Game On

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I will let you in on a secret. The Amber family is full of gaming geeks.

Even Lily likes to get in on the action.

When we were first dating, many moons ago, and even to this day we like to spend some time playing video games.

Recently, we have enjoyed going back to the games of our youth and have purchased original Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo systems to play some of these games.

We usually visit a local game store in our area (we try to buy local when we can) but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to attend the Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention that was held this past weekend at the Ace Hotel in Pittsburgh.

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The place was packed and featured all kinds of video games and systems that you could ask for. There were even some tabletop games if that was more your speed.

But, for us it was all about the video games and we each were looking for a particular game that day. Kev wanted Genesis’ “Echo the Dolphin” and I was looking for either “Donkey Kong Country” or “Donkey Kong Country 2.”

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I am happy to say that we found both of the games we were looking for and then some.

Lily purchased a few Disney Infinity princesses (Jasmine, Anna and Elsa). She likes to play with them as figures and we like to use them with our Infinity game. We also picked up a couple of Nintendo DS games for her. We thought that she might like to use my old DS to take on road trips and our eventual cruse this fall.

Keep an eye on this blog for future reviews and a haul of the games we purchased.

We had a wonderful time at the convention that was held at an interesting location.

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After the convention we decided to head to South Hills Village so I could return a swimsuit that didn’t fit right.

We also ate at one of our favorite restaurants BRGR that is located in the Galleria. Since Kev and I are vegetarians we really appreciate that they have a great non-meat burger as well as tasty salads.

Lily likes their chicken fingers a lot, so it is big hit with all of us.

We have also become obsessed with Spongebob Squarepants, especially Plankton.

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I would say that it was a pretty successful day out on the town. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and I can’t wait to attend next year’s convention.

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We really like the Frozen children’s headphones. It keeps the volume low so it doesn’t hurt her ears.

All the Comforts of Home

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For a lot of people after deciding when to visit Walt Disney World, the next big choice is deciding where to stay while you are on vacation.

The way Walt Disney World’s resort system is broken down is there are different tiers of resorts that are based on how much you want to spend. They are value, moderate and deluxe.

Value Resorts

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Pop Century Resort

The most economical category of resorts are the value resorts. This includes Pop Century, All-Star Music, All-Star Movies and All-Star Sports. The Art of Animation would also qualify as a value resort, but the price point, in my opinion would put it in the more moderate category.

The value resorts are pretty similar to each other. Each features outside hallways, oversize design features like a huge can of Playdough at Pop, or a giant Lady from “Lady and the Tramp” at All-Star Movies.

The value resorts have only one place to get food and that is at a large cafeteria style restaurant that you can find options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The resort pools are large and are the center piece of the resort.

All transportation is done by bus and there is only one area to catch the bus and that is at the front of the resort. If you drive yourself it isn’t as bad because you can park near your building if they are situated toward the back of the resort.

Typically the cost per night at a value resort is around $100 a night, give or take.

Moderate Resorts

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Port Orleans French Quarter

The moderate resorts are right in the sweet spot between value and deluxe categories. They offer some of the am entities of a deluxe resort while being more cost friendly.

Resorts in the moderate category include the two Port Orleans resorts (French Quarter and Riverside), Coronado Springs and Caribbean Beach Resort. The cabins at Fort Wilderness are also semi in the moderate category.

The moderate resorts have a more cohesive theme whether it is the Caribbean or New Orleans the theme is carried throughout often into both the quick service and table service restaurants.

Speaking of the table service restaurants, one of the biggest differences is that the moderate resorts offer a table service (a place where a server comes to your table to take your order) where as the value resorts don’t.

Also, the pools usually have an additional feature, like a water slide.

If you want a better themed hotel, with more dining options, then you will want to check out the moderate resorts.

Typically it costs between $200 to $300 a night.

Deluxe Resorts

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The Beach Club Resort

The deluxe resorts are the primo accommodations at Walt Disney World. The resorts include: The Boardwalk, The Beach Club, The Yacht Club, The Contemporary, The Polynesian Village Resort, The Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and the different Disney Vacation Club areas that are a part of the different deluxe resorts.

If you are looking for high quality table service restaurants, spas and mini-water parks at the resort, then you will want to upgrade to a deluxe.

Another benefit of this category is that many of the resorts have alternative ways of getting to the park such as monorails or boats. (Tip: If you and your family are big fans of Epcot you will want to stay at either the Beach or Yacht Club resorts because you are within walking distance to the World Showcase entrance.)

Typically it costs $400 to $500 a night.

Which category do you and your family prefer or what is one resort you would love to stay at that you haven’t tried yet? Leave your comments below.

If you are looking for more tips on planning your Walt Disney World vacation for your family and your little ones pick up a copy of “Mousekatots”.

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Bonus Days

Living in southwestern Pennsylvania means that the middle of February is usually cold, windy and snowy.

This past weekend, and continuing through this week we have had wonderful weather that included temperatures in the 60s and sunshine.

