Posts by jen:

Kids Bowl Free

KidsBowlFree

Kids Bowl Free, 2 games per day, all summer long with the Kids Bowl Free 2016 program and I will not SPARE you the details!

I signed up my family last week and we have already been twice because Irvine Lanes‘ program happens to run now through September 11th! Super fun. And you certainly can’t beat free. Here’s how to sign up.

Kids Bowl Free 2016

1. Click here to go to the KidsBowlFree.com website.

2. Click on your State and bowling center of choice. Every bowling center is different so select yours and you can find dates, hours and times to the right.

3. Enter your info to sign up. If you are feeling charitable, put in my email address in the gray referrer box, I think they draw prizes for referrals or something of the sort. I like prizes, thanks.  My email is jennifer @ tinyoranges.com.

4. You can enter up to 6 kids on your sign-up so I also added in some friends that will likely be hanging out with us this summer.

5. Consider purchasing the Unlimited Family Pass. For $26/total, I had the option to purchase unlimited bowling (same deal as for the kids) for FOUR adults. I did this because I happen to think bowling is fun and wouldn’t want to just sit and watch my kiddos all summer!  Again, check the fine print before you purchase.

6. Shoes not included. We did have to pay the shoe rental ($4pp) but the guy at Irvine Lanes told me I could purchase unlimited shoe rental to go with the program for $12pp total. I bought this because we have already been twice. By the time summer hits, it will be paid for and totally free. Minus the $2.75 I will likely shell out for some french fries after enduring begging from the kids.

7. Show up with your printed coupons or show your coupons on your smart phone, then BOWL your heart out!!!  Just make sure to check the hours and days before you go. We went on a rainy day during Spring Break and there was about a 20 minute wait.

www.kidsbowlfree.com

Babysitting 101

how to be a great babysitter

This post is for any young girl (or boy) looking for tips on how to be a great babysitter from a mom’s point of view.  It is actually pretty simple, but some things might not be obvious, that’s why I am giving you the scoop. For my moms reading this with girls coming into babysitting age, please share these tips with them. Moms everywhere will thank you.

How to be a Great Babysitter

(and get hired over and over again!)

1. Be Punctual

Always, always be on time, if not, a couple (not 10, a couple) minutes early. Most times parents have somewhere to be.

2. Put Your Phone Down

Once they are old enough to talk, kids will tell exactly what went down when you were there.  If you sit on the couch looking at your phone, we will know.  We don’t want to pay you to sit on your phone and ignore the kids.

3. Be Game

The most fun thing about a great babysitter is the opportunity for kids to be able to “play” with an older kid or young adult.  If the kids want to play beauty salon, be game and play along! As a bonus, the 50 small pigtails in your hair just might be your new favorite look.

4. Come Up with Something Novel to Play

Kids love new games. Whether you bring a new coloring book you picked up at the Dollar Store, teach them a new game, or how to build the best fort, novelty wins you big points with the kiddos.

5. Take the Bedtime Seriously

If I tell you to please have the kids in bed at 8:00pm, please do it. There’s nothing worse than walking into a house after an evening out to find your kids awake when they were supposed to be asleep long ago. You might not realize what a kid on one hour less sleep might look like the next day because you don’t have to deal with them but we do. We are paying good money to bypass the bedtime routine and antics for a night, please take this seriously.

6. Provide a Brief Food/Sleep Summary 

I appreciate a recap of anything regarding food or sleep.  When kids went down, how long they napped, what time they last ate, etc. Any info that might help us as far as sleep or food is concerned helpful to a mom. For example, if Johnny didn’t eat much of his lunch, tell me. That way I will know he might need a snack soon.  Moms rely on food and sleep to assess their kid’s moods a lot of time, help us fill in the blanks while we were gone.

7. Use Common Sense 

Safety is of course number one. If something is unsafe, please don’t let the kids do it. If a child tells you they usually get seconds on their ice cream, don’t give it to them. Just use your common sense and don’t hesitate to tell the kids NO when needed.

8. TIDY UP!

It is a mom’s dream to return to a home more tidy than when she left.  We are not talking deep cleaning. We are not talking about completely organized.  Just picked up and tidy. Put the dishes in the dishwasher, clean the pots you used to cook dinner, pick up the toys/art crap/books, whatever.  Even if it is “fake clean” and in a neat pile against the wall because you don’t know where it goes, we don’t care. The illusion is that the house is picked up is enough for us.

If the kids are old enough to help, make it a game 1/2 hour before the parent is due home. You can bring along stickers as incentive. It’s silly what kids will do for a sticker.  Have them show you where things go.  For a mom to return home to a picked up house is like a slice of HEAVEN. We might just shed a tear of gratitude.  It means that much, seriously.

Do these things girls (and boys) and you might just be the most sought-after sitter on the block! Your turn mamas, what do you look for in a great babysitter?

Barn to Backyard

Reclaimed Wood Orange County

Last summer my husband and I did a little project and renovated our backyard.  One of the things we added is a concrete bench and fire pit, my new happy place.

