Cassie Turns Three: Mini Minnie Party

I had different plans for Cassie’s 3rd birthday but this little lady is starting to have a mind of her own. She was obsessed with Minnie Mouse for a while but I thought she got over that, boy was I wrong. Her obsession came back with a vengeance only to be validated by a trip to Disneyland. September was a busy month for us not only because it was Marco’s and my birth month but because I did a lot of out of state traveling with the kids. So Marco and I decided that throwing Cassie a party was out of the question since I already took her to Disneyland plus we got her a lot of presents from Ollie’s and also Toys R’ Us when it closed down. But Cassie had different expectations, she really wanted a Pink Minnie Mouse Party with her ‘Friends’ (the kids who go to the play place at Chick-Fil-A), emphasis on the PINK. I explained to her the situation and she agreed to just visit the Indianapolis Children’s Museum on her birthday and have a small party with just me, Marco and Xavi.

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“Mommy, my wish came true”- Cassie

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There were days after that conversation when she’d ask if we were having cake, or if her friends were coming or if I was going to decorate so I figured she must really want this party so why not throw her an actual party with her Minnie Mouse friends and our family of course. So I ordered a small cake, cupcakes and sugar cookies in theme from our local go-to chef, Chef Maggie of Simply Patisserie, I wrapped all of her gifts in Minnie Mouse wrapping paper, I ordered a Minnie Mouse Balloon bouquet, I manually blew up 30 pink and white balloons that we bought from the dollar store and with the help of a pink table cover and a bunch of lace paper doilies (also from the dollar store), I turned her play area into a small Pink Minnie Mouse Party.

On the day of her birthday, we surprised her with a Peppa Pig bike (yeahhh, that was before she wanted a Minnie Mouse Party) and you could see her face light up when she saw the mini set-up we prepared for her. Daddy had to go to work after that but she asked to go to Chick-fil-A for lunch and after I dressed her up in her pink Minnie Mouse costume that is exactly where I took her so she could play with her ‘friends’. Fortunately, Marco was able to get out of work early so we took her to Chuck E. Cheese’s, ordered some pizza and she went crazy with her game card, with Daddy’s help of course. She was so exhausted, she took an untimely nap after leaving that place and when she woke up from her nap, we sang her birthday song and opened the rest of her presents.

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We bought the Peppa Pig bike before she decided on the Pink Minnie Mouse Party (in case you were wondering)

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While ‘Ate’ was busy with her bike, this one went crazy with the balloons

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The next day we had another birthday party to attend to and the day after that we made a trip to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum as promised. In celebration of the month of Halloween, they had a Grim-nasium set up over there where kids could also trick or treat and of course she was dressed up as Minnie Mouse again (red version this time) and was happy that we dressed up her little brother, Xavi as Mickey Mouse. I guess you could say she was in Minnie Mouse Cloud 9 the whole weekend. Happy Birthday our little Threenager. We love you so much, Cas! You’re growing up too fast.

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Meeting “Igby”: Xavi’s Birth Story

“…I was at 9.5 cm, and then she asks me if I wanted epidural, I said yes but I knew that was a trick question.”

Igby is the bump name/ fetus name (or whatever you call it) Marco gave our little boy. I don’t know why but he likes giving them weird, unconventional, unattractive names (Cassie’s was Spriki short for Sprikitik), I love him so I just roll with it and besides it’s only temporary until the baby comes out.

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Proud daddy Marco

With the successive change in our lives, I wasn’t surprised how different the two pregnancies were. This time around I found myself in Muncie, Indiana, blessed to have insurance coverage through Marco’s work (although we still have the deductible and of course eventually our share to pay) so at least we didn’t have to worry about that, an OBGYN referred by Marco’s physician uncle and a hospital close to home a.k.a Marco’s workplace. Another thing that I had to deal with was not having my family around, it’s a good thing my sister Pauline from Houston stayed after the holidays to help me during the last stage of my pregnancy.

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Cassie reading to her baby brother.

