California Vacation Tips

The title to this post should be 'DISNEYLAND IS OVER-RATED' but I wanted to share everything I learned on this trip so I gave it a proper (and not so tacky) title. There were a couple of things I did do right when planning this trip, but I made a LOT of mistakes. A lot was learned, I hope someone can benefit from this lengthy (but very beneficial) post.
TIP #1
We saved for a long time for this seven day trip. Mistake #1 was planning it on the same spring break that the whole world was having. A bus driver told us that the first week in March is a good slow week. I also have heard that December was a good time to go if you are just wanting to go to Disney/Universal/SeaWorld.
TIP #2
We used a travel agent who booked our entire trip through Southwest.com
If we would have simply went to Southwest.com and paid them directly we would have got the SAME EXACT flights, hotels and deals and would have saved over $300. If we vacation again we will use Southwest airlines. You can put 2 bags on for free and take 2 very large carry ons per person.
TIP #3
Next time we travel we will put EMPTY luggage on the plane. This way we can put all of our souvenir's in the bags for the way home. When we asked the lady at the hotel desk she said the nearest UPS or USPS was miles away. Our plans for shipping everything home backfired so I bought some large bags for $12 at Disneyland and sent them back as luggage. The bags were all ripped and torn up when they came off the plane but they served their purpose.
TIP #4
Make sure your hotel is close to where you are going. We stayed at the Carousel Inn & Suites. It was about a ten minute walk to Disneyland from where we stayed. We got to the hotel in the afternoon and they would not let us check in until 4pm. I hated this about the hotel. We were so tired from the trip and we couldn't check in and rest. We had to leave our bags at the front and decided to spend the five remaining hours at adventureland. We saw some staff call people when their rooms were open, we were never called. We checked back in at 4 and fell asleep at 8 due to the jet lag and 2 hour time difference. Be forewarned that Disney shoots off a massive amount of fireworks at 9:30 every night on spring break week. EVERY night. By the last night we slept through it but the first night we had no idea what was going on and though WW III had begun. They are loud. The staff there were all VERY VERY nice. However, I will never EVER ask for their advice if we ever visit again. I REALLY wanted to go to Trader Joes. My husband asked the front desk lady what would be the best way to get a ride there. She told him that a personal driving company (Blue Star Transportation) was the best way and even called him. She said it would be about $30 to go five miles. We were desperate so we hopped in his van and were on our way. Sammy Bakir was very nice and told us that his company was the way to travel. He said that Taxis take the longest route and charge way more than he does. He took us to Trader Joes, we were there approx. 10 minutes. When we got back to the hotel, Mr.Bakir told us we owed him SIXTY DOLLARS. For a 5 mile ride. We felt stupid and taken advantage of..... if that wasn't enough humiliation there were these posters hanging in the hotel elevator
a whole day of seeing all of the sights! We booked an appointment for the next day and talked about how exciting it all would be. The stops were so fast at each of the places that we went that we literally jumped off the bus, RAN to the sight, bought a shirt or took a picture then RAN back to the bus. AMG TOURS do not give you enough time to really SEE anything.

