Country Living...Island Dreaming

August 31, 2013

Friday Food Focus

The process of switching over to Non-GMO foods can be hard.  I am the first to admit this.  It's not like you can go to a restaurant and say, "I would like the GMO free menu, please."  But I do love going to restaurants, especially when we are on vacation.  Of course I am sure the die-hard health conscious people would just tell me not to eat out in restaurants but at this point in my life I am not ready to give that up!

I am trying my hardest to make changes at home though.  I figure if I cook with organic food and we eat organic snacks while at home then I am heading in the right direction.

Like I have said, this is a journey for me and I am learning along the way.  By trying a different brand each week or highlighting a brand that I already use, I am reminding myself how important this journey is as well as helping you see that there are healthier choices out there.  Your welcome...

I will be back next week with the letter "M".

Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend!

If you would like to check out previous posts
in my GMO-free A to Z journey,
click on each letter below.



August 29, 2013

Last Hurrah

Summer sure is winding down fast isn't it?
School and flag football practice will be starting soon for us.

And the beaches basically have one more weekend left
 of the official tourist season.

In an effort to do my part to promote our great Jersey Shore
I am reminding all you local people to get down there!

Support all the businesses who have struggled
after Hurricane Sandy.
Things may not be completely back to normal
but they are getting there and need our help!

A couple weeks ago, the kids and I spent a morning at the Seaside Park beach right at the foot of the famous boardwalk.  We attended an event called Kites and Castles sponsored by the Stronger Than the Storm committee.  It was a wonderful family event held right on the beach.

Check out this awesome sand sculpture.
I made it.
Only kidding!
But we did attempt a few of our own.

The event coordinators provided shovels, buckets and some instruction on how to build a perfect castle.  Unfortunately, we just missed the instruction part so we were basically on our own!
(I bet the woman in blue would be thrilled to know I caught her in such a "flattering" pose - lol!)

The kids and I also had fun with the beanbag toss game.

But we passed on the homemade kite event.
The wind wasn't really strong enough that morning
although I see one person got it to work!

Overall, it was an enjoyable morning for all!

The Kites and Castles events took place in several shore towns during the month of August.  Some people in New Jersey criticize the "Stronger than the Storm" slogan and don't think enough is being done to help in the Hurricane rebuilding efforts.  I think it is wonderful to promote our beaches and to get people down there to help the local economy.

So I thought I would do my part
and remind everyone
to head to the Jersey Shore this weekend
for one last hurrah!

What are your weekend plans?

Linking to:
Fingerprints on the Fridge - Feature Yourself Friday
Serenity Now - Weekend Bloggy Reading Link Up
The Tablescaper - Oh the Places I've Been

August 27, 2013

Checking In...

Just in case you were wondering...
Doggies are not allowed on the beach!

I know, poor Rosie.
Don't worry.
She is getting plenty of attention this week!

Have a great Tuesday!


August 23, 2013

Friday Food Focus

Welcome to the Friday Food Focus
where each week I highlight GMO free brands
on my journey to go GMO free - A to Z!

The letter for this week is "L"!

And while the calendar may say late August,
It is Late July around here!

Face it, we all like to snack on chips every now and then.  I recently stumbled upon a fabulous brand of snacks called Late July.  I have always loved tortilla chips that have a hint of lime flavoring but I have given up those because of those nasty GMOs!  Late July chips are GMO free and absolutely delicious!

In addition to these chips,
we have also tried the Late July crackers
which are a great substitute for Ritz crackers.

And once again,
I am not being compensated in any way to mention these brands.

If you would like to check out previous posts
in my GMO-free A to Z journey,
click on each letter below.


Have you tried any good chips lately?

August 22, 2013

The "W" Hotel in Washington, DC

Since we all love gazing at different design styles,
I couldn't pass up the opportunity to give you a tour
of where we stayed on our trip to Washington, D.C.!

My husband has accumulated a ton of points from Starwood Hotels, so we knew we would choose a Westin or a W for our weekend accommodations.  Since the W - Hotel Washington is only 2 blocks from the White House, we decided that hotel would be the best fit.

The "W" Hotel Lobby - Washington, DC
This is the view and you are entering the lobby.
Lots of marble and some fun sparkly ceiling hangings.

 The rest of the lobby/lounge has more shimmering touches.

In the evening the whole room took on a purple glow.
Kind of a nightclub feeling.

Check out the chair!

The hotel room was small with a modern European feel
which is supposedly common for a W.
Lots of gray and white.

Very streamlined and ready for business.

And here is the purple chair.
I can't see myself buying one of these...

I loved the rooftop lounge
known as the POV lounge.
POV Lounge at the W Washington DC
A little too sophisticated for kids on a Friday happy hour.  Although, when we went back on Saturday after a day of museum hopping, it had a whole different vibe - more family friendly and casual.

Such a great spot for a drink.
And you really can't beat the view at sunset!  
Yes, there is the White House!

The room where they served breakfast had a fabulous view too!
(And the buffet was delish!)

Another amazing view!

