Hello!

Welcome to our blog! We share our own personal experiences about the challenges and joys of traveling with a toddler and a dog, how we plan for our vacations, and give you travel tips from our personal experiences. I also enjoy cooking and crafting, so there will be a few posts about those topics as well.

Thanks for visiting!


Click to read about our Caribbean cruise for four!

Read about our road trip across all 50 states!


There’s a faint line
between
being an influencer and
being influenced by others,
and for most of us
it’s the latter
-Christina Ho Falcon

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Beijing in December

Our Honeymoon Part I: Beijing

Back in December 2014, we took our honeymoon. It was my husband’s first trip China!

This was our view from our room at the Hilton Beijing Wangfujing.

It was definitely a nice contrast between where we stayed and the hustle and bustle of the city. Beijing is one of those cities which is so rich in its history and culture. It’s absolutely beautiful during the winter season. Cold, yes! But, so magical.

In Beijing, we visited the Great Wall of China. Initially I wanted to explore a section of the wall I had never seen before, but we ended up getting swindled by a tour agency we came across right next to our hotel. They piled us onto a bus full of Chinese tourists heading to the Badaling entrance (one of the most popular entrances).

We also went to the Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and tasted some local street food!

I loved going to Beijing in December. There weren’t as many tourists on the Great Wall as there would be during the summer months. And, it wasn’t scorching hot.

Must-Eat!

In Beijing, you must try the duck. We went to Quanjude Restaurant. It had a very tasty and filling roast duck. Delicious! We enjoyed our experience.

Street food is also a must! While very different than a high-end restaurant, you get to try new and different things. And, I honestly have never had any stomach issues when in China. Although, I am not allergic to any foods, so if you have allergies are or wary I would recommend staying away from street food.

Transportation

We used taxis and the intricate subway system while traveling around Beijing. For our Great Wall day trip, we utilized a tour agency and boarded a large bus. We sort of regretted this decision, mostly because we would have liked the flexibility of going on our own.

Transportation within Beijing is very cheap. The cost of our living accommodations = the bulk of our expenses.

Preparation before Departure

Traveling in Beijing in December required us to pack some warm clothing. Temperatures are similar to the New England area in the States.

We were prepared and brought our winter coats, hats, gloves, and boots! It was such a lovely experience!

One thing we also did was exchange some money beforehand. This way we had some cash on hand.

Hope you enjoyed reading about our Beijing portion of our honeymoon!

Honeymooning China

Happy December, everyone!

The beginning of December brings back lots of wonderful memories for our family.

Honeymoon

My husband and I got married on November 29, 2014.

After our winter-themed wedding, we were off to China! Prior to this trip, I had traveled to China over ten times over my life, either with family, for pleasure, for study and for work.

This was Michael’s first trip there, and it was a very exciting time for the both of us. It was such a wonderful way to kick-start this chapter of our lives. It’s been four years since we both traveled across the world.

But, it’s December again and I’m feeling a bit nostalgic.

Here was our 2014 itinerary:

  • 12/2 – Beijing
  • 12/5 – Xi’an
  • 12/6 – Luoyang
  • 12/7 – Zhengzhou
  • 12/8 – Shanghai
  • 12/11 – Depart for Hawaii for Honeymoon Part II

I planned everything, from start to finish. We didn’t plan on using any tour services. Although, we ended up booking one to the Great Wall when we got to Beijing.

Little Passports

Chinese Visa for U.S. Citizens

One of the things we needed to do before our trip to China was to obtain Chinese visas for our U.S. Passports. The laws have changed over the years, but when in doubt, refer to the following resources:

  1. Chinese Embassy in the U.S.
  2. U.S. Department of State

We ended up filling out the form online (via the Chinese Embassy’s website), and then bringing our documents to the embassy in New York, NY. We lined up and dropped off our forms. Then, we get to pick it up in the afternoon with our receipt.  That’s what we did.

China Visa

If you don’t have the time or energy, you can pay an agency to obtain your visa for you, or you can use a mail-in service.

RushMyPassport.com

Our Adventure

This portion of the trip was definitely an adventure, from navigating and eating our way through the country. One area Michael didn’t want to compromise were our living accommodations. We selected 4 star+ hotels vs. lesser known hotels. It was a wonderful decision with money well spent.

