Melissa Kaylene

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Living Locally: Zoolights at The Oregon Zoo

zoolights at the oregon zoo

I hope everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving this last week and had the opportunity to feast with friends, family and make memories. I had a whirlwind of a long weekend which included dinner at my house, a friendsgiving at my friend's home, black Friday shopping, an overnight solo trip to southern Oregon to visit my Mom, and lastly, our annual visit to the Oregon Zoo's Zoolights. 

zoolights at the oregon zoo

This year we were once again very lucky and had a dry evening with no rain, but it was much colder than our visit last year, but our coats, gloves and lots of hot cocoa made the evening perfect.

zoolights at the oregon zoo
zoolights at the oregon zoo

If you've never been to the Zoolights exhibit before, here’s the rundown – the Zoolights begin at 5pm every evening and you get to walk around the zoo and see tons of magical lights and exhibits. Most of the animals are sleeping, but there are some nocturnal animals that you can still visit. 

The zoo also offers a quick train ride around that lets you get a better view of some of the lights, and the kids always love to ride it just before we leave. 

zoolights at the oregon zoo
zoolights at the oregon zoo

There’s something so magical about walking around together as a family with hot chocolate in hand, admiring the twinkling lights and the atmosphere. It’s something that I know will create good memories that my kids will fondly remember when they are older.

If you are planning on heading up to Zoolights (which runs until January 3th, 2016) I’d recommend dressing with multiple layers, buying disposable hand warmers (they have some to purchase in the gift shop), and drinking lots of peppermint cocoa!

zoolights at the oregon zoo

If you are able to, there are also many weeknight value nights form 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. that offer a considerably reduced admission price. Learn more HERE. 

ZooLights Admission

Members: Free
Adults (12–64): $14.95
Seniors (65 and up): $12.95
Children (3–11): $9.95
2 and under: Free
General train admission: $4
ZooLights Schedule
Sunday–Thursday: gates open 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday–Saturday: gates open 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Grounds remain open an hour after gates close.

ZooLights is closed December 24, and 25.

You should definitely make the trip up to Portland for this once a year experience! Read about our visit last year HERE. :)

* I was given complementary passes to the Oregon Zoo Zoolights, no other compensation was received. All opinions are my own. If you'd like to work with please visit HERE for more info.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Why You Shouldn’t Make Everything From Scratch This Thanksgiving

We hosted our Thanksgiving early this year. It wasn’t big, wasn’t elaborate, but it was memorable.

In years’ past I always got caught up with the hustle and bustle, trying to be Miss perfect and create everything myself - and all from scratch. Sure the food tasted good (most of it anyways!) but I was left tired, worn out, and stressed out.

I wasn’t sure if it was worth it.

Over the years I’ve started getting smarter, learning to pick my food battles, as well as delegate tasks (which was really hard to me to start doing), and you know what? Last Sunday we all spent the afternoon in the kitchen dicing, chopping, peeling, and singing holiday songs as we prepared our meal together.

You see, it’s not always just the sit down dinner part that’s important, but the time spent leading up to it.

Anika made pumpkin and apple pie all by herself, and we bought some refrigerated pie crusts that she rolled out and used.

We made cranberry chutney on the stove (recipe HERE) and green bean casserole with fresh green beans. My Dad made mashed potatoes and experimented with sausage and fresh rosemary and make something tasty.

Anika made homemade whipped cream and my Dad mixed it with store bought canned fruit to make a fruit cocktail.

We baked store bought biscuits and I “doctored up boxed stuffing - by adding celery, onions, bacon, sausage, and hazelnuts to the mix.

The meal was all about compromising. Some things were made, some were bought, and all were enjoyed. The meal was all meshed together, and made with love.

It was a relief to have so many helping hands in our tiny kitchen, and I didn’t worry about cleaning up the floor or washing the sinkful of dishes before we ate, and I even stayed in my sweats right up until dinner time.

This Thanksgiving, do what makes you happy, and don’t sweat the little stuff. Chances are, nobody will even question whether or not you made the pie crust by hand or used a seasoning packet in your stuffing...and  even if they do, who cares? The important part is spending time with people you love and making the day memorable.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mandarin Orange Cranberry Chutney

Mandarin Orange Cranberry Chutney

I grew up on canned cranberry jelly.

You know, the kind that looks like the shape of the can when you pour it out? Many people love canned cranberries and they’re really not that bad, however, once I made homemade cranberry chutney for the first time I fell in love.

A few years ago I was scrolling through a magazine that I had received in the mail and it had a recipe for homemade cranberry chutney. I was in charge of creating Thanksgiving dinner for our families and I wanted everything to be homemade, so I decided to use the recipe from the magazine. The chutney was a hit and I haven't used canned cranberries since.

Friday, November 20, 2015

New Mom Advice

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I received product and compensation from Mead Johnson Nutrition to create this post written by me. All experiences and opinions expressed in this post are my own and not those of Mead Johnson Nutrition. Consult your pediatrician before making changes to your baby's diet or if you have concerns related to your baby's digestive health. Please see the product label/website for acceptable use and benefits. You can contact Mead Johnson Nutrition with product related questions or comments toll free at 1-800-BABY 123 or through the Contact Us link on Enfamil A.R. or

I think something is in the air around here - I know so many pregnant women right now! It brings back lots of memories, some good, some that I definitely don't miss, but it certainly makes me miss tiny little toes and baby snuggles. Gosh they grow up so fast.

It really makes me think about these past twelve years that I've been a mom.

Sometimes I get so busy living life that I don't take time to reflect. With Anika in the 7th grade, it seems like forever ago when I would stay up countless nights with her, rocking her, burping her, and feeding her. She was definitely my most time consuming baby and actually had frequent spit up issues, which was not only messy, but frustrating for my naive 18 year old self. There was many sleepless nights together just the two of us, and we both did a whole lot of learning.

A Weekend in Hollywood

A couple of months ago I went on a quick adventure down to southern California for a blogging conference. It was my first time in the Los Angeles/Hollywood area and I must say, the flight down there was so much easier than my flight to the Wine Blogger’s Conference this past summer.

The conference was a pretty small one and I was lucky enough too had been given a ticket. I made some new connections which were fabulous, got to have a private screening of a couple shows, and got to (very quickly!) explore the area a bit.