All Aboard the Polar Express Train!

We kicked off the holidays (and celebrated Colton’s 4th birthday) in Williams, Arizona. We drove 2.5 hours north to embark on The Polar Express train ride that takes you to the North Pole and back. It was truly THE MOST magical experience for Ryan and I and incredibly memorable for the kids. Beside that, we saw snow! The minute we spotted snow on the ground, Colton excitedly asked, “Mom is that really snow?” At that moment I realized he hasn’t seen snow since he was one years old so of course this was a huge deal for him. Nolan on the other hand was more interested in the rocks on the ground than the snow, but he’s still figuring things out.

polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

We arrived on Saturday afternoon at The Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel where we booked their hotel package that includes free breakfast, dinner and train tickets. It was the cutest little hotel in the heart of a really charming town. We got checked in and immediately let the kids loose to run around and throw snowballs at each other.

family-at-polar-express

polar express Arizona

We then grabbed appetizers at the hotel Pub (and took a few glasses of  wine back to our room) so we could snack and gear up for the evening. We dressed kids in matching holiday pajamas from Hannah Andersson (our favorite!) and watched as they ran around the hotel room giddy in anticipation for what’s to come.

polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

It was 28 degrees so we had to bundle up which unfortunately hid their cute jammies under big jackets but that’s the price you pay to avoid freezing your face off. Nearly every family was dressed in either matching outfits or pajamas (my kind of event!). It was really darling to see so many loved ones grouped together.

One family had grouped a few tables together at the hotel’s restaurant and had a game of Monopoly going. I thought to myself, that’s a huge commitment as no-one can finish that game in under two hours, but nevertheless they had the right idea. Grab some hot chocolate, snuggle up by the fire and indulge in game night with your family. Moments like this one where happening everywhere you looked.

As for us, we left our hotel room at 5:10 to get into the train line by 5:15 (it was that close of a walk). The kids had their train tickets in hand as we approached the station. “Don’t lose your ticket, Colton”  Kelsey would remind him. “That’s what happened to the kid in the movie and we don’t want that.” She was right. We were in train car J so we made our way through a crowd of excited families to find a conductor waiting to welcome us aboard.

polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

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polar-express-arizona-mom-blog

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many hats of a mom blogger

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You get reserved seats when you buy tickets (just indicate if you’re doing two separate reservations that you’d like to sit together). We were so excited to find that our two rows were located in the back of the train car, making the ride feel a bit private and cozy. The train cars flip around (thank you to the kind lady who pointed this out) so we were able to face each other during the train ride and better contain our wiggly and always-in-motion toddler.

polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

As the train took off from the station I caught a glimpse of Colton starring out the window. He was stiff as a board and perfectly poised during the initial moments of the train. You could tell he was a little nervous and excited for what was to come. The team did a REMARKABLE job of bringing the Polar Express movie to life through the talent and decor aboard the train. I was incredibly impressed.

Less than five minutes into the train ride they started handing out hot chocolate and huge chocolate chip cookies. The hot chocolate was served at the perfect temperature for our kids little taste buds and must have been made with chocolate heaven because Ryan and I “got ours to share” but I really devoured most of it.

They played Christmas tunes as we entered a “magic tunnel” – the tunnel helped us jump into time so we could get to the North Pole much faster. They read the Polar Express book so bring your own if you want to follow along. As we approached the North Pole, Colton and Kelsey ran to the other side of the train and glued their faces to the window to get a peek at Santa and his reindeer.

We saw little itty bitty elf houses and some other scenic buildings from Santa’s hometown. As we slowed down and started going back to Arizona, we were told Santa boarded the train! This was super exhilarating for the kids. As we waited our turn for Santa to join our train car, they gave us song books and we sang Christmas carols. I’m telling you … does it get better than this?

It does because Nolan started getting sleepy and curled up into my lap as Santa arrived and greeted the kids, giving them ‘jingle bells’ just like in the movie. Colton got an extra special birthday bell and off Santa went. Ryan and I couldn’t have asked for a better evening with our family.

We highly recommend it if you get the opportunity. Next year we plan on visiting the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff, Arizona. Please let me know if you’ve been and if you have any tips!

