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Tuesday 31 December 2019

Elf on the Shelf: Week 4

Christmas has been and gone, but I still have quite a few Christmas themed posts to share - you know, as inspiration for next year. Not at all because I'm behind!

As you know, I like to share what our Elf on the Shelf, Elfie Pokie Nokie gets up to each week throughout December. I'm yet to share his last week with us, even though it was only 4 days, so here it is: Our last few days with Elfie Pokie Nokie this year...

Day 22
On day 22 we found Elfie hanging upside down from the Mexican tissue paper banners that I had hung in our entry way. He spent the entire day hanging upside down from one leg, but he didn't seem to mind too much.

Day 23
On day 23 the kids couldn't find Elfie anywhere in our house, and it wasn't until we stepped outside that they discovered him. The day before we had set up new Christmas lights in our front yard including a light up corgi - although Mathilde is convinced it's a shiba inu with no tail! Elfie must have taken a liking to the corgi as we found him tucked under the corgi's scarf. I guess it kept him snuggly warm over night!

Day 24
Christmas Eve found Elfie back inside the house, and in an especially cold spot.  I opened the fridge door to get milk for my morning latte and there he was squeezed into the door shelf next to the juice.  It must have been pretty chilly hanging out in the fridge all day, but I guess he is probably used to it, living in the North Pole, and all.

Day 25
The big day! The kids were so excited to see what Santa had brought for them that they didn't notice Elfie hanging from the mantle along with their stocking for quite some time. Even though he was hiding in clear view he does blend in rather well with the red and white stockings.

After Christmas Elfie traveled back to the North Pole. We look forward to seeing him back in our home again next December.

Does the Elf on the Shelf visit your home?

Our Winter Break in Denver

Winter Break is here and well under way so I thought it about time I shared last year's Winter Break with you. Always on time! Ha!

If you've been following along on Instagram you'll likely recognize quite a few of the pics I'm sharing below. If you're not following on Instagram, make sure to click here to head over to my account and give it a follow. I tend to be much more up to date over there!

Anyway, last year's Winter Break saw us visiting Colorado for the first time. It was part scouting trip to see if we'd like living here and part Winter wonderland vacation. We arrived in Denver on December 26th (just after midnight) but because the Christmas spirit tends to hang around into January here in Colorado we didn't miss out on any of the Christmas festivities that make visiting at this time of year extra special.

During our week and a half in Colorado we experienced beautiful Christmas light displays, went sledding, walked on a frozen creek, stepped back in time with a visit to the gold rush era town of Golden, stepped even further back in time to the time of the dinosaurs, went ice skating, searched for pika statues in Estes Park, rode horses through the mountains, visited the amazing Ice Castles, found a frozen waterfall, and caught up with good friends. We packed a lot into that time, but it didn't feel rushed at all.

Here's a look at what we did each day on our trip...

Saturday 28 December 2019

Rotisserie Chicken Tacos with a Zesty Cream Sauce

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by CAULIPOWER Cauliflower Tortilla but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Growing up in rural Australia, Mexican food wasn't something we ate very often. In fact, I only knew Mexican food as crunchy taco shells filled with beef, tomato, lettuce and cheddar cheese. Tasty, but not particularly exciting. I had no idea that Mexican food was so much more until I was in my early 20s and stared going out to restaurants with my friends. But even then, Mexican food in Australia was pretty much Tex-Mex with one flavor - spicy! I was yet to discover the subtle, fresh flavors that have since become my favorite when it comes to Mexican food.

In stark contrast to my limited childhood culinary experiences, I love that my kids are growing up in a more global world where cuisines from other cultures have become every day foods for them.

Having spent the past eight years living in California Mexican food has become somewhat of a staple in our home. Tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, fajitas... they're all a hit with the kids - and the adults too! It's an easy cuisine to throw my own spin on and can be such a quick meal to make at home, with every family member adding as much or as little as each ingredient as they like.

I recently discovered CAULIPOWER Cauliflower Tortillas and they've become my new go to for tacos and quesadillas. As the name suggests, they're made with cauliflower. In fact, it's the first ingredient. It's a great way to sneak a little extra veggies into the kids diet! Trust me, they taste just like regular tortillas so the kids don't even notice that they're eating something healthier!

