Friday, October 31, 2014

Top 5 Toddler Halloween Activities in Southern California

Here are 5 of our favorite Southern California Halloween events that are perfect for toddlers:

1. Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland: At $70, this is by far the most expensive activity on the list, but with the ticket price you get free parking and you get into Disneyland's main park at 4 pm (3 hours before Mickey's Party actually begins, which goes from 7 pm to midnight). Also, their candy is far superior to the other trick or treat events we've been too, and you get a ton of it, so if Reese's and Snickers speak to your heart this is a good place to go. (You can read more in this post.)

2. Scarium of the Pacific: This event was a lot of fun, mostly because none of us had been to the aquarium in a long time. I think it would have been just as fun if it wasn't Halloween-themed, and probably less crowded. There's no trick-or-treating at the aquarium, but there were several craft stations set up, and the fish and animals were given pumpkins to play with, which was pretty cute in the case of the penguins. There were also a lot of activities we didn't take advantage of, like spooky storytime and taking photos with creepy critters (not my thing). We bought the Aquarium and Zoo combo tickets for $39, which saved $10 per ticket. (You can read more about our visit here.)

3. Boo at the Zoo: If Ez were really into trick or treating, this would've been great, but for some reason he freaked out when a stranger tried to give him candy (and we didn't even teach him that yet!), so this may be a better slightly older kids. We still enjoyed wandering around the zoo and Ez loved the zoo playground. (Read more here.)

4. Rise of the Jack O'Lantern at Descanso Gardens: This was such a cool and unique event, and perfect for a certain pumpkin-obsessed toddler. I found out about it through Groupon, and got us tickets for $16 each (instead of $28 regular price). You can see all of our pictures here - the giant dinosaur sculptures were my favorite!

5. Tanaka Farms Pumpkin Patch in Irvine: This is hands down my favorite pumpkin patch because not only do you get to pick the pumpkins off the vine (pretty rare in So Cal), but they have a ton of pumpkins. Kellogg Farms in Pomona also have pumpkins on the vines, but they were all picked over and rotting when we went last year. There's also a corn maze, which makes me all nostalgic for Halloweens in Modesto. And it's a good corn maze, with a clearly marked, dry path - unlike the Pierce college corn maze which we went to two years ago. That maze was muddy, with narrow pathways that just looked like corn rows and we had no idea if we were following the maze or blazing our own trail. Tanaka Farms has other activities like tractor rides, shooting pumpkins in the air, riding mini ATVs for slightly older kids, Ez's favorite: riding in the wheel barrow, and a farmer's market that's open year round. I also may be slightly nostalgic toward Tanaka Farms because I went to UC Irvine, and because it's where we took Ez for his 1st pumpkin patch visit. (Read more here and here.)

Since it's Halloween, I've got one more Halloween-themed toddler list for ya! Here's Ez's top 5 favorite Halloween board books (the ones that I have a feeling we'll still be reading well into Christmas season).

1. Five Little Pumpkins: This started as a library book, but Gangy just sent us a Halloween package with Ez's very own copy, which is great because he can't get enough of this book. It rhymes, it's short on words, and it features lots of pumpkins, which Ez loves to point out. What's not to love?

2. Peek-a-WHO?: I don't know if you can see it in the picture, but the author of this book is named Nina, so it automatically goes to the top of the list ;)  This is technically not just a Halloween book, but there is a ghost and an owl, so it works with the theme. There's also a train, and you can never go wrong with trains + little boys. Ez loves shouting "BOO!!" on the ghost page (one of the few words he knows).

3. Five Black Cats: Ok, this might be more my favorite than Ez's, but I'm a sucker for black cats and the illustrations are so cute. He'll sit through it a few times before requesting 5 pumpkins, so he likes it, just not quite as much as me.

4. Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin: This was another gift from Gangy, and it quickly became a favorite for Ez. He especially loves it if I yell "No!" (Is our pumpkin in the leaf pile, Duck? NO!!). We have to hide this book to give our sanity a little break, otherwise Ez would read it

5. I Love You Little Pumpkin: Ez has had this book forever, and it's a year round favorite. We started off the month reading this on repeat daily, but as his Halloween book collection has grown it's been pushed to the back of the pile in favor of newer books. It's one of those lift the flap books, and once Ez got a huge kick out of those once he finally figured them out.

