Blog, Career, Family, Food & Drink, Shopping, Travel

Our London ‘Express’ Sightseeing Day!

On the Friday of our trip, we enjoyed a wonderfully perfect day in London. The weather was brisk in the morning, so we dressed in layers. Thankfully, as the sun did peek out later in the day!

Prior to our trip I contacted British Tours to see if they had any private tour guides who could give us a spectacular day. With a 7 yo and a big wish-list of things to see, we wanted to make the most of it. Boy, was that worth every penny! Sam met us in the lobby of our hotel at 8:59am (start time of 9:00am). We had the next 5 hours with him  and we were able to tackle a guided drive around the city – learning many interesting points and seeing historic landmarks, a walk from Buckingham Palace area, to 10 Downing Street, to Big Ben (which actually is just the name of the bell inside of the clock tower), to Westminster Abbey (they were having a 100 year memorial service for Ernest Shackleton – hence we didn’t get to go inside), to a nice view of the Thames and the London Eye.

We then made our way back to Buckingham Palace to get some good photos! One neat things about the day we were there, is they were practicing for the Trooping of the Colour. This is an annual parade/celebration that happens in June, as part of the Queen’s birthday celebration. It was amazing – so many guards from all six regiments, marching in full uniform and practicing their show for the Queen. We were blessed to witness it with no lines and no people! We also were able to see them marching back to the Palace! In addition, as we were walking past where Prince Charles lives, a policeman asked us to wait and not cross a driveway. Sam knew that meant someone royal was coming – and within minutes we saw Princess Anne (on her way to Shackleton’s memorial!) drive by. What a fun experience to wave to a real Princess, for Addy!

After this, we headed through Central London, continued learning, and arrived at the Tower of London. This massive structure is worth the visit! We proceeded to get a good picture of the Tower Bridge, and then headed over to Kensington Palace where Sam dropped us off. This day ended up being 6 hours, and was absolutely fantastic. I would highly recommend British Tours and Sam, specifically, if you want a great day exploring London.

Addy loved exploring Kensington – the grounds are beautiful as well as the castle. We didn’t have any royal sightings, but it was still what Addy would tell you was her favorite part of the trip.

One big thing that made visiting all of these locations great, was our London Pass. We bought a 2 day London Pass, which gives free entry into so many locations – as well as ‘skip the line’ on many of them, and discounted theater tickets, discounted dining, etc. There are a ton of benefits of the London Pass that we never even got to check out, as well!

Stay tuned to our final blog to be posted on Wednesday, about this fantastic trip.

Heidi

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Beauty, Blog, Career, Family, Food & Drink, Risk, Shopping, Travel

Our Trip to Scotland and England!

After a 2 1/2 week hiatus, the Blog Writing is Back! We’ve had some amazingly packed days, and can’t wait to share with you the amazing places we have been blessed to visit

On May 16th, Addy, Caitlin, and I set off for Edinburgh, Scotland and London, England! What a trek!

We started with a great non-stop flight to Amsterdam on Delta, quick layover, and on to Edinburgh. Immediately on entering the taxi to take us to our B&B, Addy noticed that they were driving on the other side of the road! 

pic plane cards to london

Lots of card games!

After a quick 20-25 drive from the airport, we arrived at 94DR. This amazing, quaint yet modern guest house is a perfect 10. It was reasonably priced, in a residential neighborhood but within walking distance to a great Pub (Salsbury Arms), and easily accessible to the Royal Mile, Arthur’s Seat, and the Edinburg Castle!

Our host, Paul, was amazing. From a warm greeting to the ridiculously awesome breakfast to helping us plan out our 1 full day in Edinburg, we couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Our room was nice, had a large King bed and they set up a cute trundle bed by the window. Our bathroom was large, with a beautiful tub.

After enjoying our first meal at Salsbury Arms, we took a nap from 7-11pm, was up from 11p-1a, and then slept soundly until breakfast at 830am! Although the weather was 57F and rainy, we put on the rain coats and proceeded to hike up Arthur’s Seat, past Holyrood Palace (the queens official residence in Scotland), past the parliament, up the Royal Mile, and straight to Edinburgh Castle (we put in about 8-10 miles this day!)

The Castle was magnificent. We learned a lot and saw many various buildings – from prison cells to the Crown Jewels of Scotland. We also enjoyed having tea and seeing the cannon fire at 1pm (they fire at 1pm because they are very frugal – and this only takes 1 cannon instead of 12!).

Afterwards, we did some shopping, saw the Elephant Room (JK Rowling wrote her early Harry Potter books here, using the castle as inspiration from the back room!) That evening we had a splendid dinner at The Outsider. We highly recommend it, if you are in town.

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The next morning, we caught a British Airways flight to London – and were off for the rest of our adventure. (Stay tuned!)

