Monday, November 13, 2017

Our First Time Ice Skating - Downtown Sacramento Ice Rink

Last Wednesday, our family excitedly headed to the Downtown Sacramento Ice Rink for the first time.  It's a little embarrassing that this is the 26th season of the ice rink and I've never gone before.   Confession, contrary to what the title says, I didn't try ice skating.  I went to the rink with the family and hung out outside the rink.  (I have a knee injury and falling on my butt would probably make it a lot worse.)  We were lucky enough to be invited to VIP Night by Downtown Sacramento Partnership which is why we went on a Wednesday.  Ice Skating is always something that we've said we wanted to do but we have never tried.

The ice rink is located in Rose of Lima Park which is across the street from The Golden One Arena.   Parking can be a little challenging due to the location.  We parked at Capitol Parking Garage and walked a few blocks.  It cost us $7.50 for parking.  The rink is really close to light rail though and if we go back, we will probably take that since the kids think it's super cool.  If you do take regional transit, you get a discount off admission to the ice rink if you show your ticket.

I have no idea why it took me so long to take my kids ice skating!  They absolutely loved it!  My oldest has been roller skating and roller blading so he went without an ice scooter.  My middle guy is less coordinated and used the ice scooter for part of the time.  The baby used an ice scooter the whole time she was on the ice.  (Yes, she's almost 5.  Yes, she's still the baby.)  She was also pushed by an adult the whole time because princess.  The kids wanted to skate the whole time only stopping once for a quick hot cocoa break.

I really like the Downtown Sacramento Ice Rink because I feel like it's just the right size!  I could see my kids from any table or bench.  My hubby was out skating with them but mostly focused on the baby.  It was nice knowing that I could watch the boys while hanging out and drinking hot cocoa.  At one point, my middle guy fell on the ice and sat their kind of helpless for a second.  I saw a sweet Ice Rink Worker come up and try to help him.  Unfortunately, my son didn't understand how to get up on the ice and it wasn't working out.  Then, not one but TWO other Ice Rink Employees came over to get him up on his skates again.  It really warmed my heart to see these young men helping my son and encouraging him to keep going.  All around, I felt really comfortable having my kids at the ice rink.

Here are some tips I wish I had known before going to Downtown Sacramento Ice Rink (or any ice rink):
1. Tuck your pants into your skates so you don't get blisters/rubbing on your skin.
2. Let everyone know if they fall, they need to keep their hands CLOSED in case anyone is skating by.
3. If your kids wear half sizes in shoes or even if their shoe is a little tight, size UP!  I had to go back to get bigger sized skates for 2 out of 3 kids.
4. Don't forget to take pictures of your whole family together!  (Like someone...)

Here are some AMAZING pictures my friend Mickey took!  You can see more of his photos on his Instagram or Flickr.  Shout out to TheMilsEdition for hanging out with Avery at the Ice Rink!

We can't wait to go back to the Downtown Sacramento Ice Rink!  (I believe it's the closest one to us.) It was such a fun experience!  My daughter asked "are we driving to winter?"  Which is hilarious because it's NOT cold or icy here but we still get to ice skate because of this ice rink!  It was a perfect outdoor family experience and I feel so lucky that we got to go!  Don't forget to follow the Downtown Sacramento Ice Rink Facebook page to keep up with events, theme nights, and any potential closures for private parties.

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Lady Bird Movie - Set in Sacramento!

I was so honored to be invited by Women and Hollywood to go to an advance screening of Greta Gerwig's new movie Lady Bird.  In addition to press, free tickets were given out to the general public for the advance screening.  The screening took place at the Tower Theater and it was just the perfect setting!  I've read about this movie on social media prior to being invited and I was really excited to see it!

Lady Bird is about a 17 year old girl experiencing her senior year of high school in Sacramento, CA.  It is written and directly by Greta Gerwig, a Sacramento native.  The film takes place in 2002 and she graduates in 2003.  It was basically like a flashback of my life in a vague sense.  I lived in the Sacramento area when I was a teenager and graduated in 2001.  The fashion, the music, the slang was all perfect for the time.  The film is poignant and raw.  It was edgy and it was all too real.  I believe it's semi-autobiographical.

