About happyfamilytravels

Always traveling with my husband and kids -- looking to share tips and information!

Halloween Pumpkin Paint Project

I saw this idea awhile ago and look it looked cool. Mostly because I had all the items needed to do the craft. Here’s the inspiration.

When I told a friend of mine about this project she said something to the effect of, “What are you crazy?? You are going to paint with corn syrup?? It is so sticky. It’s going to be a complete mess!!”

I laughed. Why? Because I hadn’t even thought about that and…she was right. What was I thinking? Letting a four year-old paint with corn syrup!

Unfortunately, once I get an idea I can’t let it go. So…onward!

Here’s the steps:

  • I gathered all the supplies (thick paper, corn syrup, food coloring, black crayon, paintbrush, container for paint), put down newspaper and pulled my daughter’s hair in a ponytail.
  • We added the color to the corn syrup and mixed it. I was only going to do orange but couldn’t resist when she wanted to add yellow and green.
  • I drew the pumpkin in black crayon. Be careful to keep the colors separate or they will run together. As it dries, the syrup moves away from the black so it looks even better.
  • She painted the pumpkin. Use a lot of paint or it looks sparse and not as shiny.

Here’s the good and the bad:

  • It was easy
  • You don’t need a lot of odd materials
  • There’s not a lot of steps before seeing results
  • It looks cool
  • It is sticky
  • It NEVER dries
  • You can’t hang it up because it will drip (trust me, it will drip)

I loved it! She loved it! We had fun.  I think it would be cool to do a Christmas tree too.

What do you think?

My Favorite Zoo Is…

There is usually a zoo in every large city. When I travel to new cities though, going to a zoo is usually last on my last. I just don’t love zoos. I feel almost un-American saying something like that…who doesn’t love zoos?

Here’s why I don’t love them:

  • on the expensive side
  • hard to see the animals (they’re so far away, I need a big screen, like in a stadium)
  • animals aren’t always available to see (usually whatever one I want to see)
  • smells badly
  • have to walk long distances (usually with kids who are too tired to walk but don’t want to sit in a stroller because they’ll miss the animals)
  • the extras (merry-go-round, feeding animals, riding camels – why isn’t that stuff included!)

However, my favorite zoo is Cape May Zoo.

Here’s what I love it:

  • it’s free (they only ask for a donation)
  • the animals are very close
  • it’s not too big

Side Note: Yes, it still smells and they do have “extras” but those are outside the zoo so you can avoid them more easily, if you like.

On our last visit, I didn’t take many pictures but here are a few:

And, here is the best thing we saw there:

It’s a caterpillar. Isn’t that the craziest thing you’ve seen? It was walking across a pathway garnering tons of attention. Almost as much as the tiger whose cage was close by to where he was inching along. All right, I know it’s not really a part of the zoo but I’ve never seen it at another zoo, so there!

Where is your favorite zoo?
Why do you love it?

In case you’re wondering, my second favorite zoo is the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, in Colorado Springs. We went a long, long time ago. Here’s a few pictures from that trip 🙂

Traveling Can Be Annoying

You may have noticed, I’ve been posting my annoyed and loving columns for about seven months. I can’t decide which I like writing better. I feel so happy when I write the loving post and when a lot of people like it.

When I write the annoyed post, I feel more anxious but validated, especially when people like it, comment on it, or best yet, add their own annoyances (which I always identify with).

So, while we are on the topic of being annoyed, here’s my top three for the week:

1. Neck Pillows

First, I find neck pillows generally annoying. I can’t believe so many people work so hard to keep their neck straight for a flight (even a short flight). However, I am totally willing to overlook that. To each his own and hey, maybe you have terrible neck pain…I’m not a jerk.

What I find beyond annoying is people who wear their neck pillow around the airport. What are you doing? Don’t even try, sleep walking – not funny. These people look ridiculous. On my last trip, I stopped at a restroom, after I washed my hands I checked myself out in the full-length mirror.

A young girl was doing the same thing. She was wearing a neck pillow. She was staring at herself in the mirror, making sure she looked okay WHILE WEARING A NECK PILLOW. Needless to say, she didn’t take it off. Walked right out of the restroom thinking she looked great.

Did I mention she was still WEARING THE NECK PILLOW!! Come on, people – that’s annoying.

2. Bad Bathroom Hooks

Speaking of being in a public bathroom, I hate when I need to hang my bag and the bathroom hook is falling off or worse yet, not there! This should be part of routine maintenance.

Your purse or any bag should not be put on the floor of the bathroom. We need good bathroom hooks. Not having them is just…annoying. 

3. Rushing to Board

So, we’re all waiting to board the plane. We all want to get on, get to our seat, and get going. Yep, we all have the same goal in mind. Almost every airline boards certain people, areas, zones, etc. first…”almost every” would make that the majority.

I’m pretty sure all people boarding know this. And guess what, if they don’t, the airline person boarding the flight tells them…every time.

