Wanderlust Wednesday: Giraffe House Manor

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You guys. Close your eyes and imagine yourself on a safari in Nairobi, Kenya. Just think about how awesome that would be. And then imagine where you would stay during your adventures in Nairobi. I’ll tell you where I’d stay. Well…where I’d want to anyway. There is a hotel in Nairobi called the Giraffe House Manor. The unique distinguishing feature of this hotel: a friendly herd of giraffe that visit daily, multiple times per day. For. Real.

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Can you even imagine?! These gentle giants poke their heads into some of the guest rooms. They visit the breakfast room looking for their own breakfast and eat right out of the hands of staff and guests alike. Friendly as can be.

In addition to the giraffe (for real?! For real.), the property itself is said to be pretty fantastic. Reviews from those who have stayed there describe it as charming, old world, like taking a step back in time. I don’t know if they all do, but at least some of the rooms feature their own fireplace, creating a cozy, old fashion atmosphere. The food receives great reviews as well. There is a beautiful dinning room, a breakfast room, a tv room, and lush gardens to walk through and enjoy. While the cost is well beyond the reach of my pocketbook, I tell you what: if ever I’m able to swing a pleasure trip to Africa, a night at this place will be a major goal. I guess I have another thing to add to my bucket list!

Wanderlust Wednesday: Newport Beach (or any beach, really)

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Do you know what season I could do without? Winter. I hate cold. I’m not sure how I’ve survived the past 30+ winters here in ski country, but I swear I turn into a bigger baby about it with every passing year. Do you know what it’s doing right now? Snowing. It has begun. I could cry.

So I’m sitting here thinking about the awesome and unexpected opportunity I had to accompany my husband to a conference in California a couple of months ago. We visited Newport Beach during some of his down time and I’m wishing I could transport myself to a warm beach right at this very moment. So while it’s not an exotic location in a land far, far away, today I’m sharing just a handful of pictures from that trip. We arrived just a bit before sunset and it was perfect.

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The lighting was nothing short of stunning, and despite having only my little waterproof camera, I couldn’t help but try to capture it.

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We had a lot of fun collecting seashells for the kids and climbing over the rocks looking in the tide pools for different sea creatures. I loved the colors of this little anemone (sorry it’s so blurry!):

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Until next time, dear any warm beach anywhere, I’ll be dreaming of you!

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Who Can Take Tomorrow…Dip It In a Dream…

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…separate the sorrow, and collect up all the cream?

The Candy Man can cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.

Welcome to Halloween 2014! A little background for those who are new to these here parts: We’re crazy. That should be enough of an intro. ;) No, really, though, we are. Or at least I am. Every year, we do a family theme for our Halloween costumes. For a little more info on that (and to see a list of what we’ve done), you can go to this post.

If you’ve browsed through my Halloween posts before, you might notice that there wasn’t one last year. And, well, that’s because last’s year’s theme was “Kids, pick something from the dress up closet, because I don’t have time for it this year.” So this year, we had to make up for it and plan ahead. The theme we picked? Willy Wonka! {Side note literary bonus…if you choose costumes from a book, you can read that book together as a family as part of your preparations. Booyah! Who needs school?! Just kidding. I do. I need my kids to go to school.}

So, without further ado, I give you six cast members from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Or as the 3 year old calls it, “Chocolate and the Charlie Factory.”

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I also need to share one of my favorite pictures from the night that I caught while I was adjusting my camera settings. I mean, what was everyone doing? Really, I wish I knew what every single person in this picture was doing at this moment:
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And now on to the individual costumes and a quick breakdown.

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Let’s start with Mr. Wonka, himself. {Funny side note: Mr. LPMD is a high school teacher and he decided to wear his costume to school on Halloween. He had his pockets full of candy and while he was walking in the halls, if any student said, “Willy Wonka!” he threw a handful of candy at them and kept on walking. One student’s response was “Did that really just happen? That was epic.”} We knew from the start that finding a purple jacket was going to be our biggest hurdle. We looked and looked, but didn’t find one. Eventually I ran across a tan corduroy one and snatched it up. While debating how I should dye it (since it was dry clean only), I had a friend tell me she had painted costumes before and had good results, so I decided to try it out. I used acrylic paint and brushed it on with a paintbrush. It worked…okay. It was hard on the corduroy, because it didn’t always get down in the gaps, so it looked painted, but then when the fabric was moved, you could see the tan color showing up. It was also splotchy where I had to let it dry (so I could move it around to paint it more or so I could stop and take care of my family or whatnot) and then start up again. It also dried VERY stiff. I think if I have to do something like this again, I’ll try the dye and see how it goes.

