{local love} free weekend fun

Hilarious! This just goes to show, even when you try to be organized, you can still be way behind!!  In trying to catch up this week, I’ve been trying to clean out the closets of My Favorite Everything, and came across this post in my drafts.

I’m not even sure when these were taken, but I know it still stands true! If you need a little simple weekend fun (or anytime fun with a girlfriend) with Little Ones (who are up very early in the morning). Head to Fashion Island, before it opens.

Obviously we go rain or shine! What we love about it is that the stores are CLOSED early in the morning (which I’m sure stand true for any mall, I just love that Fashion Island is outdoors and pretty much contained). No Littles can dodge in and out of the stores.  Mom and Dad can grab a latte and a few treats for the kiddos at Starbucks, then walk behind those running, wild kids leisurely, knowing they can’t get into trouble.

I’m pretty this was in early January sometime (or at least I think it was). The kids love the Koi pond, but there are also lots of places to play hide and seek. As well as a lot of running back and forth between Build-a-Bear and Russo’s Pet Shop peaking in the windows in anticipation of them each opening. (Read lots of running between 2 stores = good naps later). We usually stop into each right after they open (and before they get too busy) before leaving.

If this was a Sunday when the stores open at 11:00, you would probably see me there at 10:00 running around with the kids for an hour, then heading to the pet store and a quick lunch after….and home for naps and quiet time.  No big crowds, kids got to run & play, mom & dad got a bit of a break. Perfect start to the day!

So what are you up to this weekend?

{family fun} photo booth fun!

Normally this post would have fallen under {home & garden} for parties, however, I happen to think this would be fun to do even for a play date or weekend activity, or even a family photo shoot. So I decided to post it in {family fun}.

One of the activities I chose to do at the girls Three Ring Circus Birthday last year was a Photo Booth. I checked into renting one of the machines you see at county fairs and such, but everything I found was a little more than we had in mind.

So instead I enlisted the help of my most favorite Orange County kids photographer, Sandy Heit.  We decided to use the girls playroom as the “booth”.  My sister drew some fun circus artwork on the chalkboard as a backdrop.  Then with a few great props ~ giant glasses, rainbow wig, mustache, clown noses, pink glasses, party hats, colorful balloons, a great red chair, and of course any toy in the playroom….and we were in business! Below are a few of my favorite shots….

{Click on each thumbnail for a larger image}

{Images: Sandy Heit}

It was a fun activity for the kids, and I absolutely love Sandy’s work with kids! Plus I was able to send each family a thank you note along with their photo. (Albeit I sent them over 6 months after the party…KID YOU NOT ~ 6 MONTHS, that’s how off my life and days were this past year!!)

Whether you hire someone, enlist a friend or family member, or just do it for a play date, Photo Booths are definitely a FAVORITE IDEA!

{family fun} what do you want to be??

Who do you want to be when you grow up??

I love the stage the girls are at right now.  It is just one big playtime of imaginary fun! And these costume sets by Melissa & Doug are AWESOME!

All three girls received them from my very “in the know mom” sister.  The girls had played with some on a visit to their cousins last fall, and the kids were entertained forever!  I immediatley put them on my reminder wish list for Christmas when I got back home.

But as luck would have it, the girls received them from their sweet aunt for Christmas!!  We now have a budding Police Officer, Chef, and Veterinarian (though they think it’s a Doctor – either way works with me!)

They were so excited to receieve these under the tree, and they continue to pull them out almost daily to dress up. Super cute!

These costumes are favorites for sure. I’ve aslo seen a Construction Worker, Doctor, Fire Fighter, Knight, Hair Stylist, Train Engineer, Waitress, Princess, Fairy, etc.  So many fun choices. I’ve bought a couple recently for birthday gifts, and Amazon seems to have the best prices {$19-$25} which is where I’ve been buying them.

Hayden, are you heading into the kitchen to bake us a cake??

Seriously, I love that it entertains them so much! The conversations they come up with are priceless!

Be sure to check them out. Great gift to give your own kids, or for an upcoming birthday gift! Definitely on my Favorites List!