When designing how we wanted it to look, I didn’t want the back of the bench to also be concrete given we were already pretty concrete-heavy in our design.  I have fallen in love with the modern rustic farmhouse design elements as of late so I wanted to pull in some wood to warm up our space.

Reclaimed Wood Orange County

I told my husband I wished we could find reclaimed wood somewhere in Orange County, but where? After some Google searching, he found a company called U.S. Reclaimed in Laguna Niguel that sells just that – reclaimed wood! Yippee!

One step into the giant U.S. Reclaimed warehouse and I swear I got goosebumps when I gazed at the fabulous pieces of beat up, character-rich wood.

No one piece the same as the next.

wood

The company is owned by a guy named Ben and his darling wife. Ben asked us what we were doing and helped us pull different pieces to lay out together until we found the exact combination we wanted. Look at how GORGEOUS!

reclaimed wood bench

Ben shared that his company seeks out vintage structures, like barns, sawmills, etc. and will break them down carefully to reclaim the lumber for use in modern projects.  All of the lumber is at least 100 years old.

If those boards could talk…

reclaimed lumber

We found the perfect mix of 6 complementary boards and had them mounted on brackets to create a back for the bench. Every time I sit out there I notice new imperfections and marvel at the saw marks.

bench crop

We chose not to treat the wood because we wanted it to weather naturally and it has turned into a really pretty gray which blends in nicely with the concrete on the bench contrasts with the redwood on our back fence. Notice the saw marks…

reclaimed wood bench DIY

Reclaimed Wood Floating Shelves

As we continued to work on the backyard, my husband built a new garden against our back wall. And a LOT of stucco. I thought it might be cool to do some of the U.S. Reclaimed thicker pieces and do hanging selvesto break up the sea of stucco and give the wall a little interest.

That, and I wanted an excuse to go back to U.S. Reclaimed again! Of course, Ben had the perfect materials for us. Now how was I going to choose?

shelf

Once again, he helped us find the right piece with the right character and dimensions and this is how the shelves turned out above our garden. Note: the garden itself is not made of reclaimed wood, just the floating shelves above.

reclaimed wood floating shelves

Look at the beautiful marks on the edge…

floating garden shelf

Thank you for letting me share our projects and my love for U.S. Reclaimed – your go-to spot for reclaimed wood in Orange County.

www.usreclaimed.com

It’s So S’well

swell-bottles

Recently my hair stylist and knower of all the coolest and latest things, Tera Rae Stephens, was sipping her water at the salon out of the most fabulous looking water bottle. I asked where she got it and she exclaimed, “You don’t know about S’well bottles?!?!” And she went on to profess how it was the BEST water bottle ever and said, “Jen you NEED one!”

So I went and ordered one for myself for Valentine’s Day and give it to my husband to wrap up. We’re really romantic like that. But hey, it was the BEST gift ever! I carry my S’well bottle everywhere!

Why the S’well is SO Swell   

1. They come in 3 sizes: 9 oz, 17 oz + 25 oz. I bought myself the 25 oz and LOVE it. I keep it in the car, take to the gym, basically my S’well goes wherever I do.  (Fun fact: It also holds a bottle of chardonnay and will keep chilled for 24 hours. Just sayin’.)

2. It has a screw on top that DOES NOT LEAK. I can’t tell you how many water bottles I have cycled through over the years and had to end up tossing them because of leakage issues. This one doesn’t.

3. They keep cold beverages cold, like ice cold, for 24 hours and hot beverages hot for up to 12 hours.

4. Feel good fact: S’well is a charitable parter of organizations like Unicef donating money to fund clean water for children who need it.

They are not cheap, but you will get your money’s worth, I promise.

And on the note of other things SWELL, Tera just opened her own salon in the newly renovated areas of Lido Marina Village called TReSs Apothecary + Salon. Gals, it is amazing. She is working on carrying the S’well bottles in her retail section, so if you are local, pop in and check out her fabulous new space. Also be sure to follow @tressapothocary on Instagram for some amazing eye candy.

Our Central Coast California Mission Trip

 

 

My oldest is in 4th grade, the year kids do a California mission project, so I made it MY mission to research the best California missions to visit with kids so we could make it a family mission trip to see one. We ended up visiting La Purisima Mission in Lompoc and had the MOST fun on our little 3-night Central Coast California mission road trip so I wanted to share our experience for any families looking for great California mission trips for kids.

la purisima mission

Day One:  Orange County to La Purisima Mission

We left on Sunday morning and make it to La Purisima Mission in about 4 hours.

La Purisima Mission is open from 9am – 5pm every day with the exception of a few holidays and special history days. Free guided tours are conducted every day at 1:00pm.   Free self-guided tours are welcome during open hours.  Parking was $6.

Tip -> Check out library books on the mission before your trip!

It’s fun to be able to have a little history and back story on the mission before you arrive so you can fully appreciate getting to see some of the things you read about in person.

la purisima mission tour

Tip -> Take the La Purisima Free Guided Tour at 1:00pm!

