Friday, July 31, 2009

Viva Las Vegas!

There is so much more to Vegas than what you think. Yes there's plenty of gambling and partying and other things we won't mention here in our happy place, but things have definitely changed. I have happily returned to Las Vegas every summer for the past 5 years and I have witnessed so many wonderful changes. The first time we took our son he was 10 mths old and he had a blast. Now he's 4 yrs old and Las Vegas is his favorite place to visit.
Let me start off with the hotel...hands down our favorite hotel is Mandalay Bay! The pool area is a dream come true. They refer to it as The Beach and it's amazing! There is a lagoon style heated pool, a lazy river, a wave pool and a shallow little swimming area next to the wave pool. We usually spend an entire day from 9am to 7pm at poolside. The kids swim until they can't keep their eyes open. I suggest getting a poolside cabana so the kids can rest and have a quick bite. We usually enjoy our lunch in our cabana. My husband loves watching tv in the cabana while I swim with the kids. After a long day at the pool we like to wind down at The Sharks Reef. It's one of the best aquariums I've ever seen. The kids love pressing their faces against the glass and pretending that they're in the water with the sharks! Why? I don't know!
The hotel staff is amazing and very helpful. Mandalay Bay is definitely a family friendly resort. Your kids will love every minute of your stay here. You have to eat at the buffet at least once before you leave and it's worth the wait to get a table with a pool view! My son loves to help himself to his favorite foods. Granted he works backwards and hits the dessert section first, but come on, it's vacation for a reason! After a fun filled weekend we finally checked out and as we were driving away from the strip we suddenly noticed a new shopping center called Town Square Las Vegas. I almost fell out of the car!!!! This place is absolutely wonderful! Every retail store you could ever need and plenty of little places to refuel with snacks and drinks. They also have restaurants for a nice family meal. All these great things pale in comparison to the nucleus of this center...the kids play area!!!! It's the holy grail of play areas!
I have never in all my years seen anything like it! A water sprout area, 3 playhouses, a theatrical stage, merry-go-round, springy ride ons, slides, a real maze to run through and more! The only thing that could possibly make this place any better is if they offered foot rubs on the parents while the kids played! I'll take a white wine spritzer over here please!!!!


Seriously...I'd drive 4 hrs just for the Town Square! There are plenty of other hotels that also offer fun things to do with your family like Midway carnivals, shops, shows, etc... Right now the prices are so low you can't afford not to go. I prefer Sunday through Thursday trips myself and that's when you really get the best deals. You should definitely try to squeeze in a quick trip before the summer is over. Your family will love you for it!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Let's Talk Steak!



Just a quick little post for the beef eater in you! My family loves steak! When my hubby has a night off we already know what's for dinner. Boneless Rib Eye steaks, baked beans, corn on the cob, potatoes au gratin and mac & cheese! Sounds crazy, but my 4 yr old and 20 mth old eat their weight in steak! I want to share with you our recipe for a perfect steak...seasoning!

It's all in the flavor! Try our recipe and let me know if you liked it. First you find yourself a choice cut of steak. We prefer the nice marble appearance of a boneless Rib Eye steak. Then we poke the steak with a fork to make tiny holes so the seasonings will get nice and cozy with the beef.


The following is my husband's secret recipe so keep this between us...lol! McCormick's Grill Mates Peppercorn & Garlic Marinade!!!!
Gently rub the seasonings into the beef on both sides. I say gently because you have to give your steak a little love before it hits the grill so it will love you back when it's in your belly! McCormick's does all the work. Your job is to provide the TLC! This will be the tastiest steak you will ever have! Great...now I'm hungry!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Marie Callender's Sunday Champagne Brunch!

OMG!!! (oh my God for the computer lingo impaired) This is the most wonderful place in the world to sit down with your family and friends for brunch! As you slowly get to know me you will notice that my family enjoys dining out on the weekends. This brunch is at the top of our list! It brings a tear to my eye just typing about it!
Let me make one thing clear right off the bat...it's not the same at all the Marie Callender's locations. It is specifically at Callender's Grill locations such as the one we frequent on Wilshire accross the street from the LaBrea Tar Pits. The staff is amazing. The atmosphere is charming. The food is top notch and it's all you can eat! Come on!!!! Those are magic words to me! My kids are big eaters so taking them to brunch is the best thing for us. My 4yr old son kicks off his shoes and runs from station to station helping himself to his favorite foods such as pasta, roast beef, fruit, chicken, etc...

