‘Tis the time in the season where we all hit gift gathering crunch time. Are you checking your lists and just now realizing there is nothing on there to “WOW” them? I mean, I know they really, really wanted that sweater and those boots, but will there be anything under the tree to surprise them and make them squeal “this is the best!”?
Are you thinking, “That’s a great point, but I’m also tallying up my credit card statement and there’s not a lot of ‘flow’ left to my cash.”
Well, delight can come cheap and easy, my friend. That “may” have not come out exactly as we intended, but with this list you can be a hero on par with Santa for not a lot of reindeer chow.
These right here are the entire reason this post was written. A friend told Ellen about them, and she was amazed! Every person Ellen has told about them has been amazed! Virtual reality for UNDER $10? It’s amazing!
So this is the world of Google Cardboard. You download the apps to your phone, pop it into this viewer, and you’re off to play games, explore ancient temples, or immerse yourself in the world of Star Wars. Just with this little thing. Really. These sturdy gems come fully assembled, and the only real complaint at this price point is that the cardboard hurts your nose. Some genius in the Amazon reviews discovered that slitting a Nerf dart along its length and slipping it over the cardboard edge provides the perfect cushion for your $8.99 wonder.
If you would like a bit more of a comfort upgrade, you can check out this plastic model. Still under $25!
Got a baseball player, tennis player, golf pro, or musician on your list? This fun little gadget can get them in tip-top shape in the most conversation-igniting way possible. You basically have to provide resistance against its spinning. It’s more addicting than it sounds. Trust us.
Never again get caught in the dark searching blindly through your handbag desperately trying to find your keys, cosmetics or other items that settle to the bottom of a cluttered purse. This little light is motion activated and turns off after a couple of seconds. Genius can be found in the simplest of ideas.
Speaking of losing things, we feel like we keep buying USB cables because we keep leaving them like breadcrumbs everywhere we go. Even if we have a plug or car charger available to us, we don’t have a cable. This beauty clips onto your purse or backpack to always be handy in a form meets function kind of situation. Works for Android and iPhone (there’s even a lightning cable).
Okay, maybe the last three gifts weren’t so much “wows” as much as they were “that’s pretty cool.” But seriously, just get the virtual reality glasses, be a hero, and call it a day.
Volunteers make the world go round. Whether you work with your kids’ school, your church, the local Boy Scout Troop, the animal shelter, or even with an international organization like Shot@Life, your time and efforts makes all of the things possible.
Buuuuuuuutttttttt . . .
We all know—especially those of us who have been chairpersons—that not all volunteers are cut from the same cloth. There are the fakes, flakes, and troublemakers who make volunteering as painful as a Brazilian bikini wax administered on a fire ant hill. Volunteers need to work as a hive and if too many bees go rogue, the honey is just not getting made.
Don’t worry, we’re going to stop with the insect analogies there. Shifting gears, to completely illustrate our commandments for proper volunteer etiquette, we have created this entirely FICTIONAL school event—The Annual Penguin Craft Party. Once again, this event is entirely made-up, but if something strikes a chord, perhaps it is time for a little reflection. We’re going to be honest, failure to follow these simple rules will rightfully earn you the title “Monarch of the PITAs“.
Without further ado, we bring this meeting for The Annual Penguin Craft Party to order.
1.Respect the planning period! If while setting up for an event that has been planned for months, you try to push in another direction because of the idea that just popped into your head . . . DON’T!
Count to ten. Think of something completely relaxing and indulgent . . . you, know, like sitting down after the penguin party is over. DO NOT utter your brilliant thought NOW. That ship has sailed. Here’s a little example to illustrate our point. Say, you are in the gym hanging streamers for the Annual Penguin Craft Party. Now is not the time to rally support for the idea that this shindig could be so much MORE if it just had an actual dogsled race and the kids worked together to carve a true-to-scale igloo.