CAULIPOWER Cauliflower Tortillas are vegan, and free of dairy, gluten, wheat and preservatives so they're great for those with food allergies or sensitivities, or anyone wanting a healthier option. My favorite thing is that they come frozen and can be heated up in the microwave or on a skillet without defrosting. This means I can grab a tortilla from the freezer and have a snack ready in no time. Plus, unlike when I freeze regular tortillas, they don't stick together. Super convenient!

Today I'm sharing one of my favorite Mexican inspired meals to make for the family: Chicken tacos, made with left over rotisserie chicken and CAULIPOWER Cauliflower Tortillas. They're super easy to put together and a great way to use up left overs - and we always have a lot of left overs when we have rotisserie chicken for dinner. Just a few simple ingredients come together to make a really tasty meal. This recipe is easy to adapt to make as many or as little as you'd like so I haven't included precise measurements. It all really comes down to personal taste. The creamy sauce is so delicious that I make up a lot more than I'll need for our tacos as it's great for dipping. Tortilla chips, bell pepper, carrots... It goes great with everything and has a tangy, zesty flavor with just a little heat.

What you'll need:
CAULIPOWER Cauliflower Tortillas (frozen)
Rotisserie chicken (shredded)
Bell pepper (sliced)
Red cabbage (shredded)
Fresh cilantro
Sour cream
Refried beans
Sweet chili sauce
Minced garlic
Lime juice

Thursday 26 December 2019

Camp Christmas

If you've been following along for a while you'll know that I'm a big fan of pop up experiences. Color Factory, Museum of Ice Cream, Candytopia... they've all been some of our favorite experiences over the past few years. I'm also a big fan of Christmas displays. The giant gingerbread house at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, the drive through Christmas in Color displays in Utah and Colorado, the stunning Blossoms of Light at Denver Botanic Gardens... so much festive fun. 

So when I heard about Camp Christmas, a pop up "immersive extravaganza" that merges these two together, I just knew that we had to go check it out. We headed to Camp Christmas on Christmas Eve and it was everything I hoped it would be - plus more!

Here's a look at our visit to Camp Christmas...

Monday 23 December 2019

Elf on the Shelf: Week 3

Another week has passed and Christmas is just two days away! Eek!

So much to do, and so little time, but it also means that another full week with Elfie Pokie Nokie in our home has gone by. Of course, it also means only a few more days of waking up at 2am to the realization that the elf is yet to move!

Here's a look at what Elfie has been up to over the past week...

Day 16
The kids couldn't find Elfie anywhere for quite some time until they went past the laundry to get their jackets and boots for school. That's when they spotted him sitting in the clothes dryer. Now, Elfie has hidden out in the clothes dryer a couple times in the past in our apartment in Berkeley and we always figured it was to keep warm. However, and here's something strange about clothes dryers in American houses that I never knew before, our current dryer has a big outlet pipe that leads outside of the house. I'm not really sure how this works as clothes dryers in Australia don't have this (nor did our dryer in Berkeley), but what I do know is that this pipe brings in cold air from outside! Trust me, when it's -4C outside, the clothes in the dryer are fricken freezing! Unless I take the clothes out as soon as the dryer finishes I get a chilly shock when I open the dryer door!

Day 17
On day 17 the kinds, once again, didn't spot Elfie until we were heading out to go to school. That's when we found him perched on one of our rather festive looking lawn flamingos. I'm guessing he brought them their matching hats and scarves as they weren't there earlier.

Day 18
Some days Elfie's hiding spots aren't very original, and today was one of those days. We found him sitting behind a print in our living room. He has hidden behind prints and paintings many times in the past, but this time it looks as though he made himself a little prop to go with the print. This print is made up of little signs that pay tribute to different areas of San Francisco (we have the New York print too) and Elfie seems to have made himself a North Pole sign to go along with it.

Day 19
Another day of Elfie just hanging about... literally. We found him hanging upside down from the light fixture above out dining table. I guess he has a good view from up there.