{OC Local Love} Join me Saturday! Playhouse fun!

How many of you have kids or grandkids?

How many of your kids or grandkids like to dress up and pretend to be princesses, pirates, cowboys…or basically anything under the moon??

How many of them like to pretend they are you and play in “their house”.

Yeah, mine too.

Have you ever visited the AMAZING playhouses from Project Playhouse?? Seriously check these out,  I’ll wait for ya below the photos…..

(Photo Source: Project Playhouse, 2010 Houses)

What did I tell you? Incredible huh??!

I’ve been visiting them in Fashion Island for years now, and most recently at their new display location in Edwards Court in Irvine Spectrum.

Let me tell you, the design of these little homes is beyond awe inspiring! I would move in to most of them!!

This year Project Playhouse will be displaying:





Can you stand it!?!?

OK here’s the thing though, while the playhouses will be on display through November 11, there is only ONE DAY that you can actually go inside them, THIS SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8th. On this special OPEN HOUSE day, along with playing INSIDE the playhouses, visitors will also receive goody bags, samples from Rubio’s, and enjoy the fun of face painters and balloon twisters!

Tickets are $10, children 3 and under are free.

Not to worry, if you can’t make it Saturday, the playhouse village will be on display and available to tour on Fridays 12-4, & Saturdays & Sundays 12-6 through November 11. Tickets for these dates are $2, children 3 and under are free.

To me this is a PERFECT weekend activity with the kiddos, and since I’m flying solo with mine on Saturday, it quickly became the FAVORITE activity for us! (And yes, I’m taking the girls ~ they are 3 & under after all!)

Check out the Project Playhouse for more information on HomeAid OC ~ the nonprofit organization benefiting homeless families in Southern California. You will also find more event info ~ dates, times, ticket prices…oh, and this AWESOME raffle prize of an EXTREME MAKEOVER for your KITCHEN. As well as info on the auction for the playhouses and 20th Anniversary Celebration.

{Psssss….if you can’t make it to the auction, pre-bidding for the playhouses will be hosted at www.FRE.com/HomeAid beginning on October 7 at 5 pm through November 11 at 12 noon….can you imagine THAT Holiday gift for your kids!?!?}

Want to know more about these incredible and over the top little houses, see below (heavy reading, but such amazing details)…Addie is most excited about the rainbow house!

“Dedicated home builders throughout Orange County have donated their talents and resources to construct these imaginative playhouses with working electrical systems, flat screen televisions, and state-of-the-art video game systems. The 2011Project Playhouse® Village will include:”

Little Diamond Head by Nicholson Companies Aloha!  Step into the style of Hawaii and let stories of wind, waves and adventure inspire the spirit of your Keiki (child).  Bright and beachy within, your keiki is sure to be entertained with images of the surf and sand. Complete with an accompanying deck to enjoy lazy days hangin’ in the hammock and Tiki torches to excite the night.   Features include:  Disappearing Walls of Pocketing Glass Doors, Hardwood Flooring, Beamed Ceiling, Built-In Entertainment Wall, Flat Screen TV, DVD Player, Grass Cloth Covered Walls, Black Walnut Hanging lamp, Custom Designer Furnishings, and Removable Exterior Decking.

Tradepartners® Tribute in honor of Chuck Dreyer by Shea Homes Get a little taste of Italy with this lovely Tuscan style playhouse built by Shea Homes in partnership with Tradepartners. The playhouse is a tribute to Chuck Dryer who was our auctioneer for many years and passed away in December 2010. Let your kids curl up next to a warm stone fireplace with a mug of hot cocoa in hand. The little home also has a porch where children can play games or just sit and relax.  Features include: open beam ceilings, wood floors, granite countertops, and a tile roof.