2. But don’t be an idea killer DURING the planning period! Nothing breaks hearts and quashes spirits more than the simple phrase:
“But we’ve always done it this way.”
DO NOT let these words leave your lips during a PLANNING meeting. This is the time to let the creative juices fly! It really might be fun for the kids to toss live mackerel into the penguin’s mouth! Builds hand-eye coordination and deadens olfactory sensitivity! Give every dreamer her (brief) moment. Every golden idea was a dusty little nugget at some point.
3. Execute your own ideas! If you throw an idea out there, be ready to catch it, and run with that ball. DO NOT expect your vision to magically happen. If your brilliant idea is going to take 50 million woman hours to pull off, you should think about putting in a lot of those hours yourself, not just patting yourself on the back for how creative you are. Start Googling how to make that igloo! Look up dry ice dealers! Be ready to drag that dogsled yourself.
4. Just worry about yourself! Everybody is a volunteer. Nobody is getting paid, and everyone has someplace else to be. You’re hanging with the heroes. If you spend more time complaining about all the people who never volunteer than you do making those papier mâché penguins, you are bringing us all unpleasantly down. Stop griping! Get pasting!
5. Follow the 10 second rule! If you have called your event chair four times in the past hour, take a deep breath and put your cellphone down. Perhaps you can solve this problem yourself!
We believe in you!
Think for 10 seconds! Remember you are competent and bright. Acknowledge that your chairperson, though in charge, is still just a volunteer. Envision your sweet little cherub’s face and remember why you’re volunteering in the first place. Use the time you just saved NOT making that phone call to cut out some more penguin bills.
6. Keep any urge to cat fight to yourself! If you start a spat worthy of a middle school cafeteria (even if you ARE standing in a middle school cafeteria) in the midst of the snow cone booth, you are a PITA. Period. It is NOT proper etiquette to squirt blueberry syrup down your fellow comrade’s shirt no matter how many eye rolls she gave you or how satisfying it may feel.
7. In fact, bring a great attitude. Chances are that inspirational posters promoting just this very thing are lining the school halls.If it applies to the kids, it applies to the adults. You don’t have to whistle while you work, but don’t swear, moan, or gossip. The penguins don’t like that. Makes ‘em cranky.
8. Do what you say you are going to do! There is no credit for great intentions. We’ve heard there’s a pathway to hell paved with these. The only thing that matters is results. Nobody cares if your uncle is the Chief Penguin Wrangler at the local zoo unless you get him there. If you volunteer him to show up and talk to the kids, he better be there with some of his feathered friends even if you have to drive him to the event yourself. In a dogsled. It’s all about the follow through.
9. Clean up after yourself. We all have kids. That’s what got us into this mess. When our kids leave a path of destruction in their wake, we feel like kicking a kitten. When you do it, we just feel like kicking you. You’re not royalty. Don’t act like it.
Nothing tarnishes your “Volunteer of the Year” crown awarded for cutting out 200 snowflakes like leaving your confetti scraps on the floor for someone else to sweep up.
10. Keep it up. Don’t be a One Note Nelly. Consider doing a little something to make EVERY event a success. Every time you put down that glue gun, another volunteer has to pick it up with the third set of hands she doesn’t have.
But, seriously, every hour you donate makes your kids’ schools, churches, youth groups, teams, and world better. Thank you and keep up the good work!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Wait, let me make that a little more accurate: It’s the most INSANE time of the year! Okay, now I feel like the Grinch. How about, it’s the most insanely wonderful, wonderfully insane time of the year? THAT feels right.
There is so much to do during the holidays that many of us try to pare down our to-do lists as much as possible. This can result in some great things for your well-being like booting the cookies from the roster that take 15 steps, a kajillion hours, and that special ginger picked by virgin elk herders in the Himalayas. However, it can also lead to some hasty decisions like cutting out your gift exchange with your girlfriends. While this may free up some minutes, it can also throw a sopping wet blanket on the spark of your joy.
