Thursday, July 10, 2014

Preschool Activities for Hot Summer Days

I don't know about you, but the summer heat here in Texas is pretty excruciating, and with little ones at home, things can get pretty tricky! Instead of spending too much time in front of the TV, consider working with your preschoolers on some fun skills to prepare for Pre-K and Kindergarten! All of these printable units are available in my TPT store!





Monday, June 2, 2014

San Antonio: A Weekend Escape

At the end of May, my family of three packed up on a Friday morning and headed to fabulous San Antonio, Texas! There is so much to do in San Antonio, and we were looking forward to a three-day weekend and two luxurious nights at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa



We knew that the property was going to be nice and the experience wonderful... but we had no idea how right we were. The JW Marriott was indescribably wonderful. Words can't express how impressed we were by this grand property. Imagine driving into the Texas Hill Country, down quiet, perfectly manicured streets lined with beautiful landscaping, and arriving at a resort atop a hill, featuring limestone rock and native Texas foliage.


Then, inside the heavy doors, hearing indoor water features and feeling the spaciousness of the hotel, filled with luxurious furnishings. And then, arriving to our adjoining rooms, greeted by granite, leather, and a full-sized balcony overlooking the Hill Country. The property has a very distinct Texas feel, without overplaying the stereotypical "Texas" decor. Everything was classy and stylish, but still had an authentic Hill Country feel to it. 




Then imagine waking up to breakfast at Cibolo Moon for a gourmet breakfast buffet filled with everything imaginable, made to order. Breakfast at Cibolo Moon could easily qualify as the best breakfast you've ever had. After chatting with one of the head chefs, we learned much of the food, such as the smokey salsa he loved so much, is made on property. 



And then, slipping into your bathing suit and floating down a cool, lazy river amidst Texas sage and a host of native Texas trees and shrubbery with the warm sun on your skin. We took all of the pictures of the pool area below from our balcony. What a view! An amazing pool and lazy river, with a world class golf course behind that, and the beauty of the rolling Hill Country beyond that! Much of our time there included simply enjoying our full-size balcony and this one-of-a-kind view. 



Texas hill country San Antonio

For me, this is the definition of relaxation. The definition of a vacation. Time stands still, and it is perfection. These feelings of peacefulness are peppered with feelings of joy as I share these moments with my husband and daughter, who are equally as content. Then seeing my daughter ride her first water slide and jump into the water into her daddy's arms. Then, enjoying a poolside picnic at the Rivertop Grill with a gentle breeze blowing.





The JW Marriott has thought of everything. No detail is overlooked, from the rooms, to the food, to the grounds, to the amenities. There are 36 holes of golf, a spa, and organized activities for the children including nature labs, stargazing through a telescope, crafts, and ballerina princess parties. There are games like ping-pong and corn hole scattered around the property that you can play for 2 minutes or 2 hours. The pool staff even provides poolside service so you never have to leave your lounge chair. There's an arcade, a zero-entry pool that makes for a great splash area for the littlest toddlers, and life-jackets available for kids. 




Just to put it into perspective, this hotel has been named one of the Top 500 hotels in the world by Travel + Leisure Magazine. It is easy to see why. Once you're here, you simply don't want to leave. The JW Marriott has gained lifelong patronage from our family. Everything is so meticulously integrated into the design and landscape, to further enhance the aesthetics of the property. It rivals the elegance of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, but with a Texas twist. 



And as the day starts cooling off and the sun begins to set, you can meet at the fire pit for complimentary s'mores--the perfect way to end the day. Taking time to wander the property gives you the opportunity to discover a chess board tucked away here, beautiful bronze cowboy sculpture there, or all the beautiful and huge outdoor fireplaces that have comfy Adirondack chairs around them and the beautiful Texas night sky above them. Perfect for conversations with family and friends. 



It's easy to capture the beauty of the property and to describe the joy of the amenities, but there was one more thing that struck us during our time there--the staff. Every staff member we came in contact with was incredibly friendly, knowledgeable, and eager to please. My husband even said that when he went to check us in, the staff actually came out from behind the desk to welcome him to the property! Amazing attention to detail and a very sharp attention to heightening the customer experience.

The JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa is a world class property with world class staff. 

