Family Getaway Postcard Inn St. Pete Beach

A few weeks ago, our family, along with two other Orlando families,ventured to St. Pete beach on the Gulf Coast to celebrate a little friend's 8th birthday at the Postcard Inn. I was attracted to the aesthetics of this trendy spot since it was transformed from a Travelodge in Read more

Best Play Spots in Paris

It's almost three weeks since we returned from Europe, and I've finally sifted through my photos. I felt like my first post should talk about the fun playgrounds/parks in Paris. What an awesome experience to see the girls jumping right into the mix at playgrounds many miles from their Read more

Fun Travel Prep for Kids - Paris & London

It's not everyday you travel over the pond to such amazing places like Paris and London. I decided to start the journey for me and Mia long before we packed our bags for the airport. Here are a few fun things we did to get ready and excited! My brother sent Read more

Hidden Gem: Sand Key Florida

My other half planned a short getaway for our nine year anniversary. I wasn't exactly sure where we were headed, but knew it was somewhere around Clearwater Beach. As we drove over the bridge to Clearwater, I kept expecting a turn off at one of the many beach hotels. To my surprise Read more

Westin Cape Coral Weekend Getaway

Most of you who follow my Instagram or Twitter know that we had a fabulously fun weekend at the Westin in Cape Coral, FL a few weeks ago. The property became a Westin in December of 2013 and underwent a plethora of renovations, which I believe puts it in the best Read more

Disney's Art of Animation Resort

We finally had the chance to visit Disney's Art of Animation Resort this week for a little staycation. It is located where construction on the unfinished half of Disney's Pop Century Resort was started, but later abandoned after 9/11. The resort is the first to be built in the complex Read more

Meeting Winter - Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Most of the world has seen (or at least heard of) the movie Dolphin Tale. The story highlights the rescue of a wounded dolphin who ends up losing one very important important thing... a tale! The Clearwater Marine Aquarium works hard in the movie to create a prosthetic tail just Read more

Soar With Reading This Summer

Reading has been a huge focus in my house this summer. After a school year of hard work, I couldn’t risk back tracking on my kindergartners fast track to reading stardom.

Soar With Reading!

Luckily there are several great summer reading programs out there. One in particular is  the national initiative from JetBlue and PBS KIDStaking place again this summer, designed to help place books in the hands of kids in need and keep kids reading all summer long.

Hurry now and go to the Soar With Reading site (or click straight through on the image to the right) and share your favorite childhood book. With every share, JetBlue will donate a book to a child in need in grant cities. (Orlando is included in this group!) On the site parents can also find tips and downloadable activities to keep kids inspired to read all summer long.

Click here to learn more about the program

We missed out on the fun event held at our local library in Orlando because we were on vacation last week. But there are two more summer events taking place in L.A. and New York. Find out more details!  

Win! Win!Leave a comment below letting me know what you are doing to keep reading alive this summer for a chance to win a JetBlue travel backpack filled with summer reading materials.

I’ll select a winner on Friday, August 3 so get commenting. You can get an extra entry by tweeting about the giveaway and letting me know in a separate comment below.

Happy Reading!

 Disclaimer: JetBlue provided  me with reading materials for my daughter and a reading inspired backpack  to giveaway to a lucky reader.  Mamma Mia fully supports the Soar With Reading  initiative. 

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Posted on by Amanda in Giveaways, Parenting 36 Comments

Meeting Winter – Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Most of the world has seen (or at least heard of) the movie Dolphin Tale. The story highlights the rescue of a wounded dolphin who ends up losing one very important important thing… a tale! The Clearwater Marine Aquarium works hard in the movie to create a prosthetic tail just like you would for a human. All the while the characters are in the process of saving the aging Aquarium, which they do with Winter’s help.

That's Winter behind Mia's big smile!

We decided this summer would be a great time to meet Winter in person. Only about 1.5 hours from Orlando is beautiful Clearwater Beach and the somewhat small Aquarium. Staff at the Aquarium give you the feeling they are family and all have a vested interest in the success of the facility. Mia likes to talk and the staff there took the time to answer EVERY SINGLE question she had with no sign of annoyance. There are no bells and whistles here, but in a good way. Just fish, sharks, dolphins, stingrays, turtles, otters, local shell and geography exhibits and daily educational shows that incorporate the marine life.

