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Disney 2018

This years trip to Disney was quite an adventure with our largest group yet! Since it was 8 adults and 3 kiddos we decided to do a couple of things different which took a little more planning but Rob did a fantastic

Flying

Although we love taking the Auto Train since we didn’t have quite as much time off this year we decided to fly. It was the kiddos first time on an airplane and they thought it was the coolest thing ever. We drove to NJ to meet up with my parents and sisters family and all flew together on a nonstop out of Allentown. It’s a small airport which made things easy and really stress free.

 

Since we didn’t have a car Rob had to do some research to find the best way to get from the airport to Disney. We had a tall order because we needed it to fit 6 adults, 3 kiddos, and a lot of suitcases. It also had to have a car seat and booster for Parker and Caity. He ended up finding Sunstate Transport who were able to meet all of our needs at an extremely reasonable price.

During our stay we also used Uber a few times to visit the near by Walmart for supplies and cheaper Disney gear.

Shades of Green

We finally decided to give Shades of Green a try which I am kicking myself for not doing sooner. The price is comparable to moderate Disney hotels but in my opinion the amenities were nicer than Caribbean Beach and Animal Kingdom Lodge, which are previous places we have stayed.

Here is just a few things that stood out to me and why I would recommend Shades of Green to anyone who is eligible to stay there.

  • The rooms are extremely spacious and while they may not be Disney themed some window clings changed that pretty easily.
  • We ate breakfast and dinner at The Garden Gallery a few times which was a great way to step away from the repetitive Disney food. Their dinners are themed so the food was always changing.
  • They have an AAFES Exchange which was the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs, snacks, and adult beverages.
  • After our half marathon Time, Tara, and I visited The Magnolia Spa for massages. It’s a really nice retreat away from the typical Disney hustle and bustle. What’s even nicer is you don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy the spa, as long as you are eligible.

Since Shades of Green isn’t a recognized Disney resort there are a few things we weren’t entitled to that I wanted to note.

  • They don’t have the Magic Band technology yet so you use traditional room keys. You can still purchase your own Magic Band before you arrive or in most of Disney’s souvenir shops for fast passes and Disney Memory Maker.
  • SOG guests are not eligible for the meal plan, I talk more about this below.
  • Fast Pass reservations can only be made 60 days prior to arrival.
  • While there is bus transportation to the parks they are less frequent so it does take a little more planning if you are trying to get to the parks by a certain time.

No Disney Dinning Plan

In the past we have always gotten the meal plan because of it’s convenience, especially when the kids were free. Last time though we found it was just too much. We were always full before dessert and at the end of our trip we had tons of snack credits to use. In the early stages of this trip planning we decided to try a trip without the meal plan which worked out well since it isn’t available if you stay at SOG.

I have to say this worked out perfectly. We still got to eat at some of our favorite places like Boma and tried a few new ones; The Beer Garden, Spice Table, and Kona Cafe. We never felt pressured to eat and didn’t have to use up remaining snack credits on prepackaged food. I didn’t crunch any numbers but quick glance we spent the same or less than we would have with the Disney Dinning Plan.

Adulting

I’ve talked about Kid’s Night Out before but I think it is absolutely worth another mention since we have used it during our last 4 trips to Disney. It’s the perfect way for the adults to have a nice meal and experience the parks kid free. Their website has all the information you need but make sure to make your reservation early, they do tend to fill up during peek days.

This year we also found out about Lilo’s Playhouse at the Poly. It’s basically a play center filled with activities, toys, and even some character special appearances for kids ages 3-12. For a flat fee of $55 you can drop them off anytime between 4:30 and 11:59. They even provide dinner! Lindsay over at Redhead Baby Mama wrote up an amazing review of Lilo’s Playhouse if you are looking for more information.

September 2018 Update: Apparently they closed all Disney Care Centers this past July which is a huge bummer.

