~I received an Ottica site credit to help facilitate my review. As always, opinions are still 100% my own.~
Since the weather has warmed up, we’ve been getting outdoors and enjoying the sunshine so much more. And whether we’re playing at the park, going for a walk, or enjoying city views, I always have sunglasses on.
Can I just tell you how much I love sunglasses? I wear them year-round. Suns out? Sunglasses on! Snow on the ground? Sunglasses on! Leaves starting to fall off the trees? Sunglasses on! Not only do they protect my eyes and keep color in focus, but they are one of my favorite accessories. I feel more put together (even if I’m really not) when I wear sunglasses.
There’s a good chance my sunglasses obsession is getting out of control, but I don’t see myself stopping any time soon. In fact, I recently got the opportunity to check out Ottica.com and get a new designer pair!
Right from the start I knew I’d be able to find an amazing new pair of sunglasses. Ottica offers sunglasses for both men and women, and has a variety of brands, sizes, styles, colors and materials. Brands include Ray-Ban, Versace, Coach, Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Carolina Lemke and Burberry, and there are 113 pairs of women’s sunglasses to choose from, alone!
How did I find my perfect pair? Well, it was hard mostly because I wanted to get every single pair, but I eventually narrowed it down by trying them on. You’re probably like, trying them on? How did you try on sunglasses if you’re ordering online?
It just so happens that Ottica has a feature where I can upload a photo of myself and virtually try on different frames. How cool is that?! Here are a couple of pairs I “tried on.”
Once I found my perfect pair, which was a pair of blue tortoise Michael Kors sunglasses, I simply added them to my cart and checked out. I first tried paying my balance via PayPal, but it wouldn’t process for some reason. After switching to a credit card payment, my order went through just fine, though.
If you require a prescription, Ottica has you covered too. It’s still the same process, with a few extra added steps. I personally don’t need glasses, so I didn’t have to go through those few extra steps, but it looks pretty easy to do.
Pick your frames, choose what type of lenses you need, upload your prescription and voila! And Ottica not only offers sunglasses, but you can also get your everyday prescription glasses too.
After making my purchase, I received email updates every step of the way. From a purchase confirmation, to notification of when my sunglasses were sent to production, to notification of when the production process was complete, I was received updates about it all. And before I knew it, my sunglasses had arrived in the mail!
Now all that’s left is for me to enjoy my new sunglasses and explore the concrete jungle this summer!
Spring is in full swing and summer will officially be here in just a few short weeks, so if you need a new pair of sunglasses, head over to Ottica.com. I promise you’ll find the perfect pair to protect your eyes this summer and still stay fashionable.
Shipping is free, returns are free and if you require prescription lenses, you can get 50% off your first pair by joining the Ottica Club (just click the brown banner at the top of the site that says “Get 50% off all lenses.”)
What is your favorite pair of sunglasses at Ottica?
*I received an Ottica site credit to help facilitate my 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 Spin Master for providing The Wobbly Worm Game for review. As always, opinions are still 100% my own. This post also contains affiliate links, in which I will receive commission for your purchase.~
When we think of summer, we imagine all the fun in the sun we’re going to have. But the reality is, not every day is a nice sunny one where our kids can play outside. On those rainy summer days, how do we keep the kids occupied inside without putting them in front of a screen?
The Wobbly Worm Game is a fun game for ages 3+ and is perfect for up to three players. It can be played indoors or outdoors, but for the most fun and wobbles, its best on a flat and solid surface.
We first tried it on the rug, but realized Mr. Worm didn’t wobble as much. As soon as we put him on the wood floor, his wobbles and moves were all kinds of crazy.
The weather here has been pretty dreary today, but my kids are still having tons of fun inside with The Wobbly Worm Game. It really is a great option for rainy summer days!
How do you play?
Each player has their own set of three color coordinated rings. The object of the game is to toss and hoop all three of your rings around Mr. Worm first. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Mr. Worm has got some insane wobbling skills and his movements make it difficult to win. You never know what direction he’s going to move in!
Check it out!
Why I Love It!
