Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Keeping Cool with NRH2O: Waterparking with the Girls of Everything Arlington

With summer drawing to a close (that was fast!), I'm working hard to fill the days with ALL the things. The girls made me a list of the things they most want to do before they head back to school in (less than!!!) two weeks, and we are working hard on checking off each item (although my oldest's top line item: go back to Paris, France, is sadly not going to get checked right now).

So Monday we (swim)suited up and headed out to NRH2O (www.nrh2o.com).

Honestly, I love this place. It's not that far from Arlington (about 20 minutes) and parking is free. There are coupons online to save you on admission.

And it's totally manageable with three kiddos solo, in my opinion.

I mean, there are closer waterparks. And less expensive city pools and splash pads. But NRH2O is my girls' favorite spot this summer.

There is something for everyone here, which may be why the girls love it so much. There is a large water structure with spraying water, slides, climbing areas and a large dumb bucket with almost zero depth so kids of all ages can enjoy. My 8-year-old loves it as much as my 4-year-old. There are several areas geared toward small kids with slower slides, extremely shallow wading areas, spray features and more. There's even a sand area to build when you just need a break from the water!

For bigger kids, NRH2O offers multiple slides as well as a wave pool and a lazy river. So many options! My girls love the Green Extreme, the world's largest uphill rollercoaster that two riders at a time can enjoy in a tube. They don't even complain about the climb to the top of the platform because they know how much fun awaits them on the journey down! Their second favorite would be the Accelerator- slides you race down on body mats side by side. They enjoy this one over and over and over again.

We always set our stuff right by the wave pool (and I lock up my valuables in my portable safe from Masterlock). We are conveniently close to Dippin' Dots and the Funnel Cake Lab, two fantastic options for an afternoon sugar rush. We are also close to changing rooms and restrooms as well as Al Gater's Smokehouse & Grill- a great stop for on-site dining! You can also bring in your own cooler with food and snacks- just make sure to avoid restaurant or store-prepared food as well as glass containers and alcohol.

Looking for a great deal on admission? Tickets are normally $28.99 for guests taller than 48 inches and $21.99 for guests smaller than 48 inches, and kids 2 and younger are free. Purchase in advance online and get tickets for $24.99! Better yet, go to nrh2o.com before you go and click on Daily Discounts under the Admissions tab. Right now you can save $8 per ticket just by flashing the coupon from your phone! You can also get in for just $12 when you go after 3 pm. Be sure and check the discounts tab (there are loads of daily discount options!) before you head to the ticket counter!

I asked my girls for their tips for a successful day at NRH2O, and they offered up these tidbits of advice:
- Pack lots of water. You'll get thirsty!
- Don't forget sunscreen so you don't get burned.
- Bring the lock thing my mom has so you can keep your money and phone safe (or just rent an on-site locker!)
- Pack snacks. And bring money for Dippin' Dots always.
- Bring a change of clothes for when you are ready to leave.
- Know where your beach chair is in case you get lost.

My advice? Pack the sunscreen and snacks and enjoy these final dog days of summer!

*I received complimentary admission to NRH2O in exchange for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own*

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Spice Up Date Night or GNO with Breakout Games!

I love a good puzzle.

And I love to watch crime shows on TV.

My husband and I are currently a little too into the My Favorite Murder podcast.

I probably should have been a crime detective, now that I think about it.

So, in an effort to spice up date night, my husband and I, along with three other couples, tried Breakout Games at Parks Mall (located upstairs between Barnes & Noble and Sears) this past weekend.

Breakout rooms have been a trend now for a couple of years. The concept is simple: You are "locked" in a room and given very few clues as to how to escape. You must work together with your teammates to discover clues hidden all over the room. Clues come in various categories and can be difficult or easy to decode.

This was our second time, actually, attempting a breakout room, and, unlike the last time around, this time we actually escaped! I even contributed an important clue this time around, thankyouverymuch.

What I love about Breakout Games at Parks is that there are multiple options. I chose "Do Not Disturb" for our Saturday Date Night, but there are five other options available to interested parties (other choices include escapes such as Museum Heist and Island Escape).

Up to eight people can participate in this particular game (some only allow seven). The rooms are quite small, but, trust me, you will want the everyone's opinions and contributions as you attempt to escape the room you've been quarantined to!

Breakout Games is a fun way to add some variety to date night, girls night out, team bonding events and more! These escape rooms get you thinking and interacting with one another- and they are so much fun!