I don't do movie reviews.  That's not my forte.  I've done tiny bits of acting that I should have blogged about but never did.  I'm not some film buff that can tell you what camera something was filmed on or someone who can hear the difference in sound quality between different companies.  I can only tell you what I liked and how I felt.

Watching Lady Bird was so comforting for me.  I felt like the title character could have been any of my friends.  I'm of this time and I enjoyed the nostalgia of seeing it on the screen.  I also have immense pride in Sacramento but I remember being like Lady Bird and thinking I needed to get out of here and DO something.  Then I grew up and it was finally last year when I felt that I didn't ever need to go anywhere to do what I needed to do.  I'm fine here.

Seeing the city I love on the big screen filled my heart with joy.  When they say they filmed this movie in Sacramento, they were not kidding.  Everything felt authentic from the school to the weather and even the grocery store.  I adored seeing The Tower Bridge, the Fab Forty's, and my foodie heart skipped a beat when I caught a glimpse of Gunther's Ice Cream.  There's just something special, almost magical in seeing a place you love portrayed with the kind of love you would use to describe it.

The acting was good.  The storyline was relatable.  I cared about the characters which is really important to me.  I laughed and I cried.  Overall, I supported a local woman who made her dreams come true and that is amazing!

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

NEW Starbucks Toasted White Mocha

Starbucks launched a brand new drink today called Toasted White Mocha.  This drink is a very limited release and will probably sell out quickly.  The drink is described as "caramelized white chocolate with candied cranberry sugar topping."  Toasted White Mocha is available hot, iced, or as a Frappuchino.

*I am in no way affiliated with Starbucks.  I wish I was.  If you could make that happen, I'd be forever grateful.  Needless to say, all opinions are my own.*

To do my due diligence, I tried all the variations for you because I love you all so much!  It's a rough life.  They were all good.  I liked the hot and iced versions better than the Frappuchino.  I'm not much of a Frapp drinker these days.  Though I did find that in the Frapp, you could taste more of the smoky caramelized flavor.  Frappuchinos are a little too sweet for my tastes in general.  It's also cold outside so drinking an ice blended beverage is not as appealing to me.  The iced and hot versions were creamy and subtly sweet.  I think the milk in those versions mellowed out the "toasted" flavor more than in the Frapp (though it also has milk.)  If pushed to pick a favorite, I would go for the hot mocha.

Iced Toasted White Mocha (with my trademark wrist tattoo and hair tie)

Hot Toasted White Mocha

Toasted White Mocha Frappuchino

My favorite part has got to be the cranberry topping!  Real pieces of dried cranberries are throughout the topping giving it some tartness.  It pairs really well with the creamy, smooth tasting white mocha!  It would probably be even better if you ordered it with a Cranberry Bliss Bar.  This is my daughter's favorite way to match, cranberry matches with cranberry or in her case horse print pants match with horse graphic t-shirt and horse socks.  The logic can't be beat.

I totally forgot to tell you guys that I almost never drink white mochas.  It's not my jam.  I find them too sweet.  I prefer the bitterness of a dark chocolate.  However, I really like the Toasted White Mocha.  I think the caramelized notes keep the drink from being overly sweet along with the tartness from the topping.  If you are a white mocha nay sayer like me, you might still want to give this drink a try.

Huge shout out to my local Starbucks for making me these GORGEOUS drinks to photo and try!

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Imagine Play in Elk Grove - Play Place for Children

On October 22, Imagine Play open it's doors in Elk Grove.  A local family wanted to create an indoor play place for imaginative play so they opened up Imagine Play.  I've been excited for this place to open since Elk Grove doesn't have many indoor play places and I don't think any that cater to imaginative play.  My littlest (almost 5 years old) is the queen of imaginative play so I was super excited to bring her to Imagine Play!

