Monday, November 25, 2019

Carnival Cruise to Ensenada Mexico

Our family took a Carnival cruise in October to Ensenada. Here's my review and experience (and no one paid me for my post):

Cruising to Ensenada Mexico through Carnival does NOT require a passport. If you have a large family like us (six), that is a huge savings to travel to a foreign country without buying passports for everyone. You just need to bring a birth certificate (the website says photocopies are okay but our flight didn't say photocopies so we took originals) and for anyone over 16, a picture ID (driver's license).

When you book, I recommend calling and getting a personal Carnival booking agent to help (free.) Ours helped us get better rooms, right across the hall from each other that weren't available online. Then she also emailed me and I was able to ask her any questions I had. The responses were quick.

When you book, you'll be prompted to pay upfront for gratuities. What? It seemed like a huge additional expense but as soon as we got on board, I realized it wasn't enough. The workers were amazing. Our maid and dining room servers knew us by name and we learned theirs. They all had perfect English mixed with their beautiful accents. Everything they did for us was prompt, fun, and with a genuine smile. I even had one guy make me something special to accommodate my weird food allergies and brought it to my table in the cafeteria-style dining. There were hundreds of people in the room and he searched until he found me. I'd say bring extra money for tipping if you have it. I've never seen people working so hard and so happy. Their service makes me want to go again. Next time, I'll probably bring gifts to leave for our maids. They were that fantastic.

We used a private shuttle from LAX to the drop-off in Long Beach. We used Payless Shuttle:
AMAZING! They were far cheaper than booking through Carnival, picked us up so fast, the van was clean, they brought car seats for my kiddos so I didn't have to lug those with us at all. Super convenient. They also shuttle to Disneyland. I would use them every time.

We had a scheduled time to check in but we arrived in Long Beach early. I did not pay extra for the Faster to the Fun pass but I'm glad we didn't. We arrived around1:30 p.m.and when we got through the line that took maybe fifteen or twenty, they told us our room was ready. I'm glad we didn't check our baggage. We took it directly to our room ourselves and got settled. Note, there are several areas with elevators on the ship. When you first enter there is a set, but don't wait for those as the lines will be long. Ask someone to direct you to another set further down and you'll save a bit of time.

I'd recommend bringing something to decorate your door. Why? To avoid another guest knocking in the middle of the night, drunk, and looking for friends or family. Yes, that happened. The doors all look the same and the corridor is long. Door decorations also help if you have little ones for them to find the room on their own. Our kids ran ahead of us every time. After our late-night wake-ups, we tied ribbons to our door.

With six people, we had to get two rooms. The max is five. We got an interior room and an exterior directly across the hall. We often left our doors open so it didn't feel like we were separated too much.

I'm the type of person that hates to live out of a suitcase and have clutter everywhere. I like to put everything away and not see my suitcases until departure day. There was enough room for all of our things.

There were two twin beds in our room when we arrived. But after we came back from dinner, our maid set up another so we each had our own mattress. I figured the kids would have to share so that was a pleasant surprise.

My husband called Carnival to check if there were hairdryers in the room and he was told no. So I took mine and ended up having to bring another bag to fit it. My room had two. Ugh. So yes, there are hairdryers in the room.

There are only two plugs in each room. One in the bathroom and one next to the beds. They are not like standard outlets at home with two plugs. Just one in each spot. Bring a three-way splitter so you can charge your phone and use another device (like a white noise machine) at the same time. With the white noise machine and the air turned on in the ceiling, we didn't hear a thing and slept amazing. Honestly the best sleep I've had in a year or two.

So there was a smell in our bathrooms. It's a cruise thing. My husband didn't really notice, but I have a sensitive nose. It bothered me a little but I just reminded myself we were on a floating palace. It couldn't all be perfect.

Oh my goodness, don't get me started. As a mom with several kids, the best part of the cruise was the food--and the fact I didn't have to make it or clean up after. I like to consider myself a foodie and there were so many things I loved. I have a lot of food allergies so I didn't have too many options, but I could eat one of the pizzas (which is seriously some of the best pizza I have ever eaten), modified burgers (super yum!) and the food in the formal dining rooms exceeded my expectations, especially breakfast. My oldest daughter's favorite food was the strawberry bisque. We loved being able to pick whatever we wanted from the menu. One night we even ordered every dessert and extra chocolate molten cake (loved it). I would go back in a heartbeat for the food.

