Pinot’s Palette Party!

Last Friday night, we got to celebrate my Aunt Dot’s birthday.  She decided it would be fun to try out Pinot’s Palette for her party.  If you haven’t heard about Pinot’s Palette, it is a venue where you can pay to take a 2 or 3 hour painting class, resulting in a beautiful painting at the end, all while enjoying your favorite drinks (basically an art studio + bar in one!)  Classes cost $35 for weeknights (2 hour classes) and $45 for weekends (3 hour classes).  Which painting is being taught is pre-scheduled and can be signed up for in advance.  Since we were celebrating a birthday party, we chose to have a private party and got to pick out which painting we did.  The painting we chose is called Midnight Moon glow, and is supposed to turn out like this:

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Our party consisted of people with a wide range of both art experience and art interest, and I can say that, while not everyone’s picture turned out just like the painting, no one’s picture turned out badly.  Also, everyone had fun while they were doing it.

Our party was held in the Gasparilla Room, a cute pirate-themed room, where we were allowed to bring our own food and drinks for the event.  Our instructor’s name was Jessica, and she was great at getting us through the steps of the painting, while still making it a very fun and relaxing experience.

Here we are all ready to get started:

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The instruction was given in steps.  We mixed the paint for the background first, applied that, then had snacks/drinks while the background dried.  We then added each layer to the painting – moon, tree, water, until it was finished!  The process was very enjoyable and relaxing, without being too difficult.

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Here’s the finished product – I was very happy with my painting, although I felt like the colors dried darker than I thought they would…I know, I’m picky.

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I would definitely recommend this experience!  I think it is perfect for a girls night, or maybe a date night (if your boyfriend/husband is somewhat artsy, or it’s your turn to pick the date…haha),  It has sparked a painting bug in both myself and my sisters, which I haven’t done much of since high school.  As I have said before, I am easily impressionable and like to pick up new hobbies.

Have any of you guys tried this?  Which paintings did you do?  I had so much fun!

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Mom’s Stitch Fix Review #2 November 2014

Hi Guys!  Sorry it’s been a little while (well, really not that long, but longer than usual…), my life has been busy with life stuff, and Mark has had a new project that has monopolized the laptop most evenings.  Not that I blame him, it’s just that usually monopolize the laptop, so it takes some getting used to 🙂 So out of the three of us who originally signed up for Stitch Fix, only my mom had the foresight to realize how much we were all going to love this service, and signed up for a monthly fix.  Her first fix came just days after my fix, and although she did find a really cute cardigan, she overall was not crazy about the clothes they picked out.  Her second fix arrived last weekend, and she is the first of us to make it to box #2.  She had high hopes of redemption for her second fix, and my sisters and I were all anxiously (and kind of jealously) waiting to see what she got!  She made up a review for me to share with all of you, since Stitch Fix seems to be BY FAR my most read blog topic!  All of the Stitch Fix links in this blog are referral links, just btw, but I do get $25.00 towards new clothes if my (or my mom’s) experience helps you decide to try this service.  So far I think it is a very fun service (after 1 box for myself, 1 for my sister, and 2 for my mom).

For those of you who are new to Stitch Fix, read my first blog about it here, but basically, you fill out a clothing style profile, and link pinterest accounts, etc to your account.  You pay a $20.00 styling fee, and a stylist picks out 5 items they think you’ll love and sends them to your house.  You keep the items you love, and send back any you don’t like.  Shipping is free to and from, and the $20.00 goes towards anything you keep!

On to the review!  I have no prices for these ones, sorry!

#1 Shanon Crochet Detail V-Neck Blouse

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You can’t see it that well in this picture, but this shirt is a loose, drapey shirt that would look great with skinny jeans or tucked into a skirt (per the styling card, haha).  It has the unexpected detail of a sheer, crochet area at the top of the front of the shirt.  This shirt fit well, and also fit nicely with my mom’s style.  She thought the crochet areas made it a shirt she probably would not wear to work (I probably would, but she is a bit more conservative than me, and I always wear a white coat at work), but that it would fit with her casual wardrobe.  She also wished that this shirt came with a black cami – several of us have received “free” camis with shirts that need them.  Maybe Stitch Fix didn’t think this shirt required a cami?  Not sure.  She did decide to KEEP this shirt!

