Arizona Renaissance Festival Tips

I was provided with complementary tickets to the festival.  All opinions, as always, are my own.

Every year, around my son’s birthday, the Renaissance Festival comes to Arizona.  I was never able to go when I was younger but since having my own kids, I make a point to go each year.  The kids always have a blast but this place is great for adults, too!  This year I was lucky enough to go twice! Once on a date with my husband and another trip included the kids.

Arizona Renaissance Festival

The Arizona Renaissance Festival never disappoints and it’s one of the highlights of our year.  There’s only two weeks left for this year and I highly recommend you check it out.  Here’s a few tips from my family to yours, to ensure the best time possible!

AZ Renaissance Festival

1. Bring cash.  Sure there are ATMs but it makes the trip smoother if you prepare ahead and bring cash.  Don’t worry, if you need to grab cash, ATMs are pretty easy to locate both inside and outside the entrance.

2. Dress Up.  My kids love any chance to dress up and why not?  We have a box of dress up gear and helped them pick themed appropriate pieces but the certainly don’t have to be historically accurate!  My older boy wanted to wear Pokemon pieces that resembled a dragon. The employees are always extra fun when you are dressed up.

3.Timing.  I know my kids won’t last the whole day at the festival so I’ve learned the best time for us to go is in the afternoon.  That way we are there at the end for the Joust to the Death.  It’s one of our favorite things to see, the show is such fun and higher energy than the others throughout the day. This timing works for us, but take a look online to see what might work for you.

4. Wear sunscreen and comfy shoes.  The festival is 30 acres packed full with rides, food, stages/shows, crafts, jousting, mermaids and more!  Make sure you are wearing comfy shoes so you can enjoy your time exploring.  The festival is outdoors (though you can certainly find relief form the sun in one of the shaded areas) so sunscreen is another must.

Arizona Renaissance Festival

Anniversary Weekend at Westin Kierland Reort and Spa in Scottsdale

My husband and I just celebrated another year of marriage (yay!) and as a present to ourselves we wanted to ‘get away’ for a bit.  Can you relate?  We have 5 kiddos, so getting away anywhere can be problematic but we worked it out with family and friends and figured out a weekend that worked for everyone.  The time frame we had was limited so we didn’t want to waste hours in the car or at the airport (plus flights aren’t cheap!). A local staycation was certainly our best option and I knew exactly where to go; Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona.


If you have been reading this blog for a while, you might remember our amazing family staycation a couple years ago at Westin Kierland.  I remembered how wonderful the staff was, the gorgeous view and how it was the perfect place for families AND couples.


My expectations were, of course, met (and exceeded).  The experience was perfection.  We relaxed, played, drank and explored.  The ideal weekend away, for us.  The view was phenomenal (as it was last time) and beds comfortable.  A comfortable bed is a top priority for us, especially on a rare weekend without kids, where sleep and rest are actually attainable.

Scottsdale, AZ

We booked the Mojito Madness class at the deseo bar just before the restaurant opened.  It was fun to see how they make on of my favorite drinks with fresh ingredients.  The class came with an appetizer and the bartender was wonderful and made suggestions (which were spot on, we loved the shrimp and kobe choices).  We had dinner at deseo, one of the restaurants in the resort.  I’d consider it ‘fancy’ and perfect for an anniversary, whether you are staying on the property or not.


This time around I did not make it to Agave Spa but I did see the amazing treatments being offered and might have to make a special trip one day in the near future for a Salted Lime & Tequila Body Glow or The Tequila Lime Refresh Facial.  Or maybe both?! Right now, you can grab a great deal on spa treatments!


This summer Westin Kierland has some really affordable offers.  You can opt for dinning credit or FlowRider sessions on top of a great nightly rate with the Say Aloha Summer deal.

If you are looking locally or if you are traveling to Scottsdale, I highly recommend Westin Kierland Resort and Spa for families and couples. What amenities do you look for when booking a romantic weekend away?



Donate, Keep, Trash: Cleaning House While Doing Good

*This is a sponsored post brought to you by Savers.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Get Rid Of Clutter

Each year, just around the holidays, I encourage my family to go through their belongings and re-evaluate.  It can certainly be a task getting kids to really think about their things and make decisions on if they should keep, trash or donate (give away).  I take the approach of explaining how donations help others and focusing on all we do have.  Even though we are trying Want, Need, Wear and Read this year,mentioning the making room for new gifts from Santa doesn’t hurt, either).