Why then does every person on the flight have to make a mad rush for the gate as soon as they get whiff of the airplane through the just opened jetway door?

Tons of people cramming up to board when they know they just have to wait. And, it just makes it harder for other people (whose turn it is) to get past them. Believe me, you are going to get on the plane. Nobody is leaving you behind. Now, MOVE BACK people, you’re annoying!

All travel-related. What can we do? Wait, I know…

Tell me, what’s annoying you?


Let’s Stay and Eat: Sheraton and District, Phoenix, AZ

We were only in Phoenix for one night. We needed to stay downtown. We choose Sheraton Phoenix Downtown. Sheraton is a good brand so we knew it would be fine.

We also needed to have dinner and we wanted something on the nicer side. After some research on my own and help from Visit Phoenix. I kept coming to District, which was conveniently located at the Sheraton.

Total win!

The Sheraton is not only nice, it’s beautiful. The outside entrance and lobby are grand but not over-done. Modern without being pretentious. The staff who greeted and checked us in were friendly and warm.

The room was just as you might expect. Clean. Done nicely. Nothing to extreme.

It was Happy Hour so we headed to the bar at District. This is a happening scene. We waited a minute to get two seats at the bar. At first, it seemed the servers weren’t very helpful but the nicest bartender greeted us and got our drinks quickly. She then offered us a (free) appetizer…Singh Farm Honey Wings with Pickled Jalapeno and Cilantro Lime Salt. Delicious. Cilantro Lime Salt is awesome!

We also got the Schreiner’s Bacon Wrapped Dates and the Hummus appetizers. We didn’t love the dates but I must say the bartender described it perfectly. She was friendly, warm, quick, and knowledge.

The repeat business there is amazing too. How do I know? Well, all the bartenders knew many of the patrons on a first name basis. I think that’s a testament to how cool of a place it is.

Unfortunately, we enjoyed it so much we stayed at the bar longer than anticipated and couldn’t stay long enough to have a full dinner. But, I would go back there in a heart beat, for the food, for the drink, and especially for the friendly service.

Here’s what I loved:

Here’s what I liked:

  • The food
  • The drinks
  • The room

Here’s what I didn’t love:

  • Nothing 🙂

Will you or have you tried either of these places?
What did you think?


Evaluate Your Life

October 19th is officially Evaluate Your Life Day. It’s a national holiday.

What do you mean, “You’ve never heard of it”?

Okay, I hadn’t either. But, it has to be real if they make a wristband for it.

I do like the idea of it though. What I don’t like is when it falls. The middle of October. Huh?

I evaluate in January. I mean you have to take stock of your life every January. You might not be writing stuff down or making big plans but you’re thinking it about it. You can’t get away from it.

I also like to evaluate around my birthday, which is in June. It’s a good half-year mark to see my progress (if any) from January’s lists.

I also like to check-in on my goals in September. You know, back to school. Getting things in order. It just seems to fit.

But…the middle of October. I don’t know, it’s just not a good time in my mind. What do you think?

However, a national holiday is a national holiday. Who am I to argue? Now, I am not going to bore you with my lists (I love a good list and I make them on continual basis – I so wish there was a job or a contest or a gold medal or something for making lists…I would nail it!!).

What I am going to tell you is that in September when I did my third evaluation of the year, I decided my writing needed to get into gear (not me, really – just my writing). So, I’ve been working on a few projects, which I’ll be sharing more about them all in the next few months.

The first one is…a blog facelift. I’m leaving the free WordPress site and moving onto to a self-hosted version, which will provide me more flexibility.

Side note: Flexibility = More Work

I’m telling you right now, there will be a learning curve. If you notice some changes or weird things, stick with me. Please! As always, I will love any feedback you have.

And, Happy Evaluate Your Life Day!

Now that I’ve shared (a little), let me know what you think.
How will you celebrate Evaluate Your Life Day? 


Love Makes the World Go Round

The world is such a wonderful place and a loving heart can make it beyond beautiful. Here  are just three things giving me a loving heart this week:

1. Thistle Farms

While we were in Nashville, we visited the Adagio Spa. In the bathrooms of the spa, they used Thistle Farms products. They were wonderful.

And here’s the best part. The products are produced through Magdalene. Magdalene is a residential program for women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets. By hand, these women create natural bath and body products that are as good for the earth as they are for the body. Purchases of Thistle Farms products directly benefit the women by whom they were made.

I wanted to take some home but with security, the sizes were too large. Luckily, they have online shopping! You must check this out. You’re getting a great product while helping an unbelievably brilliant cause.

2. Wegmans

Not as profound as my first one, but I do love Wegmans. It’s such an amazing grocery store. They always have everything I need. The food is fresh, the store is clean, and the employees are nice. Now, if I could only get a better parking space 🙂

3. Dyson Blade Hand Dryers

This one is really on the other spectrum of my first loving topic but I do love these. These hand dryers are awesome. They dry your hands quickly without dripping water all over everything.

