Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Don't Leave Home Without Him

Anyone planning a trip to Disney in the next 6 months?

Then there is someone you need to know. Tour Guide Mike

This guy single-handedly ensured my husband might go back to DisneyWorld. Why? Because in the two days we covered all of Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom that we could, our longest wait was a maximum of 25 minutes.

Did you hear me?

We were at Disney in peak season with what felt like EVERY Brazilian teenager on vacay and the longest we had to wait to ride the best rides they had to offer was less than half an hour AND that particular line moved so fast, that it didn't even feel that long (or was it because we were so busy bribing our youngest son to ride Big Thunder Mountain that time flew? For the record, he ended up with a spray bottle that also has fan attached for being so brave. Way to go W! Worth every bit of the $17 we paid). That was the only ride we really had to wait for. The rest we either walked right onto or had a 5-10 minute wait, tops.

Back to the point. I have three great friends who are lovers of the Mouse. All have 3+ children and all have been to Disney mulitple times, and two of the three have traveled sans children, I think. So when we planned our trip to Florida and we began to see that we might be able to squeeze in a few days at Disney, I had to consult my Disney-lovin' Peeps. After they all three got over the fact we were only going to do Disney for 2 days (the HORROR) they all told me to run, not walk, to a little site called Tour Guide Mike.

Mike Hewell, aka TGM, was a VIP host for Disney for 5 years and now owns his own VIP tour company. His credentials are too long to list, but know he is a wealth of knowledge and because of this, his site offers date-specific, day-by-day Least Crowded Parks guides, sample park tours for each Disney park, customized list of the 'best of the best' attractions (age specific for younger children, older children or active adults), ability to add or delete any attraction, and recommended Disney restaurants. My most favorite part is that he tells you which rides to hit first and then others in a certain order. Basically, he gives you a game plan on the best way to get through the park....a type-A's dream!

With his site, I was able to look at these days we would be in Disney, see that Magic Kingdom was a good choice for Wednesday and Animal Kingdom was least crowded on Thurdays (did I mention every Brazilian teenager was there with their tour guide and her flag-on a-stick?) and off we went.

Here are some things to consider that I learned from TGM and my Disney BFFs:

*Be at the turnstiles of the park 15-20 minutes before opening

*If you are a first time visitor or celebrating a birthday, head to Guest Relations and secure your pin-on buttons for these. These buttons will often allow for certain privileges during the day.

*Lunch is recommended to be eaten early (10:45-11:00) to get ahead of the crowds and then ride more while they were eating.

*Head back to the hotel around 2 and swim and relax before eating dinner and returning to the park that night. The days are long, the nights are late and the mornings are early, trust me on this. And we were feeling it by day 2 because our bodies were still on Texas Time...which meant 6:30 was 5:30, yikes!

*Rather than chase the characters all around the park and wait in long lines for signatures, make reservations for Character Dinners at night. We ate at Chef Mickey and it was too much fun. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto were there and came to eat table to take pictures and sign

*There are lots of options regarding autographs. Autograph books can be purchased on property or you can make your own by going here and printing out the pages you need and binding them. This gals has created endless designs, check them out! Other choices are to take a pillowcase or a t-shirt for the characters to sign. Know that they will NOT sign a shirt that a child has on, so plan on taking an extra w/ a piece of cardboard inside for a hard surface. And last but not least, we took a photo matte and had the characters sign. It was a bit of a challenge to keep it from getting bent, but we managed. Your kiddo might not even be into this part of the trip, and I didn't think ours would, but when we were in the moment, they did like for them to sign something...as crazy as it sounds.

*Bringing ponchos is a great idea. The Florida climate is known for its afternoon showers and we experienced that 2 of the 3 days we were there. The first day it passed quickly and we were good. The 2nd day was a massive t-storm and we had to bust out the ponchos and wear them in the park that night. The crazy thing is that rain doesn't keep anyone away. We were just all walking around in our ponchos like it was the natural thing to do. Let me also say that the poncho can be particulary helpful on rides like Splash Mountain or Kali River Rapids if you don't want a wet booty all day. Just tie it around your waist and you are good to go. 'Nuff said.

