Tips for first time visit Santa Claus

This blog post is sponsored by Macerich/HGTV Santa HQ but all text and opinions are my own.

This time of the year is the most wonderful time especially through kids eyes. Now that my daughter is three and starts to wonder more, we decided to bring her to HGTV’s Santa HQ to meet Santa Claus and of course to capture some photos. Because it was our first time bringing her to see Santa Claus, we did some searching and learned some tips online. I’m going to share what worked for us, but before jumping to the tips, I would love to shout out to HGTV’s Santa HQ.

You may already saw Santa HQ at the malls nearby if are in California, Arizona, Chicago, Metro New York, and the Washington, D.C. corridor. 

HGTV’s Santa HQ revolutionizes the traditional Santa Claus visit by guiding visitors through an immersive, interactive holiday experience with the use of state-of-the-art digital technology. They offer a new, family-friendly experience that features interactive technology to enhance the entire HGTV Santa HQ visit: Elf Academy.
My daughter was so excited when she could transform into one of Santa’s elves and virtually try on various elf outfits with the Magic Mirror.

There are other features I am sure bigger kids will love like creating their customized Elf-ID card using the new Elf-ID app and a “selfie”, exploring Santa’s Observatory through the use of tablets with Elf-Ray Vision, or standing next to an interactive board to find out which of Santa’s lists – Naughty or Nice – they made.

Don’t want to spend long time in line? Purchase the Fass Pass. This will give you the option to select the date, a 30-minute window of time to use Fast Pass, pre-pay online, upgrade their package by adding a family photo weeks/days in advance, and opt-in to receive text reminders about their Fast Pass window.

We’re in Arizona so we went to one in Chandler Fashion Center in Chandler, AZ. If you are in AZ too, visit ShopChandlerFashionCenter.com/SantaHQ to secure a Fast Pass and pre-purchase a photo package.

Not only that your family will have a fun holiday experience, you will help doing good. In past years, HGTV’s Help Through Holiday Giving has collected more than 66,000 toys benefiting local organizations such as Forgotten Angel Tree, Salvation Army Angel Tree, Toys for Tots, and Spark of Love Stuff a Bus.

Let’s watch a short clip I made for our first Santa Claus visit, and then get to the tips that worked for us.

  • Try to talk about it often WITHOUT telling your toddlers that they will get to go visit Santa Claus. Wait for your kids to show interest first. That’s the key and it works perfectly for us in many other situations.
  • Go online and purchase a Fast Pass and secure your spot. Make sure it’s the time you know your kids will be happiest during the day, not nap time (duh).
  • If you shop often at the mall that has HGTV’s Santa HQ, before the booked time, walk by, show your toddlers Santa Claus and how other kids do (talk to Santa Claus, sit with Santa Claus, etc.) to get them the ideas of it.
  • If you toddlers watch Youtube, find some cute holiday videos that have Santa for them to watch. Or you can show your little ones my video above.
  • The night before, I told my daughter that because she ate very well for the day, and was going to sleep early, she would get to meet Santa Claus in the morning. She was super excited and she actually woke up asking to go to the mall.
  • Last tip: Don’t expect your toddlers to do well the first time. They might cry and it’s okay. You can always try again. Mine looked down almost the entire time there then started to feel more comfortable when the photoshoot started. Now that my daughter asks to visit Santa Claus again and wave him every time we walk by.

The magic of Christmas through a child’s eyes is priceless. I want it to last forever. I’m glad there was no tears at all for our first time visiting Santa Claus and we were able to capture the moment. Have you ever brought your kids to Santa HQ? If yes, how did they do?

7 Random Summer Must-Haves & Tips for Moms

This blog post is sponsored by Boiron® and PTPA

Summer means lots of fun time with family. As a new mom, I found myself buying things that I completely didn’t think about before having kids. So, I have this blog post to sum up what I think would be needed for moms with kids or family in general, especially during summer time. Let’s jump right in.

