Our surprisingly fun trip to Florida on an Amtrak train

Back at the end of the Summer I wrote about getting ready for our #FamilyForward trip. Since we have been back it’s been insanely crazy. This Fall has totally kicked my ass. I have been so busy, at times I thought there was no way I could keep my head above water. Things are finally getting back to somewhat normal and now I can actually sit down and share some fun we have been having.

I really wanted to make sure I wrote about our Amtrak trip to Orlando. Every time someone hears that we took a train to Florida from Connecticut I can see the disbelief in their eyes. We get so many questions about it. To tell you the truth, when I was booking the trip I thought we were crazy. We had no idea what to expect. I knew it would be an adventure. Good or bad, we would be making some family memories!

Amtrak

One of the things that made me so happy was that even though we didn’t buy assigned seats, they assigned our seats as we got on the train in NYC. I was stressed about how that worked, I was worried we wouldn’t all be able to sit together. But luckily no worries! The service crew in NYC were fabulous. So friendly and super nice. Chatted with everyone and traded jokes with my kids. We packed a cooler with a bunch of food and drinks for the trip. Best idea ever. Saved a lot of money and we didn’t really have to worry about the cafe car times. The kids did get to pick out a treat from the cafe car, but not having to buy full meals was a big money saver.

Chloe loved that you could walk around the train. She thought the cafe car was the coolest thing in the world. She had a blast playing card games at the table while having a snack. It was nice to go into the dining car and get a change of scenery. We also packed our portable dvd player and the kids watched Harry Potter and Despicable Me in preparation for Universal Studios.

Amtrak 2

When we arrived in Orlando Town Car Now was there waiting for us. The kids got such a kick out of seeing our name on the sign! The drive to Loews Royal Pacific Resort was short and our driver was fabulous. It was a great start to our vacation.

All in all we loved traveling by train to Florida. It was much more relaxing than driving. In the end we all decided we would totally do it again. In fact, I am looking at booking our train for our April trip to Disney as we speak. Have you ever traveled long distance by train? I’d love to hear about your trip! Are you thinking of taking a long trip by train and have questions? Ask me anything!

cheryl
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Family Time at Lyman Orchards this weekend

This weekend was the first weekend in ages that we had any free time. Of course we HAD to find something to do Sunday afternoon. How could we waste the day? Actually we are very good at wasting the day away at home, but we knew we didn’t have much free time before Halloween and we had some stuff we wanted to do.

Lyman Orchards 2

Off to Lyman Orchards we went! What a beautiful Fall day. The weather was perfect for the Corn Maze. The kids had a blast picking out pumpkins and we even bought a huge scarecrow for our yard. The Apple Barrel was crowded, but not as crazy as I had expected. We must have timed it right!

We made sure we picked up our favorite apple cider donut holes and of course a famous Hi-Top Apple Pie . We have a busy week ahead this week, and are heading to NYC for family weekend at Chelsea’s college this weekend. I am so happy we were able to fit in a trip to Lyman Orchards. It wouldn’t feel like Fall without it!

Lyman Orchards

If you are looking for something fun to do with the family you should totally check out Lyman Orchards. They have their awesome corn maze and when we were there, they also had pony rides for the kids. Check out what is available for picking and make a fun day of it. Are you already a fan of Lyman Orchards? I’d love to hear why you love it!

cheryl
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We are jumping on the Hogwarts Express!

Family Forward

We have an amazing opportunity to attend the Family Forward Retreat at Universal Studios Orlando. Thanks to the awesome Mom It Forward team, along with fabulous sponsors Universal Orlando Resort, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Southwest Airlines, Cricut, Duct Tape, and National Geographic Kids, we are going to be making fun family memories.

From the Family Forward website:

Family Forward, a 3-day family retreat organized by Mom It Forward for social media influencers AND their families focused on helping families connect in the digital age.​

Family Forward gives families experiences, ideas, and skills to embrace bonding in the digital age through workshops centered on topics like charity, communication, creativity, team building, and trust. Our premise is that whether you are unplugged or are plugged in, you can maximize opportunities to create connections with your family.

This is perfect for my family! We have made it a mission to spend more time together as a family this year. We have been making time to find the fun in our everyday lives as well. We can not wait to participate in the workshops and spend this time together as a family.

Harry Potter

We surprised Jacob and Chloe on Thursday night. I can not believe I was able to keep it in! I could not wait to tell them! We made these Hogwarts Invitations that told the kids to pack their bags! They were in complete shock. They are both HUGE Harry Potter fans. So much so, they both became super emotional and I can’t show the video or they will hate me. We all ended up in tears at one point. But they were happy tears!

