Santa HQ Presented by HGTV is Now Open!

I have a whole collection of photos with Santa over the years. I’m crying in some of them. Smiling in most of them. These were happy memories for me as a kid. When I had kids of my own, however, I never adopted the tradition of having our photo with Santa. Why not!?!? I ask myself this over and over again every year.

It’s not too late. Sure they’re getting a bit too old to sit on Santa’s lap, but it still could be a fun memory. Besides… We could do a family photo. We could start a new tradition now. This year. Macerich Malls all over the country have been transformed, thanks to HGTV, to spread holiday cheer!

Santa HQ

Now through Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, Santa HQ is spreading holiday cheer to guests of all ages with a 21st century immersive journey that features state-of-the-art digital technology. In addition to the classic photo with Santa Claus, mall guests can take an Elfie selfie to star in their own holiday video, use Elf-Ray Vision to explore Santa’s Observatory, and test out the Naughty or Nice O’Meter.

If that doesn’t sound like good, clean, holiday fun… I don’t know what does.

Reservations to visit the experience can be made in advance at

*Not a sponsored post. Just sharing a press release I received and thought you’d like it. xo

Blended Family Vacation Tips

If you just want to skip to the tips… they’re at the end. If you want to read a bit about our first blended family vacation experience… keep reading! xo

family vacation

Writing for multiple blogs and working in marketing, has allowed me to accept some really amazing opportunities. Most recently, I was invited for the second time to Beaches Resort in Turks & Caicos for a conference called Social Media on the Sand. This year would be different though. Last year, I was in a new relationship with someone I really saw a future with. And now… we’re a blended family. We bought a house and moved in. My kids love him. His dog loves us. We’re complete.

This trip was our first vacation together as a family. We both were nervous, but it turns out, there wasn’t really anything to be nervous about. PJ and I sat on the aisle seats with a girl in each middle seat beside us. Sharing the parenting responsibilities was really helpful. It was nice to know I could count on him to make sure she was comfortable, hydrated, and entertained- while I managed the other one. One the way home- we switched kids. This was key. Everyone wants to sit next to Mommy at some point. This made it fair.

blended family vacation

The conference was amazing. I learned a few new things I could do to better market myself and made some new connections. While I was off conferencing… PJ got some time with the kids by himself. He was nervous, but excited to be able to start really building a bond with them. They played on the beach, swam, had some meals together, and he even managed the drop off and pick up to the Kid’s Camp one day. I am so proud of him. And not just proud of him, but proud of the girls. My heart is so full knowing that they trust my judgement in choosing PJ as my partner. If I like him. They would like him too. Not all families are so lucky, but being open and honest with my children and speaking to them plainly, has really helped in our trust and communication.

During the conference, I was asked if I wanted to help in testing out a new printing beta program with HP. This was such an awesome experience! We were able to print photos right to a printer in our room by posting a photo to Instagram and using a personalized hashtag. This technology blows my mind. Just like magic… all of our family vacation photos were waiting for us on the printer when we returned from a full day of play! Capturing these moments was another important part of solidifying the bond we were building as a newly blended family.

HP Priner

Our vacation including travel time, was a week long. I really recommend an extended trip like this and I also recommend taking time to be with the children each on your own, as well as all together. One day, I took the girls snorkeling on a boat tour, while PJ had a couple of spa treatments. Afterwards, we came back together as a family for a meal. This reinforced that I was still making time just for them.

blended family vacation

Let me share a little bit about the resort. We paid for our flights and for conference badges. Part of the conference experience was our room and the resort is all-inclusive, so the food and activities were included. The Beaches staff is amazing. They go above and beyond to make sure that your experience is unforgettable. Even down to the smallest detail. Have food allergies? Simply note it on your reservation and every server at the 19+ restaurants know about it. They warn you about ingredients in certain dishes and make suggestions for you. Want to try a new tropical drink? The bartenders at each bar have a specialty of their own. Want to try a fresh coconut? Talk to one of the groundskeepers. They’ll cut one down for you! Really!

Then there’s the room. We were booked in the Italian Village. It was a two room sweet with a shared bathroom. The kids had a bunk bed in their room, which they quickly settled into. We had a lovely space with a large bed and a pool view from the patio balcony. The mini bar was stocked daily (free as part of the all-inclusiveness). And our beds were turned down for us each evening. What a special touch!

blended family vacation

The best part for families, besides the food being included, are the activities. The resort has a plethora of free things to do! From snorkeling equipment rental, to kayaking, to sailing… they have it all. If water sports aren’t your thing… there are sand toys too and various games on the lawn, like giant chess/checkers and boche ball. And don’t forget the pools! The girls found that the pool at the Italian Village, which is the main pool, had water toys and floats for everyone to play with.