Such a wonderful place to stay!

I love how they combined an old building with a dash of "W" to pull off a chic contemporary feel.  Although the hotel is not my design style (I am a little more traditional), I would stay there again in a second!  The staff was so accommodating and friendly, the hotel was spotless, and those beds...those Heavenly Westin beds!  Remind me to buy when of those when I replace my mattress! 

You really cannot beat the location!  We were walking distance to some of the greatest sights and restaurants in the city.  


August 20, 2013

Washington D.C. with Boys

This past weekend my husband and I took the boys
on their first trip to Washington, D.C.!

White House and other attractions in DC to see with kids

Each summer we like to take the kids on a special trip.  Last year, we took them to New York City and managed to pack in an amazing number of activities into one day.  You can read about that trip - HERE.  This year instead of one day (because that would be kind of difficult), we spent the whole weekend in DC.  

We left our house Friday morning for the 4 hour drive and arrived around lunch time.  We checked into our hotel, The W - Hotel Washington and headed down the street for lunch.

W - Hotel Washington DC

We arrived at the famous Old Ebbitt Grill 
and scored a table just before a whole crowd of people entered.
Old Ebbitt Grill - Washington DC
The food was exceptionally good.  They offered a more extensive lunch menu than you would expect from a historic restaurant which could probably draw crowds just from reputation alone.  Even though I am sure there were serious business lunches taking place, the bustling atmosphere allowed the establishment to be kid friendly as well.  They even provided the kids with activity menus to keep them busy.

After lunch it was time for sightseeing!  Just two blocks down the street was the attraction-of-all attractions...the White House!
Things to do with kids in Washington DC
The boys whipped out their ipods to take pictures.  Yeah.... it was no coincidence that they were dressed in red, white and blue on their first day in Washington!  

Next we walked through the city, passing the Washington Monument which happened to be undergoing some repairs due to the earthquake a couple years ago.
Scenes from Washington, CD - Washington Monument

And across town we headed to our next stop...

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and other attractions in DC to see with kids
This museum is a must-see for a trip with boys!

We explored the museum the entire rest of the afternoon.  The boys were captivated by every rocket, every airplane, the interactive exhibits and well...just about everything!

Air and Space Museum

By the time we were all about to collapse from exhaustion, we filed into the IMAX theatre for the showing of "The Dream is Alive" movie which focused on the flight of the space shuttle.  It was such a relief to sit down!

A few more exhibits and a trip to the gift shop pushed us over the edge of exhaustion so we grabbed a taxi back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.  Luckily our reservation was for 7:45 because I needed some time to relax and shower up for an evening out.  We had to take a taxi to the restaurant since it was up by Dupont Circle and none of us were in the mood for walking.  We arrived at Firefly, a charming neighborhood restaurant just in time to be seated.

I had read that the restaurant was kid friendly
but when I saw a little sign by the door, I wasn't too sure!
Firefly restaurant

But my fears were erased when the kids menu arrived along with a darling cookie to decorate.  The restaurant provided an unbaked cookie with all kinds of sugary candies to design a personal creation.  This kept them busy while we ordered and waited for the drinks to arrive.  Then the waiter took the cookie back to be baked and it arrived all ready to eat at dessert time.  A genius idea - and a huge hit with my kids!
Keeping the kids busy at dinner
I almost wanted one too!

Dinner was delicious although my chicken had a bit more garlic than I prefer.  I actually woke up with a "garlic hangover" the next morning.  I hope I didn't stand too close to anyone in the elevator.  I know...yuck!

But overall, Firefly was a great experience.  The front windows of the restaurant opened up to the street and the firefly theme was continued throughout the restaurant from the cute candles on the tables to the tree with lanterns hung on it.
Cute DC Restaurant - Firefly
The bill even arrived in a glowing mason jar...adorable.  The service was great and the place had a cheerful vibe to it.  Plus the kids loved it!

The next morning we walked down the block for breakfast at the Corner Bakery Cafe which was very similar to a Panera (popular where we live).  The cafe had a wide variety of breakfast options so we ordered some eggs, muffins, etc and sat down to eat while we planned our sightseeing.  The Lincoln Memorial was our first stop of the day....
Lincoln Memorial and other DC attractions
What impressive architecture.  I mean, I have been there before but its grand scale still takes my breath away!  And the kids were thrilled.  They couldn't wait to get up those stairs to the top!

Lincoln Memorial
I don't think the kids expected Lincoln to be so huge!

And they were equally excited by the view from the top of the stairs!
View of mall and reflecting pool - DC

We then walked along the reflection pool
and through the World War II War Memorial...
World War II Memorial - DC
(This picture reminds me of Ferris Bueller in the art museum.)

We continued down the mall 
where we spent almost the entire day.

Museum of Natural History

Yes, the dinosaurs were awesome!
Dinosaurs at DC Museum of Natural History

And the museum is the home of the Hope Diamond!
Hope Diamond and other DC attractions
I know, not a good picture...
I think my kids were disappointed because all they said was,
"Oh that's it?"
They must have expected a rock the size of a basketball or something!

