Archives for May 2013

Travel: Best Places to Visit in Los Angeles with a Teen

Recently, I had the pleasure of traveling to Los Angeles with my teenage daughter.  Neither one of us had ever been to California, so I spent countless hours researching what to do, where to stay, and what to eat.  I scoured websites and blogs, talked to a few friends, and even contacted Discover Los Angeles, the area’s department of tourism.

We decided early on to skip the big amusement parks in the area (Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Six Flags Magic Mountain), mostly because we only had 4 days in L.A. and wanted to experience as much of Los Angeles as we could.  Going to any of the there parks would’ve been an all-day outing!  So if you’re planning a visit to the L.A. area, here are a few of our favorites:


Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles - WestsideDoubleTree Hotel Los Angeles – Westside

6161 W Centinela Ave  Culver City, CA

If you’re looking for a safe, no-frills place to sleep at night, I highly recommend the DoubleTree Hotel in Culver City.  We knew that we weren’t going to spend a ton of time at any hotel, so a nice, clean, and safe place was all we were looking for.  This hotel delivered on all fronts.  Their location right next to Highway 405 was especially nice since it allowed us to easily be on our way (although L.A. traffic is just as bad as everyone says it is!).  The convenient highway access and proximity to so many tourist attractions are what initially drew me to the DoubleTree in Culver City and for those reasons alone we would return anytime.

WHAT TO DOPacific Park

Santa Monica Pier/Pacific Park/Santa Monica Beach

At the end of Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica, CA

Santa Monica is beautiful!  Endless shopping, restaurants, and entertainment made Santa Monica a must on our recent trip – and we were not disappointed!  We walked the beach for a couple of miles and ended at the Santa Monica Pier.  While many of the rides and carnival games were deemed too “young” by my teen, I can see a family with smaller kids (under the age of 10) having a total blast here.  Pacific Park is reminiscent of an old-fashioned carnival and, even though we didn’t ride on any of the rides, we both thoroughly enjoyed strolling the area.


Madame TussaudsMadame Tussauds/TCL Chinese Theater/Hollywood Walk of Fame

6933 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA (Madame Tussauds)

These three attractions (along with many more) are located right next to each other in Hollywood and all are a must-see!  Madame Tussauds is really the only attraction we paid to see in CA, but it was well worth it.  We had a blast clowning around with the “celebrities” and taking some pretty funny photos.  We were the first ones to enter on a Saturday morning and my daughter was initially so scared to 20130511_105123approach the celebs that I had to touch them to make sure they weren’t real.  It was hysterical!

We didn’t do the tour of the Chinese Theater, but we did spend some time looking for star’s footprints and signatures in the cement outside.  It was cool to see some stars we knew, like Will Smith and Michael Jackson.  We even saw the Shirley Temple signature from 1906!  The Walk of Fame goes on for blocks and blocks, but it was fun to see some names we recognized (and a whole bunch that we didn’t!).  Fun Fact: Did you know that even Kermit the Frog has a star?


20130511_132439The Grove/The Original Farmer’s Market

189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles, CA

If you’re traveling with a teen or a pre-teen, the Grove shopping center is a must!  There’s shopping, dining, and even a huge movie theater on the premises so you definitely won’t be bored.  Usually they have some pretty cool events and concerts going on, but not when we were there. Sad smile Parking is nuts, but it’s helpful that the garage has a digital counter that lets you know how many spaces are left.  My personal favorite part of The Grove – Sprinkles Cupcakes!  And, yes, they are just as good as everyone says they are.

IMAG0910Connected to The Grove is the Original Farmer’s Market.  I will say that the teen wasn’t as excited to be there as I was, but it is worth a visit.  The fresh food smells unbelievable, and most dining options were reasonably priced.  Some shops had lines that wrapped around a few corners so you know it had to be good!  We walked through pretty quickly because my daughter was itching to get out of there, but I managed to pick up some dried bananas and a Farmer’s Market reusable tote on the way out.


Manhattan Beach

2 Manhattan Beach Blvd, Manhattan Beach, CA

20130512_141647This was, by far, my favorite beach that we visited on our trip.  And to think, it wasn’t originally on our itinerary!  One morning while out to breakfast I asked a couple of locals for their recommendation for a good beach and they steered me in the direction of Manhattan Beach.  It was pretty cloudy when we visited, but we still had a great time.  It was really, really hard to find parking here though.  We drove around for the good part of 20 minutes trying to find a spot!  And the meters at the few parking garages only allowed for a maximum of 2 hours.