His hat was a grey thrift store find and also got the paint treatment and a ribbon added around it. The bow tie came from some fabric in my stash and the vest was an amazingly awesome thrift store find. It started out as a woman’s 10P blouse, but the fabric was just too close of a match to pass up, so we decided to make it work for this 6 foot guy. I ended up just cutting the front panels off and safety pinning them onto his white shirt. Whew! His costume was a lot of work.

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Veruca Salt. {This is literally the best picture of me we got. Boo.} This dress was another fortuitous thrift store find. I added the black buttons and the black ribbon waistband and that was it. Yes, I know Veruca’s dress had long sleeves, but this was good enough for me.

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This here is Charlie Bucket and his valuable Golden Ticket. Super easy “costume.” Blue turtleneck. Grey corduroy pants. Golden ticket handmade by an 8 year old. We tried to convince him to be Augustus Gloop because people wouldn’t think he was dressed up, but he was bound and determined to be Charlie. Which, really, just made less work for me.

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“Violet, you’re turning violet, Violet!” The Princess was Violet Beauregarde, partially on her way to becoming a giant blueberry. With gum. We found the blouse, pants and belt all at thrift stores. I changed the buttons out to look more like the movie and we stuffed her up with pillows. Also, I had no idea she was wearing those boots until I was going through the pictures after I had uploaded them. Se la vie.

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Well hello there, adorable Mike Teavee! This kid was so excited for his costume. Especially the toy gun and the cowboy hat. True story, I could not find a yellow button up shirt for this costume. I ended up buying a tan one at {you guessed it} a thrift store and dying it yellow. In fact, the number of things I had to change the color of for all of our costumes was kind of ridiculous. So I bought the shirt, dyed it yellow, and sewed on the fringe. That was a new experience. I’ve never sewed on fringe before, but it went swimmingly. All of the accessories we already had or bought for cheap.

Okay. This next one is just…kind of my favorite. I mean, not my favorite kid because I’m a mom and moms don’t have favorite kids, but his costume. Pretty much the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

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Am I right?! Maybe I’m biased, but that there is one good looking Oompa Loompa {who also self identifies as a “Loompa Doompa”}. This kid is a singing and dancing maniac – anything for an audience. So when he found out he could be a character who sings and dances AND would get to spray his hair green, he was sold.

Okay, enough mommy gushing and on to the costume. I made the pants and suspenders from some white fleece. And by “I,” I mean I made the pants and my mother made the suspenders and attached them to the pants. I was running out of time here, folks. Yet again, I could not find a brown turtleneck. How easy should that have been? Nope, not easy. I mean, I could have ordered one from Amazon for like $13, but this is a costume. I actually had a friend call from a thrift store and tell me she found a white one, so I told her to get it for me and then I dyed it brown. I really liked that it was ribbed, because it made painting the white stripes on pretty easy. I had planned to do his cuffs (and some socks) as well, but never got around to it. So you can just ignore the bare ankles and Lightning McQueen shoes for now.

And there you have it. Halloween 2014 in the bag. Do you do costume themes with family or friends for Halloween? Tell me some of the fun things you’ve done in the comments!

Wanderlust Wednesday: Mount Timpanogos

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Whew! Thought I was a goner there for a while, didntcha? Well, I’m back! Seeing as how it’s still Wednesday (barely), I’m gracing you with a little Wanderlust Wednesday post I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. And by “little” I mean long and with picture overload. You have been forewarned.

Today’s post is a bit different in that I’m sharing somewhere I actually got to go! I’ve been trying to be more positive and active in enjoying the gorgeous area where I get to live, because really, I’m pretty lucky. There are a lot of people who live where I live because of the natural beauty and easy access to so many opportunities for hiking, biking, camping, fishing, hunting, and whatever else you want to do outdoors. Just a quick drive from my home is the beautiful Mount Timpanogos. And by a quick drive, I mean closer than the nearest Costco. Or Target even. I mean, I actually have to pass by this mountain to get to these places.