Savers Donations

I assess the situation. Their stuffed animals were over flowing, the basket that contains the cars full and the toy animals out numbered the hairs on their heads so we dove in.  If the someone wanted to ‘keep’ an item they had to make their case.  If I got an answer like, “I don’t know.” I asked the simple question, “Why is this important to you?”.  That question gets the kids thinking and sometimes they realize that the toy or animal isn’t really important.  I try to be diligent about throwing away broken toys when it happens, but we toss anything that is broken or unable to be fixed.  We donate everything else (I go through clothes and shoes alone, donating anything they’ve out grown).  With three boys ages 5 and under this can sometimes take a while so we attack each category separately, usually one a day.

Donating at Savers

We make sure to donate somewhere it helps people locally, and for us, that is Savers.  Savers in Arizona is partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona.  We start this tradition early to ensure we have plenty of time to donate in time to claim it on taxes!  Yes!  Donating is not only great for teaching children about giving, de-cluttering and cleaning house.  It’s a tax right off, too.  In order to be eligible to include the donation, though, you must donate before the end of the year (December 31st).

Jelly Bean Turns 13: Castles N’ Coasters + GIVEAWAY (Phoenix, AZ)

Things to Do in Arizona

Here’s another one for my local readers (or anyone visiting the Phoenix area)!  If you have spent some time here in Phoenix, Arizona, you have likely heard of Castles N’ Coasters.  Just off the I-17 (and Dunlap) near MetroCenter Mall, Castles N’ Coasters has been around since I was little.  It’s been upgraded and, of course, new attractions and rides have been added since I was a kid.  

Castles N' Coasters in Phoenix, AZ

I remember standing up as tall as I could in the line for Desert Storm, the big green looping coaster you can see from the freeway, which is still there.  Castles N’ Coasters is Arizona’s Finest Family Fun and Thrill Park and when we were planning a celebration for Jelly Bean’s 13th birthday this was the best choice.  She wanted to invite a couple friends to just hang out, instead of having a huge party.  Castles N’ Coasters offers party packages but we only had four kiddos so we got unlimited ride passes (plus miniature golf ) and I sent them on there way.  I stayed on site, in the arcade area, while the girls enjoyed the rides and games.  

Fun Things for Kids in Phoenix, AZ

Later, my cousin met up with me and we decided to play some arcade games while we waited.  We played old school Pac Man, Pinball, Air Hockey and Basketball but there are tons of modern games, too. I, of course, beat her pretty consistently.

Arcades and Games in Phoenix

When K turned 4, I took him for special Mom/Son time to play mini golf and he’s been begging to go check out the rides.  He’s actually tall enough for quite a few, now, so perhaps I’ll take him for rides next time.

Have you been to Castles N’ Coasters?  What’s your favorite thing to do there?  If you haven’t been, check out the website and let me know what you think you’d like to do in the comments below.

Want to WIN TICKETS?  Enter Below!  Don’t forget to LIKE and FOLLOW llandlol and Castles N’ Coasters on Facebook.



Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE! Music is Awesome! (Phoenix, AZ)

Comerica Theatre – November 25th Yo Gabba Gabba! will take the stage this Fall with Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE! Music is Awesome!.


The new live stage show marks the 5th anniversary of the live tour. Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE! Music is Awesome! will be directed by Yo Gabba Gabba! creators Christian Jacobs (The Aquabats) and Scott Schultz (Majestic). DJ Lance Rock, (Lance Robertson, St. Louis native and founding member of psychedelic electronic pop band The Ray Makers), the colorful cast of Yo Gabba Gabba! characters, fan favorite Leslie Hall and beat boxing legend Biz Markie will return to the road together to perform for more than 200,000 enthusiastic fans on a 30-city tour that will begin on Tuesday, October 14 and will run through Sunday, December 7.


The Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE! Music is Awesome! tour is produced by S2BN Entertainment in association with DHX Media.