We made several friends on the trip from people we sat with on shuttle boats to our dining room guests. We loved being seated with another family and getting to know them.

So my kids kept raving about the ice cream, but it tasted weird to me. Yeah, I didn't see the signs. One machine is frozen yogurt and one is ice cream. Rookie mistake.

We loved having late-night snacks brought to our room. The cookies look pathetic but I actually loved them. I'm kind of a cookie snob and they were buttery and perfect with milk. We also took advantage of breakfast items to hold us over until we made it to the dining room.

Our friends told us the pool was too cold when they went in May. In October, the water was so warm and we loved it. From what I researched, they pull water from the Ocean so it is very, very salty, but there were definitely heaters at the bottom of the pool. The slides were a blast. Our four-year-old went down the mini slides over a hundred times in an hour. The biggest slide was awesome, until the last ten seconds. I had to push myself out and so did my kids. Maybe we weren't heavy enough?

In Catalina, we opted for our own adventure. We played at a park, rented a six-seater golf cart, ate lunch and got ice cream from Scoops Homemade Ice Cream (expensive but really well made and worth the money).
The golf cart ride (Golf Cart Rentals & Tours, 625 Crescent Ave) had pros and cons. Pros: we got to see the city and amazing views. Cons: They said you could do the ride in an hour with a few stops. We hardly stopped and couldn't complete the whole thing in an hour. If you go over, you have to pay extra so maybe plan on being speedy or buying two hours. We also had a six-seater which maybe caused us to go slower up the hills. The other bad part was that if you sat on the back, you sucked exhaust fumes the whole time. It made me quite sick.
The beach was amazing. We are landlocked in Utah so we love time on the beach. One of our daughters had a freak jellyfish incident and got a sting on her arm, but other than that, it was fantastic. They even have a foot wash station on the pavement near the sand.

We hired a private guide from Ensenada Massage & Excursions:
AMAZING. We 100% recommend it. Once we got off the boat, we walked about 100 yards and Arturo had a sign with our name, waiting for us. The van pulled up within about a minute and we were introduced to our driver Pedro. They both spoke amazing English. We scheduled to go to the blowhole (La Buffadora) about an hour away. They told us about something on the way and I'm usually never one for an upsell, but we decided to take their advice and go to Pai Pai as well.
Pai Pai is a mini zoo of rescued exotic animals. We were given an awesome tour from a guide, again, perfect English. We each got to interact with four lemurs. They jumped on our shoulders, ate from our hands and swung around. (I want one!) It was magical and our kids still thank us. The workers tried to upsell us too, with a chance to play with a baby lion and jaguar. Again, I never buy into those but we realized for the price and experience, we would never have the opportunity again. My kids all got to hold both animals. They were playful and amazingly soft. They are still thanking us for that experience too.
Pai Pai also smelled very clean. I've never been to an animal facility that smelled good. The workers all seemed to love the animals and several of them were volunteers.
Pedro drove us to La Buffadora, another thirty minutes or so away. We got to ask him questions about the area and the people and talking to him was one of the best parts. When we got to the market that leads to the blowhole, Pedro walked us in, showed us the best places to eat, and let us wander. The salesmen are quite aggressive, but we anticipated it. We bought some churros, street tacos for my husband and kids (my allergies prevent me from eating my favorite foods--sad!), and a few knickknacks. The blowhole did not disappoint. Super cool and misty.

So, I got seasick. I would have loved the trip if I could have felt better, but I'm one of those types that gets sick in the car. Ugh. I brought all sorts of medicine and patches and they worked sometimes. If we go again, I'll prepare with even more stuff and just expect to not feel well for part of it. A few of my kids had some difficulties but the medicine I brought for them worked great. I also got landsick when we came back. A few times a day I would rock for a couple hours. Not ideal but water and ibuprofen and rest seemed to help.

We were charged for the towels in our room, which we didn't take. Lame. It took three calls to get our money back.

The tickets in October were way cheaper than at other times. Since I work from home, we need to get out of the house for vacations so I've planned a lot. We got a lot of value through our Carnival Cruise.

Overall, an amazing experience.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Free Get Organized Worksheet

People who know me say I'm super organized. They're right. And in this free set, I'll give you my tips and printable sheets to help you get more organized too. And what's even more perfect? It's got a holiday worksheet to help you stay in budget and not miss anyone this Christmas season. 


W H A T - Y O U - G E T - 

Digital, printable PDF file. 16 pages. Instead of reading books on organizing, you can read my quick, handy guide. Plus, I've got cute printables you can print again and again to keep you on track. 
These are designed with florals (made by me).

