Vacations under $500: Knoebels in Elysburg, PA

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This weekend I went on a girls getaway with my high school friends. What a blast from the past it was to spend time together again, reminiscing and reconnecting.

At the persuasion of a friend who vacationed there as a child, and being Philly rats, we decided to head up the PA Turnpike and explore the beautiful hills of Elysburg, PA and its shining gem, Knoebels.

I remember being a kid and my dad talking about the amusement park where “every ride’s a dollar”. Compared to the price gouging at the Jersey Shore, that price was downright foreign. We never did make the 2.5 hour trek from the city up to Elysburg so I jumped at the chance to go as an adult.

Elysburg is nestled in the hills of upstate PA, settled around the major attraction, Knoebels. Knoebels is the self-declared “largest free-admission amusement park” in the country, and perhaps one of the oldest. This charming village feels like a less doctored up version of Busch Gardens, which I actually preferred. For families, this struck me as the spot to plan a memorable, affordable vacation.

Keep on reading for my 8 reasons why Knoebels makes for a great spot for families of all kinds (including your family of friends):

  1. Knoebels has no admission fee! You can buy a ride band or books of tickets, like a carnival. So grandma can totally come along for the memories and avoid paying just to get in. All are welcome to use the luncheon pavilions, watch the live entertainment, and take photos at the historic sites.
  2. The rides are super affordable! They may not all be a dollar a ride anymore but they average less than $2 per attraction. If you have a group, do the math and figure out if you’ll need more than $150 in tickets. You can buy them all together and receive up to 15% off! There are always special deals happening too, like 90 cent Sundays and $12 Fridays so plan your trip around the online calendar.
  3. There are over 2 dozen eateries in the park! From novelties like candy floss and apple cider slushies to pizza, grilled chicken sandwiches and walking tacos, there is something to suit every palette. Even the food was affordable with a generous burger averaging $3.75 and a large pizza at $12.
  4. If eating at the park isn’t for you (saving money, picky eaters, food allergies), that’s ok too! You can bring in a cooler and use the covered lunch pavilions just the same. Since there is no admission fee, there’s no place to check in and no rules on carrying in water, food, or lactation products.
  5. There’s way more than just rides! Live music, magicians, shops, story time and a pool round out this vacation spot. Best yet, the live entertainment is always free and a pool pass can be purchased for less than $10. There are even two free museums on the premises.
  6. Knoebels has a lot of cool, old-fashioned rides. There were so many unique, war-era coasters and attractions. The intensity level is lower than Great Adventure and was more on par with Disney so even scaredy cats like myself could get in on the fun.
  7. Knoebels offers free parking! They also have a tram car that comes around the huge lot to get you right up to the park without having to walk (also free).
  8. You can stay here too! Tent out, rent a cottage or stay in a cabin- it’s up to you! But all accommodations are connected to or within a ten minute shuttle ride of the park (and yes, the shuttle is also free).

So now that I have you all, “Oh my gosh, we need to plan a trip here. How much does this fabulous place cost?!” here is the price breakdown for a four person trip for a weekend (2 days, one night):

Driving

  •  250 miles round trip
  • $20 in gas and tolls

Tickets

  • Average of $1.75 per ride
  • Average 15 rides completed in 2 day period
  • $105 in tickets

Food

  • Pack simple breakfast food, snacks and water
  • Lunch: Adult meals average $9, kids average $7
  • Dinner: Pizza, $12
  • Snack: Ice cream, $4 per cone
  • Total: $92

Accommodations

  • Tent site with water, electric and shared bathhouse: $48 per night
  • Cabin for 6 with water, electric and shared bathhouse: $140 per night
  • Cabin for 6 with water, electric, private bath and kitchenette: $235 per night

Leave money for souvenirs at the gift shop and to take home some fresh fudge or caramel corn and you can make this trip happen for about $450 for a family of 4 (in the highest priced cabin)!

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Happy Glamping,

BGB

PS: Is Knoebels your family vay-kay of choice? Tell me your favorite Knoebels memory in the comments below.

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10 Things Retail Workers Wish You Knew

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1) Stores have people counters that measure how many people walk in and make a purchase. So when you come into the store with your three children and husband and sister’s cousin’s friend (who leaves to use the bathroom twice), your measly scarf purchase cost me at least 7 bodies.

