How online hotel booking always goes (for me)

Let's spend hours looking for cheaper hotel prices... not.

Let’s spend hours looking for cheaper hotel prices… not.

We are planning on taking a little vacation in a month or two. We haven’t traveled since the birth of our daughter (in January) and my husband has been busy at work with a big project and in need of some rest and relaxation. Although, with a three year old and a 6 month old, there probably won’t be much R&R, but it is still nice to get away. My three year old also LOVES going to the beach. We haven’t gone to the coast for a while and we are all overdue for some time near the ocean!

You would think that I would learn by now, but I guess I keep hope that someday, it will work.

Someday, one of the millions (ok, not really millions) of travel sites would lead me to the perfect getaway.

And someday, that perfect getaway will be discounted.

That someday has yet to happen. I spend hours comparing lodgings on 5 different sites with 15 different companies and at the end, I go back to the actual hotel’s webpage and book the room. I always book directly from the hotel because I have yet to find a better deal anywhere else.

Am I the only one?! The hotel we just booked was actually one Groupon… but not the room we wanted. But it was only $10 cheaper than booking directly with the hotel. Some travel sites will tell me it’s $30 cheaper a night, but when I click to book, the price has jumped up $50 and they haven’t added fees.

I’m curious, have you ever had a travel site that actually had cheaper prices than booking through the hotel? Maybe I’m missing something.

 

 

 

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Friday freebie – Comic book super-hero party printables

For my son’s first birthday, we did a comic book super-hero theme in primary colors. I spent hours looking online for printables and party ideas, but I didn’t find much that was free and I didn’t feel like paying. The solution? I made my own printables; cupcake toppers, food table labels, conversation bubble labels for the picture board, and a few fun graphics for decoration. It was easy enough, so I thought I would share. There is also star cupcake toppers, so they are really quite flexible to use for different parties – super hero, comic book, action movies, 4th of July, stars, primary colors, boys, girls, etc. When you can alter the colors, it can fit all sorts of needs.

free comic book printables

How to use these customizable printables:

  • Printables are in PowerPoint (you must have PowerPoint on your computer to customize)
  • Download the free fonts Zud Juice and International Super Hero (or you can use your own, but they won’t look like the picture)
  • Follow the directions to install fonts (easy, I promise!)
  • Download the printables and customize – Here is the link: free super hero printables
  • I like to save in PDF and print the PDF instead of the PowerPoint file, but that is up to you

If you do not want to customize, here is the PDF file, ready to print: Free comic book super hero printable

If you have any troubles, feel free to leave a comment or send an email, and I will try to help!

Global Sugar Art

MelissaAndDoug.com- Over 2,000 Unique and Exciting Toys for Children of All Ages! Click here!

What I learned during my travels with a toddler

Olá! I recently got back from a trip to the Azores with my husband and his family. Three weeks of vacation on a beautiful, lush island. Sounds great, right? It pretty much was, but there was one downside; the getting there with a very active toddler. We live on the West coast and the Portuguese islands are in the middle of the Atlantic. It’s usually an 11 hour direct flight, but add in airport waits and a layover, and by the time you leave the house and get picked up at your destination, it’s already been 20 hours. And you have a toddler.

I had never done much traveling with Gabriel (our little) prior to this vacation, except for a weekend at a beach house 2 hours away, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew was that I was taking a child who didn’t much care for the carseat, hated sitting still, and only took 45-90 min naps, on an experimental adventure.

The trek? Two hour drive to the airport (3 hours before he usually wakes up), two and half hours in the airport before we board, a 5.5 hour flight to Boston, a 4.5 hour layover, followed by a 4.5 hour flight to our destination.

So how was it? Actually, not horrible! I was surprised about how smooth it actually went.

So what did I learn?

toddler traveling

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Life happens!

I can’t believe it is already June! Time sure does fly by.

I have been taking a little bit of a break from blogging to spend time with my family and work on projects around the house. After Gabriel goes down for bed, I hang out and decompress with my husband and I haven’t been worrying about blogging! I’m slowly improving the front yard; I’ve planted lots of new plants and flowers and the rock is almost completely gone. I have a raised bed (came attached to the house) that I am growing tomatoes, green beans, peppers, carrots, and cilantro in. I am also attempting to grow squash, pumpkins, and watermelon out of containers because or soil is currently crap; so far so good!

The days have been warm and full of birthday parties and graduations and bridal showers… and yard work. We were even able to pull up the concrete a couple weeks ago and planted an apricot tree. Soon we will have a cherry tree and grass!

In April, I had instituted a “real food challenge” upon myself and I decided to ease up and just live life and not be so strict and crazy about things. I still believe that eating clean and whole foods is important, but I was getting a little neurotic about my diet and it wasn’t healthy.

Our little guy also just turned one and is becoming a pro at walking. It’s never dull with a toddler running about.