This printable is for personal use only. Please don't copy, sell, or distribute this file.

The download is available on my ghetto, needs a facelift website:

Do you have someone in your family that whines?

Try out this sign:

 Work is required by all. 

 Recreation is earned by working with a positive attitude. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

TWO new Christmas Escape Games

We have two new Christmas escape games. One is harder for adults/teens. The other is designed for families (adults & teens could still play it, especially if escape games are a new thing for you!) 

Click on the pictures to check them out. All of our old games are 60% off right now.

 Ghosts of Christmas Escape Game

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Better Late than Never

This is my life these days: LATE. For appointments, we're late. For fun get-togethers, we're late. And when it comes to posting about a cool product I made, I'm months too late. (And at the end of this post, you can see another product I've added that is almost too late--but not quite!)

So since you have no immediate need for a teacher appreciation gift, here I am. Better late than never. Right? (But check how cool this is that you can give it to grandparents or church teachers or moms on mother's day. Sweet, huh?) Like it? Find it in my shop here:

And here is my hamburger watercolor clip art. Can you imagine how hungry I was while painting this? I almost snarfed down my brush! You can find it here:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Escape Room Game Giveaway

Enter to win a Date Night Escape Room Game from Prettiful Designs. Our newest game, The Inheritance Race, launches tomorrow (April 10, 2018). It's designed for a couple and comes as a digital game.

Difficulty level is a 5 out of 10. If you're an avid escape room gamer, this might be on the easier side. If you've never played an escape room game, this is the perfect game to start. 

The game is designed for 2 players (for larger groups, you can have other teams playing their own set somewhere nearby--and just one person has to buy. Generous, huh?).

COOL Feature: At the end of the game, you can put a surprise in a box for your date. This is the perfect way to end the game with a treat, or tickets to something, or maybe even a ring! (If you propose this way, I NEED pictures!) :)

This game is a little different from the others. It will need a few objects:
1. A mirror
2. Handcuffs or something to tie up hands with. 
3. Something to access the internet so you can enter your codes and get the clues.
4. A box and prize.
5. An envelope

You're intrigued, aren't you? :)

The game will print on 4 pages. Setup is a breeze and the person putting it together won't know the clues. 

Enter to win one of 3 digital copies with the giveaway to the side:

Friday, January 12, 2018

Escape Room Game - Chinese Calendar

Our newest game, Chinese Calendar, is live. 

This game is much harder than our last ones. It takes about 60 minutes and we've got something super exciting about this one, you get to enter the codes online. 

This game only comes in digital format (you print out about 30 4x6 photos) and takes about 2 minutes to set up. The person setting up gets to play too, they won't know what they're seeing without the clues--which are also online and easy to access from a phone, tablet, or computer.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Pre-Orders for New Year's Eve Escape Room Game

Our Christmas game, Santa's Sleigh, has sold so many copies and our customers have begged for more. 

"We just played your game and it was a blast!!! Seriously, so clever. I loved it! More please!" - Amy

We are pleased to announce that the New Year's Eve game is in the process of development. The story is done (secret plot, bad guys, betrayal, and the Time's square New Year's Eve ball) and the clues are planned out. If you want to make sure you get a copy, pre-order today. 

If for some reason something catastrophic happens and I'm not able to finish or get this out on time I will refund. I'll send you updates as we get closer. 

The price before the 15th will be $20. After the 15th, the price will be $25. 

This game is best for anyone who can read, about 8+. The difficulty level on this game will be harder than the Santa's Sleigh, putting it at medium. 

The challenge will take about 30-60 minutes. Great for 2-6 players. Hints will be included if you need them. 

All items to complete the challenge will be included. No assembly required so everyone involved can play without knowing about any clues in advance. 

Ships on December 23rd.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Interactive Printable Gift for your Significant Other

If you follow me on my blog, you know I love promoting things that help marriages. My latest CHRISTMAS product does just that!

Check out my interactive 12 Days of Christmas for you and your spouse at
P.S. (It's something you can re-use every year, it counts as a gift + a way to spend time together AND it's affordable!)
(And if you want a coupon code from me, just ask.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Christmas Escape Room Challenge Game

So I'm jump-up-and-down excited to announce my latest product. If you like escape rooms or challenge games, you'll love this game to play with your family:

Santa's Sleigh is a family Christmas version of an escape room game that you can play at home. While working together, you'll help Santa find a piece of information that he's lost and that he desperately needs. This game isn't actually about "escaping," it's just the same style of codes and puzzles as escape rooms.