Michael loved it all. It was a different perspective, and it was such a wonderful bonding experience for us both!

After the trip, I made a Shutterfly album which I have shared below! Enjoy:)

Click here to view this photo book larger

You’ll love award-winning Shutterfly photo books. Start your own today.
Samsonite

The 50 States: A Road Trip of a Lifetime

U.S.-Themed Christmas Trees at Ripley’s Aquarium

During our trip down south towards the middle to end of November, we stopped in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where we visited Ripley’s Aquarium.

There, they had a beautiful display of Christmas trees. Each of the trees featured a U.S. State! They were all decorated with various ornaments, which featured each state’s characteristics.

Here are some pictures of the trees we saw throughout the aquarium!U.S.-Themed Christmas Trees
U.S.-Themed Christmas Trees at Ripley's Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, SC

U.S.-Themed Christmas Trees

Holiday in Myrtle Beach!

Road Trip!

Towards the middle of November, my family took a road trip with our Airstream in tow down south to Miami, FL from Providence, RI. Along the way we camped at Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for about three days. We had such an amazing time, despite the rainy weather.

Activities

Two of the main places we went to were the Ripley’s Aquarium and the Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show.

We really enjoyed the pirate show. To top it off both of the attractions we went to were Christmas-themed!

Cost

Campground: $96.32 for two nights with oceanfront premium full hookup campsite

Pirate Show: We splurged and purchased the premium seats and also decided to get a ticket for Kai, even though they start charging kids aged 4 and up. Kids under 4 would be sitting on our laps. And, we definitely didn’t want that. Although we definitely did not need the extra food that came with his ticket.

Aquarium: We decided to purchase these tickets through Pirates Voyage to save us some money. And we purchased two adult tickets at $19.89 each which is a total of $39.78 vs. the regular price of $29.99/adult, which would have been $59.98. When we got to the aquarium we ended up buying Kai’s ticket, which was just under $10. The Pirates Voyage also sells children’s tickets, but they’re just over $11 when you purchase them because they are for kids aged 6-11. Kai is 2, so he falls in the 2-5 category.

Screenshot of our receipt for the Pirates Voyage show and Ripley's Aquarium tickets in Myrtle Beach, SCScreenshot of Ripley's Aquarium admission pricesAmenities at the Campground

Overall, we had a wonderful time at Ocean Lakes Campground in Myrtle Beach, SC. During this time we figured out our refrigerator stopped working, so we ended up taking full advantage of the campground’s on-site food shack.

Here are some pictures of their menu! We really appreciated the convenience of having food available.

We also took full advantage of the campground’s laundry facilities! They are coin operated at $2.50/wash and $0.25 per 7 or 8 minutes for the dryer.

The ocean was literally right in our backyard! It was such a nice perk being right on the water, so we walked Stanley on the beach. It was beautiful!

Overall, we had a lovely vacation and stay at Myrtle Beach, SC. Thanks for reading about our trip! Happy Camping!

Thanksgiving Menu Idea!

Yes, Thanksgiving is two days away! Need some last-minute dish ideas? Don’t stress.

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:6-7

Thanksgiving Menu

Here’s a fun and non-traditional menu that my husband and I created two years ago, for inspiration! We decided on serving small plates or tapas as opposed to a traditional menu.

Thanksgiving Menu 2016

Food and Family Fun

We definitely did not make everything from scratch, but we had a great time creating the menu and serving everything to our parents who we invited.

This was also our son’s first Thanksgiving, so it was really special for us.

Cute 6 month year old baby boy's first Thanksgiving!

Here are some pictures of the food we served!

Thanksgiving Menu idea with food images

We hope you have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!Thanksgiving turkey butt sleepy toddler

Easter menu idea!

Road trip game ideas with a toddler!

Yes there are so many ways to entertain your kids! Nowadays with technology right at your fingertips…not to mention the accessibility of cellular devices, tablets, and portable gaming consoles.

Sometimes we lose touch with human interaction when we are so involved with the latest social media notification or when bombarded with emails and text notifications.

Our family recently took a road trip from Rhode Island to Miami, Florida with stops in D.C. and Myrtle Beach. Along the way we tried out a few different car games with our 2.5 year old son.

