Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Love of the Rotisserie Chicken

I love the rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. There, I said it. I love the several functions it serves and the awesome feeling I have as a provider of deliciousness I get to serve to my family as a result of said amazing bird. That was a lot to say. Below is why I love these birds I hope you take advantage of these very soon!

First and foremost I get not 1 not 2 but 3 yes you read correctly 3 full meals out of one already cooked for you bird from your local grocery store! I will list the 3 recipes I used this week below.  Also, I have found that Costco or Sams club give you a much bigger bird that makes these 3 recipes easier to pull off. If you are shopping at a store that offers a smaller bird be safe and get 2, you will still be paying tons less and you will have 1/2 the work in preparing all of these meals! I must say though I have pulled off all 3 with an average sized bird I compensated a little and I mean little with extra veggies but it was still done and enjoyed by all!

 I hope that you enjoy them. It took me about 1.5 hours to make the first 2. The stock takes about 5 hours total, then to make the soup about another 45 minutes tops.

Chicken and Cheddar Souffle on the Food Network

I love Giada and I love her recipes they are good, easy to make and very crowd pleasing. I Hope to one day look like her as well because man she is a beautiful woman...who can cook! Lordy!


This was a pinterest find. I cook a ton from the recipes I find on pinterest.  This one is great without the chicken as well.

The recipe below is what I have scratched together from the catacombs of my brain. I am very much a throw it in a pot and see if it tastes good kind of cook. I fail A LOT but when I do good I do pretty well! 

Noodle of Chicken Soup

2tbs Olive Oil
2-3 Cloves Garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
3-4 Good Sized Carrots
3-4 Stalks of Celery
1 Small Onion
2c Cooked Chicken
2c Egg Noodles
Homemade Chicken Stock to cover Veggies and Chicken

Start with a hot pan and cold oil. Sweat the onion in the olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the onion is approaching clear. Then add the carrot and celery. Sweat all three adding salt and pepper to taste. Then add the garlic and the chicken mixing with the other veggies. Let these mingle and sweat together for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally then add your homemade chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, then give it a taste. Add salt and pepper, I sometimes add a little celery salt at this point. Then put it over low heat and let it be for about 20 minutes. You could throw the noodles in now and enjoy it right away. I like to let the flavors intermingle and get to know one another. Then after at least 20 minutes, add your egg noodles. You can absolutely use any noodles I just prefer egg noodles.

Homemade Chicken Stock

Without a doubt the easiest most valuable thing I have ever learned by working in a professional kitchen. This is one of those comfort things for me. I love the smell of stock on the stove. It takes me back to my more recent days as a server when I was working at The Hummingbird Room in Mill Hall, PA. Chef Eric Sarnow and his wife, also a chef, Claudia Sarnow really took the time to teach me how to never let anything go to waste. This was one of their tricks.

Take all the meat off the chicken. Then raid your veggie drawer! Use those carrots that are starting to get soft, the peels from your onions, the spinach you used half of to make the soufflee, the peels from your garlic bulb, the stems from the celery you cut up. Throw all of that and EVERYTHING left over from your chicken in a pot. I mean everything, skin, bones, anything and everything left over nothing is really off limits here I have used all sorts of stuff! Then cover that with water. Put this on the stove over low heat and just leave it for about 3-4 hours at least. I leave mine on a very long time. Then turn it off and let it cool completely. After it is cool strain the stock into the container you are going to store it in. Absolutely delicious and homemade! LOVE IT!!

So here is my final little celebration over the pre-made so you don't have to cook it, rotisserie chicken. Have you ever noticed how much a chicken is? I ask you the next time you are at the store check out your poultry aisle and check it out. Then go look at the already “rotisseried” chickens. The fact is this is one of those things that grocery stores take a huge hit on to get you into the store! They actually loose a ton of money on these birds because they hope that you will buy more from their store. So you have that going for you as well.

Good luck with our feathered friend!

Be Well!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Confessions of Friendship

I can be very clingy. It’s not something I walk around and brag about for obvious reasons. How awful would it be to say:

 “Hi!, I have 5 kids, I am very outgoing and I will cling to our friendship like a life preserver on sunken ship. What’s your name again?”

However, it is something that I most definitely recognize about myself and it is something that I try to work on, now more then ever.  I am sure people wonder why I am this way; well I really do attribute it to being an only child.  When big stuff happened as a kid I really had no one to talk to. Sure you have your parents but there are some things that I really didn’t feel comfortable talking about with them.  When I was about 13 and things were awful, I mean because hell, 13 as an age is its own problem, I found my very first best friend. 