2) We have to greet you when you walk in the store. You know it, we know it. Just don’t be a jerk- smile or say hi back.

3) If you find yourself needing a shirt at the bottom of a freshly stacked pile, PLEASE ask for help. (Folding chiffon is no joke.)

4) When you ask where you can find our outfit and we reply that it’s “from last season”, that’s retail worker code for, “I don’t make enough money to actually shop here and this shirt is from Old Navy.” 6101649

5) Your 52 month old is totally adorable but she’s ripping down all the pearl necklaces with a vengeance and climbing under that mannequin doesn’t seem safe… Keep an eye on your little darlings. We are associates, not babysitters.

6) When heading to the fitting room, you really only need to bring back one color of that shirt. I promise the navy will fit the same as the sage and the magenta. The more you try, the more I have to hang back up. #GobacksForDays

7) Don’t share a fitting room. There’s no way for me to know if you’re siblings, friends or partners and I’d rather avoid a… sticky situation. Public indecency, anyone?

8) Leave your unwanted garments in the fitting room or on the rack provided. I know you think you’re being helpful by putting them away but you end up hiding items in plain site, leaving a lot more clean up at the end of the night.

9) Every retail worker’s FAVORITE thing to hear is, “This doesn’t have a tag. It must be free!” Ha ha…….ha. giphy

10) Retail workers have families and lives outside of the four thin walls of their store. Be mindful and don’t start to shop ten minutes before close. If you’re in a pinch and need something specific, locate an associate and let them help you. It’ll make your whole experience more positive for all.

 

Royal Caribbean “Anthem of the Seas”

I recently returned from this summer’s vacation to the stunning island of Bermuda via RCCL’s Anthem of the Seas. This post has been weeks in the making so I hope you enjoy and can better decide if a cruise vacation is right for you!

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Anthem is the second largest cruise ship in the world and one of the most luxurious. This floating city includes nearly a dozen restaurants and bars, a grande theatre, casino, skydiving simulation tube, and even a full indoor sports arena for roller skating, bumper cars and a circus school. The huge deck has multiple pools and jacuzzis, along with an indoor solarium, a natatorium which is always available despite the weather. Here I will answer your FAQs on cruising and the Anthem experience.

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What did you do all day while at sea?

Most activities onboard are included in your set price so we took advantage of all the ship has to offer including:

  • Ripcord by iFly skydiving simulation tube
  • Surfing wave pool
  • North Star observation vessel which raises passengers 300 ft above top deck for 360 degree views of the Atlantic
  • Outdoor jacuzzi and pools and indoor solarium
  • Full spa for massages, hair, nails and makeup
  • Indoor sports center with elevated track, arcade/Xbox lounge and multipurpose space
  • Social events like jewelry classes, art auctions and wine tastings

What is the food like?

The ship has many restaurants. No main dining room is offered as the ship offers a dynamic dining program. The Windjammer marketplace is a station style buffet open nearly 24/7. Along with regular self-serve buffet options, there are made-to-order stations. There, a chef could make you a customized quesadilla, stir-fry, panini or omelette. There were also themed stations on different days. One day featured an Italian speciality station of meats and cheeses, another a chocolate fountain with all the fixings (yum!).

Along with the Windjammer is a pizza parlour and two cafes, along with the dinner specific restaurants. No main dining room is offered as the ship offers a dynamic dining program.This means all guests have four complimentary restaurants to choose from each evening. Each restaurant has its own unique theme, decor and menu:

  • Silk: Features dishes from various Asian countries
    • Favorite dishes: Pulled pork tacos, mochi (a scoop of fruit ice cream inside a gummy shell)
  • American Icon: Traditional fare
    • Favorite dishes: Sirloin burger, mahi mahi
  • Chic: Modern fare alla a NYC lounge
    • I can’t say I had a favorite here 😦
  • Grande: French
    • Favorite dishes: filet mignon, lobster tails, nougat pastry, escargot (if you’re adventurous)
    • Special note: Grande is the only semi-formal restaurant of those mentioned. Men need to bring a suit jacket and women cocktail attire for this restaurant only.