As much as the kids are excited for the trip, they can not wait to take a train to get there. Yup. You heard that right. We are taking an Amtrak train to Orlando Florida. 24 hours. Overnight. What were we thinking? I think we might have lost our minds, but I actually think we are going to have fun. We really wanted to make this trip special and have an adventure. We’ll see how it goes!

You can follow along with me and all of the other families at Family Forward by following #FamilyForward on Twitter and on Instagram.

If you follow me on Instagram and Twitter, then you already know I will be tweeting and posting pics through the whole retreat. And if you are not following me, what’s up with that?

Disclosure. I was not asked to post about this trip. I am talking about it because I am super excited! We did receive a generous discount and some fun perks like tickets to Blue Man Group, and a fun dessert party. But I am paying for this out of my very own pocket.

cheryl
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And then she went on a new adventure.

NYC has a new resident. My Chelsea has been in the city for college for about two weeks now. She was lucky enough to have to opportunity to go in early and learn how to navigate the city, public transportation, and take a couple of classes. She is the happiest person right now. I am so proud of her.

Lunch! Right after we moved Chelsea into her dorm.  It was fabulous!

Lunch! Right after we moved Chelsea into her dorm. It was fabulous!

I have always told my kids that they can be anything they want to be. Dream big.

I was kind of kicking myself for a minute about that. When Chelsea said she really wanted to be in NYC I knew it was the right thing for her. I knew it was in her heart and it was her dream. She has worked on this dream for years. To study theater in NYC. That was her big dream. I had to support it. Even though for a minute I really wanted to say no.

Unpacking in her dorm!

Unpacking in her dorm!

I am doing a lot better than I thought I would. I love getting texts from Chelsea showing me her view at the moment, how amazing Pippin was, and calls where I can her the confidence in her voice. She is learning the city and learning about herself.

I am so honored to be her Mom. I am really looking forward to this crazy, exciting first year of college. I love watching her turn into the strong person I know she is.

This was right before we said goodbye.  I didn't cry THAT much.  ;)

This was right before we said goodbye. I didn’t cry THAT much. ;)

cheryl
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#Bagitforward this Fall!

CB-sponsored-post-white-600

We just came home from a week long camping trip in Maine. I am not much of a “camper”, but my husband and kids love it so I go along for the adventure. The main thing I insist on when we are picking out where to go camping, is flush toilets and showers. This campground that we love to go to has lots of fun activities for the kids, a small restaurant called “the carousel cafe”, and modern bathrooms. There is even a carousel for the kids to ride nightly.

We have been making family memories here for years. It is really great to just unplug for a bit and break out the UNO and board games and stay up late roasting marshmallows on the campfire. We played parents vs kids capture the flag and made huge make your our sundaes each night. It was a fun week. Even a little rain didn’t get us down. We played cards and watched Goosebumps on Netfix in the tent.

This time of year brings another family tradition. Back to school shopping. We get downright giddy around here thinking about picking out new back packs and new school supplies. Chloe is a freak for new pens and pencils. We make a day or night of it with a fun lunch or dinner out after shopping. It is really something we all look forward to.

Unfortunately is it not always a fun time for some families. Shopping for school supplies can put added stress on families trying to make ends meet. I know how hard it can be, I have been there for sure. That’s why I was thrilled to be able to head to Walmart and shop for school supplies to donate to our local school. The Bag It Forward campaign along with Champions for Kids are making it their mission to get school supplies in the hand of all kids everywhere. I am honored to be a part of it.

Bag it Forward

Bag It Forward

Bag It Forward

We still have a couple of weeks left before school starts here in CT. A fun thing we did was to make a Bag It Forward donation bin. We have a pool and we always have friends and family over. Now, when people call and ask what to bring, we tell them to bring school supplies. I mean come on, do we really need another pasta salad? No way! We want school supplies! The kids made the sign and we have it right by our front door. I can’t wait to see how much we collect. We are doing great so far, and we still have a couple of weeks left.

Bag It Forward

bag it forward

Chloe loved picking out a bag and filling it with school supplies. See more about our shopping trip in my Google+ album. She was so happy to be helping other kids in her community. I seriously think this is such a great way to get your kids excited about helping. Kids love and want to help other kids. If you are going to be out shopping, why not pick up some extra supplies to donate to your child’s school? This time of year you can get so many great deals on schools supplies. Even an extra $5 can make a difference.