Christmas at the Scottsdale Princess

arizona holiday events

many hats of a mom blogger

First off, let’s applaud a company that still says “Christmas” in all of their holiday marketing messaging. My company canned that a long time ago (such a shame!). Not only was the Christmas at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess the perfect event to kick off the holiday season, but the kids really, really (really!) enjoyed it.

This resort is so nostalgic to me because when I was little, before we moved to Scottsdale, my parents used to take us to Arizona for vacation and we always stayed at the Princess. I don’t remember much, except for the fact that Rawhide used to be nearby and this resort had an amazing pool. Well, fast forward to last night when I got to walk around this property with my kids. It was kind of surreal to watch Ryan take the kids around this resort. I imagine that’s what my dad did with me and my brothers years ago.

Anyway … back to the event.

The resort put on quite a show! There was a carousel, a gazillion Christmas lights, a huge Christmas tree, a projector that turned the side of the building into a giant gingerbread house, an Elf in costume (that Colton proudly said, “Mom, look .. a farmer!), fire pits for s’mores, a petting zoo, a train and ice skating!

Here are a few photos from our night.

christmas at the scottsdale princess resort

Many hats of a mom blogger

christmas at the scottsdale princess resort

Christmas at the Scottsdale Princess Resort

Christmas at the Scottsdale Princess Resort

arizona holidays

arizona holidays

many hats of a mom blogger

christmas at the scottsdale princess

christmas at the scottsdale princess resort

Caught these two sitting by the fire … Colton is stuffing his face with a s’more. That’s my boy!

arizona holidays

scottsdale princess christmas

scottsdale princess christmas
Watching Ryan with these two kids was the best part of my night. They wanted to ice skate so bad but we had to get Nolan home to bed. Next time, kiddos. If you get the chance, you should check out Christmas at the Princess. It’s a great holiday event for kids.

IT’S TIME TO START THINKING OF HOLIDAY CARDS

Where do you purchase your holiday cards? Do you send cards out with pictures or without? I like to mail my Christmas cards with one family photo on the front and one family photo on the back. Sending Christmas cards is a great excuse to step in front of the camera with my family. Plus, it’s fun to see the little ones grow with each passing year.

Do you remember my holiday cards from last year? I ordered my cards from Minted.com for the very first time. I was so impressed! From start to finish the process was easy, fast and perfectly designed. Here’s our card to jog your memory – can you believe Colton was so itty bitty … and bald … and not tan.

MINTED CHRISTMAS CARDS
If you haven’t done so already, start planning your family photo sessions with a local photographer. Make sure you color coordinate and choose a time when your kids are apt to be on their best behavior (but, really … is there a such time?).

There are a lot of online stationary sites, but what I love most about minted.com is their amazing selection, great quality and the “Find it Fast” feature. You upload your photo and instantly see all of their designs mocked up with your photo on them – it looks like this. See Kelsey & Colton?

Minted

Let’s talk envelops for a second because this is where you’ll fall in love. Minted has matching envelop designs and recipient addressing (you ready for this?) – FREE for a limited time. Click here to see the designs and more details.

minted envelops

I partnered with Minted.com to bring you some of my favorite holiday cards from their website. I’m crushing on the foil stamped cards and the cute designs that are in store! Here are some of my favorite holiday card designs from Minted.

minted photo cardsminted christmas booksminted holiday cards minted holiday designsMinted - Foil Pressed Cardminted holiday cards2minted christmas card

Shop their whole holiday card store here. Good luck choosing … can you believe it’s almost the holiday season? I say … bring it on (I’m clearly a Christmas geek).

Up, Up and Away Winter Holiday

Colton is OBSESSED with Frosty the Snowman. We have an inflatable Frosty in our yard and every evening he begs, pleads and throws a tantrum to see Frosty up close. When we heard The Phoenician was doing a free public event this weekend with Frosty present … well, you didn’t have to tell us twice.

This event was so cute. It came complete with falling snow, Carolers, horse-drawn carriage, tethered hot air balloon rides, hot chocolate & cookies …. and Frosty! This night was such a great way for us all to extend the Christmas season a bit longer.

the phoenician holiday event

the phoenician holiday eventthe phoenician holiday event the phoenician holiday event

the phoenician holiday event

the phoenician, scottsdale resortthe phoenician holiday event

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holiday eventholiday eventholiday eventShe grabbed a cookie then booked it to the dance floor because “Mom, the Grinch song is on! We love this one.”

the phoenician holiday event

holiday eventthe phoenician holiday event the phoenician holiday eventWe followed Frosty around ALL night. I kind of felt bad for the guy. Every time he turned around, there we were. And there was Colton … just staring in awe with his favorite Christmas character.       