Some of my best—fun, soul-nourishing, hilarious, sentimental—times are created during my gift exchanges with my friends, be they secret or open, local or spanning the country. So for me, the secret is not to slash my gift list, but to simplify . . . and to borrow a fantastic idea when I hear it. My friend, Andrea, hit on what could possible be the best gift exchange idea ever: SOCKS!
Hear me out. There are so many options, sizing isn’t stressful, they can be so thoughtfully personal, you can find FANTASTIC ones for under $10, Amazon is dripping with them (but you can also find great ones at Walmart and Target), and they don’t add to clutter. Socks are not just for girlfriends either; men, teens, and kids love them, too. This makes them a great gift exchange idea for extended family, the office, and school. See? Perfect. And whoever can find it in their being to complain about adding a pair of socks to their drawer really needs to be kicked out of your tribe. Look, either way, your gift list just got simplified.
So without further ado, here are my personal suggestions.
Oh my goodness these are cute. And it’s a set! You could take care of 5 friends in one click! You can get on Amazon and search your desired breed too. I may or may not have these puggle socks in my cart.
One final funny that doubles as pretty sound advice too.
I could go on forever with these, but that last pair seems like a good place to stop. Don’t see anything you like here? Get yourself over to Amazon and search out any interest under the sun. I guarantee there’s a sock for that.
Here’s a little something extra for that person in your life you REALLY like. They’re all cozy in their new socks, why not give them a good—no great—book to cuddle up with? My friend, Ilana Wiles of Mommy Shorts, wrote a book that makes a perfect gift for anyone in your life who is a parent. This hardcover book is gorgeous and substantial. It’s filled with humor, truth, and actual real-life advice such as this gem for how to sneak in a nap: “I tell my son that his brother is better at giving back rubs than him. Then I close my eyes and enjoy the competition.” Get your copy of “The Mommy Shorts Guide to Remarkably Average Parenting” here or fill out the form below to win one on us!
This giveaway is for one copy of The Mommy Shorts Guide to Remarkably Average Parenting. Open only to residents of the continental United States. Winner will be notified by email at the end of the giveaway and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is picked.
For family fun, movie night is a sure bet. We love them all–the good, the bad, and the guilty pleasures. You can’t quote movies like we do and be lukewarm about the silver screen. Sometimes even the best ideas can wear a little thin though and you are left looking for a little inspiration. Well, seek and ye shall find, friends. A good old-fashioned family game night is what all the cool families do to get their fun back on.
Lest you think we don’t practice what we preach, this is the proof that Erin has board games in no less than five places in her house.
And lest you be intimidated by the thought of being trapped around the table for too long with your fun hostages, er, family, the following games are not just entertaining, but they mostly clock in around an hour.
This one is Erin’s mom’s favorite and there’s a great reason why: this is a board game for people who don’t love board games. If you haven’t played one in awhile, it can be hard to get back in the habit but this game will bring you back to the fold. With almost no reading, appealing train pieces, and simple but interesting moves, Ticket to Ride can literally be anybody’s game. Just about any age player can learn and even enjoy this game after playing just a few rounds, not an easy feat. Another plus: younger kids can play with older kids, a huge bonus with sprawling families like ours.
This version of the modern classic is more of the great fun above but with some important improvements that give this version it’s own devoted following. Building train stations, tunnels, and ferry routes up the fun factor and make this game lightning fast but also more cutthroat. This is a board game enthusiast’s game engineered for newbies and the combination is undeniably engaging. Enough strategy for hardcore fans yet simple and enjoyable for new ones, this game wins on all fronts. The bigger cards are a plus too.
Games are front and center of all of our extended family fun as well. Uncle Dan played this one when he was a kid. He was super excited when they rereleased this one and we are too. Sharks, whales, whirlpools, and a shrinking island are just some of the hazards that ratchet up the entertainment meter in this game. No reading in this one either, just all the joy that comes with chomping up your brother’s pieces and escaping your doom. Good times.
