Friday, August 31, 2012

The least wonderful time of the year

Three weeks have passed since my last post.
Three weeks where we enjoyed our summer of relaxation.
In these three weeks we had a few highlights and a few lowlights.

The orthodontist chipped my 16 year old's tooth while filing it to get his teeth closer together.  The hole he made will require a filling.  Really a low lowlight.

My daughter and son walked in a fashion show.  They rocked it.  I loved watching them.
We went to Michigan for a family event. So much fun!  My kids are great travelers :)

Most parents look forward to school starting. Counting down the days, ready to rid the house of all the little people.
Not me.
I really dread this time of year.

Summer is so relaxing.  No reasons to wake up early. Nothing to rush around doing.  No places to be at certain times.  And no carpooling, lunch box making, or making sure the right clothing is clean.
But the biggest one, the one that is most traumatic, NO HOMEWORK!!!!

So school started this week. I have an 11th grader, a 9th grader, a 6th grader and a 3rd grader.  I had the first day of school clothing ready to go.  We packed all our lunches 2 days before school started (no the perishable parts of course).  We lined up the socks and sneakers.  I took the photos and waved goodbye.  Then I got sad.  I remembered what I hated so much about school.  It is not enough that the kids (the 2 older ones especially) have 10 classes a day and are learning for 8 hours straight. No, that is not enough for them.  They have to have homework every single night.  And not just a fun book to read.  The freaking first night of school there were hours worth of homework.  What do we gain from all this homework? We have kids who hate to go to school.  We have kids who cannot be kids because there is no time or ENERGY left after doing their homework.  After school activities? My boys can barely find time to do sports because the homework is so demanding.

So alas, the first day of school for the big guys came and passed and along with it came the homework, the online checking of assignments, the "fun" of school is gone.  We just need to get it done now.  Here is the only photo the big kids allowed me to take.  And by allowed, I took it in the carpool line after they got out of the car.
The younger ones did not mind posing for a picture in their first day of school happiness.  This is our carpool group.  Love them all!
And next week, my little girl starts Junior Kindergarten.  She will be in school all day long.  And I will miss her very much.  And I will dread the day she comes home and tells me she has 2 hours of homework. 
I hope you all have a great school year!  Thanks for reading and stay tuned for my recipes and excitement from us!

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Do you know what that stands for?

Four days ago I saw this acronym posted all over the place. SSZOYNP day was here.  But what the heck did it mean?
Well SSZOYNP means it was the popular yearly event known as Sneak Some Zucchini On Your Neighbor's Porch Day of course.  I love zucchini. It is so delicious and abundant in the summer.
But since we moved we no longer have our amazing garden.  So therefore I had no zucchini to eat or sneak anywhere.
Luckily for me, I got some incredible zucchinis from the next Fresh from the Farmer basket and I was ready to try a new quiche.
I really love quiches. The crust is usually the least healthy part so I made a crustless quiche this time.  The quiche was so good the crust was not missed.  The key to my quiche was using the right tool.  My new peeler.   I make zucchini pasta with it all the time (shred your zucchini, add a little water, cover it and microwave for 2 minutes. Drain out the water well. Pour on sauce and cheese, YUM) but today I used it to make my quiche.  The peeler is pictured above. It is hard to see the really fine shreds it makes, but it really works.
Grate 3 medium zucchini into a bowl. Add into that same bowl 1/2 of a small onion, diced and 1/4 cup 3 cheese blend. It should look like this:
In a separate bowl combine 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2/3 cup almond milk, and 1/2 cup egg beaters.  Mix this up well.
Combine the 2 bowls together and mix well.
Pour into a pie pan that was well sprayed.
Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, depending on your oven.

Monday, August 6, 2012

15 Tips and Tricks for visiting Disney World

Our family has visited Disney World many times. Today I want to share with you a few of our favorite tricks to help make your trip more enjoyable!

1. Make sure your children know your cell phone numbers.  Even older children can easily get separated and scared at a big place like Disney.  If you bring younger children try to buy one of these Shoe ID ideas so that your child has your name and cell # with them at all times.  If you do not plan to wear sneakers you can also try these Safety Tats.  If all else fails, write your phone number on their arm with a sharpie.

2.Bring with you a stroller that folds up easily.  You will be folding your stroller multiple times each day.  Trains, trams, monorails, in the car, out of the car, buses.  Your stroller needs to be able to fold in seconds.  I have used at least 20 strollers in my life and the best stroller to bring to Disney is the Baby Jogger City Mini.  It also comes in a double stroller if you have two small children.  Kids get tired at Disney.  They need to rest and ride a little.  The sun protection on the city mini is awesome too.  Buy this splurge before you go and thank me later!

3.Children get scared on the dark rides.  Being scared on a ride can ruin the rest of your Disney experience.  When my little girl was 2 the first ride we went on was Pooh. It was dark in many places and she cried when we tried to get her on any other rides the rest of the week.  This flashing flashlight was a total lifesaver.  Any ride that we got on, I took out the flashlight and my daughter would hold it.  If the ride got dark or scary she would turn it on and wave it around a smile.  This made a huge difference on our trip this year.
This picture is blurry but it gives you a good idea of how cool the flashing flashlight is!
4.Go to the dollar store and buy your ponchos for rain (it pours a little every day!), your autograph books, your sharpies, and other small toys to keep the kids happy on the way to Disney.

5.Save up your shiny pennies so you can have them ready to make into pressed pennies.  Also bring along your quarters for the machine.

