Category: Travel

A Weekend Mountain Getaway

Last weekend Chris and I took a much needed weekend away — away from house stuff, Internet, and yes, even our baby (she had an awesome time with her grandparents). It was so nice not to have to do dishes, do housework, or change diapers, and so refreshing to sleep in for a weekend! Not to mention having so much time to talk about anything and everything that was on our minds =), something we haven’t had enough off these days.


We went to Idyllwild, which is a town nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains. It is a really beautiful area with lots of nature walks. I loved the cooler fall weather up there (I grew up in Toronto, Canada, and fall is my favorite season) as well as the shows of bright yellows and golds as the leaves changed colors.

(I always want to spell it “Idlewild” instead of “Idyllwild”…Idlewild was a location in one of the Anne of Green Gables books, I think.)


We stayed at the Peaceful Mountain Inn, in one of these cute A-frame cabins. If you ever go, try to get one of the rooms off the back with a view. We didn’t have a view but it was a quick walk over to this amazing vista:


So pretty, right? The inn was REALLY peaceful for the first night because we were the only people there, but the second night, Peaceful Mountain Inn wasn’t quite as peaceful. The people in the unit adjoining ours starting playing music and having a little get-together with their friends, though thankfully they stopped at a decent hour.


I had to take some pictures of the main lodge because it is the cutest.


They had some rustic mountain decor going on.


We spent a lot of time sitting around, reading magazines, talking, just hanging out, which was just what the doctor ordered! Slept in…which was SO nice for me as I have chronic insomnia.

As we were driving through the woods there were all these adorable little cabins and cottages. This one caught my eye and we paused for a quick photo op.


Isn’t it just so cozy? I want to go to there. I love how this cabin is rustic and cute but doesn’t have all the gingerbread (fake Alpine) trim.

This is now my go-to happy place at night when I’m drifting off to sleep (or at least, trying to drift off). It’s fun imagining what the interior is like and all the cozy, comforting, non-stressful activities going on within, like sitting in front of the fireplace while knitting (if I knew how to knit). Or sipping hot cider. Or reading a good book. Everyone needs a happy place to go to when you’re falling asleep, right? Or am I just weird?

Hope you all had a great Halloween! I’ll be back next week with some Christmas crafts (What, it’s not too early! It’s my favorite holiday!) so I’ll see you all then!


How to Entertain a Toddler on the Plane

I’m not gonna lie. Flying with a toddler isn’t fun. Especially when you haven’t bought a seat for her (Baby Brownie is 1.5 years old) and your husband isn’t with you. BUT(!) I am grateful that I thought ahead and prepared lots of activities for my daughter to go through to keep her entertained and out of trouble. If you’re planning a trip with an active toddler, here’s what I found worked best with my little girl.

1. Stickers!

Baby Brownie’s at the age where stickers are fascinating. I brought books full of stickers of all sorts. She loved peeling them off the paper, sticking them on herself and on me, as well as on everything else she could reach. We played a game where I would say a body part and she’d try to put a sticker on it.

drawing board

2. Magnetic Drawing Board

Baby Brownie loved it when I pulled out a magnetic drawing board for her to play with (the one I have is not in color, and it’s by Lakeshore, but you get the picture). She quickly grasped how to draw with the stylus and pull the tab to erase her scribbles. When she was bored of scribbling with it, I drew shapes, animals, and flowers for her, which kept her occupied for a while. My magnetic board was lightweight, so perfect for the plane.

felt board house

3. Felt Board

The DIY felt board I made before we left was a big hit! My girl loved the face side best — putting eyes, nose, and mouth on the face. She made some pretty interesting Picasso-esque faces =). When she was done playing, she had a blast putting every piece, one by one, back into the plastic zipper bag.

ikea finger puppets

4. Finger Puppets

The inexpensive finger puppets from IKEA are perfect for the plane — they’re small, lightweight, interesting, and cuddly. We sang “Old Macdonald” with them, and Baby Brownie practiced putting them on her fingers. They were also a fun item for her to take out of and put in a plastic bag while we practiced counting. When it was time to nap, I put Baby Brownie in the Ergo and rocked her while she clutched one of the little animals.

