Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sesame Place is still rocking my world

 You all know that Sesame Place is one of my favorite places on earth right now.

My 4.5 year old has been going here since she was 6 months old and her little brother has followed suit. We have had season passes for 3 years now and this year we actually hadn't been at all since our schedules were so busy - but we planned an overnight stay during the week our kids daycare was closed and it was exactly what we all needed.

First off, we used the Sesame Place website to book the overnight - look at my Springhill post to see more info on the hotel we picked but long story short - we decided on a 1 night stay at a hotel that has a walking path that goes straight to the park entrance.
 (it's the same distance as walking to your car in the Sesame Place parking lot)
We added a character breakfast (kids eat free - you CAN'T beat that) and since we picked the first sitting - we got an extra half hour in the park before the gates opened for the general park to go on some rides we wouldn't normally have gone on - and for a very small amount extra - we added season passes for all of us which includes the entire rest of this year (they have AMAZING Halloween and fall programs including free concerts and events and it also includes their new Very Furry Christmas programs) AND we get  all of 2014 as well. 

We arrived at the hotel in time for the park opening and were allowed to park our car there - we unloaded and went into the park. Got our real season passes at guest services and were on our way! Unfortunately we drove through torrential downpours and the weather forecast changed to say it might be rainy during the day.

We played around for awhile in Ernie's pool which is where we actually end up spending a lot of our time at Sesame cause the kids are little and it's kind of just perfect for them.  We then went to ride some rides and eat lunch - that's when the rain came in. I'm talking dark, ominous grey thunderstorm clouds. We parked underneath what we thought was a covering and figured we'd camp out with the rest of the unsuspecting families.

We were wrong - it was a total downpour including loud thunder. Needless to say - the kids started freaking out and all of the stuff in our stroller and on our table (leftover lunch stuff, maps, towels, clothes, etc.) got totally soaked and not - hey that was a fun rain storm soaked - more like a miserable cold, grey soaked.

I ended up making a mad dash to the 123 smile with me building with a bunch of other parents and we continued to camp out there for awhile to wait out the storm.

It was clear that once the rain stopped, it wasn't going to stop for long - so I made the call to ditch the park for a few hours - get dry in the car - find some food - (Steve's Prince of Steaks to be exact - SO GOOD)- stop at Barnes and Noble and the Pet Store - check into the hotel - and go swimming. 
The pool was an amazing 85 plus degrees which made me the happiest mom on the planet! We swam awhile and I did laundry in the hotel laundry room.  (our stuff was that wet and gross)   Then we got a text from a fellow super mom who was heading back to the park with her kids for the parade and we decided to brave the park again.
I'm so glad we did. We walked over with no stroller - ate, rode some rides and then watched the nighttime parade which is HUGELY less crowded then the daytime one.

We walked home after the parade and headed home and had the most amazing night ever. There was not one tantrum to be had and both kids actually asked to turn the movie off (Disney Channel was playing UP to go to bed) They both slept all night long and we woke up bright and early and refreshed for our character breakfast in the morning. We walked over with no intention of going in the water cause we wanted to take advantage of the hotel pool before we checked out. (rookie mistake - I'm embarrassed that we made it honestly)

Here is a nice man handing out maps to all the kids waiting for the gates to open.
Here is our tour guide deciding where we should go next.
And here begins an amazing Dine with me Experience. The characters take their time with every person. (the other people in the park are not always very courteous - so expect to have to make your child wait in line while someone elses kid just RUNS up to them and interrupts your pictures - people are clueless and this is NOT THE PARKS FAULT.)

They take their time, they interact with each table and they have a nice set up with Elmo that you can take professional pictures in front of or take your own.

The buffet is decent with admittedly yummy french toast sticks, eggs, sausage, bacon,  individual yogurts, oatmeals, cereals, muffins, bagels, etc... They do a decent job and I'm a picky breakfast eater.

Here was the moment that made my year - Grover fed Ben his eggs - not once but two different times. It was amazing and Ben and Katie loved it!!! I was also impressed as plastic forks must be SO hard to grip from the costume:)

Elmo hugs everyone and they let you put your kids in his lap for pictures - even infants. The staff really is amazing and all the characters seem to like what they do - at least it looks that way and that's all that matters right?

