Archive for December, 2011

Part II: Much more for families to do in the Southwest

Wupatkied

This is the largest pueblo at the Wupatki National Monument near Flagstaff. You can see the multiple levels and rooms. (I had to shoot with an iPad so it's a little bit blurry.)

When you think about the Southwest and family travel, you immediately think of the Grand Canyon. While it is truly breathtaking, there is so much more for families to see and experience in Arizona and the Southwest.

This is part two of some fabulous places to visit in Arizona as you plan a trip West.

Near Flagstaff and not far from the Grand Canyon

You can see lava flow and the cinder cone at Sunset Crater which exploded more than 1000 years ago.

You can see lava flow and the cinder cone at Sunset Crater which exploded more than 1000 years ago.

Flagstaff is within a two-hour drive of the Grand Canyon and there are many National Park sites and other wonderful things there to share with your family.

The Lowell Observatory, founded in 1894, sits atop a mountain at the end of a railroad line. That railroad line enabled observatory founder Percival Lowell to transport his telescopes and equipment across …

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Much more for families in Southwest than Grand Canyon

Monument Valley on Navajo land in Utah is an amazing site for families. But you do need a 4 by 4 vehicle to get through the dirt road in the valley. Our minivan didn't cut it.

Monument Valley on Navajo land in Utah is an amazing site for families. But you do need a 4-by-4 vehicle to get through the dirt road in the valley. Our minivan didn't cut it.

When you think about the Southwest and family travel, you immediately think of the Grand Canyon. While it is truly breathtaking, there is so much more for families to see and experience in Arizona and the Southwest.

I know times are tough for many families and some may not be taking trips this year but I just wanted to plant some seeds of amazing places your family could visit in 2012 and beyond.

I am constantly amazed by two things in Arizona.

1. There is a tremendous number of national and state parks for families to explore with truly unique environments and history.  Arizona has 22 National Parks (by comparison California has 25 and Georgia has 11).  Arizona also has 31 state parks, which are equally impressive. The $80 yearly National Park pass is an economic way for families to hit a bunch of …

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What do you want to know about the new Legoland Park in Fla.?

Dad Days of Summer host Andy Johnston, his lovely roving reporter wife Lori Johnston and their adorable kindergartener are investigating Legoland in Florida this weekend for the AJC.

They want to know your questions about the new Legoland Park so they can check them out while they are there. So please feel free to leave your questions on the blog about the park and Lori will take them with her!

I am very interested to read Lori and Andy’s report because we are only a few hours away from the San Diego Legoland and would love to know more about it. Walsh has been begging to go since we moved but we just haven’t had the money for it. And now I am worried my 10- and 8-year-olds are getting too big for it.

So here are my questions for Lori and Andy:

  1. Will my 8- and 10-year olds be bored? Are the rides big enough for big kids?
  2. Is it just a big ad for Lego and will your kids be begging for Lego sets the whole time?
  3. How does the cost compare with Disney or Universal? Which park …

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When you return gifts, do you tell?

This morning we talked about the hits from the holidays, but what about the misses?

Do you tell family members when you’re going to return or do you just hope they don’t ask to see you wear it or use it? What about relatives that live far away? Do you send a thank you note and don’t mention the exchange? Is it necessary to come up with an excuse to return or could you just say,“I don’t like it.”

Michael and I disagree on this. He thinks you don’t need to offer any explanation for a return or even tell the person you are exchanging or returning.I think it would be awfully embarrassing to be caught without the present and have to explain at a later date.

If you return gifts from your spouse, does that make your spouse feel badly and not want to buy for you in the future? (My mom swears that happened with my dad. He doesn’t even try any more.)

Are you retuning any presents? Will you tell the giver? Will you make up an excuse or just tell them why you really …

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What are the holiday hits in your house?

We have some definite holiday hits in our house this year, and they were fairly simple gifts — a revved up top, some new dolls and books.

If you have a kindergarten to fifth-grade boy, then Santa probably brought some Beyblades to your house. Despite terrible anime marketing cartoons, Beyblades are surprisingly educational and long-lasting entertainment. At first I just thought were just tops, but apparently you can change how fast or long they spin. My 8-year-old is fascinated by the physics of them and has played non-stop with them since Christmas day. He carries them with him. I sent them to my nephew, 6,  and Godson, 8, as well. My nephew reports a huge hit! I haven’t talked to my Godson yet.

Monster High dolls – Both girls, 10 and 4, requested these dolls and Santa delivered. They use them just like regular Barbie dolls but the characters in the stories are monsters. One mom I talked to was outraged by them and compared the Bratz dolls but I disagree. Bratz dolls are …

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What kid movies are worth your holiday money?

It costs so much money to take a family to the movies that parents have to be smart about choosing the films. You can’t spend your hard-earned money on duds.

So I thought it would be great if parents could share which holiday movies are worth your buck!