Some of the homes here were spectacular!  Manhattan Beach is considered to be a very pricey area, and you could tell that we hit up the swanky beach just by looking around at the other beach-goers.  (A HUGE difference from IMAG0920what you’ll find at Venice Beach, I can assure you.)

The beach is beautiful, and the food we had at the Shark’s Cove Sports Bar was really, really good for bar food.  If you want to take a walk on the beach, swim, surf, or play some volleyball, Manhattan Beach is the place for you!


20130511_123239(0)In-N-Out Burger

Locations throughout California, we dined at 7009 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, CA, just blocks from Madame Tussauds and the Chinese Theater.

How could we make a trip out to Los Angeles and NOT have an In-N-Out Burger, right?!?!  This is the place where Hilary Swank celebrated her Oscar win, in her fancy Oscar dress, no less!  I received plenty of recommendations to go here, and to ask for your burger “Animal Style” (includes pickles, extra spread, grilled onions, and mustard fried onto each meat patty).  I’m sure the cashiers could tell right away that I wasn’t from the area because at first I forgot the right words and, instead of asking for my burger “Animal Style”, I asked for the “Kitchen Sink” burger.  Doh!  It was sooooo tasty though.  I can’t say that it beats my favorite burger joint in Illinois, Portillo’s, but it comes dang close!  It’s a messy burger, but it’s nice that it comes in a sleeve of wax paper to keep spillage to a minimum.


The Boiling Crab

3377 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA20130511_221000

I don’t even know where to begin with The Boiling Crab, other than to say that dining here is an experience!  You should definitely plan to get here early to get your name on the list, because wait times can exceed 2 hours.  We walked up at 7:00pm, and weren’t seated until after 9:00pm – a very late dinner for us.  I will say, though, that The Boiling Crab lives up to the hype and does NOT disappoint.  They have some of the freshest seafood I’ve ever eaten.  We ordered shrimp and king crab legs and they were divine!

My daughter was a bit squeamish at first, since the shrimp is delivered to you with both the head, legs, and tail still intact – she wouldn’t touch them!  I’d peel them for her and she’d quickly gobble them up and ask for more.  (We got to the point where all I had to remove was the head and she’d take care of the rest…we made progress!)  In the end, your table is the biggest, sloppiest mess of sauces and it’s all cleaned up in one fell swoop.  I highly recommend The Boiling Crab if you’re into seafood!




Locations throughout California, we tried 11301 West Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA.

I have heard about Pinkberry from so many people, that I knew it had to be on my “must” list for California.  Frozen yogurt has gained in popularity the last few years and I was so excited to try Pinkberry.  The employees at the Pinkberry we visited in West L.A. were awesome.  We explained how we were out-of-towners and that we had no idea how to construct our yogurt. (There are a ton of toppings at Pinkberry to choose from.)  We ended up getting the original flavor yogurt with strawberries, peaches, coconut, almonds, and chocolate shavings for our toppings.  Wow…so, so good.  You can really taste the yogurt…it does not taste like ice cream!

Overall, we had a great time in California.  For this trip we stayed near the Los Angeles/Santa Monica/Hollywood areas, but California has a ton to offer and I hope you and your family get to experience it one day.  This list is by no means all-inclusive, but it does list the best of the best of what we experienced.  It was the perfect mother/daughter trip.

Venice Beach

New Huggies Diapers with SureFit Design and a $20 Dollar General Giveaway!

This is part of a sponsored campaign with Latina Mom Bloggers and Huggies, Dollar General has provided me with a $25 gift card for review and will supply a $20 gift card to one reader for this giveaway.  However all opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission Guidelines, 16 C.F.R Part 255.

You may remember that awhile back we decided to put my son’s potty training on hold.  It hasn’t been easy, but we knew that he simply wasn’t ready.  Little did we know at the time that our decision would bring on a whole new set of problems.  He’s now a little over 31 months old and drinking a lot more fluids than he used to.  The weather’s nicer so he’s been spending a lot of time running around outside and is constantly asking for more water.  He drinks, and drinks, and drinks.  Suddenly we found that the store brand diapers we’ve been using just aren’t making the cut anymore.  He has woken up on plenty of occasions with his pajamas completely wet because his diapers can’t hold it all in anymore.  I knew that we likely had to switch diaper brands.