Erin’s kids wore this one out from all the play this got in rotation. Gold doubloons, a flag to capture, and actual treasure to loot are just some of the key features of this game for pirate-loving pre-teens. We have to point out just how swoon-worthy the pieces are. Kids will drool over the “gems” and “gold” and the pirate ships are beauties in and of themselves. So much fun all the way around.
This is one of our favorite games to lure sulky teens back to the family fold. Such a great combination of luck and strategy in the play, but what we really love is the great player interaction in this game. Reconnecting with one another is why we are doing this after all and this game has it as part of the overall game experience. Winner winner chicken dinner.
Kids love watching the disease hot spots pop up and assuming the different roles as disease-fighting specialists. Parents love that we are all working together to put out the hot spots. If the disease spreads, we all lose. If we contain the outbreak, we all win. Family fun and peace in one box. Fa-la-la-la-la.
Tween boys lose their ever-loving minds over this game. At a price point under $30, it’s a great gift choice and with a gazillion add-on card packs, it’s a gift idea that you can recycle for his birthday as well. Keep this in mind for the younger set. It’s a winner.
All of the teens and tweens love this classic game, and, in the interest of full disclosure, this is THE game to settle all sibling scores in Erin’s family. But you have to get the version with the animals. Nothing like having the camels and the water buffalo duke it out in the end. Trust us on this one.
Erin’s family learned this one on vacation with our friends from Maine. We give this as a gift to every 5 year old kid we know. Invented by a little girl and created by her parents, it speaks to a kid’s heart and has some great early math skills. But the real genius is in the details. The rule that you can’t have both the cat queen and the dog queen in your pile at the same time? Genius. It’s this charm and wit that keeps us still playing this game as often as we do. Winner with boys and girls alike and tweens and teens and little kids and adults, so basically everyone! A fantastic vacation game!
In a land of a thousand games, this is the master. Kids love it. Adults love it. The idea of setting up bombs and armies is heady stuff and part of the long appeal of this classic. It’s fast, smart fun with only 2 players. A rainy beach day or boring Sunday afternoon staple.
When we have a little more time, and some quiet, Clue is always a favorite. The intrigue gets us every time.
Because who doesn’t want to rule the world?
As you may have guessed, we are huge fans of board games here at The Sisterhood. So give your Netflix cue a rest for a night or two. You know we love the movies too, but it’s fun to mix it up once in awhile. We really do wish that your family catches some of the particular magic that only comes when you find some time to reconnect over a good old fashioned game.
That humdinger of all football experiences has crept up on us once again: the Super Bowl! Specifically Super Bowl XLIX where the New England Patriots will be facing off against the Seattle Seahawks.
So be honest. Were you really up on your Roman numerals enough to know that XLIV equals 49 or have you just been unable to escape the constant media blast? We’re just going to admit the TV coverage helped us out. Fourth grade math was a loooooonnng time ago, but to be clear, it was NOT forty-nine years ago. There’s that.
Even though the media helped us with our math skills, apparently we are like Teflon when it comes to really absorbing when the Super Bowl is actually going to take place. Because here we are once again, the Wednesday before the big game, and we are just now thinking about what we need to make to feed our crews on Sunday.
But this year has a twist. We don’t just need a menu that is fast and easy, we need one that is healthy too. See, we’re on a bit of a fitness kick, and we don’t want to blow a week’s worth of workouts on one extra large bag of chips. Healthy can be delicious, so without further ado . . .
Before we get to the super easy, super skinny menu, we have a Super Bowl Ballot to share that makes watching the game fun even if Seattle or New England isn’t your team . . . or even if you don’t really like football at all. We particularly like the question: “What color of Gatorade gets splashed?” See? Fun for the whole family.
It is seriously easy to assemble a couple of these casseroles, but sometimes you don’t feel like bothering with the oven. For those of you who would rather fix it and forget it . . .