Over the Rainbow Cottage by Team HomeAid Captivate yourself in the Land of Oz from the outside in with this magical playhouse inspired by the famous farmhouse that fell on the Wicked Witch of the East.  Designed and crafted to be a comfortable retreat for your friends made out of tin, straw or fur, this playhouse features a loft, table and chairs, custom window seat, hand painted mural, window treatments, games, books and costumes so everyone can play out their favorite fantasy.  The exterior siding is reclaimed barn wood from the Midwest, perhaps even Kansas, with three porches and a rooster weathervane.

Sir Lyon’s Castle by William Lyon Homes Once upon a time, in a land far far away, there was a mighty fortress big enough to protect and shelter an entire kingdom…. Inspired by the castle lore of yester year, William Lyon Homes, Inc. has designed a playhouse that will captivate children and adults with the essence of royalty. Every little detail embraces the stately atmosphere within. It’s the ultimate space for your budding knights and princesses. Features include: elegant counter tops, a working sink with an attractive rustic faucet, dynamic wood beam ceilings, enchanting light fixtures and charming custom crafted woodwork and cabinetry. A Flat screen TV with DVD and an indoor/outdoor speaker system provide hours of entertainment, while the majestic thrones and electric fireplace invite the young royals to unwind.   William Lyon Homes is proud to be participating in its 20th Annual Project Playhouse.

{Disclosure: The little punks and I will be playing at the playhouse village this Saturday, but we would have gone whether I wrote the story or not…I’m still flying solo, and I truly LOVE these little homes!!  Come play with us!}

{OC Local Love} The Circus is Here & it’s “Fully Charged”!

My Punks are so into the Circus, it’s almost comical!

Last year Addie and I made a girls night out of it, grabbing a friend for both of us to see the circus. Addie was 2 years & 4 months and she LOVED it!  The show started at 7:30, we went early to see the elephants getting their baths and to enjoy the pre-show (where you get up close and personal with all the performers on the main floor before the show starts. DONT MISS THIS!)

When I asked Addie what she wanted to do for her birthday this year she said “CIRCUS!!”  We’ve had no other access or mention of a circus other than that night.  So I know the show had an impact on her.  Thanks to the Little’s auntie, we now have loads of circus books that are read frequently, and often (I know that means the same thing…but really, I’ve memorized most of them now…seemed fitting for me to say twice.)

So of course we are planning on going again this year, and Hayden is just as excited to go this time around.

Here’s what the FULLY CHARGED show promises this year…

“Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® invites families to disconnect from the digital world and plug into the most electrifying circus experience ever at the all-new show Fully Charged, where megawatts of thrills explode off the arena floor with breathtaking dare-devilry, superhuman stunts and never-before-seen performances that will energize Children Of All Ages!

Fully Charged is lead by dynamo newcomer, Brian Crawford Scott, who energizes audiences throughout the show as he introduces amazing acts from around the world and masterfully guides circus-goers on a remarkable journey while singing original songs. Fully Charged celebrates all kinds of “performance power”: horse-power, man-power, athletic power and features amazing circus acts that can only be seen at The Greatest Show On Earth®”

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey “Fully Charged” will be visiting Southern California July 20th to August 14th.

Staples Center ~ July 20 to July 24

Honda Center ~ July 27 to August 8

Citizens Business Bank Arena ~ August 10 to August 14

Visit Ticketmaster for tickets, and show times. Be sure to use promo code “Mom” for a discounted family pack for 4, for $48.

See ya at the show!!  Here’s a few more fun photos to tempt you….

{OC Local Love} The Great Park

Last Sunday morning as everyone piled into “Mommy & Daddy’s” bed to figure out what we all wanted to do that day. I did a quick scan of Just Spotted as those girls have got it together with the OC haps.  I noticed the Orange County Great Park mentioned, and while I’ve been hearing about it, I’ve never been and was totally clueless as to where it was. I’m not going to completely embarrass myself and tell you how off the mark I was to its location…

What I will say is that Hubs said, let’s go for it, and we were hightailing our bunny tails around the house for the next 30 minutes. (We tend to go to things early morning – girls are in better moods, mom & dad are in better moods, and places aren’t nearly as busy).

And did I mention this yet? The Orange County Great Park is FREE.

