Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Where to Take your Young Toddler in the Plano, Frisco, Dallas, TX Area

Below is a list of places I've visited with my 16.5 month old daughter, Annie. I'll keep adding to the list, and maybe one day I'll also add the pictures :)

Dallas Zoo
We went here when Annie was 12.5 months old. This zoo gets a lot of criticism due to comparisons with the Fort Worth Zoo, but honestly, I was pretty impressed. It'd been over 10 years since I last visited, because well, it was terrible back then. It was an overcast day in July (the first in a long long time that hadn't been over 100 degrees) so my hubby and I decided on a whim to go to the zoo. We didn't feel like driving all the way to Fort Worth, plus we figured, Annie's one, everything looks grander from that viewpoint! I can't remember how much it cost us, but it wasn't too terrible. We went at around 10 AM and surprisingly, Annie stayed in her stroller most of the time. I guess there was so much to see that she forgot to be an antsy toddler. We took the monorail around the zoo - the guide was really funny and entertaining - and got to see parts inaccessible by foot. We also caught a bird show and a bit of an elephant show. Annie took a nap while we ate, and we ended up leaving at around 3 PM.
The exhibits are nice and clean, especially the new gorilla area. The foliage is amazing, we really felt like we were in the tropics. There is also a good variety of animals to see. When we lived in Houston we went to the Houston zoo a few times, but I don't think Annie really enjoyed it until she was about 9 months, even more so at 12 months. Their eyes and attention just can't focus long enough to find animals that aren't directly in front of them. I would actually recommend aquariums over zoos for really young children.

Texas State Fair
We went here when Annie was 16.5 months old. This one is only for a month every fall, but we went this year. I just really wanted to try the fried butter, and dragged my hubby, daughter, sister, and sister's fiance along for the ride. I hadn't been to the fair in again, over 10 years, and the first thing that shocked me was the size. I don't remember it being that big! We have been to the Houston Rodeo in recent years, but I must say, The Texas State Fair really lives up to its name! I wouldn't say there's much to do there for young kids, but Annie did remarkably well. There are also swan boats you can rent to paddle around the lake, and a science museum and aquarium. There is also a small petting zoo area, and of course, lots of opportunities for parents to win little, or not so little, stuffed toys for their children. I think there are lots of kids who would enjoy the car shows too, since they could climb around the vehicles all they wanted. There were also characters like Bob the Builder walking around that kids could hug and take pictures with. I'm sure there are other things for children to do, but honestly Annie was sitting so nicely in her stroller that I was concentrating more on what to eat next.
We got there at about 10:30 AM and left at 4:00 PM, with a nap for her at around 1 PM. We ate and ate and ate, visited the Children's Aquarium, and did a little demo (my sister and I were thisclose to buying a potato peeler/waffle fry cutter/veggie flower combo thingy) and car browsing (where were all the minivans?). We went into the aquarium ($5) since Annie LOVES fish. It's small, but totally adequate to keep a little one occupied. I think we were in there for close to, if not slightly more, than an hour. Annie got a kick out of the touch tank and liked stroking the horseshoe crab, and kept going running around pointing at all the different sea creatures in their tanks. There's a nice covered outdoor portion in the back too where they had some big nurse sharks (?) and rays.
For most of the time, Annie sat nicely in her stroller, admiring all the sights, sounds, and smells, while she chomped down on her fruit and veggie buffet. She did, however, sneak a piece of turkey leg from her aunt....which turned into her grabbing and stuffing her face with more tasty morsels thereafter. She even tried to eat corn right off the cob. Love the pictures of her cute little face behind a huge corn or turkey leg. There aren't many things at the fair that I'd feed an infant (deep fried oreo?), so make sure you pack lots of snacks for your little one....and WATER. We saved so much money just by bringing a gallon of water with us rather than buying soft drinks or beer. The food is not cheap at .50 a coupon with most items around 12-15 coupons each- and we ate a lot, parking was $15, and tickets with the McDonald's coupon were $12, but I figured, once a year is ok! Plus, I really love fair food :). I would, however, suggest going on a weekday when crowds are much smaller. Plus, there are entrance fee specials on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Towards the end Annie wanted to get out of her stroller, but my hubby and I had to each hold a hand to block others from bumping into her. It actually got so crowded at one point that we couldn't move at all. All in all I think it was a fun trip for everyone!

Indoor Safari Park

Dallas Arboretum

Pump it Up

How to Entertain Your Young Child and Yourself without Going Broke

I keep googling, hoping to find a comprehensive list of things to do (preferably in Plano or Frisco) with my daughter. She is 16.5 months this week, so she's not quite a full blown toddler, but certainly no longer an infant. I've found it's hard to find places that are fun for children this age, since they aren't agile enough to play unattended - and by unattended I mean without a parent following 3 steps behind their every move.