Because extra rides were open before the park opened - we took Katie on the roller coaster and then I made the STUPID call to get everyone on the big Rubber Ducky tube ride. I went to the gift shop and bought a towel at 30% off. (since idiots that we were didn't prepare for water just in case) and off we went straight up and on to the rubber ducky float with no wait.

I don't like cold water - and apparently neither does Ben - cause he ended up crying and saying he didn't like the ride cause it was freezing.. (parents of the year)

We wrapped them up in sweatshirts, and towels and trucked it back to the hotel to the super warm and amazing pool and swam until we went back to the park for mostly dry rides because it was kinda crappy out.
Here is the beginning of what turned out to be about an hour long off and on quiet crying session - because "She didn't get to see Abby"

To be clear - Abby was at 123 Smile with me and I told Katie we could go - and she chose to go on the bounce house thing instead - so kid - you had your chance!

Off to dinner we go  - we picked Olive Garden just because I for some reason felt better giving them buttered noodles and spaghetti and meatballs versus chicken fingers. We sat and had an "ok" dinner while Katie kept crying about freaking Abby. Not bratty tantrum crying - but seriously sad and disappointed that she had made the wrong decision in choosing the bounce house with a side of exhaustion.

I get another text from a friend at the park asking where we were and decided to make the call to take the kids back to the park for an hour or so since we didn't get to spend all that much time there anyway and the sun had come out. We made a bee-line 123-smile with me and JACKPOT - 

We went on the cloud chaser a few more times (their favorite new ride)

Took in an Abby Cadabby and friends concert
And then called it a night. Changed them into pj's  packed them in the car - and they blissfully fell asleep on the way home and it wasn't a disaster getting them back into bed once we got home.


  • I know people complain about the park - for me - with a 4.5 and 2.5 year old - it's the perfect size. Anything bigger and I think it would be too overwhelming. If my kids were older - I agree - they might be bored but for this stage in our lives it's exactly what we need it to be
  • Yes, the people that go there can be a little gross and rude and inconsiderate - but that's not the parks fault. Yes it can get crowded. (Friday was way more crowded than Thursday)
  • You can go see 2 different concerts and an Elmo's World Live right there and they play throughout the day. (isn't Elmo's World Live when you go to a theatre like 25 bucks on it's own? And it''s much bigger so you lose out on feeling like you are right there - At Sesame you can touch him you're so close
  • They do an amazing parade  - although again, other people can be assholes  - so don't say I didn't warn you and stalk your spot early and don't be afraid to remind the jerks that you were there first - cause they will step right in front of your kid without a thought
  • The characters walk all throughout the park and you can take pics with them if you wait patiently in line (I was waiting at the Taco Truck and was ALMOST THERE when my 2.5 year old woke up groggy from his nap and kinda sad and asked me if we could find Grover - I look up 2 minutes later and who's walking to a spot for pictures but Super Grover - this Super Mom - ditched her spot in line and pushed his little stroller right over to the line so he could get a picture with Super Grover and it made his day (ok in reality it made his like, 5 minutes - but I gotta pretend it was worth more than that cause I never did get those nachos)
  • The park gets dirty - it's a water park filled with lots of people (some of which are those a**holes I was mentioning before)  We like to go VERY EARLY in the season and then all through the Fall for the hay rides, pumpkin painting and trick or treating. Much less crowded and WAY cleaner!
  • If you have a season pass everything you buy is 30% off. Pair up with someone who has one and use their discount to help save you some money. It's totally worth it. I was talking to my friend who was there the same day and explaining how much I use it and he pointed out that I am exactly the demographic they market to - cause I will buy more crap there because I have the discount:) I'm ok with that and he was too cause I got to share my discount:)
  • If you want to save even more money - bring your lunch in a cooler or go back out to your car (it's not that far) and have a huge picnic lunch (if your cooler is larger than they allow) 
Thanks for continuing to read - it's a fun outlet for me and I'm happy to think that this might be helpful or amusing for anyone in anyway - and seriously people - Grover fed my kid!  :) 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Springhill Suites in Langhorne is my new favorite place!

We haven't been this year- which was a bummer. We had a week of time off due to the daycare being closed - so I decided last minute that we should take them to Sesame for an overnight as a end of summer mini vacation treat.

