Florida Ocean Adventure

The Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center is a hidden gem on the Treasure Coast. Perfect for families and a great learning experience. Read more

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

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

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

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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What I Did Wrong…

With that title this post could go in so many different directions! This one is parenting related. We’ll save the others for another post.

I know it’s hard for perfect parents like myself to admit that perhaps not so great parenting choice were made. Believe it or not, it’s okay to not be perfect. Hard concept to accept (I know), but embrace it and living life will be much, much easier. I gathered a few funny quotes from local parents for the spring issue of PLAYGROUND magazine. These brave parents were willing to clear the air and fess up to “what they did wrong.” Now, your turn!

 

What I Did Wrong

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The Family Yard Sale

Growing up, we had a huge community yard sale every summer. I counted down the days to the big sale every year.

Raising money for her Disney Cruise

My family and I would set aside items months ahead of time deeming them yard sale material. We’d all be up early the day of to get our business running. We were serious about making money. Taking turns, we’d watch the sale while the others would go out and search for treasures (or a slushie of some sort.) We ran the operation at my grandma’s house (she was pretty central in the neighborhood) so she kept us in check along with some supervision from our mom. Otherwise, our parents pretty much let us run the show. Each year, we’d end the sale buying pizza for the family and splitting the remaining funds three ways between my brother, sister and I.

This past weekend our neighborhood had a community yard sale. When I originally saw the flier I thought I was going to pass, but Mia reminded me that we do need some extra money for our Disney cruise. (about $2,000, but who is counting) The opportunity also made me think about my childhood yard sales and the fun I had with my family.

Mia's best customer – Charli

Mia and I began digging through clothes, shoes and toys. She and I priced the items – discussing in depth if Big Bird was worth 25 or 50 cents. When Saturday morning rolled around, we were up early setting up. Daddy and I took turns supervising the sale, Mia ran her lemonade/cookie stand and Charli amused customers and played with the toys we were trying to sell.

What a great way to spend our Saturday morning… outside for five hours on a beautiful Saturday, talking with neighbors and bonding over sales strategies. Mia took charge a few times, informing me that “You scared off those customers because you were yelling at me” and “I already know before someone walks over if they are buyers or just looking around.” Please note, by yelling she of course meant me telling her that no one wanted to buy cookies if she was touching them.

Daddy & Mia Bonding

I’m going to have my mom search for some old school yard sale photos for me to post, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy these from our family sale. At the end of the day, we only made about $55. The memory of it, come to find out, is worth way more… I can vouch for it.

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Acupuncture During Pregnancy. Is It Safe?

Wondering how to cure morning sickness, fatigue, back pain during pregnancy? I have a safe natural remedy for you. A lot of women don’t even know this option exists. Read more in my latest article for PLAYGROUND Magazine. (page 22)

Acupuncture While Pregnant

 

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Top 10 Reasons To Love LEGOLAND Florida

LEGOLAND Florida

After months of living just an hour from the new LEGOLAND Florida, we finally had a free day to venture over to the new park. Apparently, I’ve been depriving my children of some serious fun! LEGOLAND was built on the former site of Cypress Gardens  (Florida’s first “theme park”). The park does a great job of combining old and new preserving some of the old Florida style of Cypress Gardens.

And now, the top 10 reasons to love this place!

1)  Tons of shady spaces to relax and let toddlers run around.

2)  Fun rides (I mean really fun) and attractions perfect for kids 2-12.

DUPLO play area

3)  Big, clean bathrooms with lots of changing stations.

4)  You won’t break the bank feeding the family at LEGOLAND.

5)  While considered a Florida theme park, it still feels small – in a good way.

6)  We were there on a holiday (President’s Day) with a lot of other people off of school and work. It never felt crowded.

7)  Not once did I look at my watch and wonder… How can I bribe them to leave. No lie. I had a ton of fun.

8)  Lots of toddler/preschooler play areas near “big kid” rides for parents waiting with little ones.

9)  There aren’t souvenir stands around every corner, but cools shops if you want to pick up a LEGO memory.

New York City recreated out of Legos in Miniland USA

10)  You don’t have to be a LEGO lover to love LEGOLAND. I can vouch for that!

Attention to detail is the theme at LEGOLAND. It shines through in all attractions, rides, exhibits and even the staff . This is definitely a great day trip from Orlando and a must visit attraction for visitors to the Sunshine State.

For ticket prices and park hours visit the LEGOLAND Florida website. Kids under three are free!

I received complimentary tickets from LEGOLAND for our visit. However, as you all know, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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Posted on by Amanda in Featured, Orlando, Travel 7 Comments

$5 Admission to Orlando Science Center Sunday!

I have FABULOUS news for Central Florida families who love the Orlando Science CenterThe Walmart Foundation, has announced the next “Walmart $5 Day” will be THIS Sunday, February 12. All guests to the Science Center on February 12 will enjoy exhibits, films and live programs for $5! General admission fees are usually $17 for adults and $12 for kids (ages 3-11).

Orlando Science Center

Orlando Science Center

This Sunday, guests can participate in the fifth annual Mission Nutrition featuring displays and demonstrations on medical technology, nutrition and fitness. There will even be chefs will be on hand to host cooking demonstrations for healthy eating. Returning this year is the Physical Challenge Arena with activities like Wii Sports active video games and hula hooping.

The new exhibit, Bob the Builder – Project: Build It! is definitely worth mentioning and seeing! Catch laugh-out-loud Animalopolis or the spellbinding Arabia on the giant screen film in the Dr. Phillips CineDome.

For more information on Walmart $5 Day call 407.514.2000 or visit www.osc.org.

See you there my fellow scientists! (I stole that from Sid)

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TurtleTrek Is Coming to Sea World

The news of Sea World’s TurtleTrek, opening this spring, excites our family more than you could ever know! Turtles have always been a beloved creature in our home. Not that we don’t love all creatures, but the turtles hold a special place in our heart.

TurtleTrek will walk Sea World guests through the life of a Sea Turtle. From hatching on a sandy beach to their extremely long life journey. The cool part is that you’ll be viewing the journey in a giant 360 degree dome and in 3D! (The first ever of its kind in the world!!) The film goes way beyond the concept of high definition – think 26 million individual pixels at 60 frames per second. Yeah… That’s some serious reality there. Want to be a hero for the turtles? This new attraction will tell you just how you can do that.

I’ll pipe down now and let you enjoy a sneak peek in the webisode below.

Sea World's TurtleTrek

P.S. ~ Sea World is offering a Pre-School Pass this year for children under five! Yes, that means a free annual pass for your kiddos to enjoy TurtleTrek any time they want.

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Posted on by Amanda in Featured, Orlando, Travel 1 Comment
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