This was Santa Monica Pier. He dropped us off wayyyyy down the road. We literally ran down to the pier, bought a Bubba Gump shirt and hat and ran back to the bus. See all the people? This is how it was the entire trip. He took us to the theater to see the stars on the ground. It was more of a circus show than it was anything else. There were people dressed up as all kinds of action figures and even a super stinky spiderman with holes in his uniform....to take a picture with stinky spiderman costs money though. None of these people pose for free. Next Stop! Venice beach. We ran out, ran past all of the people trying to sell us weed and a man wearing nothing but underwear while he walked around the weights. My daughter rolled up her pant legs and I got a few good shots. Then we ran back so we didn't miss the bus.
On the way back to the hotel the driver told us that he hated taking tourists to Venice beach. It is filthy. It smells like pot, they openly sell pot in the stores and people will walk up and beg for money or ask you to buy their rap cd's if you stand still for more than ten seconds. We did not feel safe there and I will never go back. Total Cost for AMG quick tour was over $200 plus we tipped the driver because he was nice but mostly because we made it out alive and were thankful that he didn't leave us.
I'm pretty sure Carousel Inn & Suites gets a few of those dollars for advertising their 'tour' and for the 'personal driver' who overcharged us because we were tourists and we didn't know any other way. What we should have done was downloaded the UBER app and had someone drive us for twenty bucks (or less) to where we needed to go. Although the staff were friendly they most definitely had ulterior motives. I'm pretty sure if I were some uppity business woman the front desk would help me ship a package instead of telling me I'd have to walk miles away to find a fed ex.
We talked to a lot of bus drivers while we were there. They were all very friendly. All of them told us we got ripped off with the AMG tour. One driver even told us that he'd take us on a personal all day trip and let us stay as long as we wanted at all of the sights for half of what we payed AMG. If you want advice on anything while in California, ask a bus driver. We tipped them well and they told us lots of helpful information. They also all said that they would never take their kids to Venice Beach.
TIP #5
If you are going to SeaWorld, book an interactive animal experience months in advance. It cost approx. $185 for our daughter to spend an hour with a beluga. It was another $100 for the cd of pictures. This was my daughters favorite part of the whole trip. It is something they will never ever forget. The trainer told us that the dolphins are much more dangerous and that the belugas were like big kittens. We wanted to do this while we were in Texas SeaWorld but you MUST call way in advance because there are only a few openings each day. You get a free towel which is really nice, and an amazing story to tell everyone at home!
TIP #6
If you want to save money at SeaWorld, buy food from the small carts around the park. After the beluga experience, we were very hungry. We stopped at the restaurant serving chicken, ribs and French fries and each got a piece of cake and it was EIGHTY dollars. I almost fainted. They also offer an 'all you can eat' package in the park. If you have a large and very hungry family this might pay off to do. The park checks your bags before you go in so you don't take food. I put organic fruit roll ups in my husbands pocket and we had those if we needed them also.
When visiting Universal Studios: As soon as you enter the park, go to the very back and to the bottom floor. Everyone is still at the front of the park so we rode all of the bottom floor rides in about an hour, with absolutely no lines.
****If you have a queasy stomach, or your children are sensitive to scary things, DO NOT ride the mummy ride***** My husband thought it was 'fun' however, my daughter hated the ride and I swear I was singing a hymn the whole time because it scared me so bad. It is a very rough roller coaster in the dark ride....it then screams I WILL TAKE YOUR SOUL!!!! and goes backward in the dark in true fast roller coaster fashion. I was so nauseated after this ride that I couldn't ride anything else all day and had to take a Phenergan. I'm old but the ride was really rough too.
TIP #8
I read all kinds of reviews and pinterest 'tip' pins regarding Disneyland. No one told me that the castle was itty bitty. I thought it would be HUGE and MAGICAL. There were beggers all along the entire street to Disneyland. it really took away a lot of the most magical place on earth. My daughter isn't into princesses, Check the Disneyland app to see what rides are broken. Ariels ride, Small world, Alice in Wonderland, Indiana Jones and Nemo were all broken while we were there. She was very disappointed by the old rides and wanted to go back to Adventure land after being at Disneyland for just a few hours. The rides were all at least a three hour wait due to it being spring break and because the other rides were down. If your family isn't enjoying Disneyland, simply walk next door to Adventure land. It is much MUCH better than Disneyland in our opinion. I was anxious at first when my daughter wanted to leave. I had spent months talking up mickey mouse and all the fun Disney would be. It is very outdated and seeing all of the beggars outside is very sad.
My husband LOVED the Lincoln presentation. It is very much worth going to. Unfortunately the room was almost empty when we watched it. I loved being able to take my daughter to a small history lesson in Disneyland. I hope they never get rid of it :)
TIP #9
A bus driver told us this when we were leaving. If you ask any of the food vendors for a cup of ice water, they have it, and it is free. I don't know if this is true but it is worth a shot. A bottle of water is $3 everywhere you go. This tip will save you a LOT of money. Also, my daughter and I got an ice cream bar and they are so frozen solid that they have no taste and you can't really eat them. They are a waste of money. I had never eaten a churro so I shelled out $8 for one. It tasted like gummy dough and I threw it away.
TIP #10
Adventure land has a 'cars' ride. If you want to ride it, go early in the morning. My husband and daughter stood in line for 2 hours the first day and it broke down. The next day they went back and stood in line for 3 hours. They said it was worth the wait but there are fast passes to this ride that you can get if you get there first thing in the morning. As soon as the park opens go straight back and get a fast pass. This will same you a ton of time.
Our time together was fun and it was nice to have my daughter smiling instead of worried about school. We all agreed that our next vacation will be snow skiing. And if we visit Disney again it will be in Florida, not California. I realize that I'm just a redneck girl that doesn't know much about the city life but I really thought it would be cleaner and I wish I would've been a little more educated about the tours and not put my daughter in danger at Venice Beach. California is not the place for us. I do hope that some of these tips will help. I saw a LOT of parents with kids under two and they were stressed out and the kids were either crying or asleep. Maybe if my daughter were a princess-y type of girl it would have gone a little different. I know people who LOVE to visit Disney yearly. It just wasn't for us.
I also wondered how much to save for and how much to take. It was roughly $3000 for our seven day hotel, flight and park tickets. We basically bought whatever we wanted and spent WAY too much on food and we spent about $1200 while we were there. Knowing what I know now, I think I could cut it all in half. Hope this helps you on your next trip!!