Crockpot Chicken Bar-B-Q for a Crowd
This little gem is always a crowd-pleaser. You can even prep it today and throw it in the freezer until you are ready to thaw it out for game day. Hmmm, maybe there isn’t enough time for freezing, but you can assemble all of the ingredients in a Ziploc bag and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to pour it into the crockpot on Sunday. There’s a game plan for you!
We may be guilty of including this one in just about every recipe roundup we do, but it is just that darn good. Every single time we make it, the rave reviews pour in. Its crispy crunch complements everything, and with no gloppy mayo, it’s a healthy way to get some veggies into your gang.
Okay let’s be honest, snacking is our favorite . . .
Old Bay Lemon Pepper Seasoned Pretzels
We’re cheating a little bit with this one. These aren’t exactly low in calories, but when compared to tortilla chips and queso, this snack is the clear winner. Plus, the savory goodness of these pretzels is pure yum.
While we are all socked in with frigid weather, it’s the perfect time to talk about one of Ellen’s pet peeves. Honestly, it’s not a rant so much as a discussion about what to do if you are ever in this situation. This one also has Erin’s organizational triumph which is as trivial as it sounds.
I struggled with that title a bit because we try to keep it PG around here, you know, for the children. Let’s just say this has been the season of “effits” for me. And it has saved my sanity this Christmas.
It all started with the tree. Wait, that’s not right. It all started right before Thanksgiving with the concussion my youngest daughter was gifted from an accidental punch to the head during handball in gym class. It was worse than at first perceived, and she had to be on complete stimulation lockdown: no music, no texting, NO SCREENS, no reading, no games, no puzzles, no nothing–except talking to her mother in a darkened room . . . and coloring. It was like the worst grounding ever for any thirteen-year-old, except my thirteen-year-old was about to turn fourteen. We had to reschedule her birthday party, too. The sadness was palpable.
This is how I entered Thanksgiving where I also had to make the entire dinner from soup to nuts, as Erin likes to say. Hallmark did not have a card to express my Grinch-esque holiday spirit because they apparently like to keep it PG, too.
But I wasn’t just feeling overwhelmed by worry for my injured daughter and the responsibility of orchestrating a glutinous meal; this was my second year without my mother. I look back on last year and marvel at the way I soldiered through the holidays. I must have been functioning on muscle memory because I was numb. Whereas last year I was wrapped in a muffling quilt of grief, this year I was acutely aware of every moment and nuance of her absence.
So with this curmudgeon essence coursing through my veins, I launched into the first of my effits: “It’s the weekend after Thanksgiving and we’re getting the tree.”
I know this does not seem like much of a stand. Many people decorate their trees that weekend–their ARTIFICIAL trees. But we get a real tree, and we like to keep it up until New Year’s . . . and we can’t be trusted to take it down on New Year’s. In a totally related side note, I have a history of scooping pine needles out of my family room with a snow shovel.
But my baby needed something to distract her from her canceled party, and picking out a Christmas tree at dusk seemed within the realms of non-stimulating activities.
After that baby step of an effit, they continued to flow! I didn’t care what tree we picked out. We were together. Without my guidance it took forever. But whatever, we were grabbing some joy. When my oldest pointed out that half of our family unit was settling on a crooked tree with a bubble butt, I did not enter the fray. I mean, the thing only tipped over once while we were decorating it, but who cares because I was there to break the fall. So behold our tree anchored to the wall with a “ledge” so large we nestled a papier-mâché cat on it to detract from it. It really is the Kim Kardashian of trees.
I really did miss an opportunity to set up a champagne fountain. At least the star is slowly sliding down to earth.
But besides pine needles embedded into my eardrum, I got this takeaway:
Sanity Saver #1: It doesn’t matter what the dead tree we are destined to mulch in four (or six) weeks looks like! Martha Stewart has always ignored declined my invitations to date anyway.