#2 Dorie Collarless Blazer

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really liked this blazer from the moment my mom took it out of her box.  It is not something that would fit with my style, but for her I thought it looked perfect.  It is the kind of piece that has a basic, yet flattering cut so that it will stay a wardrobe classic, but the color really adds modern-ness to it and makes it a statement piece.  I also think the coral color is conservative enough that most people would think it was cute but it wouldn’t attract too much attention (this is what I think about when I pick out clothes, not sure what mom’s process is).  However, when my mom first tried it on, she wasn’t sure about it.  She said it was not something she would have ever thought to pick out herself, and I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to keep it.  She didn’t know what colors to match it to, and she wasn’t sure what in her current wardrobe she could wear with it.  If I haven’t mentioned it before, this is one of the best things about Stitch Fix.  You can go to your closet and start trying things on to see if you like the item with other things in your wardrobe!  Well, my mom did just that, and later that evening, sent me this picture, showing the jacket was a KEEPER!

#3 Rocco 3/4 Sleeve Faux Wrap Dress

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Again, sorry about the not great picture.  This dress was ok, it did emphasize my mom’s very narrow waist, but I don’t think it stood out as anything special in her mind.  I can picture her wearing it, but I can also see her finding a similar (and likely less expensive) dress at Target.  I will say, this is the second wrap dress in 2 boxes that my mom has received, and I don’t think she’s really a “wrap dress person” (if that’s a thing).  SENT BACK!

#4 Charissa Pleated Swing Skirt

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Again, I thought this skirt was fine.  It had a narrow waist band at the top and very fine pleats covering the whole skirt.  The color was conservative enough that the “cutesy” pleats did not make it look too young, and the length was perfect at just about knee length.  My mom had several concerns about this skirt though.  1. The waist band was so narrow that it did not sit very flat on the waist.  I also think a wider waist band would have been more flattering.  2. The pleats – if you wash this skirt, are the pleats going to wash out?  They did not appear sewn in at all.  If so, the skirt would never be the same, or you would have to re-iron in all the pleats (so not happening…), or I suppose dry clean only the skirt.  Because of these concerns, she decided to SEND BACK the skirt.

#5 Emer High Waisted Tall Trouser

I have no pictures for this one.  The pants, when on my mom, had a similar fit to the pants I received in my last Stitch fix here.  They were fairly tight and reminiscent of thick leggings.  They also had no button or zipper, but were pull-on like maternity pants (a plus for me, but not sure if my mom liked this).  I think in general she thought the pants were too “young” for her, and she generally prefers a looser fit and thicker material.  SENT BACK

So that’s it for this Stitch Fix, I think she was more happy with the picks than she expected, and the only thing she got that she really did not like were the pants.  What do you think about her picks?  Any picks you guys have gotten that you loved?  I should get my second box the week of Thanksgiving and am kicking myself for not signing up for monthly fixes (there is a long wait period if you sign up one at a time, and Nov 26th was literally the closest date I could get).  i can’t wait!

Citrus Lane Review #2 – October 2014

I got my second box from Citrus Lane around mid-October (technically third box, but I’m counting it as second because the last 2 were both September Boxes).  Remember last time I thought the boxes were mediocre at best, especially the first box they sent me, and it was only somewhat redeemed by their customer service.  This time I was pleasantly surprised by everything in the box, and was generally much happier.  Still not completely sold on the box, and not sure whether or not I am going to keep the box past when my promo boxes end…we shall see.

Anyways, if you are new to my blog or Citrus Lane, you can read my original post here.  Citrus Lane is a box for kids 0-5 years old.  You enter your child’s age and gender, and every month they send you age appropriate toys, clothing, etc for your child.  Citrus Lane usually costs $29.00/month, with lower prices (as low as $19.00/month with longer subscription plans).  I have found, however, that if I am willing to wait, I can find much better deals on them with coupon codes.  Again all of the citrus lane links are referral links…but why not?

So on to the review!  This box is for an 18 month old girl.