Mia & Charli checking out the prosthetic tail

After the success of Dolphin Tale, the Aquarium now has a new facility located just a trolleyride away that is dedicated to the making of the movie – Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure. We weren’t able to get to this facility, but it was included in our entrance price and the trolleyride is free! Winter calls the main Aquarium home.

I highly recommend visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for an authentic marine life experience. Prices are reasonable. $19.95 for adults and $14.95 for kids. Teachers and active military get in free!  There are often coupons available like this one on TampaBay360 for $2 off each ticket purchased.

If you can’t make it to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium just yet, you can follow Winter on Twitter or even view Winter through the online webcam! 

The operating room from the movie

 

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Posted on by Amanda in Travel 3 Comments

Orlando City Soccer… Win a summer camp!

Orlando City Youth Soccer

Has your family had a chance to experience the newest sports craze sweeping the Orlando area? If not, I advise you get out with your family this summer and catch an Orlando City Soccer game. Every game has  family activities including themed game nights (from Go Pink to Back to School) with fan zone activities, charity drives and more. A fun inexpensive summer outing for sure!

I’m not a soccer expert by any means, but I’m learning… and hoping Mia will too. Good news for me –  Orlando City Youth Soccer is right in our backyard!  Orlando City Youth offers recreational leagues and camps for those who want to learn more about the game.

Orlando City Soccer is hosting weekly youth summer camps throughout July and August that include both half and full-day options ranging in scope from basic soccer skills for the younger groups, up to position-specific camps for the more experienced players. What a cool way to introduce your kids to soccer!

 And now great news for you! I have one week of summer camp to give away to a lucky reader.

Get out and play!

Leave a comment below letting me know how your kids are getting out and getting active this summer and you’ll be entered into the giveaway, which will be selected at random on Wednesday, July 11.

*Fun fact: These camps are unique in that Orlando City coaches and pro players staff them. Your child has the opportunity to learn the skills of the game from some of the very same players they see take the field in the USL PRO matches.

For updates on home games, theme nights and much more be sure to like Orlando City Soccer Club on Facebook.

 

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Posted on by Amanda in Giveaways, Orlando 8 Comments

Weekday Pass At Aquatica!

Great news! There’s a new Weekday Pass from Aquaticathat allows you and your family to enjoy unlimited weekday access through Dec. 31, 2012.

Aquatica

We are big Sea World fans so Aquatica is basically a shoe-in on our local favorite activities list.  Aquatica takes guests in, over and under the water with some super cool water rides and animal encounters with Commerson’s dolphins, exotic birds and more!

I know as a full-time working mom, weekday passes to attractions aren’t always worth the money, but Aquatica is open until 7pm and even 8 pm most weekdays during the summer!

 With the Weekday Pass, guests can play every weekday this summer, and for the rest of the year, for just $59.99 plus tax. There’s even an option to purchase a weekend day for just $15 when you show your Weekday Pass at the front gate. (This is an awesome option!)

Guests can experience Aquatica’s 38 thrilling water slides, rivers and lagoons, side-by-side wave pools and two interactive water playgrounds designed for the littlest of swimmers.

For more info visit Aquatica’s website.

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Healthy Desserts

As many of you know, I work full-time as pr manager for Produce for Kids. With every new campaign, our chef and RD work together to create new meals. Our Ideal Meals online database is  full of healthy (yet tasty) easy breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner options for busy parents (like myself).

My time with Produce for Kids has completely changed the way I view food and prepare food for my family. I’ve always been a healthy eater, but I have more of a method behind my madness these days.

Check out this clip of Mia and I creating Healthy Snacks on Galtime Orlando. These are just two of our new Ideal Meals healthy desserts!

Look for the Produce for Kids display in select grocery stores nationwide through July and help local children’s hospitals! For my local readers, the Publix campaign runs through June 28.