I started by looking at packages online through their site. First I thought of staying 2 nights - then I decided on 1 since we can get 2 full days by driving there for opening since we are only an hour and 15 away. (3 might have been overkill)

I knew we DIDN'T want to go on the weekend because end of summer + water park + poorly behaved parents and other kids + crowds = NO FUN for any of us.

Let me be clear - I believe this is a problem at ANY Theme park and not a problem specific to Sesame Place so it's not the parks fault - it's a society thing! You have to know what to expect when you are around large crowds of people. I much prefer an outdoor park to an indoor because you can't beat sunshine and fresh air.

So we booked for a Thursday overnight - added a Breakfast with Elmo the second morning (kids eat free so you CAN'T beat that for a deal) AND added Season Passes because we get to go now for the rest of this year through their Christmas events and ALL OF NEXT YEAR through Dec 2014. You also get a free picture at the photo booths which is a nice touch with a package.

BE CAREFUL when booking a hotel and make sure you know which hotel you are staying at. My number one pick is the Springhill Suites which is directly across the street from the park and brand new. It is literally the same amount of time to walk to the hotel as it is to walk to your car in the Sesame parking lot. Some of the hotels SAY they are close but are actually in Philly - which is like 40 minutes away. So if you are going to do it - Splurge on the ones that are close by either with a shuttle service or even better - the Springhill where you don't have to worry about waiting for a shuttle with screaming tired kids - you can just stick them in the stroller and walk on home.

If you stay at Springhill - it's an all suites hotel with an AMAZING indoor pool that was seriously about 90 degrees warm (heaven for me - the picky pool goer) and EMPTY - both times we were all alone. They also have a little play room dedicated for the kids which I thought was a nice touch with toys and Sesame stuff and Sprout on the Big Screen.  The pool and playroom are open from 6 am until 11 pm. They have an amazing spread for Free breakfast - fruit, cereal, waffle machine, yogurt and other hot stuff. If that wasn't enough - on Monday, Wednesday and Friday - they have a balloon artist that comes around the tables at breakfast and gives out AMAZING sesame creations.
They have a little computer area for printing things and searching the web. The staff was very friendly albeit young. And the free valet was PROMPT. I thought it would be annoying but I understand why they do it. You have to pay to park at Sesame and people will park just about anywhere close by to avoid paying the parking fee and I wouldn't put it past people to try to park in their lot and use it for the park. You text them your ticket number and the sweet young kids bring them right up and are super super friendly which I wasn't really expecting.  They even talk to your kids - which is an added bonus because how many highschoolers do you know that want to talk to a 2 year old about Elmo?

 My only complaint for the hotel were the Pool Towels - I don't know about you but when I think of Pool Towels I think of really big towels that wrap all around you - you can see from the picture above that's not what they had. They were like hair towels and I had to use like 3 to get dry.

To say that we had a good time at this hotel is an understatement - It's very swanky for a Sesame hotel and perhaps they could have designed the bathrooms a little better for wee ones (the sink was too high for both my kids to reach) but at the end of the day the King Size bed and awesome pull out couch was perfect for us to split up with our 4 year old and the Toddler.  They were so tired that by 9 pm they were asking to go to bed - which is VERY unlike my kids. See the little chaise section of the pull out - made for a PERFECT toddler bed when we stuffed some pillows next to the edge. The mini fridge is a nice touch as well. For a place full of kids - it was super quiet which was an added bonus as I was nervous all the toddler meltdowns would be heard from room to room. We slept totally peacefully and were ready for the next day!

 Here's my boys on the path the goes from the hotel to the park.

Seriously - I can't say enough good things about this place. Since we are season pass holders - I hope to go back during the Fall and Winter and I plan to book this hotel for one night during the winter so we can go to the park and enjoy the pool and play room and have a nice place to warm up. It will be a much needed respite from the winter and I'm super excited already!

Monday, August 19, 2013

I painted my countertops!