Sea World San Antonio

Our daughter had seen the Sea World commercials on television, and with her fascination with ocean animals, we were really excited to be able to take her to Sea World San Antonio. I grew up going there and really loved it as a kid! Boy, has Sea World changed since then! There are now tons of great rides and a huge play area for childen, not to mention a brand new water park. 






Sea World has palm trees everywhere, and being pregnant, I really appreciated the comfortable Adirondack chairs under the shade of umbrellas throughout the park. 



The Sesame Street Bay of Play is a genius idea with a giant splash pad and play area for kids, complete with climbing structures and kiddie rides. This was probably our daughter's favorite part!




Azul, the show with beluga whales and dolphins, features amazing divers and acrobatics--our daughter was absolutely mesmerized! Several elements actually reminded us of the Cirque du Soleil "O" show in Las Vegas. 



We also enjoyed visiting the aquariums and the penguin house on site. For older kids and adults, there are several thrill rides on property including roller coasters and flume rides. Everyone should visit Sea World San Antonio at least once!

Maria Mia Mexican Bistro on the River Walk 

On Sunday, before we headed out of town, we stopped downtown at the Riverwalk to enjoy lunch at Maria Mia Mexican Bistro. With indoor and outdoor seating, you can enjoy a meal by the river for a fun San Antonio experience. This restaurant is a must-visit while in San Antonio!


Mexican food restaurant Maria Mia


At the intersection of the River Walk and Commerce Street, you’ll find that it’s easily accessible from the street level with ample parking or directly off of the River Walk. It’s also immediately beside where tickets are sold and the boats depart from for the famous River Walk cruises.


The atmosphere has a definite touch of class with it’s beautiful wrought iron chandeliers alongside its beautiful indoor water feature.


If you have a larger group or simply want privacy, Maria Mia has a great upstairs space that overlooks the rest of the restaurant.



My husband ordered the Pechuga Isabella, which has won the Taste of the River award for the best dish on the Riverwalk. Honestly, this is one of the most delicious meals you will ever order.



The menu offers so many great appetizers, drinks, entrees, and desserts. Whether you’d like to take a break from the heat and sit inside or you prefer the open-air dining you’ll find that the wait staff and the food are tremendous.

Thank you so much to our wonderful hosts: JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, Maria Mia Mexican Bistro, Sea World San Antonio, and the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau. I also want to thank my husband for taking the photographs in this post. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Our Backyard Ocean Splashtastic Oasis

When Backyard Ocean contacted me about reviewing some of their backyard inflatable products, I couldn't say yes fast enough! Since moving back to Texas several months ago and buying a house, we realized that we needed to add some fun to the backyard for our little one! With the hot temperatures coming, a waterhose just wasn't going to cut it...


When the Backyard Ocean boxes arrived on our doorstep, our daughter could not contain her excitement.

We went from this... 


to this with products from Backyard Ocean!


Apparently, the little one is WINNING with her Interactive Castle Inflatable Play Pool and her Jumping Gym Inflatable Bouncer! My husband and I were able to relax on the back patio and enjoy grilling all weekend while she enjoyed the sunshine and lots of exercise on the lawn.


The castle pool is perfect for preschoolers! Not only does it have a ringtoss, but it also features several sprayers along the edge of the pool which connect to your waterhose and can be easily adjusted. In my opinion, the sprayers are the very best part!


As you can see, we positioned her plastic slide under the sprayers so she could slide into the pool, and she had her very own kiddie waterpark!

To create your own summer backyard fun zone, visit Backyard Ocean to order pools, toys, and accessories!

Disclosure: I received multiple products from Backyard Ocean for purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Getting Ready for Pre-K

If you're like lots of us who are getting ready for Pre-K in the fall, you might be interested in this new printable available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store! 
printable worksheets tot pack need to know

This 18-page file contains super simple printable worksheets to help prepare your toddler or preschooler for a successful transition to Pre-K. With an emphasis on fine motor skills including tracing, cutting, and pasting, little ones will practice specific skills necessary for Pre-K readiness. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

May and June Printable Worksheets

With summer approaching, here are some great printables to use with your little ones and students during the next couple of months when it's hot outside!



  

 Grab these and more at my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bounce House Giveaway!