Little did I know then that she would be by my side for 26 years. You should feel sorry for her. She had a brother but he was just too old for her to confide in so that left me. She seriously was and still is like a sister to me. We laughed together, cried together, played pranks together, and we fought together.  In the end we always know that in times of crisis we would drop everything to be with the other. It was then and still is now a very wonderful comfort.
When we moved on to high school we expanded our group to 4.  The 4 of us we were like our own little family. We all had other friends but it all began and ended with the 4 of us, I loved it and it was perfect. The support and unconditional love we shared was really one of the biggest comforts of my life. They made me look at life differently, they molded and shaped me to who I am today (see girls it IS YOUR fault :P)! This was all going along fabulously until the summer of my senior year when I moved to South Carolina. I lost my little family, I lost my friendship, I lost my sisters. Mind you it wasn’t gone, gone, but when you live 14 hours away in the days before cell phones and face time, and everyone else is still within 3 hours of one another, you miss out and you miss out on a lot.  I would say that I probably spent 10 years trying to catch up on the 3/4 years I missed with them. This was beyond stupid, you can’t go back in time and participate in the stories that they share and you cannot be part of the camaraderie that they formed. It took me years and a shove from one of my girls extremely disgruntled ex- boyfriends to finally accept that.  I did let it go after a while and it was after I did that that we were able to create a new kind of circle. We are all grown up now, all with families and jobs and responsibilities of our own.  We see each other 1 time sometimes 2 times a year if we are lucky. Because of the unique and beautiful friendship we shared then it’s really hard not to expect the same kind of friendships from other people. However, in the end though these girls are not friends, they are family, and that is how I like to view my friendships, as members of my family.  Not everyone sees it that way though, and I completely understand that! I know I have been very spoiled not only by the friendships that I have had in the past but also because I was lucky enough to marry my best friend. Even though he is an absolute gem and listens and tries so hard at the end of the day he is a dude and just doesn’t get it sometimes!
Here I am an adult it’s time to make new friends right?  Well, I don’t know about you but me, its hard, really hard. You should just be able to walk into a social situation and pop out with 3 new BFF’s right? Wrong!  Now, there is Facebook and all of those other social Medias out there that really complicate things.  Not to mention now you have men to deal with. Your girlfriend’s husbands (or s/o) have to get along with your husband (or s/o)  or you just can’t spend the time together. Oh! And don’t even get me started on the whole kid dynamic!  You have so many different factors that play into creating friendships as an adult and time is your enemy. If your family is like mine you are running kids and yourself all week, then reserve a day on the weekend for family day that leaves the one day that you should be spending with your s/o to reconnect. It can be very hard and frankly, mentally exhausting to nurture those friendships and be there for our friends when they need us the most. As women I think it is very natural to close off. Submerge ourselves in our day to day and deal with our problems as best we can, even if that means dealing with them alone. 
We need our girlfriends, it really is as simple as that. In most every book you read the friends are the people the heroine/hero lean on for life changing advice. That is not a mistake, which is what friends are there for. Sure it’s fun to party and have a good time but the measure of a good friendship is their ability to see you break into pieces even when you are trying not to let the pieces fall in front of them.   The measure of a great friendship is when they stick around and help you put those pieces back together. Somewhere along the way of women’s evolution we began to think that we were weak if we shared our issues. It has become an embarrassment for us to say to another girlfriend “I have a problem .” Follow that with “I don’t know what to do.” Suddenly we feel that we are pathetic individuals that have burdened our poor, dear friend that is solely there to give us wine and makes us laugh, right?  How could we ever do such a thing?!  WRONG!  I would be furious with a girlfriend who thought I was only there to play with her and not be there when she needed me! Yet, that is exactly what I do, that is exactly what MOST of my girlfriends do, we pine and suffer through every one of our issues big or small, alone.  What really gets me though, when I have just reached my edge and I need to talk to someone is when they look at me and empathize OR when they say “Why didn’t you tell me sooner!  I can help!” 

Ladies! We have each other there is no reason to suffer through these big bad emotions alone, and yet we do. Why? I am guilty of it, I would rather listen then share.  Is it a matter of trust, are we afraid that we may seem less of a person, or are we afraid to show anyone, even ourselves our rawest vulnerabilities? Maybe.  I am hopeful that this trend ends someday and that women can once again not see their issues as weakness.

