Friday, April 29, 2016

Hotel Viking in Newport, Rhode Island: Fun for Kids and Grown Ups Alike!

This April, Zoe Monster was turning eight and I was on a mission to make it her best birthday ever. Besides the super surprise party I had up my sleeve (coming soon to the blog,) I also wanted to make the most of April vacation and maybe get away for a night for some birthday festivities. I thought neighboring Newport may be fun, but wasn't exactly sure how kid friendly the hotels would be. I decided to do some research, and when I read up on Hotel Viking, I knew we had our destination.

Nestled right in the middle of the touristy section of Newport, Hotel Viking is a gorgeous and newly renovated hotel, offering all the class and charm of Newport, but also appealing to children. The hotel offers an indoor pool, spa services for children, and a kids club which offers the littlest guests a bag full of goodies upon check in. We booked our room for Zoe's birthday night and headed up. The hotel is absolutely beautiful, but not so stuffy that I was afraid of my Monsters destroying the place. The entire hotel was full of parents with children and enjoying all Newport has to offer. Our room was decorated in various black and white patterns with vintage prints on the wall. Two double beds would be perfect for some birthday R & R!

Although Zoe was itching to swim, we decided to walk down to Thames Street to grab early dinner first, and we were able to walk from our hotel in less than five minutes! We hit up the local arcade, did some shopping, and feasted on pizza before heading back for a dip in the warm indoor pool. The girls made some little friends in the pool and enjoyed a nighttime game of Marco Polo.

After a great night's sleep, we spent the morning at Spa Fjor. The spa offers kids manicures and pedicures and the girls loved indulging in their manicures. Our nail technician was beyond sweet to the girls and I absolutely loved that the spa does not cross contaminate nail polishes, instead giving you the bottle you choose to take home with you. The spa was a perfect way to wrap up our stay at Hotel Viking.

I cannot recommend Hotel Viking enough. With summer creeping up, this is the perfect summer getaway for parents. The kids club has so many perks including:

Complimentary Breakfast for children under 12 with adult purchase
Kids’ Club Welcome Bag upon arrival
Indoor pool (and whirlpool)
Seasonal Family Fun Room
Children’s Prince and Princess Menu of Services at SpaFjör
Children’s menu in One Bellevue Restaurant
Discounts to Area Attractions
Seasonal activities or crafts

When booking your summer travel, take advantage of the beauty of Newport and the luxurious and kid friendly Hotel won't regret it!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Is The Jungle Book Kid Appropriate?

Just got back from seeing The Jungle Book with The Monsters and I thought I would let you know my thoughts and answer the question: can I take my small children to this? The new version follows the original Disney cartoon pretty similarly with some slight changes to Mowgli's back story. The film starts with Mowgli's life amongst the wolves until Shere Khan arrives threatening the "man cub." Mowgli then wanders the jungle for a bit before encountering a new friend, a lazy bear Baloo. I won't say any more about the plot as not to ruin any of the changes from the cartoon version. I will say this, the CGI of the animals is AMAZING! You will not believe how realistic all of the creatures look. All of the voice acting was perfect too; although, I am particularly partial to Bill Murray's take on Baloo.

So, is this PG version of The Jungle Book kid friendly? I would say yes. We took both girls and Lea was okay throughout. There are definitely some intense scenes, especially one part that involves fire, so just know your child. If they are easily afraid, then maybe skip it, but it is on par with any other Disney scary scenes.

The film is also very frank about death, using words like "killed" and "died" so this may be a conversation you want to have prior to seeing the film if your kids haven't learned much about those topics yet. When all is considered, I definitely recommend the movie for most kids five and up. Check out The Jungle Book, in theaters now, and make sure you stay for some fun filled credits!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Buying Your First Home: Do You Really Need a Realtor?

