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If you are looking for a fairy-tale trip, then there is no more perfect a place to visit than Vienna. Vienna, Austria is rich in history, music and baroque architecture, but still has a modern feel to it in parts of the city. Picture a capital city as romantic as Paris but with a third of the crowd. A place as cosmopolitan as London but so much cleaner. It’s a dream come true and it’s all in Vienna, Austria. You’ll surely fall in love with Vienna at first sight, like I did!

If you’re not spending that much time in Vienna, you’ll definitely want to take a hop on, hop off bus tour like we did via Vienna Sightseeing. This is the most convenient and comfortable way to travel and pack in the main sights, especially if you are traveling with small kids! We got off at Schönbrunn Palace Vienna and Naschmarkt, and these are definitely two must-see destinations in Vienna.

 

Schönbrunn Palace Park

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The palace is the former summer residence of the Hapsburgs. If you take a tour of the palace and museum, you will learn about the royalty that lived here, particularly Franz Joseph who at 18 became ruler and survived the suicide of his son, the murder of his wife Sisi, and even throughout WWI. Austrian tales of yore got your attention yet?

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The palace park is huge and is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon or a day here. Amongst the gardens here you will see some of the most beautiful flower arrangements. There is also the Vienna Zoo inside the palace grounds that I am told is top notch, if zoos are your thing. We didn’t check this out because I have this weird thing about zoos. (I’m not a fan of animals being confined, and growing up in Chicago, I can go to Lincoln Park Zoo anytime which is free, so I for sure wouldn’t pay to go to another zoo.) However, it is free to enter the palace park!

Naschmarkt

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Our next hop off stop on the Vienna Sightseeing tour was the Naschmarkt. This is Vienna’s most popular market with 16th-century origins. Located at the Wienzeile over the Wien River, it has more than 100 food & vintage stalls, plus restaurants! Definitely a must-do in Vienna. It’s a true Viennese market experience for locals and tourists alike! Each of the little food stalls or huts in the market offers a different style of food. You can find traditional kraut at Naschmarkt sold from a wooden barrel in the age-old fashion, right next to cutting edge fusion mixes from Italian, Japanese or Moroccan delis.

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When in Vienna, obviously you must eat schnitzel. But don’t forget to satisfy your sweet tooth and try a sacher-tort. This is the famous chocolate cake you may have heard about. It is one of the most decadent desserts and is shipped all over the world, but you can try it right here in its birthplace, which makes for a memorable experience in itself.

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You might be surprised to learn that most Arab Austrians are of Iraqi and Lebanese origin. Our best meal in Vienna was at this Lebanese restaurant called Duzi’s Kitchen. Hands down the best Lebanese food I’ve ever had (not like I’m an expert on Lebanese cuisine, but I will say I loved this ethnic meal way more than eating schnitzel!)

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Danube Island

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Like any major city, there is plenty for kids to do. In Vienna, we rode city buses and trains to take the kids to Danube Island, where they had a blast jumping on trampolines and zip lining. Recommend this place for getting the energy out of your kids!

Vienna State Opera House

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There is so much music history in Austria, particularly Vienna where many musical greats resided like Mozart, Beethoven, and Sigmund Freud. It’s not surprising that opera is one of the main attractions in Vienna. The Vienna State Opera has one of the biggest stages in Europe for good reason – they have over 300 performances and 70 productions a season. There are 180,00 costumes – which is worth 6 miles of fabric – that are housed in a building next door connected by an underground tunnel! So mysterious and romantic, don’t you think? We know nothing about opera, but the kids enjoyed watching opera on the big screen outside the opera house along with thousands of other people on the street!

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into Vienna. Scroll down to see more photos from this gorgeous city! Stay tuned for blog posts about other cities we visited in Austria, coming soon.

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VIENNA sightseeing tour

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VIENNA sightseeing tour

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I received products compliments of DockATot, The Ollie World, and Lorena Canals, but all opinions are my own.

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Who’s that crazy lady who goes around sniffing at newborns just to soak in that lovely baby scent? Hiiiii! I’m three and done, but every once in a while, I get a slight twinge of baby fever especially when I’m in close proximity to a newborn. Danger, danger! My brother and his wife just gave birth to a sweet baby girl named Paige, and obviously, this boy momma is smitten. I’m already planning for all the pretty pink and pastel knits, bows and Mary Janes that I’ll be spoiling her with as she grows up, but for now, it’s all about the first-time parents and their needs as they embark on this life-changing journey. Read on for three of my fave baby products to give new parents that make life easier all-around – because happy mom, happy life.

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DockATot

Listen up, mommas. This one is life-changing! If you’re seeking something that is snug, secure and comfortable for your wee one to rest on, look no further than the DockATot. The DockATot is a multi-functional lounger, co-sleeper and playtime lounger that mimics the mother’s womb with its smart Swedish design. It comes in two sizes (Deluxe for younger, smaller babies 0-8 months, and Grand for 9-36 months) and is basically a cocoon of comfy-ness. Why again don’t they make this for adults? Whenever I babysit my new baby niece, I love seeing how easy it is for her to get a comfortable sleep nestled in the DockATot. It’s tested for breathability, all natural, and made of 100% cotton – basically, the ideal micro-climate for babies and young tots. The DockATot is handmade in Europe, and has been rigorously tested and fully compliant with both federal law and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission proposed standards. I wish the DockATot was around the U.S. when I had my firstborn!