Day 20
Remember that crazy cereal cafe that we went to over Thanksgiving break? You can see it here on my Instagram if you're not sure what I'm talking about. Anyway, while we were there Ava ate a bowl of Elf on the Shelf sugar cookie cereal (who knew that was a thing?) and she liked it so much that she bought a box of it to bring home. You can buy it here if you're keen to try it - and it arrives before Christmas if you order now! Back to Elfie... He must have found it in our pantry and thought it would make a good breakfast treat for the kids so he brought it out onto the kitchen bench, and plonked himself inside the box. Must be weird seeing yourself on a cereal box!

Day 21
On day 21 Elfie made an unexpected friend. We found him sitting on the log in Cookie's (Ava's pet leopard gecko) vivarium. At first Cookie seemed a little wary on the intruder, but after a little while he seemed rather curious and started climbing on Elfie. Elfie ended up falling over and I did plan to sit him back up again, but Cookie seemed happy with him there and ended up spending the entire day snuggled up under Elfie. The kids were convinced that Elfie and Cookie had become best friends and that Elfie needed to move in with Cookie permanently, but in true elf form Elfie moved again over night. Mathilde was convinced that Cookie missed Elfie, so she drew pictures of him to stick on the walls of Cookies vivarium. The kids did have me Elfie from his new spot (which you'll see in next week's post) and put him back in with Cookie - who went straight back to snuggling up to his friend! Maybe we now have an "elf on the gecko log" rather than an elf on the shelf!

Three weeks down, just a few more days to go!

Let's see if Elfie ends up becoming a permanent fixture in Cookie's vivarium!

P.S. Elfie is in need of a new hat. Those Krampus horns that he grew last week ripped a nice big hole in his hat. Oops. His Krapus tail left behind a bit of a hole too.

Friday 20 December 2019

My Must Haves for Visiting Cold Destinations

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

Are you travelling to a cold destination this Winter?

The past few years we've spent the kids' Winter break visiting rather cold places. Last year we visited Denver, Colorado, and the year before we visited Salt Lake City, Utah. Both pretty chilly places in Winter, especially when visiting from mild California.

As you know, we've since moved to Colorado so cold Winters are our new thing, but I've found that there's a huge difference between living somewhere that slowly gets cold as Winter approaches, and visiting somewhere cold from a mild climate. With the latter there's a sudden change and it can be a lot harder to acclimatize. Dry cracked hands, severely chapped lips, static filled hair (and lots of zaps!), non-stop sniffles... There's a lot more for our bodies to adjust to other than just keeping warm. 

During our trips to Salt Lake City and Denver over the past few years I found lots of handy products to help make our time in the cold more comfortable, so today I'm sharing them with you. These are items that you'll most likely not think of until you need them - and who wants to spend them vacation time hitting up Target. Ok, some people probably do, but not me! Jackets, beanies, gloves, warm socks... those are already probably on your packing list, right? But these goodies most likely aren't - and trust me, you'll likely find yourself wishing they were!

Cold snowy places generally come with pretty dry air. Add in heating in hotels, restaurants, shops and any other indoor venue you visit, and that dry air is taken to the extreme. After struggling with dry skin, stuffy noses, and huge amounts of static while visiting Salt Lake City I decided to purchase a small cool mist humidifier to use in our hotel room. It made a world of difference! With the extra humidity in the room we found ourselves no longer waking with dry, blocked noses and we weren't zapping ourselves on metal surfaces all the time anymore. Before I bought the humidifier I couldn't open the door to our hotel room without getting zapped! This Crane humidifier is small enough to fit in a suitcase, yet it holds enough water to run throughout the whole night. It's the perfect size for a decent sized hotel room with two queen beds. It puts out a cool mist rather than steam so it's safe for use around small children, it's whisper quiet, and it has a blue light setting which makes for a handy night light.  

The humidifier I mentioned above is great for combating dry skin when you're in your hotel room, but it's not much help when you're out and about. I'm especially prone to dry and cracked fingers in the cold, and wearing gloves or mittens doesn't always cut it to protect my skin. My two favorite creams to protect and heal my dry skin are Nivea Creme and Tubby Todd All Over Ointment. They're both luxuriously thick and absorb well into the skin without feeling oily. They can both be used all over the face and body (I've even used them as lip balm in a pinch) and they both smell pleasant without being overwhelming. I honestly can't choose which one I prefer over the other! While the Nivea Creme comes in various sizes, I love these thin tins as they're super handy for use on the go. They take up virtually no space in my purse and can even fit into my pockets. Tubby Todd is my go to brand for kid friendly products, and the kids do prefer the All Over Ointment over the Nivea Creme so I like to have both on hand. The All Over Ointment is perfect for use on little faces to heal dry skin around the mouth.  