Linking up with The Farmer's Wife for Oh Hey, Friday! & The Good Life Blog, Carolina Charm, A. Liz Adventures, & Hello! Happiness for 5 on Friday.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

It's the Little Things: Chatterbox, Running in Circles, & Rock Collecting

Ez is turning into such a quirky little character. He comes up with the funniest activities all on his own, like collecting anything and everything, one at a time, and sorting it all into a giant pile (shoes, rockes, dirt clods...). Also, if Joe or I happen to be sitting in the middle of the floor, he'll start doing laps around us. This has been going on for a few days now, and it's the funniest thing. He's so focused, and he winds up getting dizzy and making wobblier and wobblier circles. Seriously, where does he come up with this stuff? Of course I have to pull out my phone and video him when he starts going on his little psychotic episodes toddler frenzies. I don't usually do such video-heavy posts, but you know what they say - a video is worth a thousand pictures...or is it a video is worth a million words? Nobody says that? Ok, here's a bunch of videos anyway ;)

This is not the first time I've made a fool of myself in a public place for this kid, and something tells me it won't be my last. But really, the world would probably be a better place if we all just burst into spontaneous dance parties:

Last night, I was sitting on the sidewalk while Ez collected dirt clods, and all of a sudden he plops down next to me, with his back propped up against my legs, and starts telling me the longest most animated story. Oh how I wish I knew what he was saying. The end when he starts hamming it up for the camera cracks me up:

A little insight into Ez's collect & pile mentality:

Some park action:

Sorry bout the dark quality, but this one cracks me up. This was the second video we took of him just running in circles around me for several minutes at a time. At one point I asked him what he was doing, and then he just stared me down without skipping a beat in his circular path. What did I do for entertainment before this kid?

Linking up with Ashley & Jess for:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

31 Days of Halloween: Days 21 - 27

I can't believe Halloween will be here in 3 days!! Which means October will be over in 3 days...where did this year go? I love this time of year, but is it just me or does the holiday season always go by especially fast?

Day 21: Festive fall food - All of you guys have been making and baking creative fall foods, and all I've got  for ya is a frozen pumpkin waffle that I cut into a pumpkin shape - for myself - cause sometimes adults need cute food too! Also, I couldn't pass up that cute little woodland creatures mug from Barnes and Noble. (Again, for myself. Sorry Ez!) We've been eating a lot of sweet potatoes and lentils, which feels very fall-like to me. When I say "we" I mean Joe and me, because Ez won't touch 'em. The reason there hasn't been any baking going on over here is because I gave up sweets for the first 21 days of the month. (Crazy to try during the holidays? Probably...) After 21 days I ate the mini Almond Joys I had set aside from Ezzy's Disney treat bag, and Joe and I treated ourselves to the best apple crisp ever, from Lazy Dog Cafe. Now I'm back on the no-sugar bandwagon for another 21 days. 
Pumpkin spice waffles.
Apple crisp.
Sweet potato, apple, and cranberry salad + mushroom pizza.
Day 22: This is not necessarily Halloween-ish, but it is fall-related, so on the countdown it goes! We took Ez on a little Gymboree shopping spree (while they were having a 40% off EVERYTHING sale - including clearance items) and stocked up on fall/winter clothes. Even though it's still in the 80s/90s here, Ez and I are going to Massachusetts in two weeks and will get to experience some real fall weather. I could not be more excited! More on that later though. As you can see from the pictures below, Ez was not too into playing dress up, but once he realized I was taking pictures whether he cried or not he sucked it up and gave me his best mini-Zoolander baby model pose. My little ham. Also, Ez spotted that Eric Carle brown bear shirt himself, and did not want to leave it, so we "had" to get it. While he was wearing it I brought out the actual book, and he kept pointing at his shirt and then at the book, and examining each one closely and getting all giddy. That Eric Carle is magic for toddlers, I tell ya... 

Day 23: (Not pictured) - we've slacked a little on watching Halloweenish movies, unless Walking Dead counts (which of course it does!). This past week has called for a little more relaxation and TV time though, so we watched Spookly the Square Pumpkin and Addams Family Values. I don't think I'd seen Addams Family since high school. Just saying that makes me feel really old. I love Christina Ricci in it though. Hocus Pocus WILL happen sometime in next 3 days. It's a priority...