I took this calendar-defying decorating miracle one step further and decked the whole house! My first realization of how other (organized) people live hit me on the head like chestnuts flung by a mischievous Elf on the Shelf.
Sanity Saver #2: Decorating the house before December opens up that whole month to be jammed packed with all of the concerts, parties, baking, and fa la la-ing.
In the past, I had always wanted to have my youngest’s birthday party before decorating, because kids are destructive, yo. This led to me squeezing in the decorating when I could and sometimes left us tree-less into the third week. But she is now a teen, and all they do is hole up in the basement. From now on, decorating is taking place in November and partying is getting pushed into December. Thank you concussion for foiling my procrastination?
Then in true Christmas miracle fashion, a second procrastination buster entered my life in the form of a simple dinner invitation. A friend was flying in to visit family in New York City, and sent out a message asking if any locals could meet for dinner. I raised my hand! I am not local. I am three hours away from NYC. I said effit I am going anyway.
I could not turn my back on this happenstance because the invitation was for December 22nd, the time my mother would have come up to join in all of our Christmas preparations.
Sanity Saver #3: I have found the best way to grab joy over grief is to shake myself out of the groove that highlights Mom’s absence and surround myself with people who feed my soul. Friends are the family you choose.
One of my dear friends, who actually was local, offered to have me spend the night, and I had one of the loveliest evenings filled with good food, and even better laughter. Breaking bread with intelligent, interesting women is a gift.
Ah, but I had labeled this invitation as a procrastination buster too. In order for me to enjoy myself, I needed to have Christmas ready to go. In an unprecedented move, I had all of my shopping done and all of the gifts wrapped by December 21st.
Sanity Saver #4: Not leaving the wrapping until 10 pm on December 24th allows you to actually enjoy Christmas Eve and prevents zombie eyes in the Christmas morning pictures.
It’s not that I always wanted to wrap on Christmas Eve, it’s just that wrapping seemed like the task that could be pushed off until the end.
If this were a Christmas special, a Claymation snowman would come out to tie this up in a shiny bow, but I have to admit my ribbon is a little crumpled. I may have still had to stay up until 1:30 am on Christmas Eve because I was a little too cocky about having the wrapping done, and failed to gauge the time it would take to make the awesome Pumpkin French Toast Casserole I found on Pinterest.
However, I still don’t regret the time I spent snuggling with my family watching A Charlie Brown Christmas instead of clanking around in the kitchen. But I have seen the light because I now realize why organized people are so self-congratulatory. It feels good! God willing, I will rock the holidays even better next year. My family deserves a Stress-Diminished Ellen for Christmas.
You’re welcome. We didn’t want you to go through withdrawal from that song, even for 3.6 milliseconds. But snowballs to blazes it was a long, hard, Frozen kind of winter. Heck, we had snow in April. SNOW IN APRIL! We feel like toadstools growing in the dank, only to be crushed by more dank.
So it’s about as surprising as a seagull pooping on your head after the toddler one blanket over tosses it some bread that our kids need a little help adjusting to summer this year. They’ve forgotten how to function with sunshine on their faces and sand between their toes because they are so broken from piling on the layers and chipping away at the ice. Their spunk has punked.
But goshdarnit, the sun is actually shining, the birds are chirping and the weeds are overtaking every crack and crevice. We declare the seasons have officially flipped.
And dangnabbit, we are good mothers so we’ll do whatever it takes to get our kids over their funks of confusion and adjusted to summer. Besides, we need to get those weeds pulled.
So welcome to our
Summer Readjustment Bureau
It’s in easy to digest flashcard form because let’s face it, if your kids are this deeply entrenched in hibernation mode, you need to keep it simple.
A) Goggles are great for protecting your eyes in the pool . . . unless they’re ski goggles. And that whole get-up? Adding minutes to her freestyle time for sure.