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The Ollie Smarter Swaddle

As a first-time parent, you may not know that you gave birth to a little Houdini. By then, it’ll be too late because you’ll be fumbling around in the dark trying to re-swaddle your little babe as tightly as possible while wracking your brain at in the middle of the night wondering where you went wrong. Enter: The Smarter Swaddle by The Ollie World. Besides being effective at containing wriggly babies, this swaddle can instantly soothe a crying baby in seconds. It’s also easy to wrap, Velcro and close up! (If you don’t believe me, see for yourself right here.) The custom fit allows for fit to be individualized to meet the needs and size of each little one, and its one-size promotes ease with transitional stages. The Smarter Swaddle is made from custom moisture-wicking material to reduce the risk of overheating – that’s one less thing for us moms to worry about! When you’re up changing diapers again at 3am, the Smarter Swaddle allows for easy access diaper change accessible through an opening at the bottom. I’ve been through three rounds of diapers with my three boys, so I can test to how awesome this is. (And that’s pretty freaking awesome.)

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Lorena Canals Rug

Didn’t know you *needed* a rug? Yea, you do! But not just any rug. A machine-washable one that fits into a standard washer and dryer, like this plush beauty from Lorena Canals. For all the poop explosions, baby spit-up, milk spills, and cereal crumbs, this rug will grow with you and your baby through the years. It’s sophisticated in design so a nice area rug can brighten up any nursery but also any adult space. Best of all? Lorena Canals rugs (and cushions!) are handmade with all natural dyes, eco-friendly and contains no VOCs like most other carpeting and rugs. That’s a win-win for mom and baby. (p.s. when you purchase a product from Lorena Canals, all proceeds support the Sakula project and provide schooling for children in India!)

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At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to post these boudoir photos from my 41st birthday a few weeks ago. I didn’t love the way my body looked because my body has changed so much from the year before. You see, after my 40th birthday last year, I decided I’d make it a tradition to do an annual boudoir shoot just for me. So contacted Magdalena from Pure Boudoir.

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My first birthday boudoir shoot was when I turned the big 4-0 last year. I absolutely LOVED this new chapter, my body, and I felt confident and empowered when I posed for the boudoir shoot. What changed this year that I feel a little down, you ask? I don’t really have one exact answer. Maybe I’m just PMSing? Anyway, in between booking some aerial yoga classes (for fun mostly, but also fitness), I realized that self-acceptance, being happy, “not giving a damn” about what people think can be very threatening to people. (And you know I don’t ordinarily give two f*cks about what people think lol!) People can’t understand it. It unnerves them. They will judge it. But that is not a problem of mine, nor yours. It is simply, theirs to have. Noone knows your journey.

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We all have something about ourselves we do not like. But, we rarely ask ourselves where it comes from – and that’s what I’m digging into this year of my life, 41 trips around the sun. Self-acceptance is a journey. For me, the birthday boudoir shoot offers a new realization each year. I dedicate it to my personal growth and progress. I dedicate it to feeling proud to be strong and feminine. I dedicate it to my clients, to show them it is entirely okay. And this makes me smile… HARD.

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Age is just a number, and it is also a rebirth. It’s an occasion to realize and appreciate who you are and who you are becoming. And I hope to continue these discoveries each year. Are you with me, ladies?

Hope you enjoy my 41st birthday boudoir shoot, I know it’s growing on me!

xo, Melissa

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Hair and make-up by the talented Diem.

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Where do crayons go on vacation? Color-ado!

Or actually, to Orlando, Florida, we go. Cheesy mom jokes aside, our recent family trip down South included an all-day outing at Crayola Experience Orlando. Six colorful hours of melts downs (talking crayon-making, not my kids), too many hands-on activities to count, and lots and lots of coloring outside the lines – can’t think of anything more kid-friendly than that! It was Winter Break from schools, so you can imagine how packed Crayola Experience was with families all trying to entertain the kids.

Our favorite attraction at Crayola Experience was the Melt & Mold – here the kids can create a ring, shark, car or seahorse souvenir out of crayon wax. Roman and Rhys each picked out a shark mold – no surprise because they love all things aquatic! The Drip Art station is a new spin on a timeless classic. We had fun loading freshly made crayons into the Drip Art machine and watching it melt and drip wax into a swirly-whirly work of art. And of course, we enjoyed the Crayon making station where you can customize the label with your name.

As if all the creative activity stations weren’t enough, Crayola Experience also has playrooms and interactive floors that get the kids jumping and dancing. Pro tip: Plan out the top 5 attractions you want to hit up in advance. You could easily spend six hours at Crayola Experience (like we did), but if you don’t have that much time, make sure to plan out your visit in advance. All in all, we had a blast and Crayola Experience was a welcome break from the usual Orlando theme park hopping.

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