as a baby bungee corner, and is lots of fun for toddlers and smaller kids.
The weekend we were visiting, the hotel was offering special movie nights that took place at the water park at 9:30 pm. This was after the water park closed at 9:00 pm, so it was only available to hotel guests. Friday night we went to check it out and the movie, Shrek the Third, was actually playing on the sail of the pirate ship! I thought that was pretty fun and a little added perk for the kids.
Coral Cove’s Slam Dunk: A three foot deep circular pool where you can enjoy a little water basketball.
Coconut Grove Lazy River: A three foot deep lazy river where you can hop in a float and take a relaxing 300 foot ride, but be sure to watch out for the splashy surprises along the way.
Lily Pad Adventure: A fun water activity that tests your balance and strength, the Lily Pad Adventure is like something you’d see in an obstacle course. With the help of an overhead rope to hang onto, do you think you could keep your balance long enough to cross the pool on floating “lily pads” without falling in?
Palm Grotto Indoor/Outdoor Spa: This one is for adults only. While the kids splash around, sit back and enjoy a hot, relaxing dip in the whirlpools of the hot tub spa.
Parrot’s Perch: In the center of it all is Parrot’s Perch. It’s like a big water playground and jungle gym that everyone can climb on, shoot water cannons, slip down the slides and get drenched when the 300 gallon water bucket at the top fills up and tips over.
Large Water Slides: If you’re looking for a real thrill, take a ride on one of the three large water slides – Pelican Plunge, Barracuda Blast, and Shark Slam. Grab a raft and make your way to the top by climbing the indoor stairway. The slides themselves twist, turn and wind outdoors, but they’re all completely covered and protected from the elements. The entrance and all three slide exits are indoors so you never actually step foot outside.
If you plan to spend the whole day at CoCo Key, I can guarantee you’re going to get hungry. But never fear because you can pick up pizza, burgers, chicken nuggets and more at Gator’s Grab & Go, or grab a cocktail at Wet Rooster’s, a full service bar.
There are lifeguards, on lifeguards, on lifeguards at CoCo Key. They’re everywhere and they actually pay attention to ensure everyone stays safe. There was a lot of whistle blowing during our visit, haha.
If something were to happen though, there’s also a first aid station. And if you need a life jacket for your little swimmer, they’re on hand too.
What to Bring
For a day at CoCo Key you’ll definitely need to bring your own towels. We just used our hotel bathroom towels since we didn’t bring any from home.
And since I know you’ll want to preserve some family memories, I’m sure you’ll bring along a camera or take photos with your cell phone. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any photos of my kids playing around, for fear of dropping my phone in the water and the shear fact of having to wrangle two small kids, I really needed both of my hands available. I did see a lot of people who were wearing waterproof cell phone holders around their neck, so I would recommend bringing something like that along so your phone isn’t far out of reach, but is still protected.
And for anything else you bring along, lockers can be rented ($10) to keep those items safe. There is plenty of space on both the upper and lower levels to sit, but if everyone in your party is enjoying the fun, you will not want to leave your belongings just sitting around. So the lockers are plus and you can access them at any time you need to.
Since we were visiting on a Saturday, I think the water park was a little more crowded than if we had visited another day. The kids had a really great time and we did too, but there are a few things I want to note.
The first thing is the smell of chlorine is pretty overpowering, which I totally understand given it’s a water park, but it kind of smells like a dirty chlorine. Not that fresh, super clean, dive right in kind of smell. And for as strong as the chlorine smell is and as much as they must be using, the water was pretty murky. I don’t know if this is just a result of all the traffic that comes in and out, or if it was intentional to give kind of like a natural outdoor look to the water.
The thing that really bummed us out was that Dip-In, the kiddie area on the upper level, was closed off and reserved for a birthday party. Birthday parties are a great feature that CoCo Key Water Resort offers, and there are a handful of private rooms near the resort entrance for facilitating them, as well as a large sitting area on the upper level where these parties can also be held.
But at the same time, this really hindered how much freedom we could give our one year old. Since we couldn’t access the kiddie area, we were forced to stay on the lower level.
Let me preface this a little bit so it makes more sense as to why this bummed us out. So once you get wet, you better stay in the water because – You. Will. Freeze. After getting wet our daughter was literally shivering in our arms so it was either keep her in the water or wrap her in a towel, which she was not about to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else having fun.