Bag it forward

Bag It forward 2

If you are planning to donate school supplies and backpacks, let me know! I’d love to hear all about what you and your family did to give back to kids in your community!

Check out the links below for more information

Champions for Kids: championsforkids.org/elmers
BagItForward.org: http://bagitforward.org/
Elmer’s on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Elmers
Elmer’s on Twitter: http://twitter.com/elmers
Bag It Forward on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/cbsocially/bag-it-forward/

cheryl
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Wordless Wednesday

chloe collage

My sweet girl is growing up way too fast! She had fun taking pictures with her sister yesterday.

For more Wordless Wednesday fun check out:

Better in Bulk 5 Minutes for Mom

cheryl
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My day with the Red Sox!

Just writing that title makes me smile.

Best email ever!

Best email ever!

When I opened my email and saw an invitation to Fenway Park, I almost fell off my chair. I am part of a HUGE Red Sox fan family. All of my family lives in the Boston area. To see this in my email was awesome! Date night for Kevin and I!

We started off the day with a tour around the park. Loved hearing all of the stories. The history of Fenway is amazing. I remember going to games when I was younger and I never actually thought about the history. I was just there for fun. After the tour, we sat down in the offices for a fantastic “focus group” discussion. I learned SO much. I had no idea how family friendly a trip to Fenway could be. I found myself saying “Jake would love this” or “Chloe would think that is so cool.” We started planning our next trip before we even left.

Heard stories from THE BEST storyteller!

Heard stories from THE BEST storyteller!

Red Sox 1

Red Sox

Red Sox

Oh! I can’t forget about the Red Sox Kid Nation membership. Such a fun idea!

kidnation

Perfect gift for kids who are Red Sox fans! I am totally buying a few for my nieces. They will get such a kick out of it. My kids love getting anything in the mail, and they flipped out over this!

We had such a great day! I was even surprised by the reasonable food prices, good to know I wouldn’t have to sell one of my kids just to feed the rest of them! I really had no idea how fun it could be to bring the whole family. I think Jake would love to walk around outside in Yawkey Way. I know Kevin loved walking around out there and he had to have the sausage before we left!

Kevin HAD to have a sausage!

Kevin HAD to have a sausage!

If you are looking for something fun to do with the family this weekend, look no further! Check out Futures at Fenway. Here is the information from RedSox.com

Futures at Fenway
Join us for the Eighth Annual Futures at Fenway on Saturday, July 27, 2013!

Don’t miss this great day of baseball action featuring Red Sox prospects and lots of family fun. Ticket prices range from $5 to $30. Following the game, there will be post-game autograph session with Sea Dogs players.

New this year:

Post-game concert featuring Kidz Bop Kids
For the first time at Fenway Park, fans will have a chance to bring their dogs to the ballpark. Designated sections of the seating bowl will be available to owners and their dogs. To purchase a dog ticket, please call 877-REDSOX-9. All dog owners must print out the attached waiver, complete it and bring it with them to Fenway Park on July 27.

First pitch 12 p.m.
Gates Open at 11 a.m.

Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox AA affiliate)
vs.
Harrisburg Senators (Nationals AA Affiliate)

You can bring your dog and see the Kidz Bop Kids! Check out the website for all of the information and to print out the waiver. Looks like it is going to be a blast! If you are planning to go, let me know! I’d love to hear how you liked it!

This was Kevin's favorite spot.  The view from the Green Monster seats!

This was Kevin’s favorite spot. The view from the Green Monster seats!

Thanks so much Red Sox! We will be back with the whole Budge Bunch soon!

I received complimentary tickets to the game and vouchers for food.
As always, all opinions are my own.

cheryl
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Thinking of going to Atlantic City? Do it!

Disclosure: Caesars Entertainment and D6 Sports were official sponsors of our #JerseyLove trip.
They provided accommodations, activities and meals to our group.
As always, all opinions are my own.

View from my room at Caesars.

View from my room at Caesars.

Ever since I got back from my Atlantic City trip I have been talking about it non stop. People keep asking me about it! While I was there, I was getting messages asking me where I was staying, and what did I think of it. Every time I Instagramed a new pic of the food I was eating, I swear, two minutes later I was getting a text about it. Most of my local CT friends had no idea how fun Atlantic City could be. Although it is not a far drive for me, I had never been to Atlantic City. One of the reasons I think was because I didn’t think it was a place we could go as a family. Boy was I wrong! Kevin and the kids decided to tag along last minute and they LOVED it.