First look at the box:

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Citrus Lane always includes s small paper detailing the items in the box (the yellow and white striped card).  First impressions – I see several full-sized toys and no fillers, so I was pretty happy right off the bat.  V was waiting on the sidelines trying to grab things out of the box and start playing!

#1.  Ooh La Leggies Cupcake Heart Ruffles Leg Warmers – $10.00

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So I originally thought these were kind of weird.  I opened them up expecting tights, but they are definitely not.  They are long tubes that have elastic at the top to cling above the knee, and ruffled decoration around the ankle.  Worn under dresses or skirts they look like fancy leggings.  However, V thinks these things are the most fun things ever.  She already loves socks and shoes (trying on shoes is one of her favorite past times and “socks” was her first word) so these were right up her alley.  In fact, after receiving these, she did not want to take them off for 2 days.  I still frequently come home from work and find her running around in just a diaper and these leg warmers.  So although they are a little weird they are definitely a hit in our house.  And they are pretty cute…

#2.  Hohner’s Kids Maracitos – $9.25 (Amazon Price)

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We could hear these bad boys before we even opened the box.  We knew there was something noisy inside.  This was actually the only picture I have that did not have V’s hand in it, trying to take these away.  Out of the entire box, this has been the biggest hit.  They actually are not terribly annoying, as they have a fairly mellow sound, and V loves to give one to either Mark or myself and have us shake them together.  Overall win!  And the size is just perfect for her little hands.

#3.  Janod Story City Pink Car – $5.95

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#4.  Janod Story City Taxi – $5.95

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These toys are pretty cute, and V does like to play with cars.  I feel like moms might like them more than kids, because they are very simple and not that easy to push around.  V  has played with these a little bit but so far they do not hold her interest like the other toys do.  Maybe I will put them up for a month and see if they are more interesting next month.

Verdict:  I liked this box MUCH more than the last month.  It’s really like Citrus Lane could read my mind…or I guess maybe my blog?  Haha, you never know!  I was much happier with 4 similarly priced quality toys, rather than 1 really big item with a few fillers.  Keep it up, Citrus Lane!  Again, I’m still not convinced I’m going to renew this subscription, because it seems like a lot of money to risk when I so far have been neutral on the boxes.

Value:  $31.85 total.  Normal box cost: up to $29.99/month.  Not a super value, although with this box I did feel like I got my moneys worth (of course I only paid $15.00).  Not sure I would have been as happy with it if I had paid full price.

Any of you guys subscribe to Citrus Lane?  How did you like your boxes?  Let me know!

4th Annual Frankenfooter Half marathon

This weekend was my first race in awhile.  My family and I participated in the 4th Annual Frankenfooter Half Marathon.  We had run this race, or a race with the same name in 2011 and it was a lot of fun so we decided to register again.  Somehow, our shirts in 2011 say 2nd Annual Frankenfooter, so I’m not sure how that timing works out…but that’s not relevant to the story.  The race was also held at a different location than the 2011 race, but still in the New Port Richey area.  The start and parking was at Port Richey Waterfront Park, a small park right on the water with boat docks and nice scenery.  It wound through some neighborhoods and through several nearby parks on the water as well, before ending at Gil Dawg Marina for the post party.

The race was supposed to start at 7am at Waterfront Park.  It was very dark, and no one was quite sure exactly where the starting line was, so, as with many races, the runners were mostly congregated around the restrooms.  Around 6:45, race coordinators announced that the start was being moved to the road in front of Gil Dawg Marina, due to it being so dark.  I believe the first part of the run was supposed to be on the small trail section in Waterfront Park, and I think they though twice about having us run that in the dark…a good move, I think.  Plus the view from that trail section was beautiful and would have been totally wasted in the dark.

Here we are pre-race in the dark.  I wore my new, sparkly running tutu from Team Sparkle (I bought mine off of amazon).