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Chicago – The Urban Family Vacay

A few years back we ventured to Chicago for a long weekend over the 4th of July. At first, the thought of galavanting around in cabs in the city with my then one-year-old frightened me. I myself had no travel reservations, but this was a whole new ball of kiddie wax. In the end, I decided to escape the Orlando humidity for the crisp summer breeze in Chicago.

Check out my travel feature in the summer issue of PLAYGROUND magazine. You can read the online issue (by clicking through below) or stop by one of the Central Florida distribution points for your very own copy.

Once you read this, you too will be ready for your urban family vacation!

 

Click to read the article online (page 40-41)

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Make The Most of Your Disney Dream!

Back from our long awaited Disney Dream cruise and so excited to share tips!

Me & Charli with Mickey & Minnie

Our famly decided to embark on the three day cruise out of Port Canaveral (close to our home in Orlando) taking us to Nassau, Bahamas and Disney’s private Caribbean island.

It’s no secret Disney’s cruises are not cheap. Hopefully some of these tips will help you make the most of your Disney Dream.

Use a travel agent. We used an amazing travel agent here in town. This trip was a big deal to us and I couldn’t risk going through a travel booking site where you didn’t have a dedicated person helping you along. Our agent was able to answer all questions ahead of time and had us set up with exactly what we needed for our multi-dimensional family.

Mia & Her Buds At The Sail Away Party

No crowds for me.  When first on board you WILL feel a little crowded. Do not despair. This is the ONLY time EVERYONE on the ship is doing the SAME thing at the SAME time. We  skipped getting off the ship in Nassau. It was better to stay on board while the rest of the ship ventured off to the straw markets. (Been there done that) View Atlantis and Nassau from the ship! You’ll be thankful for this advice once you get to Castaway Cay. On your day at Castaway Cay, don’t rush to get to the beach in the morning. Hold off, enjoy the empty pool deck and head over after lunch when the crowds are heading back. You don’t have to be back on the ship until 4:30 pm so going at noon will give you plenty of time to enjoy the amazing island.

Ride the Aquaduck – See characters. The Aquaduck is the highly sought after waterslide that takes cruisers above the ship and over the ocean. There can be a wait at times. Same story with getting a picture with the characters who appear on the first floor of the ship. Best times to ride the Aquaduck are around 6:30 pm when the first diners are headed to dinner, when others are on shore excursions or on the final days of your voyage. Best times to see characters are early morning or mid-day when others are on excursions or pool side.

Mia & Madi Snorkeling Castaway Cay

It’s a “family” vacation. Yeah it is, but let it go. My other half was focused on the family spending non-stop time together, but as it turns out we were much happier together when we could spend a little time doing our own thing. Mia was obsessed with the Oceaneers Club, Madi love the tween area and Charli was perfectly content at It’s A Small World. The Disney cast members who interact with the kids are amazing. Plus, you have two phones (provided by Disney) that work on board so you can be reached at any time by the kids clubs. Or, if you have a tween, they can take the other phone to check in.

Did I mention the “adult” time? Yes that’s me on the raft floating off into the sunset!

A good morning. There’s a room service breakfast order form in your desk drawer. No one will tell you about this, but it is there. Use it! (A big thank you to The Theme Park Mom for this tip) Even if you plan to go to one of the restaurants for breakfast, you can enjoy your coffee, fruit and bagels on the balcony before you ready to head out. (Oh yeah, get a room with a balcony!! It’s worth the extra money for sure.) 

Not just for kids. It’s no lie, I would totally embark on the Dream without kids. There’s an adult pool area and an entire  part of the ship that caters to adult nightlife. Adults can eat at the adults only restaurants for an additional charge. Castaway Cay has an entire section dedicated to “us big kids” with yoga, private lagoon, sand bars and eateries.

Travel with a fun group!

 

 

Lastly, we traveled with two other families, which added to our fun. Highly recommended to travel in a group! I could go on and on about this perfect family vacation, but I’ll stop my novel here. If you are planning a Disney cruise, please feel free to comment and I’ll answer your questions the best I can. I absorbed all I could onboard and am already thinking about how/when we can ship off again!