Two (fashionable) Peas in a Pod

It was a tie over who was dressed cuter the other day. Sabrina picked up Kelsey for a Starbucks date and we had to laugh because they were dressed so much alike. Tan boots. Check. Grey top. Check. Adorable. Check. Check.

Kelsey’s skirt, top and headband are from H&M and her boots from Gap. I just couldn’t help myself … naturally, I made them pose before they left for their coffee/ chocolate milk date.

HM KidsHM Kids

HM KidsHM KidsHM Kids

The Holiday Hat: Arizona Santa Cactus

Isn’t this hilarious? My father-in-law dressed up his front yard cactus to look like Santa. He even hooked up speakers to the cactus so you could hear holiday tunes as you cruised by. We were celebrating Christmas Day at my in-laws house and I couldn’t tell you how many people pulled over to take a photo with this Santa Cactus. Only in Arizona, eh?

Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights 2

The Holiday Hat: Daddy’s Little Helper

This morning, daddy had a helper to hang up Christmas lights – an adorable little girl in Dora pajamas She held the ladder for him and even grabbed a hammer, you know, just in case.

The Holiday Hat: Gifts Ideas Under $25

For holiday teacher gifts this year, we are going to give personalized notes along with a sweet-scented gift. I am going to pick out something from Philosophy’s Holiday Gifts Under $25 list. I am leaning towards the Cinnamon Buns Ornament – it’s only $6 and this is truly one of their best scents for the holidays. Not to mention, the packaging is adorable.

A hand-written card is always a great way to go. Especially if you’re giving something a little “less formal” – like a gift card. For our team appreciation event at W Scottsdale (seen here), I purchased holiday cards from Target, slipped in a $15 Starbucks gift card and wrote each person a note from our heart.

If you’re looking for additional ways to save this season, or you’re like me – and love to give extra “little” things to the ones you love – below is a list I put together of gifts ideas under $25.

25 Gift Ideas Under $25
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1. Personalized memory game by Pinholepress- $19
2. French Bulldog Coin Bank – $18
3. Candy Cane Salt Sugar Scrub by Philosophy – $25
4. Whiskey Stones for the particular drinker – $19.95
5. Pretty iPhone case from Anthropologie – $24
6. Super-chic Passport & Luggage set from Z Gallerie – $19
7. Table Topics, always a present-stealer at work gift exchanges – $20
8. Verve Champagne Flute by Crate & Barrel – $12.95
9. Chloé Eau de Parfum miniature duo – $18
10. Elf of a Shelf DVD at Target – $9.95
11. Neiman Marcus ’40 Lane Peanut Brittle’ – $25
12. Owl Kitchen Timers, very retro and cute! – $8
13. Face plates for the kids (we have this and love) – $10
14. Personalized holiday labels to put on your homemade gift – $12
15. Pins and Needles Pinwheel Gloves – $20
15. Suri’s burn book (for the girl with a sense of humor) – $12
16. Alphabet mugs at Pottery Barn – $10
17. Domino: The Book of Decorating – $20
18. Golf ball personalizer – $22
19. Watch me Melt Snowman (for the kids or kid in you) – $15
20. Cranberry Infinity Pashmina – $10
21. OPI Tinsel Town Set – $19.50
22. One Hope Bottle of Wine (50% goes to charity) – $19
23. Dylan’s Candy Bar Holiday Hot Cocoa Set – $20
24. Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof cookbook $20
25. William-Sonoma Soap & Hand Lotion Set – $29.99 (close enough)
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One more … Cheryl’s cookies is a bit over the $25 range, but way too delicious to pass up- $44. My aunt just sent us some of these cookies and they are pretty amazing. And that is not just my 39 week pregnant self talking.

Don’t forget about Oprah’s Favorite Things 2012 List – it’s on Sunday, November 18th. You’ll get a lot of great holiday gift ideas, I’m sure of it.