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The race started a little late, around 7:10am, which wasn’t a big deal.  Amazingly, for changing the route of the course last minute, the route was very clearly marked.  There were also volunteers at every area where there could be any confusion.  Many of those volunteers were very enthusiastic and cheered us on as we raced, which is always a great encouragement.  I can actually feel myself run faster after being cheered on…  The race/runners seemed to be unusually fast compared to other races I have run.  I ran a 2:04:33 half marathon – my personal best.  This means I ran, on average, around 9:30 miles.  For many races, especially local races, I feel like I usually run in the middle/faster end of the pack of runners.  Not this race.  There were a lot of out and back segments to the race, so you could see the runners ahead of you looping back, which was fun, but from that view it seemed like I was in the middle/slower end of the pack.  I felt like there were a lot more people ahead of me than behind me.  Considering I feel like 9:30 miles is pretty good for a small, local race this means there were a lot of really fast people there.  The woman who won the race finished in about 1 hour and 24 minutes!  Almost all of the age group winners had times under 1 hour 40 minutes!  I got a personal record though, so I was pretty happy with myself.

I was attempting a new style of racing for myself, running by feel rather than by pace.  I started the first 7-8 miles running easily, as if I could keep going forever.  The next 3-4 miles, I started focusing on individual racers and trying to pass them.  Finally, the last 2 miles I ran hard, like I wasn’t sure how long I could keep it up before I was spent.  Here’s my splits:

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I finished the race feeling like I worked hard and gave it my best, but not so dead that I was feeling sick – of course, I did get a fairly bad upset stomach starting about 1 hour later, but we wont get into that…

Here’s the whole family after the race!  Jordan (brother) got first place in his age group with an impressive time of 1 hour and 42 minutes!  And he received a fancy Frankenstein Trophy as an award.  Erin finished shortly before I did, and Mom and Dad finished in 2 hours and 50 minutes – they ran 6.6 miles of it, doing a run/walk method.

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The post race party included breakfast, bananas, and the mandatory post-race beer.  We enjoyed the food and then went home to relax!

Any Florida Races you guys have tried out?  We are always looking for new races to try, especially if they are on Sundays!

**I had to edit this – my parents corrected me that they actually ran 6.6 miles of the half marathon – more than half (I had originally put 6 miles 🙂  Great job guys!

More Freezer Meal Experiments

I’ve been trying to be really good about cooking these past few weeks.  By good, I mean trying to cook new, “real food” meals at least twice a week (usually Wednesdays and Sundays) and trying to make extras to freeze.  So far, I have been having pretty good success at making meals my family likes/will eat, and – maybe more importantly to me – does not involve me spending a whole day, or even a whole afternoon in the kitchen.  The past few meals I have tried have been chicken pot pie, stromboli, and tacos!  In all of these cases I have yet to try the frozen-then-thawed version yet, but i will update once I do in case any don’t thaw well.

Stromboli (sorry I don’t have pictures for this one)

Recipe here from Fabulessly Frugal

Ease to make: Very Easy (I was able to assemble two strombolis (is that the plural of stromboli? haha) in about 25 minutes)

For my pizza crust, I used the pillsbury pre-made pizza dough in the canister, which I loved because I really HATE spreading out pizza dough.  I love all things pizza and would probably make all sorts of pizzas except for the step of spreading the crust.  I had never tried the pillsbiry pre-made dough, and was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to use and the final taste.

I made one stromboli for dinner that night and wrapped one in plastic wrap and tin foil to freeze.  The one I made for dinner tasted great, even V (the toddler) ate a little bit of it, and it tasted good left over and cold for lunch!

Verdict: Success!!

Chicken Pot Pie

Recipe here from Fabulessly Frugal (totally didn’t realize that these were both from the same blog until now, one was from Pinterest and one from Google Search)

Ease to make: This recipe took about 1.5 hours to make from start to finish, so pretty time consuming, but it doesn’t take much longer to make several than to make one.

I made a few modifications to this one.  The recipe is for chicken pot pie but the only crust is on the top, none on the bottom.  I think this is so you can make more pies with fewer pie crusts, maybe?  I was describing this to Mark (husband), who is the expert in southern cuisine in our house, and he was not a fan of the “crust on top only” idea.  Since he loves chicken pot pie way more than I do, I figured I should cook it to suit his tastes so I added crust on the top and bottom.  For the container I also used the regular pie containers that came with the pre-made crusts rather than the meatloaf container (I used deep dish pie crust).  I also didn’t measure my vegetable amounts at all, which resulted in the pot pies being very vegetable heavy, in particular very pea heavy.  I like peas, and I like veggies, so I thought it was good, but Mark would prefer more chicken.  I made 3 pot pies total, and wrapped the other 2 in plastic wrap and tin foil for the freezer.