Even though it hasn’t been easy making friends as an adult it hasn’t been impossible. I have some beautiful friendships that I adore and I still have my girls from back in the day. Yes, people come in and out of my life and it used to be really hard to let them go. I felt like I wasn’t enough for them. Now, I realize that they were just trying to deal with life on their own and sort out their own issues, much as I do. It is always really fun to reconnect with someone and it gives me such a feeling of peace.  It isn’t always easy though and I am far from perfect, I am that “clingy” friend after all. At the end of the day though I just hope that the friends I do have know that I love them like family.  If we don’t talk for months or even if they move on with their lives in a direction that doesn’t include me, I will always be there for them. This is simply because at one point they made a difference in my life and I will always be grateful for them.

Life is hard but it is also beautiful and one of the many beauties and greatest celebrations of my life are my dear friends.

Be well.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Fake It Till' You Make It!

You have heard it before, I am Strong, I am Invincible, I am Woman, I am Tired. Yes, I couldn't agree more, add being a stay at home mom or a working mom or even a working woman and you can add exhaustion, overwhelmed and completely out of your mind to that list. I believe that if you fake it, even a little bit, you will be a happier more well adjusted person. Simple things like when you are having a bad day slapping a smile on your face and getting through it. My go to fake it strategy is putting myself together, I believe if you feel good about the way you look you will feel good about yourself and that can do wonders when you have been awoken 6 times by 3 different children throughout the night!

I am constantly in search of the next skin care miracle. I watch infomercials, I read Dr. Oz and I go into department stores. I comb the web looking for the next big anti aging thing! I ask people all the time, what are you using on your skin? Its kind of a later in life obsession. I never really cared much when I was younger, because hell, I was younger, but now I am fast approaching “that age” and over the last few years I have really gotten serious about it. I thought I would share with you my findings and what I have used, what I use now and what I am going to try in the near future.

I am a firm believer that skin care expires, at least on me it does. After about 2-3 years my skin care regimen doesn't seem to produce the same results. Or maybe I just get bored with it it could go either way. When I first started this quest in my very early 30's I did what every Grandma and Mom did, I called my Mary Kay girl. Their Timeless Line served me well over about 5 years, but then I just stopped seeing results. So then I became a infomercial junkie and that is where this whole review begins.

I started out using Murad, http://www.murad.com. It was a great product but I think I may have been a little too early for it. They kept sending me “Age Spot” something as my freebie every other month. It gave me a complex! I even called and asked them to change it and I kept getting them! I loved the cleanser and the night cream. The night cream was really thick and I like it when night creams are thick, it makes me feel like they are doing something. The cleanser was light and made my skin feel amazing. One of my biggest issues are my eyes, I have darker circles and sometimes baggy looking eyes, so my eye cream is everything, it can make or break a regimen for me and this one unfortunately did it for me with Murad. The formula of their eye cream wasn't a good fit for me which was sad because I really did love the other products.

I then moved onto Meaningful Beauty, www.meaningfulbeauty.com. This is where I am now and frankly about to move away from, for now. This one has an eye cream that rocks. The formula lessens the darkness around my eyes and helps with wrinkles too. I really like the day moisturizing lotion as well, it light and not greasy at all. They have a new night cream but since I ordered mine prior to the new night cream being released, I unfortunately do not get it. Which really stinks because I tend to not use the night cream with this regimen. The cleanser is good, but I often wonder, “Is it doing anything?” It is very thin and doesn't foam or lather and that really took some getting used to. All in all I have really loved my Meaningful Beauty experience but again, I feel like maybe its not working as well as it did when I first started using it so maybe its time for a change?

Now, I mentioned that I don't really use the meaningful beauty night cream. Well that is because I have found an AWESOME substitute! St Ives Timeless Skin, you can get this at any Walmart, Rite Aid, Grocery Store anywhere that sells St Ives and its about $5 for a huge tub of it! I saw on my Pintrest feed that Dr. Oz first posted about this a few months back. I saw it one day and thought, “What the heck?” It has turned out to be one of my favorite facial creams of all time. It really does reduce lines and the collagen in it really works around the circles on my eyes. You definitely have to wash your face in the morning though but it is good, good stuff, give it a try!