Places like Gymboree and The little Gym are great, but expensive. We went once to The Little Gym and she really enjoyed it, and I was so close to signing her up, though we couldn't really afford it. That's the thing isn't it, when something is sold as "good for your child" you feel like a bad parent when you don't do it. I pondered for a few days with the decision, wondering if I'd be stunting her social and mental health if I didn't sign her up. I also realized these types of outings weren't purely for the kids. There was also the promise of a treat for moms - lunch dates after play time! Surely there had to be cheaper ways to entertain my child and myself!

I started looking up mom groups to join. Not knowing anything about mom groups or play groups, I stumbled upon Meetup. Whomever you are and whatever you like to do, there is a group on Meetup that's perfect for you! I found several mom groups in my area that included children around my daughter's age and signed up. Some groups seemed more active than others, but what a wealth of information these ladies have provided! I have found out about parks I'd never heard of, been able to pair up with other mommies who have family memberships to get in free to places like the zoo or arboretum, heard about the best playgrounds, and been invited to many other fun free activities for kids... not to mention the home play dates! Who knew there were so many great things to do with young children!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saving Money

Ever since I decided to stay home with my daughter, our stress due to money (or lack there of) has definitely increased. I do work part-time as a wedding planner and have an Etsy shop, but neither of those comes close to what I used to make working full-time. So, I've been on the hunt for ways on how to save money.

I was sitting at home watching the Nate Berkus Show one day and they had the ladies from on. I'd seen these types of segments before, and couldn't believe how much they saved, but never really had interest in buying 60 bottles of mustard at a time. It sparked my interest though, and I went on Youtube to look for videos on using coupons. I came across a few that I liked that were also aimed at normal people - a.k.a. those who just need 1 or 2 bottles of mustard - definitely look up,, and if you're interested. The ladies have lists on their websites of sales matched with coupons every week, and also have lots of videos. The most helpful for me were the ones showing how to shop at CVS and Walgreens.

Before couponing, I always thought CVS and Walgreens were overpriced and never considered shopping at those stores. I didn't like that their way of bringing down costs entailed giving you "credits" via ExtraCareBucks (CVS) or RegisterRewards (Walgreens) that you couldn't use until your next trip. They also expire within a few weeks so you have to watch the dates. I thought, I don't want to have to come back! After doing more research though I realized there were good deals to be found on a weekly basis, plus there are some tricks, such as checking out more than once, that you can do to use up those credits in the same week.

Our main newspaper is pretty expensive - $3 a pop - and all these sites recommend you buy 2-3 newspapers each week. That is too costly for me, since I don't want to end up with tons of stuff and nowhere to store it. I will NOT become one of those crazies (no offense to any of you out there) who has a stock room full of stuff. I'm still not sure how they use up some of that stuff before it expires....I mean, even skincare and toiletries expire. Plus, I get a free local newspaper every Saturday and Sunday that has coupons in it delivered to our front door! It doesn't always have all the coupons you'd get in the city's newspaper, but for my purposes I'm satisfied. With a free newspaper full of coupons and easy sites to look up sales, how could I not do it right? So now, my Sunday-morning-before-church ritual is to head to Walgreens and CVS to see how much free stuff I can get!

What are some money saving tips you've come up with?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Welcome Back

It's been SOOO long! I had started this blog with the intention of discussing parenthood and trying to balance work and being a mom. However, I took a review hiatus and didn't have the time to do any other blogging. I also took a break completely from blog hops, networking, etc. this past 2 months. We've finally settled into our new house and I now feel the urge to write again! Hopefully there is still someone out there interested in this little blog, but if'll be a nice public journal for me :).

Monday, August 1, 2011

Plush Owl Toy

Jessica's shop, Monsters and Munchkins, features some adorable plush toys. Her monsters and owls would be a perfect gift for any young child or infant since there are no loose threads or pieces.

A little info about Jessica:
     "I'm a stay at home mom who is the mother to 2 adorable wonderful boys! My oldest helps me create these monsters and is my sounding board for my monster ideas. Every time one is bought and shipped he gets a little sad to say goodbye. We hope your little one adores the creations at my store.
     I am creative when it comes to materials used to make these monsters. I try and upcycle what I can... whether it be a neat pocket off of shorts or a shirt or a onsie that has been out grown. It may just be some scrap material that otherwise would end up in the trash. The added crinkle sound is upcycled plastic packaging."

My daughter loves stuffed toys that make noise. This owl is so cute and soft, and has a bell and layer inside that makes a crinkling noise on its tummy. This combination is a winner, and my daughter enjoys sucking on its "ears", shaking it to hear the bell, and hugging it to hear the crinkle. She also loves the minky fabric and often nuzzles the owl against her face. This owl is safe, soft, and cute. It would be a great lovey for any young child!