I had my last doctor’s appointment a week prior to giving birth and from the looks of it we could all tell that the baby dropped already but I was only 1.5 cm dilated and it stayed like that for a few more days. Fast forward to the day of the pregnancy, I was already feeling some pain in the morning but I still equated it to Braxton Hicks so I went along my merry way doing the usual cleaning the house. Yes, at this point I was still bending down and climbing on chairs (don’t worry they weren’t really high) even though my doctor and Marco already told me off. Pauline offered to help me out, she always does but I like being on the go, so I still bathed Cassie, cleaned her room, fixed our bed and even vacuumed the house. I was feeling pain all throughout the day but nothing I couldn’t handle, I was still convinced it was Braxton Hicks. Marco came home from work around 5pm, I already texted him earlier that I was feeling some pain but they weren’t consistent yet, he was pretty sure I wasn’t in labor yet so as soon as he got home, he changed and headed out to dinner. He was scheduled to take out the residency program applicants for a pre-interview dinner and it just so happened that his cousin was one of those applicants so I told him to go.

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Always the first one to change the baby’s diaper.

He left at 6pm and around 7pm I felt the contractions more consistent this time so I started timing it. They were still approximately every 7-8 minutes and they lasted for 25-30 seconds so I was thinking maybe I’ll end up giving birth early tomorrow. Nope. The contractions got stronger and so my sister texted Marco about it, he got home around 8pm and timed the contractions himself, they were every 4 minutes and they lasted for 40 seconds, I was in labor and we needed to head to the hospital ASAP. Every STOP sign was a pain in the a**, I literally asked him if he could break the law and not stop just coz it hurt every time he would. We got to the hospital around 8:30pm, Pauline dropped me, Marco and Cassie at the entrance as she parked the car and he wheeled me into the Labor and Delivery section. I was in pain alright, I’d make a face every time the contraction came but still managed to take an IG video/ snap while heading there.

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Cassie touching her brother’s head for the first time.

I walked in and they asked me the standard questions,I even managed to reach for my wallet and handed my insurance card (only to find out that I handed my car insurance card, hahaha). Name, Doctor, how far along, due date…I verbally answered them in between contractions while Marco filled up the remaining forms to fill. Finally, they had a nurse check to see how dilated my cervix was—I was at 9.5 cm, and then she asks me if I wanted epidural, I said yes but I knew that was a trick question.

They wheeled me into a room and had a LOT of nurses and that’s when I realized, “oh crap, the baby is probably going to come out any minute coz they’re all scurrying around like its an emergency”. My doctor walked in and she explained to me that it will take time for epidural to kick in and the baby will come out before it does so here we go— ALL NATURAL NO EPIDURAL BIRTH and I wasn’t ready. Oh well, C’est La Vie. They broke my water (which probably was the only thing that was stopping the baby from coming out) She told me to let her know when I start to feel the urge to push and I’m telling you in between the contractions you suddenly get that urge to let the baby out. My husband who was holding my hand had to ask me to let go mid-way coz I was crushing it, I guess you don’t really know your own strength until you push a baby out.

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I don’t know how I did it but I focused on my doctor’s voice and importantly followed her directions, when she tells you to push, no matter how  tired you are you give it your all and you PUSH. They were giving me updates like, “his head is coming out”, “oh, he has a lot of hair”, “you’re almost there”, you listen to those words and let it motivate you. Just when I thought I couldn’t push anymore coz I really felt exhausted, I gave it one LAST.LONG.PUSH to the point where I couldn’t breathe and then I heard it—I heard my baby’s cries, I finally get to hold my little Xavi They cleaned me up as they were cleaning him up, I felt them taking out something that felt like a big blob and then they stitched me down there. I think what I hated the most was when they pushed my tummy to check if blood was still coming out from wherever its supposed to come out (I’m pretty sure theres a medical term for that) but if you ask me what the whole process felt like, it felt like I released one BIG, GINORMOUS poop after a month of being constipated (sorry for being grossly graphic).

