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
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
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
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
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
The Spooktacular festivities are taking places weekends in October (now) from 12 – 8 pm and entry is included with admission. We take advantage of the annual pass offer every year so the Spooktacular is a no-brainer when it comes to Halloween activities for us in Orlando.
The fun colorful characters and scenery really make Spooktacular for me and my girls. Oh, and the bubbles… There are bubble machines in every direction. The elaborately costumed sea creatures are super friendly and I’ve never run into a long line for a photo opp. This year, the Spooktacular fun spills over into Happy Harbor, where kids can partake in the usual Harbor fun and hop on a Spooktacular train ride.
We had a chance to catch Sesame Street Countdown to Halloween, which you can see at different times daily, before we started our trick-or-treat adventure. My little one was mesmerized by her Sesame Street friends all dressed up for Halloween.
Coming from a Spooktacular expert, here are my top tips:
Don’t do Spooktacular right at noon. Waiting till late afternoon is best – cooler and less crowded.
Sea World provides treat bags for collecting goodies so leave your trick or treat bags at home unless you really want to lug them.
Make sure you take the path for Penelope’s Party Zone – lots of crafting fun and a dance party (think top fun dance hits, limbo and hula hooping waterside) your little ones will love.
Bring a change of clothes if you are going in costume and plan on seeing some other sites. Not fun being splashed by Shamu in costume.
Over the past year, my kitchen has turned into a test kitchen for multiple recipes that pretty much result from having limited items in my pantry/fridge. It’s a game for me to see what I can create out of what I have. It doesn’t always turn out well, but sometimes it does. I’ve mentioned the amazing Chicken Tortilla Chili I made a few weeks ago to a few friends and have now been asked several times to post the recipe. So, before I forget the recipe… Here you go!
Kinda Sorta Chicken Tortilla Chili
2 cans black beans
1 can chili beans
1/2 large white onion
1 medium size tomato
1/4 cup jalapeno peppers (if desired)
Tsp. Chili powder
Tsp. Garlic salt
Salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups frozen corn
2 large chicken breast
Throw it all in the slow cooker and walk away. Just kidding. Add all ingredients except for the tomato, onion and jalapeno peppers into the slow cooker. Throw the tomato, onion and jalapeno peppers in a chopper or food processor until chopped to almost puree status. Add them to the slow cooker. Place the chicken breast on top. Cook on high for 3 hours and low for 2 hours. Shred chicken and throw tortilla strips on top. Add a dash of sour cream if you are in the mood. This will feed about five people.
My family consists of multiple breakfast and brunch loving humans. We are definitely familiar with the awesome breakfast and brunch at First Watch. I’m happy to report First Watch will be donating 25 cents to Share Our Strength from every kids meal purchased in hopes of raising $50,000 within the yearlong campaign. (The campaign started this week!) $50,000 would more than double the $42,000 First Watch has raised since 2009. If you haven’t heard of Share Our Strength, they are an organization looking to end childhood hunger by 2015 – enough said.
Everyone knows healthy eating is a topic near and dear to my heart so I’m also happy to report the restaurant has announced a new, interactive kids’ menu in cooperation with the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program. Kids menu offerings at First Watch are now being recognized for featuring items that meet qualifying nutrition criteria based on leading health organizations’ scientific recommendations, including the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines. Hooray!
In celebration I have 5, yes 5, First Watch kids cards to give away to readers. Simply leave a comment below letting me know your child’s favorite healthy breakfast or brunch item. Get an extra entry for following The Mamma Mia Blog on Twitterand leaving a comment to let me know.
Offer valid for one meal from the Kids Menu with purchase of an adult entrée
Redeemable at any First Watch Restaurant by 12/31/12
Mia has a book called Samantha’s Silly-icious Sandwiches. Samantha gets sick of having the same boring sandwich in her lunch everyday and decides to create her own unique sandwiches. Her “Silly-icious Sandwiches” turn into a hit at school and a booming business, which she soon hands over for her mom to run. Typical kid.