Hammer Softie Pattern & Tutorial

I instantly fell in love with the plush hammers I kept seeing pop up on Pinterest. There were several different places selling them. I couldn't WAIT to get one for my new grand-daughter for Christmas! This little girl just makes me SMILE. I'm so in love with her I just can't stand it! Every single place that sold the cute little plushies was a big red SOLD OUT. So I did what any other grandma would do. Wait it out? Be patient until after Christmas?? NO WAY! This mammie made her own pattern and made the baby her very own! It did take a while to get the pattern right. Here's how I did it:
You Will Need:
cotton fabric scraps
sewing machine or needle and thread
optional squeaker
Until I figure out how to put a pdf on the page, simply right click and hit 'fit to page' then PRINT.
When you print off the pattern you will see a dotted line. Use this line to seperate your top piece from your bottom piece.
Cut 2 of the top piece and 2 of the bottom piece.
Sew the bottom and top to both sides and iron

Put the two sides right sides together and sew all the way around the hammer leaving the bottom of the hammer open.
Turn inside out and iron.
This part is kind of tricky. Roll the handle part of the hammer halfway down to make stuffing the hammer easier. Use a LOT of stuffing. You want the hammer to be very solid, not all soft like a teddy bear. I stuffed the right and left side (top) of the hammer very solidly. I then squished up the squeaker and pushed it up to the top center of the hammer. You can place it in the head of the hammer, the side, wherever you would like. I then placed even more filling all around the squeaker so it wouldn't show. Add filling until you are at the very bottom of the hammer. Turn fabric into the handle of the hammer and sew closed. I added a bow to the babies hammer just to add a dash of cute. You can also just use one piece of fabric but I liked the contrasting fabric look.
***Feel free to use this pattern to make or sell as many as you'd like. PLEASE at least let me know that you like it though. It did take a lot of time and trial and error to finally perfect, and a little comment would be appreciated***




My mom used to paint (quite well) and sold the paintings at craft shows. I remember sitting there as a kid and watching how she sold, how she set up. I remember all the work involved. It is a LOT of work. I've done a few small craft shows myself. My favorite part of craft shows is BUYING from them! I would much rather give $10 for something that is handmade by someone than $2 for something that came from China. I've been to a lot of craft shows, both big and small. One of my favorite to go to is the largest in Oklahoma. The Affair of The Heart. There is one in Tulsa and one in Oklahoma City. I always critique the displays in my head, always notice the little things. Coming home from the most recent craft show, I was thinking of everything I wish I could say to the vendors.  But alas! I can! On my very own blog :) How can I get more sales at a craft show? How do I get more customers?
This should be obvious, but it's not. It used to bother me when I was looking at someones things and they sat there texting or yacking on the phone. Now if I see someone doing this I just walk on by. Have a buddy with you if possible. If you have urgent info, go away from your table and do it. It's just rude to not give them attention.
I think it's really pretty when a display looks like a castle, or has tons of antiques all around the 'door' with a little opening to go in. There are sometimes hundreds of people walking around the same area at once and I hate the feeling of having to fight people to go through the little hole. Please don't make a hole. It might seem appealing at first but people are too lazy to walk in and out. Or they don't want to be that close to other people.
There was a product I wanted with just my grand-daughters name on it. The booth sold pretty little bulletin boards and offered free personalization. Then I find out that there's a line around the booth and that the lady selling them is making everyone stand and wait. If you personalize, please just keep a paper and pencil handy. Take the order, tell the customer it will be ready in 30 minutes and let them keep shopping. I have no patience and won't wait. Many many lost sales are due to my inability to stand in line. I know I'm not the only one.
Make a big messy sign, or put a little tag on each individual product. It doesn't matter how you price it, but please DO IT. People get tired from walking for hours and they don't feel like asking how much each thing is. If it doesn't have a price I usually just put the product back down.
I know that it's tiring to stand there for hours and hours. If I'm walking by and someone smiles and speaks to me nicely about their product, the least I do is take a card. Tell me that your sister makes the blankets. Explain the scents that you have that others don't. Show me what your product has that others don't. Personal stories draw me in every single time. Products I never even planned on buying I will buy. Because I like that you made it and I like that you took the time to tell me about it.
A fancy website isn't necessary but if you have a business, people must be able to contact you. It doesn't have to be expensive to make a business card. Write your information on a pretty tag. Write on a pretty piece of scrap fabric with sharpie. Sometimes I don't want to spend all of my money at once place and do online shopping later. If there is no way to contact you, you can't get a sale later on. The more creative you get, the better. My husband wrote out his information on a red solo cup. I thought this was such a crazy idea but everyone who talked to him took one and smiled and thought it was funny. The cups were pennies each, and I bet some of them still remember the funny guy with the red solo cup business cards. Facebook is free to add your business page to. I love 'liking' businesses on facebook and seeing all of the new products. This is a great way to build up fans.
Not a real worm, I don't want that! I've noticed over and over that when people offer a little handmade piece of cuteness for a dollar that I must have it. A big bucket of cuteness for a dollar each, a basket of hairbows for baby for a buck...whatever your speciality is. When there is something in the consumers hand that is yours and they know they will be spending money they are more apt to take the time to look around and maybe add something else to their buy. This also gets your business card and information in their hands. Everyone has a buck. Let them spend it on your awesome product!
When I go to a show, I plan on buying. Sometimes when I go up to a table there are only a few jars/pieces/bags. If there is nothing to buy, you won't sell anything.
This should be a given, but I've had to put many a product back because the person didn't have change.
I recently walked by a Scentsy booth. The distributor was SO nice. She explained that she was a military wife and that she offers free shipping to all of her customers as a way to keep her customer base. In that one sentence she had a loyal customer for life! I am ALL FOR helping to support any military and who can say no to free shipping with every order?? It is definitely the little touches that get the sale. It is a hard economy and people are good and want to help out the little guy whose making everything piece by piece. Let them know how awesome you are and make them feel good for buying from you. I truly believe that is what it's all about!!