So one day this summer, I got the crazy idea to drag my two oldest children (who are 8 and 10) up and back down this magisterial wonder with me. I would get them out into nature! And fresh air! With no screens! For a whole day! It would be a wonderful bonding experience! Little did they know what I was getting them into when they looked at me with glitter in their eyes for all the excitement they felt that Mom was taking just the two of them on an adventure for the day. {insert evil laugh}

Now, I had hiked this mountain as a teenager, but not since. There are two trails you can take – and I think we probably took the slightly more difficult one. Oops. I mean, it was okay except for the hundred and fifty three times I thought my 8 year old was going to fall right off the side of the very narrow mountain-goat-esque trail and plunge to his death. It’s a miracle I didn’t have a heart attack, actually.

Anyway, it was glorious and beautiful and gorgeous and a fantastic hike. We only hiked so far as the lake, but many people hike to the summit. All along the way we saw wildflowers in full bloom. We had our handy-dandy Field Guide to Wildflowers book and often took the time to stop and smell (and identify) the roses.

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I only had my iPod with me because I didn’t want to haul my big ol’ Nikon up the mountain, so the pictures aren’t as crisp as they could be, but it was good enough to capture a little glimpse into the memories we made that day. So I’ll spare you any more rambling and just warn you again of the impending picture overload. Enjoy!

Before. Despite the chilly morning, I can assure you that these two were, in fact, excited for the adventure ahead.

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Our view from the get-go.

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Along the way, there are multiple waterfalls that you pass by/over/through. This was the first of the many.

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We took a lot of rest stops. ;)

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We are STRONG! {And we don’t realize just how far we have to go.}

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Stopping to see just how far we’ve come from the trailhead.
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Also, selfie proof that I was there too. :D And another gorgeous waterfall.

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There are parts of the trail we liked to call “The Jungle.”
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And then the heart attacks started. This was the beginning (and the easy part) of the scary part. I didn’t take many pictures for the next long while because I was busy yelling at reminding my children to stay next to the mountain instead of the cliff.

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One of my favorite places we rested. Mountain bluebells for DAYS, I tell you!

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We were getting pretty worn down, but just over this hill and then another small hill, was Emerald Lake. Ah, sweet rest! Unfortunately, or fortunately really, we were enjoying it too much to take pictures.

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Headed back down. This picture makes me so happy – those are my kids! On that mountain! They were troopers!

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And this one. My favorite from the whole day. We can do hard things.

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Aaaaand after:

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Contrary to their faces, they really did enjoy the hike. We all did, but yeah, we were pooped by the end. I tell ya what, though, I can’t wait to make this a summer tradition! I love getting to spend time like this with my kids with no distractions for any of us. But next time, I think we’ll try the trail up the other side of the mountain. Okay, one last look at that before and after:

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Do you have a favorite trail you’ve hiked? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Trampoline Ice Cream

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This is such a great idea for summer fun, so listen up! Did you know you can make ice cream on the trampoline? It’s true!

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All you need are some plastic freezer bags, ice, rock salt, and your ice cream recipe of choice, and then follow these easy peasy lemon squeeze directions:

Fill a quart size zip top freezer bag about half way with your home made ice cream recipe of choice. Push out any extra air you can and then zip that sucker super tight. Stick that bag (the one  you just filled) inside another quart size bag and zip that one super tight as well. We don’t want any leakage, ya know?

Next, cover the bottom of a gallon size freezer bag with ice and then a generous helping of rock salt. Don’t ask for exact measurements, because I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Be generous.

Stick your ice cream mix filled bag inside the gallon bag and add more ice to fill up the bag and then another generous dumpage of rock salt. Zip that sucker up tight.

Hand the bag to the kids (or, you know, do it yourself) and tell them to keep it moving on the trampoline! In 20 minutes or so, pull the ice cream filled bag out of the bigger bag and (this is important!) rinse it off with cold water before opening it or you’ll get a mouthful of salty ice cream. If it’s not solid enough for you yet, close it all up again and keep bouncing it around until it is.

Grab a spoon (and a bowl if you’re so inclined) and enjoy the fruits of your labors!

 

(P.S. – if you don’t have a trampoline, you can also just shake the bags. It’s more fun with a lot of people, so you can take turns shaking so your hands don’t freeze. Another alternative is tin can ice cream, which is what I grew up making. Mmmmm…I love ice cream.)