Yes - you read that right. I painted my counter tops and they look AWESOME! I had been eyeing the Giani Countertop paint for awhile and fell in love with the idea of their product and the amazing transformations they show on their site.  So I contacted them and they were SUPER AMAZING enough to send me a kit of my choice to test out and review for you all.
After a lot of thought - we chose the Sicilian Sands colorway. (that was our mistake - but more on that later)

We had to wait to try it out because our kitchen sink is VERY close to the back of the counter - so we had to take the sink out to make sure it would look as good as possible - this is by no means necessary and most people probably won't have this problem but it's an old kitchen and the sink was VERY poorly designed - so we figured to be safe we should take it out and do under where the sink would sit and then replace it and I am SO glad we did!

You can see in the picture below that there is a TEENY TINY SKINNY Little bit of counter behind the opening for the sink.  

So - I got the kit - read all the directions - watched the video (DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP AS IT'S SUPER HELPFUL and explains EXACTLY how you have to apply this stuff for the desired results)
I went to the store and bought the extra supplies needed to complete the project. (FROG tape, caulk, sandpaper, Brillo pads) 
My only complaint about this product is that I wish they would charge more but include all the extra things you need so that if you wanted to start the project as soon as you received it in the mail - you could - without having to go to the hardware store. If you have a hardware store nearby - it's no big deal - but it can be a bit of a downer if you don't know ahead of time that you need more stuff and then get upset that you have to go out to get more things to get ready.

I prepped the surface exactly as they said - with Brillo and cleaning it with water and a cloth. 
Then I started taping - and here is where I made my first mistake. We have these god awful silver edge thingies on our counters that don't all come off - and I didn't tape well enough to ensure that the paint didn't get on them at all - so around the edge it looks a little messy if you look close - but that was my fault and the fault of the person who chose the hideous silver edge thingies in the first place. 

The other issue we have is that our backsplash is ALSO formica and goes all the way up to the cabinets - so for now - they are still boring beige - until we find thin tiles to put over it as I'm afraid to take it all off for now. 

If we didn't have those design flaws I think the process would have been SEEMLESS - makes me wish I had a BIG island to test it on because it REALLY was super simple to do from A- D.

Here is a small section before and after all taped off and primed. Now in all the pics I've seen online the primer looks SUPER shiny back - so I don't know if I got an off batch or something - but it ended up looking flat black/greyish. I was tempted to put a second coat - but it didn't say to so I didn't do it just in case.

Here is a section that I had to  put some wood filler in to cover some small chips. (the brownish spots)

O.k. so I primed and it was already looking better with the black. I was very intimidated but once I started priming it was no big deal and I finished it all in like a half hour. I let that dry ALL DAY LONG and then got ready for step 2 which was the Minerals after the kids went to bed.

My husband and I worked together to sponge the minerals on and tried to be as consistent as possible. This part can be a bit scary as you are literally just sponge painting - so it would be nice if there was a part of the video that gave some visuals on how to achieve the different variations of color because we are not as crafty as we'd like to be and I think we kinda screwed up the sponging. In my head we should have covered all the blacky grey primer - which is what we tried to do at first - I also was afraid to add too much white cause I didn't really see how it fit in with the other 2 colors. (My artistic inability really came through here)

I will say that while you are sponging you need to take a step back every once in awhile because it looks different up close than from a few steps back. It looked better every time I stepped away a little bit. 

Now here is where WE made the mistake. Our counters were not a hideous seafoam green or pepto pink - they were just boring beige - and we ended up picking Sicilain Sands which is a beige granite look.
See the mistake? We didn't choose a color that was drastic enough to really have a WOW factor with the before and afters. Especially since our gross backsplash is still totally visible and you can see that the colors match up pretty well - I just feel like we jipped ourselves on a TOTAL WOW makeover and instead just updated the counters and made them look better.

Now, don't get me wrong - they look AMAZINGLY shiny and the colors look nice. I think we could have left a little more black like in all the videos they show and it would have looked a bit more drastic.

The edges are messy but that's my fault for not taping well and they are very specific that you take your time prepping and I suggest you do because you WON'T regret taping too much but you WILL regret not taping enough.

The counters came out amazing. The top coat was scary and I have a few streak marks but that's cause I am not the best painter in the world so my backroll needs some practice. We let the product dry overnight just to be sure and then installed the sink this morning.