I couldn’t have planned a better first family vacation than this. There was no fighting. There was no boredom. Everyone’s favorite foods were found. New adventures were had. This is a vacation worth saving up for. I can’t imagine vacationing like this without being at a Beaches Resort. We’re already talking about trying Jamaica next year. We’re golfers, you see, and there’s a course at that resort!

I’m sorry this got long, but so much went into making this trip a success!

Blended Family Travel Tips (Or Any Family):

1. Travel in comfort.

This includes: travel pillows and blankets, entertainment, and snacks.

2. Dress for the flight, not the destination weather.

I always dress my kids in sweatpants, a tank top, and a hoodie. No matter the weather, they’re comfortable in layers and warm on the cold plane.

3. Spring for a comfortable room.

If you’re on a budget, you can get a single room and save. But I found that having our own spaces kept us argument free. It also allowed me to keep us on our sleep schedule, even with a 3 hour time difference.

4. Take pictures!

This is a really big deal when you’re on your first big trip. The memories will last a lifetime.

5. Make time together. Make time apart.

Spend some time together, but not every waking moment. Show the kids that you are willing to make time just for them and allow your partner alone time with the kids to bond.

6. Try new things.

I credit our family’s spirit of adventure to keeping us close and argument free. Instead of struggling at mealtime, we encouraged them to try something new. This is especially easy at an all-inclusive resort like Beaches. The same goes for activities. Make some compromises so that everyone gets to do what’s on their list.

Feel free to tweet at me if you have any questions I didn’t cover here. I’m happy to help! And check out some of our pictures on Instagram. You can find me @kellyloubet on both or just click the links. xo



How To Pack for the Beach: Kids Edition

Our family is heading off to Beaches Resort in Turks & Caicos! On my last trip to Beaches… I only had to pack for myself. This time around… I’m bringing the kids! I’ve decided to write How To Pack for the Beach: Kids Edition to spark some ideas for those of you taking advantage of that last bit of warmth on the beach before winter arrives.

I’d like to disclose that this is not a sponsored trip. Attendees were selected by invitation. By accepting the invite, I agreed to purchase a conference pass and pay for our own airfare. You can follow along by searching hashtag #BeachesMoms #BeachesDads on Instagram or Twitter.

Packing for kids isn’t easy. My girls are at the age where they are getting more particular about what they choose to wear. Below, you’ll find what we’ve decided is appropriate for the upcoming beach vacation. I’ve followed the “capsule wardrobe” method. These pieces can all be mixed and matched to create additional outfits during your vacation!

Kids Beach Capsule Wardrobe

I created this set using Polyvore. I’m not an active user, but it sure does help to plan out a vacation wardrobe! I wrote a post last year, on how to pack for a beach vacation as an adult. I used used the capsule wardrobe method for my suitcase as well. Check it out! It’s an easy way to pack for a weeklong trip to the beach!

How to Make Your Home Kid-Friendly – Guest Post

Pic 1 - Junior table and Chairs set
Planning a family? Well, besides usual considerations about your readiness in terms of maturity, money and relationship, you should consider your living space. The home in which you will raise your kids must be adapted to their needs. First and foremost, it must be safe environment for kids to minimize the possibility of injuries. Not only that, the “kid-friendliness” must be reflected in the very house décor, which should pose a lovely family place which will have positive impact on their growing up process and on developing their imagination. Sounds like rather demanding task, right? Perhaps it is, but if you have in mind all the joys of parenthood, this endeavor will be a lot easier. We’ll try to guide you through it.

Pic 2 - Safe and sound
● Electricity is dangerous, everyone knows that. It’s childproofing 101. So, using outlets covers to protect the outlets is a good precautionary measure to take. If you are using extension cords, cover the exposed outlets with electrical tape. All major electrical appliances should be grounded. Check and remove any potential electrical fire hazards.
● Walls should be in good condition with no nails exposed. Frames and mirrors should be stable. Make sure the rugs have anti-slip pads underneath.
● Install a finger-pinch guard on doors and place doorknob covers. If you have sliding doors, they should have childproof locks.
● Put protective padding on corners of all furniture that has sharp edges.
● Stairways must have safety gates at the top and bottom.
This is an ongoing process and you’ll solve many problems along the way, or if you want to be completely safe, hire a professional childproofer.