What is in my skincare future? Well, let me tell you! I recently had a conversation with my friend Jessie who is starting a new business. I LOVE supporting businesses especially the home based businesses. I really feel that the home based businesses are amazing and wonderful things, not to mention if executed properly there is a whole lot of money to be made. I have friends who sell Pampered Chef, 31 Bags, Silpada and hell, I have a good friend who is making a FORTUNE in schlepping sex toys! All home based businesses, all helping people bring in a little extra money to help supplement their incomes. In talking with my friend Jessie I found out that she is starting one of these businesses, but this is skin care we are talking about and it is something that I take seriously so I did a little research on it and it sounds pretty good!

Rodan & Fields, https://jdilucia.myrandf.com/Home, is not a household name yet, but its sister product, Proactive, is. These are the same Drs that created Proactive and now they are helping people with all sorts of skin care issues. Sun damaged, Anti Aging, Adult Acne, you have it they seem to have a solution. In the world of the internet and shopping online you really have to go by poeples reputations. Proactive has an amazing reputation and the results are amazing, so why should this be any different?Check it out and if you try it let me know. I think I am going to give it a try over the summer. I need to finish out this Meaningful Beauty shipment I just got and then I will take the plunge. I will definitely let you know how it all works out!

One more thing I need to mention is that as a woman you MUST do the things that make you feel good. One of those things that serves 2 purposes is getting a facial. No matter what skin care regimen you use on a daily basis every now and then you need to get some deep pore cleaning done. Its important not only for the health of your skin but for your mental health as well. You walk out of there feeling like a million bucks! I usually go 2 times a year. I wish I could go more but financially this is what makes sense for me. If you can go more then go! I usually go to Designers Denn, http://www.designersdenn.com/. I go to Lori there although I have never had a bad experience with any other person at this spa. They have a great Signature Facial for $110 and it is worth every single penny.

You may be tired, you may be at the end of your rope, trust me I am on a daily basis, but the good news is there are products out there to help you look amazing! Best of luck and make sure you let me know what you try! I would love to hear what you think!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fried Dough 3 Generations of Tradition

For the last 20 years, during the last week of July through the first week of August, my Great Aunt has cooked for a fund-raiser for her church. For the last 10 years my mother has joined her in making what we know as “fried dough” and this year for the first time I was able to participate in what is now a family tradition. I was so curious and nervous to do this. These Ladies and Gentlemen who cook and coordinate this Italiana Fest at Mount Saint Peters are passionate. They know what they are doing and if you are new just be quiet and do what you are told! Doing this will serve 2 purposes, the first is you will learn a lot. The second is you won't make anyone mad which when you are dealing with Italian women is a good thing, trust me you do not want the evil eye on you!

My great Aunt and Uncle have acted like grandparents to me, my grandmother, MiMi, was my great Uncle Mario's sister. She died when I was very young, her husband Lloyd to whom I was very close to, died 14 years ago. I miss them both very much, especially when I look at my kids and think about how much my Papap would have loved them. I don't think you ever quite get over losing your grandparents, especially if you are close. I only had 5 years with my grandmother but she was a huge part of my life, I remember so much about her and I have always hoped that she was looking down on me with pride.

I have always been very grateful to have Mario and Angie for taking on the role of grandparents with me, they are truly amazing people. They never ever miss a birthday, Angie always, ALWAYS makes me my favorite foods when we come to visit and they are both always eager and willing to help out in every way possible. I love them with all my heart. Then they took on the huge role of being great grandparents to my children. A task that they have always taken on with as much love as they can give and it is something that they do beautifully. In the last year though my dear Uncle Mario has developed dementia. It has been devastating to watch for my husband and I. We try to know who he is today and not think of who he was in days past so that we don't get too upset about it. I believe in enjoying those that are with you for as long as you can, so that is what we do. Things have had to be altered a little this year which has been hard on everyone. My mother and aunt especially, but we now have no choice but to adapt and create a new normal and that is exactly what we have done. Besides, if we hadn't done things differently this year I would not have had the opportunity to help out like I did!

When you are allowed or asked to help out at Festa it is a great honor. At least that is the way it should be looked upon. Many of these people have been doing the same tasks that create this fundraiser every year for 30 or more years. They have their way of doing it, and they act and execute their jobs perfectly and they should be highly respected. Unfortunately, there are what some would refer to as “The Younger Ones.” These are people that come into this Festa World and want to do things their way with no regard to the way that things have been done in the past. This was true most recently with the fried dough at Festa. As we were mixing and measuring, stories of the years past were coming out and by the end of it I was so mad I could have spit nails. The last group of people to help had not respected the role that they had been given. They were younger, they were there to do their job if they even did that and leave. What they didn't understand was if they had just stopped and listened not only would they have learned some invaluable cooking tips, but they would have heard the stories from the past 30 years.