At night, check out various venues for parties and live music:

  • Music Hall has live cover bands in the evening and a DJ for the younger crowd after midnight
  • Bolero’s tequila bar offers the sounds of salsa
  • The 270 Room’s RED nightclub experience includes live action performances by the ship’s entertainers along with Latin music and special effects for the crowd to join in on
  • Music Hall’s silent party was the coolest event of the trip! Every party goer receives a pair of headphones playing two different DJs’ music so you can listen to different musical styles but still dance as one.
  • Poolside movies include new releases and favorites
  • There are currently three shows on rotation:
    • We Will Rock You, a high energy broadway show inspired by the music of Queen
    • The Gift, a short whimsical musical piece with special effects
    • Spectra’s Cabaret, featuring singing and dancing acts by RCCL’s incredibly talented entertainers

Overall, this ship has more to do than you can imagine. The service was top-notch and the staff were truly diverse. So what are my tips now that I’m officially a cruiser?

  1. Return your towels! You are charged for towels you borrow by the pool and don’t return.
  2. Buy a WOW band. These can be purchased at any time and work as an alternative to your SeaPass. That means this little Armstrong-style bracelet can be your room key, your ID and your payment for food and drinks. It’s super convenient not to need a wallet in the pool or nightclub.
  3. Travel locally. We were able to board our ship an hour away from home in NJ. From the moment we stepped onboard there was champagne flowing. The party started an hour away from home and continued for 8 full days. We wouldn’t have had that experience if we had to fly to Florida, Texas, etc. so if a cruise line leaves from within driving distance of your home SERIOUSLY consider it.
  4. Mind when you book. We booked on Black Friday and were able to earn extra perks such as free wifi and onboard credit.
  5. Make friends with your crew. On our ship, there were less than 50 people between the ages of 18 and 28. But almost the entire crew was our age! They were our closest comrades and showed us places on the island we never would have experienced otherwise.

But if there is one tip you have to know it is this one: plan, plan, plan. Reserve your restaurants, activities and excursions in advance! These open up online 90 days before sailing so get on and get the itinerary you want. You don’t want to be that person stuck on standby at the wave pool hoping someone cancels.

If you do, I promise you’ll have the time of your life! Comment with questions or to share your RCCL experience.

Happy cruisin’,

BGB

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March Ipsy Glam Bag Review

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Spring has (sort of) sprung here in New Jersey and thankfully that spirit was reflected in this month’s ipsy glam bag! From the whimsical floral pattern to the lightweight products inside, this bag will definitely get you ready for warmer weather ahead!

Be a Bombshell Cosmetics: Baked Bronzer “Heat Wave”

This is probably the sheerest bronzer I’ve ever seen. Even with water it’s extremely light and dry. This is great for my oily, natural girls looking for subtle color that barely needs blending. For girls looking to contour, stick with something else like Too Faced: Chocolate Soleil.

Ofra Cosmetics: Eyeliner “Green Go”

I was hesitant about receiving a colored liner but this green is an olive with gold undertones. It will be super flattering on all my brown-eyed mavens as well as hazels. The consistency is not super creamy but also not overly dry. It should be a nice product for summer because it won’t melt away. Stay tuned for a day and night look perfect for festivals in the works with this product!

ModelCo: Lip Lacquer “Socialite”

This super long-wearing lipstick is super pigmented and the hugh I received is a nice orange-based red for olive complexions with a summer tan. My only criticism is the same I have for all of ModelCo’s products: they are gel based. I prefer cream-based products for my combination skin because it doesn’t stick to dry patches BUT gels are nice for summer as they give a more natural look that fades beautifully. This is a true stay-put lacquer and will be an asset for otherwise neutral summer night looks. (Think gold sandals and a white lace dress with metallic eyes.)

Evologie: Intensive Blemish Serum

I truly despise ipsy in the moment I unpacked this product because as much as I am generally a happy ipster, I have sensitive skin and can use very few products on my face so this one will sadly have to be re-gifted. No reviews here.