B) Who needs to move that much sand? Playing in the sand with a snow shovel is more of a cardio workout than a fun day at the beach. By the way, where was she when the driveway needed shoveling!?!
C) So the sleds are waterproof, but not exactly buoyant. We were afraid to tell them there were kayaks right behind them for fear they would use the paddles like ski poles.
D)Do you know how hard it is to get teens to wear hats and gloves? But this winter was soooo bad, they finally caved. It pains us to say this but, “Guys! It’s time to ditch the mittens and penguin!”
E) It’s true. Snowshoes let you walk on water . . . FROZEN water. Sink-Straight-To-The-Bottom party of one, your table is ready.
F)We appreciate you trying to block the sun; really we do. But you might just be asking for an epic case of prickly heat with this get-up. And P.S., it would be super swell if you didn’t hook your cousin and brother.
Feel free to use these flashcards on your own confused little polar bears. With the help of the glorious weather, they should be back to full rebel yell mode in no time; tracking dripping popsicles through your house all the while. Now excuse us while we enjoy these 15 seconds of spring bliss before the thermometer hits 98 degrees and the 111.7% humidity smothers us.
I know those are big words, but I’m seriously not still suffering from altitude sickness. It was just so PLEASANT at Keystone Ski Resort for me, for my husband, and for our teenage daughters.
Top of Dercum Mountain, Keystone
Yes, it was exhilarating, awesome, and challenging, but I have never had a more pleasant skiing experience. My husband and/or I have vacationed in Vail, Beaver Creek, Jackson Hole, Killington, Smuggler’s Notch, and Snowshoe, WV. While we have enjoyed the skiing in all of those locales, at Keystone, the skiing was perfect and it just had a “happy place” feel to it that earned it my “Disney-like” accolades.
Keep in mind, this is just a girlfriend sharing her awesome vacation with you because we’re buds. This is NOT a sponsored post. I had to sell my left ovary just like everyone else to pay for lift tickets.
The “ease of it all” feel of this vacation really began with getting there. You fly into Denver which gives you a greater chance of finding a direct flight. It’s also a heck of a lot cheaper than flying into someplace like Aspen AND you avoid getting on puddle jumpers. I just do not like small planes. The resort is only about an hour from the airport which is much closer than Vail.
When we got to our condo, my real love for Keystone started to blossom. C’mon, there was a waterfall in the lobby of The Springs at River Run.
And that waterfall traveled under decking to the outside to flow down a waterslide into a heated pool. I KNOW!
Water going down that slide is from the waterfall inside.
We basically just loved our condo. You can see the exact one we rented through SummitCove.com here.
But let’s get to the nitty gritty: the skiing. Here is what set Keystone apart for me as a family resort.
Something as simple as providing complimentary wagons to make it easier for you to haul your gear makes all of the difference, especially with kids. And while my teens can technically carry their own equipment, they do not do so without complaints. Loved not starting and ending each day with “whine.” Bonus: there is a fantastic wagon story at the end of this post.
The way they have the gondola and chair lift network set up, you don’t have to worry about getting “stranded” at the top of a mountain. This is an important reassurance for novice skiers who may lose their nerve after checking out a slope or for someone like me who is babying a bum knee.
Are you wondering why I even went skiing?
Anyway, the layout of Keystone is such that North Peak is behind the main Dercum Mountain and these two ski areas are connected by a gondola. I honestly would have never gone over to North Peak because of my knee issues if I thought my only way “home” was to ski back. And I was right to feel that way because after having a blast on North Peak I was suddenly done and I was so grateful to be able to take the network of gondolas all the way back to the condo. Saved me from the spectacle of taking a ride in a ski patrol sled.
And no, I did not ski The Outback. While I was pushing my knee, I decided not to push my luck that much.
3. The Top of Dercum Mountain is Grand Central Snow Fun
There is more than just skiing up there. In addition to the lodge where you can grab a bite, there is a whole hub of fun.