Make sure to check out Jessica's shop, Monsters and Munchkins

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Print Your Own Toppers

Another option to buying pre-made cupcake toppers is to order digital designs instead. That way, you can choose your own card stock, accent colors, and shapes to full customize your toppers. 

PopPrintables has a wide variety of designs to choose from, and Mindy also has matching invitations so you could order a whole theme. 
I received a PDF file of one sheet of these cute ballet themed toppers. They were so cute and easy to use. I especially like that each design comes with a border too, so that you can use a punch slightly larger than the main circle and have it look finished. I used a circle punch for the prints and then attached them onto purple card stock punched with a scalloped circle in a slightly larger size. Just glue on some popsicle sticks on and you've made cupcake toppers (the punches and popsicle sticks can be found easily at any craft store)!

PopPrintables also has a Zazzle store for printed versions of their digital items, or you can look for collage sheet printables at PopCollage:

Jennifer also has some really cute designs to choose from in her shop, jenleonardini:

I received this soft pink set to print out. It came in a pretty pastel pink with a striped background. They also came personalized with my daughter's name! I punched these out with a scalloped circle punch and attached them onto pastel pink circles using foam adhesives. I thought this gave the topper a nice 3D effect, and made them look a little more fancy. For the finishing touch, I attached those onto a larger pink scalloped circle. 

Here's a little info about Jennifer from jenleonardini:
     "I am an elementary school teacher in CA and also a new mama to my 13 month old, Isabelle. I have been creating toppers and tags for friends for awhile and just recently opened the shop!"

Jennifer is sponsoring a giveaway of one of her print collections. The winner can either choose something from her shop or request a custom! 

Mandatory Entry:
1) follow my blog
2) go to jenleonardini and comment about your favorite item

Extra Entries:
1) like my fanpage 
2) go to my etsy store AnnelynDesigns and comment about your favorite item
3) create a treasury including an item from 
4) create a treasury including an item from 
5) go to one of my sponsor's stores (buttons on the left hand column) and tell me your favorite item
6) love jenleonardini on etsy 
7) love my etsy store AnnelynDesigns

I will choose a winner via on Thursday, August 11, 2011. Good luck!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pretty Ballerina Cupcake Toppers

These cupcake toppers from Serendipity Party Shop are SO pretty! They came in such soft, pretty colors and I really liked that the white card stock they used was sort of iridescent, making the whole set look very professionally made. The little ballerina represents my daughter perfectly with her dark hair. The set came with 5 different designs with her name on one of them. The toppers measure 2.5" in diameter, and make any homemade cupcake look like they it from an upscale bakery!

"The Girls at Serendipity Party Shop include mom and three sisters. We love to get together to gab and create beautiful items that will add a special touch to someones celebration."

Serendipity Party Shop makes a variety of items, from smash cake toppers, to banners, to invitations. Here are a few of their other designs:

Serendipity Party Shop is hosting a giveaway of a $30 gift certificate to their Etsy shop. If you have a party coming up, this would be the perfect opportunity to find decorations!

Mandatory Entry:
1) follow my blog
2) go to Serendipity Party Shop and comment about your favorite item

Extra Entries:
1) like my fanpage 
2) go to my etsy store AnnelynDesigns and comment about your favorite item
3) create a treasury including an item from 
Serendipity Party Shop
4) create a treasury including an item from 
5) go to one of my sponsor's stores (buttons on the left hand column) and tell me your favorite item
6) love Serendipity Party Shop on etsy 
7) love my etsy store AnnelynDesigns

I will choose a winner via on Thursday, August 11, 2011. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cupcakes Toppers and Wrappers

I wanted to make lots of cupcakes for my daughter's birthday and so set out to find matching toppers and wrappers.

Designer Favors had LOTS of designs to choose from! They can all be personalized, so are extra special for the birthday child and can be kept afterward as a memento. Here are a few designs:

The set I received came in pinks and purples that matched our theme perfectly and were personalized with my daughter's age and name. The little polkadots were such a cute touch! They were a nice size and sturdy (made with heavy card stock):

A little info about Dawn and her shop, Designer Favors:
     "I am a stay-at-home-mom with the most wonderful son in the world. I spent the first year of his life taking pictures and scrap-booking every moment. I've always wanted to start my own business so I thought why not combine the knowledge I had from being in marketing in my previous life with the my passion for scrap-booking."

Next, I had to find some matching wrappers. Stephanie from i heart cupcakes too was so sweet and awesome to work with. All I did was send her a picture of what I was trying to match, and she sent me wrappers that matched perfectly! She also sent an extra set of her wrappers in another design that would be suitable for more formal parties.

First, the matching wrappers for our party:
Next, the extra set:

The wrappers were very easy to put together, and had a nice scalloped top for a more polished look. Be sure to check out Stephanie's shop, i heart cupcakes too!