We wanted to take advantage of this beautiful weather and decided to head to the playgrounds.

On Saturday we went to Morgantown to do some antique shopping and to visit some retro game stores. (We have become obsessed with playing old Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo games. That is a story for another day.)

While we didn’t find any antique stores, we did have fun exploring Seneca Center (where the tea room is located) and we found some interesting murals and one particular antique of our own.

We did a little shopping and sight seeing and decided to take Lily to the playground and let her burn off some energy and enjoy this bonus day of beautiful weather in the middle of February.

We were so tired after a big day of playing that we slept all the way home.

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On Monday, we decided to take her to a local school’s playground to let her enjoy the fresh air since we both were off from work.

Did you have the opportunity to enjoy beautiful weather this past weekend? Leave your comments below.

Snow Much Fun

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We received a lot of snow the other day and Lily was really excited and had a lot of fun in the snow.

Luckily, I was able to find her snow pants and boots from last winter, which thankfully still fit from last year.

Our favorite thing to do was kick snow and just grab handfuls of it and throw it. Not make snowballs to throw, just fist fulls of snow.

Do you have a hard time getting your little one out in the snow, or is it harder to get them back inside? Leave your comments below.

Making Sweets With our Sweetie

Valentine’s Days seems to be a pretty popular holiday with our little one.

I don’t know if it is because of the hearts or all the pink and red (Lily’s favorite color), but she is a big fan.

One of her favorite things to do is bake (mostly because it involves sugar).

My Mom was shopping and came across a huge block of rice crispy treat that she thought we could cut into little shapes with cookie cutters.

We then bought lollipop sticks, cellophane bags and ribbon to make them into little rice crispy treat pops.

A few nights ago we sat down to make them and it turned out pretty well.

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The cookie cutters did a good job just as long as you have an adult help push down the cutter and you might have to use a knife to cut around the outside edges.

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What would a night of baking be without taking a little time to take a photo.

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After the hearts were cut out, I then applied the icing and put the sticks into place. This is better for an adult to do because it could get really messy icing and you have to have a little finesse to get the stick in the heart without pushing it all the way through.

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After the icing went on, then Lily got the pops back and added sprinkles.

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We ended up having to let the icing harden overnight before putting it in the bags. (We tried one and the icing smudged a little.) I think they are going to turn out really cute. But, even if they don’t Lily still had a great time making them.

Do you have any fun Valentine’s Day activities? Leave your comments below.

 

Makeover Time

Our little Mousekatot turned 3 this past November.

In all three years, she has never had her hair cut, except for a few terrible bang trims by yours truly just so the poor girl could see where she was going.

I realized that her hair was getting so long and the ends were becoming split and uneven. So, as hard as it was for me emotionally, it was time for her to get her first haircut.

When the decision was made, the search began for a child themed place to take her. I know she is a little nervous about new experiences, so I wanted to make sure the place was really kid-centric so that she would feel the most comfortable. (Plus, I wanted to take really cute pictures and make the experience as exciting for her as possible.)

When looking online, I came across this really cute salon called Sweet & Sassy at a mall that is out of town for us, but we still visit frequently.

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I mean, the place is just bursting with little girl cuteness.

I love that they make everything really special and offer a variety of services including manicures, pedicures, spa treatments and even themed birthday parties.

There are a variety of different kinds of haircut packages that are available on their website. Because of Lily’s age, she was able to qualify for a toddler package which included her haircut, glitter face tattoo, sparkles in her hair and a lollipop, all for under $20.

She was a little nervous when she first jumped up in the chair and they put the smock over her.

Luckily, they are experienced in dealing with nervous kids and they are prepared.

Each station has its own television that plays a Netflix show (ours was Barbie) and the stylist was wonderful and interacted with Lily to put her at ease.

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The whole process was a wonderful experience.

The stylist really listened and only took a little off of Lily’s hair and trimmed her bangs for us, and Lily felt like a little princess.

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In addition to everything else there is also a sundae bar that lets little girls pick out different bath products to take home.

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(There is also a lotion and body spray bar.)

The place for pedicures was absolutely adorable and looked like something out of Barbie’s Dream House.

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When we were there, two girls were celebrating their birthdays. One party was almost over and another one was ready to begin, so the place was packed, but everyone looked like they were having a great time.

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Overall, it was a wonderful experience and I really think that we will be going back next time Lily needs a haircut.

She already loves having her nails done at home, so I think we are going to have a girly-girl who also loves to play with her dinosaurs and get a little messy, too.

Have you ever had a wonderful experience at a salon for your little one? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

(I wasn’t compensated for this review in any manner. All the opinions expressed are my own.)

 

 

A New Meal with Character

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Photo courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

When you have a little one who is obsessed with seeing the Disney characters up close and personal it can be difficult to try and track them down all over the parks.

This is why, in my opinion, the best option is to plan a character meal.