Hands aren't the only things that get dry in cold weather. For me, my lips are the first thing that start to suffer in cold climates, and I've noticed the same for the kids. Keeping your lips covered when you're out in the cold isn't really an option unless you're keen on wearing a balaclava, so the best thing is to keep them hydrated. I'm a bit of a lip balm junkie so I have a ton of different lip balms on the go at any one time, but I've found that the best for cold climates is Aquaphor. It keeps lips hydrated and protected, plus it's great for healing already cracked lips. 

Remember the static that I mentioned above? On our trip to Salt Lake City a few years back the kids and I were finding ourselves with crazy amounts of static in our hair. Having the humidifier running in our hotel room helped a lot, but when we were out and about the static was out of control. Especially seeing as we were constantly putting on and taking off beanies. A sales associate in Sephora suggested that we try Bumble & Bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Primer spray, and I am so glad we took her advice. A spritz of this amazing spray in either damp or dry hair, and we were static free. It's not cheap, and we did go through a travel sized bottle in just over a week with four heads of long hair using it, but it was definitely worth it. No more hair clinging to our faces and jackets, no more constant zapping each other (although the kids did get a kick out of that!), no more hair sticking straight out when taking off a beanie... It's also great on tangles which we found that we were getting a lot off with hair rubbing against beanies, scarves and jackets all day. If you have long hair, especially if it's fine or prone to frizz, this spray is a must!  

It's inevitable that at some point during a trip to a cold climate, someone in the family will come down with the sniffles. Winter is peak cold and flu season and when you add in a sudden temperature drop, being somewhere new with new germs and viruses, and especially if you've taken a flight, it can all take a toll on the immune system. Especially little immune systems. I prefer to stick to natural remedies as the first step when it comes to beating the sniffles. More often than not it's just a cold and there's no need for medication. I do like to be able to provide the kids with some relief though. The humidifier is a great help for sniffles, blocked noses and coughs. Seriously, get yourself a travel humidifier! My other favorite is to use an essential oil blend or chest rub for relief. Oilogic Cold & Cough Relief works a treat and comes in a handy roller bottle to use on chest, back and soles of feet. It's rather soothing and helps with sleep too. If you prefer a chest rub rather than an oil, Tubby Todd Chest Rub is my go to and I use it in the same way. It's more gentle than traditional Vicks Vaporub, so it's perfect for kids and babies.  
Sometimes when you're out and about in the cold, gloves or mittens just don't cut it. This is when Hot Hands Hand Warmers come in super handy. I have no idea how they do it, but one they're activated, these little miracles get toasty warm. Shove them in your gloves or mittens or keep them in your pockets and they'll keep your hands warm for hours. You can even put them in your boots to keep your feet warm. That was our trick for staying warm when we visited the Ice Castles last year. 

You know that pesky ear popping sensation that you get when flying or driving through the mountains? Or worse - that sensation that you get when your ears feel like they need to pop, but can't. If you're like me, it can be rather painful rather than just pesky. Vicks Vapoinhalers have been on the top of my must have list for flights ever since my first trip abroad when I was 15. When ever I feel like my ears need to pop, but can't, I inhale a little of this Vicks magic and it does the trick. My ears pop and they feel clear again. If you're travelling somewhere at high altitude, which cold places often are, that ear popping sensation can be a real pain. Make sure to keep a Vapoinhaler on hand.  

8. Tubby Todd Play Mineral Sunscreen
Ok, I know it probably sounds weird to say "Don't forget the sunscreen" when you're travelling somewhere cold, but seriously, don't forget the sunscreen! Especially if you're hitting the slopes or planning to spend a lot of time out in the snow. Unfortunately this is something I've learned the hard way, and some of my worst sunburns have come from a day in the snow. Blue skies and sunny days in the snow, which is pretty common here in Colorado, are great, but all that sun reflected off the snow can be pretty nasty. Make sure to use sunscreen on any uncovered body parts - which, let's face it, is probably just your face! Sunglasses are a must too.