Day 24: Ez's first ever Halloween party at Gymboree. I forgot Ez's cape, and we realized that Ez's Batman suit is size 12 - 18 months and getting smaller by the day. I did not realize how much he'd grow in a month. Whoops. On Friday, the day of the party, Ez absolutely refused to nap. So of course he fell asleep in the car on the way to the party (which started at 5 pm). For having a ten minute catnap and being woken up, he was a trooper. A lil groggy, but a trooper. The party hostess hid mini pumpkins all over the gym, which of course Ez loved, cause his pumpkin obsession. She set up a bean bag toss, and I think Ez was the only one that actually participated. Anything that involves throwing is right up his alley. There was another activity where the kids were supposed to climb up a ramp, grab a ball, and toss it into a stack of inflatable rings. I don't wanna brag (ok, maybe just a little), but Ez has really good aim. Other parents were commenting too, because he was the only one that actually made the shots. Repeatedly. I think we've got a little athlete on our hands. Then the kids made a little foam picture frame with pumpkin stickers. Ez liked it, and understood the concept, but he put all the stickers where the picture was supposed to go, so I rearranged just a tiny bit. Then it was time for bubbles and songs. Ez was covered in bubbles, which really perplexed him. He spent a few minutes trying to grab the bubbles, then got frustrated and ran away. While I snapped tons of pictures, because a baby covered in bubbles is the kind of adorableness that just doesn't happen every day. 

Day 25: Scarium at the Pacific! I already mentioned this in my last blog post, but here's another shot of Ez and I in our matching Halloween shirts. I went back to Michaels to get more decals so Joe and I could have shirts too, but there was only one decal left...Sorry Joe! The decal + shirt was $4 total from Michaels. Steal!

Day 26: Boo at the Zoo! Again, I shared this in my last post too, but here are a few more pictures. If I had to be honest, I think Ez would have been just as happy playing at the park, since that was his favorite part of the zoo, but I thought it was really cute to see all the kids in their costumes running around. 

Day 27: After 3 days of festivities, I think we all deserved a nice relaxing day at home. So instead, I'll just share a throwback/comparison picture (you know how much I love those!):
Look how much his arms and legs have grown! And those tiny feet... The picture on the left was at the pumpkin patch last year, and the one at the right is from Boo at the Zoo. 

Excited to read about all the festive stuff you guys have been up to! Linking up with Courtney, Amanda, Jamie, and Jenny for:

Cocktails & Carseats

Monday, October 27, 2014

Our Weekend: The Scarium & Boo at the Zoo

During the weekends leading up to Halloween the Long Beach Aquarium turns into the Scarium of the Pacific, so of course we had to check it out :)  What exactly made it so "scary"? Mostly some pumpkins scattered around and lots of kids in costumes, as well as Halloween arts and crafts stations. The scariest part was probably the Lorikeet walkway. Those birds are terrors! Squawking and latching onto people shirts, eating people's fingers, diving by our heads... I'm not a fan. 

Ez's costume is not warm-weather friendly, so we wore our matching Bad to the Bone t-shirts (I would have made one for Joe as well, but they only had one decal left when I went back to Michaels. Lesson learned, next time I'll stock up!). 

I haven't been to the Aquarium in about a decade, and of course it was Ez's first time. It was a ton of fun. At first Ez would walk close to the tanks, but take a step backward if any of the fish swam near him. He did not know what to make of those critters. But he got braver as the day went on, and even stuck his fingers in the shark tank - the little daredevil! I don't know if you've ever touched a shark before, but their skin is a lot more rough than I was expecting, and it turns out their skin is covered in tiny little teeth. So creepy!! We also touched jellyfish and they felt really smooth and squishy. They were also glowing in the dark, like a black light, which was really pretty. Joe touched a stingray, and it tried to attack him. It flapped it's wing-thingys out of the water and made a loud splashing/suction sound. So of course I screamed. That became known as The Great Joe vs. Stingray Battle of 2014. My absolute favorite sea creatures are the sea horses and sea dragons. They seem make believe, even when I can see them with my own eyes they seem like they belong in a fantasy land. The penguins were also fun to watch. They would swim right up to our hands on the glass, and seemed playful and friendly. Ez was content to sit watching them for awhile.
My strong little boy!
Sea Dragons: They look more like sea kangaroos to me!
Sea Horses - I want to bring them home with me.