The guided tour starts at the Visitors Center.  Online it says it is 60 – 90 minutes, but ours was a full two hours. Our tour guide was very thorough and let the kids (and adults) do cool things like ring the mission bell.  La Purisima is the only California mission that allows this!

The tour guide shared so much information that we would not have gotten on a self-guided tour.  Highly recommend.

La Purisima Mission Grounds

La Purisima is the most historically restored missions of all the California missions and its beauty took my breath away. It’s out in the middle of farm land, so visitors can get an authentic feel for what it would have been like to live there in the 1800’s.  For kids, I think this was such a great mission to visit for this reason.

When we walked into the original church and mission rooms, the old wood and architecture gave me the chills. I drool over farmhouse style home design and reclaimed wood so to see ceilings like this in its paint-chipped antique splendor was for me, one of the highlights.

la purisima architecture

la purisima mission church

Each year in the fall they also hold special Candlelight tours where visitors can go at night and experience the mission by candlelight and step back in time to experience the smells and sounds of mission life. I have to do this one year.

The tour was fabulous and the setting made it a perfect place to learn about La Purisma’s history by actually being able to walk through each and every space of the mission. It was the PERFECT California mission to visit with kids.

I was so excited about La Purisima I wanted to do my own Mom Mission Report, thus the need for this blog!

Solvang for Dinner 

That afternoon we backtracked into Solvang for dinner, about a 25 minute drive from Lompoc.  I hadn’t been to Solvang since I was about 20 years old, and it has changed a LOT. I remember being being a really kitschy town with lots of windmills.  The windmills are still there, but the town has turned incredibly charming with lots of twinkle lights strung at night and lots of dining options. Definitely a fun outing with the family.

We went casual and ate at the Solvang Brewing Company.

solvang

Where to Stay in Lompoc

Our final destination was Pismo Beach, but since it had been a long day driving up and then touring, we decided to stay the night in downtown Lompoc. What’s in Lompoc you might ask? Not much. But I did find the O’Cairns Inn & Suites which was highly reviewed on Trip Advisor and a very pleasant surprise! Rooms were clean and comfy and price couldn’t be beat (especially with the added AAA discount).  They also include free sodas, waters, snacks, movies, popcorn, two adult drinks per night per guest and a full made to order cooked breakfast.

Bonus – > The family-friendly bar also had foosball, pool, shuffle board and karaoke. Classic.

Day Two: Lompoc to Pismo Beach 

After our full free breakfast at O’Cairns we hit the road to make it to Pismo, about a 50 minute drive North.  We were too early to check in at the hotel, so we visited the Avila Valley Barn where we found lots of animals to feed and pet, a darling country store, fresh corn on the cob hot off the grill and hay rides for $1. Cute, and inexpensive outing.

avila valley barn

Where to Stay in Pismo Beach with Kids

After lots of internet searching and after getting a personal recommendation from a friend who visits Pismo a lot, we decided to stay at the SeaCrest Oceanfront hotel.  Smack dab on the ocean cliffs with a stunning view.

We decided to pay a little more and book a family suite which included one room with a King bed and a separate room with two twin beds, its own TV and a door that shuts.  For a family of four it was perfection. This was the view from our patio with the girls picnicking under the shade of the palm tree.

seacrest pismo beach

Even better we got a room on the ground floor and had a patio that opened up to a huge grassy area in front of the pool. Girls ran around on that grass and played for HOURS while we sat on the porch and watched them.  The SeaCrest has steps down to the beach right on the property, so we also enjoyed some afternoon beach time on an 85 degree February day.

That night we walked (a little over 1/2 mile) to have dinner at Giuseppe’s Pismo Beach. Good family-friendly Italian food with awesome service.

pismo beach

Day Three: Pismo Beach + San Luis Obispo 

The next morning after a yummy (included) continental breakfast at the hotel, we took a walk on the beach. The girls found ELEVEN whole sand dollars which to them was pretty awesome seeing that we have never been able to find a whole one in OC. Thrilling.

Next we visited the Pismo Beach Monach Butterfly Grove, where you can walk around and look at the Monarchs.  Girls were not super enthralled with this outing, but I thought it was cool! Then we walked from the butterflies down to the beach where you can get closer to see the sand dunes.  The beach is stunning. This is one of my favorite photos of the girls from the trip.

girlsintree2 San Luis Obispo is a short drive from Pismo so we decided to go into town and see Mission San Luis Obispo and grab some lunch.

Downtown San Luis Obispo is a really cute college town and the Mission is right in the middle of the action.  This mission was completely night and day different from Lompoc given its location in town and it felt more like a museum. It was cool to experience both since they were so different.

mission san luis obispo

In town, we had lunch at Splash Cafe. Hands down the BEST clam chowder I have ever had. There’s also one on the main strip in Pismo Beach.  The clam chowder is a must experience if visiting Pismo or San Luis.

It was such a fun trip. I hope you might get to experience this area of California with your family sometime too!

Please comment below if you have taken your family on a California mission trip and where you went.  I am slightly obsessed with them now. I might want to visit all 21.

family California mission trip

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