9. Hydro Flask Travel Coffee Flask
What could be better on a cold day than warming up with a hot chocolate, coffee, hot apple cider or even a gluhwein if you feel so inclined? Not much; but you know what is better? Having that hot drink stay hot until you finish it! My Hydro Flask Coffee Flask comes in super handy when I'm out and about in the cold. I fill it with my favorite hot drink, and I don't have to worry about it getting cold. It's a great way to keep myself warm and you can ditch the disposable cups at coffee shops too. For road trips and camping, I love filling the larger size with hot water to use for tea and hot chocolate on the go. It stays hot forever. Well, not quite forever, but long enough.

Do you have any other cold destination must haves? Make sure to share them below in the comments. 

Monday 16 December 2019

Elf on the Shelf: Week 2

Elfie Pokie Nokie has been back in our house for over two weeks now - which means we're even closer to Christmas. How is it only 9 days away? Totally not stressing out about that! Ha!

While I wrack my brain trying to work out what to get the kids for Christmas (and how to get it in such a short amount of time - eek!) let's take a look at what Elfie has been up to over the past week.

Day 8
On Day 8 we found Elfie poking out from behind a cushion on the hanging chair in our living room. A favorite Christmas book (The Christmas Wish) was sitting out - one that we hadn't left there. It was the perfect invitation to sit down somewhere comfy and read, although Mathilde didn't seem so sure about Elfie reading over her shoulder!

Day 9
On Day 9 we found Elfie simply sitting on the mantel in our family room. Not a particular good hiding spot, however there was something a little peculiar happening here. It looks like Elfie decided to add himself to our family photo! He's not quite to scale though. I don't remember him being so tall! This picture has been the target of Elfie's pranks in the past too with him adding googly eyes onto our faces. You can see that prank here. I guess at least this time he didn't make us look silly!

Day 10
Our advent calendar activity for day 10 was to make honey biscuits (you can find the recipe for these tasty cookies here) so it came as no surprise when we found Elfie perched inside the mixer surrounded by cookie cutters. On a side note, as the mixer is fairly new I completely forgot how much easier it would make mixing the cookie dough, and I did it all by hand. Oops! I guess Elfie tried to tell me, but I didn't pay attention.

Day 11
It's finally looking a little festive around here with our Christmas tree up in the family room. Elfie decided to get into the Christmas spirit and we found him perched on a branch of the tree among the decorations. This year's tree is pretty sparse (Colorado tree farms don't seem to have to lush, thick trees we're used to in California) so Elfie was pretty easy to spot.
P. S. Anyone else have a tree filled with decorations from their travels? I know that nothing matches on our tree so it's not the prettiest to look at, but I love that it's filled with memories.

Day 12
Looks like Elfie decided to take a birds' eye view over everyone, or as close to a birds' eye view you can get inside, and perched himself atop the ceiling fan in the living room. The little guy is lucky that I stopped Lola from trying to turn the fan on to send him for a spin!

Day 13
Elfie sure seems to like hanging out in our family room this year. On day 13 we found him literally hanging out - hung by a tiny peg on the mantle with all of our Christmas cards! You may notice that the kids on all these cards look familiar. That's because they're all the cards that I've made over past years! We only ever receive maybe four or five cards a year (and usually after Christmas) so I hang our old cards up instead. It's a cute way to look back and see how much the girls have grown over the years.

Day 14
Day 14 found Elfie on the mantle again, but there was something different about him. Overnight he seems to have grown horns, a long tongue and a tail. Mathilde was convinced that he had transformed into a demon, but Lola recognized him straight away. Elfie was dressed as Krampus! Now, in the past Elfie has had fun mixing up holidays by stealing Halloween candy, playing with a dreidel, and dressing up as a pilgrim for Thanksgiving. This time around he's mixing things up by playing different Christmas characters. The girls noticed that Elfie seemed to have a parcel for them, and they were excited to find the book Krampus Meets his Match inside. Elfie certainly wasn't quite as scary looking as the Krampus in the book, but he sure was pretty creepy! 

And that's it for another week of Elfie Pokie Nokie in our home.

Time for me to work out how to get hot glue off an elf hat...

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