*Pre-paid Dining Plans are an option. This year the dining plan is $37.99 per adult (ages 10+) and $9.99 per child (ages 3-9) and will give you one of each of these per person (age 3 and up) per NIGHT (not per day) of you vacation: A snack-This can pretty much be anything less than $4. It can be a bottle of water, a soda, a box of popcorn, an ice cream, a piece of fruit, a cookie, a bag of chips etc. A counter service meal-This includes a combo meal, a drink and a desert. A table service meal- This includes an entree, a desert and a nonalcoholic beverage OR one buffet meal and beverage. It DOES NOT include tip. We went with this option and it was fine....it just struck me as odd how weird some of the kids' choice were. Not your typical kids meals, but perhaps that is the 'Westerner' in me....you will not believe the amount of International tourist you will see.

Update: Just found out from one of the Disney BFFs that Disney went 'healthy' two years ago and that is the reason for the freaky kids' meals. Yes, the Food Pyramid police are alive and well in Orlando!

*Bring a backpack and take turns carrying it. Things to include:

Bottled Water (one per person, can refill)
Small packages of mix-ins for bottled water (Propel, Crystal Light, etc)
Hand-towel from hotel (to wipe off wet seats)

*Take advantage of the Fast Pass system. All guests who stay on property have this option and it is just awesome. We were able to ride Everest Expedition twice and didn't wait over 5 minutes.

There is so much more to tell, I am quite sure but I won't bore you with any more. We had a great first trip to the Happiest Place on Earth and made lots of memories there.

I am a reformed Disney vacation planner. I checked out and read all the books but ultimately, TourGuideMike and my friends offered the best info that shaped our vacation.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Flapjacks and a Flick

Willowbrook Movie Tavern is offering family fun on Saturday mornings!

For a limited time, they are offering Flapjacks and a Flick on Saturdays at 9:00 am. All-you-can-eat pancakes and a family movie for one great, love price!

$8.50 for kiddos and $10 for adults includes movie ticket, select drinks and

Check here for movie titles, times and details. This Saturday's features are Hannah Montana and Monsters vs. Aliens.

*Note: There is an extra $2.00 fee for films featured in 3D.

No need to even change out of your jammies. Movies never tasted so good!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

In Praise of Mom

Join us for the ultimate Mother's Day celebration, with a very special evening full of surprises. Fathom and Take on the Day present Dr. Laura "In Praise of Mom" LIVE from the Irvine Barclay Theatre on the campus of the University of California/Irvine to over 400 movie theaters nationwide. Available for TWO NIGHTS ONLY. This event premieres on Tuesday, May 5th at 8:00pmET / 7:00pmCT / 6:00pmMT and 7:30pmPT (tape delay).

The ENCORE screening of Dr. Laura's "In Praise of Mom" will take place on Wednesday, May 6th at 8:00pmET / 7:00pmCT / 6:00pmMT and 7:30pmPT (tape delay). This show will be recorded live the previous night and is being rebroadcast in select theatres for this special encore showing.

Tickets are selling fast for this very special, historic Event available for the first time ever in theatres nationwide.
Participating Theatres
CLICK HERE to view a list of participating theatres and purchase tickets to the LIVE event on 5/5.

CLICK HERE to view a list of participating theatres and purchase tickets to the ENCORE event on 5/6.

Event Overview
"In Praise of Mom" will feature America’s most-listened to female radio talk show host, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, at her multi-media best, celebrating with Moms all across the United States. In addition to her usual wit and wisdom, Dr. Laura's "In Praise of Mom" will feature audio and video from sons, daughters, grandchildren, grandparents, and moms and dads as they pay tribute to their moms. It promises to be an uplifting, poignant, funny, and inspiring one-of-a-kind event.
Don’t miss this opportunity to pay tribute to your mom this Mother’s Day. Bring along friends, family and a special mom to honor those who hold the most demanding and often underappreciated job. Limited seats available – buy your tickets now!

Browse Inside Dr. Laura’s New Book
They number in the millions and they are incredibly important to our society, yet they are underappreciated, little respected and even controversial. Who are they? Stay-at-home-moms. New York Times bestselling author Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s new book is here to celebrate and support these women as they navigate the wonders and struggles of being stay-at-home moms. After purchasing your tickets for Dr. Laura’s exclusive in-theatre event, click here for a preview inside her new book In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sweet Pea of Mine

This type-A girl is a sucker for anything that makes organization more fun. Sweet Pea of Mine does just that.

Lisa Lorenz has taken her eye for design and created custom binders and clipboards that gently nudge you into organizing all the information that comes into your home.

Her clipboards come in 2 sizes and a bazillion different styles. Don't believe me? Just click here and here to see all the darn cute choices.

She also carries precious acrylic monogrammed mugs that are perfect for hot or cold drinks.