Summer is almost here, so the warmer temperatures mean more time for the kids to play outside! I'm helping host this giveaway for a BlastZone Magic Castle Bounce House, valued at $399. I'm pretty sure this would be a huge hit with any child, and moms win because it will get those kids tired out!


Blast Zone Magic Castle Giveaway 

Blast Zone Magic Castle

TheNightOwlMama.com and StuckAtHomeMom.com along with Keeping Life SimpleIntelligent Domestications, An Alli Event, Mommy Has A Life, In The Kitchen With KP have partnered with a group of amazing bloggers to bring you Blast Zone Magic Castle Inflatable Bounce House Giveaway. The hot summer is about to hit; How will you keep your kids busy having fun and cool all summer? Blast Zone has the answer! From Bounce Houses to Inflatable Water Slides, Blast Zone carries the best inflatables. Tricia from Night Owl Mama was able to review the Great White Wild Inflatable Water Slide and shared some really fun photos and thoughts about it! Be sure to check out the full review. As a special Gift for our readers, get 10% off your Blast Zone purchase on Blastzone.com by using this special discount code BOUNCEBLOG, for those interested in purchasing an inflatable from Blastzone.com

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, May 5, 2014

Swing into Spring Giveaway! ($500 value)

Since I am currently "nesting," I am really excited to help Dixieland Mom with this home improvement giveaway! We have certainly been spending our fair share of time and money in Lowe's and Home Depot lately! I'm sure most of us could think of several ways to spend $500 on home improvement projects this spring! Good luck!


It's time to start thinking about all those home improvement projects you're going to do this year.  What better way to start than by winning a $500 Gift Card from your choice of Home Depot or Lowe's!   This event is hosted by Dixieland Mom Product and Travel Reviews and sponsored by the bloggers that are participating in this event! This event is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada, age 18+. 

Entry is simple! Just follow the instructions on the Giveaway Tool Below!

Entry-Form

Terms & Conditions: Must be 18+ to enter and win.  By entering you are agreeing to the terms and conditions listed here. Winner will be chosen via Random.org and will have 24 hours to respond to the email notification. If no response is received, winner will forfeit the prize and a new winner will be chosen.  All entries, other than the very first one requesting you leave a comment on this post, are optional, but will give you extra entries. All entries taken will be verified. No purchase necessary to enter or to win.  Void where prohibited by law. Contest opens May 1st, 2014 at 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time and ends on May 25th, 2014 at 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time. Winner will be announced HERE. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

$100 Target Giftcard Giveaway!

Welcome to the A Night Owl May Group Giveaway!

Hi friends! Today the friends of A Night Owl are joining up to bring you an amazing $100 Target Gift Card Giveaway! Enter today via the Rafflecopter form below!
Open in the USA and Canada.
Ends at 11:59pm EST on Monday, May 12th, 2014.
TERMS & CONDITIONS: this giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents ages 18 and over and ends at 11:59pm EST on May 12th, 2014. By entering you give the right to use your name and likeness. Number of entries received determines the odds of winning. Approximate retail value is $100.00. One winner will be selected. All liabilities and responsibilities with product is directly responsible by Target. Winner will drawn by random.org from all verified entries, contacted by email provided, and announced on this page at the end of the contest. Winner has 48 hours to respond or prize will be redrawn. Entrant is responsible for the email address they provide, whether through typing it directly or through the Facebook entry method. A Night Owl is not responsible for lost or misdirected emails. All prizes will be awarded. No prize substitutions allowed. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Facebook and we hereby release Facebook of any liability. Information is provided to A Night Owl, not to Facebook and your information is never sold or shared. Facebook and Target are not a sponsor of this giveaway. Prize is mailed or emailed directly by Kimberly Sneed of A Night Owl and requires confirmation of delivery. Protected tweets do not count as an entry method for tweeting. Tweets must come from a public account. Bloggers in this group giveaway and their immediate family members in their household cannot enter or win the giveaway. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Grapevine, Texas: Weekend Getaway!

We just returned from a wonderful weekend in historic Grapevine, Texas! Probably best known for its wineries and many festivals, Grapevine is situated right in the middle of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

My husband and I were both blown away by the city of Grapevine. Not only is the location hard to beat, but Grapevine itself has a quaint, small town feel. Everything we saw was landscaped and manicured to perfection, and it's one of the prettiest Texas towns I've seen. 