The water in the Parrot’s Perch area is very shallow. We sat her down and it barely covered her legs, so this wasn’t going to work for us. The only other option was to sit in the water that was at the entrance to the lazy river. The water was warmer there and it was deep enough to keep our daughter decently submerged so that she wasn’t shivering. The problem is that this was not a very safe place for us to be, or anyone else for that matter.
There was traffic coming in and out for those visitors who wanted to ride around the lazy river, and not only that but there were bigger kids hanging out in that area as well and their splashing around and rough housing was not safe for our kids. So not having access to the kiddie area on the upper level was a bit of an issue for us and we actually only stayed for a little over an hour.
The other thing I want to note is that the day we checked out (Sunday), the water park was only open until 3:00 pm due to a private event (normally open until 6:00 pm). Since we had our passes, we could have stayed after checking out of our room and enjoyed the water park until it closed, but we chose not to. And I’m all for private events like this, but as a visitor who’s paying to enjoy a full day of water park fun, this would upset me. I’d hate to show up promising my kids a full day of fun, only to find out that’s not going to happen.
So I suggest calling ahead of time to ensure there are no special events taking place that could hinder your family’s fun. So long as there’s nothing going on that would have certain areas closed off, or affecting the park hours, I think you’ll have a good time.
Overall, my kids didn’t know any different and they had a ton of fun playing in the water. At CoCo Key Water Resort you won’t have to worry about sunscreen, but it’ll still wear you out like a day in the sun. Just the little amount of time we spent at the water park wore me out and I was ready for a nap as soon as we returned to our hotel room.
*Complimentary CoCo Key Water Resort passes were provided for purposes of facilitating this review. My opinions are still 100% my own and in no way influenced by the brand. Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the brand. Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.
~Thank you to The Hotel ML for hosting the Making Time family at a discounted rate. As always, opinions are still 100% my own.~
It’s been a while since my family has taken a vacation, so it was time I took action and planned something fun for us. Rather than going all out and traveling far, I decided to find something that was a little closer to home.
Since moving to NJ last November we haven’t really ventured out of our immediate area, so I thought a short staycation would be a great way to get out of the house, explore the state and enjoy some time together.
Just about an hour and a half drive from our home, The Hotel ML is situated in Mt. Laurel, NJ. The hotel itself is very beautiful. The entrance is gorgeous and very inviting. As soon as we stepped foot into the hotel lobby, I was blown away.
There’s obviously the front desk, two sitting areas and a lounge where you can enjoy some beverages and watch a little TV. Everything appeared to be new and modern, and if it’s not new, then they’re doing a good job of keeping it up.
To the right of the lobby area there are meeting rooms for private events, such as conferences, wedding activities and other social events. In fact, I believe someone was hosting wedding activities the evening we checked in. I overheard their party talking about it while passing through the lobby the next day.
To the left of the lobby area is the elevator and rooms. Our third floor room at The Hotel ML was a very nice size. It was probably the largest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in and the kids were able to run around to let out a little of their excitement. With two double beds, a lounge chair and ottoman, office desk, dresser with TV and mini fridge, and full bathroom, it was a home away from home.
After arriving we headed to the closest store to pick up a few snacks and drinks to stock our mini fridge. This was great because the kids are always wanting something, so having the mini fridge helped save us some money on food and drinks throughout the weekend.
While it was a spacious room, there were a few things that could use some improvement and it’s mostly all aesthetic. I was told the room was newly renovated, but the only thing that looked new was the bathroom sink and counter.
There were marker lines on the window curtains, most likely caused by kids during a previous stay. But it’s a kid-friendly hotel, so things like this are to be expected now and then. The furniture and mini fridge were also pretty dinged up. Again, this is something that can be expected with the traffic that comes in and out, but it was very obvious and immediately noticeable.
Another issue was the mattress or bed springs on one of the beds was broken, I think. I didn’t even notice it until the day we left because I had been sleeping on the other bed, but I sat on it while getting ready to leave and drastically sunk down.
So again, nothing in the room really stood out to me as being renovated besides the bathroom sink. While I’m on the topic of the bathroom, I also want to note the toilet was lower to the ground than an average toilet. Not a complaint, but just something to mention. This is actually great for the kids, but as an adult you better make sure you have your squat game on point.