One of the things I love about The Wobbly Worm Game is that it’s adjustable and that means it grows with your kids. The shorter you make Mr. Worm, the easier it is to toss and hoop him. This is great for smaller kids, and when my daughter plays we always make it a little shorter so it’s easier for her.
When Mr. Worm is at his fullest height, the movements are much less predictable and he wobbles uncontrollably. This makes the game more challenging, but also a better height for older kids (and parents).
The other thing I really love is it keeps my kids active even though they’re indoors. And in a pretty small space for that matter. On most rainy days you’ll find my kids running rampant through every room in the house, but when playing The Wobbly Worm Game they stay in one room and play nicely (well, whether they play nicely is on a case-by-case basis, haha).
Another perk? The game is super affordable! Right now it’s just $14.00 on Amazon (hurry because you know Amazon prices can change quickly)!
Rainy Day + The Wobbly Worm Game = Summer Fun
Do your kids like to play games on rainy summer days?
*Thank you to Spin Master for providing The Wobbly Worm Game 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 also contains affiliate links, in which I will receive commission for your purchase. Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.
~Thank you to NCircle Entertainment for providing the new Octonauts release for review. As always, opinions are still 100% my own. This post also contains affiliate links, in which I receive commission for your purchase.~
Octonauts, to the launch bay!
If you have a little Disney Jr. fan at home, you’ve probably seen your fair share of the Octonauts. Captain Barnacles, Kwazii, Peso and the rest of the Octopod crew explore the ocean in search of fun and adventure.
Along the way, they find many different species of marine creatures who are in need. From helping a frogfish and other creatures with an artificial reef to call home, to cleaning up garbage from the ocean to help protect a flock of seagulls, there’s never a dull moment with the Octonauts.
It’s hard to choose which one is our favorite, but there’s one thing that remains consistent through many of the episodes – fish biscuits to the rescue!
Ever heard of the term hangry? Just like we can get a little moody when we’re hungry, the same goes for some of the underwater creatures the Octonauts encounter during their explorations. But never fear! Tunip and the Vegimals have the perfect fish biscuit recipe to calm the hunger and ease the aggression of these creatures, helping to save the day.
Fish biscuits even help eliminate hangry behavior in my house! And I thought it only appropriate to munch on some fish biscuits while we joined the Octonauts on their adventures today. If we want to be productive honorary members of the Octonauts, it’s always good to be prepared!
Honorary Octonauts have to be prepared for any kind of creature they encounter on their Octopod adventures, so I've taken a cue from Tunip and the Vegimals and baked up some Fish Biscuits just in case they come across some hangry marine life.
1 cup of sugar
3 cups of flour
2 tsp of baking powder
½ tsp of salt
1 cup of softened butter
½ tsp vanilla extract
Prepare a cookie sheet and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the sugar and softened butter until smoothly mixed.
Add the egg and vanilla, mix well.
Add the baking powder and salt, mix well.
One cup at a time, mix in the flour until the cookie dough consistency is thick but not too crumbly.
Prepare a surface sprinkled with a little flour and be sure to lightly flour your rolling pin so it doesn't stick to the dough.
No chilling of the dough is required so this is quick and easy! Just take a nice big handful of dough and roll it out evenly on the floured surface.
Using a small fish cookie cutter, cut enough fish biscuits to fill your cookie sheet.
Bake for 7 minutes and then remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Place the fish biscuits on a cooling rack and after a minute or two enjoy!
This fish biscuit recipe yields about 120 fish biscuits if using these small cookie cutters I got from Amazon. I used the larger of the three that come in the pack. I like these because they’re the perfect bite size and will help us feed more hangry marine creatures on our adventures with the Octonauts! If using a larger cookie cutter, the recipe will obviously yield fewer fish biscuits.
One lucky Making Time reader will win a copy of Octonauts: 12 Rescue Missions + an Octonauts character toy (actual character may vary)! GOOD LUCK!
This giveaway is open to US Residents, ages 18+ and ends on June 9, 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 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. This post also contains affiliate links, in which I receive commission for your purchase. Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.
~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.