On a recent trip to Dollar General, I picked up a package of Huggies Snug & Dry Diapers with the new SureFit* design (*exclusive waistband, new softer outer cover and less bulky more flexible absorbent pad).  I’ve been shopping at Dollar General more often lately (even though it’s a bit of a drive from my home) because their fantastic prices make it easy for me to save a bit of money, and that, coupled with coupons, makes for even bigger savings!  In fact, make sure you print this $2 off coupon to score a great deal on Huggies Snug & Dry diapers at your nearest Dollar General.


Huggies 12 Hour Leak Protection

I love the way these diapers hold up through the night.  The 12 hour leak protection was exactly what we were looking for.  No need for us to wash the sheets everyday…YAY!!!  My son loves them because he likes to pick the characters he gets to wear (his favorites are Mickey & Pluto) but I love the SureFit design.

To learn more about Huggies you can visit their website or like them on Facebook.

Huggies Snug & Dry


How would you like to win a little Dollar General treat to try these out yourselves?  One lucky winner will receive a $20 Dollar General Gift Card.  Just follow the easy Giveaway Tools form below.  Good luck!

This is part of a sponsored campaign with Latina Mom Bloggers and Huggies, Dollar General has provided me with a $25 gift card for review and will supply a $20 gift card to one reader for this giveaway. However all opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission Guidelines, 16 C.F.R Part 255.

Get Your License to Spill with Mohawk SmartStrand

Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® and Mohawk Flooring #cbias #SocialFabric #licensetospill

Mohawk License to Spill

I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the Mohawk Flooring crew at the Long Grove Chocolate Fest this week.  If you’ve never been to the Chocolate Fest in Illinois, it’s a chocolate lover’s dream!  From chocolate covered strawberries, bananas, and cheesecake to chocolate martini’s and wine, this festival is sure to please every chocolate junkie!  Sweet Whimsy Bakery served a chocolate fondue at the Mohawk booth too…delish!

Long Grove Chocolate Fest Strawberries

We’ve been thinking about redoing our floors for awhile now.  We’ve only been in our house for two and a half years, but when we picked out options for our flooring, we figured the basic carpeting would be just fine.  (It looked good on the sample anyway.)  For some reason, I thought we would have at least 4-5 years with our carpet before we had to start thinking about replacing it – but ugh, sadly I was wrong.  With a messy toddler running around spilling his juice everywhere and running out of the kitchen with food on his plate (and spilling it of course), I now realize that we need to change our carpet.  Plus – that cheap, basic carpet is now completely matted in our high-traffic areas.

I fell in love with Mohawk’s SmartStrand carpeting the second I sew the demo:

Mohawk Flooring Sarah

Sarah, from the Mohawk Flooring team is removing soy sauce from this sample of SmartStrand carpet with nothing more than water!!!  She was also able to remove maple syrup and chocolate syrup too (we were at the Chocolate Fest, after all!).  It’s amazing how easy it was to clean the SmartStrand carpeting!  I was also assured that tough stains like red wine, ketchup, and juice stains would be just as easy to clean with a little water and mild dish soap. No need for harsh chemicals to wipe up spills.

The stain protection in Mohawk’s SmartStrand carpet is built right in to the fibers of the carpet itself, and not topically applied like many other “stain resistant” carpets.  SmartStrand is the real deal!  And the kids had so much fun getting that carpet dirty, let me tell ya!

Mohawk License to Spill Chicago

After seeing the benefits of SmartStrand for myself, I’m convinced that this is the carpeting we need.  I was so impressed with the look and feel of the SmartStrand carpeting (and the built-in stain and soil protection, of course).  I’m also glad that it comes in a variety of colors because I may want to change it up a bit from our current beige color.  We’ll see how adventurous I am…

Mohawk SmartStrand Colors

Added bonus during my trip to the Mohawk Flooring booth – I actually saw Audra Lowe filming a segment for her show, The Better Show, a nationally syndicated talk show.  It was really cool to see an actual filming in progress.

To learn more about the Mohawk, the world’s largest flooring manufacturer (and to enter to win a 6’ x 9’ SmartStrand Silk bound carpet rug), visit Mohawk License to Spill Chicago.  You can also follow Mohawk on Facebook and Twitter.

Mohawk SmartStrand Samples

Chicagoland Spots: Pioneer Farm

Venue: Pioneer Farm {Lambing Days}


Location: 17N400 Big Timber Road, Hampshire, IL  60140.