Overall, Scotland was marvelous. We can not wait to return someday to see the rest of this beautiful, green, lush, friendly place.

Cheers To Adventure,

Heidi

 

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Blog, Health and Wellness, Retail, Running, Shopping

Miles of Smiles

I am now six weeks into training for the Stillwater Half Marathon and today was a long-run day. Nine miles of smiles. All my mileage goals are mapped out in my planner so I can plan activities around what needs to be accomplished. In anticipation of this longer run I set out to find a really good pair of running socks. As it goes, I had two pair of “favorites” and I effectively lost one of each of the pair in the laundry last week. I’m not above wearing mismatched socks, but figured it was an OK time to invest in some additional pairs. I’m going to need them in the remaining six weeks anyway.

So- running socks are kind of expensive. Certainly I can get a 6-pack of general sports socks, from any discount retailer, but for long distance they just don’t prevent blisters or provide the compression I find valuable. After browsing the racks at Dick’s Sporting Goods, I discovered a brand called Feetures. They promised “High Performance” and “No Blisters.” Both very appealing claims. Cute colors and a moderate advertised price of $12.99/pair. (Though there must have been a signage mistake because they actually only rang up as $8.97- bonus!) I put them to the test today.

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Happy to report that the fit was snug, and there was absolutely no slipping to be felt inside my shoe. The “no show” tab actually does show a little bit, but suited my needs as is because my Asics have a higher back than my Nike Free running shoes.

sock edit

Heading into the run I already had a soft callus from running earlier this week. The beginnings of a blister if you will. I didn’t feel any pain during my run today, but when I ended the blister was certainly there. Maybe their ad copy could be better written to state, “No NEW Blisters.” That would be totally accurate. All in all, I am very satisfied and would give 4.5/5 stars overall.

Now- on a totally unrelated note- today will be the last post I create as a writer for Balloons in the Sky blog. I was offered and accepted a new FT position that begins tomorrow. After nine years at my previous job and being totally comfortable in what I do every day, I am about to embark on a new adventure. I need to give it 100% of my energy and attention right now- well, what is left over after running miles of smiles anyway.

Heidi will keep this blog going so stick around for more travel, food, recommendations, and inspirations.  Thanks so much for reading! I’ll resume writing on my own blog at some point in the future and will definitely be seeking many of you out to follow. There are many talented writers I’ve gotten to know through this blog.

All my best!

A.Lockhart

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Image Outtake. Features socks. Cats love’m.

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Blog, Career, Family, Shopping, Travel

Paradise – Our Arrival to the Big Island of Hawaii!

Our family just returned from a magical, wonderful, relaxing and invigorating trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. None of us had ever been to the big island, and we had a marvelous time. We truly didn’t have one bad experience (except for some turbulence!), and I want to share with you what made that possible. Over the next 3 blogs, i will be detailing our trip, and highlighting the businesses that impressed us.

We departed on a Delta flight to Seattle around 11am on a Saturday. It was the perfect time for a flight. We didn’t have to rush in the morning, but it was early enough that we weren’t ‘waiting around’ either. Our flight and seats were great, and the kids enjoyed the extended time on their iPads.

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Once in Seattle, we enjoyed a quick meal of Chips, Salsa and Tacos at Casa Del Agave, and they let Aaron and Max sit there for 2 hours, while Max napped (family friendly is a +!) During which time, Addy and I made our way to Seattle Chocolates where the Sales Manager so generously offered us numerous samples – and we ended up buying three marvelous Chocolate Truffle Bars: Mint Chocolate, Peanut Butter Chocolate, and Milk Chocolate. Yum! (if you are at Sea-Tac, I’d make time in your lay-over for this place!)

After our food-finding-napping layover was complete, we jumped aboard the flight for Kona, HI. It was supposed to be 6 hours and 45min, but the pilot told us that we could easily knock that down by 30min, which is always music to my ears. Aside for the severe turbulence that lasted about 40min and made the man next to me weep (it wasn’t Aaron), it was a quick flight and the kids did great.

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The Kona airport is small, and Addy had fun walking outside from the plane to the terminal. We got our luggage, grabbed the rental car, and was at our resort in 25 minutes flat!

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We stayed in Waikoloa Beach Resort area, just north of Kona Town, at Hilton’s Kings’ Land Resort. It was magnificent. We backed up to lush grass, golf course, lava-rock and mountain views. Spectacular. We had a large 1-bedroom condo unit with a King pull-out couch. Our unit had a full kitchen as well as a washer and dryer. Some additional perks:

  • Free parking
  • Free wi-fi
  • Grocery store and two shopping areas with food choices down the road (walking distance)
  • Access to the Hilton Waikoloa Resort pools, lagoon and parking – for free!
  • 2 free movie rentals each day
  • Wonderful man-made beach pool with sand and a waterslide
  • Large free-form pool with a waterslide and numerous waterfalls
  • Large fun-pool with a bball hoop, vball net, and two additional waterslides
  • Adult-only pool
  • Bistro, Bar and amazing Concierge Services
  • Great location/proximity to everything on the Big Island

We were able to explore the Hilton Waikoloa pools and the Kings’ Land pools a ton – including a margarita every now-and-then! Both were amazingly fantastic.