IT Cosmetics: Bye Bye Under Eye Concealer “Light”

So I have been DYING to try this stuff! My mom swears by IT Cosmetics for the anti-aging properties used in their products and though pricey, they certainly have a cult following. That being said, I had high hopes for this product and I wasn’t disappointed. It definitely covered any darkness under my eyes and anywhere else on my face for that matter.  But alas, this product is not for me. I wish it was designed for the pretty twenty-somethings shown on the infomercials but this product really is designed for an older demographic. The product felt like a thick plaster on my face and is clearly more useful for severe cases that have developed over time. This is beyond full-coverage and I would only use it for a special occasion with a full contour and falsies.

Overall, definitely a bag I can usher in spring with!

Still haven’t joined ipsy? Use my referral link and skip the line.

 

Review: Loreal Extraordinary Oil Haircare

Hi lovelies! I hope you had an amazing weekend. The weather here in the northeast is slowly starting to turn toward spring. I’m using the transition time to get myself warm weather ready! I’m sure a lot of you deal with the same beauty issues in winter as I do, mostly dryness. My nails get thin, skin gets dry and hair and scalp become lifeless and dull. That’s why I was so excited to receive my latest Influenster Voxbox with complimentary products to test and review! This box features the (drumroll please)…

New Loreal Extraordinary Oil Hair Care System!

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Different Influensters received different products based on their hair texture. For my medium thickness, moderately wavy hair, I received three full-sized products:

  • Nourishing Shampoo (12.6 oz) retail: $3.99 (Target)
  • Nourishing Conditioner (12.6 oz) retail: $3.99 (Target)
  • Lustrous Oil Serum (3.4 oz) retail: $5.99 (Target)

The system uses all natural oils and extracts like coconut, sunflower and rose to treat hair and add natural looking volume and shine.

I was excited to try the product but waited a couple days so I had dry, dirty hair to work with. My first impressions were good! I used the products in order. They all have a sweet, natural smell to them that seems authentic. If you’ve used argan oil before, the smell is in that family but better and less strong. Also, you know I love packaging. It would be nice if Loreal stepped out of the box of basic goldish packaging for an oil based shampoo. Still, the packaging is impressively sturdy- I’m certain the bottle will sit straight in a slippery shower and the clasp won’t break the lid off halfway through.

The shampoo lathered thoroughly and quickly with very little product. After rinsing, I set the conditioner for 1-3 minutes per the instructions. Once I washed it out, my hair felt a little tangly but overall, normal.

I dried my hair to damp using my Turbie Twist towel, then brushed and applied the serum. The serum can be used before and after shampooing and after styling as a final polish. It has a really nice texture. It doesn’t feel overly heavy or greasy.

I then heat protected and blew dry. I did feel like my hair dried faster than usual! By the time the hair was dry, there was noticeably less frizz than usual. (I have a lion mane of hair.) My texture seemed wavier than usual and more voluminous. No signs of dry scalp at all. It definitely felt softer to the touch.

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I curled my hair into loose waves using my 1-inch rounded barrel flat iron. The curls came out looser than usual and as I was ironing, I could tell that the hair definitely was softer. The products had the same effect as when I first get a fresh hair cut and style.

When I finished, I applied another small drop of the serum and that helped contain any small frizzies.

My style held well enough that I didn’t need to reapply heat the next day, just a gentle brush and a little more serum and I was out the door! My mom and coworkers complimented my hair so there was definitely a noticeable difference in look. I did still spot a few dead ends but nothing more than usual.

I generally wash my hair every third day and I was still able to do that. The oil in the formula did not make my hair greasy. However, I generally use a spritz of dry shampoo on my hair the third day to zap up any oil. When I used it, it had no effect whatsoever after using these products.

Overall, I’m really happy with the products and the price is inexpensive. The company also provided a coupon so we can buy again and unless something changes, I will! A lot of times I don’t feel like shampoos and conditioners really make a difference in hair texture but my hair felt noticeably softer, I had no dryness, the pleasant smell prevailed despite hot tools. This one is a winner in my book!

Check out that volume in the before and after pictures below!

Are you an Influenster? Comment below about your experience with the latest Voxbox.