You'll find monogrammed pens and bookmarks as well as custom calendars and
notebooks on her site or at one of the markets she'll be at in the coming months. Her items are a great price point and are perfect choices to have on hand for your gift closet.

To see her full collection, visit the Longwood Gift Market this Thursday April 23rd from 9-6 pm. This is just the kickstart you need! Summer is closer than you think....

Lisa Lorenz
Sweet Pea of Mine

Monday, April 20, 2009

Free Cone Day

April 21st is Ben & Jerry's favorite day of the year.

Free Cone Day!

As a way to thank their customers for their support and to celebrate 31 years of scooping the chunkiest,funkiest ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet, Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops are happily giving it away!

Maybe it’s time for you to try a new flavor that you’ve been wondering about without commiting your hard earned dollars or it’s time for you to enjoy an old favorite and savor in the deliciousness that is free ice cream? Hey, either way it’s time for you to come on in!

free cone day 'thank you' cow

Around the world, Scoop Shops are opening their doors from noon to 8:00 pm, to serve up a free scoop of your favorite flavor. Please check with your local Scoop Shop for more info!

Bless Your Beautiful Hide

By show of hands, who knew what I was going to blog about BEFORE they even read the post.

If you had no clue, RUN to the video store or library and get your hands on a copy of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

In 1850, a bold "mountain man" living in the Oregon woods brings home a bride to his six slovenly brothers. Taming the rambunctious brood, his new bride proceeds to make gentlemen of them so they can woo sweethearts of their own. But old habits die hard: their flirting gives way to fighting in the film's celebrated barn-raising scene and big brother chimes in with his own brand of advice--an old-fashioned kidnapping!

How can 188 5-star ratings be wrong? The music is wonderful. Who can resist Sobbin' Women? Not me.

Now, how about the chance to see it live?

Houston Family Arts Center is offering this roof-raisin' good time for the entire family April 24th-26th at the Berry Center.

I can hardly stand it. Who knows how much I'll have to offer to drag my man to see this? Might have to be a girl night.

HAFC will also have Summer Drama Camps and perfomances of The Jungle Book at their new studio located at Grant Rd. near Jones.

It's a wonderful day to 'Go Courtin'!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rabbit Food and Fruity Tea

What is it about a Tea Room that makes women flock?

Where else on earth would one pay almost $20 a head for lunch? It's the promise of girl time, good conversation and good food that bring us back. If only those chairs could talk....think of the stories they could tell? Some of your best heart-spillin' is at these types of establishments where no men dare to enter...unless they are in serious trouble with their woman and are trying to get out of the doghouse. Tea Rooms are to women as barbecue joints are to men. 'Nuff said.

My exposure to Tea Rooms began while in high school. One of my favorite 4th grade teachers left teaching to open The Wonderful World of Cooking. I remember joining all the women in my family there to sip some of the most incredible tomato soup out of clear glass coffee cups. Unconventional? Yes. But with those spicy cheese wafers....who needs a spoon?

We eventually moved our monthly-family-female-lunch across town to an Antique Mall that had a restaurant tucked in the back. My love affair with flavored iced tea began right there among those faux-finished walls. Strawberry-Vanilla-Rose petal tea and pumpkin bread sandwiches with strawberry cream cheese became a craving that had to be satisfied when I came in town from Texas A&M. Heck, I'd even purchase extra tea to take back with me. Sadly, the restaurant closed but I am happy to report there are several local tea rooms that offer their amazing tea for their customers to enjoy at home.

Luckily, the Houston area has a plethora of Tea Rooms to keep a gal happy and return sanity, if needed. Tea for Two has two locations to serve the women of Northwest Houston. The Jalepeno Chicken Salad and Italian Cream Cake are SO worth the extra treadmill-time to burn off the calories and if you haven't discovered Idyl Hours, you are most definitely missing a blessing. Thursday is Tequila Lime Crepe day...the best! And Stella, the owner, has enough spunk to convince you of your need to be a regular in just one visit.

If you are planning to 'leave the reservation' as a good friend of mine terms it (aka leave your area of town) Ashland House is worth the drive...even though you may have your doubts on the way there. Trust me...the Chicken in a Pastry, Cheese Soup and Apricot Tea are worth the gas money spent AND the calories.

If you are a local gal, you probably have visited The Whistle Stop Cafe and it would be a shame to not give a shout out to RJ Goodies. They might not be a Tea Room, per say, but they can flat bring it when it comes to desserts. Apparently they are needing some improvements in the customer service area, so have a bit more grace when you visit. Deal?