There are lots to choose from that cover all three major meals and offer a bunch of different characters.

This week, the Disney Parks Blog announced that a special breakfast featuring some of Disney’s most popular couples will be offered this spring.

This new breakfast will take place at Trattoria al Forno located at the Boardwalk Resort.

Currently, the power couples from “The Little Mermaid” and “Tangled” are slated to make appearances at the breakfast.

Right now, information regarding prices and menu have not been released yet.

If you are looking for a great character breakfast that is currently offered is Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park.

You get to see Mickey and the gang, the buffet has plenty of traditional breakfast staples plus some additional offerings that are unique to the restaurant.

When we have gone in the past it hasn’t been that busy so we were able to spend a lot of time with the characters and got some really cute photos.

All Aboard

Living near Pittsburgh we have plenty of opportunities available to us for fun adventures on the weekends.

One of our favorite places to visit is the Carnegie Science Center.

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Photo courtesy of Carnegie Science Center

This huge facility has a bunch of different areas that explore everything from space travel, to robots to the human body.

One of our Mousekatot’s favorite places is the miniature railroad.

This railroad has been a staple of this facility for many years and offers an interesting perspective of our local area.

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The railroad covers all four seasons and offers a look at all the distinct places and areas that make southwestern Pennsylvania what it is including the steel mills, coal towns, farming areas and also key landmarks in the area.

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

One area that is really fun for your little one is where a volunteer can invite them up to do the train whistle.

Lily had the most fun looking at the different scenes trying to see what the people were doing. She also loved that the scenes would go from day to night and all the lights would come on inside the houses and around the towns.

There is also a surprise train for those who are fans of “Thomas the Tank Engine.”

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The cost of the miniature railroad is included with admission to the science center and is a really nice place to visit and teach your kids about the Pittsburgh area and the history of the region.

What are your favorite places to visit for weekend adventures? Leave your comments below.

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Click Away

Digital photography is wonderful.

No longer do you have to spend money on film and be limited by how many photos you can take. You also don’t have to wait to see what your photos look like.

Digital photography is also great because it also allows you to give your kiddo a camera and let them go to town to see what they capture.

One of the best ways to do this is just by giving them a smartphone and turn on the camera and see what they might capture.

We do this occasionally with our iPhones when we go to a restaurant and just let Lily go and see what she captures. So far, we have been pretty surprised at what she has captured.

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Lily took this photo of my coffee at breakfast yesterday. I put the inkwell filter on it, but she still did a pretty good job.

Camera phones are also good because they are pretty user friendly.

If you want to start your Mousekatot out on an actual camera you might want to check into a children’s camera.

Christmas 2015 Lily received this camera as a Christmas gift and she has enjoyed using it to take photos around the house.

You have the ability to upload the photos on to your computer, which is a nice feature.

If you want a few ideas on how to turn using a camera into a learning experience you will want to check out Click it Up a Notch’s entry about activities that kids can do when it comes to photography.

Another great idea is to create an online place where you kid can display their photos. This way you can share it with your friends and family and give your little shutter bug a place to display his or her photos.

You can create an account easily through Tumblr, or you can open a flickr account.

If you would like to check out more of Lily’s photos make sure to check out the link.

Do you encourage your little ones to try photography? Leave your comments below.

Bringing the Outside In

In our neck of the woods we were dumped (or blessed depending on how you look at it) with a bunch of snow. (I am not a big fan of the snow and I constantly threaten to move to Florida to avoid our harsh winters.)

Since we are stuck inside, we had the opportunity to use one of our new Christmas presents: an indoor smore maker.

Thanks to my Dad who picked it out for us, we received this really cute smore maker from the company nostalgia.

The maker is composed of a metal section that has a coil that heats when you plug it in. There is a protective grate over the coil that will prevent you from getting burned on the coil directly, but the top of the grate does get hot so you will want to watch your Mousekatots around the actual maker.

Surrounding the maker is a lazy Susan that has four compartments to hold your graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows.

The kit also comes with four marshmallow roasting forks, which I wish would have been a little longer, but they still work great.

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Sorry about the grainy photos. The lighting wasn’t the greatest. You can see that we have this sitting on our large ottoman with a beach towel over it to prevent any spills. 

The smore maker really puts a nice crust on the marshmallow. However, if you are a fan of letting your marshmallow catch on fire and then blow it out, this won’t achieve that level of doneness. (That will only happen with an open flame which can be super dangerous in the house.)

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I also highly recommend that you buy the flat marshmallows that are made for smores. They fit nicely on the grahm cracker and smoosh really nice when they are toasted.

The end result is a nice and gooey smore.

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Terribly blurry photo, but you get the idea.

I would highly recommend this smore maker. It is a lot of fun for the family it really makes a nice and cozy treat for everyone to enjoy.

Do you and your family have any cozy treats that you like to make or enjoy when it is cold outside? Leave your comments below.

All opinions in this review are mine. I was not compensated for them in any manner.