We were impressed by the sheer number and variety of family activities and attractions available, as it was impossible to fit everything into one weekend. Unlike other cities, you can drive from attraction to attraction in a matter of minutes. That proximity is a huge selling point for a fun and relaxing visit to Grapevine. 

Historic Downtown has something for everyone, from shopping to dining to entertainment. We also drove through some of the most charming neighborhoods. I would highly recommend Grapevine as an outstanding location for a conference or convention! The signs displayed around town are so convenient and contribute to the warm, welcoming, small-town feel.

family travel things to do sign

My husband, daughter, and I spent two nights at the brand new Courtyard Marriott Dallas DFW Airport Grapevine. Tucked away amidst a wooded landscape, you'd never know you were in such close proximity to the big cities!

hotel lodging DFW airport pool conference center

With a bold and modern lobby and unique lighting, the Courtyard exhibits great attention to detail--and it still smells new! The property is also home to TownePlace Suites, and the two properties share a conference center and a pool. To top it off, you can get Starbucks coffee downstairs in the lobby! Our room was extremely comfortable and clean, from the white comforters to the complimentary Paul Mitchell toiletries. The room also featured a mini-fridge, microwave, and convenient reading lights.

Courtyard Marriott lodging conference center hotel DFW

The front desk staff at the Courtyard was always friendly, and the lobby was large enough to comfortably seat large groups of people. As an added touch, the lobby featured a small collection of books about nature and aviation. 

Marriott Newcrest Image conference center pool

As its name suggests, the Courtyard also features a beautiful outdoor courtyard with a fire pit and comfortable lounge furniture. It's a great place to unwind and watch the planes flying in overhead!

Newcrest Image hospitality hotel DFW

On Saturday, we attended the 13th annual Spring Into Nash at Grapevine's Nash Farm. What a fun event! Our daughter took her first pony ride, learned about the garden, and enjoyed the petting zoo. Other activities included blacksmithing, woodworking, and leather embossing. Admission to the event was free, and the activities themselves were very affordable. The farm was very well maintained and the big shade trees were the icing on the cake. Spring Into Nash was very well-organized, and everyone working the event was so friendly!



Grapevine Lake is one of the natural local attractions, and we stopped by Rockledge Park for a better view. It's a great place for a picnic or a barbecue, as it costs only $5 per car per day. We saw sailboats, fishermen, and windsurfers out on the lake, and the Gaylord Texan was visible on the other side of the lake. The park also has a playground, swimming beaches, grills, hiking trails, restroom facilities, and a small store, providing plenty of amenities for a comfortable day!
Texas recreation Gaylord swimming fishing sailing

We enjoyed a delicious dinner at the award-winning Palio's Pizza Cafe, with scrumptious salads, pizzas, and desserts. The cheesecake and cannoli did not disappoint!

restaurant where to eat

Among other high-quality attractions are the famous Grapevine Mills mall, which is also home to the SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium and LEGOLAND Discovery Center and lots of shopping, dining, and fun for the family. Bass Pro Shop's Outdoor World is also nearby.

Texas shopping dining attractions


On Sunday, we spent the better part of the day aboard the Grapevine Vintage Railroad in a first-class air-conditioned Victorian coach. While the GVR offers a variety of train trips, we were headed along the historic Cotton Belt Route to the Fort Worth Stock Yards. The train traveled through wooded areas and lovely neighborhoods, and it was a leisurely trip. There are also open-air cars as well as a snack bar onboard with very reasonable prices. The conductors spend lots of time traveling through the cabins and engaging with the passengers. Bob the conductor entertained us with trivia questions, and our little one enjoyed a bag of popcorn and the scenery. We'll definitely return for one of their other train trips!




At the Fort Worth Stock Yards, you can find dining, shopping... and cattle drives! The tree-lined streets were nice and shady, and the cowboys would ride up and down the streets allowing people to pet their horses. The Stock Yards have done a great job of preserving an important part of Texas history.


Despite all of the fun that we had, we weren't able to cram it all into one weekend, so we look forward to returning to Grapevine again for another weekend getaway very soon!

Thank you to the Grapevine CVB, the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, and NewcrestImage and Courtyard Marriott for hosting us for a wonderful weekend in beautiful Grapevine, Texas!