Don’t you hate when you use a hand dryer that is higher than your elbows and then you drip water down your arms. Who thought of putting the dryer up so high? My only guess is someone who doesn’t wash their hands after using the restroom.

Of course, I also love it because it uses less paper and keeps public bathrooms looking tidy. What’s not to love?

Aren’t these three…beyond beautiful?

What are you loving this week?


Let’s Eat: Rats, Hamilton, NJ

My last post was about visiting Grounds for Sculpture. Located on the beautiful grounds is Rats restaurant.

You might remember that I love going out to eat. Period. I also love visiting places that are owned by chefs I’ve seen on TV. The winner of Top Chef, DC was Kevin Sbraga who was the chef at Rats. Since he’s won, he opened is own place called Sbraga located in downtown Philadelphia.

Even though he was no longer there, I thought it would still be fantastic. Before I tell you what I thought, I should tell you about the name. Rats is just not the best name for a restaurant, don’t you agree? It doesn’t bring to mind thoughts of a clean, rodent-free place to eat, at least in my mind.

But…it’s actually named after the character, Ratty from The Wind in the Willows. Seward Johnson, founder of Rat’s and Grounds For Sculpture, thought he threw the best parties with the best wine, just like Ratty. Totally cool, right? Much better than dirty rodents in the kitchen!

So, what did I think of the place? I did not like it.

Ouch. Sorry.

The decor and atmosphere were cool. The outside front of the place looks like a French village. The back of the restaurant looks out onto a pond and sculptures, which is totally cool.

The food though, was just not good.

I got the mussels in a white sauce. They were okay. The flavor just wasn’t good and some of them had beards, which I hate. My daughter got a grilled cheese from the kids menu. She wasn’t eating it and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I tasted it. I’m not sure what kind of cheese they used but it wasn’t American or Cheddar. That’s fine for a grown up sandwich (I guess) but this was from the kid’s menu.

And it was expensive. Normally, I don’t talk about costs. Everyone has different levels of what they think is worth spending money. What I think is expensive you and a total waste of money, you might think is on target. But, I think without a doubt, we would agree this place is expensive.

Here’s what I loved:

  • nothing, really 😦

Here’s what I liked:

  • the atmosphere
  • the service
  • the bathrooms

Here’s what I didn’t love:

  • the food
  • the price for not very good food

Have you eaten at Rats?
What did you think?

Grounds for Sculpture IS for ALL ages

Have you heard of Grounds for Sculpture? It’s one of my in-laws favorite places to take people from out-of-town. We’re not from out-of-town so they hadn’t asked us…

I’m kidding, of course! They had asked us to go a number of times but it never fit into our schedule…until now! We planned to meet them there and arrived within minutes of each other, which is a fantastic omen of a good trip!

Grounds for Sculpture is exactly what it sounds like it is, a huge area filled with all different sculptures. I was concerned taking my daughter there. She only just turned four and I wasn’t sure she was going to appreciate the artistic endeavor of sculpture.

Guess what? I underestimated her artistic eye. She had a great time. We all did.

There is so much to see there (see the eyes of the sculptures between the trees?).

Leah loved these dancer sculptures.

But, these indoor sculptures were her favorites!

If you go, be sure to check throughout the trees. There are tons of hidden sculptures. And things that look real but aren’t (hint: the whole table scape below if a sculpture).

My favorite area was the water gardens.

And here’s my favorite sculpture. I don’t know why I like it so much. Maybe its simplicity? What do you think?

And, here’s my favorite picture of the day!

Just had to throw that one in 🙂

Have you been to Grounds for Sculpture?
What did you think?


Flashback Friday: Greece

Of all the places I’ve blogged about, one of the most popular remains my trip to Greece. It was an awesome trip with friends sailing around a few Greek Islands and ending with a night in Athens.

I wanted to share it with you again. If you have the opportunity, I highly suggest a Greek sailing trip and I highly suggest trying to secure our captain, Dimi. He definitely made the trip memorable for us!

Here are the posts associated with the trip! It’s a repeat but I hope you enjoy it 🙂

Alison’s Greek Odyssey – The Beginning 

Our Greek Adventure Continues

Hydra and Our First Gyros!

The Greek Islands Get Even Better

Charting Our Greek Destiny

Greek Islands — Trip Itinerary 

Remember Johnny Appleseed?

Remember learning about Johnny Appleseed? Walking around barefoot, planting apple seeds to grow all those apple trees throughout the US. What a guy!

In his honor, we went apple picking this year. Apple picking is cool because, it’s easy! And, you get to eat the fruit of your labor. Wait until you get home though, you still want to wash those apples before you eat them!

We went to Johnson’s Corner Farm in Medford NJ, which has got “fall fun” down to a science. If you’re in the area, you definitely should check it out. It’s not free but it is a good time for everyone. Here’s a few pictures from our adventure.

Have you been apple picking this year?