It’s a cute book, but after reading it I started to think about how boring packed lunches can be. Most parents opt for the PB&J with pre-packaged sides. It’s easy, but might not be the healthiest or most fun.
There are pros and cons to this infamous time of year. The biggest pro for me is being back on a schedule. There’s a certain sense of calm knowing exactly where your kids will be each day and for exactly how long. No camp coordination till next year! Woo hoo!
Off to conquer 1st Grade and 2-Yr-Old Class
Now the cons – being back on a schedule. Yes, it’s a con too. This means the snooze button is not an option. This means there are lunches to be packed and bed times to be had. This also means a new year of math homework for my 1st grader. This means another year closer to the year when I can’t help anymore because my math skills are on a third grade level. (Hell to me is the equivalent of life as an accountant) But, shhhhh… I’m good at pretending math is sheer awesomeness.
Regardless of pros and cons, back to school can be fun. Mia doesn’t wear a uniform and I’ve always been pretty stringent on what she wears. When I told her she could pick her own outfits this year as long as they met school dress code she nearly passed out.
She has spent the past three nights selecting outfits for the following day. I even gave into the three year request for Twinkle Toes. (See photo on right for reference) Oh, and the toes light up!! I’m more of a Sperry girl myself so these are kind of out of my element. Mia’s whimsical self needs creative outlets. I’m stepping out of the way.
Summer is winding down and that means it’s time for Tax Free Weekend in Florida! Parents can get ahead of the game and pick up some of those much needed back to school items – tax free! If you can make it out this weekend, here are some items you can get tax free.
Lake Buena Vista Factory Store
A great place to shop (all year round) is Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores. (I’m an extreme bargain shopper by default. You should meet my mom.) The village-style center offers a friendly shopping experience, and there are over 50 stores! With deals going on daily, shoppers can find all their back to school needs.
I want you to take advantage of the great deals regardless if it’s Tax Free Weekend or not! We could all use a little back to school assistance, right? How does a $50 gift certificate to Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores sound?
How to Win:
Leave a comment noting your child’s most sought after back to school item.
Tweet about the contest daily for extra entries. Just leave a comment with the tweet.
I’ll be selecting a winner on Friday, August 17. Even if you don’t win the $50 gift cert, you can get in on the savings by downloading a coupon from the Center’s website, then bringing it to Travelpro at Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores to receive a coupon booklet valued at up to $400 in savings!
Just the title of the new Disney On Ice show has me counting down to show time! In a new twist on fairytale fun, favorite Disney characters compete to be the next superstar in comical segments leading up to the tales of show stopping princesses – Ariel, Rapunzel, Belle, and Merida from Disney•Pixar’s BRAVE in her ice debut!
Mickey and Minnie encounter the most talented performers in the land with an all-star lineup that includes Sebastian and the Daughters of Triton from The Little Mermaid, the rowdy pub thugs from Tangled and the spunky enchanted servants from Beauty and the Beast. The journey continues to the Scottish highlands where audiences will be captivated and star struck by Merida, as an exhilarating archery contest ensues for the right to marry the fiery redhead.
Good news! I’m giving away a family four-pack to the show!
How to enter:
Leave a comment below letting me know which character you are most excited to see.
Extra entries daily for tweeting! Just leave a comment with a link to your tweet.
I’ll select a winner on Wed. Aug. 15 at 3 pm.
Tickets for performances at the Amway Center are on sale now! If you don’t win the giveaway, I still have a special offer for you. You can get 4 tickets for just $48! This special offer is valid for specific show times: Sept. 7 at 7:30 pm and Sept. 9 at 1 and 5 pm by entering the code MOM12 at checkout.
Additional showtimes are Saturday, Sept. 8 at 3:30 and 7:30 pm. See you at the show!
Disclosure: My family will attend the show as a guest of Feld Entertainment.
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 KIDS, taking 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 JetBluetravel 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.
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.
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.
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.