photo taken from pinterest

When I started this blog, I did it so that I could help people. I've been overweight most of my life and I wanted to show people how I DID IT. I was proud as a peacock and though I had permission to give each and every person my opinion on food, diet and exercise. I HAD THIS DOWN!!!
And then something happened.
It began like a leak. I'd gorge. Ask my husband to go get me a cheesecake, ice cream, ANYTHING with sugar. Then I'd eat it. In a day or two it would be gone. I kept telling him, "I can get these few pounds off in no time." Then for a few days I'd eat perfect. The drip would come back....the sound in my head, "Just this once, just this once, it won't hurt!". I was still going to the gym, still doing an hour on the elliptical at least 5 days a week, I thought I was still IN SHAPE.
And not so suddenly, I am right back where I began. My trainer notices, of course. I notice. For weeks I haven't been to the grocery store, to the mini mart, out in public. I don't want them to SEE. More than likely no one will notice or even care. But the second I see someone in public I tell myself that they are talking about me. Have you ever felt like that? I don't even know if I have blog readers. But it has been therapeutic writing this all down. Like a diary but it's one that I'm holding out to the entire world.
When I was little, I remember getting my first diary. I asked my dad what to put in it, he said "Just write down what happened in your day.". I remember my first entry was 'today was a good day'. When I was 16 I burned my big purple diary, I didn't want anyone to ever read it. And here I am throwing out all my bare-ness for the entire world to judge.
I'm not sure what caused me to gain it all back. I've had a lot of personal things going on. A lot of sadness, hurt, shame and guilt. I wake up in the middle of the night with guilt. For not being present when I should have, for working too much when the kids were babies.
Sometimes it covers me like a thick, moldy wool blanket and I feel like I can't breathe.
God is the only way that I can lose weight. God is the only way I can ease myself of the guilt. I wrote a letter to my biological father about things that happened in the past. I doubt I will ever give it to him but it felt like a large person fell off of my back. I hadn't realized I was keeping all of that in.
Summer is also a hard time because my youngest daughter is gone for half of it. I hate being without her and I need to get a grip on the fact that I cannot control things. You get a divorce so your children don't have to be around that person and then you have to send them with the same person you were trying to keep them safe from.
So today I am here to confess my weight gain. To get up and start over. Again. again, and again, and again. I have to be healthy for my family and for myself. I don't want to be so ashamed of my body that we don't have a vacation. I want to go to the grocery store and I want to smile and MEAN it. I'm not going to talk myself into thinking that everyone is thinking about how fat I've become.
I was on the treadmill and my humongous again body was sweating from the small bit of exertion I was doing.
My trainer said "You might have given up on yourself, but I haven't."
Imagine how mad he must be that I've been working with him over a year and am standing before hime now at the same weight I started with (40 pounds lost then gained over and over). I would have fired me. But he stands there and says he's not giving up.
I am starting again, I am not going to gorge. I've started at 1400 calories a day and have been walking/jogging so that I can make it through a 5k in August.
Sometimes all you need is that ONE person to believe in you. I hope that everyone has a person like that. I thank God for him, and for every blessing I have been given. And today, I will begin giving God the credit, because without him, I am nothing.