Learn more about Breakout Games here: 

*Please note: I was given free admission to Breakout Games in exchange for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own*

Friday, July 27, 2018

Partake Foods: Your New Favorite Allergy-Friendly Treat!

I have a wicked sweet tooth.

Like, an extreme I'm-eating-cookie-butter-with-a-spoon-as-I-type-this sweet tooth that keeps me craving sweet things day and night.

So when Partake Foods (www.partakefoods.com) asked me to sample its new line of allergy-friendly cookies, my only question was "How soon?"

Partake Foods was started by a mother (whose husband just happens to be from Arlington- a Martin High School graduate!) who had concerns about what she was feeding her daughter. After learning her daughter had food allergies, she set out to find healthy, allergy-friendly snacks. What she found was that there were limited products on the market that didn't contain common allergens or lots of processed junk- or worse yet, both! So, she made her own.

Partake Foods Mini Cookies are free of the top allergens, including nuts, egg, dairy and soy. They are also non-GMO verified, gluten free and certified Vegan. Wow! Talk about a clean cookie! My kids don't have food allergies, but I do know food allergies are on the rise. Some say food allergies could affect as many as 1 in 10 kids by the year 2020.

So I worry. I worry about what snacks I send with my kids to places such as school, camp, after-school activities. I recently read a viral article about a girl with severe peanut allergies passing away because she mistook an unsafe food product for a safe one. What if my kiddos accidentally and innocently share unsafe products with someone who is allergic?

Enter Partake Foods Mini Cookies- a snack I can send basically anywhere with my kiddos without worry!

But my next thought was, of course, what do they taste like? My husband literally said, "If all that stuff isn't in those cookies, what is?" (the short answer, ingredients such as organic cane sugar, gluten free flour blend, lentil protein and more) Again, I'm not someone with much experience firsthand with food allergies. But I did text the nutrition label to two friends whose sons have food allergies, and both said the labels on these cookies looked great!

All that was left, then, was the taste test. I dove happily in to the box of Sprouted Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies- and I loved Every. Single. Bite! My oldest tried two and said that she, too, thought they were delicious! I don't think my oldest would mind one bit if these cookies starting showing up in her lunchbox once school starts! (School is going to start soon, right? Right?!)

I then asked my friend Melina if she and her son would try some cookies. Her son has allergies to nuts and some seeds, so she has more experience with allergy-friendly foods. Here is what she had to say after sampling the Carrot Oat and Sweet Potato Millet Cookies:

"While both are similar in texture and taste, my 7-year-old gobbled up the Carrot Oat cookies. They had a slightly sweeter taste. I do have to say, BOTH packages were gobbled up with 24 hours, so really they were both enjoyed by all, but we preferred Carrot Oat.

They are crisp (similar to a ginger snap cookie) and have the feeling of eating a healthy cookie. They taste good and are not overly sweet."

These cookies are now available at Whole Foods all over DFW- including the North Arlington location!

Enjoy these tasty treats and your weekend!

Please note: I did receive compensation for my review. All thoughts and comments are my own (or that of friends who assisted me in this article). 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

CozyPhones: The most comfortable (and cutest!) headphones you'll ever own!

My kids always complain about headphones.
They are too heavy or big for their heads. They don't stay up. They aren't comfortable.
And earbuds are no better. They can't keep the buds in their tiny ears!
And sometimes, sometimes, I simply can't handle the sound of some kid somewhere opening a chocolate egg on YouTube and I need my kids to wear their headphones. Do I even need to give a reason why here?
So when I discovered CozyPhones, I knew I stumbled upon a great product.

CozyPhones are headphones for kids and adults that fit into headbands that are both comfortable and stylish.

My kids were instantly addicted. Not only did they each get an adorable animal to wear on their heads (a panda, a unicorn and a cat), they each got a pair of headphones that doesn't slip and is comfortable to wear! (And I don't have to listen to silly videos on high volume anymore- score!)
Even better, the headphones can be removed from the headband so the band can be washed if need be.

The headphones themselves have soft foam at each ear, making them comfortable for all-day wear. My husband wears his at night when he's messing on his phone and I'm trying to read. I wear mine to go running, and I don't have to worry about them falling off or hurting my ears! (They are a bit challenging to wear this time of year, though, to run, if I'm being honest. Because they fit my head the same way a fleece headband I might wear in Winter would, they do tend to make me overheat a bit. But they will be absolutely brilliant in the winter!) The cord is braided, which makes it far more durable than the plastic ones we've used in the past. The headbands come in a variety of sizes, colors and styles, too, so there is definitely something for everyone!