Princess Race Weekend

Tara, Tim, and I participated in the Princess Race Weekend and completed the 5k, 10k, and 1/2 marathon. It was so much different this year having gone into it prepared. We took it slow for the 5k and 10k, stopping at almost every photo opportunity. The 1/2 was still a challenge for me but I increased my interval to 1:00 walk 1:00 run which was perfect. I remember getting to mile 3 and thinking wow, this is nice.  By mile 6 I was at the castle and still feeling pretty good. Mile 7-9 was rough but Tara and I met up at that point and she walked it with me. Mile 10 was a big deal, that was the mile marker the balloon ladies has passed me last year. That was the last sweep and I was the last person to make it through. This year as I rounded the bridge I saw hundreds of people behind me. It was a feeling I will never forget. I finished strong with my intervals until the end.

 

Busy Boxes

  Just wanted to share quickly the busy boxes I made for the kids with our upcoming trip to LBI in mind. They are great to have on hand for rainy days on vacation or to bring into restaurant to keep the kiddos at bay […]

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Anniversary in Vegas

Towards the beginning of the year Rob and I decided we wanted to really celebrate our anniversary this year. It was our 5th but only our 3rd actually celebrating together in the same country. We went back and forth on location and finally decided Vegas had the perfect mix of relaxation and entertainment. We booked a crazy early flight that got in at the same time as our good friend who was vacationing with us, just in time for a 10am shot of tequila.

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We stayed at the Vdara, one of the newer hotels in Vegas, and the only with with no casino and no smoking.

Hotel

The room was wonderful and the view was perfect. The entire hotel felt crisp and clean, more like a Caribbean retreat then center Vegas.

Food Collage

We indulged in some of the best food I have had in a long time. The Vdara has a weekend tapas breakfast and lunch that was incredible. My favorite was the Not Your Father’s Root Beer float. We also decided to spend an evening in Fremont Street and had dinner at Andiamo Italian Steak House. Oh goodness was it yummy. Everything from the adult beverages (and a few shots of Rumple Minze) wedge salad, jumbo meatball appetizer, and the filet mignon.

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We tried to plan a mix of relaxation and adventure to keep us busy but not wear us out!

Cabana

We rented a cabana for the day which included the works. Private TV lounge area, reserved lounges by a private wading pool, complimentary fruit plate and pool side service. I almost felt like royalty just relaxing in the sun crafting.

Spa

We all booked some spa time at the Vdara ESPA. The boys got massages and I had an amazing facial. This was one of the best spas I have ever been to. So relaxing and the additional amenities were impressive. The bathrooms were stocked with anything you could possibly need and the whirlpools were available for the entire day of your spa service.

Slotzilla

Two of the most adventurous things we did was the Slotzilla Zip Line on Fremont Street and a helicopter tour of the strip at night. I definitely recommend both if you are vacationing in Vegas anytime soon. Make sure to book early because spots can go quickly. A limo picked us up for the helicopter tour and brought us to the airport where we were bused out to our helicopters. Our pilot was a retired military pilot who does this just for fun.

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I’ve been itching for a new tattoo for awhile. There are a few that I have on the agenda but didn’t want to rush into them so I looked around. Rob actually ended up picking this one out and I thought the symbolism would be perfect. We got married during the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC and of course it is the name of this blog which has become part of me.

Tattoo!

All in all it was a great vacation and a much needed R&R for this momma and poppa.

Travel Guide: 24 Hours in Cuba

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5 Fabulous Summer Destinations

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On The Go Mealtime Favorites

This post is dedicated to the sweet mommas I met in Panera this afternoon! They were fascinated with some of our mealtime gadgets so I decided to write up a quick update on what items you can find in my diaper bag now-a-days! These are the items I still recommend after two kids so they have continued to impress me after 3 years of use including hundreds of restaurants, road trips, and a few vacations.

Mealtime Favorites v2

Canadian Links: Disposable Placemat | IKEA Bib | Norwex Travel Enviro Pack | Tiny Bites Food Shears | Dapple | Britta Water Bottle | Nuby Snack Keeper | Munchkin 360 CupMunchkin Collapsible BowlNuby Travel Set

Unfortunately some of these products are super expensive in Canada but I still wanted to provide the link so you could at least see the full product details.

