July 24, 2016

Blogger Bash 2016: A Not So Quick Recap

Have you ever said you weren't going to do something, and then you end up doing it, and you are so glad you did?

That was Blogger Bash for me this year.  After our amazing vacations to Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, I honestly just wasn't sure if I had the energy or motivation to head to New York City for a few days as well. Now, I love New York and have loved Blogger Bash the past two years I've gone (read about those here and here), but going this year was a bit out of reach.  I had a hard time spending the money on a ticket, hotel, etc right after we had been gone so much, so I was thrilled when I saw that Blogger Bash was looking for volunteers.  I filled out the form and crossed my fingers.

I can't even tell you how excited I was when I got an email saying that if I still wanted to volunteer, they had a spot for me! Dave and I immediately started talking about a hotel and making yet another vacation out of it.  We looked at lots of options but in the end decided that it wouldn't be enjoyable for them to be there since they wouldn't actually be with me, and 2 kids in NYC alone... yeah, not worth the hotel money.  I booked a room at Yotel and asked on the Facebook group page if anyone wanted to be my roommate.  I was a bit nervous but I didn't really know my roommates last year so I figured I'd try. While I couldn't find a roommate for my room, I was offered by multiple people to just stay with them for 2 nights since they were staying for 3 or 4 nights.  I ended up bunking with Emilee from Pea of Sweetness and got ready to pack up and go!



New York itself is always my favorite.  I love the hustle and bustle, the sights.. it's hard to put into words. I drove to New Have, CT and grabbed the train down to NYC.  A quick walk from Grand Central to Yotel and I got settled in.  I love the first night.  A few of us had a group message to help plan and meet up, and I was able to grab some dinner with Kristin of Faith & Family Fun and Kendra of Simply DARRling.  They are seriously the sweetest and funniest girls.  We had a quick dinner down the street from our hotel and then ended up back at the Yotel bar for more drinks.


Blogger Bash itself was amazing.  It kicked off with a Care Bears Brunch that was so yummy! I'm a huge fan of the Care Bears and the message they send.  I'm so excited that I can share one of my favorite things from the past with my daughter and son.  The Care Bears brunch gave us a lot of really great information and I'll have so much more Care Bears stuff in the coming months!


The first day had lots of pull outs: speed dating with brands (which I wasn't picked for which kind of makes me sad, like, why not? You know?), and then a trip on the Ride through NYC.  Originally I signed up but was afraid of being late for my volunteer shift so I ended up giving up my ticket, and seriously, I'm so happy I did.  I can go on the ride any time, but volunteering was priceless.  The ladies who run Blogger Bash are amazing, but seeing how hard they work behind the doors in incredible.  Seriously, they make it look so effortless, always smiling, always courteous, pausing to take a picture with you... you would never know that one company forgot product X or that that the wifi was down or that an entire box of candy was MIA.  Just effortless amazement from those women.  I loved that I got to spend time with some of my favorite ambassadors like Jenn and Stephanie, and got to help brands.  Brands do so much work and it was so nice to be helpful to them.  Most events I'm just in there talking and trying to sell my brand to them that it was so nice to just help them.  Grab them a drink, or tape, or move boxes... I think I just like being helpful.  It was a lot of work but it all paid off amazingly when Sweet Suite 2016 started.

I can't even put Sweet Suite into words. So many amazing brands and toys and I can't wait to share everything with you, but honestly, it's too much for today.  I have lots of posts coming with individual companies or toys so for now you just get tons of pictures.


Crazy, right? So many amazing toys!! Later in the week, you'll see my favorite toys, but for now, just drool over everything pictured! And I promise, that's only like half!

Day 2 started off with an early volunteer shift! Again, I'm up at like 5 am anyways, and a quiet walk through NYC was surprisingly therapeutic. Again, I loved seeing the behind the scenes stuff and was lucky enough to help set up in the Babypalooza room. Some of my favorite brands were there, but it also made me realize that my little guy truly isn't a baby anymore.  So many of those brands weren't brands that I could connect with or write about because that phase is over for us.  It made me a bit teary buuuut I had work to do so there was no time for tears!