  1. An Igloo cooler for your car. We live in the desert, so we would like to have cold drinks while being on the go. Having a cooler in the back of the car saves us money, by bringing our own homemade tea or smoothie instead of stopping at Starbucks or any places to get expensive drinks ALL THE TIME. We also have one to use in our backyard when we have a BBQ. 
  2. A natural safe-for-kids-and-pets backyard spray. You can easily find some good options on Amazon. You don’t want the fun time to be annoyed by mosquitoes or bugs, since children are around. I have a whole blog post on how I keep my daughter safe from insect bites while being outside. An Igloo cooler for your car. We live in the desert, so we would like to have cold drinks while being on the go. Having a cooler in the back of the car saves us money, by bringing our own homemade tea or smoothie instead of stopping at Starbucks or any places to get expensive drinks ALL THE TIME. We also have one to use in our backyard when we have a BBQ. 
  3. A jumper for your kid at the pool. It looks like the picture below. It’s not very expensive. You can have more peace of mind letting your toddler wear it and play more freely at the pool.
  4. Fun outdoor/backyard toys for kids. Kids love playing in water. A water table or a sprinkler would be the best. Also, a bubble machine, or a sandbox would be amazing too.
  5. Drink dispenser. It will be so handy to have especially for family backyard dinner or BBQ. I would prefer a plastic one over a glass one, just to be safe while kids are around.

6. Fun and cute compostable dinnerware. I love collecting the cute items to make BBQ time more fun and appealing. I sometime use melamine dinnerware because they are durable and easy to clean. There are so many cute options for melamine dinnerware too.

7. This last must-have is so important. I would highly recommend having some Boiron® Acidil® and Gasalia® ready at home. With all the summer foods, especially after having a BBQ, you can easily get indigestion

Boiron® is my favorite homeopathic medicine brand. Acidil® and Gasalia® are made for you to treat yourself at home when having indigestion symptoms.* They are made with natural active ingredients that works with your body. Plus, there are no drug interactions when taking them.*

Gasalia®  is suggested for use for in adults and children 6 years of age and older. Acidil can be used for adult and children 12 years of age and older. You can take Gasalia® when having the first sign of gas, and take Acidil® at the first sign of indigestion.* I also shared 10 ways to avoid and treat indigestion in a different blog post. Make sure you didn’t miss it. 

Summer is the time to have fun, not to be worry. So, I hope you keep yourself and your family healthy and happy. Let me know your tips if you have one. It’d be so helpful. 

Thank you Boiron® and PTPA for sponsoring this blog post. All the tips and opinions are based own my own experience.

*Claims based on traditional homeopathic practice, not accepted medical evidence. Not FDA evaluated.

Escape from toddler vs. Escape the room. Which is harder?

Ever since we have our daughter, my husband and I have never been away from her for a bit. Either one of us stays with her or both. So last night we decided to escape from her for a couple hours. Don’t get me wrong. We love being with her all the time. But sometime it’s nice to have a couple of hours of kid-free.

So we had my mom took care of our daughter, we ran out of the house, hopped on the car, and headed to Phoenix. So since this is our first kid-free time, we wanted to do something that is for adults only that we used to do before kids.

When we were living in Vietnam before having our daughter, we LOVED all the escape rooms there. Escape room is a team building game that you and a group of friends/family will be locked in a room with all the puzzles and locks. Your mission is to find clues and ways to unlock them and get yourself (and your team) out of the room. It is such a fun activity. Since we have Misa we had never been into one. Now we found one near us in Phoenix, AZ which is PanIQ Escape Room. We knew it is the perfect place for our short kid-free time.

So we call my brother and his friend, and headed to Phoenix, with our tickets booked. We stopped by a boba tea shop to get some drinks. Our little fun time can never be without boba milk tea.

After getting drinks we continued driving to PanIQ.

We arrived PanIQ Escape Room and have our team ready for the game. Our room was the Kidnapped room. The other two are Aliens and Wild West. The room we chose was the hardest one in all 3. So we were super excited.