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Verdict: Will probably make again because Mark likes pot pies, but a lot of work…

Taco Meat

 Ok, confession – this recipe is so simple you probably don’t need a recipe, but I have such cute pictures to go along that I had to share it.  I did, however, discover that it is possible to make taco meat in a crock pot, so it was a learning experience!

Recipe here at Passionate Penny Pincher

Ease to make: very easy – throw the meat and ingredients into crockpot, stir occasionally, done!

I didn’t read the recipe right and added the taco seasoning at the beginning of cooking rather than at the end.  This resulted in my meat being under-seasoned once it was done, but I just added more seasoning and it worked out ok.  It also turned out a little more soupy than my typical taco meat, but there were no complaints about it.  I served the meat on tortillas with typical taco dressings, and it was definitely a hit.  V thought it was amazing and ate soft tacos/burritos for dinner 2 nights in a row!  I put half of the taco meat in the freezer for later.

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Her first experience holding the burrito herself – she DID NOT want mom to help her 🙂

Verdict: Success!!

Hope my experience helps anyone trying to come up with meal ideas for their family.  I really prefer meals that take minimal prep work and that I can make extras of so Mark can heat them up for dinner when I work late.  Any good recipes you know of?  Feel free to let me know!

Graze Box Review…and Running Update!

I almost didn’t write tonight. It’s been a busy/somewhat stressful day, and I’m exhausted.  But I then I remembered how much I actually enjoy this, so here I am.  I have been getting back to my training schedule after being out for 3 weeks, and finally feel like my legs are remembering that they were used to these miles.  However, I had my longest “long run” this week since starting training (12 miles), and it kind of kicked my butt!  It might have been the heat – it was a dry 82 degrees, which is pretty good for Fl – or just that it was my longest run, but I was expecting to recover better.  I did push myself through it though, and am feeling nearly recovered, about 3.5 hours later…Hopefully this means I’m prepared for my half marathon next weekend – stay tuned for that update!

Ok, but on to the real reason we’re here – more fun boxes!  Now, before anyone gets worried about me, I set myself a strict box budget, and have a fun time seeing how many boxes I can fit into this budget!  Also I look for deals so I can get a few months of one box at a time for that month’s budget and then can spend my next months budget on something else!  So far, so good, although this only works if you stay on top of cancelling the ones you don’t want to be charged for again.  Not that anyone has asked or expressed concern, but my friends and family know how I tend to jump on board to these trendy (aka crazy) ideas, and sometimes they don’t work out…

Graze Box

Graze is a snack subscription box that you can choose to have sent to you up to once weekly.  They also offer every 2 weeks and monthly subscriptions.  Boxes cost $6.49 each, and they are currently offering a deal where you can get your first and fifth box free, with no commitment to subscription (you have to cancel after you receive your first box if you don’t want them to start charging you).  They say on your site that you have to use a referral code to get this deal, but I am pretty sure I got the same deal without one.  Either way, if you would like to use my codes, here is the link including the code, and here is the input style of the code: X9GJ2HJ3P (either one works fine).  If you are trying it as a sample and have no intention of renewing your subscription, I would first set your subscription to every other week or longer, to give yourself time to cancel.  Graze is also in the process of offering a “big box” with multiple portion bags in the near future.

The boxes are delivered by USPS and are small enough to fit in your mailbox.  The site says they commonly ship to both home and work.  I usually receive mine on Monday or Tuesday, which I like because I feel like I then have new snacks for the week.

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First look on opening the box:

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Each box comes with 4 healthy snacks – dried fruit, nuts, nut/seed bars, trail mix – individually wrapped for convenience.  The box also comes with an insert containing nutritional information and also helpful healthy eating tips.  All of their snacks have symbols on the wrapper, which are supposed to quickly indicate which ones are the low calorie ones, the ones with extra vitamins, and other potential health benefits (I will admit, I have not figured out all of the symbols yet).  Most snacks are between 90-250 calories.  At this time, Graze is unable to do allergy requests.