The sink looks amazing with the counters (it's beige) and I can't get over how shiny they look. 
The product did everything it said it would. I found it to be easier than anticipated and just felt my artistic inability got in the way of making them even better. I'm sure if I had to do it again - I would be a much better artiste. ;)

I am nervous about them peeling - so we will try to be very careful to make sure we don't let water pool for extended periods of time but they look and feel amazing.

 With stuff back on them - see how shiny they are
 Here you can see the ugly backsplash against the counters - I bet when we fix that the counters will pop even more - we are thinking glass tile or something like that! Look at how shiny!

Close up of the edge.

Overall I think this is a no brainer for anyone who doesn't have the money to upgrade their counters and don't really NEED to. We didn't have to - our counters were fine - just boring and now they are NOT boring.  The test will be if it lasts as I've seen a FEW (not many) reviews that said it started to chip or peel but I get the sense those people didn't take care of the counters well. As we were doing the counters my husband asked when we were going to end up painting the cabinets (he knows me so well)
I am sure I will buy one of the Giani kits for painting cabinets but right now I am all DIY'd out and the idea of painting SO MANY CABINETS is just too daunting to me. Give me a month or so and I'm sure I will be telling you all about how we went out and got the kit and completed the kitchen transformation:)

I will try to find some better pictures of the before/after and post them later. 

Overall I would say - GO GET THIS AND TRY IT -  it's fun - but only if you are a little crafty as the painting takes some planning and precision. 
But I would definitely suggest that you go for a drastic change so that you feel like you're walking into a totally different kitchen. If  I had to pick again, I'd either go black/white or chocolate brown.
They have so many choices - it's hard to go wrong.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

House updates!

Before (boring, blah walls - ugly cords hanging down)
We painted the walls with an AMAZING color (peacock blue) - and then I took a box cutter and cut a hole behind the TV in the sheet rock and then again at the bottom of the wall to feed the cords through. I put an outlet cover at the bottom and need to finish that a little better - but for a last minute DIY - it works!!!

 Dining Room before and during colors

Here's a tip for painting - whatever color you like on the cute little paint chippy cards - go one shade lighter when you buy the paint or you'll be sorry. We went through a dark grey sample square (which we had to put 3 coats of primer over to cover up after realizing the cute light grey we picked out was a whole shade darker on the wall and dry) Then we tried a red orangey color - which looked awful - before finally deciding that Yellow would be our complimenting color to the living room Blue.

We picked a color out - and I had my doubts when I was ordering the gallon tha twe might want to go one shade lighter - but we pushed on and got the paint and brought it home.

The next day I started putting it on the walls and realized - yup - a whole shade darker at least than what I wanted. But you know what, this time it worked out because I'm starting to love it.

The whole point was to add bold color and I'm getting used to it now - so we were lucky this time - but Katie's room (below) is still WAY too dark for my liking because of the one shade darker thing - so next time I pick paint - I will go with my gut and go a shade lighter cause you can ALWAYS add more color later but it's very hard to take color away.

Trust me - You'll be glad you went one shade lighter.

 Ahhhh... there's a little life in here now.
 Looking from the living room into the dining room
(gotta update that light fixture - maybe for Christmas)
 Pinterest project - stair risers + contact paper = fun stairs
 Family Photos up the stairs (boring beige - we can change that next year sometime)
 Bens' Room!
 Katie's Pink Pepto Bismol walls. (will need to break that up with something so it's not so PINK - maybe bead board on the bottoms???)
 Fun Kitchen artwork;)
Our next and final project for a while will be to update the counters using Giani Countertop paint. I'm not ready to invest in new counters - but I HATE THE boring beige blah ones we have now. (so much blah in this house before) So - faux stone it is. Only problem is we have to take the sink out again in order to do it right and make it look perfect -so that will have to wait until a date when we have the time and ability to cut it out again and flip it over upside down and be without a kitchen sink for a day or two - so hopefully next weekend - we can attack that and then just enjoy the house and all the personal updates we've done so far.

I still want to do the chalkboard wall for the kids - but that can wait at this point:)
DIY - Pinterest projects make me happy:)

Friday, August 9, 2013

My failed chalkboard project

I have a wall in my family room with a stained glass window in it. (All the houses around here have at least one stained glass window)

I have decided that is going to be our chalkboard wall - a place where the kids can just draw, doodle, write, and be creative all day, any day.