We had 60 minutes to escape the room. They divided our team into 2, each team went to one door. My husband and I were locked in a cage, waiting for my brother and his friend to come rescue us. We also had to find the keys to unlock ourselves.

It does sounds easy, but it is not easy at all. It is very challenging to find every single clue. Since we had experience playing the game back in Vietnam, we were not so terrified. Or I can say we were a little confident. However, we spent 25 minutes to finish 1/3 of the room, and then time’s up when we were almost out of the room. The staff said we only need about 10 more minutes to make it out of the room.

It was such a great time playing. We had so much fun and lots of laugh. Every time we unlocked a puzzle or lock, it’s the best feeling. It’s actually the first time my brother and his friend playing Escape room, and they are now making a team to come back. My husband and I love this game. We will come back too whenever we have someone taking care of our daughter. It is so good to have our brains working their best for such a fun, satisfying, challenging hour.

PanIQ staffs were so friendly and informative. The room was so challenging which we love. I would highly recommend everyone to give it a try. PanIQ Escape Room is not only in Phoenix, AZ. There are some other locations around the country like in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, NYC, Washington DC, Atlanta, and Miami. Kids at age 10 or over are welcome, so you could bring your kids for a family fun if they are old enough. Our tickets for 4 were $80 before tax. So it’s not expensive at all. Click here to choose your nearest location and book your tickets.

After the game, my husband and I had to ran home because of grandma could not handle our daughter anymore. She was crying for hours and throwing lots of tantrums (toddler it is). So our little date night ended right there. To compare, I would say Escape Room game is much more easier than escaping from your toddler(s). I can’t wait to be back to PanIQ Escape Room whenever we find time.

Thank you PanIQ Escape Room for sponsoring this blog post. All opinions are my own. We truly love the game and we will come back for sure.

5 Ways to Spice Up Your Next Party

Image Credit: Pexels

While attending parties is always a blast, throwing a party can be extremely stressful. After all, you want to make sure everyone is having a great time, and that’s a huge responsibility! If you’re throwing a big shindig and want your guests to have the time of their lives, think outside the box to make it the event of the year. Here are some of our favorite ideas for parties we’d R.S.V.P. for in a heartbeat.

Stick to a theme

Some of the most fun parties are those during the Halloween season. Playing dress-up for a night gives you the chance to play a role and be someone else for the evening. Keep that same feeling all year ‘round with throwing a costume party during any season. A masquerade, 80’s prom, Hawaiian luau, roarin’ 20’s, any reason to dress up (and buy a new outfit!) adds a little something extra to the event. Keep the theme going with the food you serve and in the decor to create the right atmosphere. You can even curate a special playlist for the party to really set the mood.

Hire live entertainment

One way to get a party rolling is to hire a band or DJ for your event. Music is an important piece of any real party, but often, that’s the only type of live entertainment we think of for a party. There are so many other options for talented performers that can make a party unforgettable. For a children’s party, we often think of hiring a clown or a magician, but the same idea works for adult events as well. Circus performers, comedians, or impersonators for hire can give your party a fun vibe and entertain guests during times when there might be a lull in conversation.

Play some games

When you think of party games, you might think of two particular types – one, a slow-moving night of Monopoly with a small group of friends, or two, a rowdy game of beer pong and chugging frat-boy-style. There are so many other options for group activities that you may not have considered that will put the family board game night to shame. There is a board game trend resurfacing in popular culture right now that has resulted in a lot of great games for small and big parties alike. The raunchy Cards Against Humanity is a crowd pleaser that everyone is familiar with. If you like something spooky, give Betrayal at House on the Hill a try, or keep it traditional and host a poker night. Games are a great ice breaker, especially if you’re worried about guests who aren’t acquainted mingling with each other.