That is what makes this time spent special, the memories, the undocumented stories and the glances between these 2 ladies as they shared only what they thought was respectful to share, but there was much more to some of their stories, you could just tell. I find myself now having such a deep respect for this generation of people. They speak their mind and you always know where you stand with them but they really do keep the illicit details to themselves. With the media's influence and the way that it is now we are expected to share 100% of the story and if we do not know the whole story our opinion is used to fill in the gaps. Even if our opinion is not based on factual information. Those opinions become fact thus false history is written. Gone are the days when someone had cancer the word was whispered and really did you ever know the exact type of cancer that was being discussed? I never did. Gossiping to these ladies is today as it was back in their day, an art form. You didn't say too much because that made you a true gossip you said just enough to prove that you knew something that made you in a way, special.

I was eager to help by doing the heavy work, lugging the bags of flour, pulling the dough filled bowl off the mixer, it seemed that was where I was most needed and appreciated. This was their show and I was merely sweeping the stage! Two 80 year old women measuring, mixing, tweaking and telling stories. When I am around these Italian Ladies of Mount Saint Peters, I always think of my grandparents. This had been their church, they had brought my mom to it when she was a child, I had gone with them when I was very little. That church and the people there are a piece of my heart that I hold very dear. To me they are a gateway to my past that some days I long for and mourn with all my heart. As I mentioned, my grandmother died when I was 5 but she is in all of my memories as a young child. I remember more about her then just about anything else. My grandfather and I had a wonderful relationship through out my life. The one time that I was really truly angry at my grandfather proved to teach me a big lesson in life.

I was getting married, my thought was to have my grandfather walk me down the aisle. Not to give any disrespect to my Step-Father but honestly he was less then thrilled that I was going to get married at the age of 22 and did absolutely nothing to hide his dissatisfaction. I will never know exactly what happened, I have heard stories and have pieced things together from those stories but I truly do not know. What I do know is that he didn't come to my wedding. His only grandchild, he didn't come. I was devastated beyond words, its still very hard for me to talk about. I was so hurt I didn't call I didn't write I didn't ask any questions. Six months later he was dead and I never got to say goodbye or tell him I was sorry for being mad. This was a harsh way to learn that if there is a problem resolve it, as quickly as possible, life is too short.

I looked around the marble hall on the last day I was there helping. I watched everyone bustle around yelling back and forth to one another with the gentle ribbing that friends give one another. The cookie ladies were laying out the most beautiful table and excitedly talking about the bakery that was going to donate more the their cause that evening. The friend dough was rising quickly spilling out of the containers that we had used to fill it with. The pots and measuring cups had been cleaned the mixer was all clean and put away, it was time to go. Soon there would be people by the hundreds descending on Mount Saint Peters Italian Festa. Getting their fill of home made pasta, meatballs, lasagna and of course fried dough. To me and to my family it is so much more then the food, it is the memories made and reliving the days when life was in albeit hard, it was a simpler time. More importantly it is as it should be, it is about family and continuing family traditions.

Monday, April 25, 2011

So Long Dear Friend

I have written 3 blogs about our trip to Disney, it was a wonderful trip. However, the first evening that we were there I received word that the mother of my dear friends, Lisa & Kristina had passed away after a heroic battle with leukemia. Her funeral was two days before we got home so I missed saying goodbye to her. I would like to just tell you a little bit about her and what an impression she had on my life.

When Lisa and I opened up our store 2 and half years ago I really didn't know her mom, Inger very well. What I did know was that she was a dear woman that was always willing to help, she was the type of person that would give you the shirt off her back even if she didn't know you very well. As the months went by she would often swing by the store and would help us however we needed it. During those times and the numerous birthday parties I got to know Inger very well. She was such a good time to be around. My favorite moment I spent with Inger was washing the windows on a sunny spring afternoon. She was really good at washing windows! LOL, I don't think our windows will ever be that clean again! We are a little baffled by how she got them that clean! We were chatting about music, this is when I found out that Inger loved the Beatles. Her older brother, to whom she was very close to, had introduced her to the Fab 5 and she was hooked to that day. She spoke of her brother with such a tenderness, she told me a lot about him that day and ended it with how he had passed away. That was it, the end of the story, no further explanation of how he died, when, nothing, just the end. So Inger. We had a moment that day, and I felt very close to her, we had covered all bases. We had discussed family, music, a little politics and death. We had crossed a threshold, we now knew a few intimate details of one anothers lives, and it was awesome.