We were pleasantly surprised by our room. It was big enough for all of us and we had an ocean view! But what really knocked our socks off was the TV IN THE BATHROOM MIRROR. Yes, CAPS were necessary for that. It was the coolest thing! I wish I had a good picture of it.

Caesars was SO pretty. I loved walking around the shops and restaurants. The customer service was amazing! I would totally stay there again. Actually, Kevin and I are planning a trip back there soon without the kids. If you also follow me on Instagram, you now that I love talking about and taking pictures of food. I love food. And let me tell you, this trip DID NOT disappoint. I had a fantastic welcome dinner at Mia. The chicken was amazing! I am still talking about it with people. I would go back to Caesars just to eat at Mia.

Mia

Mia

Mia

Another fabulous restaurant inside Caesars is Cafe Roma. I had a lovely breakfast there with some of my favorite blogging friends on Saturday morning and a yummy and fun dinner there on Saturday night with my family. The service was excellent and the mood was very relaxed. I think this was my kids favorite restaurant of the whole trip. We HAD to try their famous Boardwalk fries and I am glad we did! They were great! My meatloaf was delicious! The prices are reasonable and the food is really good. We give this place two thumbs up!

Breakfast at Cafe Roma

Boardwalk fries!

Dinner at Cafe Roma

Oh! I can’t forget about “Taste of Atlantic City” Dinner hosted by Caesars Entertainment
at the Pool Loft at Harrah’s Resort on Friday night. What a nice night! We had the luxury of sampling some of the best food around. The Pool Loft is beautiful and the chefs were fun to talk and hang out with.

The Pool Loft

The Pool Loft

It’s no surprise to those who know me that the desserts were my favorite!

Sunday morning we were treated to Caesars Sunday Brunch at Nero’s. Talk about knock your socks off! This brunch was awesome. I tried Eggs Benedict for the first time and loved them. I mean really, where have they been all my life? I made a yummy crepe topped with fruit, whipped cream and of course chocolate syrup. So good! I had so much food I can’t even remember everything I had. It was really the most diverse brunch buffet I have ever been too. If you could think of it, it was probably there. Seafood, steak, eggs, waffles, desserts. It was ALL THERE. My Mom would have been in heaven. This was her kind of brunch buffet. The perfect end to our weekend.

Sunday Brunch

This is just one of the many posts I will be writing about this trip. It was an amazing weekend, and I am so honored to have been a part of it.

Have you ever been to Atlantic City? Are you planning a trip soon?



Caesars

Caesars Entertainment D6 Sports

cheryl
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And then she grew up.

Graduation banner

I blinked and it was here. Chelsea graduated from high school this week. Even though we have been getting ready for it all year, I was not ready. I tried to fake it the best I could, but I cried like a baby anytime anyone has brought it up over the last few weeks.

Chelsea was a preemie. I was told she was not going to live when my water broke. I was told that if she did make it, she would have severe heart and lung problems, and would have developmental delays.

She had none of those problems. Her little four pound self just had a bit of jaundice. She only had to stay in the hospital for one week and then she was all ours.

My miracle girl. My Chelsea Rose.

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Chelsea has been proving people wrong and amazing me ever since. We are all so proud of the smart, strong willed woman she has become.

Graduation

Even though NYC seems so far away, I know I am just a quick train ride away if she needs me.

Or if I need her.

cheryl
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Our last minute trip to Gillette Castle State Park

We gave Chelsea a ride to a friends house in Moodus a few weeks ago. Instead of just dropping her off, we decided to check out the area. At the last minute we ended up at Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam CT. I had not been there since I was a little kid. Kevin had never been, so we were thrilled to check it out with the kids. Of course since this was totally last minute, I did not have my camera with me. I had to use my old yucky iPhone 3GS which takes horrible pictures. But I think you can get a sense of how beautiful this place is. I was in awe the whole time I was in there. The staff inside were awesome and told fantastic stories. They showed us little secret spaces and shared lots of fun little facts about each room.





We had such a great time walking around the grounds of the castle. We plan on going back and having a picnic in one of the picnic areas. This time we had some lunch at the small restaurant on the property. The kids loved their chicken nuggets and fries. If you are looking for a nice place for a day trip I would totally pack a cooler and check this place out.



If you have been to Gillette Castle State Park leave me a comment.
I’d love to hear what you loved about it!

cheryl
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