FREE as in, no parking fees, no carousel fees, no balloon ride fees….NO FEES = FREE!

We had one of the best Sundays EVER. It was a beautiful day. As we approached the park we saw a giant orange balloon in the air. The girls were over the top excited.  After a quick sign-in with guest services, we were given a buzzer for our turn (a mere 15 minutes later).

We killed the time with a Carousel ride, and checking out the Kid Rock climbing area. (Shaded, picnic tables, loads of “rocks” to climb on, soft playground, and misting to keep you cool).

THEN came the balloon ride. So fabulous!  Totally safe, just long enough and beautiful views! Loved it!!

Another Carousel ride, and we were off to check out the Farmers Market (which opened at 10AM.  It’s there each Sunday).  SO.MANY.DELICIOUS.FRUITS.TO.SAMPLE. Heaven on earth!  I can’t wait to go back and pick up more peaches!!  The girls LOVE grilled corn, so we grabbed a couple and headed over to the vegetable garden. Loads of raised beds to visit and ask questions of the caretakers. The kids loved seeing corn and then realizing they were eating corn too! Hunting for lizards and checking out the different veggies was fascinating to them.

The park, the farmers market, the balloon, merry-go-round, the band entertaining everyone….it was a perfect lazy Sunday morning/afternoon.  I HIGHLY recommend the Orange County Great Park if you have not checked it out…the future plans are awesome!

There were too many photos to narrow it down. Here’s a quick scan below, or click to enlarge.

Happy Weekend!!

{Family Fun} Making Ice Cream!

Our house is in the the middle of this year’s swim lessons.  Last year the girls started in April. This year, I choose to wait until May so that Piper would be the same age as Hayden was last year, 14 months.  Now while this post isn’t about swim lessons (It’s in the line up to come though) it is about the sweet rewards for being brave and giving it your all for swim lessons!

Mother’s Day was not the best memory of the year for me.  However, while Hubs was in his own bucket club, he managed to crawl to the garage where he had a pretty fun gift waiting for me from the girls. An Ice Cream Maker!! How cool was that!?  We love ice cream treats in our house…(but then again, who doesn’t??)

So Addie’s treat for a job well done on her first day of swimming this year, was to make ice cream.  While the other 2 Littles slept, we practiced our skills…

And while there is loads to learn about, you thankfully can’t really go wrong.  We’re on our third batch so far and each just keeps getting better.

I’ve learned that there are 2 main kinds of ice cream ~ Custard Style that requires eggs, heating, and refrigerating overnight, and a Philadelphia Style that does not require any of that.  The Philadelpia style does not keep as long in the freezer and is not that creamy texture…more soft serve ice cream.  But it’s GREAT for INSTANT GRATIFICATION!! (Read fabulous for busy moms and antsy kids.) And tastes super yummy the first couple of days!

And seriously, at 3 years old (or 38…just sayin’) there isn’t a whole lotta patience involved.  I found this Vanilla Ice Cream recipe online yesterday and with 5 easy ingredients I knew we were in business.

For the record, this recipe makes A LOT.  I ended up pouring 1/2 in the Ice Cream Maker, and 1/2 in a Tupperware in the fridge.  This turned out to be very convenient in that we could easily make ice cream again the next day (though I think it would have been fine to store for 2 or 3 days at least….but again, we’re impatient!).

I love that it’s a fun activity to do with Addie, that she learns about smells, and measuring, and following directions. And that the whole process is so fast to put together, then it gets poured into the machine for about 25 minutes. She doesn’t need to wait long to see what she just made.

The self discovery, and wonder are great! And of course, so is the candy sneaking and eating…you totally get to be the “Cool Mom”…

The smell of vanilla was captivating for her!

And yes that is a tatoo on her arm….”they” lie when “they” say the tatoos last 2-3 days. And I’m lazy and never seem to get around to getting out the rubbing alcohol…

Addie: “Is it ready YET, Mommy!!??”