We bought combo tickets for the aquarium and the zoo, and on Sunday we headed oveer to Boo at the LA Zoo. The first attempt Ez made at trick or treating left him in tears and running for cover behind Daddy's legs. Not sure what was so terrifying about a stranger handing him candy, but I guess that's a good thing? Eventually he warmed up to the idea, and he liked looking at all the goodies he had collected. 

We saw a lot of animals, but unfortunately most of them weren't being too photogenic. Most of the animals were sleeping. One of Ez's favorite books right now is "Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear?" by Eric Carle, so we have been practicing lots of animal sounds lately. So we had Ez snorting like a rhino, and the giant sleeping rhino actually peeked open his eyes and lifted his head for a moment. I think Ez was shocked that the giant rock-like lump was actually alive and moving. It was really cute. This was the first time I've seen the leopards out and about at this zoo. They were pacing all over their cage and seemed kind of agitated (or maybe just hungry). They are so beautiful. All of the big cats are my favorite. We could also see the elephants giving themselves dirt baths, but they were obstructed by trees and stuff, so there were no clear picture shots. Oh well, some things are better seen with your own eyes than through a lens anyway. 

Ez's favorite part of the zoo was the playground. He's all about slides lately, so that was right up his alley. He was such a trooper too, walking most of the way, up and down all kinds of hills. Needless to say he took a looong nap that afternoon. We only stayed a few hours, and left around lunch time when it started getting hot. I think it was good timing because the parking lot was packed when we left. 
That. face. Apparently he still hasn't figured out how that candy got in his bag...
He's turned into such a ham.
Love these two so much!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Home Makeover Project: Bookshelf

I shared this picture on my Instagram a week ago, but I wanted to share a few more photos on the blog as well. I have a bit of an obsession with shelves, I feel like you can't really have enough. Actually, maybe I just have an obsession with furniture in general. Especially if it's a really good deal. We bought this shelf at a thrift store for less than $40 almost two years ago. Other than a few nicks, it was pretty sturdy and a really good deal. I bought it with the intention to paint it, but at the time I had never painted anything, and so it got put off for a really long time. These were the inspiration pictures I had in mind:

I used the same paint I used for our front door, a dark bluish gray, and I mixed it with the plain gray I used in Ez's bedroom to make it a slightly lighter gray. The wood soaked up a lot of paint, so it took three coats till I was happy with the results. All in all it took about a week's worth of naptimes. Well worth the work, because I'm in love with the results. 

Even if we didn't paint though, I think just the fact that I cleaned up, got rid of some clutter, and organized made a huge difference. I've been following along with the Living Well Spending Less: 31 Days to Clutter Free Challenge. Not all of the daily challenges apply to me, but days 4, 5, and 6 inspired this project. Almost as much as I love shopping for furniture at thrift stores, I love collecting clutter around the house and sending it off to Goodwill. I'm not a neat freak by any means, but I just like everything to have a home (even if it's not put away, it puts my mind at ease to know it could be). I gather up clothes and other random things several times a year for donation. Since we just moved in July, I thought I'd already sorted and discarded most of our unwanted stuff. But toward the end of our move a lot of stuff just wound up getting thrown into boxes without getting sorted like I'd hoped, so our bookshelf was way too cluttered. I got rid of a lot of DVDs, some still unwrapped that we agreed we'd never watch. I put the rest in those gray chevron baskets that I got at TJ Maxx. I also got rid of a ton of books I knew I'd never read again, moved all of Joe's trivia books to the bathroom (we have a shelf in there and it seems more like bathroom reading to me), and moved a few books to our shelf in the bedroom. I love how organized the living room feels now. I really believe that clutter produces anxiety, and I love walking through the door and seeing our organized, (and currently pumpkin-filled) bookshelf. 

So that's my latest home makeover project! Because it was so time-intensive (and because I'm running out of stuff to paint) it may be the last one for a little while. We're heading into the holiday season, which means things are about to get hectic! In a fun way, of course :)

PS - do you have any fast, surefire ways to keep clutter under control? I feel like it's a constant battle in our house (which I'm betting all parents can relate to).