After being blown away at the entry and lobby area, I was expecting a bit of a nicer room. Overall, the room was okay and I’d consider it pretty average. Nothing too over the top and fancy, but it was suitable for our weekend stay.
If you get a little hungry, you can always order room service or head down to Talia’s. Situated just behind the lobby lounge is Talia’s Restaurant and Bar. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to dine at Talia’s, but they serve up-scale comfort food all day.
In the morning you can enjoy a breakfast buffet, and for lunch and dinner you can order dishes like Short Rib Grilled Cheese, Portobello Sandwich, half pound Black Angus burger or Cajun Seared Salmon, just to name a few.
If you’re just looking for a snack, sweet treat or cup of coffee, I suggest heading to The Little Shop of Coffee, located between the elevators and front desk. You can find snacks, ice cream treats, a variety of coffees and a table or two to just sit and enjoy some conversation.
There’s also PLENTY of off-site dining options, too. Starbucks, Ale House and Bob Evans are just across the street from the hotel. And in the general area, a short ride will take you to any restaurant you can imagine. It would take me a while to list them all, but during our stay we dined at Don Pablos, Cracker Barrel and Grand Lux Cafe.
So, you’re probably wondering what’s so great about The Hotel ML that we chose to spend our weekend family staycation there. The answer is simple – CoCo Key Water Resort! The kids had a blast and I can’t wait to tell you all about it – tomorrow, haha.
Sounds like fun, right? I’ll give you a little info now, just to be fair. CoCo Key Water Resort is on the same premises as The Hotel ML. It’s housed in a separate building towards the back of the property, but can easily be accessed from the hotel.
As soon as we left the lobby area and walked to the elevators, we could smell the chlorine so there’s no missing the fact it’s there, even if you’re not visiting the hotel for purposes of the water park. To get there, just take the elevator down to the first floor (the lobby is on the second floor) and walk your way through the halls.
There are rooms on the first floor, so I would assume if you’re staying on the first floor, you’re probably going to hear a lot more noise and traffic as hotel guests utilizing the water park make their way through the halls. But just a short one to two minute walk and you’re ready to enjoy some indoor water park fun!
Aside from the on-site fun of CoCo Key Water Resort, there are also some fun things in the general area to do. Want to do some shopping? Head to Moorestown Mall or Cherry Hill Mall. Want to do something fun with the family? There’s a bowling alley right down the road or spend a few hours at Sky Zone Trampoline Park. Still not enough? Make your way to The Funplex for bumper cars, laser tag and more!
I had no idea there was so much to do in the Mt. Laurel area. It was nice to get out of the house and have a mini family vacation, while exploring what our new home state has to offer. I can’t wait until our next staycation!
*This hotel stay was provided at a discounted rate for purposes of this review. My opinions are still 100% my own and in no way influenced by the brand. Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the brand. Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.
~Thank you to NCircle Entertainment for providing DVDs for review. As always, opinions are still 100% my own.~
This week has been a total throwback for me. NCircle Entertainment has some pretty amazing releases this month. Last week I shared with you the new Dino Dan: Dino Go Seek release, but this week I’ve really had fun reliving some childhood memories with Pocoyo and Sonic the Hedgehog.
While Pocoyo wasn’t around when I was a kid, that doesn’t mean he can’t offer a little inspiration from my childhood. The new Pocoyo: Playtime! release is filled with over an hour of nothing but playtime fun. One of the activities Pocoyo and his friends partake in is a short camp out, complete with a tent, hammock and flashlight.
This inspired me to help my kids build an indoor tent and have a little camp out of our own. This is something I did all the time as a child. We turned our entire living room into one big tent (this was a good way to get my kids to clean up too, haha) and loaded it up with pillows and blankets, and just hung out for a while. We got a little hungry so my son did a little fishing and quickly caught us something to eat!
I love Pocoyo for my toddler because it introduces children to simple and basic vocabulary, and even starts teaching concepts like location. In one particular part of this DVD, Pocoyo’s ducky friend Pato teaches what it means for a ball to be outside, inside, behind and in front of a box. The simple, but fun and colorful graphics and playtime adventures are a wonderful learning tool for youngsters.