Pic 3 - Comfortable and Creative

The Three Cs of Kid-friendly Design: Casual, Comfortable and Creative
Now that we’ve got the most important thing – safety – solved, it’s time to get to the fun part – design.
● Casual design means that there should be no fuss about the style, so Victorian decoration is out of the question. Avoid covering furniture and tables with fabric (sooner or later, your child will pull it and crash whatever was on it).
● Opt for low-maintenance when picking the furniture, flooring and walls. When the child arrives, you’ll have no time to tackle with such problems. Choose long-lasting materials.
● The space should be comfortable. Beds and mattresses should be neither too soft nor too hard
● As kids tend to walk barefoot or crawl, floors should be covered with rugs. You should consider all bathroom heating options, and for the same reason, perhaps, opt for floor heating.
● Make extra storage space with vertical shelves and baskets and boxes in open shelves.
● Get creative with colors, pattern and textures. Kids will enjoy more in such surroundings than in a room with white silk sofa, they’re afraid to get near to.
● Make special kids’ areas, such as reading nook, room for make-believe games, play room, sports area, corners or rooms for arts and crafts. You shouldn’t buy expensive furniture. Those should be the spaces where your kids and their imagination can run wild.
● Besides being comfortable and safe, your kids’ bedroom should be their piece of paradise, be that a castle for a princess or a superhero cave.
Life with kids can be messy, stressful, exciting, but above all the things beautiful. Do your best to contribute to that beauty by making your home kid-friendly.

About the Author

Pic 4 - Author

Marie Nieves is student of economics who loves unusual trips, gadgets and creative ideas. She is an avid lover of photography interested in interior and exterior design. Marie loves to talk about her experiences and she is regular author on Smooth Decorator. You can find Marie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter and G+.





Photo credits:


Dad Beauty School + Goody

This might be the cutest video ever! I don’t have memories of my dad ever trying to style my hair, but I do remember him trying to give me a “trim” once! Ha! My girls have a great dad. When it’s his week with them… he does try and help them to do their hair. And sometimes he’s even successful! So… here’s to all the dads out there who are giving it their best try! Happy Father’s Day!

This is not a paid post. Just a fun share from our friends at Goody! xo

How to Get Kids Involved in Interior Design

So happy to be able to host an original guest post on home decor for kids! This is not a paid post or an endorsement. Just a fun article to inspire you! Thank you, Zillow, for reaching out to us!

By Satinder Haer of Zillow

Kids are naturally creative and imaginative which makes them excellent little decorators. They might not have the necessary tactical skills for moving furniture or painting, but they understand contrasting colors like nobody’s business. However, kids are usually left out of interior design projects because they can hinder actual progress with their distractions. Conversely, kids are reluctant to assist with décor projects because they might consider decorating boring or a “parent thing.”

Getting your kids involved in interior design projects has invaluable benefits. You get the chance to collaborate with your kids and they experience the hard work that goes into assembling their home. Your child may even feel more committed to keeping rooms tidy after their efforts. Try these tips to overcome the initial hurdles of getting your kids involved in interior design.

Start Small

  • Don’t try to redo the whole house as your first project with the kids. Pick a specific, achievable task.
  • Build up to larger-scale, more challenging projects. You’ll know you can handle the complexity after you’ve worked with the kids.

Have a Plan

  • Avoid arguments between kids by determining exactly how you’ll divvy up and delegate the work before beginning.
  • If your goal is to redecorate the bathroom, evaluate the tasks, supplies and manpower necessary for each step of the process.
  • Taking into account the age of your kid(s), figure out which components of the project they could safely complete.
  • If painting, assign the older kids the trim while the youngest tackles the middle of the wall.
  • Starting with a detailed plan leads to an organized project.

Keep It Stress Free

  • Create the best possible experience for everyone involved by keeping stress to a minimum.
  • In addition to picking manageable tasks, avoid tight deadlines.
  • If a project necessitates completion by a firm date, pick a different one to tackle with your kids. Deadline-driven projects are likely to create tension if things go wrong.
  • It’s common to experience a moment where you want to finish a project yourself because you can do it faster or more precisely than your kid(s). Keep in mind that this is a learning process for everyone. Don’t let that moment overshadow all the gratifying times or deter future teamwork.

Give Ownership

  • Initially, it’s difficult to not micromanage your kids. Delegate a task, step back and focus on your own role. Children need to feel trusted and usually flourish when given responsibility.
  • Try to give your child opportunities to provide input and pick décor features. While you might have a vision for your overall interior design, there’s usually room to incorporate small elements of your child’s style.

Make It Fun

  • While it is easy to get caught up in the practical details of interior design, don’t forget to show your children how fun decorating is. Pick projects that naturally appeal to them, such as selecting artwork, paint colors or shopping for new furniture. Better yet, work together on decorating the rooms most utilized by your kids. Allowing them to be creative on their bedroom or play space styles develops their sense of design.  If your kids enjoy themselves, they may contribute on future projects.
  • Once you find a method that works for your family, team design projects become well-loved household activities. You might even be able to delegate the work and sit back with a snack while supervising.

Whether sprucing up your current home, preparing a property to list on the market or settling into a new home, enlist the kids for healthy family exercises, design inspiration and home improvement progress.