GIVEAWAY! 2 Tickets to North Pole Experience in Flagstaff, AZ

North Pole Experience
**The tickets for this giveaway are provided by NPX
Last year I packed the family up and headed to Flagstaff, AZ for some snow fun and North Pole Experience (or as some call it NPX).  It was a mini vacation for us, only a couple hours away, and it was magical.  This year we are able to host a giveaway for our fans and I am almost as excited to give tickets away as I was to go!  Heave over HERE  to check out just how much fun we had and enter to win two tickets below!

John C. Lincoln Health and Emergency Center in Phoenix

With four kids, three of which are boys 5 and under, you better believe I have spent my fair share of time in urgent cares and even the ER.  I dread those moments, like most moms do.  I am constantly telling the kids to keep their hands to themselves and a huge reason is totally selfish.  Yes of course I don’t want them to get hurt.  But also, I don’t want to have to take them to urgent care or ER.  I recently got a tour of a new facility in north Phoenix (only about 15 minutes from my home!) and if (who am I kidding?  WHEN) we need medical care, I will definitely be jumping on the freeway and heading to John C. Lincoln Sonoran Health and Emergency Center.JCL Sonoran Emergency

This place is top notch, with stat of the art technology and equipment, highly trained staff and it is a beautiful facility.  I was really excited to tour the facility with a group of local bloggers and was encouraged to bring my kids with me.  The other kids were in school but G came along and had a great time playing with the nursing staff while I got an in depth view of what they are doing there at JCL Sonoran.

The Breast Health and Research Center is designed for comfort and is more like a spa then medical center.  The facility uses 3D mammogram technology which can help early detection of breast cancer and has resulted in less callbacks to patients (callbacks refer to bringing a patient back to screen again due to unclear results).

JCL Sonoran Breast Health and Research

The Emergency Center of the facility is also very beautiful but functional, as well.  The doors roll shut quietly and the blinds are on the outside of the room so staff can look in without disturbing the patients and their family.  The interior of the room is efficient and cuts down on the hospital room shuffle; you know, when visitors have to move around the room uncomfortably trying to stay out of the doctors or nurses way.  Maybe it’s just me, but I really appreciate this!


The artwork in the hallways is pretty and soothing but many had a hidden purpose too!  Like this one that opened up to reveal an eye chart.

Eye Chart

After our tour we got to enjoy some discussion and presentations and a lunch catered by Paradise Bakery.  It was a educational and informative day.  I was so glad to have found out more about this facility and the staff here.

JCL Presentation


You can find out more info on JCL Sonoran online!

Baby G Turns THREE! Carnival Themed Party in Scottsdale, AZ

Summer is over and we are right back into the swing of our school year schedule!  So time has passed but I didn’t want to miss the chance to share details about our youngest child’s 3rd birthday party.  Baby G was still young enough when I started planning his party that I was able to pick the theme (though he and the other kids LOVED it, but he may not have picked it for himself).  If you have been following me for some time you know I love a theme!  When we booked our party location they offered face painting and from that the Carnival/Fair/Circus theme emerged!Ticket Invitation The party location in Scottsdale Arizona we decided on for Baby G’s party was Daydreams Drop In Childcare.  I was really excited when I found out they offered parties.  When I was pregnant with Baby G, my older son occasionally went to this location (called something else but still the same owner) when I couldn’t find someone to watch him but had to go to the doctor.  He referred to it as ‘The Play Place”, as in, “Mommy, I go to Play Place today?! Please?”.  They are typically a drop in childcare facility that charges only for the time your child is there, not rounding up to the hour but prorating to the minute.  They now offer bulk minute discounts which is a great option to save some money and there are no membership fees.  I knew it’s be the perfect place for all ages and love that they offered a private party before opening.Carnival Birthday Party Let me say now, before you continue reading, choosing this place was the best decision I could have made.  The staff went above and beyond and took care of everything so I could enjoy the party too.  Usually, I am running around refilling snack bowls, cutting and passing out cake, rounding up kids for singing and trying to make sure every kid leaves with a goodie bag…they did it all and more.  The icing on the cake, for me, was when they announced it was photo time and got all our kid guests together for pictures.  Plus, they encouraged us to take family photos, too.  It’s so nice to have a couple shots that I am in too (I know I am not the only one who can relate to always being behind the camera)! Carnival Party Decor I got most of the supplies, decor and favors from Oriental Trading.  The carnival games were a fun addition and a way to really bring the theme to all aspects of the party.  The food was simple and classic carnival or fair food.  The staff set up the food table with all the items I brought it; cotton candy, popcorn and circus lollipops.  I wasn’t sure how to display the lollipops and the staff had just the thing!  An adorable box with foam for easy display.  I loved the way it turned out.  The tables were set with some animal crackers and carnival candy packs- the party venue had already put table clothes on the little tables for the kids.  The party favors were from a treasure box that included 50 items (and again, the staff rocked and put favors in bags and passed them out so no child left without one!) that reminded me of the kinds of items you might win at a school carnival. Carnival Cake I used a giant cupcake pan to make the carnival/circus tent cake.  The homemade butter cream frosting started getting too warm while I was decorating but I had left it until the last minute and didn’t have time to let it sit in the fridge a bit more.  No one seemed to notice the sloppy decorating and everyone was impressed (and it was so easy).  I also made a simple birthday banner using 8×8 inch pieces of paper.  I cut them into triangles (in half diagonal) and used a stencil to spell out a message.  I loved the added touch above the food table and it took less than 20 minutes.  Balloon animals where around the tables as decor and given to any kids who wanted one as they left.  They were fun to make (I made them the night before) and an inexpensive way to add more to the theme. Scottsdale AZ Birthday Party The party was amazing and I have been raving about the location and staff for over a month now. With the party package we got 2 free hours of drop-in care for the birthday boy, which will certainly come in handy some day soon!  Plus, he keeps asking to visit the ‘ birthday play place’.  It will certainly be hard to top this party!  I love planning parties, especially birthday parties, and luckily, with 4 kids, I get the chance often! Birthday Party in Arizona