I bought chalk board paint at ACMoore with a 50% coupon (sweet right) and at first I was just going to go ahead and paint the wall - then I realized we might HATE the way the color looked permanently - so I decided to get a huge piece of plywood the entire length of the wall and then paint that with the chalkboard paint and then attach it to the wall.

This would allow us to take it down at some point and not be forced to repaint the whole family room to get rid of the chalkboard look. (We don't know the color of the walls since it was done before we moved in - so it's not like we can just re-paint the one wall)

So - I measure the wall - I go to Lowes. I talk to the nice man in lumber and we decide on plywood instead of MDF. (MDF would work but it was just too too heavy) I take the huge 4*8 foot piece of plywood - slam it on a cart - push said card through the store to the big saw and have a second nice man cut it down to size. I had measured the length of the wall and gave myself 2 options for height based on the stained glass window.

Now I have to put it in my car - it was about 95 degrees with 100% humidity and I had to take the car seats out - rearrange the seats and then put it up and over the seats meaning I couldn't use my rear view mirror. But I got it home.

Had to take the huge thing out of the car - get it inside the house and put it up against the wall - and realize the lights are flickering - why - because genius that I am  - I forgot there was a damn light switch about 6 inches BELOW the top of the height I had the plywood cut.

So yeah - now I had to drag the whole huge damn thing into the basement - put the car back together and go back to square one on my chalkboard wall. I will cut the plywood down to size to be centered on the wall and then make a cute little frame for it - except I don't have a saw.

So - the chalkboard wall will have to wait.

But it will be done - and my kids will probably play with it for about a day - but maybe they'll play with it more and think it's the coolest thing in the world!

Fingers crossed:)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The kitchen sink project

So - our kitchen was the only room in the house that we knew we would have to do something with because it just hadn't been updated in a VERY LONG TIME.

We started with the appliances right when we moved in. We pulled out a 30 year old dishwasher and we replaced the refrigerator. In order to make the refrigerator fit - we had to alter the cabinets a little. (YAY FOR DADS WITH TOOLS) We thought that was as big of a project as we were going to do anytime soon.

Then I learned I was going to get the opportunity to write up a review for a product that transforms boring old Formica counter tops into faux stone looking things.

I'm not one to keep up with the Joneses - I don't feel the need to impress anyone with expensive updates in my house - I had no intention of replacing our countertops because they work just fine and we are busy with other things. I do however, love a challenge and a craft project and the Giani Countertop paint kit provides me with both!

So - our counters will LOOK a little snazzier (super plus) and they won't cost much money (SUPER SUPER PLUS) - it was Win Win.

With the impending face lift of the counters -  I got sick of looking at the gross faucet and yucky looking sink drain in our current sink. (which is actually a really nicely kept beige cast iron sink - that we worked into our facelift and intended to keep.)

So I hopped onto good old Google and tried to figure out how hard it would be to replace the sink drain and faucet. All looked easy enough - doesn't it always?

To make a long story short - it took a total of 6 separate trips to Lowes - a crapload of new tools and a little bit of cursing and elbow grease - but after 24 hours we had successfully replaced the sink drain - tail piece underneath the sink and faucet to update the sink.

We got to use a hack saw to cut through a horribly rusted on sink drain, to cut through the new tail piece we had to buy after realizing the old one was the wrong size. We got to take out a cast iron sink - flip it over and install a new faucet and then re-install the whole thing - and I now have an updated looking sink that is ready to be paired with the updated face lifted counters:)

This all makes me happy, happy happy.
Although - while the water was off, the tools were out and the project seemed doomed - I never thought we'd actually be able to do it - but we did. The hubby and I worked together and did it all ourselves and sometimes there is just no better feeling than that:)

 this sucker was NOT going to come off. Don't be alarmed - it's a combination of plumbers tape, paint and rust that you see - any drain that's been sitting 10 plus years probably looks the same underneath
 New sink drainer basket with plumbers putty waiting to be installed
 Naively thinking we were almost done

 Upside down cast iron sink (can you say heavy) with new dish soap dispenser and faucet installed upside down:)

I love for these types of projects and can't wait to get the counters done next AND THEN we will finish the first floor with finalizing our dining room with a little color and fun:)