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At 10:03 pm, I gave birth to Jose Inigo Xavier. He weighed 7 lbs 13 oz and was 21 inches long. Thank you Lord for keeping me and Xavi safe.

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Our first family photo
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Taking him home for the first time. It was one cold night

 

~Rhea (now officially a mom of 2)

DIY: #Walmartplayhousehack

Since I’ve been getting a lot of DMs about Cassie’s playhouse, I decided to finally blog about the building process and the house details. I’ve always wanted a wooden playhouse for Cassie and one of the main reasons for picking a wooden one instead of the hundreds of plastic options is the fact that you could make it your own. I wanted to have that option of painting and decorating the house like you would with your own home and I wanted it to be something my daughter and I could do together.

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This is the stock photo on the Walmart website.

We bought this Backyard Discovery Timberlake Cedar Wooden Playhouse at Walmart.com when it was on sale right before Christmas. It wasn’t much of a big sale but I’ve been on the watch and so far this was the cheapest it’s been. You can click on the product name above to link you directly to the Walmart website. When we purchased it, this playhouse was $175 and that’s very cheap considering that its a wooden playhouse. Right now (as I’m writing this blog) if you check the website the playhouse now runs for $184 which is still less than $200, still not bad for the price.

So before I decided to paint the house I started looking up Wooden Playhouse Decoration Inspiration on Pinterest and stumbled upon the Kmart Cubby house Hack and if you search on Instagram #kmartcubbyhack, it apparently is a thing that’s been around especially in Australia where parents decorate their kids wooden playhouses into posh, sophisticated, rustic, vintage or farmhouse inspired mini homes. The two houses look quite similar and from my understanding you’re able to purchase the other cubby home from Kmart in Australia for $199 AUS. I thought originally that they were the same size, I know I could’ve easily compared both by looking at their specifications online but based on some photos of the interior of the Kmart Cubby Home, that seems a tad bit bigger and wider to the point where you can put mini shelves. I honestly don’t know but with this Walmart Wooden Playhouse there’s barely any space if you have two kids playing in it already.

My husband, Marco, did most of the assembling but of course I helped, others may say that it’s possible to do it yourself but in our experience it definitely was a two-man job. I’d say the materials were labeled clearly and the instruction manual wasn’t all that confusing so I’ve got no complaints in that department. One day should be enough to build it although it took us quite awhile to build it since we were doing it leisurely during our spare time. We were building it inside our garage.

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The house after we assembled it.

As much as I loved how it turned out, I wanted to make it our own so that’s when I decided to paint it. I was a little undecided with the color scheme but I was sure I wanted gender-neutral colors to suit both Cassie and Xavi so I ended up with your typical black/white combo.I didn’t have to go far for paint, Walmart had the basic black and white (no mixing needed), I literally grabbed them from the shelf and paid for it. With the paint, I wasn’t too particular, in fact I just picked the color and picked the cheapest one. I didn’t bother reading if it was flat, matte, interior/exterior paint, quick dry— we were just painting a playhouse anyway.

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Marco was scared that the paint brushes that I got from the Dollar store were no good but again we were painting a playhouse, the wider the brush the more area it covers in one stroke. You will also need foam brushes to cover the crevices that you can’t reach with a normal paint brush. We didn’t bother sanding the wood prior to painting since it was already smooth to begin with. The paint color, type of paint and paint brush size are all subject to preference. Before you start painting, here are the things you need to do:

  1. Take out/ Unscrew all the house accessories (cooking stove, phone, doorknob, etc) and set them aside in a safe area so you don’t lose any screws
  2. Lift house and put a plastic drop cloth beneath it (or whatever that can protect your floors from messy paint)
  3. Apply painters tape to edges or corners that you don’t want to be painted or repainted. If you’re using tape on a newly painted surface make sure that the area is dry before applying tape.
  4.  PAINT first coat. I would suggest using different set of paintbrushes if you’re going with more than one color and also going one direction when painting, it just looks less messy that way)
  5. Use foam brush to fill in tight spots that can’t be reached by your paint brush.
  6. Once first coat is dry, apply second coat.
  7. Screw in all house accessories that were taken out prior to painting.
  8. DECORATE. Have fun putting up curtains, frames, house number, a bell— anything you want to personalize your playhome.