Get outside

If you’re throwing a party in one of the warmer months and you have a yard, deck, or outdoor venue available, consider bringing the party outside. If you’re worried about rain, a combination indoor-outdoor party works best. Having some room outside to move around allows guests to move outside for more personal conversations or to get some fresh air. Get creative outside and include picnic blankets, string lights, or a bonfire to create a comfortable atmosphere for a relaxing night. You can even create s’mores bags for guests to enjoy around the campfire or set out cushions and blankets for late-night stargazing. Splurge on a projector and create a drive-in-style party in your yard with a movie projected on the side of the house or a large tarp, and let guests enjoy a movie night under the stars.

Spruce up the menu

It’s always great to have some easy items on hand at a party, like pigs in a blanket or chicken wing dip. Don’t be afraid to get creative with a few menu items, though. If you’re throwing a theme party, keep with the aesthetic and create some unforgettable dishes for your guests. You can even incorporate the menu into the theme and host an event like a sushi-making night. Pinterest is a great place for unique food recipes for parties. A popular party staple right now is a donut wall, dessert bar, or a brunch station for midday parties.

Moving to Phoenix soon and searching for house?

devour-phoenix

Image Credit: Flickr Courtesy of Lauren Toper

Best Food Finds in Phoenix

More people moved to Maricopa County in 2017 than any other county in the entire nation, the U.S. Census Bureau reported recently. As the largest city in the county, many of those moves were likely to Phoenix. If you’re like so many others considering a move here, you’ve probably searched through homes for sale in Phoenix, AZ, and discovered some rather enticing gems at relatively affordable prices. But before making the leap, you might want to learn more about what else this area has to offer, including its dining scene.

 

Menus here feature everything from authentic Mexican and standard southwestern fare to modern fusion, international cuisine and just about everything in between.

 

For the very best food finds don’t miss these treasures.

Barbecue at Little Miss BBQ

There’s no need to travel hundreds of miles to Texas for mouth-watering barbecue, the state with the greatest number of BBQ eateries, with 2,238 according to a 2015 report. While Texas may be famous for its delectable BBQ dishes, Arizona is home to the highly acclaimed Little Miss BBQ.

 

A hot lunch spot serving BBQ Central Texas style, it’s only open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., or until sold out, Tuesdays through Saturdays. The juicy, tender meat is cooked with pecan wood, Arizona oak using Camelback Smokers, sold by weight and tossed on white bread, topped with jalapenos, pickles and onions. The sandwiches are served with house made potato salad and ranch-style beans, but you’ll want to save room for the smoked pecan pie – heavenly!

CRUjiente

Being so close to the Mexico border, it’s no surprise that Phoenix offers practically an endless number of Mexican restaurants, but of course, some are better than others, like CRUjiente. While you might think a taco is just a taco, Richard Hinojosa takes tacos to a whole new level, with all sorts of interesting, tasty twists. He makes traditional chicken, beef and pork tacos topped with the usual guac and other standard toppings, but he also offers many other unique takes on the taco, like lamb, lobster, octopus and Szechuan beef cheek tacos using beef that’s been braised for 36 hours. He presses his own tortillas using heirloom blue corn mesa and then flavors them with ingredients like dashi, cardamom, poblano, cilantro and Fresno chilis.

Restaurant Progress

Restaurant Progress is one of Phoenix’s newest offerings, with its doors opening in 2017. An instant hit with foodies, it specializes in small plates paired with creatively crafted cocktails that makes it ideal for a date night. The menu changes about every four to six weeks and features dishes like chicken-fried trout, pork belly and soy-cured watermelon. A few of the terms frequently used to describe the experience here among Google reviews include: “truly inspired,” “beautiful, slow food,” “impeccable service” “an instant classic.”

CIBO

Just about every city has a favorite pizza joint, and in Phoenix, that’s CIBO. Located downtown for over a decade, it’s housed in a historic bungalow and features just about every type of gourmet Neapolitan pizza you could ever imagine, with a choice of red or white sauce, along with delectable homemade pasta dishes. The Pomodoro Fresco pie, with mozzarella, basil and grape tomatoes, is considered the very best in the city.