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Close up of the food.  Especially for your first couple of boxes, there is no way to pick which snacks you get, however, as you eat your snacks, you can go online and let them know if you “loved it” would love to “try it” or want to “trash it”.  In theory you should receive more of the ones you love, and never receive anything you hate again – their selection is so big that, in about 4 boxes so far, I have yet to even get close to trying everything!  I have only had one snack total that I disliked enough that I didn’t want to eat it, most of them I have loved.

Review: When trying this box, I had absolutely no intention of renewing my subscription.  I didn’t think I would be excited about snack boxes in general.  However, after receiving the first box, I liked how easy it was to just grab a snack to put in my purse and eat it at work – rather than scrounging the break room for whatever is fair game – and I like that I have healthy alternatives on hand all the time.  I also like that it is only $6.49.  Unlike more expensive boxes (not necessarily food boxes), I feel like I expect very little to feel like I received “my money’s worth”, and I feel like Graze exceeded my expectations in both excitement of opening the box and in quality of product.  I also feel like I spend $6.00 a week or every other week on random stuff anyways, so why not spend it on something fun and healthy?  I have been getting a box every week so far and for the most part liking them a lot!

Weekend Pumpkin Festival

So this past weekend my sister, her husband and I decided to take the girls to the Pumpkin Festival at Hunsader Farms in Bradenton.  We figured that this would be a nice fall activity, and a great photo op!  The girls each wore their favorite dress-up dresses so we would have even cuter pictures – V was dressed as a fairy (sans wings), A was dressed as Rapunzel and L was dressed as Minnie Mouse.  We all decided to drive over together in my brother-in-law’s extended cab truck (yes, 3 adults and 3 babies/toddlers in 1 truck – all were buckled in safely!), which was surprisingly not bad.  We parked in their “parking lot” – likely a plowed hay field which served the purpose – and walked into the festival.  Cost is/was $5.00 for parking and $10.00/person over 12 years old (children under 12 years old were free).

First impressions – IT WAS SOOOOOOOO HOT OUTSIDE!  Not even kidding.  By the time we got to the entrance of the festival, I was already wondering how long we would be able to stay until the heat got the best of us, and my fair-haired, fair-skinned Miss V was already flushed.  The festival was actually much larger than I anticipated, almost like a mini state fair!  There were games, pony rides, corn mazes, pumpkin patches and tons of fair food.  There was also a small craft fair!  One of the first things we came to was a kid-sized corn maze for <5year olds – here’s V:

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At first she was feeling adventurous and explored a bit, but then some bigger kids needed to pass her, so she followed them back to the entrance.  After that she was only interested in pulling hay out of the bales…so we moved on.

We came across a pumpkin patch next, and thought it would be a great photo opportunity. Plus, the girls were having a blast climbing all over the pumpkins like a jungle gym, and it was in the shade…

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Believe it or not, I did not have to do any positioning to get these shots, V was just happy to be playing with/standing on/picking up the pumpkins.  The owners of the pumpkin patch did not seem too concerned, although I kept her from picking any of the up.  I thought she was just the cutest little fairy 🙂

We did some exploring of the rest of the festival, tasted some fair food – V loved roast corn on the cob!  We rode their tractor train, which was a little scary for me – I was sure that V was going to jump out at any time (although it was moving so slowly that we could have caught her), but she loved it!  She was laughing and steering the whole time!

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There was also a small petting zoo, and we walked around the craft fair for a bit until it was closing time.  In total, besides for the heat, it was a pleasant way to spend a few hours.  We thought it was very fairly priced at $10.00/person, considering the kids were free, although several of the activities, and obviously the food were extra expenses.  If you looked at the experience like going to a fair, most of the activities were very reasonable.  The only extra activity we paid for (besides food) was the train, which was $2.00.  I wish we had purchased a pumpkin, because they were very nice and reasonably priced, but the parking lot was a fairly long ways away, and we didn’t want to have to carry it around.

Any fall activities your family can’t go without?  How about fall activities for toddlers?  Let me know!