Road trip from RI to Fl

Play Guessing Games in the Car

Michael and I both realized that our son, Kai, enjoys playing guessing games! Below are some guessing game suggestions and ideas for you and your family to try while at home, on road trips, or waiting in line at an amusement park or simply when you have time and are bored with your toddler.

Delaware bridge road trip

I Spy Guessing Game

This is a classic childhood car game that brings back memories! The object of the game is to guess the thing(s) that are a certain color.

  • Example: mommy says, “I spy with my eye something that is the color green.” Toddler replies, “trees?!”
  • We found that focusing on objects that are seen for longer periods of time proved to be better for us, since our toddler’s reaction time isn’t the quickest, especially when driving 60 MPH.
  • This game doesn’t usually last us a long time, unless we also focus on items INSIDE the car. Then we can play for a little while longer. Also try and change it up and ask your child to ask the adult or other siblings what he or she spies!!! We have fun guessing too:)

Guess the Animal

Not sure if this has another name, but that’s what we call it in our family! Objective is to guess the animal.

  • Example: daddy says, “baaaa”, and asks children to guess what animal. Child replies, “sheep!”
  • This game is fun and the child also had a blast getting involved in mimicking animal noises.

Guess the Color

As the name of the game provides a wonderful explanation of objective, which is to guess to the color of what is being described.

    • Example: grandma asks, “what color am I thinking of? Apples, stop sign, cherries, raspberries, roses…” child replies, “red!”
    • We have tried playing this game when our toddler was a bit overtired and let me tell you it was an epic failure! He would not concentrate AT ALL and would constantly laugh 😂 which would make me laugh even harder! It was hilarious!

Guess the Item

This game can be played several different ways depending on the children’s ages. The way we have played is fairly simple. Example: grandpa says, “I am thinking about something, this something is the color red. You can eat it. It is sweet. It is a fruit. It’s crunchy. You can pick it off a tree in the fall. You can make pie with it.” Child says, “apple!?”

  • The adult can go on and on and provide detailed descriptions of the item he or she is thinking about until the child guesses correctly. We have found that, depending on your child’s comprehension and vocabulary level, it might be best to start with very simple things.
  • When your children grow older you can start doing the role reversal so they can ask you to guess the item they’re thinking of.

Little Passports

Imagination and Reading to the Rescue!

In addition to occupying your children’s time with guessing games, another form of entertainment we have found to be fun and stimulating is your imagination.

Storytelling

If you’re a creative and imaginative person this is right up your alley! The object is to use descriptive words and tell a fun story.

Unfortunately my attempts at telling our son a story has failed on numerous occasions. It just doesn’t “flow” for me. Therefore, I rely heavily on resources that are available to us.

Audiobooks

My default: the library! If you have a library card you most likely have access to borrow e-books and audiobooks.

  • Prior to our road trip or even during the long drive, I log into my online library account and search for some children audiobooks. I am able to download them right then and there through an app called Overdrive or listen to the book right through our browser. My son loves Curious George and Pinkalicious and enjoys listening to the audiobooks. I have also realized they seem to calm him down and put him to sleep (on a good day).

Playing Pretend

Similar to story-telling, but we are the ones in the “story”. My husband does such an amazing job with this game! Typically we do this at night when we are winding down from a busy day, and if we decide not to read a bedtime storybook.

  • Example: daddy says, “are you ready to go on a safari adventure? What animals do you want to see today?” Then he describes going into a Jeep and buckling up and seeing all of the sights with animal sounds and all! Being in a moving vehicle we could pretend we are in space and seeing all of the spaceships and other life forms go by us, as we are riding.

Little Passports

Other Activities and Ideas!

Here are some other suggestions and things we have tried with our toddler on our long road trips.

Toys

Sometimes bringing his favorite toy(s) are extremely helpful! If your child has a stuffed animal he or she can play pretend and feed it snacks and have fun. Kai enjoys playing with his “shark blaster,” which has lights and sounds.

Snacks & Food

Kai loves snacks! Eating and snacking on stuff keeps him occupied and entertained for a long time. I usually try and find some healthy snacks for him to munch on. His favorites include the following:

Tablet

When all else fails, we do resort to playing movies or TV shows on his tablet. This is the one we have, along with the case we got for him:



Our sons enjoying watching certain shows and tends to fall asleep to the movie Moana, which was his favorite for a long time.