The day started off with the Kate and Mim Mim breakfast! It was such a heartfelt story about how they developed the show. Emmalee is a big fan of the show and I love the messages that it shares: you can be anything you want, you can solve big problems, and you're only limited by your imagination.  It's truly a show you want your kids to watch.


Ps. That's Laurie, and she is one of the brains behind this whole thing. I totally fan-girl when she's nearby.

After the breakfast, it was just a blur of amazing brands at the Expo and Babypalooza.


I was lucky enough to meet Noah Galloway and John Urschel. I talked to John for a while on the importance of education and how powerful it is for kids to see athletic stars like him seeing a value in education.  It helped that John goes to MIT just like my brother but he was not impressed with my love for the Patriots! ha.


The final event I made it to was Shop Ireland, a curated group of shops from Ireland.  It's clearly in my lineage.  I have a shamrock and a 6" Celtic Cross tattoo, as well as a small red headed child so I was clearly in love. Each artisan had something new and it was so relaxing to just sit and chat with other bloggers as they sipped Irish Coffee.


Sadly, a huge storm came rolling in and on a boat, even a docked boat, it's not necessarily fun. The worst part is that although the storm stopped and the final party, complete with a spin around the harbor to see the Statue of Liberty, was back on, it was delayed a bit.  The final party was pushed back about a half hour and we were told we'd dock around 7. Unfortunately, I had to be on a 7:05 train and I couldn't take any chances so I had to say bon voyage a bit early. Waah. In the end, I was thankful because I was able to switch my ticket for an even earlier train and get a faster train that made less stops!

It literally took me hours to get home and days to recover, but once again, I am so thankful that Blogger Bash gave me the opportunity to go as a volunteer. I loved going to Blogger Bash and the connections I made with both bloggers and brands are invaluable.  I can't wait to see next years; because, seriously, how do you top a yacht as a conference location?

xo, Heather

July 22, 2016

Santa's Village - Jefferson, NH

Disclaimer: My family and I were hosted at Santa's Village to facilitate this post, however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

After a wonderful vacation in Pennsylvania (read all about it here), we came home for one night, dropped off suitcases and repacked to head up to New Hampshire. Crazy, right?


We had been invited to visit Santa's Village as part of #SantasSquad and I knew the kids would just love it so we made a weekend of it.  Growing up, David always stayed at a place call Sky Valley so we checked their website and they had 2 units left. We booked it and got ready to go!

I love the drive up to New Hampshire. It is so gorgeous. And, yeah, she is too...


I was pleasantly surprised when we got to Sky Valley. For how affordable it was, and the fact that my husband has been going for the last 30 years, I expected much lower quality. The beds were comfortable, the unit had a mini fridge and microwave, and lots of space for all of our stuff. 


There is lots of open space and play equipment for the kids.  Grills and fire pits everywhere (you can rent a propane tank from them or bring your own) and our room actually had 3 beds so everyone was comfortable.

I was actually really sad that we weren't staying longer because I would have loved to check out the pool and spend another night cooking s'mores. However, I was super excited to go to Santa's Village so it was an okay trade off!

Fun story: we were actually almost late to Santa's Village! David told me it was only a 15 minute car ride so as we went to go get breakfast, I decided to pull up the directions because the service is spotty and wanted to be sure I had them, and it was 40 minutes away! He is so lucky I checked when I did because we had a special reservation at 9 am!

We had to get there nice and early because we had the privilege of feeding Santa's reindeer before the park opened! The kids were so excited!


Honestly, I was surprised by how close to the reindeer they would get. Even Tyler would laugh every time he got close to them. Even though we got some special time with them in the morning, the Reindeer Rendezvous is open to all guests during the day. You can pet them (for free!) or buy the reindeer cookies (3 for $1) to feed them. I love that there was a sink to wash our hands post reindeer petting and feeding!