US Links: Disposable Placemat | IKEA Bib | Norwex Travel Enviro Pack | Tiny Bites Food Shears | Dapple | Britta Water Bottle | Nuby Snack Keeper | Munchkin 360 CupGo Bowl™ Silicone Bowl  | Nuby Travel Set

The disposable placemats are great for littles just starting to experiment with table food. The secure on all sides keeping them in place and it gives baby a chance to play are and experiment. Best part is when they are done you can pull it up, wrap up the scraps, and throw it all away. I do wish there was a greener option but all of the reusable placemats we have tried, which is several, never stuck to the table or just made a mess.

A full bib is certainly needed for certain meals little miss enjoys. I like having one on hand for those messy meals or when she is wearing a cute LuLaRoe outfit. I personally like the ones found at IKEA. If your little tends to pull them off you can sew in a button or even use a snap press (found here on Amazon.ca or here on Amazon.com).

We just started using Norwex products and I am smitten with them. Their micro fiber cloths are effective without the need for chemicals. Their travel pack of four Enviro cloths is great to have on hand to wipe a messy face without the need for chemical based wipes. It’s also environmentally friendly which always puts a smile on my face. I just keep a wet bag in our diaper bag to throw them in along with any clothes that are the result of a potty accident or explosive diaper.

The Tiny Bites Food Shears are hands down my FAVORITE product of all times. It makes cutting up food quick and easy. I cut everything from chicken to pizza to fruit. Anything. They are easy to to wipe off until you can wash them. If they get extra messy or we are traveling I like to keep a travel bottle of Dapple in our diaper bag as well. To save money we buy the larger size bottles and just refill the travel size.

Back when Parker was on a bottle I found the Britta Water Bottles to be a life saver. We could fill it up anywhere eliminating the need to carry around bottles of water. Even now when we are gone for the day I like to throw one in the diaper bag to refill their sippy cups.

Caity still isn’t too reliable with a bowl so I like to put her snacks in the Nuby Snack Keeper. She can easily grab her Puffs without the chance of them spilling all over. We also have the Munchkin 360 Cup for both Parker and Caity when we are out. It’s the first cup we have found that truly does not leak so I am comfortable with them having theirs in their car seat. Another perk to theses cups is the lids are interchangeable so once Caity is a little older she won’t need the handles anymore. You can also take them completely apart eliminating the chance of mold secretly growing.

The Munchkin Collapsible Bowl/Go Bowl is great when you have two sharing meals. You can choose how deep the bowl is based on what they are eating. It takes up no space in the diaper bag and has been a life safer on a few occasions when I have forgotten our Nuby Snack Keeper or we are trying to separate food at a restaurant.

Now that both kids are using utensils it’s nice to have the Nuby Travel Set on hand. Parker is old enough to use regular ones but it’s still much easier with a smaller size. I love that they store in a case so I don’t have to worry about completely cleaning them until we get home.

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We have also found a new favorite, the Munchkin BRICA Deluxe Snack Pod (found here on Amazon.ca and here on Amazon.com). It works great on shopping carts and makes snack time on the go a little easier for miss Caity while Mommy shops!

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For younger kiddos the Booginhead SippiGrip is great to add to your stroller, baby carrier, high chair, and carseat to reduce the number of times you are bending over to pick their sippy up off the ground. Unless you count that as your daily exercise… The you can just say you are working on your bend & snap move 😉 For more items that are helpful with young kids to have in your diaper bag you can check out What’s In My Diaper Bag – 11 Months and What’s In My Diaper Bag – 18 Months.

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Last but not least these individual hand sanitizing wipes are nice to have when you are on the go and don’t necessarily have access to a sink and soap. We also use them to clean off particularly dirty tables or shopping carts. I am by no means a germaphobe but everyone has their limits. Especially during the winter months I like to avoid full home plagues as much as possible.