They have an amazing made to order omelette station, mini belgium waffles, a carving station, the dessert table, salad bar and pasta from spaghetti to mac & cheese. Endless beverages and unlimited champagne! By far my most favorite feature, and my son will agree to this, is the 3 tier chocolate fountain! We dip everything from marshmellows to waffles right in the chocolate flow! Mmmmmmm! My son also loves the dessert table. He can't wait to snatch a slice of fresh apple pie to help wash down all that chocolate!
We always have the same wonderful Brazilian waitress that spoils us with bacon and she keeps the mimosas coming (kids get o.j. only!)...love her!!! To top off all of this wonderful merriment Callender's has an amazing pianist that plays all of your favorite songs to truly maximize your brunching experience! I can go on and on, but you've got to see it to believe it! Brunch is served every Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm. They offer extended hours for special days such as Mother's Day and Father's Day.

Citywalk!!!




My family loves Citywalk! We make our way there twice a month. It's a great place for the entire family. We recently visited Citywalk for my husband's 33rd birthday. We dined at Hardrock Cafe and our lovely waitress Krista put my husband on the hotspot by making him sit in the center of the restaurant and asked all the patrons to sing Happy Birthday to him. Needless to say he was embarassed! The kids had a great time and a great meal. I must say I enjoyed a Bahama Mama myself!


After our meal we met our friends for some Citywalk experiences. The kids love Gamestop, the skydiving lessons and the amazing candy store IT'Sugar! They also enjoyed playing in the water feature located in the center of Citywalk by Tony Romas.


Currently Citywalk is offering a Summer Block Party that families should definitely take advantage of! Free themed entertainment for every night of the week! Go to Citywalkhollywood.com for a detailed description of what each weeknight has to offer.

Fun in Thousand Oaks, CA


The Lakes

This is a beautiful plaza for shopping, dining and family fun! They have a PF Changs and a Claim Jumpers that my kids love eating at. There are a few little shops like m. frederic and Tommy Bahama. They also have an adorable park set among the Lakes that the kids can play in while parents enjoy a cup of coffee from the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Its even more lovely in the evening when the entire plaza is lit up by little white christmas lights!

During the winter months they have ice skating set outdoors among the Lakes. Its absolutely gorgeous! Currently they are offering complimentary movies in the park:




Janss Marketplace
It is a wonderful shopping center for the entire family to visit. They have great restaurants such as Buca Di Beppo, Fuddruckers and TGIF's. They also have retail stores to visit to help you digest all that good food. There's a Marshall's, Old Navy and Toys R Us to name a few.
During the warmer months the kids can run through a wonderful fountain of water sprouts that has a waterfall and cool misters.

They play great music at the fountain as well. After the kids get good and soaked they can walk over to the outdoor playground to dry off. My kids love going here any time of day. Don't forget to stop by Coldstones for a cool treat to top off a great day!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Kids Castle in Burbank, CA

What can i say about this place except...wowzers! I found Kids Castle online and asked my husband if we could please go check it out. We didn't expect what we pulled up to. The outside looks just like a castle with a giant green dragon sitting on top looking down at you! They offer free valet parking...loved it! Once inside you feel like you are definitely somewhere new! The color schemes and decor are fabulous! The Castle Cafe offers good food, drinks & desserts. They have waiters and waitresses that come to your table and take your order from an adult menu. They also have a great kids menu. The iced tea is delicious! My husband drank a pitcher of it by himself. We devoured 2 pizzas, fries, chicken nuggets & wings.



As for the play area...it's amazing! Besides having numerous games they have a wonderful structure called the Dragons Den and it includes a toddler area and 2 stories of climbing, crawling, swinging & slides. I had to drag my 20 mth old daughter out of it kicking and screaming! The best part is that you don't have to carry around a cup full of tokens! They have a game card that you fill with credits which allows you to just swipe and play! What really sets Kids Castle apart from the rest is it's carnival style ride called The Wizards Wild Ride. This blur is my husband and son flying by!
Kids Castle has something for all ages from toddler 2 tween. They have 3 private rooms reserved for parties. Three flat screen tv's in the dining area for the Dads that just want to relax and watch a game and one flat screen tv by the play structure that lets parents watch their kids and tv. Its located right off the 5 fwy in Burbank. Their website is kidscastleusa.com. Open 7 days a week with late hours even on Sunday. Kids Castle is a must!