After an amazing solo carousel ride with Santa Claus, we got to watch the park open from the inside!


Our first stop, once the park opened, was to head to the Elf University.  Really, the Elf University is what makes Santa's Village so special to me.  It's not secret that as an English teacher, I love literacy. I read to both kids while they were still in my belly, packed books for their first days in the hospital, and they both have a bookshelf full of books. Reading is important to me! So, when I heard about Elf University, I lost my mind a bit.  At Elf University, each child can get a punch card with the "elfabet" on it. Then there are 26 little elf statues set up around the park that represent each letter.  The kids slide their punch card in, pull the lever and it punches right where that letter is! With Emmalee just starting her alphabet in Preschool this year, it was honestly magical watching her run from elf to elf shouting what the letter was and then rattling off words that start with that letter. 


As we ran from elf to elf, the amazing smell of warm donuts filled the air, or rather doe-nuts. We could actually see the girl frying them through the window... Seriously, I could have eaten a thousand of them, but I think we only got 4 orders... 


The kids would get distracted by all the different rides and wanted to run right to the next one. We went on the Skyway Sleigh, the Antique Cars, The Himalaya sleigh ride, Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, and the Little Elf Flying School.  


Tyler was absolutely obsessed with the Pixie Mix ride, which is like a little scrambler, and Emma surprised me by going on the Rapid Transit Coaster and down the huge You Tubing slide! I can't even believe that she was brave enough to do it, but I'm so proud of her!

video

In addition to the delicious food, and the fun rides, there were little stores all over the park.  Some sold great holiday items and were super affordable! We got an ornament with our picture for less than half of what I expected it to be! Emma's favorite store was the Blacksmith Shop.  Okay, so it's not exactly a store, because you can't buy anything, but the blacksmith custom sizes a ring for every kid who visits him. It's such an unexpected thing to come across in a park like this and Emma treasures it still!

We stopped to grab a late lunch and Emmalee volunteered to participate in one of the many shows they have, Carol-o-key!

video

It was adorable and she had so much fun!

When we finished up lunch, we changed into our bathing suits (they have great big family changing rooms!) and checked out the Ho Ho H2O water park! The water park is broken into a couple of pieces including a splash pad that has gentle water streams for the littlest kids, the water slides, and the feature which is full of slides, sprayers, and the giant tipping bucket of water!


We could have spent hours there, even more than the 2 and a half we did! Our day started at 9 am and at 4 pm, we decided we needed to dry off because we had one last, super important place to go before we left the park for the day!

You can't go to Santa's Village and not spend more time with Santa, right? Santa's house is set up in the park and  he loves having company! They take family photos with Santa and we were able to buy another photo ornament for only $10! What blew my mind was how amazing Santa was! I mean, we hung out with him at 9 am and then he saw hundreds of children, yet he remembered Emmalee and Tyler and struck up a conversation like they were best friends.  The smile on Emma's face was just so amazing; it's one of those things that you can't put into words.

After an amazing trip, we know we will be heading back. Conveniently, the site has it's calendar for the whole year up so we can already start planning trips for the Fall and for the Holiday Season. I can;t even imagine how gorgeous the foliage will be in September and October and what could be more perfect that spending the holiday season at Santa's Village?!


Santa's Village is a great value at only $31 for general admission! Those over 62 years old are only $28 and children under 3 are free with a paid adult! There is an extra value that we didn't get to take advantage of but if you go to the park within 3 hours of closing, they issue you a return visit voucher! For more information on that, you can check specifics here, as well as find out information about Santa's Silly, Spooky Halloween Extravaganza, Santa's New Year's Partybration, 2 Day passes (only $57!), and all about season passes (only $79!!)! Did I mention that the strollers are free to use during your trip!? That's easily an almost $20 savings based on all of our other stroller rentals that week, although I ended up throwing $10 into the collection box because how could I not?