Game for one more that might be a bit of a drive to visit? This restaurant isn't a traditional Tea Room but still a great girl place, the Nordstrom Bistro. You'll want to take a bath in their Crab Bisque. Yes, I did just say that outloud. I love it so much I'll skip dessert. That should speak volumes.

Make an effort to grab lunch with a friend this week. In an age where texting and email have become the norm, opt for some real face time. You'll leave lunch with a spring in your step, I promise.

I'm always game for girl time and the opportunity to try a new eating establishment. Do you have a favorite place for rabbit food and girlie tea?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Silk Accents

The front door of a home is the first opportunity to make a statement.

My oh-so-talented friend, Jennifer Doremus of Silk Accents, has an extraordinary gift of choosing just the right florals and greenery to create a unique arrangement to compliment your style and taste. My favorite aspect of her design? The containers she chooses. Take a look below and see if you agree.

Don't you just love them? Her arrangements will truly set you apart in your neighborhood. If only they gave awards for door design in addition to Yard of The Month, right?

She also specializes in interior arrangements. I don't think I've ever seen her create the same combination of container and florals twice.

Can I hear a huge Amen for not having to keep these beauties alive? I'm not so gifted in the live plant area.

This is just a smattering of her collection. She also creates custom arrangements to compliment your colors and home decorating style.

Jennifer will be at the Longwood Gift Market on Thursday April 23rd from 9-6. Your missin' a blessing if you don't drop by and see all she has created for Spring.

Silk Accents
Jennifer Doremus

Monday, April 13, 2009

To Market We Will Go

Save the Date for these upcoming markets and festivals:

Saturday April 18th

*Lakewood Residents' Club Market Day and Craft Bazaar
9 am-4 pm
15006 Lakewood Forest Drive, just south of Louetta at the Lakewood Forest Drive intersection
Need more information? 281-376-1893

*Chappel Hill Bluebonnet Festival
Just a quick 40-minute drive from Cypress! This festival offers more than 250 exhibitors, delicious country food and live entertainment. Bring your cameras but also purchase your favorite allergy medication, in advance. The perfect bluebonnet picture often comes at the price of stuffy noses and itchy legs.

Thursday April 23th

*2009 'Girls Gone Shopping' Longwood Spring Market
The 2009 Market will feature new vendors with a wide variety of spring and summer collectibles, home and garden accents, candles, beautiful floral arrangements, gourmet treats, unique stationary, adult, children’s and baby clothing and accessories, incredible jewelry and much, much more.

9 am-6 pm
Longwood Golf Pavilion
13300 Longwood Trace

Lone Star College Summer Camps

Lone Star College Kids on Campus courses are now online! Visit their website to view classes and mark your calendars because registration for the CyFair classes in THIS SATURDAY the 18th, from 8:30-2:30, in person. These classes fill quickly. It might be a little nutty, so bring some extra patience and grace. Deal?

**I received a flyer in the mail for Lone Star College Tomball and registration is shown as the 25th. This flyer is for the Willow Chase and Tomball locations. Their registrations are a week later. Tomball is from 8-12 on the 25th and Willow Chase is from 1-5 on the 25th.

Need more camp information? Here's some ideas that might catch your interest.

Know of a camp not listed? Send 'em my way by commenting or email me at intheknownorthwest@gmail.com and I'll update the list. Thanks!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Disney On Ice: Mickey & Minnie's Magical Journey

After entertaining audiences in San Antonio, Disney On Ice is coming to Houston with a last-minute deal to one of its most popular shows! Who doesn't love Mickey on Ice? If anything, the snacks rock, right?

With savings of up to 50% per ticket, the whole family can be entertained by "Disney On Ice presents Mickey & Minnie's Magical Journey."

Upper and Lower Level seats are $8-$14 (reg. $16-$28) for weekday performances at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Weekend performances are still a bargain at $12.80-$22.40 (reg. $16-$28). The following performances are valid:

  • Wednesday, April 15 at 7:30PM
  • Thursday, April 16 at 7:30PM
  • Friday, April 17 at 10:30AM and 7:30PM
  • Saturday, April 18 at 11:30AM, 3:30PM and 7:30PM
  • Sunday, April 19 at 1:30PM and 5:30PM
Let the magic begin! Click here for tickets.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Path To The Cross

You and your family are invited to an interactive Easter drama depicting Jesus' life as He journeyed through Jerusalem in His final days. Scenes included are Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the garden of Gethsemane, Herod's trial, and the crucifixion.