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In hindsight, it would have been easier to paint the material before assembling it. If you do decide to go this route, make sure that you re-label the wood before painting over the letters, these letters will serve as your guide when assembling the playhouse.

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VOILA! Here’s the finished product.

I’ve linked the metal vases with rope accents that were purchased from Dollar Tree, you can get them online but only in bulk. I also linked in the Grass Rug that we placed under the house, I wasn’t too comfortable with Cassie stepping on possibly rickety wooden planks so this was the cheapest and most practical alternative we could find and this rug can be used both indoor and outdoor, at least I won’t have to worry if it gets rained on. The Greenscapes Grass Rug measures 4×6 and was purchased from Target online for $22.99. We’re still in the process of adding more accents here and there but I think that pretty much wraps up the house building process. If you have any questions about  this #kmartcubbyhack or rather this #walmartplayhousehack send me an email or shoot DM, I would be glad to help.

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Finally my little family is done with this little project.

Thanks for stopping by!

~Rhea

Destination: Detroit, Michigan

May 14 – 15, 2018

Marco scheduled a vacation for this time of the year, we planned to do at least one international trip every year but since we’ll be spending a lot for interstate flights to visit family at the end of this year, we opted to just drive to Michigan then cross over to Canada to see the Niagara Falls which technically is still an international destination, right? Well, that was the original plan, an opportunity came up for me and we had to work with both so we decided to still push through with Michigan.

Living in the midwest has made it easier for us to drive from state to state and it was a bit of a surprise to find out that Detroit was only going to be a 4-hour drive for us (minus the stops). The place we’re staying in is a Bed and Breakfast but we were running a bit late and arrived 30 minutes after our self-proclaimed check-in time so the owner was out running errands. We decided to have late lunch instead and explore downtown Detroit.

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But first, Marco and I had to figure out what we were craving for and we both agreed that Shawarma was at the top of out list so we found Tuhama’s sandwiches, in Dearborn, Michigan apparently home to the largest Muslim population in the US.

Tuhama’s Sandwhiches

Address: 10613 Warren Ave, Dearborn, MI 48126

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They’re known for their cheap prices and big legit shawarmas. I guess you can say it’s a semi hole in the wall, decent but not big enough to accommodate kids; no booster seats, no high chairs but if you want real Middle Eastern sandwiches then this was the real deal.

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Here’s what their menu looks like.

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After late lunch we just randomly searched for parking somewhere downtown and explored the area starting with Comerica Park.

Comerica Park

Address: 2100 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201

Comerica Park is the home to the Detroit Tigers, yes that’s major league baseball for you. The place wasn’t exactly open to the public at that particular time just coz they were preparing for an event or probably even a game but I didn’t really mind coz the entrance to the ballpark was more than enough for awesome photos. Besides, we had 2 kids with us and I don’t think my husband is the biggest baseball fan so posing outside with the gigantic tiger was more than enough for us.

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The Belt

Address: Between Broadway and Library Street, Detroit, MI 48226

I’d have to say this strip of purely murals and artwork has to be my most favorite part of the trip just coz we stumbled upon it by accident. We were walking down the street and the entrance of The Belt caught my eye, I insisted to check it out and it was soooo worth it! Anyone who needs an awesome IG post, this is the place to be, it’s really interesting coz it’s in an alleyway and it is instagrammable. haha. But seriously, it felt like it was a free outdoor gallery for me. Here are some of my favorite shots from that strip.

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After exploring Downtown, we finally checked in at our Bed and Breakfast.

Honest John’s

Address: 488 Selden St, Detroit, MI 48201

Headed out to a local place that we Yelped for wings and beer and we went coz there they had good ratings averaging 4.3 stars out of 5. Make sure to ask them what local beer they would recommend.