Additionally, if you want to save even more, Santa's Savings Tree offers special promotions based on the day you are going! We got free sodas with our pizza thanks to Santa's Savings Tree!

You can find even more information on Santa's Village on their Facebook page, Pinterest page, and Twitter page. We follow them on all their channels and can't wait to head back! Thank you so much Santa for inviting us to spend the day and letting us be part of #SantasSquad!



July 21, 2016

Pennsylvania 2016: Hershey Park


After a small fiasco with our Hershey Park tickets, we were able to get new tickets reprinted and we made our way to Hershey Park while we were in Pennsylvania.

I have to be honest, I was nervous about going to Hershey Park. I was under the impression that it was a very large park with very little for the kids to do, but Emmalee loved the idea of a "chocolate park" (she was disappointed when she realized it wasn't made of all chocolate) and we've never been so we figured we'd try anyways. I was blown away by how perfect it was for the kids.






Upon entering, we grabbed a rental double stroller and the kids got safety bracelets, with my name and number written on them, God forbid something happen while we were in the park.  Instead of a loud overhead "Missing child", they can call you directly! The first ride there was a big carousel set up in the middle and an "official measuring station" to the side. The measuring station let us figure out what size the kids were, and those sizes were posted on each ride so it was easy to tell if they would be able to ride or not.  Emma measured as a peanut butter cup, and Tyler was a Miniature! How cute!

Around the carousel were tons and tons of rides the kids could do themselves! They rode on dinosaurs, did a sled ride, rode the cars, and flew airplanes, and I never had to get in! Those are my favorite rides! Ha!




David used this time to run and get on a few rollercoasters before the lines got too long.  Because I wasn't trying to wrangle kids and get in and out of the rides with them, it was easy for him to run off for a bit.  He loves rollercoasters so I'm always happy when he gets to go on them!






Farther down we found teacups, which are Tyler's new favorite ride.  I did go on this one, but that's okay, because I love teacups!  We played a few skill games and Emma even won the water shooting game!

I told dave he should go get on one more roller coaster while I brought the kids to the zoo.  Did you know there was a zoo inside the park? So fun and a great way to calm the kids down a bit after running through the park.

After the zoo, we found our way to more kid only rides.


A video posted by Heather (@heathgiff) on

More cars, a cargo truck, and the cutest little blast off ride.  Tyler loves the Sunoco classic cars, and Emma liked speeding through on the faster cars! We grabbed some lunch at one of the stands and went off to take a train ride together.  The train ride brought us past another amazing looking train, so Dave went that way while the kids and I found some fruit cups, pretzel bites, and an accapella group. We also grabbed a refillable cup.  This was so great because refills all day were only 99 cents, which saved us a ton of money!



A video posted by Heather (@heathgiff) on

David met us and we made our way over to the boardwalk area.  There were a few more rides on that side of the park, and one of them was Tyler's absolute favorite. We must have ridden the Granny bugs 15 times!


Our next stop was the Boardwalk and water rides. I love doing the water rides either first or last. Gives us a chance to dry off for the rest of the day, or in this case, pack up wet kids and go back to the hotel to drop them in the tub. The clouds were getting dark so Dave ran to go down the big slide before it got closed and Tyler took a nap on my chest. Emma was easily appeased with an ice cream cone!



We packed up and began heading for the front since it got really dark, really fast, and all of a sudden, the clouds opened and we were drenched. Like, see my bathing suit through my dress soaked.

We had told Emmalee we'd go to Chocolate World, so it was a great time to check it out, rather than walking all the way to the car.


We took the (free) tour to learn how they make the chocolate, and Emmalee's favorite part was when they gave us a free piece of chocolate at the end! And she wanted to go swimming in the chocolate river!


The rain let up so we made our way back to the car and back to our hotel. Clearly, it was an excellent day!


Check out the rest of our trip as well! Sesame Place, Adventure Aquarium, and the Please Touch Museum!

xo, Heather

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