But they did enjoy all the gemstone exhibits for some reason.  My older son is fascinated by science so he was quite excited with all the rock formations.  And of course the boys loved the wild animal sections and sea life.
DC Museum of Natural History

But we all really loved the 3D surfing movie, "The Ultimate Wave" which followed surfer, Kelly Slater on a Tahitian adventure.  Not a difficult guy to stare at - especially in 3D!  It was such a fun movie to watch!

But the day wasn't over yet because the kids wanted to stop at the National Aquarium.  This aquarium is not known for being huge or anything too special but we figured it was a nice place to stop on the way back to the hotel.  The Baltimore location is supposed to be the real one to see!  But the kids were thrilled anyway and it didn't take too long to walk through.

Then it was time to relax a bit so we headed up to the POV lounge at the top of the W for some hors d'oeuvres... 
and a refreshing cocktail for me!

But the best part of the lounging time was the view!

POV Bar View
That is the White House back there!

And here is the view of the Washington Monument.

Not a bad spot to have a snack!

We walked to Georgia Brown's for dinner that night.
Georgia Brown's is known for their Low Country Cuisine and was a wonderful experience for all of us.  The salmon with the mango salsa and fried Brussels sprouts were to die for!  We all tried something a little different and I was very impressed with my 9 year old for trying the salmon corn soup and loving it!  My 7 year old pretty much stuck to the fried chicken but I think he took a bite or two of the collard greens.  The staff was very attentive and we loved our friendly waiter.

The next morning we packed up, grabbed breakfast at the buffet upstairs and headed home.  Check out the room where the buffet was...
So - "W".  I think they use this room as a night club in the evenings!  

But once again, you can't beat the views!

We had a wonderful vacation and it was just the right amount of time to spend for a first trip to DC.  But let me tell you, we didn't even make a dent in all the sights you could see!  I am making a list for next time!

The boys have been talking non-stop about trip and the little special things they going downstairs to the gym with daddy.  They were thrilled to use the workout equipment and both came upstairs drinking cups of water and wearing white towels wrapped around their necks.  Just precious!

Here are a few of my tips for traveling to DC with kids:

Research what they want to see and have a plan before you go.  There are so many sights and museums to visit that it can be overwhelming!

The Smithsonian Museums are free but some museums that are not part of the mall charge an admission.  The National Aquarium was one of those that charge.

Be ready to walk!  There are bus tours available but if you want to see things on your own schedule and really experience the city, we found walking is the best way.  But like us, you may need to take a cab back at the end of the day.  

Make dinner reservations through before you leave for your vacation.  I was able to research kid-friendly restaurants easily and even changed reservation times from my iphone when we realized we needed to eat a little later.

Here are a few kid friendly things we want to do next time:

DC Duck Tours - We didn't have time but I would love to take the kids on a water tour of DC!

Smithsonian's Museum of American History - With my kids being huge Wizard of Oz fans, I can't believe we didn't get a chance to go see those ruby slippers!  LOL!  This is also the place to see all the presidential exhibits and learn all about American History.  As far as I am concerned this museum is a must see for a trip to Washington but like I said, you can only do so much!

Washington Monument - Next time we plan to go to the top for a view of the city.  We couldn't do it this time due to the repairs being made from the earthquake a couple years ago.

Oh there is just so much to see experience in that wonderful city!

What are your tips for must see attractions
 in Washington D.C.?

August 19, 2013

The Cardboard Boat Race

I mentioned last week
that the kids and I were working on this year's cardboard boat
for the annual Cardboard Boat Regatta at the pool.

We worked on the boat last Thursday
before hopping in the car and road-tripping to 
Washington D.C. for the weekend with the family.

We made it home yesterday
just in time for the "big race"!

This year we went with the Jet Star Roller Coaster theme!

I am sure you have heard of the Jet Star...the roller coaster that plunged into the ocean during Hurricane Sandy!  We thought it would be nice to honor the fallen coaster - and to celebrate our dear Jersey Shore.  

This year the kids were even more involved in the duct taping.  I had to refrain myself from smoothing out all the bumps and messy areas, but after all - this is a kids' project.  We added a flag to the back of our coaster to represent the flag that waved from the top of the real coaster stranded in the ocean.  You might remember, a man swam out to the coaster, climbed it and placed a flag on top where it remained until the structure was removed from the ocean a few months ago.

Our team wore the Restore the Shore T-Shirts as their "uniform"!

And they were ready to race!
Although, we had a last minute substitution
when my 7 year old got nervous.  
A friend was happy to fill in!
And they were off!

But then the Jet Star hit some rocky seas!

And the race was over
for Team Jersey Shore!
Well, there is always next year!

If you want to read about last year's race,
click - The Shark Boat.

Now as soon as I organize my Washington, D.C. pictures,
I will fill you in on our weekend getaway!

Do you have any special events at your local pool?

Linking to:
Jennifer Rizzo - Fabulously Creative Friday Linky Party
Blogger Template Created by pipdig