These headphones are literally so great for kiddos you'll wonder why you didn't buy them sooner!
Get them here: www.CozyPhones.com

*Please note- I did receive free CozyPhones in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts are my own*

Thursday, June 28, 2018

SeaWorld Summer Fun!

My girls and I are always game for anything.

So when the opportunity to escape to SeaWolrd & Aquatica presented itself, we weren't able to resist!

The girls had their bags packed and DVDs queued faster than we could kiss our dog goodbye.

SeaWorld is only a 4.5 hour drive from our house in south Arlington, making it the perfect weekend escape for marine enthusiasts, waterpark adventurers and kids of all ages. Don't get me started on how reasonably-priced the park is! And there are so many ways to visit SeaWorld without breaking the bank! Military members (both active duty and retired) and teachers can get in for free with valid ID. The preschool pass registration has closed for the 2018 season- but bookmark the site for next year and sign up your 3-5 year old for a FREE season pass. Visit the Website for more details!

SeaWorld also partners with a variety of San Antonio-area hotels that cater to the families that travel in from all over to see the gorgeous marine life. We stayed at the Hilton San Antonio Hill Country and were beyond pleased with the hotel! Three swimming pools, loads of life-sized games on the patio (Connect 4 and Jenga, to name a few), and evening programming for littles made our stay so fun! In the evening, my girls could make smores in the fire pits and watch movies under the moonlight. Such a fun experience for them! The entire hotel was kept so clean, and the staff was so friendly. Best of all? The Hilton offers a free SeaWorld shuttle hourly to and from the hotel! No need to pay for parking or try to remember where your car is... Just take the shuttle and have it drop you right at the ticket counters!

SeaWorld itself is a truly awesome experience. My girls loved everything- from the Sesame Street-themed Bay of Play to the orca shows to the rollercoasters. We arrived at the park a little before 11 am and stayed until just after 8 pm, and even then, the girls didn't leave willingly!

We started our day at the Bay of Play, a huge climbing and water area for kids. Tunnels, climbing structures and spray features cover loads of square footage right as you enter the park. And there is seating scattered all around the area for parents and caregivers. Bathrooms, changing rooms and snack bars and restaurants are all close by. There isn't much shade on the climbing structure and play area, but there is shaded seating all around the area. And the kids don't seem to mind. Just bring sunscreen!

After playing for about an hour in the water, we decided to check out some of the rides. There are several kid rides in the kiddie area, including a Shamu Coaster my kids adored. Round and round they went many, many times. My youngest really enjoyed this one!

From there we checked out as many other rides as we could: The Wave Breaker (my middle daughter's favorite- a coaster that swirls you over a small lake!), the Journey to Atlantis (a raft ride where you do get wet- this was my personal favorite!), and the Rio Loco. My younger two were not tall enough for the Great White coaster (54" minimum height requirement) and I could not convince my oldest to ride it with me! I also couldn't convince my older two (who were tall enough, at 48" and 54") to try the Steel Eel. Maybe next time! We truly loved all the rides and thought they were each such a thrill!

We were able to see two shows during our day- the Ocean Discovery and One Ocean. We highly recommend both! We loved watching the dolphins and beluga whales jumping and spinning during the Ocean Discovery show. But my girls will tell you their favorite was One Ocean, where they got to see killer whales interacting with the audience. I genuinely thought both shows were both educational and gorgeous and highly recommend them both!

One of our favorites bits was the new Sesame Street Parade at 7:30 pm that is new this year. All our favorite Sesame Street Characters were out on floats, dancing and singing and interacting with the gathered crowds. My girls got to "take to the streets" of SeaWorld during the show, dancing and singing with cast members. It was very upbeat and a fun way to end the day!

We were too tired by 8 pm to stay and catch the nightly fireworks. But that's okay! Because the fireworks were visible each night from our Hilton Hotel. So after the girls showered and got in their PJs, we walked to the front of the hotel and watched the fireworks from there. It was a super special way to end each day!

After our day at SeaWorld, we spent our second getaway day at Aquatica. I have a love/hate with waterparks. They oftentimes feel overwhelming and stressful. My girls never want to do the same thing at the same time, and ultimately my youngest is never tall enough for the rides my oldest two want to go on. Cue drama.

But Aquatica didn't feel as stressy to me as other waterparks do. Perhaps its the layout or the offerings, but this waterpark felt entertaining without being too much. We parked at the wave pool, my girls' favorite attraction at any waterpark. This wave pool even has a sand area at the entrance for kids to play in when they just need a break from the water. I loved digging my toes in the sand from my cozy spot on the beach chairs, actually!