Once Alex and I got our pre approval, we immediately began looking on Zillow for homes. We were about as green as it gets to the home buying process and had no idea how realtors worked or if we even needed one. I figured that we would just go see houses we liked on our own....piece of cake! Even though I was pretty positive that I did not in any way, shape, or form need a realtor, I asked one of my friends from work who he had used when he very recently purchased his own first home. He highly recommended his agent, Nicole Wood. He told me how easy she made the entire process and how helpful she was. I decided to check it out...just in case I was wrong. Well, as I sit in the comfort of our new home, let me tell you how absolutely wrong I was. We definitely needed Nicole every step of the way. If you are looking to buy, you 100% need your own real estate agent. Let me break it down for you:

  1. A buyer's agent is absolutely different than a seller's agent. Sure, you can just contact the agent listed on Zillow who is managing a listing, but that agent is representing the seller, not you. They have the seller's interests in mind and are out to sell that particular property no matter how right it may be for you and your family. Nicole made sure that she directed us towards houses that were right for us. If we ended up seeing a house that was, well, gross, she got us out of there quick. A buyer's agent wants to make a sale too, but they are much more willing to find you the home of your dreams!
  2. Nicole sent us emails every morning of all the updated listings in the area's we were looking for. This was huge! The house we ultimately ended up buying we saw in that email first. Also, whenever we wanted to see a house, Nicole arranged it for us around our crazy schedules. I have no idea if would have ever been able to arrange that on our own!
  3. A buyer's agent goes above and beyond...for you! Nicole was amazing, helping us every step of the way. She arranged our inspections and fire certificates. She helped us know exactly what needed to be done prior to our appraisal. I texted Nicole more than my own husband in the month that we were getting ready to sign. The constant check ins from her and all the time contact helped me feel much more at ease during the whole process. When we had a last minute snafu with the closing attorney, Nicole handled it like a champ. 
  4. You do not pay for all these amazing benefits! Real estate agents work on commissions from the sales of the house, so you don't pay any more or less for your home regardless if you hire your own agent or not. Why wouldn't you hire someone with your best interests in mind? I only wish Nicole didn't have to split the commission with the seller's agent because she literally did everything for this sale (we never even met the seller's agent once!)
I hope it  is clear to see that your absolutely need your own real estate agent as one of the first steps in the home buying process. If you live the southcoast area, I cannot say enough about Nicole and am linking her contact information below. Stay tuned for our next installment on all the paperwork and secret costs to buying a home.

Nicole Wood - Realtor 
Real Estate Agent
Re/Max Right Choice
875 State Rd. Westport, Ma 
570 Robeson St. Fall River, Ma

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Buying Our First Home: The First Steps

Are we really ready for this?
Can you believe at the ripe old age of 33, I had never lived in a real house. My upbringing was always in an apartment and then the hubby and I have been renting various places since we met. To be honest with you, it never really bothered me. The husband however was starting to anxious around fall of 2015. We started to talk a lot about how we wanted to have a home to enjoy while the Monsters were still young enough to enjoy it. One of my friends at work told me about Rhode Island's first time homebuyers program and I decided to apply for preapproval  on a whim shortly before Christmas. I had no clue if we would be approved or for how much if we were. I was, in a word, unhopeful. Nonetheless, I submitted the short application and our tax record and then sort of forgot about it all. Shortly after the new year. I got the big news:

Not only were we approved but we were approved for well over the amount that we were looking to spend. Seeing such a big number attached to our spending ability was a little crazy. Here is where I will give you my first piece of home buying advice: Just because you are approved for a certain amount, you don't need to spend that amount. I almost immediately saw little dollar signs flickering in Alex's eyes and he was on Zillow looking at homes that I knew were out of our price point. You can get a pretty good idea on Zillow or Trulia of how much your mortgage payment will be, so use that knowledge! Once I calmed Spendy Mcspenderton off his ledge, we came up with a number in mind and a couple of towns that we wanted to live in. It was now time to hire a realtor.

Do you really need a realtor?
Read all about it in the next post in this series...coming soon!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Good Dinosaur is a Pixar Instant Classic: Available on Home Release Now!