Bluebird sky kind of day in Keystone.
Learning Area: Often times it seems like the bunny slopes are to hell and gone away from the more thrilling terrain. If your group has any beginners, they are often bid sayonara by the black diamond daredevils until sunset. Not so much at Keystone because there is a learning area at the top of Dercum Mountain. Everyone can easily meet up periodically throughout the day.
In fact, the top of Dercum is the great starting point for a bunch of slopes making it wonderful even for my more experienced family since my knee made me miss out on the Terrain Park. It was so easy for us to go our separate ways for a run or two and then pair up again.
I only viewed the Terrain Park from the chairlift, but it is even more expansive than you can see here. Shaun White has logged some training hours here, so there’s that.
Snow Fort: This is where Keystone really starts to embrace it’s inner Disney. There is a huge castel-like snow fort built with slides, tunnels, and thrones. Even bigger kids like it. It’s just cool.
Tubing Park: Right behind the fort is the the best tubing park I have ever experienced. The runs are huge and fast. The personnel serenade you as they ask you if you want to be spun. And there is no “one rider at a time” nonsense here. Up to four tubes can link up to quadruple the thrill. We had a gorgeous day, but I love how the “magic carpet” lift is enclosed. It would have made a huge difference in keeping things fun if the wind had been kicking up.
Do you see the drop on that tubing hill??
4. River Run Village
Things can get pretty fancy at some of the ski villages out west, but I found Keystone to be perfect for families. This is not a fur coat and cowboy hat kind of place. This is where the locals come to knock out a couple of fabulous runs when they get off from work. Of course there are great steakhouses and pricey boutiques, but there are also pizza places and reasonably priced t-shirts. There are tons of fun extras around the village too, like musical instruments, huge Adirondack chairs for photo-ops, ice skating, and ice sculptures.
5. The People
I probably should have led off with this one because it was the Disney World-esque customer service and friendliness that really upped my enjoyment. From the gondola line employee leading us in song and handing out granola bars, to the girl who helped me find an Ace bandage for my blasted knee, I felt well taken care of. They are so smooth, I even got the warm fuzzies when one employee tried to kill me. Wait? What?
I was walking toward the foot bridge leading back to my condo, balancing my travel tray of Starbucks, when I saw a utility vehicle heading towards me from the opposite side. Remember those wagons I was raving about? They have to be rounded up and this guy had a loooong train of them snaking behind his vehicle. He seemed to be going pretty fast and I was in no hurry, so I stepped off the path right before the bridge to wait for him to pass.
Not one drop of Starbucks shed
Unfortunately neither he nor I realized there was a pretty significant dip-bump combo at the base of the bridge. He hit that flying and his train of fifteen wagons cracked up in the air and . . . that’s when everything went into slow motion. As they came crashing to Earth, I barely missed being crushed by leaping over a snow bank.
His reaction must be read in a surfer dude voice: “Whoa, that was intense. You ok?” Maybe I was surfing the wave of serenity from all of the previous great, relaxed service or maybe it was because I did not spill one drop of my $25 coffee order, but I just laughed it off. That counts as magical, right? For me it does.
One more thing. Honorable mention needs to go to the grocery delivery service: Peak Provisions. While not part of Keystone, they were recommended and I see why. Their gourmet prepared rib meal was delicious and they rolled with my delivery time change like it was no inconvenience at all. And they deliver alcohol. Enough said.
6. Night Skiing
There is not a lot of night skiing in Colorado, but Keystone has it. While I don’t like to ski under the lights, I do like the chairlifts staying open past 4pm. Somehow that last 5pm run was the best.
And then on some nights, after the night skiing was done, there were fireworks! Kind of sounds like Disney World, right?So just in case I wasn’t clear, I highly recommend Keystone even though my knee wishes we had gone to Key West.
My knee should stop complaining. It has a date with an orthopedic surgeon and an arthroscope here soon.