Pocoyo: Playtime! Stories
Hide and Seek
The Amazing Tower
Pocoyo’s New Toys
Painting with Pocoyo
Playing Dress Up
And the real blast from the past this week? Sonic the Hedgehog! Let me first start off by telling you that in second grade, I dressed up as Sonic for Halloween. It was all blue everything, including a foam-like mask that had Sonic’s signature spikey hair. I have no idea why I remember that other than it was pretty awesome!
So to be completely honest, when I saw NCircle Entertainment was releasing Sonic Underground Vol. 2, I knew I had to have it. Not for the kids, but for me! Although my son has enjoyed watching the three disc set with me.
If you’re not familiar with Sonic Underground, it’s a series of stories that tell how Sonic and his siblings Sonia and Manic search for their mother, Queen Aleena. And it just wouldn’t be Sonic without Dr. Robotnik, so of course he’s the villain still working against Sonic. Both are trying to find Queen Aleena’s crown jewel, which will help them locate Queen Aleena herself. Who do you think will succeed in finding it first?
Volume 2 happens to be the last and final stories of the Sonic Underground tale and has a run time of about 7 hours. It even includes 20 bonus music videos because did I mention Sonic and his siblings have a rock band? Their name is Sonic Underground! Duh!
Sonic Underground Vol. 2 Stories
The Jewel of the Crown
Three Hedgehogs and a Baby
The Hedgehog in an Iron Mask
Six is a Crowd
Wedding Bell Blues
No Hedgehog is an Island
New Echidna in Town
Haircraft in Space
The Big Melt
Bartleby the Prisoner
The Art of Destruction
Does any of this bring up any of your childhood memories? You can have your own throwback week because I have a chance for you to win a copy of both of these fun DVDs! Just enter using the giveaway form below!
When was the last time you had an indoor camp out or built a fort?
One lucky Making Time reader will win a copy of Pocoyo: Playtime! and Sonic Underground Vol. 2! GOOD LUCK!
This giveaway is open to US Residents, ages 18+ and ends on May 4, 2017 at 11:59 pm est. Random winner will be notified via email and must respond within 24 hours or prize will be forfeited. Sponsor is responsible for prize fulfillment.
*I received samples free of charge from NCircle Entertainment as part of their Brand Ambassadorship. My opinions are 100% my own and in no way influenced by the brand. Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the brand. Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.
~Thank you to NCircle Entertainment for providing a DVD for review. As always, opinions are still 100% my own.~
By now, you probably know that in preparation for my son starting kindergarten next year, I’ve been doing some homeschool preschool activities with him. I can’t even begin to tell you how far he’s come.
This week, I decided to take a nice little detour from our usual workbook and do something more entertaining. It’s important that at such a young age we make learning fun and intriguing, or the info isn’t going to be retained. So yesterday we spent the day working with dinosaurs.
We started our day of dinosaurs with some free Dino Dan printable activities. The set includes six printouts and engages children through coloring, working their way through mazes, exercising their seek and find skills, and more!
My favorite printable was the dot-to-dot T-Rex skull. My son loves dot-to-dot activities, but this one was challenging for him because it starts at number one and goes all the way up to 77.
My son hasn’t really learned counting past the teens, so it was a great learning activity for him. By the time he got to around the 50’s, he had gotten the hang of counting that high and it was fun to watch it click for him.
After a few of these activities, we watched Dino Dan: Dino Go Seek, one of the April releases from NCircle Entertainment. The DVD includes five different fun dinosaur stories and we learned a little about the Microraptor, Dromaeosaurus, Troodon, Kosmoceratops, Dracorex and other dinosaurs.
Dino Go Seek
Train of Dinos
Robots & Dinos
My son’s favorite story was “Dino Go Seek,” where Trek played an indoor game of hide and seek with his friends and grandmother. Everyone hid, while Trek did the seeking. Along the way, Trek learned how Microraptor’s use various skills to stay hidden so as to avoid becoming prey.
Trek’s friends and grandmother were using some of the same exact skills in their game of hide and seek – from hiding is small, tight spaces, to moving around and not staying in one spot for too long. Needless to say, my son picked up a few hiding tips from the Microraptor for when he plays hide and seek with his friends!
*The free printables contained in this post were provided to me by NCircle Entertainment. I also received a sample free of charge from NCircle Entertainment as part of their Brand Ambassadorship. My opinions are 100% my own and in no way influenced by the brand. Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the brand. Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.