A pile of goodness.  You can add treats to your ice cream about 5 minutes before it’s done.  I wait until it looks like ice cream and then pour in whatever goodness Addie thinks up, while the machine is running.  Yesterday it was leftover chocolate buttercream frosting, pretzels, & Nestle Crunch bars.  YUMMMMM!

Addie: “Just one taste??? Please??”

Me: “Well OK. 1 for you, 2 for me.  Why? Because I’m taller than you…”

Such a fun Summer treat!  Looking forward to trying lots of recipes this summer! I think I need to order this Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book

So my tip?  Get yourself an Ice Cream Maker. Lots of fun (and loads of deliciousness) for you and your family this summer!  Enjoy!

Monster Jam!

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret….

In high school I was kind of a big truck fan. I think it was something to do with the time…but a lot of my guy friends had big SUVs with HUGE tires. I begged my dad at the time to let me get big tires too, maybe raise my 4Runner a bit….SOOOO thankful he had the common sense to only let me go as large as the SUV warranty!!! I’m not sure I would have lived through those years!

All this to say, I’ve always had a little soft spot for Monster Trucks. I know, I know….NOT what you would expect from me, but there is something kind of Giant Toy-ish about it. So of course when I heard that the Monster Jam show was around the corner, (February 12th at Anaheim Stadium…in case you were wondering). I was secretly super excited…what “kid” wouldn’t have fun watching those giant “toy trucks” stomping around the arena???

Now you might think as a mom of almost 3, 2, and 1 year old little girls that trucks wouldn’t be the prime focus of our day…..

I’m here to tell you, CLEARLY there is no bias in our family! Trucks, tiaras, tutus and trains all have an equal opportunity under our roof. I say jump outside of your box and take the family to Monster Jam…wheelies, tires, engines…Oh My!

Here’s the deets….

1st When: Anaheim Stadium ~ Saturday, February 12th 7:00pm

2nd When: Dodgers Stadium ~ Saturday, February 19th 7:00pm

Tickets: Can be purchased at Ticketmaster/Anaheim & Tickemaster/Dodgers Stadium ~ Adults can save $5 using promo code “Mommy”. Kids 2-12 are $10!

(FYI – if you live anywhere else in the US, search “Monster Jam” on Ticketmaster. LOADS of cities!)

Go get your Jam on!

You really can’t miss saying “Hey!” to Mohawk Warrior

And Monster Mutt!

Disney on Ice ~ Let’s Celebrate!

So next week is Christmas. How, I’m not so sure, but it is. I’m almost done with our shopping (miraculously, and thanks to Amazon). And am definitely ready to start celebrating with our family!

That being said, I have a suggestion to make. If you are live in Southern California get tickets to kick start the holiday with Mickey & Minnie Mouse!

“Make an ordinary day extraordinary when Disney On Ice presents Let’s Celebrate! The all-new, high-energy show features a magical medley of holidays, celebrations and festivals from around the globe and is set to a blend of contemporary music and favorite Disney songs”

I’ll be there with Addie, her 4-1/2 year old cousin, and my Genius-Sister-in-Law. I’ve learned from past shows like this that Hayden is a still a little young, 2-1/2 was our magic age, and making a play date night with a friend for Addie and a friend for me is perfect! The mom’s get a much needed visit in the car, and the kids get excited about the the show together once we get there. Win-win!!

Our girls LOOOOOOVVVVE the Disney Characters, seriously LOVE them. And to be able to see them in a festive Holiday setting, well, that’s just down right perfect. Truly the holidays are magical, whether it’s a tree lighting, visiting Santa, looking at neighborhood Christmas lights, decorating your tree…..the sparkle and magic is just awesome to watch through your Littles’ eyes. So we’ll be there to share in the magic, hope to see you there too!

Get your tickets HERE for Disney on Ice ~ Let’s Celebrate and use the coupon code “MOM” for a Family 4-pack for $48 ($12/ticket!)

You can find Mickey & Minnie and their friends…

at the Staples Center in Los Angeles ~ December 15th – 19th

at the Honda Center in Anaheim ~ December 21st – 26th

and at the Chase Bank Business Arena in Ontario ~ December 29th  ~ January 2nd

Happy Holidays!!