Cutback Cove was a favorite for my crew because it offered two water slides and a deeper pool with floating foam animals and creatures for climbing on. Although my kids were too big for Kookaburra Cove, it's the perfect spot for little ones (3ish and under) to enjoy the water and spray features without flotation devices (the water isn't very deep- a couple of inches at most). Walkabout Waters was another favorite for my little two- a huge 3-story interactive fun house with a dump bucket, sprays, see saws and more!

Our favorite ride at Aquatica was Stingray Falls, a fun, twisty waterslide you go down in a 4-person raft that ends in an underwater grotto where you can view stingrays up close! My girls are fascinated with stingrays, and also really enjoyed the stingray viewing area at the front of the park where you can get up close with and even touch the stingrays. So fun! We didn't try as many of the high water slides here- my girls were busy having too much fun in the wave pool!

We did do a dining pass on our first day at SeaWorld. We had 5 wristbands that allowed each of us to get food- an entree, a side or dessert, and a drink (including bottled water) as frequently as once an hour at any of the six onsite restaurants! While I'm generally ambivalent toward dining plans (because usually I think it's too much food and too expensive), I actually recommend this one. While you are allowed to bring snack foods and small beverages into the park (think small bags of goldfish, juice boxes, apples, etc.), this meal plan pays for itself in two meals. So if you go right at 10 when the park opens, you can have lunch, a snack (or two or three!) and dinner and another snack for one flat price. I highly recommend it. (Our favorite place to eat was Harbor Market because it had so many options and something for everyone. I loved the orange chicken!)

I highly recommend anyone with kiddos ages 6 months to 16 years take this quick trip down to San Antonio and check out SeaWorld and Aquatica. San Antonio itself has so much to offer, as well! (Check out Viola's Ventanas near the Hilton San Antonio Hill Country if you want to grab a delicious meal on a gorgeous patio with a fun playground for kids to hang out on while you sip margaritas!)

Here are my tips for a successful trip:

1. Wear water shoes or waterproof shoes in the summer. Even to SeaWorld. Your feet will get wet if you go anywhere near Bay of Play with your littles, so skip the sneakers and leather sandals (foam Birkenstocks are my go-to here!)

2. Bring a stroller or wagon to SeaWorld. My girls are getting bigger- 4, 6 and 8- and, for space reasons, we left the double jogger in Arlington. We decided last minute to rent a double for $20 at SeaWorld and it ended up being a great choice. Because I brought towels and changes of clothes for each girl, plus sunscreen, water bottles, etc., it was nice to have somewhere to stash the stuff while we walked around.

3. Wear cool clothes that can get wet. There are so many opportunities to get wet at SeaWorld- you may be splashed by whales or dolphins during a show, or try out a water ride, or chase your little one through spraying water features. Skip the jeans. I didn't wear a bathing suit, but I did wear athletic clothing that was fine to get soaked. (I did bring my suit in my backpack, though!)

4. Bring your charging cord for your phone- there are stations throughout the park to sit and recharge. Also consider a waterproof pouch for your phone. They are available at the park for $10.99 but you can find them cheaper elsewhere. You'll be glad to keep your phone free of spraying water!

Have you been? What's your favorite thing to do at SeaWorld and/or Aquatica?

For info on tickets, vacation packages and more, go here: SeaWorld

*disclaimer: this post was sponsored by SeaWorld and Aquatica. I did receive free lodging and park admission in exchange for my honest reviews and opinions. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Family-Friendly Events in Tarrant County!

Here are some fantastic family-friendly events to check out in the Dallas Fort Worth area. There's a little bit of something that all age groups and interests can take part in which is something to look forward to if there's a large range of ages in your family. If you're looking for a way to get from one spot to the next in convenience, be sure to check out the transportation solutions offered by Party Bus Dallas

Every Saturday through September 1
Movies on the Beach at Loyd Park
3401 Ragland Road in Grand Prairie
Every Saturday during the summer, movies start at sundown inside of Loyd Park. It's $10 for each vehicle to enter the park, increasing to $20 if it happens to be a holiday weekend, but the movies are free. There is a great line up of movies being shown that everybody can enjoy such as the Sandlot, Holes, the Lion King, Star Wars, Wall-E, and more. Bring your lawn chairs and snacks!

June 23
Bubble Festival at Fort Worth Science of Museum and History
1600 Gendy Street in Fort Worth
This science event is both educational and fun with lots of interactive activities. There will be live demonstrations, giant bubbles, bubble wrap experiments, a chance to make your own bubble wand, and even bubble inspired food to snack on. It is $15 for adults to enter, and $12 for children and teenagers.