***This post is a collaboration with Imagine Play, as always all opinions are my own.***

We arrived at 10:30am last Thursday.  It was a little hard to find since they don't have a big sign on the building yet.  They have a large poster in the window with "Imagine Play" on it with a photo of kids playing.  It is a few doors down from NewSongs School of Music which is right on the corner.  You enter into a lobby area where you sign in by the door.  There is a waiver you have to fill out before your children can play.  You also leave your shoes in the front area which is great so you know people aren't tracking in dirt into the area where little ones crawl.  You do need socks!  If you don't have socks, you can purchase a pair for $2.

I was a little weary when I walked in because the play area didn't seem that big to me.  The whole space is about the size of your average boutique type store.  Boy, was I wrong!  I had to beg Avery to leave at 1:10pm because I didn't pack a lunch.  We were there for almost 3 hours and she never got bored!  She did ask me to play with her a couple times since there weren't other kids her age there all the time.  I would suggest going with a friend so that your kid has someone to play with and you have someone to chat with while they play.

Other than the baby area, we spent a little time playing in each area.  This place is very thoughtfully designed!  Here are the areas, sorry if I'm not good at describing them:
~ Small grocery area with shopping carts, play food, register with conveyor belt
~ Teepee for kids who like confined spaces.  (I have a son who does better in small spaces when he gets overwhelmed so this is amazing!)
~ A bin for fishing.
~ Ice cream cart and bakery table all Melissa and Doug Toys
~ A play "house" area with a table and chairs, kitchen, cleaning supplies (mop, broom, etc...), and there's even a painting on the wall that resembles a window looking out onto nature.
~ Dollhouse and train table.
~ A BIG castle with a slide and areas to go inside.  They also have princess dresses hanging up that can be borrowed for dress up.
~ Pirate ship with dress up items and accessories.
~ Lemonade stand with a cute lemon tree on the wall where you can "pick" lemons.
~ A table with puzzles.
~ A board with learning magnets.  One side has gears and the other side has shape magnets that can be used for building.
~ White board with PVC pipes to build courses to roll a ball.
~ Sensory table with rice.
~ Baby area with soft blocks to crawl on, toys, and ride ons.
~ Table with Little People toys.
~ Chalk cylinder for drawing.

Every hour on the half, they have an activity hosted by the staff.  The first one we just missed because we were filling out paper work was a fan with a tube on it that blew scarves around.  We've seen similar activities at other discovery museums and it's always a hit.  The second activity was a parachute.  I'm bummed Avery didn't want to do it because I think it's SO fun!  The third activity was making necklaces with candy, pretzels, and cereal.  This was not only fun and edible, it helps with hand eye coordination and Avery even made a pattern!  Lots of sneaky learning happening!

Imagine Play also has a snack bar where you can purchase snacks, juice, and water.  Everything is $1 plus tax.  They have healthy options and treat options.  They have a COMPLIMENTARY coffee and tea selection for parents with a Keurig.  There is a large sitting area with tables and chairs for parents to sit and chat or work.  There is also an area where you can purchase Melissa and Doug toys.  They have multiple restrooms.  There are also party rooms for hosting birthday parties.

Avery is almost 5 and I could see her loving this place for at least another year if not two years.  I would not bring my boys (ages 8 and 10) here because they would not be interested in these play stations and they would be SO big in the space since there's lots of darling toddlers walking around.  Imagine Play is perfect for toddlers and pre-school aged children!  It's safe, clean, and everything is sized to fit a small child.  

While the price point might seem a little high, we did play for 2 hours and 40 minutes.  She would have played longer if I had packed a lunch.  For me, that amount of playing is well worth the $14 for the experiences she had!  You can also buy membership deals and I've even seen Imagine Play on Groupon so look into those if you want to save some money.

We can't wait to go back to Imagine Play!  We had a great time!  Next time I'll definitely bring a friend along for Avery and maybe I'll bring my computer to see if I could get work done while she plays for hours.  And I'll pack a lunch.  (Note: they are a nut free facility.)  I will be hosting a giveaway for 2 free 1 day passes to Imagine Play on my Instagram account very soon.  Please follow me there if you're interested!