Meal Planning 101: Getting Started

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Week of 1/25/16

Menu

Breakfast: PB Chocolate Banana Shake

Lunch: Meatless Mex Mashup

Dinner: Mediterranean Chicken

Shopping List

  • protein powder (preferably chocolate peanut butter)
  • 4 large bananas
  • 4 cups skim/almond milk
  • 14 fajita-size flour tortillas
  • 5 large potatoes
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 small container any kind hummus (roasted red pepper is my favorite)
  • 3 avocados
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 2 bags frozen steamer vegetables (medley or broccoli work best)
  • 1 bag baby carrots
  • 1 container strawberries
  • 1 container blueberries

You should have in your pantry:

  • healthy snacks such as kashi bars, low-sodium turkey jerky, babybell cheeses
  • italian seasoning mix or herbs
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • containers

Recipes

PB Chocolate Banana Shake

Fill your blender with half a banana, one scoop protein powder, 1/2 c milk, 1/2 water, 3-5 ice cubes. Blend until smooth.

Mediterranean Chicken & Potatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Clean boneless breasts. Beat to make tender and of even thickness. Arrange on a cookie sheet covered in foil. Coat in 1 tbsp of olive oil and italian seasoning on both sides. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn over and bake for 15 more minutes. Chicken is done when it is 160 degrees inside on food thermometer.

Scrub potato skins clean, then pierce with fork throughout. Place in microwave for 10-13 minutes. You may have to do this in two batches depending on the size of your microwave. Potatoes are done when they can easily be scooped from their skin.

Microwave frozen vegetables.

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Meatless Mex Mashup

Black Bean Potato: Arrange half the flour tortillas flat. Spread a thin layer of cooked potato innards onto each tortilla. (This should use about 1.5 potatoes.) Rinse black beans and place 1-2 tbsp on top of potatoes.

Avocado Hummus: Pit and scoop out avocados. On the other half of the tortillas, spread a thin layer of avocado. On top of that, put 1 heaping tsp of hummus.

Arrange

Each dinner container should include 4oz chicken, half potato, vegetables.

Each lunch container should include one of each type of tortilla and a cup of fruits and vegetables.

 

 

Meal Prepping 101: Introduction and My Relationship with Food

With the new year comes resolutions and for three quarters of the country that involves living a healthier lifestyle. For me, eating healthfully is less resolution-driven and more about my ultimate goal to live a long, healthy life. It’s thought that at least 70% of your weight (whether healthy or not) can be contributed directly to food intake, not activity! Now that is not to say that activity isn’t important- it absolutely is essential to keep your muscles toned and flexible and keep your bones and heart strong as you age. But for those who struggle with weight specifically, hitting the gym may not be the BEST you could be doing. IMG_6187.JPG

You need to start putting an emphasis on food. You need to evaluate your relationship with food. I am very much in tune with my Italian foodie heritage and trust me when I say in my family food is used as the ultimate aid to any and all celebrations. If you earned straight A’s, you picked a restaurant. On your birthday, mom made your favorite stack of pancakes for breakfast. And let’s not even get into the fact that Italian American Christmas Eves involve SEVEN main dishes.

It’s great to have food help you celebrate life’s accomplishments but Italian families have this wonderful way of making everything into something. Christmas, we can eat like crazy. Ok, sure. But then there’s Christmas Eve, and the day after we can meet with our cousins on your mom’s side, and the three days after we’ll eat leftovers and BOOM, New Years and the whole thing starts over. End of January is my sister’s birthday. Huge party, huge spread of unhealthy food. With so many cousins, there’s a party in this fashion every month or so! With an immediate family of 30, that’s just how it goes.

At the end of the day, you have to make a commitment to yourself, to your health, to your body, to your future. Take whatever offense may come but eat before the party so you only have to try a taste of your aunt’s funky delicacies this time. (You’ll thank me later when you don’t have ageda.)

I am only as good as my planning and that is why I have made a commitment to healthfully preparing my meals in advance so I know what I’m putting into my body. Not only will this save me calories, but also help me eat more disease fighting, fresh foods like pure proteins and fruits, and also seriously cut back on my food bill.

Ready to take the plunge? Give me one week and see how your stomach and wallet feel. Head on over to Meal Prepping 101: Getting Started for this week’s food and a step-by-step guide and budget.

xoxo,

BGB