In July I wrote a blog entitled “Reflection”. This was in response to Inger being diagnosed with leukemia. It rocked all of our worlds, especially of course her daughters lives. Friends, I have seen a lot of things in my life. I have witnessed people having to deal with all sorts of life changing situations. I have seen some people rise to the occasion and do the right thing, I have seen some run and hide and others I have seen turn their backs and ignore the situation at hand completely. These women are incredible. Not for one moment did these girls leave their mother alone. Someone was with her at all times from July through February, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. In every hospital room, during every holiday, birthday and celebration they were by her side. They made me want to be a better daughter and just a better human being in general. They were amazing in their care and love for their mother. Then I realized of course this is the way they would react, look at their teacher.

Here is what I learned most from Inger.

  • Love your family, even when they drive you crazy.
  • Be true to yourself.
  • Don't let the small stuff, or small minded people bother you.
  • Homemade Meatballs work for any get together.
  • Life is short, be happy.
  • Be kind.
  • Fight hard for the things worth fighting for.
  • Support those you love
  • Help people who need help, even if they don't know that they need it.
  • Always do the right thing, always.

Goodbye my friend, rest assured you touched my life and you helped me look at life a little differently, in a more positive light. I am a better person for knowing you, I will miss you every day and especially every time I eat a meatball.

Saving Money At Walt Disney World

I know it sounds like an oxymoron to save money at Walt Disney world but it is possible. We managed to save a ton just from doing 2 things differently from the norm. What I encourage everyone to do is to plan your entire trip with all the bells and whistles. Plan everything you want to do, exactly where you want to stay, how long you want to stay as if money is not a factor. Then, prioritize that list. What must you do to ensure that you have a magical experience? After that start trimming down your list, finding alternatives to major expenses may just ensure that you are able to do everything you want to do. This process takes a lot of time and a lot of conversations. Be prepared and always enter these conversations with an open mind. Arguing about this and that doesn't help and nothing should be argued about in this stage! Hopefully. I can help and illustrate clearly what we did to save some money on our trip.

For our family, including my mom it would have been between $9 & 11,000 to stay on site. We have a very large family and at Walt Disney world it does not matter if you are 90 or 3 months old you count! So we opted to stay off site. We found a house 15 minutes from the Magic Kingdom. It was a 6 bedroom, 2 master suite, full kitchen, pool and hot tub lap of luxury oasis! It was $1000 for the entire week. Now do you see what I mean by finding alternatives to major expenses? Of course that adds some new complications and expenses. How do you get to the parks if you fly?

We considered renting a car but a rental car would have cost just as much for us (huge family) as it would have been to for us to fly our entire family down. We were considering to drive the 17 hours. Before you actually go though with the drive make sure you factor in the cost of gas and hotel stays. Also think of the ride home. For us, I would have been in our local mental institution after attempting to drive that far with 8 people in our 8 passenger car...SO what is the solution? The auto train. In the end it did cost as much as flying, however, we had our car and a very relaxing ride down. For our family it was around $1500 ( this included our car) as opposed to the $3000 it would have been to fly and rent a car. The only downside to the auto train for me was that I did not sleep well. So it made for a very long first day for me

Eating at the parks is expensive hands down. For our family to eat it was about $250 for dinner. This was one thing we splurged on. Food is very important to us and we like to eat well so that was one of things we could do because we had saved money in other places. Lunch was about $70. Now a way to save even more is to eat at the house. Seriously, it would potentially save you well over a thousand dollars! Make lunches in the morning and bring them to the parks with you. They make a variety of insulated picnic totes these days that are just fabulous. Go home in the late afternoon, have a swim a rest and some dinner. Keeping it simple, pasta and sauce, no muss no fuss! Go back to the parks and enjoy a snack and some fireworks.

Park passes are one thing you just can't get around. Here is a little tip though. If you buy a year long park pass, it is not that much more, you could potentially go to Walt Disney World 2 times in a year and pay for passes one time! The passes begin the year on the day your purchase them so if you purchase your pass on March 1, 2011 you are able to return on February 1, 2012 and pay nothing for passes. That saves you a bunch of money, it is almost like 2 family vacations with one major expense paid for!