Some of the toddler games are very educational, but we have found that we need to sit down with him and show him how to play the games before we sit in the car. The games are a little complex for him to figure out all on his own after downloading them.

I recommend letting your child play games that he or she is already familiar with so they can explore on their own. Otherwise, you will have a toddler constantly asking you how to do this and that in each level or in each game.

Play Packs / Coloring Activity

Our son doesn’t typically have the attention span to sit for long periods of time, but when we are in the car he actually enjoys coloring and playing with some stickers. He has been rather intricate with his coloring nowadays…compared to just a few months ago he would just color a few lines and said he was all done.

We hope these road trip ideas are helpful for you and your family during long drives or when you’re traveling:) Enjoy!

The 50 States: A Road Trip of a Lifetime

Newport Family Day Trip

Yes, we are Rhode Island residents. And yes, we don’t explore locally enough. However, once or twice a year, when our Cairn terrier needs to get groomed, we take the opportunity to spend some family time in the Newport, RI area.

Our Dog Groomer

Since our dog has a wire coat and my husband is very particular about how he gets groomed. And not a lot of places in the area offer hand-stripping dogs with a wire coat. We found one place and it’s located in Portsmouth, RI, called Perry’s Plush Pooch. They specialize in grooming show dogs. And while it is a hefty price to pay for our dog, it’s supposedly the proper way to groom a Cairn terrier.

Here’s some pictures of our shaggy Cairn…

and his post-groom look…

Castle Hill Lighthouse

Since our groomer requires he be brought to him by 8am in the morning and he be picked up around 3pm, we have typically gone for a day trip to Newport.

The first year we did this Kai was just getting comfortable with walking on uneven surfaces. So we just ended up taking him to a local playground and to Castle Hill Lighthouse.  When we went it was a cool and beautiful day in early April, so we got some nice pictures by the lighthouse and walking on the empty beach. And, it wasn’t super crowded/full of tourists that time of year.

Thames Street

After the lighthouse excursion, we decided to do some shopping on Thames. Kai had his snacks in his stroller along with his milk, while walked around.Snacking toddler with Ray Bans

Oh have I mentioned how much I LOVED using these WeeSprout Double Zipper Reusable Food Pouch – 6 Pack – 5 fl oz I found on Amazon while he was into eating pureed fruit? I would steam all sorts of fruits and vegetables and puree them all. Kai loved his snacks so much!

While he napped…

During his nap, we decided to go to a nice sit-down seafood restaurant, Mooring Restaurant. It worked out perfectly, and just as we were getting ready for dessert, our little one sat right up from his stroller looking SO ADORABLE with his cute/messy hair.

Just woken up toddler in stroller

What a wonderful way to end our Newport, RI day trip before we picked up our dog.

Toddler lesson: corn 🌽 🍿

After our very first toddler lesson at home focusing on pumpkins, I received some feedback for which I was very grateful.

The kids has a blast, and they learned and retained a lot of the material we covered.

Attention

Our focus is simply to grab the kids’ attention. They’re so little and have trouble paying attention. And when the kids are put in an environment that’s different or new there are so many distractions, everywhere. It’s unavoidable. But, we try to minimize them.

Corn Lesson Plan

Sticking to the autumn theme, this past week’s lesson was focused on corn! There are a lot of things made out of corn so we ended up shucking corn after watching a YouTube video about Corn on the Cob. And then we did a few sensory activities while we read some books.

Here is a picture of my lesson plan board!

Toddler lesson plan board focusing on CORN

Corn Structured Play

Our biggest class yet. Five kids vs. three kids made a difference! Just a lot going on all at once…good noise of course!

Also, there were a lot of activities to cover, but the transition was nice because I tried to plan it so the kids had a few songs and then books and then back to some sort of craft so they didn’t get bored.

Overall, it was a very fast-paced lesson focused on play.

Here is a printout focusing on the letter C, corn, and the Chinese character with pinyin for corn.

C is for Corn

Once we finished with the lesson portion of the lesson, we went upstairs and munched away on corn snacks!

Corn snack ideas!