I know its not the most kid-appropriae place for dinner since the ambiance is a bit dark and does look like a pub with its bar, beer and pool table, they even have a classic jukebox but we went there pretty early when it wasn’t crowded yet, they were very accommodating and they had kid-friendly meals.

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Hans Gehrke House

Address: 211 Arden Park Boulevard, Detroit, MI 48202

If you’ve been following me on here for a while, you probably know I have a thing for historical sites, ancient buildings and old houses so when we booked this place I was silently jumping for joy. Marco was impressed that I booked the place for cheap but he knew I was after the ambiance more than anything. Haha.

I wish I could say we were able to tour the house but we didn’t although our room did not disappoint. For an old German house it is well kept, the boards are a bit creaky (no surprise to that) and if you let your imagination run wild you can make it into a haunted house. Haha, okay okay, I’m exaggerating, I love the house, the host gives you your personal key upon check in so you can have access in and out of the house. It’s not necessarily handicap friendly but the host is very accommodating and will make sure you are comfortable.

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Loved how she set up our breakfast. We woke up late and our host had our food ready outside the door, talk about breakfast in bed. Thanks Tate for going all out!

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If you’re into historical homes like me then I would recommend this place. Its the best value for the location and the house is clean. Tate was nice enough to give Cassie a doll and was very accommodating when we had to go back to look for Marco’s wallet, which we found by the way.

The Henry Ford Museum

Address: 20900 Oakwood Blvd, Dearborn, MI 48124

This was our last stop before heading home and they have different packages that you can avail of which allows you access to different areas of the museum. The place is HUGE and if you really want to explore the whole area then you’re going to need more than a day. Marco and I just availed of the main museum and the Village package which was more than enough our feet could handle. I suggest visiting their website (click on the link) before heading there to help you decide which tickets to purchase.

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The Henry Ford museum was quite overwhelming but the following displays were my personal favorites for varied reasons:

Rosa Park bus

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Vintage McDonalds sign

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Cars through the years

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The Greenfield Village

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You get a chance to ride old school jalopies

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Vintage carousels are my thing

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Their ice cream is delicious and did I mention large

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Cassie loved their industrial themed playground

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Plus their farm had a ton of animals— horses, goats, lambs, chickens, turkeys…

The village was a whole different experience, if we had the time I would’ve wanted to spend an entire day there. Plus, if the kids were a bit older I’m pretty sure they would’ve appreciated it more. Marco and I were talking as we were strolling around and I was telling him this would be a good place if/when a Zombie apocalypse happens coz it literally is a community in itself. Hahaha, I know too much of Walking Dead but seriously, this place is a must visit.

More photos in my personal FB page but going around Detroit with small kids and still having fun is definitely possible.

~Rhea

Destination: Morgantown, West Virginia

March 30 – April 1, 2018

Since living here in Muncie, Indiana, this would be the second time we’re driving out of state with two toddlers in tow. The first one was a few weeks back around St. Patricks Day weekend and we drove to Chicago, Illinois which was 4 hrs and 30 minutes away from us. Although that was the first ever state outside Indiana that Xavi’s been to I didn’t bother blogging about it since the entire weekend was more focused on family instead of sight-seeing. We actually met a few of Marco’s relatives that he hasn’t seen for years; I’ve never even met them so it was all family bonding and of course shout out to my Tito Jeff and Tita Malu ( The Climacos) for having us again and for always spoiling us and the kids especially with food, haha. Okay so enough about Chicago, this entry is about Morgantown.

Marco’s less-stress rotation was coming to an end and we thought of taking advantage of the long weekend (he had Friday off) so we were randomly checking the US map and thinking of other states we haven’t been to and he suggested WV because a very good friend of mine from way back ( friends since we were 5/6 ish, I’m not kidding) and one of my bridesmaid recently moved to Morgantown with her husband and we googled how far it was from our place and it was only a 5 hr and 30 minute drive so that’s how we ended up driving to Morgantown.