~Thank you to Kidz Gear and Thomas PR for providing a set of Bluetooth™ Wireless Stereo Headphones for review. As always, opinions are 100% my own and in no way influenced by the brand.~
Race car engines revving, Transformers crashing and fighting, gun fire blazing, soccer game commentary. These are just a few of the sounds that fill my living room on any given day. Can I just get a little peace and quiet, please?
My son loves playing video games (as does daddy) and while I do my best to limit his game time, I get tired of hearing the same noises over and over and over. On the few days I actually decide to do a little work, the sounds can be quite distracting and make it difficult to concentrate. It literally flushes my productivity down the toilet.
Just recently my son got the opportunity to try the Bluetooth™ Wireless Stereo Headphones from Kidz Gear and they are a total game changer (no pun intended). Immediately upon opening the headphones, my son connected them to the PS4 controller just like daddy does and for that matter, couldn’t wait for daddy to get home from work so he could show them to him.
Connecting the headphones to the controller redirected all game sounds to him and the living room became silent. Finally! He’s occupied, the room is quiet and I can actually be productive at a little work.
What makes the Kidz Gear Bluetooth™ Wireless Stereo Headphones unique?
Use with audio cable connection OR use Bluetooth wireless connection.
Rechargeable battery via USB cable.
Up to 10 hrs listening time when fully charged.
Speaker diameter of 30 mm is optimal for small ears.
Each earbud is labeled with L or R so kid’s know which side is which.
Detachable boom microphone for hands-free calls or video gaming.
Headset controls on right earbud.
Convenient carrying case.
When playing video games, the headphones connect to the controller using the audio cable, but the headphones can also be used wirelessly on any device that has Bluetooth capability, like a tablet or cell phone. Obviously with the audio cable, it’s as simple as plugging them in. But connecting the headphones wirelessly to a device is super easy, too.
Turn the Bluetooth function switch from off to on.
Hold down the play/pause/answer button on the right headphone until the LED indicator blinks continually between red and green.
Visit the Bluetooth settings on the device you want to connect and select “BTKG1.”
Voila! You’re ready to listen wirelessly!
One of the fun features of the Bluetooth™ Wireless Stereo Headphones is the detachable boom microphone. It can be used for talking on the phone and even for taking some online tests and gaming. I’ve discovered that the boom mic only works when the headphones are connected wirelessly to a device, but not when connected with the audio cable.
Unfortunately, when I tried connecting the headphones via Bluetooth to our PS4, I received a message that the PS4 doesn’t support Bluetooth audio devices. Really, Sony? This bummed us out because we thought my son would be able to use the talking feature while playing his games.
But boy he loves taking phone calls with the boom mic. It’s literally hands-free calling for kids. I cringe every time my kids are on my cell phone talking with grandma and accidentally drop the phone. My heart skips a beat when it hits the floor, but with the Bluetooth™ Wireless Stereo Headphones I can put the phone on the counter and they can still talk wirelessly to grandma while playing.
The only downside of the Bluetooth™ Wireless Stereo Headphones is that even though there are built-in volume controls, they don’t work (they do work on the standard, wired set). But never fear! Simply adjusting the volume on the device will adjust the volume output in the headphones. So when my son’s using the headphones with his iPad, adjusting the iPad’s volume settings also adjusts the volume output of the headphones.
Yes, other headsets can be used for these same exact things, but because of the size and make of the Kidz Gear headphones, they’re much easier for kids to use and keep on their ears. Earbuds, in particular, are pretty much a no-go when it comes to kids and their small ears, and other headphone sets that have microphone capabilities can get pretty pricey.
Just imagine how upset you’d be if you spent a pretty penny on a set of headphones and they just ended up destroyed. Yeah, no thanks! This wireless set is just $29.99 and even comes with a nice little carrying bag.
In the end, I get a little more peace and quiet from video games and my son gets adult quality headphones made just for kids. Not only do I see him continuing to use his Bluetooth™ Wireless Stereo Headphones at home for his iPad and gaming, but they would be great for long roadtrips in the car, airplane rides and even in waiting rooms. We have a weekend vacation planned next month and I will definitely make sure these are packed for the car ride!
*Thank you to Kidz Gear and Thomas PR for providing a set of Bluetooth™ Wireless Stereo Headphones for my review. As always, all opinions are 100% my own and in no way influenced by the brand. Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the brand. Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.