Back To School: Immunizations at Walgreens

 This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.  All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias

Back to SchoolWe are gearing up for the new school year in our home!  One 7th grader, one in Kindergarten, our nephew is going to preschool and the baby is on the wait list for preschool, too.  This might be the first year all the kids are go to school!  Let me take a minute because that is just CRAZY!  Whew. Ok, and I’m back! Of course there is tons of back to school shopping to be done, pencils, folders, backpacks etc. One very important aspect of back to school shopping includes immunizations!

Easy Immunizations for School

My own kiddos are very aware that shots help keep them safe and healthy.  We discuss it often and, although they don’t love getting them, they do know it is necessary.  Last year, after school has started, I got a call from my the oldest child’s nurses office.  Turns out she was missing an immunization from her records and we needed to get her up to date.  So I called the doctor’s office.  There were no openings until the next week.  I wish we had known about Walgreens Healthcare Clinics where no appointment is necessary, it’s quick and easy, most insurance is accepted (I checked, ours is) and they’ll report back to your primary care physician.  And the icing on the cake, in my opinion, is this program I recently learned about.  When your child gets their back-to-school immunization at Walgreens, they’ll provide a lifesaving vaccine to a child in a developing country through the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign. #GiveaShot

Walgreens Shots

This program is aimed at school aged children 7 years and older.  I found this chart on the website really helpful and hopefully I won’t have any missed immunizations in the future.

Immunization Calendar

She’s got a few she needs before school starts in a couple weeks and you can bet you’ll catch us popping in to the Walgreens on the corner for school supplies and to update those immunizations.  She says if she has to get them anyway, she’d like to do them at Walgreens, where she can “Get a Shot, Give a Shot”.

Carnival, Fair or Circus Party Invite Ticket Printable

My youngest son is turning three in July (EEEEEK!!!) and around here birthdays are kind of a big deal.  I love a theme, I love a party and I love to plan parties.  I’ve planned many events, both personal and professionally, but I LOVE making my kids feel extra special for their birthdays.

The older kids pick their party themes, usually (or I help guide them to a theme).  This year I picked G’s theme and we are doing a Carnival/Fair Party!  There will be face painting (offered by the party location, DayDreams DropIn for no extra charge; which is part of the reason I ran with this theme), fair food and games.

I made up a ticket invite with all the info and a cute carnival party invitation wording:

Step Right Up And Join The Fun!

This Party Will Be The Best One!

Game, Face Painting and More!

Don’t Forget; Treats Galore!

Ticket Invitation

I have an empty ticket available for you to use and edit for your own party.   Download a ticket invitation free printable!

Free Printable Ticket Invitation


With four kids there are many parties to come; comment below with some party themes for me!