In its 4th year, this precious church desires for The Path to the Cross to reach across faiths in the worship of Christ. Take the time to be a part of this amazing opportunity. Such a tremendous effort with everlasting benefits.

The ultimate sacrifice.

The Easter story.

The greatest story ever told.

The Path to the Cross.

Wednesday – Friday, April 8–10

Jersey Village Baptist Church

Outdoor walks start every 10 minutes

between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m.

Jersey Village Baptist Church

16518 Jersey Drive, Houston, TX 77040



Tuesday, April 7, 2009

1st Annual Mom's Night Mixer

Hey Moms, you've asked for it, and here it is.
Mom's Night Mixer is coming to Houston!

Moms have unique needs and challenges when it comes to finding time for herself. They've designed an evening where mom's can have a blast, meet new friends, and learn a few things about what Houston has to offer the family and particularly - Mom! They''ve piled all the resources new moms, expectant moms, and experienced moms need to have fun while gaining info on living happy, healthy lives in Houston. And everyone knows, "When Mom is happy, we're happy!"

If you are a stay at home mom, working mom, single mom, foster mom, or anything in between, they have an evening planned just for you.

Here's the 411...Save the Date!

Saturday, June 27th 2009
6:00pm - 9:00pm at
The Westin Galleria in Houston
5060 West Alabama
Houston, TX 77056

They'll have activities designed to connect moms by interests, childrens' ages, and neighborhood! Enjoy live music, cocktails, and a catered menu all evening. You'll also receive the 2009/2010 Mom's Resource Directory for the Houston Area, full of info, important numbers, schools, and local businesses that cater to moms.

And you know they'll be giveaways!

Questions? Check out their FAQ's.

Grab a friend or two and mark you calendars. Tickets are now on sale. Click here to register.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pine Cove Free Family Day This Sunday

Summer Camp can be an amazing part of a kiddo's summer. In Texas, we are truly blessed to have so many options!

Pine Cove Outback is hosting a Free Family Day Sunday April 5th from 1:30-5 at Crier Creek and Outback in Columbus, Texas.

Come tour Pine Cove Outback and see why over 1500 families chose to send their kids to camp last summer. Enjoy food and drinks, a great concert by Anthony Evans and the Pine Cove band, and lots of fun activities for the whole family. And best of all, it’s free!

Activities: Inflatable Obstacle Course, Hayrides, Pony Rides, Canoeing, Paddle Boats, Paintball, Target Shooting, Dunking Booth, Frisbee Golf, Fishing*, Tug of War and other family games!

Things to bring:
*picnic blanket
*outdoor chairs
*fishing gear (catch and release)

Click here to register and here to download the map.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Houston's Children's Festival This Saturday and Sunday

Looking for something for the family this weekend?

The Houston's Children's Festival is taking over Downtown!

The festival will be held Downtown from 10:30-6:30 both Saturday the 4th and Sunday the 5th.

Admission is $5 with a McDonald's discount coupon or $8 at the gate. Under 3 are free. Ticket information and discount offers can be found here. VIP ticket packages are also available. Who doesn't want to the opportunity to rub elbows with Dora, Diego and KeKe Palmer from Nickelodeon's True Jackson VP?

Did I mention Sid the Science Kid will also be there? Love that little guy from his self-titled show on PBS.

There are 8 Fun Zones featuring The McDonald's Family Fitness Zone, Baker Hughes Circus Town, HEB's Healthy Kid Kingdom, The Sports Zone featuring the Houston Rockets and Dynamos, The Big Slide, rockwall, a Motorcyle High-wire thrill show and too much more to list.

Downtown a bit confusing to you? Click here to navigate your path to the fun.

Volunteering more your style? Click here to help this event go off without a hitch.

Don't miss out on an event that has raised just under 4 million for Child Advocates and was selected as one of the World's 300 Greatest Events by Frommer's Travel Guides. Impressive!

Got Milk?

The Milk Mustache Mobile Tour is coming to Houston Monday April 6th!

The Drink Well. Live Well. Campaign is drawing attention to the wellness benefits of milk and the unique attributes of being a milk drinker.

Residents can visit the Downtown Aquarium from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. to experience free, interactive activities including:
• Health assessments from a registered dietitian
• Ice-cold milk from local dairies
• Homemade smoothie samples
• Five-minute chair massages
• Souvenir Milk Mustache photos
• Sweepstakes for a chance to win a personal chef consultation courtesy of Real Simple magazine

Houston Downtown Aquarium
410 Bagby St. @ Memorial
Houston, Texas 77002