June 30
ArlingCon at UTA University Center
300 W First St in Arlington
Those who love superheroes and pop culture will definitely get a kick out of this free event put on by the Arlington Public Library. There will be panel discussions as well as local vendors, fun workshops, and a game room. The cosplay runway and costume contest is always extremely entertaining. It's fun for kids to dress up as their favorite character and potentially run into other favorites!

July 3 and 4
Lone Stars & Stripes Celebration at Lone Star Park
1000 Lone Star Parkway in Grand Prairie
Celebrate the holiday with this July 4th celebration! There will be live musical entertainment, bounce houses, face painting, a petting zoo with pony rides, and more. The gates open at 3PM, and the first race starts at 5PM. After the races, there will be a spectacular fireworks show that is synchronized to music.

This article was written and sponsored by Party Bus Dallas

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Melting Pot: Do Dinner Differently!

My husband and I don't get out much (I'm actually not sure why I'm admitting to this), so I'm not necessarily up-to-date on all the awesome Arlington eateries.

Unless of course they have a game room or play area or a Kid's Eat Free menu. Because kids, man.

But I had two kids at camp this week, and my husband and I were dying to get out and go somewhere yummy and new-to-us for a change. So when The Melting Pot (located in the Highlands) reached out to me about stopping by, I knew I couldn't say no!

I haven't done fondue since, um, probably my early 20s (and my husband was a complete fondue newbie, which made the experience even better!). And for no good reason! Fondue is such a great bonding experience for couples, friends, families- everyone, really! Instead of simply waiting on someone to bring you food ready to eat, waiters bring you food you get to prepare yourself, at the table. The experience takes a bit longer than a typical dining out experience, meaning you get to spend more quality time with your dining mates. We thought The Melting Pot would deliver us an upscale, interactive dining experience that even our 4-year-old would enjoy... And we were right! We had fun from start to finish and left with some great photographs and the satisfaction that comes with a fantastic meal.

At The Melting Pot, you get to prepare your own food table-side. Appetizers, main courses, desserts... You prepare them all at your table while enjoying conversation (and possibly drinks!) with family and friends. You select your cheese to start. And then fruit, vegetables and breads are delivered to your table in perfectly-sized pieces meant to be skewered, dipped and enjoyed with or without the accompanying condiments.

We tired out the Best of Arlington menu, which is a four-course meal with all the yummiest foods. We opted for the popular Wisconsin cheddar because we knew it was a yummy cheese for our youngest to enjoy. She loved the concept of dipping her food bites into cheese before enjoying them. (She also just loved the skewers in general, but I digress) The cheese was mild and delicious and so fun to dip bread and veggies in! Our salads came next, and they were a nice taste of greenery before we dove into the main course.

All the fondue choices sounded excellent for the main course, but we decided on the popular and mild Seasoned Court Bouillon, which gave our meat and seafood the perfect amount of flavor! I am personally not a massive meat eater, so I stuck to my seafood options with the main course. I got to enjoy both lobster and shrimp, two of my favorites, and the flavor here did not disappoint! My youngest loved the pork while my husband enjoyed the steak. The meat and seafood was served with six different dipping sauces that let each of us flavor our food to our fancy. We all loved the Greek Yogurt dipping sauce. Yum!

Perhaps our favorite of all, though, was dessert! I mean, anything dipped in chocolate instantly becomes my most favorite thing to eat. Fruit? Brownies? Cakes? All of these, please! It was hard to pick which chocolate fondue we wanted because they all sounded so good, but we decided, in the end, to go with The Original, which was chocolate with peanut butter. We loved dipping all the sweet treats in the chocolate. I think my favorite was the brownies because one simply cannot have too much chocolate! 

I highly recommend The Melting Pot for an extraordinary date night (or family date night- kids will love it here!) experience. The menu will not disappoint, and the food will be a treat for adults and kids alike! Even better, The Melting Pot frequently does great events where you can experience the menu and other perks and fantastic prices. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming events! The Melting Pot is also a fantastic community partner- the restaurant frequently donates to area 501c3 organizations such as The Junior League. As if you needed more reasons to love this place...

Go. Enjoy fondue. Maybe even treat Dad, since today is Father's Day! What are you waiting for? (Although maybe call and make a reservation first to ensure you get a seat!)

Disclaimer: I was given a free meal in exchange for my review of The Melting Pot in Arlington. All thoughts and opinions are my own.