• lifestyle

    Back to School Shopping | Woodfield Mall’s Got You Covered

    This post is sponsored by Woodfield Mall. All opinions are my own.

    Can you believe summer vacation is coming to an end? It’s bittersweet because I love having the kids home from school and being free of a schedule, but the excitement of back to school shopping helps soften the blow a little. A couple of weeks ago I took my niece out for a one-on-one back to school shopping trip. We had so much fun ditching the boys and having a little girl time. But don’t worry, my boys weren’t totally left in the dust – we hit up Woodfield Mall for my family’s annual back to school shopping trip. With more than 2 million square feet of retail shops, restaurants, and family-friendly amenities, there’s so much do, shop, and eat at Woodfield Mall and we got everything we needed.

    I always loved back to school shopping when I was a kid and it’s still fun now as a mom. I now have a second-grader, a first-grader, and a preschooler! But with three growing boys, I try to do it smartly while still having some fun style-hunting. Here are a few back to school shopping tips:

    1. Have your child try on last year’s clothing. Make a mental list of what needs to be replaced either because they have outgrown it or it’s in bad shape. Hand me downs are your best friend but make sure your kids get to pick out some fun new items for the school year themselves, too! We love these super comfy stretch camo jogger pants from Abercrombie Kids. Our favorite retailer at Woodfield Mall!

    2. Buy backpacks with prevention in mind. We love the old skool checkerboard backpacks from Vans at Woodfield Mall – they have wider, padded shoulder straps and a padded back (recommended by pediatric doctors to prevent injuries) so they’re super comfortable for my kids. I always feel so bad seeing the teeniest kids shouldering giant backpacks so it’s important to make them as comfortable as possible!

    3. There are plenty of great sales to take advantage of during the back-to-school rush, but that doesn’t mean all deals are the best deals. Try to stock up on summer items on clearance and remember that fall apparel are priced their highest when they first hit stores in August. If you can, layer on the summer t-shirts for the first few weeks of school, buying you time to shop for fall and winter clothing during holiday sales.

    4. My boys love Buckle‘s shirt from RVCA! Too bad it doesn’t fit Cole. The Giant even found jeans for himself (he’s really hard to shop for because of his 6’6″ height!)

    5. A trip to Woodfield is not complete without a stop to Timberland. We found some winter boots for the boys and you can check out those style here , here, and here!

    Happy back to school shopping, mamas!

  • lifestyle,  Travel

    Our Couples Getaway at Hutchinson Shores Resort and Spa

    When my friends over at Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa invited me to stay on property, I jumped at the chance to extend my sunny Christmas vacation in Florida visiting the in-laws. If this doesn’t make me a legit “snow bird”, then I don’t know what does. Not to mention, this was a prime opportunity to ditch the kids for a few days with free, built-in babysitters (their grandparents) and have some alone time with The Giant, who was approaching a milestone 40th birthday. With the windows down and music blaring, we screamed “Be good!” and “Peace out!” to the kids and headed for the Treasure Coast for four days of uninhibited beachside fun.

    Road-tripping through Florida is nothing to write home about (unless you count the hugest and busiest rest stop I’ve ever seen, it’s a very flat state with no interesting scenery), but the benefits of being together with your sweetheart – without kids fighting in the back seat – far outweighs anything else! After the two-and-a-half hour drive from our in-laws’ home, we arrived at the most gorgeous oceanside luxury resort, Hutchinson Shores Resort, that made us want to strip down to our skivvies and jump right in!

    But first, we checked in to our room, which was airy and fresh with modern coastal touches like bold striped curtains. We had a breathtaking oceanside view from wall to wall glass doors, which we left open at night to fall asleep to the salty sea breeze and to wake to the gentle rolling waves. Our balcony was perfect for hanging out on every day. I’m obsessed with soft linens, and the bath towels at Hutchinson Shores Resort were heavenly – so much that I looked at the tag and saw the towels were all dated with utter care by month and year. That’s the mark of a luxury hotel, in my opinion.

    We dined several times at the resort’s restaurant, Drift Kitchen + Bar, which was beyond delicious in a fresh seafood meets modern Italian kind of way. For our first dinner at Drift we got a bit wild, ordering a little surf and turf. My blue crab crusted grouper was the yin to The Giant’s yang (a center cut NY strip steak). The flavors were so perfectly nuanced, the sear just right – kudos to having a delicious meal just an arm’s length away from our home away from home the next few days. (And might I add, breakfast was pretty special too; think crab cake benedicts, amaretto French toast, short rib hash, ya know NBD.)

    The truth is, Hutchinson Shores Resort seemed very family-friendly and I spent a few seconds thinking about how my kids would have really enjoyed it here… but somewhere in between a romantic horseback ride on Jensen Beach, checking out a cool car museum, lazily exploring charming downtown Stuart – oh, and poolside drinks – I’d be lying if I said our time alone here wasn’t just right. I cannot wait to “flock” back down to Hutchinson Shores Resort the next time we visit our in-laws!