My to-do list is ever growing, I might have gained a couple pounds back, my little boy is getting bigger and crazier, my house isn’t always the cleanest, but life is good and my heart is full.

My fat-loss journey with the Paleo diet

How are those health and fitness resolutions coming along?

I’m going to share my fat-loss journey with you. I haven’t worked up the courage for “before” pictures just yet, but I’m getting there.

I’ve actually just started a Tumblr (or a Fitblr some might call it…). Find me at Mama Looking for Health for fitness and health motivations and my fat-loss/get fit journey.

Marc and I have been committed to eating clean and cut-out sugary treats and too many “cheats.” We have been eating very clean and 90% of it being Paleo foods. We have had great success with weight-loss and an overall feeling of well-being. We have been followers of the Paleo/Primal lifestyle (with a little Weston A Price in there) for some time now (about 2 years) but this is the first time we really cut-out a lot of “cheating.”

The last two weeks I have only had a few non-primal foods (we do eat some dairy) and I’ve dropped 4 pounds. I haven’t been counting calories, just eating good foods when I’m hungry and not over-indulging. I went from 131 pounds to 127 and size 4 pants are getting too big.

I exclusively breast-feed my baby (who eats some food but has been sick and teething so only wants to nurse lately), and my milk supply is still going strong. I haven’t had issues with supply (probably due to eating plenty and nursing on demand  and every hour those first few weeks).

I don’t want to be stick-thin, just lose body fat and gain muscle. I have a sad, almost non-existent butt I want to grow, too. We bought a bunch of weights for a fantastic deal on Craigslist, so I’ve started lifting weights and doing body weight exercises (push-ups, lunges, squats, etc).

We are exploring a few different schools of fitness, so I will share my journey with you as I go.

But here’s the quick stats:

August 2011: 133 pounds, 25 years old
Always being a bit chubby (I’m only 5’3) this was my lowest weight since middle school!
Lost the weight following a paleo/primal lifestyle and got pregnant during the middle of doing the Whole30 program after having fertility issues.

May 2012: Gave birth. Gained 45 lbs during pregnancy and my diet was definitely lacking due to food and smell aversions.

December 2012: Back down to 133 through diet improvements and breast-feeding.

February 14: 127 pounds. Less food cheats, and adding a little bit of exercise. My scale says I have a high body fat % though, so I’m working on losing fat and gaining muscle

This week’s meal plan (1/21- 1/25)

This last week I added delicious Strauss milk back into my diet… and then removed it because it caused a rash (allergic reaction) all over my little guy’s face. I also over-cooked the grass-fed sirloins.

Also, the starter on our second vehicle died and Marc is working long hours. I think I might be able to bribe my dad into taking me grocery shopping! I better make sure my grocery list is extremely thorough. We really should have gone grocery shopping yesterday, but it was my husbands only day off and the championship game was the only priority (this is 49er Country, just don’t tell the Raider fans)!

Despite all of that, we managed to really clean up our diets this week and rid our body of all that sugar and junk. So that’s a win!

This week’s grocery list:

  • Monday: Chicken with basil and prosciutto, salad greens and snap peas
  • Tuesday: Taco salad (with no tortillas or with sprouted corn tortillas, over mixed greens instead of lettuce)
  • Wednesday: Oven baked pork chops with green beans and onions
  • Thursday: Crock-pot whole chicken with garlic broccoli
  • Friday: Roast, carrots, and sweet potato

Lunches: Leftover dinner from the night before, almond butter and protein smoothies

Breakfast: Eggs and bacon, cheese omelet, eggs and linguica

When do all of you go grocery shopping? What’s on your meal plan?

Super Easy Slow-Cooker Chile Verde and a Trip to the City

(Click “More” link at bottom of page for recipe)

Marc had the Monday holiday off and we decided to treat ourselves to lunch in San Francisco and I managed to slip in a trip to Ikea on our way back. While our ideal diet is grain-free (even if I eat more sprouted grains now that I am pregnant), processed foods-free, and only whole foods, we do splurge and treat ourselves. Marc’s a bit of a beer-lover (and a bit of a beer snob) and I will admit, when I went completely gluten-free, beer was actually the hardest to give up than anything else. Being pregnant has me not drinking at all, but when I wasn’t pregnant, I would enjoy a [good] beer now and then.

The Bay bridge was actually open yesterday going West Bound (they had planned to work on it during the holiday weekend). We had ABSOLUTELY NO TRAFFIC. We didn’t even have to wait in line at the toll. We got to our SF destination in about 20-30 minutes less than usual.

We had planned to go to Thirsty Beer Brewing Company – organic craft beer + tapas. We even called on Saturday evening to confirm they would be open, and after finding parking, we walk up to the restaurant and it says it is closed for the holiday! I was a little hangry, but I’m not one to let little things ruin my day. I emailed them the next day and the manager was very nice.