This game is best for families with kids that can read, about 8+.

The challenge takes about 30 minutes and is reusable. Great for 2-6 players. Hints are included if you need them.

All items to complete the challenge are included. No assembly required so everyone involved can play without knowing about any clues in advance.

Copies are available here:

For a limited time, you can use coupon code: SANTASSLEIGH5 for $5 off

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt

I did a Thanksgiving scavenger hunt last year for my kids and they loved it. That's kind of all they remembered so I wanted to make sure and do one again. I looked online to see if I could get away with just printing something premade and everything had strings attached to download the files. So, I made one. And, I'm sharing it with you.
If you want to share the love, visit one of my shops via the links on the right.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Mental Health Indicator

I've struggled with life. Have you? Sometimes it gets the best of me, but I keep fighting back.

Do you feel the same?

Here's something that might help. I made this Mental Health Indicator. Sometimes I don't realize how bad I'm getting until I'm several steps down. If I could catch it sooner, maybe I could avoid the downward spiral.

I've used the things that have worked for me in my "What to do" section. This may not help you. Maybe you'll need to make your own. (This list is not a substitute for any medical help you're receiving). I'd love to hear if it helps or anything you've found that helps you.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Marriage Therapy: Lesson 7

When there are problems in my life, I often find myself running frantic trying to solve everything at once. Yeah...that is so not effective.
Here's what is: Focusing.
But it's so difficult to do when you feel pulled in so many directions.
So let's break it down.
Right now, if you're reading this, you want to improve your marriage. So for the next few minutes, you're going to focus on a way to improve your marriage and guess what? It's going to work because guess what you're going to do? YOU are going to improve. (Haha, I just used guess what twice in one sentence. I sound exactly like my almost 6 year old).
Since you can't change or control your spouse, YOU are going to find something to improve. What's something that you know you're not doing the best at? Maybe it's raising your voice, or using that nagging voice. Maybe it's not being considerate of your spouses time or their attempts at affection. I have no idea what is on your list but I know you can figure out something. We all have so many areas where we can improve.
Now, that you've figured out what YOU are going to do improve, you get to tell your spouse your plan. Why? A few good reasons.
One, if your spouse sees you changing all of a sudden, they might get suspicious that you're trying to get something from them. We don't want them to ever think that, but human nature tends to err on the non-trusting side (there is probably a legitimate word to use here instead of non-trusting but I'm just now sitting down at 9:30 tonight after being on my feet since 7 a.m. and my tiredness allows me to make words up).
Two, your spouse might be able to help you to achieve your goal faster. When you tell them your plan, remind them that you're human and that you're going to totally keep repeating your problem, and the best way for them to help is not to point out when you do, but to point out when you succeed. That way it's a win for both of you.
Three, your spouse may choose to change something too. They might not. That doesn't matter. What's important is that you are going to FOCUS and change for the better and your marriage will be better because of it.
This also works great with parenting. I've got an area I'm focusing on right now with my kids and I'm still making more mistakes than non-mistakes (again, brain too fuzzy to focus to use correct words here), but I'm recognizing now where I'm wrong instead of it just being background noise. Once I'm able to acknowledge each time I do it, it will become easier to fix.
Good luck out there. Marriages are worth improving for!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Marriage Therapy: Lesson 6

Today's lesson is a single question that if you ask yourself honestly, could change your whole relationship:

Are the problems in my marriage really problems or are they my perception?

So, if you're scratching your head, here's a simple example. Do the socks on the floor drive you so crazy that you think your spouse is lazy and has that warped into he/she is a jerk and doesn't love you because if he/she loved you, they would be perfect? Or is your spouse a human that isn't perfect, a person who needs love in order to progress and thrive and the socks are just a reflection of a normal human being?

Think about it.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Inner Strength Printable Quotes

So I want to do an experiment, but I need test subjects. Want to be my guinea pig? I had this idea to make some personal mantras to repeat every morning while looking in the mirror. I kind of think that repeating these mantras while looking at yourself will help you internalize them.

You can print these, cut them out and do one at a time for at least a week. Hang it on your mirror to remind you. If you want, I'd love to hear how it goes. Does repeating these change anything over the course of your week? I'm really curious to see other's responses. If you're not able to print from the above JPG, you can click here to download a free pdf from my website. 

Want to try and prove me right or wrong?