(Disclosure: We will be guests of Disney on Ice next week, however the opinions are my own and Addie and I would be attending regardless. We never miss a chance to see Mickey!)

Family Fun at South Coast Plaza

With my goal to myself to be sure to make time for family this month, the girls and I invited my Mother-in-Law, Sister-in-Law, and nieces to join us at Crystal Court and South Coast Plaza for a Holiday girls morning out. I will be honest, I may venture out with all the babes in tow, but it’s not often that I leave the “trained maze” that surrounds our home. South Coast Plaza can fall just outside that maze for me. On my own, love it, with the Littles…well, I get a little hesitant.

But I was pleasantly surprised with how the day turned out.  We met at Ruby’s in Crystal Court for breakfast at 9:00am. The girls were mesmerized but the huge holiday feature in the middle of Crystal Court. They ran around pointing out bunnies and looking in awe at “Ho-Ho” in the tree.  We scooted into breakfast and though my Littles were going a little (a lot??) wild while they waited for their cousins, the Ruby’s staff didn’t blink an eye to it.

Spills, mishaps, tears….they just kept arriving with reinforcements & goodies & food. Lord love em. We were able to enjoy a very yummy breakfast! These breakfast sliders were new to me. (These and the Cinnamon French Toast were so delicious in fact, that we were back again this past weekend!)

Let’s just pretend you see a fork in Addie’s hand, please?? All the girls devoured breakfast in the beautiful, recently renovated Crystal Court Ruby’s. The vibe was cool vintage (not the typical red you’re used to). Really loved it (and yes we went back for dinner with Hubs the same night…what can I say, they made it REALLY easy with the kids!)

Then it was off to 1 of the 2 places to visit Santa at South Coast. I love the North Pole set up at Crystal Court. There is a great little craft station, and typically not as long a line for Santa.  My Genius-Sister-in-Law and I waited with the kids, but as we entered Santa’s house, Hayden let out a wailer of a scream….we quickly ALL sat down and got “Take 1″….

And then “Take 2” which surprisingly is pretty good! Nice job to the photographers that have Santa’s back!

Then off we went to check out the train. One quick floor up in Crystal Court is an awesome little kids train that the kids LOVED!

Too much fun and giggling!

And I think the fact they were able to see “Ho-Ho” in his holiday tree up close and personal made it extra appealing. The train laps around this tree.


Then we headed across the Garden Bridge. I love this little walk to South Coast. It gives  you a chance to decompress from one side of the mall to the next…..

And it gives the kids a chance to run out a little of that energy…just sayin’

Oh the balloons! What kiddo doesn’t want one?? The balloon man next to the carousel is always happy to oblige.

And this is where you’ll find the second place to visit Santa, beautiful and full of holiday cheer!

We all jumped on the carousel (that coverts to reindeer during the holidays). The girls all wanted to ride together by Grandma and Genius-Sister-in-Law.  (Have you ever tried to get 4 little girls to all look at the camera at the same time?? Sheeesh!) But they certainly had fun on the ride! And did you know that every hour they sanitize the carousel? Yep, takes about 10 minutes while they wipe each seat and safety strap. During the cold season, THAT is a favorite thing!

Still trying for that photo!

And if you wondered about Miss Piper, well that little angel was there too.

All in all, a wonderful day with family. South Coast has done a really great job at making it fun to spend time with your kids there this holiday. There is a beautiful tree, 2 places to visit Santa, a train, craft stations, balloons….LOADS of things to do!  As we were leaving we in fact stopped at California Pizza Kitchen (to use the discount coupons you receive  from any of the rides), the kids ran around on the outside patio while we ate, we stopped again at the train, and then headed to the cars (where my girls promptly slept for quite a few hours ~ Merry Christmas to me!)

Call your family and make a holiday morning out of it. It was a favorite thing for sure!

(Disclosure: Thank you to South Coast Plaza for hosting our Holiday morning! Be opinions are completely my own ~ and in fact we had such fun that we have been back twice since!)