I was super happy to pick up my copy of The Good Dinosaur this week on DVD. I think the adventures of Arlo and Spot solidify The Good Dinosaur as an instant Disney Pixar classic! 
The Good Dinosaur asks the question: What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) is a happy but terrified Apatosaurus living with his family, but when a devastating moment happens in Arlo's life, he must face his fears and navigate some harsh landscapes with the help of his new "critter," a human boy named Spot (Jack Bright) who is very much akin to a rascally puppy.

This is one of the best and funnest scenes in the movie featuring The Collector...
The movie is the prefect blend of heartfelt emotional moments, action, and comedy. I was very much surprised by the emotional punch of the first act of the film which rivals the feels that Inside Out gave. A slight warning, this movie does have one very sad moment that could upset some, but I promise that the payoff of Arlo's journey is worth it. One of the best moments in the film happens when Arlo and Spot find a way to communicate about their shared struggles despite Spot not being able to speak like Arlo; the facial animation in this scene is so emotional. There are also tons of laughs and plenty of action in the movie too!

So many feels!
The Good Dinosaur is a movie that all ages will enjoy, but I have to say I loved how this felt very much like a "boy movie" which Disney-Pixar hasn't put out in a while. The focus on friendships and father-son relationships is something that little boys will love being able to relate to. The message of leaving one's mark in the world is a powerful one for all kids. The home release also features the amazing short Sanjay's Super Team which is one of the strongest shorts since The Paperman.

Go Sanjay!
The Monsters have had the DVD on repeat all this week and I'm sure your kids will do the same. Pick up a copy of The Good Dinosaur today, available everywhere Disney movies are sold as well as digitally.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

We had a Great Winter Break at Loon!

We love Loon Mountain and the Mountain Club on Loon and swore to return after our last trip there so Miss Zoe could really have a blast. None of us had ever done a real winter ski vacation so we headed back to the ever hospitable Mountain Club on Loon this February vacation. As always the room was impeccable. The Mountain Club really makes sure that families are comfortable in their spacious suites. The girls each had their own bed in one room while Alex and I had a full master bedroom. Both offered amazing views of the mountainside and ski action which the girls loved. There were also two bathrooms and a full kitchen. As a vegan family, having a kitchen in your hotel is a huge benefit and we used it every night.

Someone was happy to be back!

Our bedroom view!
Since Miss Zoe wasn't sick this time, we spent a ton of time at the pool as well. The indoor heated pool was full of happy kids swimming, while the outdoor hot tub gave adults a chance to unwind and stay warm despite the chilly mountain air. I also got a chance to order some food this trip from The Black Diamond Pub. We ordered some beer and apps and enjoyed all of it (my excitement over them offering tater tots as a side truly should have been caught on film!)

Most exciting of all was definitely out snowy adventures as a family. Our first day, we all took skiing lessons. Alex and I were grouped together for some adult lessons while we dropped the girls off for their own. Zoe took a half day ski lesson with kids her age. I could actually see a lot of her lesson because we were on the same bunny trail together and she was having a blast. Her instructor Didi was very kind and helpful with her. It was Lea, however, who had the most action packed day of all of us. She was part of the full day kinderbear program where she was grouped with other 4-5 year-olds where she learned how to ski but also got some fun playtime with the kids too. She was so proud of herself when we picked her up telling me, "I am so good at skiing!"

So many amazing kids programs!

The next day, Alex and Zoe hit up the adventure center where they did some crazy winter ziplining. I couldn't believe my eyes when I witnessed Zoe volunteer to go first in a group of all adults. Seeing her fly across the river was a very proud momma moment. The adventure center offers tons of other fun things too like ice skating, snowshoeing, and indoor rock climbing. There is just so much to do at Loon!

I can't even believe this girl!
Like I mentioned in another post, the best thing about Loon is definitely the people. Whether it was Mike at the hotel, or Greg who was awesome enough to show us around the mountain, or any of the great instructors we had, everyone at Loon treats the guests like gold. I cannot recommend this place enough. There is still time to get some spring skiing in and summer fun is right around the corner so book yourself a suite at the Mountain Club and get ready for some great fun on Loon Mountain. Tell them the Monsters sent you!