  • Corn muffins
  • Corn chips
  • Tortilla chips with salsa
  • Corn on the cob with or without butter
  • Spanish corn snack called Quicos (found at Whole Foods)
  • Popcorn

Popcorn Flavor Station

Why not make it fun and interactive for your toddlers and friends? You can create a popcorn station where kids can experiment with different types of seasonings. I whipped out my seaweed and other spices from my spice rack, as well as some mainstream spices, such as cinnammon with sugar

Popcorn with flavor station

Get your own brown paper bags and shake ’em up with your favorite popcorn seasonings. Of course, my child went for it and made a pile of “Bangkok Blend” seasoning along with Chili Powder!

Mixing different flavors for popcorn seasoning

Hopping Corn

Oh and if you’re wondering about that large glass vase on the left-hand corner in the above picture, that was our hopping corn activity we found on www.onetimethrough.com.

Here is the link if you’re interested! http://onetimethrough.com/hopping-corn-science-activity/

The AftermathPopcorn lesson aftermath - homeschooling my toddler

Popcorn galore!  Yes, there were popcorn and kernels everywhere. It smelled like a movie theatre once we were finished with our lesson for the day! Lots of cleaning post-lesson. Thankful for all of the helpful moms in the group <3.

Welcome to parenthood. Done messy!

I hope you enjoyed reading and browsing through pictures:) Until next lesson….

Happy Halloween!

Hello friends!  Happy belated Halloween:) hoping everyone had a safe and fun time yesterday.

This was Kai’s 3rd Halloween. Since Kai’s first Halloween, we have taken family pictures.This year was the first one where we felt as though Kai has developed and has his own little personality.

He just turned 2 1/2. He’s really big into Power Rangers right now. Surely (hoping) it’s a phase. Praying it’s a short one (less than six months please).

toddler dressed up as Brody, the red ranger from power rangers ninja steel

You know what’s funny? We initially bought his red ranger costume from Target, but the store only carried Power Rangers Dino Charger costumes. He’s big into Power Rangers Ninja Steel right now; his favorite character being Brody, the red ranger.

So, we ended up returning the Dino Charger costume back to Target and getting him Power Rangers Ninja Steel Toddler Muscle Costume, Red, Large (4-6) on Amazon.com.

Halloween Day

Kai had a zoo field trip instead of doing our traditional “class” on Wednesday mornings. The weather was perfect. While a little chilly, it wasn’t freezing. I didn’t bring Kai’s stroller so he walked the whole way.

power ranger and little red riding hood

mommy and son at roger williams zoo in providence, ri with giraffes

My husband, Michael, had work at the office.

Halloween Night

After eating dinner, Michael took Kai to visit our parents’ places to show off Kai’s costume while I stayed home and gave out candy!

grandparents posing on halloween with grandchild

Overall, we had such a lovely and memorable Halloween and hope you did too!

Ten Red Apples Felt Board Activity Prep

For my toddler homeschooling lesson this fall, I organized an activity that encourages participation!

Turn your lesson prep into a FUN time with your kids:) That’s what we did.

Ten Red Apples

After checking out some books from our local library, I selected Ten Red Apples by Pat Hutchins (ISBN: 0688167977) for our apple-themed felt board activity.

Preparation

Kai, my two-year old son, and I had a blast making the cute cut-outs for the hand-me-down felt board I inherited from my husband’s Aunt Linda. She used to teach pre-school, and she passed along all of her material to me. I’m so blessed and thankful for all of the resources! Thank you.

Here are some pictures from our activity.

I searched for clipart images of all of the animals in the book, from a horse to a donkey to a hen and a duck! Then, I printed them out on regular paper. I also printed out a large tree and some apples and the farmers.

Afterwards, I used Mod Podge Original 16-Ounce Glue, Gloss Finish Party Supplies, 16 Oz, 12 Pieces with some paint brushes to stick them on thick paper (cardstock).

I asked Kai to help me paint over the images I printed out. Definitely don’t be shy with the glue. I painted underneath the images and then Kai took over! After there was a nice coat over the images, we lay them out to dry for a few hours.

Then we started cutting them out. I used a hot glue gun and glued felt on the back of the images. To stick the apples on the tree, I used mounting putty, so they could easily be removed from the tree as we counted down from 10 to 0.

The Activity

For the actual felt board activity during the day of the lesson, I asked a parent volunteer to read the book as I assisted with the images. It was a semi-success. Some kids were very focused while others were not.

You win some and lose some.

We had so much fun with the whole process though:) and hope you enjoy!