In the end what matters most is that your family has a wonderful time, with as little stress as possible falling on the parents, remember its your vacation too. I am a planner, to me its one of the best part of the trip. Why? Well, as you watch all of your planning unfurl before your very eyes and you see the joy in the faces of your family, you just smile realizing that you have done something really good. These memories for your kids are amazing but I think for you as the parent its even more then that. You are able to provide the trip of a life time and memories that they will take with them for the rest of their lives and even pass on to your grandchildren. That is monumental as a parent. I hope this helps you in your decision making process and in planning your trip. I have listed some links below to help you on your way. We loved our trip and we cannot wait to go back! Much Love and Safe Travels!

Where we rented our home:


Amtrak Auto Train


Picnic Time Insulated Totes


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Of Course Its Great, Its Disney!

Our trip to Disney was, as I am sure it is for most people, a very thought out endeavor. With the large family we have it is essential that every trip we go on we try to plan and anticipate everything! Which of course is completely impossible! However, we do try. So with that said here are some ideas of what to take with you and what not to do. A lot of these ideas I got from a book that I had read 5 years ago when we went to Disney the first time. Its called the Unofficial Guide To Walt Disney World, With Kids, by Bob Sehlinger. This is a great resource to refer to. When we went the last time I wrote down what was good, what was bad and what we had to do next time. This is a great tip for any family vacation. We have often thought of starting a journal for our vacations so that we don't overlook things we missed or want to do again.


So if you are coming from colder climates like we were, we heard Florida and we broke out the shorts! Well, allow me to tell you, South Carolina, Georgia & Florida can get down right chilly in the winter. After living in South Carolina and Florida you would have thought I would have remembered that. I didn't which lead me to way over pack. Check the weather and keep it simple. If you are at a place that has a washer and dryer you can get away with just a few outfits per person. If not it gets a little trickier. Have your clothes at the ready but really don't pack your clothes until the very last minute! Bring rain gear. Orlando has these pop up thunderstorms at all times of year. Even if you have just silly cheap ponchos that will disintegrate after the first wear. Why? Because you will be dry the first time! Which can make the difference of you enjoying the park for the rest of the day or having to break up your day to go back to change!

Shoes, now this is a big one. Sneakers with socks, for little ones, period. Unless they have some sort of supportive sandal that they have worn for 2 months prior. The biggest mistake people make when going to a place like this is that they buy new shoes and try to break them in while there. Not good because kids end up with blisters on their feet and if their feet are miserable, they are miserable and that means you are miserable...In Disney! Boo!

Diaper Bag

I have thought a lot about this because it is tough when you are expected to spend 5-8 hours with your children in a place that is not home. Think about it, we may run 4-6 hours worth of errands in a day but are we ever more than 20 minutes away from home? I did a lot of trial and error when I was there last and I am not sure I ever quite got it right. There is a lot to juggle but here are the essentials.

Take only what you need.


An extra change of clothes for little littles (something small like a onesie and a pair of leggings),


Drink for baby, you don't have to bring a full day supply just enough to get through the first time its needed.


Changing Pads. I have a GREAT changing pad that I actually sell in my store. It is made by a local company here called Baby Goin' Places. It is a terrycloth towel that has fabric pockets sewn on the front. It was a dream! I didn't have to lay my baby on anything hard! Disposable ones will do just fine though, but please use them, people are rude and don't clean up after themselves, yuck!

Bags for bad diapers, I get the scented ones they are great for clothes from blow outs too!

Rain Gear (Only if they are calling for rain)

Camera, I would recommend getting a little snapshot camera if you have a big one. Just because there are professional photographers all over Disney to take your pictures.

A few special snacks, rewards, bribes, just to get them to stop crying long enough to get out of the park!

First Aid Kit You can get little ones at the store, I usually add my band aids so that they have the characters they like. I always have a little first aid kit in my diaper bag.

Pens, simple but necessary!

If you forget or lose anything not to worry! There are baby care stations located through out all of the parks and they have everything! From bottles to formula to clothing, they even have little wrist slips that you can put one on your 2 year old that keeps bolting away from you and one on you! Sounds wrong but you will see the need for one if not by you personally then the person in front of you. They will be having a nervous breakdown because they have run about 5 miles just to keep up with 2 year old Timmy!