Marc really wanted to go to The Monk’s Kettle and after rereading their menu, their hamburger sounded really good and I agreed.

It was probably a good thing the other place was closed because The Monk’s Kettle was fantastic!

What Marc ate (plus beer):
Seared veal sweetbreads, pickled apple slaw, parsnip
Braised beef cheeks, polenta, horseradish

So rich! I tried both of them; the sweetbreads practically didn’t require chewing they were so tender and I liked the apple and parsnip slaw. The beef cheeks were so so so so rich. I could barely even eat it. The crusty bits on the polenta was good though.

Marc greatly enjoyed their beer selection (which is ginormous and high quality). I think the most common beer on tap was the Alagash White or maybe Stone’s Pale Ale… I guess that is a little subjective to where you are from though.

I had the burger:
Fresh ground burger, onion jam, aioli, aged white cheddar, fries

Seriously one of the best burgers I have ever eaten. I’m one of those people who orders burgers WITHOUT cheese and then covers it in ketchup, but not this one! It was super juicy and tasted great. Their fries were really good too.

We were lucky to get a little table when we got there (a little one sandwiched between 2 other little ones) because by the time we left, the place was PACKED. The service was great as well.

We then walked a few blocks over to my favorite ice cream place – Xanath Ice Cream. I always get a small scoop of one of their vanilla flavors (so much vanilla and vanilla bean! The ice cream is a light-brown because of the vanilla!), and a small scoop of their toffee, which pretty much tastes like brown sugar.

Mission District never fails us when we want something good to eat!

So while we were out enjoying the culinary delights of the bay and picking up curtains at Ikea, we had our Chile Verde cooking away at home.

Super Easy Slow-Cooker Chile Verde Recipe:

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My New Favorite Gift: Flash Bounce

My home is dark, as with many homes. I don’t have an expensive lens that lets in a ton of light, so unless my subject is completely still and I am completely still, pictures don’t always turn out great (and I hate using flash). But my problem is solved! My wonderful husband bought me a Pop-up Flash Bounce from PhotoJoJo (awesome site).

Here it is in action (excuse the grainy photo, it was taken with my cell phone in my dark kitchen):

But even better, here is the before and after pics!

With flash, and with the flash bounce. The effect is minimized by my cropping out the unfortunate candid photos of my brother, but you can still see the improvement!

I have seen a DIY version of the Flash-Bounce via Pinterest, but I haven’t tried it. It looks pretty easy to rig though!

Rig a piece of white card stock in front of your flash (my camera doesn't have those convienant hooks)

Surprise! The reason for my absence

I shared a while back my struggle with infertility and my journey to try and correct any issues I may have. I wrote about the nutrition advice I received and my updated fertility plan, which is listed below:

  • I’ve started taking Optivite to help with PMS symptoms and a possible luteal phase defect (I rarely have a luteal phase at least 14 days long, and I consistently spot before my period).
  • I need to take cod liver oil again
  • I’ve started taking Evening Primrose Oil to help with pms and cervical mucus.
  • I need to see my new doctor and possibly get my thyroid check and go forward with infertility testing and treatments.

If we can’t conceive without assistance, the least I can do is limit or eliminate my pms symptoms and get healthy! It can be very frustrating to not conceive, but we are still trying to be hopeful.

Well low and behold, we finally conceived!  On September 2nd we were pleasantly shocked to have a positive pregnancy test! I had cancelled my doctor’s appointment the day before I found out I was pregnant!

Several factors may have contributed to us finally getting pregnant:

  • Diet change since March 2011 – eliminating processed foods and cutting significantly or eliminating grains and eating more animal fats
  • I was on the second cycle of Optivite
  • It was my first cycle using Evening Primrose Oil
  • Because my fertile mucus didn’t seem that abundant, we used Pre-Seed, a sperm-friendly lubricant (even though we did not have any success with it prior to this cycle).

 

So we are 10 weeks today and hoping for a healthy pregnancy!

at 6w5d (which coincides exactly with a drop-back temp I had 3 dpo)

 

Brunch in Berkeley

Marc and I like going on day trips. We like food and new places, so exploring the areas around our home is a great way to experience both. We are lucky enough to live in California and be a couple of hours or less away from the mountains, foothills, coast, or wine country. Our last day trip was up to gold country, this trip we decided to have lunch in Berkeley.

Even though we have been to San Francisco too many times to count, Marc had never been to Berkeley and I had been there once; to eat dinner with a friend. Oh, and we explored UC Berkeley for school but had little memory of the trip.

With little planning, we drove up to the coast and parked ourselves at downtown. The day was beautiful and the weather was perfect, but it was Sunday and a lot of the restaurants were either closed, or about to close. After visiting the used bookstore we stopped off at Venus to enjoy a local beer and decide what to do for lunch.

Enjoying a beer on the patio

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