    This post is in partnership with Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa, but all opinions are my own.

  • Travel

    London Calling

    tower bride London

    Of all the cities in the world that I’ve visited, London is my top pick for traveling to with children. This is my second time visiting, but my first bringing the kids. Despite all the cool things we did while on our 3-week multi-city Euro trip, my kids LOVED London the most. (Check out my posts from Vienna, Hallstatt, and Salzburg.) It’s safe to say they have the fondest memories of their time spent here in the UK, especially London.

    family of five vacation London

    From prehistoric Stonehenge and the Roman-built baths in Bath, England, to the lavender fields of North Kent, our hearts were taken by all the charming pastel neighborhoods in London, and the city’s abundance of educational, historical, and entertaining activities. London is a family’s paradise – there is something for everyone – and I’ll tell you about some of our faves:

    family of five vacation London

    Hop-On Hop-Off with The London Pass

    Hop-on hop-off buses are the best way to see a big city with kids. We rode the Tube when we were just leisurely exploring the neighborhoods, but we also choose a hop-on hop-off bus tour day package (which we like to do in every major city we visit). In London, we went with The London Pass to get us to all the major sites. First, it saves you money because entry fees to London’s most popular attractions are already paid for and included in the price of The London Pass. Second, it saves you (and the kids) a lot of walking. On top of that, you can really pack in a lot of attractions without having to break a sweat. You can hop-off at the places you like to explore more, and then hop back on again!

    family of five vacation London

    Tower Bridge

    The Tower Bridge is synonymous with LONDON to the world. It was built between 1886 and 1894 and designed to be harmonious with the Tower of London. This drawbridge has two prominent Gothic towers which are linked by high-level footbridges, encased in steel latticework. My kids’s absolutely fave part was the glass floor in the walkways at the very top of the Tower Bridge. It was even more cool when we were laying on the glass, the drawbridge was going up! This only happens 3-5 times a day! You can plan your Tower Bridge experience here.

    p.s. LONG LINES here, so buy tickets in advance, or if you have the London Pass, it’s already included!

    glass floor walkway tower bridge London

    Tower of London

    The Tower of London is an absolute must-see part of any London itinerary. It has been a royal palace, a prison, an execution site, a zoo, a museum, and a crown jewel house. Because of its history over a thousand years, you can imagine the stories (and legends) are never-ending and highly entertaining! At one point inside the Tower of London, while we were waiting in the massive line to see the Crown Jewels, my kids were starting to act crazy. So I asked one of the Royal Guards to set them straight. And he did! They were on their best behavior after that ‘cuz they were scared they were going into the dungeon where they keep bad kids.

    family of five vacation London

    The London Dungeon

    This attraction is nasty in a good way, with all the gruesome gory bits from London’s history. Small boys love this stuff. The actor led tours are awesome and we learned all about medieval torture methods, Jack the Ripper, the plague and the great fire. If your kids are old enough (or just really brave and crazy like mine) and like their history horrible, they’ll love this experience for sure!

    Hope you enjoyed reading the highlights from our time in London – scroll down for more pics!

    xo, Melissa

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  • lifestyle,  Travel

    Run Away with Me to Hop Shop Lavender Farm

    lavender farm in London

    Come run away with me to a dreamland! I’m currently soaking in a yummy smelling lavender bath at home after putting the kids to nap and remembering my time earlier this summer at a dreamy lavender farm in North Kent. Lavender season is now over, but trust me, you’ll want to bookmark The Hop Shop at Castle Farm for next year!

    lavender field farm London

    This family-run lavender farm in North Kent is the largest lavender farm in the UK! In the summer months, the lavender fields burst into a sea of purple. It’s literally 95 acres of jaw-dropping magic. At Castle Farm, they harvest and extract pure Kentish Lavender Oil, which you can shop along with other lavender products, here on their online store.

    lavender farm in London

    Back in June, I was lucky enough to gain private access to the lavender fields courtesy of my friends at The Hop Shop, which isn’t available for everyone unless you pay for a private photography session. The public is welcome to join on lavender tours throughout the month of July every year, which includes an hour-long guided tour of the fields, a visit to the oil distillery, and photo opportunities. You can also visit a section of the fields for free without having to pay anything! Or reserve a special picnic evening in the field or an aromatherapy massage (must book in advance), which would totally make this trip one to remember. For more information, click here.

    Here’s a few tips of how you can use lavender for its calming, therapeutic qualities:

    • Relax with a few drops in the bath or on a pillow.
    • Massage gently into the forehead to help soothe headaches and reduce travel sickness.
    • Use with a base oil in aromatherapy massages to help relieve muscular tension and painful joints or to induce relaxation.

    Don’t forget to follow along with The Hop Shop’s Instagram for more pretty photos!

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