You may need something other then your usual diaper bag because your day to day bag may not be able to carry all of your needs. We usually dawn the backpack for these occasions, its just easier for all of us. Now, sometimes people think that they could just get through the Walt Disney world experience without a diaper bag. Just carry a few diapers and that way we won't have to stand in line to have our bag checked. If you are traveling with little ones you need to deal with the fact that you are going to have to have a diaper bag, so get over it!


Its all in the timing and on vacation we all take our definition of time and literally throw it out the window! Kids stay up later and sleep in longer, parents seem to not care about schedules as much and meandering is highly encouraged. Now, there are the exceptions. A trip to Walt Disney World is expensive and some people like to get their moneys worth so they come equipped with schedules agendas and plans. That is totally fine, please be ready for those plans and schedules to be altered. You are running on kid time here and they do not understand that if you ride every ride in Magic Kingdom 4 times you will get your moneys worth! Also this place is distracting! The phrase of “Oooo! Look Something Shiney!” takes on a whole new meaning! Relax, you are at the happiest place on earth, remind yourself of that, often. Yes, you paid a lot for this vacation and your kids are melting down, you have ice cream on your new shirt and your spouse looks like they are going to climb a tower and start taking people out if they don't start walking faster. Its these times that you need to find a place to sit down and people watch for a few minutes and come up with a new plan. Remember those special snacks you packed? Perfect time for them. Breath, remember where you are and come up with a new plan. I f you take anything away from my little rant here remember this. It cannot ALL be seen, so pick out what is most important to you.

This leads me to breaks. Not all children can make it through an entire day and night without a reset or a break. We all would go back even if it was just to change and grab a quick snack just to get out of the over stimulation for a little while. Do watch your kids and see what their needs are, I promise it will make your trip a lot more enjoyable if you do.

Entering and Exiting. Do keep in mind that if you are in Parks it can take up to 30 minutes to get out of the park alone (depending on where you are) and 15 more minutes to get the tram back to your car. Strollers also must be folded on the trams.

I have to once again climb up on my soap box here. This was the most annoying thing to us and it had absolutely NOTHING to do with the parks but everything to do with the people that were there. This is Disney World people, they have been getting people out of these parks for decades! Millions of people have been there! They know the most efficient way to get you in and OUT. There is absolutely no reason to take out a 6 year old because your family found a pocket in the sea of people and moved up a little further. This isn't the Titanic, you will see them again! I promise! Take your time leaving, seriously, everyone gets out! It may take some time but there is reason to why the wait is so long. If it is that important to you to get out quickly then please leave prior to the closing of the parks. Otherwise, accept the fact that you are going to be sitting and waiting to leave.


One thing we didn't do was make reservations for every night we were there. Dinner is hard to get reservations for especially when you are trying to feed a bunch of kids at their usual time. Make reservations early as in the 90 day time period before you go. You can always cancel them, well most of them. Some of the character dining experiences require full payment and no cancellations but for the most part you can just cancel on a whim.

We had 2 experiences that I really encourage you to have. The first is have a meal at Cinderellas Castle. This was a wonderful character breakfast that we went to. The food was also exceptional! We went for a 9:15 reservation, the park wasn't even open yet when we got there to walk to the castle (about 20 minutes for us from the entrance) the people at the gate let us in before everyone else! There is a show that goes on prior to the park opening (of course there is its Disney!) and here we are walking down Main Street USA, all the girls dressed up as Princesses, Dean as Prince Charming, and all the cast mates of WDW wishing us a good morning! AMAZING! Then if that weren't enough Aladdin and Jasmine scurry down in front of us leading us the way to the castle! GREAT memory that none of us will forget!

The second was a dinner at Chef Mickey's located in the Contemporary Hotel. This was fantastic! The food was wonderful and the interaction with the characters was exceptional! I always tended to shy away from hotels and their dinners, I won't be doing that in the future.

Disneys Dining is amazing. Compared to the reputation it had in the 80's early 90's, the food it exceptional. However, it does cost a good amount of money. There are dining guides out there as well as a really cool app for your phone that tells you what to expect. MiMi downloaded this app to her phone and was a life saver when they tried to book us at the 5 star French Restaurant that was between $30-50 a plate! Plan ahead!

So there you have it, a few tips that will hopefully make your trip a little bit easier. The next blog I have ready is what we did to save A LOT of money! So stay tuned!