***Giveaway is live HERE: ***

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Pomegranate Boutique - It's About FIT Not Size

Hi friends!  Today, I want to tell you about a shopping experience I recently had.  My friend and fellow blogger Racquel referred me to a brand new store in Sacramento called The Pomegranate Boutique (they also have an online shop).  Being a plus sized woman, I always ask if the store caters to people of my size.  The owner of the shop says "we cater to all sizes" but I was skeptical since online they only show that their clothes come in S, M, or L.  However, since my friend Racquel referred me and I think she's pretty familiar with my size, I went ahead and went in.

*This post is a collaboration with The Pomegranate Boutique.  As always, all the opinions are my own.*

I talked to one of the co-owners Araxia through The Pomegranate Boutique's Instagram and set up a time to come in.  She was so friendly!  Their pop-up shop is located in the Curtis Park area of Sacramento inside Shortkutz for Kidz.  When I came in, I was greeted by Araxia and she told me she had picked out some items for me to try on based on photos from my AshleyNewellPlus Instagram account.  I was pleasantly surprised!  I'd never had someone in a shop pull a rack of clothes for me before.  I felt very fancy!

When I went into the dressing room, I went to try on one of the dresses she picked out and the tag said "medium."  Well, this was awkward.  I've very visibly plus sized.  I went to the next thing she picked out and it was the same dress in a "large."  I took a look at the dress and it was the Harem for All style.  It looked like a tent-y trapeze style dress so I went ahead and tried it on in the large.  To my shock and awe, it fit just fine.  I came out of the dressing room to take a picture and Araxia asked me what size I was wearing.  I told her I went right for the large.  She told me that some ladies my size prefer the medium since it hugs the bust more so I went ahead and tried it on.  It FIT!  Can you believe it?  I fit into a medium!

I went on to try on the rest of the items she pulled for me.  There was only one item that was actual "plus sized" and she told me to take the 1XL because the dress looked big to her.  Most of the items fit in the medium and the large.  Some of the items didn't.  These were items in non-stretchy materials.  Most of the items wouldn't fit because of my bust so if you were a 3xl or 22 with a small bust, you might fit.

This leads me to something my friend Heather always says "it's about FIT, not size."  If we are honest, that is usually said to someone that is told to put on a bigger size than the normally wear because something runs small.  But I think that it gets ingrained in Plus/Curve girls like myself that we NEED to seek out plus clothes.  That straight sizes aren't for us.  That it would be RIDICULOUS to put on a size small even if it's a shawl.   We need to stop this.  We need to be ok looking at something with our eyes and using our brains to decide if it will fit rather than letting a little tag tell us what we can and cannot wear!

These numbers do not define you!  If next season the maker of your favorite jeans decides to change the sizing (which totally happens!), that's them, it's not you.  Do you know what I mean?  It doesn't matter what the number on your clothing says, what matters is how the clothes make you feel.  This goes either way.  If I fit into a "small" but I feel uncomfortable, I'm not going to buy it just because it fits.  Likewise if I fit into a size 26 in a certain brand, that doesn't mean I shouldn't or won't buy it because I'm normally a 22.  All that matters is that the clothes fit your body the way you want them to and that you feel good in what you're wearing.

Here are some pictures of the clothes and I'll indicate the sizes in caption if I know it in case you have a body similar to mine and need to know what size to buy.  I have no shape wear on in these photos.  (I wish I did but what can you do?)

Harem for All - Large

Harem for All - Medium

T-shirt Maxi Dress - Medium

Bubble Trouble - 1XL
Sage Butterfly - Large 
Ruffled Belle - Large

The Pomegranate Boutique also has shoes, purses, jewelry, and hair accessories.  I also got to meet the other owner, Stella who was also lovely!  The clothes are picked out from showrooms in Los Angeles and they get different items all the time.  They have a shopping team made up of ladies in different shapes and sizes to try out the clothes before they bring them into the shop.  The Pomegranate Sisters's goal is get to know their customers so well that shopping with them is like going to your sister's closet where you can find just what you need for any occasion.  I'm excited to go back to The Pomegranate Boutique and see what they bring in next!

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