The drive in itself was pleasant, not too many stops considering that we had an almost-2-month old with us. I fed Xavi right before the drive and he slept good for almost 3 hours then we stopped for a gas/ potty break and decided to feed Xavi around the same time. We arrived around dinner time and the San Juans went all out to accommodate us (you know what I mean, dadz. Thank you so much for making sure we were very comfortable). We had towels, snacks, water bottles and toothbrushes ready and Aj cooked us legit Chicken Inasal (even the rice was legit).

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Since we’re here just for the weekend, our itinerary for the day was pretty extensive. Here are the places we visited while we were there for you guys who might be interested  in visiting or are visiting Morgantown, WV soon.

Forks of Cheat Winery

Address: 2811 Stewartstown Rd, Morgantown, WV 26508

We were blessed with beautiful weather that day and although the deck at the winery wasn’t officially open to public we figured we would still go because they had a bunch of award-winning wines that we wanted to check out. Might I add that the drive going to the winery is very scenic and pretty impressive, I’m sure its more beautiful when Spring is in full bloom.

I would advise you to go for the wine-tasting and if you end up buying something, which I’m sure you will, their Apple Pie Moonshine and their Blackberry Wine comes highly recommended.

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Good Counsel Friary

Address: 493 Tyrone Rd, Morgantown, WV 26508

This wonderfully constructed building is sadly not open to the public but we just had to see this historical structure for ourselves. We were told that its currently owned by the church and is being used as the priests living quarters so clearly #Notrespassing. We weren’t allowed to climb the deck but we took a lot of pictures and boomerang videos outside.

I hope they open this landmark to the public once more. It has a very interesting history which includes the 5-year construction of this castle in 1928 and finally completing it in 1933. It was originally Thoney Pietro’s home that he donated to the Franciscan brothers of the Catholic Church. I’m sure the interior is as interesting as its exterior.

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West Virginia Botanic Garden

 Address: 1061 Tyrone Rd, Morgantown, WV 26508

We hear this botanical garden looks amazing when the flowers are in full bloom during Spring but even without the flowers that place was a sight to see, just good ‘ol nature at its best. We weren’t expecting to go on a short hike but I’m glad that we did, it was surprisingly relaxing and Cassie walked the entire trail while holding her Ninang Karina’s hand. That hike was also a good way for us to work out an appetite for our late lunch.

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Ali Baba Restaurant

Address: 82 Hart Field Rd, Morgantown, WV 26505

Mediterranean food for lunch c/o the San Juans, the restaurant was literally inside the local airport and we were in a booth seated by the window. Our view was the airport hangar and it was entertaining seeing small planes fly in and out of the hangar during the duration of the meal. Good food, wonderful view, thanks for the treat out guys!

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Cheat Lake Park and Trail

Address: Cheat Lake Trail, Morgantown, WV 26508

Our last stop for the day, it would’ve been a wonderful place to explore but it was getting chilly so we stayed for a while and had Cassie play in the playground. We walked a bit and decided to call it a day. We’re definitely coming back.

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Photo Credit: Karina San Juan

Coopers Rock State Forest

Address: 61 County Line Drive, Bruceton Mills, WV 26525

I was actually excited to see the infamous overlook at Cooper Rock especially on Easter Day. We were invited to an Easter/ Birthday shindig and I plan to hide Cassie’s eggs so she could do her Easter egg hunt there but it was extremely foggy to the point where we couldn’t see where we were going. With the fog came the rain then the chill so we were slightly cold and freezing, I figured we would have to come back some other time to visit the overlook and I also decided to hold off Cassie’s egg hunt and just do it at home.

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For a University Town, Morgantown had a lot to offer and we’re so glad we enjoyed exploring the area with the San Juans. Thanks so much for having us on short notice and for taking us all over the place, Dadz and Kuya Bey. We’re definitely coming back to visit.

So to those who are reading this and are wondering where Morgantown, West Virginia is and if there’s anything to do in there, well I hope this answers your question—there are TONS (and they’re pretty kid friendly too).

~Rhea