 

 

 

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Posted on by Amanda in Travel 1 Comment

Dream A Little Disney Dream

Our Disney Dream Savings

After one year, two family yard sales, two lemonade stands, daily change contributions by daddy and the sacrifice of forking over birthday and holiday monetary gifts, we will set sail on our Disney Cruise this Thursday!

About a year and a half ago Mia expressed her desire to embark on Disney’s newest ship, The Dream.

This cruise meant pirate parties, princesses, a plexiglass waterslide and an adventure on Disney’s private island. This also meant a chunk of change for our family. We created a “cruise fund” complete with an image of the ship and began our saving mission.

One year of nickels, dimes and the occasional one dollar bills brought us to a grand total of about $250. This in no way shape or form is going to cover our  cruise. However, it will cover most of our on board tips, activities etc. (I hope).

Mia’s All Packed & Ready To Go!

Mia has been observing this jar and working towards a goal for one year. Part of my joy in taking this cruise is the fact that she truly understands what it means to save and watch the savings accumulate over a year.

Stay tuned for posts on our Disney Cruise experience!

 

 

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Posted on by Amanda in Travel 1 Comment

The Dying Thank You Note

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for awhile. I don’t claim to be a perfect parent, but there are a few things that remain priority on my list of lessons to pass along to my kids. I remember my mom sitting us down after a holiday or birthday to write thank you notes.

We didn’t necessarily have to write notes to people we were able to thank in person, but we did write notes to those who weren’t there to thank.

Teaching Gratitude to Kids

Nowadays, it’s rare to even get a thank you note from an adult let alone a child. It takes time to sit down with a child to write out thank you notes…. Time we don’t all have, but time we should make.

Gratitude is a trait that’s so important for our society and it’s slowly fading away. Here are a few tips to help your kids to be thankful.

  • Let them pick out their own thank you notes at the store. It will give them more ownership of the project. Check out this website that let’s you easily design and print your own thank you cards.
  • After an event, have your kids make a list of the gifts they received and match it with the gift giver. This makes a fun matching game and it will stick in their brains.
  • If they aren’t sending a note, remind them to verbally thank their gift givers and remind them of the gift they received.
  • Identify gifts (if you can remember) when they use them throughout the year ie. “That Leapfrog map Nana bought for you is really cool.”

Just a little bit of time is worth the result – a member of society who is appreciative of other’s efforts. A dying breed for sure!

 

 

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Birthday Beads & Bows

Bracelet Making

For the past five years, I’ve subjected myself to huge hooplas to celebrate Mia’s birthday. I pretty much created a party monster from the beginning. Oh, the invitations, the themes, the decorations, the goodie bags… Why would this child expect anything less?

This year, I took a different approach to the birthday celebration and I’m so glad I did.

Rae-Berry Beads & More

Mia and four of her friends met at Rae-Berry beads & more  in Dr. Philips to celebrate on a Saturday afternoon. This place is heaven for  little girls! Two tables along each wall at Rae-Berry are filled with thousands of different beads.

First, Ramee, the owner of Rae-Berry, showed the girls how to create their very own beautiful bracelet out of the beads of their choice.

Next came the creation of the “hair pretties.”The girls were able to create funky hair clips layering bright colored flowers with a gem in the center.

Showing Off Their Hair Pretties

Mia and her friends made a bracelet and hair pretty, but there are different choices for parties including bottle cap necklaces and a jewelry board . You can customize your activities based on age and size of your group.

There’s a pizza shop nearby so I ordered a large pie and then we enjoyed cupcakes brought from home. It was the perfect afternoon and the girls had a great time. Plus, they took home a cool bracelet and hair pretty that they created. (The perfect alternative to the goodie bag filled with things that are going to be thrown away!)

I left Rae-Berry wondering when I could come back with my own adult friends for an afternoon of jewelry making. This place is definitely not just for kids!

Supporting local business is a passion of mine, but supporting a local mom-owned business is even better!  For more information on Rae-Berry Beads visit their website.

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Posted on by Amanda in Orlando, Parenting Leave a comment
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