Hours: Open March-May; Sa & Su 9am – 3pm

Admission:  $5.00 per person; $11.00 for a family of 4

Parking: Free

Enjoy Pioneer Farm Hampshire

Our Experience:  I’ll say it first here that we were a bit skeptical when we pulled into the driveway at Pioneer Farm.  Make no mistake – you are visiting an actual, working farm, not some Disney version of what one should look like.  There was stuff lying everywhere and some homemade contraptions in various spots on the property.  My husband even contemplated turning around and driving back home.  But once I saw the sheep in a pen ahead of us, I knew we had to give it a shot.  I figured that the cost is low enough that we wouldn’t be losing out on too much, ya know?  And I’ll be forever thankful that we stayed.

As we stepped into the barn we were greeted by Carol, one of the farm’s owners.  She was so sweet and kind and I knew I’d like her immediately.  If there’s one thing you need to know about Pioneer Farm, it’s that you are about to have an experience, and not just a glimpse of the animals from afar.  My 2-year-old was completely drawn in by the sights and sounds of the animals.  And – he needed help, of course – was able to hold a baby chick, a bunny, a lamb, and a goat.  He also got up close and personal with a chicken and a duck.  He was thrilled!  The very best part of our visit – he got to feed a calf with a bottle all by himself!  It was slobbery and messy, but my son had a blast!

Pioneer Farm Collage

We even got to see Lane, Carol’s husband, shear a sheep (which is a lot harder than it sounds – trust me!).  The owners went into great detail about the process of shearing sheep and even showed us the lanolin secreted by the sheep that is used in lotions and lip balms.  They were happy to answer all of our questions and just made our visit all the more enjoyable.  We had such a great time and can’t wait to go back!

Helpful Tips:

  • No need to plan an entire day at Pioneer Farm.  An hour or so is sufficient time to see it all.
  • Feeding the calf is an extra $1.00 charge.
  • Don’t judge a book (or a farm) by its cover.  Pioneer Farm has a lot to offer, and the kids will have a great time.

Hope you get to Enjoy Pioneer Farm for Lambing Days (weekends through May)!

BRITAX Announces a New, Innovative Harness-2-Booster Seat {Giveaway}

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post and giveaway as a Britax Latina Advisory Board Member and Blogger. As always, all opinions, ideas, and stories stated here are clearly my own.

BRITAX understands the importance of safety when it comes to children and safety seats.  I have been a BRITAX Latina Advisory Board member for over a year now and have come to trust and respect the BRITAX brand as the only brand we use for our toddler.  I love the new features of the Frontier 90 and know that my son (the big boy that he is) will be needing it soon.  What do you think of the new features & design?

The new BRITAX FRONTIER™90 and PINNACLE™90 combination seats feature the ClickTight Installation System that allows parents to achieve a safe and secure installation every time*. With just three simple steps**, ClickTight allows parents to easily install the new seats with the vehicle seat belt and eliminates the frustration of putting their weight in the seat or getting into the vehicle to install the car seat.


  • ClickTight Installation System allows parents to easily achieve a safe and secure installation using the vehicle seat belt throughout the life of the seat, in harness mode, without having to worry about the weight of their child
  • Side Impact Cushion Technology features energy-absorbing cushions on the exterior of the child seat to reduce side impact crash energy by diverting crash forces before reaching your child and providing extra protection for the adjacent passenger
  • Base with SafeCell Technology designed to keep your child safe and secure in a crash by compressing and significantly lowering the center of gravity, reducing the forward movement of the car seat
  • Energy Absorbing Versa-Tether anchors the top of the car seat to the vehicle using a two-point attachment, minimizing the amount of forward movement of the car seat. Stage-released stitching helps reduce the crash forces reaching the child
  • HUGS (Harness Ultra Guard System) Chest Pads provide resistance to forward movement in the event of a crash
  • Front-Adjust Recline for optimal child comfort
  • 90-pound Weight Capacity in Harness Mode allows your child to remain harnessed up to 90 lbs
  • 120-pound Weight Capacity in Booster Mode for safety and comfort as your child grows
  • Easy Transition from Harness to Booster Mode without removing harness straps
  • Harness-2-Booster converts to a belt-positioning booster seat


One lucky Thoughts from Her reader will receive a BRITAX FRONTIER™90 (MSRP $329.99).


Enter to win using the easy Giveaway Tools form below.  GOOD LUCK!


For more information on BRITAX, visit or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

* May not be compatible with all vehicles; see installation instructions.
** BRITAX recommends that the top tether be used at all times when installing the child seat. The top tether must be used in harness mode for children that weigh more than 65 lbs.

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