I can vouch for two movies so far. We saw “Hugo” with Rose’s class a few weeks ago and it was simply amazing. We didn’t pay for the 3D but you could tell where the effects would have been. I think it would have been worth the money on this one for the 3D if your kids like that.

The fifth-graders who went all loved it. My third-grader went and he thought it was long and a little slow. The fifth-graders had all read the book so that might have helped too. I had not read the book and I was thoroughly entertained. Parents will like it as much as kids. I wouldn’t take small kids to it though. I specifically left my 4-year-old with a friend.

When my parents were visiting a few weeks ago, they took us to see the new Muppet …

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Holiday mode: Crafts, caroling, baking, movies and more!

I can't resist having a holiday craft party each year for the kids. I love watching kids create and it's lovely to have friends over.

I can't resist having a holiday craft party each year for the kids. I love watching kids create and it's lovely to have friends over.

I thought this was the prettiest glitter in the world. The Hobby Lobby lady said after you glue down the glitter hit it with some cheap hair spray and it won't fall off when you hang it.

I thought this was the prettiest glitter in the world. The Hobby Lobby lady said after you glue down the glitter hit it with some cheap hair spray and it won't fall off when you hang it.

I remember making these pin-the-sequins-on-the-foam-balls when I was little. The kids were very patient workign on them and did a lovely job! I have another set for me and Rose to work on alone.

I remember making these pin-the-sequins-on-the-foam-balls when I was little. The kids were very patient working on them and did a lovely job! I have another set for me and Rose to work on alone.

The 4-year-olds loved the holiday stamps. We didn't get out the finger puppets but we still have time to use.

The 4-year-olds loved the holiday stamps. We didn't get out the finger puppets but we still have time to use.

They were talking on Martha Stewart radio about making an easy holiday centerpiece with limes and pomegranites. My kids love red pears so I added those in as well.

They were talking on Martha Stewart radio about making an easy holiday centerpiece with limes and pomegranates. My kids love red pears so I added those in as well.

(I am adding a few more photos to the Momania Facebook page of stuff we’re doing pre-holiday.)

We are in full holiday mode now. The kids are out of school and Michael is using the rest of his …

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What is your approach on the holiday card?

Our good friends Ted Anthony and Melissa Rayworth went for awkward this year on their holiday card. They put the family in matching holiday PJs and took the family to the Wal-Mart photo studio to get a few shots. They wish you a happy holiday even in the awkward moments.

Our good friends, Ted Anthony and Melissa Rayworth, went for awkward this year on their holiday card. They put the family in matching holiday PJs and took them to the Wal-Mart photo studio to get a few shots. They wish you a happy new year even in the awkward moments.

When I was growing up, the long braggy letter was the in holiday greeting. Families would try to make each other feel like crap sharing how great their year had been. I guess now people do that on Facebook.

For a while the popular approach for holiday cards has been the photo card. We started sending photo cards when Rose was born. When Walsh was born we started sending collage photo cards because we could never get one great photo of both kids.

Then that transformed into showing folks on the card what we had been up to or what the kids like. Now that we’ve moved out West our goal is to show people what we’re seeing out here because it is so different from the East Coast.

We have friends who I think are the …

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Share your best holiday treats/recipes for Pink Pig passes!

I have four Pink Pig passes to give away, and I would love for you guys to share on the AJC Momania Facebook page shots of your best holiday treats and recipes. Feel free to share your ideas and recipes on the blog today! (But we can only post photos to the FB page.)

A few years ago we shared holiday treat recipes on the blog and you guys shared one that has become a family favorite for us. I’m not sure who shared the Rolos melted on top of the square pretzel and then you smash half of a pecan on top of that. Holy cow is it good! My whole family loves them.

So I know I can count on you guys for more fantastic holiday treats and recipes. I shared a couple of photos last night of things I have been cooking.

One is make-ahead caramelized onions. You caramelize the onions ahead of time and then can store them for up two weeks in the fridge. Then you can use them pasta, on pizza, on focaccia, and in my favorite – French Onion Soup. You just add the onions to beef broth, simmer …

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Four hours without kids in the house: What would you do?

Each month the YMCA hosts a kids’ night out. You pay about $10 a child and your kids do supervised activities at the Y for four hours. They play games, eat dinner, watch a movie and run around in the gym.

We like it better than hiring a babysitter for a couple of reason:

  1. You can be in your house alone!!
  2. It’s cheaper than a sitter because you can just go home and don’t have to pay to go to a restaurant unless you want to.
  3. Often I can’t find a sitter – all the girls are too busy around here.
  4. Did I mention we can be alone at the house!!

So would you try to go out to dinner, would you watch a movie without being bothered, would you try to get some without kids walking in or having to be quiet?  Would you clean the house?

We almost always opt to just stay home and enjoy our quiet house and some alone adult time! We don’t have any local relatives to ship them off to and the 4-year-old isn’t really going to friends’ houses alone. So it’s unusual for us to …

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