In addition, we were only 10 minutes away from one of the most beautiful beaches on the island of Hawaii – Hapuna Beach. Gorgeous!

The kid adjusted perfectly to the time zone change, which is 4 hours during the winter, 5 hours during the summer. They napped on the plane from Seattle to Kona, and went to bed at 11pm the first night, up at 5am, had a good nap on day 1, and we were right back on track. It truly was marvelous. Sleeping in. Zumba in the courtyard. Sunset views. Pure Paradise – and our trip was only just beginning!

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Aloha! and to be continued…

H Bloomer

 

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Blog, Shopping

Stitch Fix!

Who has tried Stitch Fix? Anyone? Well…I have and I absolutely love it, and here is why:

  1. You can set your own style. They ask you a series of questions, and you can rate it anywhere from Love It to Hate It.
  2. You can link your FB, Pinterest and other accounts, to your stitch fix account. Your stylist can see you and your style, and outfit you appropriately.
  3. You can set your ideal price points when forming your profile, as well as when you evaluate and keep/return your Fix’s.
  4. You can schedule Fix’s to come weekly, monthly, every other month – or whatever you’d like. Right now, I get an average of 8 Fix’s per year. I schedule them to coincidence to about 1-2 weeks prior to an event or Vacation – and I write my Stylist a quick note outlining my plans and what I am looking for!
  5. I am charged $20 when the Fix ships.
  6. When I review my Fix, I decide what I keep. As long as I keep 1 piece, teh $20 is deducted from the total of the piece(s) that I keep. If I keep all 5, I get a 20% discount on the entire order.
  7. After I receive the order, and decide what to keep and/or return – I go online, “Check Out” by marking Keep or Return, and give feedback on each piece. Do I like the style? The fit? The price?
  8. Then i put my returns, if I have any, in the pre-paid bag that they provide – and put right in the mailbox. Easy. As. Thanks!

What Stitch Fix does for me, is pushes me outside of my comfort zone. It is exciting, something to look forward to, and just plain fun. I plan to take pictures of some of my Fix’s over the next few months, for you to take a peak at!

If you haven’t tried it, I suggest you give it a trial run. Let me know what you think, and feel free to use my referral site, to get started.

https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/4625261

Cheers,

H Bloomer

 

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Friendship, Home & Garden, Parenting, Risk, Shopping

To Gift or Not To Gift, THAT is the question!

Over the years, I have had many great friends who I love dearly…some who I have known forever, some for a pretty long time, and some I have just met. Through it all I feel grateful and believe that friendship of any time period or deepness is one of our greatest gifts to have, and to give. However I ALWAYS struggle with what to do around Christmas time as it relates to gift-buying.

I love to buy and give gifts. It is fun, rewarding, and exciting. However, it is also expensive, and sometimes awkward to for the person you are gifting, if they didn’t gift you back.

What do you do with your friends around Christmas time?!

Some of my various traditions

  • Trading a bottle of wine
  • Dinner/Happy Hour
  • Baking together
  • Playdate with the family
  • and of course – a Gift Exchange!

Overall, it’s the time I spend with them, no matter what we do or give or get, that is the greatest gift of all!

Cheers,

Heidi

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Blog, Home & Garden, Shopping

Cars, Crossovers, SUVs…Oh My!

We are on a search for a new vehicle or two. We have absolutely loved our 2003 Toyota Camry and 2008 Ford Edge. Our Camry was the car we bought right after getting married – it has taken us all over the United States, and has been there to take each of our kiddos home from the hospital, back and forth to daycare, and on many road trips across MN and WI. Our Edge has also been amazing. Its trunk space and ability to “drive like a car” have been wonderful.

However, it is time to put on a search for our next amazing vehicles/members of the family.

In a car, we are looking for: great gas mileage, high-end technology, easy to maneuver, and a great track record for transmission and other “worries.”

In an SUV, we are looking for: 7 seats, middle row bucket seats, easy to drive & park, decent storage space, not a mini-van, and also a great track record.

How do we even begin? There are so many options, in so many different price ranges. To test drive them all, it would take months!

As I embark on this journey, please shout out with ideas, feedback and advice. I will keep solid notes of all of my experiences, and ensure all of our reader fans receive a full report after the “dotted line is signed.”

Cheers,

H Bloomer

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