6.Go "off campus" sometimes and eat a nice filling cheaper meal at a non Disney restaurant.  We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, but there was a huge Target and mall with many restaurants 5 minutes away.  We really enjoyed the sweet tomatoes restaurant which had an enormous salad bar and a self serve frozen yogurt machine. What else could you want? 
It would have been even nicer if the machine had worked!! Better luck next time.
7.Book a late breakfast/ early lunch and save money!!  The Disney breakfast buffets are awesome. They are super filling and are much cheaper than the lunch or dinner buffets.  What we usually do is keep breakfast items in the room, bagels, yogurts, cold cereals, etc... Then we go to a park early after eating a little bit.  We book the last possible breakfast seating, usually around 10:45 or 11 and we eat a late breakfast and then we are basically full until dinner time! 

8.Book your Dining Reservations far in advance.  The restaurants fill up and you cannot just walk into any of the popular restaurants and expect there to be an open table.  Many restaurants, especially the biggest attractions, are booked 60 or even 90 days in advance! You can also book these dining options online now.

9.Florida is HOT!  You will need a lot of sunscreen, hats for all of you, and lots of water to drink.  We like the Coppertone Foaming Lotion. It is easy to put on the kids and the adults.  A good hat is important for everyone too.  Sunglasses to protect your eyes and misting fans are so refreshing especially when you fill them with ice water.  Bring along some Aloe Gel in case you do get a sunburn.  

10.Everyone needs a water bottle, unless you enjoy spending $5 for a water bottle at each of the stands.  We liked the Osprey Lumbar Water Bag for each of the adults.  This way we were able to carry a bottle for ourselves and for one kid.  One really great tip for you.  You can get a free glass of ice water at any restaurant or quick serve location in Disney.  You just have to ask for it.  We stopped constantly and filled up our water bottles with the free refreshing ice water.

11.If you want help with your planning you should consult Tour Guide Mike.  His information is so valuable.  He can give you daily touring plans. Tell you which parks will be least crowded on what days.  I really doubted some of his information.  I could not believe that the Magic Kingdom would be empty on a Sunday morning at 9 am.  Boy was I wrong.  We rode Dumbo four times, Barnstormer 4 times, Pooh, Small world, Peter Pan, carousel and more.  All before 10 am with NO LINES!  SPend the money and listen to Tour Guide Mike!

12.If you are travelling with small children, use the Baby Stations.  Each park has its own Baby Station.  It is an awesome place to cool off, change your babies diaper, feed your baby in a high chair, or even go into a quiet room and nurse your baby.  TVs are playing for older children with Disney cartoons.  Comfy chairs are relaxing after a long day.  We all need a small break from the park, and the Baby Station is the place to do it.  Baby items are on sale here also, diapers, baby food, pacifiers, all easily accessible.

13.Have a plan! Decide where you are going each day.  Look online, make a park tour for yourself.  Be prepared to either save a whole day or at least a few hours each day for the awesome pool at your hotel.  The kids love cooling off and taking a break from the constant hustle in the parks.

14.Use the fastpasses!  Each park has many fastpass locations.  Once your family has entered the park, hand all your passes to the fastest adult in the group.  That adult should quickly head towards the most popular attraction in that park and get fastpasses for everyone in the group.  The rest of the group should leisurely head to the same popular attraction.  You all will basically meet up at the same time.  Ride the attraction all together and then you can use the fastpass to ride it a second time.  For some attractions you can be holding more than one fastpass at a time.
15.Enjoy the little things. One of my favorite moments of our trip last month was after a hot and tiring morning at the Magic Kingdom, my little girl and I shared a mickey ice cream sandwich.  We were so hot that the ice cream tasted so cold and amazingly delicious.  We both smiled at each other and lived in that moment.  She told me that she was having the best day ever.  I will never forget that moment and many other times from our trip.  Enjoy each moment with your family. Make memories. Share a Mickey Ice Cream Cone and have fun!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Disney's Animal Kingdom Kidani Village

We recently visited Disney's Animal Kingdom Kidani Village in Orlando Florida. I was so skeptical about staying at this hotel. I am not an animal person.  I love our bird Daisy, but I never had a dog or cat growing up and animals are not usually very exciting to me.
The Kidani Village is one of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) villas.  DVC is a timeshare that was given to us by my inlaws. Usually we stay at the Beach Club Villas, Boardwalk, Old Key West, or Saratoga Springs.  But this time a villa was open at the Animal Kingdom and we decided to try something different.
This hotel was amazing in so many ways.  I really do not think we even needed any park tickets this trip.  There was so much to do at our hotel.  We must have sat on our porch 2-3 hours a day.  We got to see giraffe, zebra, ostrich, cattle, and much more.
The animals felt close enough that we could almost touch them, but far enough away that we were not scared.
We saw giraffes hug each morning.
We saw zebras rolling in mud after a short Florida rain storm.
These two Ankole Cattle sat right outside our window each night for hours.  They always sat in different positions, sometimes looking right in our window, other times staring in each other's eyes.

When we were not sitting on the porch looking at the animals, we were going to bead activities.  What are bead activities? Throughout each day, there are at least 10 different kid activities. At each one, your child will earn a cool bead for his or her chain.  By the end of your stay you will have an amazing necklace or bracelet.  My daughter loved these activities. They vary and can include, learning to drum, making food for the giraffe, answering questions about places in Africa, identifying animal sounds, tracking where Mickey is hiding and more! The bead activities were so much fun. These activities were led by nature guides who were visitors from African countries. They were each so kind, and informative. We really loved this part of our visit.
Kidani Village has a nice pool and we spent some time there everyday.  Waterfalls and a small kids water park are there too.
My girl who is usually quite timid in the water even went on the smallest water slide, 20 times!
I highly recommend Kidani Village. If you would like anymore information about DVC please feel free to email me!
Tomorrow I will be posting my tips for having a happy family vacation to Disneyworld.