5. Books

A few light, thin, paper books occupied my toddler for a little while. Leave the board books at home; they’re too heavy!

mr potato head

6. Small Toys

We found a mini Mr. Potato Head(R) at Dollarama in Canada (although it was $3), and it was surprisingly fun for Baby Brownie. She loved concentrating on sticking the arms and legs into the right holes. If you have a little toy like this that your toddler hasn’t played with yet, save it to give to her on the plane so that it will be fresh and interesting.

my first songs

7. Iphone Apps

Yes, I resorted to the Iphone. Even though all the other toys occupied her for much of the ride, sometimes I just needed a break from the constant interaction and teary toddler meltdowns. Hello, electronic babysitter.

The best app I found for my 1.5 year old was this one called “My First Songs” by Ringzero. It has a bunch of catchy songs like “Old Macdonald”, “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”, “B-I-N-G-O” with amazing 3D animations. The animations are really cute and the song arrangements are catchy. There’s even a little game where you tap to the rhythm of the music, so it would be great for older kids too. It’s $2.99, which is well worth it, but you can download the “lite” version for free. I also had a few free Fisher-Price apps on there but “My First Songs” definitely kept her entertained the longest.

8. Ice Cubes

My husband suggested that I add this as an update because it really did entertain my daughter for at least half an hour. We asked the flight attendant for a cup of ice cubes and my daughter had fun taking the ice cubes out of one cup and putting them into another. It’s the simple things…

Have you traveled with your toddler? What worked best to keep him/her occupied?

DIY Travel Felt Board

My toddler and I are planning a trip to see my folks in Toronto pretty soon. It’s about a 5 hour flight, but we have a layover in Chicago for about an hour and a half. I’m thinking, the layover is probably a good thing so Baby Brownie can run around and work out her excess energy. But I’m still dreading the flight.

Now that she loves to run around and play, Baby Brownie can’t sit still for long…especially not in my lap (we didn’t buy her a seat). And she loves to get into trouble and play with stuff she shouldn’t be messing with. Other moms I’ve talked to say to bring lots and lots of activities to keep her busy, so I’ve been putting together a bag full of travel activities. New toys, crayons, stickers, books… and I saw this awesome idea for a DIY felt board so I made one to bring along.

diy travel felt board

I got this idea from a friend who got it from a blog but I can’t for the life of me find that blog again!!! So I’m very very sorry if I stole your idea. Just let me know and I’ll give you the credit!

Also, this felt board is NO SEW, which makes it really easy.


Various colors of craft felt, including at least two (2) 8.5 x 11″ pieces.
Fabric glue

felt board stuffing

I decided to stuff my felt board with batting to stiffen it a little but still keep it soft and plush and foldable. I just cut a rectangle of polyester batting a little smaller than my two 8.5 x 11″ pieces of felt, sandwiched it between the felt, and glued the edges of the felt with a bead of fabric glue.

felt board house

The rest was super simple. I just cut out some triangles, rectangles, and squares to make a house. I cut out other shapes to make a sun, moon, star, cloud, and tree. The components of the tree and the sun are glued together to make it easier for my daughter to recognize. The grass is glued down too. Everything else is loose so she can place them wherever she wants. When I have time I want to make a little cat and dog too.

felt board face bald

For the other side of the felt board I cut out a head shape (yes it’s silly-looking, but Baby Brownie doesn’t care) and eyes, nose, mouth, and eyebrows. The components of the eyes are glued together.

felt board face

Also, this silly bowl haircut. When I have time I’m going to make other versions of mouth, eyes, hair (maybe with yarn glued on) so she can change it up.

Everything fits really nicely into a large freezer bag, and it’s lightweight so it’s ideal for bringing traveling. You can make all sorts of scenes…your imagination’s the limit! I might also make a barnyard scene with animals, although animals are quite a bit harder to cut out than simple geometric shapes.

Any tips for traveling with toddlers? Any must-bring toys? Any advice would be appreciated!

Frugal Chinese Papercut Art



While we were in Shanghai we went to visit Tian Zi Fang, an art district located in the French Concession. The stone houses date from the 1930s and the area just feels like “Old Shanghai”, whatever that means…I wasn’t in Shanghai in the 30s, but it seems like it would be an exciting time to experience. It would be fun to “Midnight in Paris” it.


There are lots of shops selling trinkets and tourist kitsch, but there are also some great shops specializing in photography, art, designer fashion, and traditional handicrafts. We picked up several Chinese papercuts, a traditional Chinese art, to the tune of 3 for 100RMB (about $16 USD). The intricate designs are hand cut onto tissue-thin paper. Of course, the cynic in me says that they could easily have been factory-cut and who would know the difference, but I choose to believe that they are really hand-cut (hee hee).

When we got home, I removed the papercuts from their packaging and used a tiny dab with a glue stick to glue them onto a watercolor paper backing, which is a higher-quality paper than what they were packaged in. Then I framed them using IKEA FJALLSTA frames. They look great! Much better than how they were displayed in the store (grayish cheap paper backing, plastic frames). They really look like art on their own right now.

The red one above with the goldfish is going to be a Christmas gift for Chris’ grandmother. It’s pretty, unique, and frugal. My favorite kind of gift =).

Look, We Traveled to China With an 8-Month-Old!

Despite our many misgivings beforehand (What were we thinking? We are insane.), we successfully toted our tot to China and back. Now that we’re finally over the jet lag, I can talk about it. Just kidding. Traveling to China with a baby actually wasn’t that bad.

I have to give credit to my angelic baby. Baby Brownie was amazing on the trip. Seriously, we heard so many horror stories about kids on the plane, we were prepared for 14 + 11 hours of absolute hell. But Baby Brownie surprised us by playing happily on our laps, smiling at all the people around her, and sleeping for 6 hours and 5 hours respectively on each leg of the round-trip flight.

The hard part was adjusting to the new time zone once we got there (and back). Our sleep schedules didn’t match up, so there were several nights where the baby was up in the middle of the night wanting to play. Fortunately, my parents met us in HK, so they were able to baby sit while we caught up on sleep.

The most helpful things we brought with?

1) The Ergo Baby Carrier — Baby Brownie pretty much lived in this thing for our whole trip. Hong Kong and Shanghai are not particularly stroller-friendly, so the carrier made things a lot easier when we were pushing through crowds on the subway or climbing flights of stairs. The baby could still see what was going on, but when she was tired she could put her head on Chris’ chest and nap. Perfect.

2) The Baby Bjorn Travel Crib — Not knowing what crib options would be available at hotels and friends’ apartments, I had much more peace of mind bringing the Baby Bjorn crib with us since I knew that the baby could sleep in it and that it was safe. Yes it took up half a suitcase, but it was light, and it was a consistent place to lay her down (on a trip full of inconsistencies).

3) Food — We also brought ALL of the formula and baby food she would need. While Hong Kong and Shanghai both have a wide variety of organic baby food, I didn’t want to waste time searching for it, nor did I want to pay inflated prices for imported food. We brought plenty of baby food pouches as well as oat cereal and Baby Brownie did great.

She had just started crawling before we left on the trip, so I was a little nervous that she would be ALL OVER THE PLACE on the plane, but she actually did really well in a small space. I think that it would be a lot harder to take her on such a long flight when she gets a little older and is more mobile.

We had a great time with friends and relatives who finally got to meet the baby for the first time! It was a perfect pre-Christmas trip! Now that we’ve done this, flying to Canada to visit my parents sounds like a piece of cake!

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